(September 12, 2014) HOFFMAN ESTATES, Illinois – Hours before the United States took on Slovakia at the Davis Cup World Group Play-off, U.S. captain Jim Courier was upbeat about his team’s prospects – telling a fan, “We’re ready for battle.”
Courier’s confidence in John Isner and Sam Querrey paid off, as both players achieved straight sets victories at Sears Centre Arena – giving the Americans a commanding 2-0 lead, putting them one win away from securing another year in the World Group.
Isner defeated Norbert Gombos – the 126th-ranked player in the world – 7-6 (5), 6-4, 6-2. Many were surprised Slovakian captain Miloslav Mecir went with Gombos in the first match instead of 86th-ranked Lukas Lacko. Gombos battled Isner early in the first set, returning the American’s powerful serves and taking him to a tiebreak. But a Gombos volley at the net came up short, giving Isner a mini-break at 6-4. The former University of Georgia Bulldog won the set after Gombos’ return of serve went long.
Isner’s serve became a more potent weapon in the second set – including a “perfect game” with four aces that put him up 5-3. The world No. 16 finished the match with 29 aces.
“Going into a match like this three-out-of-five set match, it’s not surprising that I didn’t lose my serve,” said Isner. “I’ve done that before, for sure. Always going to be the biggest part of my game and it’s going to be the part of my game that I lean on the most.”
Gombos said of the 6-foot-9 Isner, “I know that he’s serving perfect from the Eiffel Tower, you know … I never returned a serve like his because it’s quite different from like the other players because he’s really tall. The ball is bouncing so high. It’s totally different like from the other players.”
The second match between Querrey and Slovakian Martin Klizan – ranked 51st and 57th in the world, respectively — started off as quite a battle. The first set lasted 66 minutes. It was Querrey’s serve versus Klizan’s powerful groundstrokes, which were low enough to cause problems for the 6-foot-6 American.
But it was Klizan’s serve that would prove to be the Slovakian’s undoing, with eleven double faults in the match. Serving for the first set up 5-4, he was broken after double faulting to end the game. Querrey won the first set tiebreak 8-6 after staving off a set point — and winning the final three points with the help of two aces.
“It was tough,” said Querrey. “But my serve is my biggest weapon. I just buckled down and I think I hit an ace at that 5-6 point. Just put the pressure right back on (Klizan).”
The American won the match 7-6 (6), 6-3, 6-3, hitting 20 aces in the process.
When asked about failing to serve out the first set up 5-4, Klizan replied: “I wasn’t nervous. I was just pissed off of the line umpire because was a huge mistake from him the first point. Could be different story then, the game. But anyway, Sam was the better player on the court and I think he was better, so he won.”
In Saturday’s doubles match, the Americans will be counting on world number ones Bob and Mike Bryan to deliver the clincher. Fresh from winning the 2014 U.S Open Championship – their 100th – title. the twins are scheduled to face Lukas Lacko and Michal Mertinak, but there’s always the possibility that captain Mecir could alter his lineup.