The 2022 Davis Cup got off to a roaring start on Tuesday, with five three-set singles matches and multiple intriguing results.
Let’s dive into breaking down day one immediately:
Welcome to the Ymer Brothers’ Show
While Argentina was a pretty heavy favorite over Sweden (-345), this was a very one-sided matchup, as Sweden took the two singles matches — with one coming in dominant fashion.
The first matchup consisted of Elias Ymer taking down Sebastian Baez in three sets (6-4, 3-6, 7-6). Elias actually didn’t have a significant advantage in the overall stats, but he played better during clutch points.
In the third-set tiebreaker, Elias looked much more composed than Baez, who has struggled greatly on hard courts this season.
The 26-year-old Elias is 9-6 on the ATP Tour in 2022, but mainly plays Challenger Tour events. While this win obviously won’t significantly impact his career trajectory, it could inject a bit of confidence into the Swede as we wind down the tennis season.
Meanwhile, in the second singles match, Mikael Ymer cruised (and I mean cruised) past Diego Schwartzman, 6-2, 6-2.
I’ve mentioned in multiple articles this year that Ymer is much improved due to his more aggressive game. He used to have a tendency to get overly comfortable with playing defense and rallying from the baseline, waiting for an opponent to make an error. But this year — for the most part — Ymer has flexed a much improved offensive attack with his solid forehand.
He showed this off at the Citi Open — where he made a run to the semifinals — and at Wimbledon — where he impressed against Jannik Sinner.
But he again reverted to that old form in his opening-round match at the US Open against Jason Kubler, one in which he lost in four sets.
That’s why today’s result was incredibly promising — not just for Sweden, but for the future of Mikael. He’s two years younger than his brother and has shown flashes of brilliance (as I mentioned above).
Beating a player like Schwartzman (even though he’s struggled mightily this summer) is another step in the right direction to Mikael becoming more consistent than his No. 98 ranking.
If the brothers keep playing this way, watch out, as they can make a little bit of noise moving forward on tour.
Two Major Question Marks: Diego & Felix
Two of the more eye-opening matches of the day came when Schwartzman lost in straight sets to Ymer and Felix Auger Aliassime was routed by Soonwoo Kwon, 7-6, 6-3.
Both of these matches are stunning on the surface — especially how each player lost — but if you follow tennis consistently, you know things haven’t been totally right with Schwartzman and Auger Aliassime all summer.
I’ll start with the Argentine. He’s currently ranked 17th in the world, but he surely hasn’t looked like a top-20 player for the better part of the last few months.
Here’s the results for Schwartzman since May:
- Madrid (1000): Second-round loss to Grigor Dimitrov
- Rome (1000): Second-round loss to Marcos Giron
- Roland Garros: Round of 16 loss to Novak Djokovic
- London/Queen’s Club (500): Opening-round loss to Sam Querrey
- Eastbourne (250): Opening-match loss to Jack Draper
- Wimbledon: Second-round loss to Liam Broady (blown lead)
- Bastad (250): Quarterfinal-round loss to Pablo Carreno Busta
- Hamburg (500): Opening-round loss to Emil Ruusuvuori
- Montreal (1000): Second-round loss to Albert Ramos-Vinolas
- Cincinnati (1000): Round of 16 loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas
- US Open: Third-round loss to Frances Tiafoe
Now, let me start by saying, some of those results are nothing to frown upon. Losing to Djokovic at a major, Carreno Busta in a quarterfinal match and Tsitsipas in the Round of 16 of a 1000-event are all acceptable results. But there are plenty that aren’t acceptable for a player of Schwartzman’s stature.
We know Schwartzman’s least favorite surface is grass, but his loss to Querrey was embarrassing and his Wimbledon results were incredibly disappointing.
That’s not the only surface he’s been shaky on, though. He was so-so during the 1000 clay-court events during the spring, and he only made the third round of the US Open because Jack Sock retired from two sets up in the first round.
So, while today’s loss is tough for Argentina and we shouldn’t take anything away from the incredible play of Mikael, there is a bigger issue at play for Schwartzman, who is normally consistent.
Now, let’s transition to the Canadian, Auger Aliassime. I touched on this a bit after Newport, but Auger Aliassime hasn’t been able to take the next step in his career. Ranked No. 13 in the world at just 22 years of age, Auger Aliassime has become an afterthought this summer compared to young players like Carlos Alcaraz, Sinner, Tsitsipas and Casper Ruud.
Maybe those are unfair expectations for the Canadian, and me being too hard on a young player, but the start of his season was so incredibly promising. He showed flashes of brilliance at the ATP Cup, made the quarters of the Aussie Open, won Rotterdam and made the final in Marseille.
With the US Open wide open, Auger Aliassime should’ve been one of the players to step up and be a factor.
Instead, his disappointing summer diminished his momentum.
He’s suffered nine losses to players outside the top 40 since March, including a second-round loss at the US Open, an opening-round loss in Newport and a first-round loss at Wimbledon.
Then, today, Auger Aliassime blew a 3-0 (and 4-1) first-set lead in the Davis Cup to Kwon. The final score didn’t do justice to how much of a blowout this really was. Remember, FAA got a three game buffer at the beginning of the match.
Ultimately, like Mikael above, we can’t gloss over the fact that Kwon played an amazing match. He was in the zone, ripping wicked forehands, dictating points with his backhand and picking his spots effectively with his serve. He had the crowd behind him, and he played the best match I’ve ever seen him play.
But FAA is still a top-15 player and someone who should dispatch Kwon.
Again, similar to Schwartzman, there may be a larger issue at play here with the Canadian.
- The Alexander Bublik-Botic van de Zandschulp matchup was pretty much what we expected: a three-set match. But what we didn’t expect was all the break-point opportunities. These are normally two effective players on serve, and there was a total of 21 break points in the match with six total breaks. Fluke? I think so.
- I’ve said this for years, but Alex de Minaur is one of my favorite players to watch on tour. When he’s in a groove, he can stay neck-and-neck with just about anyone, and he had that groove today against David Goffin (6-2, 6-2). Alex hasn’t exactly peaked like I expected, but he’s still an incredibly solid player. And he’s just 23 years old, so there’s room for more growth.
- Kubler continues to be one of the best stories of this year in tennis. The Aussie has had six surgeries in his career, but in 2022, he’s had some special moments … finally. He made the Round of 16 at Wimbledon, the semifinals in Newport and won a match at the US Open. Add in a win in his Davis Cup debut against Zizou Bergs, and that’s a solid, solid season. Well deserved.