Korea beat Austria to reach finals of 2022 Davis Cup
Korea will advance to the finals of the Davis Cup for the first time in 14 years after beating Austria 3-1 in the Qualifying Round at the Olympic Park Tennis Center in Seoul over the weekend.
Korea beat Austria with a match to spare on Friday and Saturday, dropping the very first match and then winning three in a row to knock Austria out of contention.
On paper, Korea entered the Qualifying Round as the underdog, the fifth-lowest ranked team left in the competition at No. 27, well below Austria's No. 16.
But tennis is not a team sport, and each round is decided by a series of games — four singles games and one doubles game. As a result, one or two particularly strong players could be all a country needs to come out on top, even if their overall ranking suggests otherwise.
Korea had their one strong player in the form of world No. 65 Kwon Soon-woo, while Austria were stuck competing without world No. 51 Dominic Thiem due to a recent injury.
As expected, the absence of Thiem was all the opportunity Korea needed.
Nam Ji-sung started things off for Korea, dropping the first game in straight sets to Austria's Dennis Novak. Kwon was up next, making short work of Jurij Rodionov, also in straight sets, to tie the score at two games each.
Nam returned to the court for the doubles match, partnering with Song Min-kyu to beat Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler in straight sets. With Korea now ahead by one match, Kwon smashed through Novak in his second singles game for that all-important third point to earn a ticket at the finals. Nam and Rodionov had been scheduled to play a fifth match, but it was canceled due to Korea's insurmountable lead.
Korea is one of 15 teams currently qualified for the 16-team finals tournament. Croatia qualified automatically as a 2021 finalist and Great Britain and Serbia took the Wild Card spots, with Argentina, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United States all earning a spot alongside Korea through the qualifiers.
The final 16th spot should have gone to Russia as the reigning champions, but the country has been banned from competing following the invasion of Ukraine. The International Tennis Federation is yet to announce which team will take Russia's spot.
The 2022 tournament marks the fourth time that Korea has reached the finals of the Davis Cup, having previously qualified in 1981, 1987 and 2008. On all three occasions, Korea was knocked out of the tournament in the first round, most recently losing three matches to two against Germany at the 2008 tournament.
The finals of the 2022 Davis Cup will begin with the group stage to be held from Sept. 14 to Sept. 18. The knockout stage of the tournament will then be held at the end of November.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]