Sweden, Croatia and Czech Republic take leads in Davis Cup

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MADRID (AP) — Sweden, Croatia and the Czech Republic took early leads as the second edition of the Davis Cup Finals got underway with simultaneous matches in three different countries on Thursday.

Sweden, making its first appearance at the revamped team competition, won the opening singles against 2019 runner-up Canada when Elias Ymer defeated Steven Diaz 6-4, 6-2 in Madrid in a Group B match between players ranked lower than 170. Ymer rallied after being down 4-1 in the first set.

Sweden its trying to reach the Davis Cup quarterfinals for the first time since 2011. Canada lost the final to host Spain in 2019.

The Czech Republic went 1-0 up against France when 21-year-old Thomas Machac defeated veteran Richard Gasquet 7-6, 6-2 (3) in Group C in Innsbruck. The 35-year-old Gasquet conceded 11 aces against the 143rd-ranked Machac in an empty court because of coronavirus restrictions in Austria.

In Turin, Italy, Borna Gojo gave 2018 champions Croatia the lead over 28-time winner Australia in Group D with a 7-6 (5), 7-5 victory over No. 61 Alexei Popyrin. Gojo, ranked 276th, saved all five break points he faced.

Each matchup on indoor hard courts is a best-of-three series featuring two singles and one doubles match. The six group winners plus the two second-place teams with the best records based on sets and games will advance to the quarterfinals.

The 18-team competition was not played last year because of the pandemic. There won't be any fans allowed in Innsbruck, and capacity is at 60% in Turin and 75% in Madrid, where a good crowd was on hand for the opening match between Sweden and Canada.

The event was held entirely in Madrid over seven days in 2019, being extended to 11 days this time after criticism from players and fans over late-night matches in mostly empty arenas and not enough rest between matches.

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