Davis Cup: An opportunity to get back on winning terms for New Zealand

Wednesday, 01 February 2023

The tie will be aired live on Sky Sport Channel 4 - from 12pm on Saturday and from 11am on Sunday.
New Zealand Davis Cup captain Kelly Evernden is sensing an opportunity to get back on winning terms in this weekend’s World Group 1 playoff tie against Bulgaria at Wilding Park in Christchurch.

New Zealand’s most successful Davis Cup singles player Rubin Statham returns having missed the 5-0 defeat to Finland at Helsinki in September, while Bulgaria are without world singles #29 ranked Grigor Dimitrov.

A testimony to Statham’s longevity and history in Davis Cup, he’s now in a position to surpass Parun’s mark with most wins (singles/doubles combined)which was reached in the halcyon days where New Zealand played the bulk of their ties against the worlds best teams. The pair are tied on 30 wins, 28 of those for Statham coming in singles.

“It gives us a better chance of winning the tie with Grigor out for sure,” Evernden said.

“The younger guys they have all look fit and fast and hit the ball well but we’ve got a lot of gamers on our team. Rubin has played a lot of matches in the Davis Cup so we’ll see what happens.”

The New Zealand team consists of Statham, Kiranpal Pannu and Ajeet Rai as the singles options with the experienced duo of Michael Venus and Artem Sitak to feature in the doubles.

Bulgaria’s top ranked player is Dimitar Kuzmanov who is ranked 192 in singles.

Evernden’s pleased with the form his squad are bringing in to the tie.

“Rubin brings a really consistent ball striking ability and that’s really valuable for the younger guys to practice against. He doesn’t mess around with the fancy stuff, he plays really smart,” Evernden said.

“KP and Ajeet are both fitter. That had to happen and once they bought into that they needed to go in that direction, they had better results in New Zealand than they’ve had in the past.

“Mike is in a positive frame of mind, which is one of the great things he possesses is his ability to let things go and move on to the next one. He didn’t have great results in Australia but he still played pretty good tennis and he’s still one of the top 20 doubles players in the world.

“I’d pick Mike and Artem to go out there and win their match.”

It’s the first time New Zealand has played in Christchurch since a tie against Pakistan in 2016.

Evernden has many fond memories of his playing career in the Garden City, including a famous Davis Cup triumph over then second ranked Yugoslavia on the grass courts in 1990.

“That was one of the highlights of my career,” Evernden said. “Christchurch is a great city, the people come out and support their tennis. They bring the noise and we’re going to give it our best shot.”

Evernden also had a message for those in Auckland and the upper North Island impacted by the floods and heavy rain. He revealed New Zealand’s number #2 Statham was caught up in the chaos on Friday.

“We had two days of practice cancelled and some scary moments with Rubin in his car with the water handle deep on the motorway. Luckily a truck behind him nudged him onto the exit ramp and he was able to drive home, otherwise he was a duck without a head floating around in the water there,” Evernden said. “It was a horrible thing to have happened, we’re wishing everyone in Auckland all the best.”

The tie will be aired live on Sky Sport Channel 4 - from 12pm on Saturday and from 11am on Sunday.

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