Underdogs Finland stunned 32-times champions the United States on Saturday to seal their place in the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time, while the Czech Republic, Australia and defending champions Canada all advanced.
Otto Virtanen saved two match points in the decisive tiebreaker to beat Mackenzie McDonald 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (7) and Emil Ruusuvuori defeated Tommy Paul 7-6 (1), 6-4 – sealing the result on his fourth match point – to give debutants Finland a historic win in Split, Croatia, at the group stage of the Davis Cup finals.
Finland join the Netherlands in advancing out of Group D and reaching the last eight in the southern Spanish city of Malaga in November.
“You can hear it from the (fans). It means a lot for the whole country, for tennis in Finland. It’s a huge thing,” Ruusuvuori said. “We’re going to Malaga!”
He added: “I skipped the US Open as I was sick and didn’t come here in really good shape. I struggled today physically and it was a bit tough in the beginning. But you just have to keep fighting. I was able to find a way in two long sets.”
Canada beat Chile 2-1. Alexis Galarneau’s 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Alejandro Tabilo in the opening match was enough to secure Canada’s spot in Malaga.
Nicolas Jarry leveled the tie by beating Gabriel Diallo 6-4, 6-4 but a 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory for Galarneau and Vasek Pospisil over Marcelo Tomás Barrios Vera and Tabilo saw Canada clinch top spot in Group A.
Italy could join Canada in advancing from that group if it wins at least one match on Sunday in Bologna.
Last year’s runners-up Australia also ensured their return to the quarter-finals with a 3-0 win over Switzerland in Manchester.
Defeat in any of the matches would have left Australia depending on the outcome of Britain’s matchup against France on Sunday.
The Czech Republic beat Serbia 3-0 to clinch top spot in Group C with Novak Djokovic losing in the doubles with Nikola Cacic. Both countries were already through with two wins each in Valencia.
Laslo Djere, who has been in good form during the finals group stage, overcame a back problem and dug deep to save four match points in his clash with Jiri Lehecka but lost 7-6(7) 7-5 as the Czechs prevailed.
“I’m pleased with the win, it’s as simple as that. Laslo is a great guy and even better player so for me to play against him on this court was such a big challenge,” Lehecka said after ensuring top spot in the group for his nation.
“He plays some incredible shots and he never gives up. Even when I was up 4-1 in the second set, he was still there waiting for his moments. I must have added something to my level and it went well.”
The teams will next head to Malaga for the knockout rounds that take place from 21 to 26 November.