Evgeny Donskoy and Konstantin Kravchuk have put Russia back on track in their Davis Cup second round tie against Spain with a hard-fought doubles win in Vladivostok.
The Russian pair battled back from a set down twice on Saturday, winning 4-6 7-6 (7-3) 5-7 7-5 6-4 in four hours five minutes to keep alive their team’s slim chances to advance into the World Group play-offs.
“It’s really hard to keep my emotions under control,” Kravchuk said.
“It was a tough match as we’ve lost the first and the third sets and needed to work really hard to catch them up.
“But we’ve prepared seriously for this rubber and it paid off. Today I tried to serve at my maximum power and precision and it worked pretty well.”
It wasn’t until the seventh game when the Spaniards broke Donskoy’s serve with sharp returns by doubles specialist Marc Lopez to take the opening set in 41 minutes.
With no breaks of serve the second set went to a tiebreak, which the Russians won to level at one set all after one hour 37 minutes on the hardcourt of Vladivostok’s Fetisov arena.
No big serves were produced in the third set before the 12th game when the visitors broke Donskoy’s serve again to restore their lead.
But the Russian pair refused to surrender and pulled the scores level at 2-2, breaking Lopez’ serve twice in the fourth, while the guests broke back only once.
In the deciding set the hosts broke Lopez’ serve early again.
The Spaniards fought back but a set of powerful serves by Kravchuk in the crucial moments allowed the Russian pair to keep their narrow lead through to win the set and the match.
After the match Donskoy praised the local crowd.
“We would never manage to win without their support,” he said.
“It drives me really hard and I felt I was ready to run more and more.”
Spain’s captain, former Wimbledon champion Conchita Martinez, who took over after Gala Leon was sacked, said her players’ fitness was not to blame for the defeat.
“The match lasted for more than four hours but the reason for our defeat was not poor fitness,” she said.
“Our guys were ready to play six hours and more.”
Lopez echoed his skipper’s view: “The public supported the Russian team but behaved fine with us. We lost because our rivals were better than us.”
Five-time former Davis Cup titleholders Spain made the 13,000 kilometre trip from Madrid to the city near Russia’s border with North Korea and China without stars David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal.
But after Friday’s rubbers the Spaniards took a commanding 2-0 lead as their veteran Tommy Robredo got off to a perfect start by beating teenager Andrey Rublev 6-2 6-3 6-3 while Pablo Andujar dispatched Karen Khachanov 6-3 6-3 6-2.
Sunday’s reverse singles complete the tie.