Epic Thai ef­fort ends in a heart­break

Pak­istan earn Group I spot af­ter close bat­tle

Bangkok Post - - SPORTS - TOR CHITTINAND KOK POST/AGEN­CIES BANG-

A marathon fight­back failed to lift Thai­land to Group I of the Davis Cup Asia/Ocea­nia Zone as they went down 3-2 to Pak­istan in Is­lam­abad yes­ter­day.

The re­sult means that Thai­land will be spend­ing at least an­other year in Group II of the com­pe­ti­tion.

Hav­ing closed to gap to 2-1 af­ter Sat­ur­day’s dou­bles match vic­tory from twins Son­chat and San­chai Rati­watana, the King­dom’s stars needed two wins yes­ter­day to earn the pro­mo­tion while the hosts only re­quired one vic­tory to earn a spot in Group I next year.

Top-ranked Thai Wishaya Trongcharoen­chaikul raised Thai­land’s hopes af­ter a thrilling 7-5, 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-7 (3/7), 7-6 (7/3) win against Pak­istan No.1 Aisam Qureshi in the first re­verse sin­gles on the out­door grass­courts at Pak­istan Sports Com­plex.

The vic­tory sent the tie into the de­ci­sive fifth rub­ber.

No.2 Kit­tiphong Wachi­ra­manowong was un­able to match his team­mate as he lost to Aqeel Khan 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6.

Aqeel proved too strong for a vis­i­bly tired Kit­tiphong who did re­mark­ably well to push the match to five sets af­ter hav­ing lost the first two.

Thai­land had been left on the brink af­ter con­ced­ing the first two sin­gles rub­bers to Pak­istan on Fri­day.

Son­chat and San­chai won the dou­bles match against Shahzad Khan and Muham­mad Abid on Sat­ur­day to keep the tie alive af­ter both Wishaya and Kit­tiphong lost their open­ing sin­gles on Fri­day.

Thai­land were rel­e­gated from Group I af­ter los­ing to China in a play-off tie in 2015. They lost to Taiwan in last year’s play-off.

AUS­TRALIA, FRANCE ON BRINK

Aus­tralia edged closer to a first Davis Cup fi­nal in 14 years on Sat­ur­day when Jor­dan Thomp­son and John Peers swept past Arthur De Greef and Ruben Bemel­mans 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 for a 2-1 lead in their World Group semi-fi­nal against Bel­gium in Brussels.

Aus­tralia, the 28-time cham­pi­ons, look likely to face nine-time win­ners France who are 2-1 up on Ser­bia thanks to Ni­co­las Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Her­bert clinch­ing a 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) win over Ne­nad Zi­mon­jic and Filip Kra­ji­novic.

Lleyton He­witt’s Aus­tralia last won the Davis Cup in 2003 when they beat Spain in the fi­nal.

In Lille, Mahut and Her­bert needed less than two hours to see off Ser­bia’s 41-year-old play­ing cap­tain Zi­mon­jic and Kra­ji­novic.

That Yan­nick Noah’s hosts have yet to book their place in the fi­nal is down to Du­san La­jovic’s shock 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (9/7), 7-6 (7/5) win in Fri­day’s open­ing rub­ber against Lu­cas Pouille, al­though Jo-Wil­fried Tsonga had lev­elled the tie by beat­ing debu­tant Laslo Djere 7-6 (7/2), 6-3, 6-3.

Mahut and Her­bert, the 2015 US Open and 2016 Wim­ble­don cham­pi­ons, came back from 5-2 down in the third set to wrap up the win.

France are bid­ding for a first Davis Cup ti­tle since 2001, hav­ing lost three fi­nals since with the most re­cent a de­feat by Roger Fed­erer’s Switzer­land in 2014.

AR­GENTINA OUT OF TOP TIER

Last year’s Davis Cup cham­pi­ons Ar­gentina were knocked out of the com­pe­ti­tion’s top tier yes­ter­day fol­low­ing a shock de­feat to Kaza­khstan.

Mikhail Kukushkin de­feated Diego Schwartz­man 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2) in a bat­tle be­tween the teams’ top-ranked play­ers to give Kaza­khstan an unas­sail­able 3-1 lead in the best-of-five match in Cen­tral Asia.

Schwartz­man, who as the 28th-ranked player is 50 places above Kukushkin, lost his first two ser­vice games in each of the first two sets and strug­gled to re­cover.

Ar­gentina — which didn’t have their top-ranked player Juan Mar­tin Del Potro in Kaza­khstan — are the first reign­ing Davis Cup cham­pi­ons to be rel­e­gated since Swe­den in 1999.

Ar­gentina was last out­side the top-tier World Group in 2001, while Kaza­khstan re­turn fol­low­ing rel­e­ga­tion last year.

Wishaya Trongcharoen­chaikul dur­ing his match against Aisam Qureshi.

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