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Ugo Humbert celebrates on Saturday after sealing victory for France in its Davis Cup Qualifier against Hungary.

Humbert Ensures France Survives Hungarian Scare In Davis Cup Qualifiers

Kazakhstan and hosts Chile level at 1-1, Serbia defeats Norway

France fought back from 2-1 down for the first time since 2014 to defeat Hungary at the Tatabanya Arena on Saturday and seal victory in the 2023 Davis Cup Qualifiers.

It was a far from comfortable triumph for Sebastien Grosjean’s team. Nicolas Mahut and Arthur Rinderknech were outplayed by the unheralded doubles duo of Fabian Marozsan and Mate Valkusz in the first match on Saturday, falling 6-2, 7-6(4) as the home team moved 2-1 in front.

With their backs against the wall, the French knew they had to be faultless in the reverse singles if they were to ensure safe passage to September’s Davis Cup Finals Group Stage.

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Grosjean made a tactical change, switching out his No. 1 player Benjamin Bonzi in favour of the lefty Adrian Mannarino to face Hungary’s highest-ranked player Marton Fucsovics, and the decision proved to be a wise one. Mannarino clinched a tight opening set tie-break before racing away with the second set against Fucsovics.

The Frenchman, who didn’t lose a point on his own serve in the second set, said: “Whoever won the first set was going to get a huge advantage. I wasn’t thinking about the score. I was going on court and giving my best and all my team were cheering for me, so it was easy for me to push myself a bit more.”

Ugo Humbert then capped a memorable Davis Cup debut, winning the all-important fifth match 6-3 6-3 against Marozsan – who was forced to return to the court to play singles in place of the injured Zsombor Piros.

“I am so proud of this team,” said Humbert. “Playing in Davis Cup means a lot for me because it’s an unbelievable competition and I’m very proud of myself today. I’m very happy that we’re in the finals.”

Kazakhstan, Chile Trade Upsets
The Davis Cup Qualifier tie between Kazakhstan and hosts Chile is level at 1-1 after Saturday's play in La Serena. While there was little drama in the two straightforward singles matches, both results were upsets according to the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. 

World No. 129 Timofey Skatov, making his Davis Cup debut for Kazakhstan at age 22, earned the first point of the tie with a 6-1, 6-3 victory against Cristian Garin. But Nicolas Jarry sent the Chilean fans home happy with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Alexander Bublik, the highest-ranked man on either team at World No. 36.

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Skatov made a dream start to his Davis Cup career, taking the home crowd out of the match early on by winning the first three games against five-time tour-level champion Garin. He bettered that opening in set two as he won 16 of the first 18 points—including the first 12 in a row—to close in on a milestone victory.

Entering the match on the heels of a run to the final of an ATP Challenger Tour event in Concepcion, the Kazakh continued his strong form by fighting through deuce to serve out the win.

"It was a really tough match because I was really nervous," said Skatov, who won four of the five deuce games in the contest. "It was my first time playing Davis Cup, especially against Chile here as a guest against a really experienced player like Cristian Garin.

"In the end I played a really great match. I was really focussed and aggressive. The first few games were really important for the confidence."

In the second rubber, Jarry stemmed the tide with an instant break against Bublik. He stared down a break point in his first and last service games of the opening set, but never blinked with the pressure on. After an early trade of breaks in set two, Jarry reclaimed the initiative by patiently building points around his aggressive groundstrokes. The 27-year-old won 10 straight points to move ahead 5-2 before digging out of a 15/30 hole in his final service game, closing out the match with his 15th forehand winner.

"I've been very focused on his serve to be able to counter it," said Jarry, who converted on five of seven break chances. "You have to be very careful against a player like Bublik. I was always focused, trying to always take the initiative and control each point.

"Playing at home is always incredible. There are nerves, but positive energy as well, and I knew how to use it to my advantage. I hope we can continue like this and we can win the tie for Chile."

Sunday's doubles rubber is slated to feature Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo for Chile against Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov for Kazakhstan, followed by the reverse singles fixtures.

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Cacic/Krajinovic Seal Finals Spot For Serbia
Nikola Cacic and Filip Krajinovic withstood a spirited challenge from Viktor Durasovic and Herman Hoeyeraal to claim a doubles victory and secure Serbia’s place in the 2023 Finals Group Stage.

The pair delivered a 6-4 3-6 6-3 victory in one hour and 44 minutes to give their team an unassailable 3-0 lead against Norway, before Hamad Medjedovic completed a Serbian whitewash on his Davis Cup debut by defeating Durasovic 6-4 6-7(4) [10-4].

“We are really happy that we won today,” Cacic said after the doubles match. “It wasn’t easy, we had tough opponents, but it was great performance from Filip and me. We finished the match great and I’m really happy that we qualified [for the Finals].”

The absence of World No. 4 Casper Ruud from this tie was keenly felt by the Norwegian team – but Durasovic fought bravely against Laslo Djere on Friday, with the Serbian forced to save match point in the final-set tiebreak before getting over the line. The World No. 362 played well again on Saturday, as did Hoeyraal, who is unranked in both singles and doubles and was contesting his first Davis Cup match.

Serbia’s strength in depth is such that they missed their No. 1 player this weekend much less than Norway missed theirs. Captain Viktor Troicki played alongside Novak Djokovic (then the winner of just one Grand Slam title) when Serbia won their only Davis Cup title to date in 2010 – and should the now-22-time major champion re-join the team for the Finals group stage in September, Serbia will surely be optimistic of winning the famous trophy for a second time.

“With Novak, if he is in the team for the next ties, I think we have a big chance to go far,” he added. “That is our goal, to go for the title.”

This story features contributions from DavisCup.com