(Reuters) - Former winners Germany, Australia and Serbia were among 12 qualifiers that secured their places on Saturday in the revamped Davis Cup finals week that will take place in Madrid in November.
They will join the four teams that contested the semis-finals last year — holders Croatia, finalists France, Spain and the United States — as well as wildcards Britain and Argentina, in the 18-team competition that has divided the tennis world.
Germany, who completed a 5-0 rout of Hungary, are the only country represented by a player in the world’s top 10 at this weekend’s qualifiers, with some of the sport’s biggest names, including Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, staying away.
The Germans won their first two singles rubbers on Friday and Tim Puetz and Jan-Lennard Struff beat Gabor Boros and Peter Nagy 6-2 6-3 in the doubles on Saturday to give their team an unassailable lead in Frankfurt.
World number three Alexander Zverev beat Boros in straight sets in the singles before Philipp Kohlschreiber completed the drubbing by defeating David Szintai 6-7(5) 6-3 10-5.
Australia, whose participation in this year’s tournament has been overshadowed by a bitter dispute between captain Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic, romped to a 4-0 win over Bosnia.
John Peers and Jordan Thompson beat Tomislav Brkic and Mirza Basic in Saturday’s doubles to put the tie beyond Bosnia’s reach, allowing Hewitt to hand teenager Alexei Popyrin a Davis Cup debut in the dead rubber.
The 19-year-old rewarded his captain’s faith with a gutsy 6-1 7-6(2) victory over Nerman Fatic in Adelaide.
Hewitt’s comments after the match hinted at how rankled he has been by Tomic’s recent comments and alleged behaviour.
The captain went public with their dispute at the Australian Open last month, saying Tomic would not be picked to play for his country as long as he was in charge.
Earlier on Saturday, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley sided with Hewitt, issuing a statement accusing Tomic of disrespect and withdrawing the governing body’s support of the player.
“The biggest thing to come out of it was ‘we’re still going to get a chance to play for Australia and wear the green and gold and push the culture that we want, the standards’,” Hewitt said.
“These boys have taken it to another level now. There’ll be times when we don’t win, but I’ll always be proud of these guys and the effort they give.”
Serbia squandered a 2-0 lead against Uzbekistan after Sanjar Fayziev and Denis Istomin clawed a point back in the doubles and Istomin beat Dusan Lajovic in his singles rubber in Tashkent to level the tie at 2-2.
It was left to Filip Krajinovic to mount a rescue, which the Serb duly did with a 4-6 6-3 6-0 win over Fayziev to send his team through.
Canada’s teenage duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime triumphed on hostile clay in Slovakia to send the Canadians through as 3-2 winners.
Switzerland, champions in 2014 but playing without 20-times Grand Slam champion Federer, were dumped out by Russia’s Karen Khachanov, who beat Henri Laaksonen to send Russia through as 3-1 victors.
The first Davis Cup meeting between China and Japan in a decade ended with the Chinese bowing out 3-2 at the hands of their Asian rivals, with Yoshihito Nishioka beating Wu Yibing 6-2 6-0 after Japan had lost the doubles to slip behind 2-1.
Taro Daniel held his nerve to win his second singles rubber, beating Li Zhe in a tense three-setter to send the Japanese into the finals.
The Netherlands beat Czech Republic 3-1 in Ostrava and Colombia ended a 51-year wait to play for the Davis Cup by blanking Sweden 4-0 in Bogota, while Belgium upset Brazil on home soil to advance.
Kazakhstan ran out 3-1 winners over Portugal in Astana, Chile edged Austria 3-2 in Salzburg, and Italy also progressed with a 3-1 victory over India in Kolkata.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar