PARIS, France, Mar 4 – Teenager Carlos Alcaraz made a stunning start to his Davis Cup career on Friday, helping six-time champions Spain to a comfortable 2-0 lead over Romania on the first day of their qualifying tie.
The 18-year-old Alcaraz, ranked 19 in the world, swept past the experienced Marius Copil 6-4, 6-3 on the clay courts of Marbella.
“I was nervous, but no more than usual. Having an experience like this in the Davis Cup helps you grow as a player and as a person,” said Alcaraz widely seen as his country’s tennis heir apparent to Rafael Nadal who has skipped this tie.
“I have no words to define what I felt on the court. It’s totally different to feel the warmth of the entire crowd. It’s super special and you only experience it in the Davis Cup.”
In the first rubber, Roberto Bautista Agut, ranked 15, was equally untroubled, cruising to a 6-3, 6-1 win over Gabi Adrian Boitan, who was shown up by his modest 721 ranking.
France, the 10-time Davis Cup champions, also opened up a 2-0 lead in their qualifier over Ecuador in Pau.
World 59 Arthur Rinderknech defeated Emilio Gomez, ranked at 144, by 6-2, 7-5 before 58th-ranked Adrian Mannarino saw off Roberto Quiroz, who played way beyond his 381 ranking, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
Canada, without ninth-ranked Felix Auger-Aliassime and world number 15 Denis Shapovalov, slipped to a 2-0 deficit against the Netherlands in The Hague.
Botic Van de Zandschulp defeated Alexis Galarneau 7-5, 7-6 (11/9) while Tallon Griekspoor eased past Steven Diez 6-4, 6-4.
The doubles and reverse singles are played on Saturday.
– Aussies, Hungary all-square –
Twelve Davis Cup ties are being contested on Friday and Saturday, with the winners progressing to the finals, the first stage of which will be played in September with 16 teams.
Croatia, Great Britain and Serbia are already through, with Davis Cup chiefs to decide next week who will replace defending champions Russia after they were axed over the invasion of Ukraine.
Earlier, Alex de Minaur got 28-time champions Australia off to a blistering start, but Thanasi Kokkinakis couldn’t maintain the momentum as they split their opening singles rubbers with Hungary.
World number 30 De Minaur was pushed hard in the opening set, with the roof closed at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena by young Hungarian number two Zsombor Piros, ranked 240.
But the Australian was relentless and piled pressure on Piros’ serve in the 12th game to force three unforced errors, then a double fault, to break and take the set 7-5.
He broke again to move 3-1 clear in the second set and raced home 6-2.
Almost seven years since he last played Davis Cup, Kokkinakis was recalled after claiming a first ATP singles title in Adelaide in January then winning the Australian Open doubles crown with Nick Kyrgios.
But the gamble didn’t pay off, as he fell 7-6 (7/4), 1-6, 6-3 to Hungarian number one and 35th-ranked Marton Fucsovics.
Alexander Zverev, who reversed his decision not to play Davis Cup, gave Germany a 1-0 lead over Brazil in Rio with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Thiago Seyboth Wild.
World number three Zverev is playing for the first time since his disqualification from the Acapulco ATP event last month for smashing his racquet against the umpire’s chair.
Filip Horansky was an unlikely star for Slovakia against Italy in Bratislava.
The 20rd-ranked Horanksy was drafted in at the last minute when Alex Molcan tested positive for Covid-19 but he stunned world number 21 Lorenzo Sonego 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 to register his first career singles win in Davis Cup.
Jannik Sinner, the world number 11, earlier gave Italy the lead, battling past Norbert Gombos 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Argentina, the 2016 champions, were 2-0 up on three-time winners Czech Republic in Buenos Aires after Sebastian Baez downed Jiri Lehecka 7-6 (7/4), 6-3 and Diego Schwartzman recovered to get the better of Tomas Machac 2-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Later Friday, 32-time champions the United States host Colombia in Reno.