Davis Cup: Wasn't meant to be on Day 2 as NZ comes away second best vs Bulgaria

Sunday, 05 February 2023

New Zealand has shown its potential but ultimately come away second best against an experienced Bulgarian squad losing their Davis Cup World Group 1 play-off tie 3-1 at Wilding Park in Christchurch. 

Top doubles combination Artem Sitak and Michael Venus got New Zealand on the board to keep the tie alive at 2-1 with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Alexander Donski and Petr Nesterov. 

Ajeet Rai was tasked with backing up in the reverse singles against Dimitar Kuzmanov - who beat KP Pannu in a three hour marathon match on Saturday. 

Having secured an early break of serve to lead the first set 2-1 Rai’s momentum was thwarted by rain, which kept players off the court for three hours. 

It was Kuzmanov who started quicker after the resumption, breaking Rai’s serve twice to take the first set 6-3. The Bulgarian had an early break in the second but Rai refused to relent, showing huge fight and skill with an array of big forehands and successful approaches to the net to get back on terms and then break Kuzmanov’s serve to take the set 7-5. 

Both players had their opportunities in the third and deciding set, but it was Kuzmanov who delivered the crucial blow in the fifth game with a break. 

He held his nerve thereafter to close it out 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to secure the tie for the visitors. 

New Zealand team captain Kelly Evernden’s far from despondent despite the outcome. 

 “We had some good matches. The last time we played [in September] we didn’t. We played a team that was really fired up and wanted to win. We battled, we had some chances which would have pushed it to five [matches]. So that’s a really good result in my view,” Evernden said.  

“If we got a win on the first day, we’d still be playing no doubt.” 

New Zealand will play in World Group 2 in their next Davis Cup tie in September. 

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