Starting way back in 1900, Davis Cup has been one of the most prominent competitions in tennis and it has brought glory to many legendary players from different decades and generations. Almost every all-time great player has had a chance to make a contribution and help his country to earn its place on the winners list, including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray in the last 10 years.
After all the changes that have been presented to us in August, Davis Cup is about to lose its essential features from 2019, including four rounds of competition in the World Group and also the best-of-five matches that have delivered some of the finest matches in the history of our sport.
For that reason, the weekend behind us was very important because it offered the last chance for the youngsters to experience all the vibes and passion of this prestigious tournament that will be done and dusted from the next year.
Denis Shapovalov, Jurabek Karimov and Zsombor Piros have all had prominent junior careers and they had the opportunity to represent their countries in the Davis Cup Play-off round and score memorable wins that will stay in their memories for a very long time, all prevailing in five sets to earn the important points for Canada, Uzbekistan and Hungary respectively.
Denis Shapovalov, the most accomplished player of the three so far had a chance to score some important wins for Canada 12 months ago in the Play-off as well against India and he had to give his best to overpower Robin Haase on Friday, prevailing 3-6 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-4 in three hours and 35 minutes to overcome two sets to love deficit for the first time in his young career.
Denis was off to a very slow start, unable to find the range on the return and in his initial games early on, standing on a verge of defeat at 5-5 in the third set when he faced no less than six break points that could have pushed Haase closer to straight sets win.
Carried by the partisan crowd and that special boost that only Davis Cup can produce, Denis fought back and he claimed that set and the following two to secure one of his biggest wins ever. The 20-year-old Jurabek Karimov was the Australian Open finalist in 2016 and he joined the Uzbekistan Davis Cup squad for the third time in his career, facing Cameron Norrie in the second rubber at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow.
After an amazing battle, Karimov saved a match point to score a 0-6 5-7 7-6 6-2 6-2 win for his first Davis Cup singles win, the first Top 100 triumph, the first best-of-five match win and also the first after losing the opening two sets.
There were nine break points from 17 break points for each player and nothing could separate them in the overall stats, with Karimov winning one point more than his rival! Cameron needed only 20 minutes to dismantle his rival 6-0 in the opening set and he broke three times in a row in set number two to open up a 5-3 lead.
Karimov had found the rhythm on the return and he broke back in game 10 to level the score at 5-5, only to lose serve again in the next game that cost him the set. With the mountain to climb in front of him, Jurabek bounced back from 4-2 down in the third set and he saved a break point in game seven that could have sent Norrie 5-2 up, just a game away from the win.
Instead of that, the Briton wasted two game points in the next game and Karimov broke back to gain a huge momentum. He wasted a set point at 5-4 and Cameron was just a point away from the win after leading 6-5 in the tie break.
Out of sudden, he lost the next three points and the match was wide open when Karimov claimed the fourth set 6-2 to force a decider where he had the momentum. He broke Norrie three times in the deciding set to complete a marvelous win and start a huge celebration of what has been his proudest moment in a career so far, getting a chance to experience the finest Davis Cup moment before everything changes in 2019.
An 18-year-old Zsombor Piros had played his first best-of-five match in front of the home crowd in Budapest and it was a memorable one, competing for almost four hours and 30 minutes before he defeated Jiri Vesely 3-6 6-4 4-6 7-6 7-5 to deliver the first point for his country.
Vesely won two points more than the youngster but obviously not the most important ones, as Piros prevailed with a late break in the deciding set (they both had five breaks each). After trading breaks early in the match, Jiri grabbed another one in the sixth game to forge the lead and close the set with an ace in game nine.
Piros led 4-1 in set number two, with a couple of break points in game six as well but the Czech climbed back to 4-4, only to lose the serve again in game 10 and hand the set to his young opponent. The third set was fast and fluid and Vesely clinched it in the only loose service games from Zsombor who netted a forehand in the seventh game to find himself 4-3 down.
Jiri held at love in game 10 to win the set 6-4 and he was the favorite now as the Hungarian started to struggle physically. Nonetheless, Zsombor gave his everything to stay in touch in the fourth set and he won it in the tie break after a backhand down the line winner for a 7-3, roaring towards his teammates and preparing himself for more efforts in the final set.
There, Vesely led 4-1 but it wasn't to be for him, getting broken in game seven and again at 5-5 when he sprayed a backhand error, allowing Piros to serve for the great win in the following game. A teenager sealed the deal with an ace in game 12 and he fell to the ground in disbelief after a thrilling contest that was previously endured by many of the legendary players in the past, with the only difference that Denis Shapovalov, Zsombor Piros and Jurabek Karimov will not have a chance to repeat that in the years to come and probably never again outside Majors.