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U.S. Davis Cup Preview: Blake, Fish Take to Clay

July 7, 2009 07:00 AM
Florida's triumvirate of James Blake, Mardy Fish and the Bryan brothers will lead the U.S. this weekend against Croatia on red clay at the Zatika Sports Hall in Porec during the 2009 Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals, July 10-12. Fish stepped in this week for Andy Roddick, who withdrew from the tie after sustaining an injury during the Wimbledon final.

Croatia is 2-0 against the United States in Davis Cup, making it the only country that the United States has not beaten and also the only country to have a winning record against the U.S.

"Croatia has a great team," said U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe. "[Marin] Cilic and [Ivo] Karlovic are very, very good players. Obviously, them playing at home, the home team always has a slight advantage. But we have a lot of experience playing Davis Cup and playing against their players. I think it is a pretty even match."

While the U.S. is missing Roddick, Croatia is missing star Mario Ancic due to injury and illness.

"Probably our loss [is bigger] to be honest," McEnroe said. "Andy has had a very tough recovery from Wimbledon. He injured his right hip flexor a little bit during the match. He is pretty spent physically and emotionally. Part of Davis Cup is being able to have other players step in. That is what Croatia is doing in some way and we're doing the same. We have guys that have a lot of experience and have played a lot of big matches in for us Davis Cup."

Blake, who is 1-4 in live Davis Cup matches on clay but has experienced claycourt success on tour, will be key for putting the U.S. over the top in hostile territory.

"These last couple of days I have been getting used to [the court] and I'll have a few more days to get ready for it," Blake said of the indoor claycourt. "It seems that when you put down a temporary claycourt it's just going to take time to get used to that specific one anyway."

At Wimbledon Blake lost first round in the singles, but in doubles reached the semifinals with Fish, losing 10-8 in the fifth set to eventual champions Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia.

"I feel good about it now," Blake said. "I put that first round loss way behind me. Luckily I have had a couple of weeks to distance myself from that. Hopefully here will get me going on the right track going into the summer."

Bob and Mike Bryan, 15-2 in the Davis Cup competition over their careers, await the announcement of the Croatian doubles team.

"Right now we don't know who we're going to play, so we don't have a scouting report," Mike Bryan said. "We're going to have to call around and get the book on all four guys."

While both Blake and Fish would likely nominate clay as their least-favorite surface, Cilic is aware of the threat the two Americans impose.

"Blake and Fish are great players," Cilic said through a translator. "We all know that Blake had two match points in [the] Estoril final played on clay this spring. We know what Fish can do, so we have to stay focused as we would be if Andy [Roddick] was here. But you can count on that we will try to take advantage of playing at home."

Tennis Channel will broadcast the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday matches beginning each day at 10 a.m. ET.
 

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