Astana, Feb 3 (IANS) Kazakhstan's national tennis team defeated Portugal, the second day of Davis Cup qualification action, and is headed to the finals in the tournament's new format in Madrid in November.
The third and final point for the home team was sealed by Mikhail Kukushkin's 6-4, 6-1 victory over Portugal's Joao Sousa on Saturday, reports Efe news.
Facing a 0-2 deficit after being swept by the home team on Friday, Sousa and Gastao Elias had given Portugal a glimmer of hope in the doubles match that opened the second day of the tie, defeating the Kazakh duo of Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Timur 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Kukushkin said the fact that Sousa had played earlier in the day was an important factor in his victory.
"I knew I was less tired but I did not relax, I was increasing the pace until I won the final part of the game," the Kazakh player said.
Meanwhile, Sousa said that it was always more difficult when you do not play at home.
This was the first time that Kazakhstan and Portugal faced off in a Davis Cup competition.
Portugal have never played in the World Group under the previous format, while Kazakhstan has competed in the top category eight times, reaching the quarterfinals five times.
Last year, the Kazakhs were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Croatia, which went on to win the tournament.
Under the competition's drastically overhauled format, starting this season, the Davis Cup Finals' round-robin, quarter-final, semi-final and final stages all will be played in a single week in November at a neutral site.
A change was considered necessary because top players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, whose packed schedules are planned with tennis' four Grand Slam events in mind, were unwilling to consistently commit to the Davis Cup.
In one other big modification to the previous format of men's tennis' 118-year-old premier international team event, all matches in both the Davis Cup Qualifying Round and the Davis Cup Finals will be best of three sets instead of best of five.
The tournament will be played in Madrid from November 18 to 24.