By Alessandro Mastroluca
- Great Britain will need to beat Moldova in the final tie in Group C. They can still finish as group winners
- Cameron Norrie will open against World No.818 Alexander Cozbinov, Dan Evans will meet Radu Albot in a rematch of last year’s Delray Beach final
SYDNEY, UK – Great Britain maintains chances to move to the quarterfinals as the top-ranked team in Group C. They have to beat Moldova by the largest possible margin and hope Bulgaria do not defeat Belgium.
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Great Britain will face Moldova in the ATP Cup final tie. Day Five will decide the winner of Group C as the Brits can still reach the top spot, just like Belgium and Bulgaria, to clinch qualifications for the quarter-finals.
Cameron Norrie v Alexander Cozbinov | First meeting
Cameron Norrie will open the decisive tie against World No.818 Alexander Cozbinov. The former University of Las Vegas standout player had never played a tour-level match before the ATP Cup, and he had only faced one Top 200 opponent.
In just over a year from his graduation, the 2018 Mountain West Men’s Tennis Player of the Year has represented Moldova in two Davis Cup Rubbers (1-1). Here at the ATP Cup, he forced the Belgian Steve Darcis to the decider before losing in straight sets against Bulgarian No.2 Dimitar Kuzmanov.
His aggressive tennis caused an early upset against Darcis, who is retiring after the Australian Open. His inexperience, however, explains why he looked inconsistent from the baseline against Kuzmanov in his second rubber of the competition.
The 24-year-old Cozbinov arrived in Sydney having played just three Challenger Tour matches without any success (0-3). Predictably, he had never been on such a big court and the crowd embraced his efforts.
Norrie hasn’t lost to an opponent ranked outside the Top 800 since the 2017 Charlottesville Challenger, when the South African qualifier Ruan Roelofse, then-World No.976, defeated him in straight sets.
The Brit No.2 had a winning debut in the competition, as he beat Kuzmanov, but he clearly struggled from the beginning against Darcis, who offered a more assured and efficient performance. Only his own fears could prevent the Johannesburg-born left-hander from completing a comfortable victory.
Prediction: Norrie in straight sets
Dan Evans v Radu Albot | Evans leads H2H 2-1
World No.42 Dan Evans could have the chance to seal the win for Great Britain when he meets Radu Albot for the fourth time. The highest-ranked Moldovan player of all time made history when he defeated British No.1 in his maiden ATP final in Delray Beach a year ago. He clinched a 3-6 6-3 7-6(7) win after saving three championship points and became the first player ever from his nation to win a tour-level title. Despite a 56-minute rain delay early in the deciding set, Albot held his nerve to lift the trophy. The Brit No.1 then avenged that defeat in Eastbourne and Atlanta.
As he did against David Goffin to complete his sixth career win over a Top 20 opponent, the World No. 42 is meant to control the pace of the rallies changing rhythm off the backhand side.
In their previous clashes, he used to drill higher balls to the opponent’s backhand to open up the court for himself, Managing to vary length and height of his ground-strokes, Evans forced his opponent to think, upsetting him with sudden runs to the net. The Brit is undoubtedly more creative and purely talented, while the Moldovan can benefit from a more energetic hitting style.
Both players struggled to turn defence into offence, so building a territorial advantage will become a decisive factor to establish a convincing competitive edge.
The different motivations will play a role, too. Having suffered two defeats in the opening ties, Moldova hasn’t any chances to move to the quarter-finals. So, Albot will play just for the pride of his nation. Evans, instead, will the fate of Great Britain in the ATP Cup in his hands.
Prediction: Evans in three sets
READ MORE | ATP Cup, schedule and draws
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Doubles: Jamie Murray/Joe Salisbury v Radu Albot/Dimitar Cozbinov (players subject to change)
Former doubles World No.1 Jamie Murray looked particularly interested in checking statistics inside Sydney’s Strategy Room. He focused on what British opponents don’t usually do, as reported by the ATP Tour website:
“If they play regular formation and they never cross, then I’ll know that I can keep returning cross-court. Or one player, if he never serves wide on the deuce court, then I know I only have to protect the T serve and the body. So it’s things like that, that kind of give you an edge”.
He and Joe Salisbury, the less experienced of the British doubles players, grew in stature in the closing stages of the key rubber against Belgium. They used their wingspan to stamp their authority at the net against Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen. A similarly strong performance should see them beat Albot and Cozbinov, announced as the Moldovan duo, who suffered a heartbreaking loss against Belgium before defeating Bulgarians Grigor Dimitrov and Alexandar Lazarov in straight sets.
Prediction: Murray and Salisbury in straight sets
Play starts between Great Britain and Moldova starts at 10am (11pm GMT).
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