Schwartzman Sends Argentina To The Final Eight
It was winner-takes-all on Wednesday evening inside Ken Rosewall Arena in Sydney, and it's safe to say that Team Argentina seized the moment.
After Guido Pella beat Marin Cilic earlier in the evening, Diego Schwartzman defeated Borna Coric 6-2, 6-2 to clinch Argentina's victory in the tie against Croatia, guaranteeing his country's spot in the Final Eight, which will take place in Sydney beginning tomorrow. Argentina will face Russia, the winner of Perth's Group D, in Thursday's evening session.
After losing the doubles match, Croatia saw its chances of qualifying for the Final Eight as one of two best second-placed teams end. Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni defeated Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 3-6, 6-3, 10-2.
If the Croats had won this tie, they would have moved on to face Russia. But it was clear from the first ball of the evening that the Argentines would be a force to be reckoned with.
Fans lined up early on the grounds of the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre, with Argentine fans walking around playing the drums and trumpets, as Croats waved their country's flag and wore Croatian apparel. The atmosphere was what the ATP Cup is all about.
“Ole! Ole Ole Ole! Guido! Guido!”
Those chants rang out through the Sydney night from early on in the tie as Pella battled through his first set against Cilic.
Noise from vuvuzelas, drums, guitars, accordions and more was reverberating through the crowd, making Ken Rosewall Arena feel like the home of a parade, creating an atmosphere much like that of a football match throughout the tie. There were fans sporting their country's football jersey, with a mix of fans young and old singing.
Pella defeated former World No. 3 Cilic 7-6(1), 6-3 in one hour and 53 minutes to give his country a 1-0 lead. The 2019 Sao Paulo champion held strong behind his second serve, winning 60 per cent of those points, en route to his triumph.
"I think I played very solid from the baseline. My service game was improving a lot after the first set, so I started to feel much more confident with my game, with my whole game," Pella said. "I think in the end I was playing my best tennis with great shots, very good from the baseline. I also played good volleys, so I think overall I did a very good match."
Pella played consistent tennis throughout, forcing Cilic to come up with special shots, putting pressure on the Croat. And Cilic, who has the ability to take the racquet out of almost every player's hands, made an abundance of unforced errors.
Both men did well facing break points — Cilic saved five of seven chances and Pella staved off five of six — but that one additional break was plenty for the Argentine. Pella now leads Cilic 3-1 in their ATP Head2Head series, winning three consecutive matches in their rivalry.
Schwartzman rode the atmosphere and the momentum Pella gave him to Group E glory for Argentina. Schwartzman had lost two of his three previous ATP Head2Head matches against Coric, but he was locked in from the start in Sydney. The World No. 13 won 49 per cent of his return points, using his return to get to neutral or offence in rallies.