Grand Slam surprises and Davis Cup prospects

By Skip Bandele [email protected]

New Portuguese tennis No1 João Sousa(pictured) caused a minor sensation at the US Open by achieving back-to-back victories over world No29 Grigor Dimitrov and No48 Jarkko Nieminen before bowing out to the world’s top player Novak Djokovic in the third round.

While Andy Murray is still very much on target for a repeat of last year’s victory, fourth round surprise loser Roger Federer will not be standing in his way come the weekend. Britain found another unlikely hero in 23-year-old Dan Evans, who equalled Sousa’s feat of reaching the third round before being beaten by Federer-conqueror Tommy Robredo.

João Sousa’s achievements in New York should provide him with the perfect springboard to spearhead his country’s challenge during next weekend’s final Davis Cup eliminator. Moldova host Portugal in this Europe/Africa Zone Group II third-round tie, with the winners gaining promotion to Euro/Africa Zone Group I. This will be the first meeting between the two sides.

Portugal have been in scintillating form in this year’s Davis Cup and have not dropped a rubber so far. In their second-round match, they comfortably defeated Lithuania without dropping a single set. Portugal have featured six players so far in this year’s competition, with Rui Machado and Pedro Sousa expected to make up the US Open hero’s supporting cast.

Machado, the former Portuguese No1 from Faro, has been getting plenty of match practice in Poland, where he reached his third successive semi-final last week. He has also been chosen as one of the ambassadors for the new national training centre due to be unveiled within the Jamor complex during the September 16-21 Estoril Portuguese national championships.