Croatia and Italy each took big steps toward the 2020 Davis Cup Finals on Friday, with both teams grabbing 2-0 advantages in their respective matches.
For Croatia, Marin Cilic was able to secure a victory in his singles rubber match with India. Meanwhile, Fabio Fognini was a winner for Italy as they took on South Korea.
Australia also have a 2-0 advantage in their match going into the weekend, seizing the advantage against Brazil. Belgium have work to do against Hungary in their tie, as the two nations are locked at 1-1 after the first day.
The nations are fighting for their spot in the Finals proper. Defending champions Spain, as well as Russia, Canada and Great Britain, have already qualified by virtue of their semi-final appearances in 2019, while France and Serbia have been issued wild cards.
Davis Cup Qualifying 2020 - Friday Results
Croatia 2-0 India
Hungary 1-1 Belgium
Australia 2-0 Brazil
Italy 2-0 South Korea
Germany 1-1 Belarus
Kazakhstan 1-1 Netherlands
Slovakia 0-2 Czech Republic
Austria 1-1 Uruguay
Japan 0-2 Ecuador
Sweden 1-1 Chile
Colombia vs. Argentina
Full results are available via the Davis Cup website.
Saturday will see the doubles matches take place before the remaining singles will take place on Sunday if required.
Croatia were the top seeds in the qualifying draw, and as a result, it was no huge surprise to see them go 2-0 up against India. Cilic and his team-mate Borna Gojo were given challenging matches, though.
The latter had to fight back from a set down to overcome Prajnesh Gunneswaran 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Cilic was a winner in straight sets against Ramkumar Ramanathan, although he needed tiebreaks in both to secure the rubber:
Italy enjoyed a much more straightforward route to a two-point advantage against South Korea, with Fognini dropping just three games and taking only 64 minutes to cruise past Duckhee Lee.
The Davis Cup Twitter account shared the following highlights of the two matches in Cagliari:
There was a peculiar atmosphere for the players on Friday in these games, with the coronavirus outbreak in Italy meaning the matches were played behind closed doors.
"Conditions were strange," Fognini said afterward, per the competition website. "I guess I am the first in Italy to play a Davis Cup match in these conditions. It was not difficult to focus, but it was a bit strange to play in front of 100 people. But safety first and then sport. I'm happy; the first point is very important."
Afterwards, the Italian posted the following on his Twitter account:
For Australia, Jordan Thompson and John Millman got the job done in their rubbers against Brazil. The latter of the duo was involved in one of the standout matches of the day, fighting back against the dynamic 19-year-old Thiago Seyboth Wild and eventually winning 4-6, 7-6 (0), 6-2.
Belgium and Germany would have both been disappointed with their first day's work, with their matches against Hungary and Belarus in the balance.
Former Germany player and captain Boris Becker was caught on camera enjoying the occasion nonetheless:
Arguably the biggest surprise on Friday was Ecuador's performance, as they stunned Japan to take a 2-0 lead. Roberto Quiroz, who is ranked 276th in the world, produced an epic comeback to beat Yasutaka Uchiyama, who sits 186 spots above his opponent in the ATP standings.
The United States will begin their quest for a spot in the Finals on Saturday when they go up against Uzbekistan in Hawaii. Reilly Opelka and Taylor Fritz will be their representatives.