No Carlos Alcaraz, no problem for Spain.
In front of a partisan home crown at Valencia, Spain cruised to a 3-0 win over Serbia in the Davis Cup opening fixture on Wednesday to move top of its group.
The top-ranked Alcaraz had arrived in Valencia the previous day but skipped the opening round, which was taking place only three days after the Spanish teenager won the U.S. Open. He did appear during the national anthems, much to the crowd’s delight.
Sunday’s victory over Casper Ruud saw the 19-year-old Alcaraz become the youngest man to lead the ATP computerized rankings since they began in 1973.
But Albert Ramos Viñolas rallied to beat Laslo Đere 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 in the opening rubber that lasted just under three hours. And Roberto Bautista Agut prevailed 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5) over Miomir Kecmanović to secure victory.
The crowd roared in delight and Bautista Agut sunk to his knees after placing a backhand out of Kecmanović’s reach after 2 hours, 15 minutes.
“The best experiences of my life playing tennis have been in this competition,” Bautista Agut said. “Today I really enjoyed playing in front of the Spanish crowd in Valencia, next to my home town.
“I’m exhausted because it was a tough match and we have a lot of work to do this week.”
Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martínez beat Nikola Ćaćić and Dušan Lajović 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2 in the doubles to complete the whitewash of Serbia, which is without Novak Djokovic.
Granollers and Bautista Agut were part of Spain’s victorious Davis Cup team in 2019.
Three other venues — Bologna in Italy, Hamburg, Germany and Glasgow, Scotland — are hosting group-stage matches ahead of the single-venue quarterfinals that will be played in the southern Spanish city of Málaga in November.
In Group D, in Glasgow, Andy Murray had a disappointing return to Davis Cup action as the United States won a tight contest against Britain.
Tommy Paul gave the Americans the early lead when he beat Dan Evans 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. The tie appeared to be heading the Americans’ way when Cameron Norrie lost the opening set of the second singles in 45 minutes, but Norris recovered to beat Taylor Fritz 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-5.
Murray teamed in the doubles with Joe Salisbury for only his second Davis Cup appearance since 2016 but the duo were beaten 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 by Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram in a match that ended at 1 a.m.
“We were playing against one of the biggest legends of the game, playing in his home county,” Sock told the BBC. “It was an electric atmosphere. We stuck it out and got the win.”
The Americans play Kazakhstan in their next match on Thursday while Britain takes on the Netherlands.
“It’s tough, it’s 1 a.m. on a Thursday and we’ve got to go again in 13 hours,” U.S. stand-in captain Bob Bryan said. “Kazakhstan won’t be any easier.”
In Group C in Hamburg, a home crowd helped propel Germany to its first win over France since 1938.
Jan-Lennard Struff put Germany in front with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over Benjamin Bonzi, after the Frenchman failed to convert two match points. But Adrian Mannarino evened the tie with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Oscar Otte.
However, Kevin Krawietz and Tim Pütz maintained their perfect Davis Cup record as a pairing by defeating Nicolas Mahut and Arthur Rinderknech 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (1) to end a run of eight straight defeats for Germany against France.
The hosts also won in Group A, in Bologna, as Italy beat top-ranked Croatia 3-0.
Lorenzo Mussetti eased past Borna Gojo 6-4, 6-2 before Matteo Berrettini rallied to beat Borna Ćorić 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1. Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli also had to recover from a set down to see off Nikola Mektić and Mate Pavić 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3).
Gojo, Mektić and Pavić were all part of the Croatia team that lost to Russia in last year’s final. Croatia also won the Davis Cup in 2018.
Russia will not be able to defend its title from last year after being banned from international team competitions because of the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.