U.S. captain Mardy Fish hinted at a lack of passion within his team after the record 32-time champion Americans were eliminated from the Davis Cup Finals by following up a lopsided loss to host Italy with a humbling defeat to Colombia on Sunday.
The Americans left Turin 0-2 when Reilly Opelka and Jack Sock retired from the decisive doubles match while trailing 3-0 in the opening set against the accomplished Colombian pair of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.
“You can see the passion for Davis Cup, playing for their country,” Fish said of Colombia. “It’s infectious for them … These guys are giving fist pumps every other point. It’s impressive, and it’s something that I hope, as a captain, to strive for and get our players to do.”
Meanwhile, Russia with second-ranked Daniil Medvedev beat Spain 2-1 in a result that eliminated the defending champion and allowed Serbia with top-ranked Novak Djokovic to advance as the second-best runner-up.
Russia, which is being called RTF (Russian Tennis Federation) for the event amid an ongoing doping suspension in international sport, will face Sweden, the best runner-up, in the quarterfinals.
The other quarterfinals: Italy vs. Croatia, Britain vs. Germany, and Serbia vs. Kazakhstan.
Played in three cities, each matchup on indoor hard courts is a best-of-three series featuring two singles and one doubles match. The six group winners plus the two second-place teams with the best records based on sets and games advanced to the quarterfinals.
The semifinals and final will be played in Madrid.
Tiafoe saved two match points in the decisive tiebreaker before finally closing it out on his fifth match point with an ace.
The 38th-ranked Tiafoe was a late pick for the team, replacing Taylor Fritz, and this marked his first Davis Cup victory.
Things went sour for the Americans from there; the U.S. retired from the doubles match because of an upper right leg injury for Sock.
Italy won the group, Colombia placed second and the U.S. finished last.
“I thought Frances did an amazing job of [playing with passion] today,” Fish said. “It’s not an individual tournament. This isn’t just about how you’re playing on one specific day. It’s about just trying to get through and competing for your teammates and the support staff that’s here.
“There is a lot of people that sacrificed a lot of things to be here this week, including the players,” Fish added. “So we hope to get that right.”
RTF 2, SPAIN 1
Medvedev evened the series at 1-1 by beating Pablo Carreno Busta 6-2, 7-6 (3) after Lopez had put Spain ahead by rallying past Rublev 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
RTF won Group A, Spain finished second and Ecuador was last.
BRITAIN 2, CZECH REPUBLIC 1
“Today was tough. You look at the rankings and a lot of people would think it’s going to be straightforward, but it’s never like that,” Britain captain Leon Smith said. “The Czech team played really well today, they are a very good young team. Machac looked like he had suddenly turned into a top-20 player overnight.”
Still regaining in form after a series of physical issues, Andy Murray opted not to play for Britain.
Britain won Group C, France finished second and the Czech Republic was third.
KAZAKHSTAN 3, CANADA 0
Kazakhstan has now reached the quarterfinals in six of the past 10 editions of the Davis Cup.
Kazakhstan won Group B, Sweden finished second and Canada came in last.
CROATIA 2, HUNGARY 1
Then the top-ranked doubles team of Mate Pavic and Nikola Mektic clinched victory over Hungary by defeating Marozsan and Peter Nagy 7-6 (6), 6-2 in the decisive doubles match after Zsombor Piros had upset former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 to even it at 1-1.
Croatia won Group D, Australia came second and Hungary finished last.
GERMANY 2, AUSTRIA 1
Germany won Group F, Serbia was second and Austria finished last.