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U.S. Davis Cup Attempts to End 40-year Spanish Soil Losing Streak

September 5, 2012 09:49 AM
U.S. Davis Cup Attempts to End 40-year Spanish Soil Losing Streak

By Rick Vach, www.ustaflorida.com

Sam Querrey and John Isner during their first
Davis Cup pairing in 2010
The U.S. will be without standard bearer Andy Roddick, and Spain will be without its top player, Rafael Nadal, when the U.S. travels to Spain next week for the Davis Cup semifinals on Sept. 14-16, 2012, in Gijon, Spain.

It goes without saying the surface will be the red clay that has been the death of so many past U.S. teams in Spain, but version 2012 of the U.S squad is not averse to the "red dirt." Big men John Isner and Sam Querrey will take the court in singles for the U.S., and both have shown a talent for serving and blasting forehands through the slow clay at a rate and consistency that can bother any opponent.

Isner this year in the Davis Cup first round shocked Roger Federer in four sets in red clay in Switzerland. In the next round against France he hit both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon off the court, dropping only one set. Querrey has struggling to a 1-4 win-loss in career singles appearances for the U.S., but two of the losses were on clay against former No. 1s Nadal and Novak Djokovic, both of which he won a set early before losing in four.

If either Isner or Querrey can grind out (or rather punch out, as there will be little grinding and lots of big hitting) a win over Spain's David Ferrer or Nicolas Almago on the opening Friday, then the U.S. will be in the driver's seat with the indomitable Bryan brothers, Olympic gold winners Bob and Mike, waiting in the wings for the Saturday doubles. In doubles the Spaniards are scheduled to front the tandem of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez, who in April lost in Spain's win over Austria.

"It's the ultimate ask," said the U.S. captain Courier on any team coming into Spain and leaving with a victory. "We have had the toughest draw you can have in Davis Cup with the road matches we have faced, and this one is the ultimate ask in current Davis Cup tennis. Going into Spain, playing them on red clay, they haven't lost in a long, long time."

Spain moved Almagro into a starting singles position after Nadal announced a two-month layoff due to a knee injury. Mardy Fish was also taken out of consideration for the U.S. squad when he was forced to pull out of the US Open this week citing health concerns. Roddick shocked many when he announced his impending retirement during the first week of the US Open, saying it would be his last tournament.

"Andy has certainly set a high bar," said Courier of the former No. 1 who drove the U.S. to its last Davis Cup title in 2007. "He's been the leader of the team for the past decade. God knows how many wins under pressure he's clinched for us, but we have been playing for transition, for sure, and there are some other players that have stepped up this year."

Spain has won the Davis Cup title three out of the last four years (2008, 2009 and 2011). The U.S. has not gone into Spain and come out with a win since 1972 behind singles players Harold Solomon and Stan Smith, who clinched the tie in the fifth and deciding match over Spaniard Juan Gisbert.

"It will be hot and sunny, on a clay court, we will be favored because we're playing at home," Ferrer told www.daviscup.org. "It will be better for us because our opponents are more specialists on faster courts."

Practice partners making the trip for the U.S. will be Florida's former NCAA doubles champion Austin Krajicek, two-time NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson, and former US Open boys' singles finalist Denis Kudla.

Matches will be shown live on Tennis Channel starting at 6 a.m. ET on Friday, 8 a.m. ET on Saturday, and 6 a.m. ET on Sunday. USTA.com will also feature live streaming of all Davis Cup matches in the U.S. for free.

The winner of the U.S.-Spain tie will face the winner of the semifinal between the Czech Republic and Argentina. If the U.S. wins and the Czechs win, the U.S. will host the final on home soil on Nov. 16-18.






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