Tennis: New Zealand fall to experienced Bulgaria in Davis Cup playoff tie at Christchurch

  • 06/02/2023

New Zealand have been relegated to World Group 2 after a gutsy defeat to an experienced Bulgarian squad in their rain-hit Davis Cup playoff.

Doubles duo Artem Sitak and Michael Venus scored the Kiwis their first win, but that was as close as they came, as they fell to a 3-1 defeat to the Europeans.

New Zealand's Ajeet Rai celebrates winning the second set.
New Zealand's Ajeet Rai celebrates winning the second set. Photo credit: Photosport

Sitak and Venus beat pair Alexander Donski and Petr Nesterov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to keep the tie alive at 2-1, before Ajeet Rai was tasked with upsetting Dimitar Kuzamnov to draw it even.

But the veteran showed his class to take the first set 6-3 before the relentless Rai responded in the second.

He used his dominant forehand to break Kuzamnov's serve and win the second set 7-5 and force the decider.

However, Kuzamnov held his nerve to clinch the third set 6-4 to secure the tie for the visitors at Christchurch.

New Zealand team captain Kelly Evernden was pleased with the result in a much-improved performance from their previous series.

"We had some good matches," he said.  "The last time we played [in September] we didn't. 

"We played a team that was really fired up and wanted to win. We battled, we had some chances which would have pushed it to five [matches]. So that's a really good result in my view. 

"If we got a win on the first day, we'd still be playing no doubt."