PATRICK HAMILTON/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal made his return to tennis from injury on Friday and helped keep Spain on level terms with guests Germany as the 2018 Davis Cup resumed with the World Group quarter-finals.
He defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 to level for Spain after Alexander Zverev’s 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory over David Ferrer had given the visiting team an early lead.
Lucas Pouille got France off to a winning start in the last eight after emerging as victor in a five-set war against Italy’s Andreas Seppi, who fell 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1.
Croatia also cruised into an initial lead against Kazakhstan after world No. 3 Marin Cilic demolished 21-year-old Dmitry Popko 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.
The United States begin their quarter-final against Belgium later on Friday, with John Isner set to face Joris De Loore and Sam Querrey taking on Ruben Bemelmans in Nashville, Tennessee.
Read on for a roundup of Friday’s results and a look toward the upcoming quarter-final schedule.
Spain 1-1 Germany
Alexander Zverev (GER) bt. David Ferrer (ESP) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
Rafael Nadal (ESP) bt. Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 6-2, 6-2, 6-3
France 1-0 Italy
Lucas Pouille (FRA) bt. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) vs. Fabio Fognini (ITA)
Croatia 1-0 Kazakhstan
Marin Cilic (CRO) bt. Dmitry Popko (KAZ) 6-2, 6-1, 6-2
Borna Coric (CRO) vs. Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ)
United States vs. Belgium
John Isner (USA) vs. Joris De Loore (BEL)
Sam Querrey (USA) vs. Ruben Bemelmans (BEL)
The hip injury that forced Nadal, 31, out of the Australian Open in January hasn’t totally subsided, but one wouldn’t have guessed it after he notched an impressive straight-sets win over Kohlschreiber on Friday.
The Spaniard’s composure on clay was clear to see as he swept 34-year-old Kohlschreiber aside 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, making his injury comeback despite a lengthy Davis Cup absence, per Gracenote Olympic:
Gracenote Olympic @GracenoteGold
Rafael Nadal in his first Davis Cup singles match since September 2015. He is 22-1 career-wise in Davis Cup singles, losing his first, before reeling off 22 wins in a row. #DavisCup
Spain needed a swift response after Zverev again demonstrated his increasing confidence at this level, beating Ferrer in three sets less than a week after falling to Isner in the final of the Miami Open.
Germany’s 20-year-old prodigy already looked imperious against Australian duo Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios in the first round of the World Group.
José Morgado @josemorgado
Alexander Zverev plays probably his best match of the year, beats David Ferrer 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 to give Germany a 1-0 lead in Valencia. Tremendous from Sascha, who is 3-0 in DC this year https://t.co/ydl0GyPfiw
Zverev’s most difficult task awaits, however, as his scheduled clash against Nadal on Sunday could be the high-profile meeting that dictates which of these two European giants advances to the semis.
Young overcame old in Genoa, where Pouille, 24, denied 34-year-old Seppi the opportunity to build on his record of comeback victories, per the Davis Cup Twitter account:
Davis Cup @DavisCup
Chilled out Cilic!
@cilic_marin gets Croatia off to a 1-0 lead, defeating Popko in straight sets.
Seppi looked like a different player for much of the second half of their meeting, returning from two sets down to draw level before crashing in the clutch set.
Far from the tension in Genoa, Cilic was at east in front of a Croatian audience in Varazdin and sailed to a 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of Popko, who lost out with a wild return, via Davis Cup:
Davis Cup @DavisCup
Andreas Seppi is contesting the FORTIETH five-setter of his career. 😮
He’s come back from 0-2 down five times in his career – can he complete a stunning first-rubber turnaround against Lucas Pouille?
#DavisCup 🇮🇹🆚🇫🇷 https://t.co/AFFTRITA62
The young Kazakh was more accurate in his serving but crucially failed to convert as many points from that position, per the competition’s official website, leaving Cilic to swoop in and steal a lead for Croatia.
Cilic’s Croat team-mate, Borna Cilic, will seek to double the hosts’ lead when he faces Mikhail Kukushkin on Friday, before the United States get their quarter-finals under way later in the evening.