October 5, 2015

DAVIS CUP: U.S. IN CONTROL OVER SLOVAKIA Isner, Querrey lead Americans to 2-0 lead in World Group Play-off

john isner and sam querrey(courtesy of the USTA)
Isner, Querrey lead Americans to 2-0 lead in World Group Play-off
By Junior Williams

(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.

Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan.  At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He is in Illinois covering the Davis Cup first round World Group Play-off tie between the United States and Slovakia for Tennis Panorama News.



Serbia Holds Off Bryans in Five-Set Thriller



By Junior Williams


Takes 2-1 lead after Zimonjic, Bozoljac win in five-set marathon.


(April 6, 2013) BOISE, Idaho – Serbia Davis Cup captain Bogdan Obradovic is probably saying, “I told you so.”


He stuck with No. 335th ranked Ilija Bozoljac instead of replacing him with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.


The payoff: Bozoljac and Nenad Zimonjic defeated top-ranked Americans Bob and Mike Bryan 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1), 5-7, 4-6, 15-13 in a thrilling 4 hour 21- minute doubles match in the Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals at Taco Bell Arena, giving Serbia a 2-1 lead heading into Sunday’s rubbers and an opportunity for Djokovic to clinch the tie in his singles match.


Bozoljac’s powerful serves — many of them rockets at around 135 miles per hour — helped to neutralize the Bryans. Together, Bozoljac and Zimonjic served up 36 aces to the Americans’ twelve.


The 27-year old Bozoljac also came through with a number of backhand winners down the line. his play, combined with the experience of former world number one doubles player Zimonjic, came in handy for the Serbs.


Both teams broke each other midway through the first set, but it was Serbia that struck first by winning the tiebreak on a Zimonjic second serve ace, followed by a winner that clipped the baseline.


The second tiebreak also went to Serbia, helped by a minibreak due to a net cord and a strong service game resulting in three aces.


But the world’s No. 1 doubles team refused to give up. The Americans began their comeback by breaking Bozoljac’s serve in the final game of the third set, as Zimonjic’s block of a Mike Bryan shot sailed beyond the baseline.


The Bryans repeated the feat in the fourth set, as Zimonjic — who was serving this game — knocked a return from the Americans in to the net, knotting up the match at two sets apiece.


In the fifth set, each team managed to hold serve while escaping danger at times, until the 27th game of the set, when Bozoljac’s backhad stab return was sent wide by the Americans to give Serbia a break and a chance to serve out the match.


But there was more drama, as Zimonjic double faulted to give the Bryans two break points and a chance to tie the set at 14-14. That’s when Zimonjic blasted two aces to tie the game at deuce.


After the Bryans staved off one match point on a lob the Serbs couldn’t convert, Zimonjic served out the next two points, ending with an ace to seal the victory for Serbia. The winners hugged each other on the court as their supporters cheered wildly. Despite their disappointment, those rooting for the home team applauded the quality play of both the Serbians and the Americans.


Just how close was the match? Each team scored 217 points.


“For sure, it’s the biggest win in the Davis Cup doubles for me,” said Zimonjic. “We were playing very good.


“This was definitely a great, great performance and great match from me.”


“Anybody who was supposed to play with Nenad was supposed to be the underdog against the Bryans,” Bozoljac said. “We won and I just can’t believe it happened.

“For me, it definitely means a lot because this is my best performance in Davis Cup so far. I knew if I give my 100 percent for one match I could play on a really high level.”


“Have to tip our hats to those guys, obviously,” said a disappointed Bob Bryan.  “Thought they played really well all day.  36 aces, didn’t give us much opportunity, in the fifth especially.
“Just one of those things.  Obviously disappointed we let the team down.”


He’s a guy we haven’t seen too much of on the tour,” Mike Bryan said about journeyman Bozoljac.  “Asked a few questions of guys that have seen him play.  Gave us a few things.  But he served great all day.  He actually was a stronger returner.  There at the end he didn’t show any nerves, came up with the goods, especially on some of those 30‑All points.”


US Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier was asked about if Bozoljac’s is a testament to the spirit of Davis Cup “I think inspiration is pretty easy to come by when you’re playing for the colors on your back, US.  We’ve seen a lot of people in this competition rise up.  You look at the numbers next to the guy’s career, you see the performance today, something doesn’t add up.  You clearly see there was some inspiration, chemistry with Nenad on the court, and you say, Too good.”


It was the second consecutive Davis Cup defeat for the Bryans, who back in February lost in the World Group First Round to Brazil’s Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. The winningest doubles team in U.S. Davis Cup history is now 20-4 when playing together.


Now the U.S. faces a tall task in tomorrow’s reverse singles, with Djokovic set to take on Sam Querrey in the first match. If Querrey pulls off the upset, it’ll be left to American John Isner and Serb Viktor Troicki to settle the tie.


Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He is in Boise, Idaho covering the Davis Cup quarterfinal World Group tie between the United States and Serbia for Tennis Panorama News.


Davis Cup: US, Serbia Deadlocked at 1-1; Djokovic, Querrey Victorious in World Group Quarterfinals


Djokovic, Querrey victorious in World Group Quarterfinals

By Junior Williams

Sam Querrey

Sam Querrey

(April 5, 2013) BOISE, Idaho – Sam Querrey rebounded from a two sets to one deficit to defeat Viktor Troicki 7-6 (1), 3-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, drawing the United States even with Serbia at one match apiece in the Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals at a loud Taco Bell Arena on the Boise State University campus.

In the first match, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic dispatched American John Isner in straight sets 7-6 (5), 6-2, 7-5.


Isner got off to a fast start by breaking Djokovic early in the first set, but the Greensboro, North Carolina native failed to hold on to his advantage and went on to lose the first-set tiebreak, courtesy of a Djokovic change-of-pace serve that handcuffed the number 23-ranked player in the world.


From then on it was all Djokovic. He did his best impersonation of a backboard, neutralizing Isner’s powerful serves with solid returns and defense. The Serb wrapped up the match in two hours.


On court in a post-match interview, Djokovic was asked about how he executed his game plan against Isner.


His response: “I executed perfectly.”

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic


Djokovic elaborated further in the news conference. “I guess one of the tactics — crucial points — was to get as many balls back on the return games and try to use my serve very efficiently and not give him any opportunities to atack my second serve. So I had a very high percentage of first serves in. That helped my confidence, and I could play with less pressure in his service games.”


Isner agreed with Djokovic that the Australian Open champion’s ability to break back in the first set was the turning point the match.


“I let him back in it,” said the American. “Granted, he played a good game, but I didn’t make many first serves that game. Doing that against this guy is not a good recipe.

“You want to make first serves, and I didn’t do in that one game in the first set. That was critical because I think he became a lot more comfortable at that point.”


Isner had seventeen aces in the match, but his first serve percentage was 54%, compared with 77% for Djokovic.


The Serb’s win set up another Davis Cup pressure cooker for Querrey, the top-ranked American and world No. 20. In the World Group First Round back in February, the Californian ousted Brazil’s Thiago Alves in a fifth and deciding rubber to send the U.S. into the quarterfinals.


Querrey and Troicki battled for 3 hours and 20 minutes in a match marked by long rallies, powerful serves and lots of unforced errors: Querrey had 82, Troicki 62.  Querrey was going for his shots, while Troicki – like Djokovic – appeared to be returning everything in sight.


The crowd erupted in the fifth set, when Querrey broke the world’s 44th-ranked player to go up 5-4, on a Troicki shot that hit the net cord but stayed on the Serbian’s side of the court. The American went on to hold serve in the next and final game.


Querrey said finding his groove in the fourth set was key: “I stayed positive and kept with the game plan and played aggressive. That fourth set served extremely well and was fortunate to get two breaks and that gave me a lot of momentum going into the fifth set.”


Troicki said he began to tire in the fourth set:


“I get a bit tired mentally and also physically my legs were not 100 percent and got a little bit slower. I could say fourth set I just like wasn’t there.”


But Troicki added both he and Querrey played well in the fifth set, and that it just came down to who seized the opportunities.


“I had some chances early in the fifth,” said Troicki. “I had some chances early in the fifth.  I had some break points; didn’t use them.  He used his chances when he had a break point in a crucial moment for me. So I could say I was unlucky to lose this serve and also, yeah, to lose the match.  But that’s tennis.”


Next up: A crucial Saturday doubles match with Americans Bob and Mike Bryan — the number one team in the world — scheduled to play Serbian doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac. But Novak Djokovic says he’s “still in the option” for doubles.


Whether Djokovic plays or not, U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier says Saturday’s match is “not a must‑win.  We won’t be eliminated, nor will Serbia no matter what happens tomorrow.”

“We certainly want to win.  There is no doubt about that.  It’s an important match for both squads.  We’ll have two singles players ready to fire on Sunday.”


Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He is in Boise, Idaho covering the Davis Cup quarterfinal World Group tie between the United States and Serbia for Tennis Panorama News.


Davis Cup: High “I. Q.” For USA




Isner, Querrey give Americans 2-0 lead over Brazil


By Junior Williams


(February 1, 2013) JACKSONVILLE – Straight sets victories by John Isner and Sam Querrey have given the United States a commanding 2-0 lead over Brazil in the first round of the Davis Cup World Group at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.


Isner — who skipped the Australian open due to a knee injury — showed signs of rust in his 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 win over Thiago Alves, who’s ranked 141 in the world. The American committed 62 unforced errors in the nearly two-hour match, partly due to some spirited play from Alves, who at times surprised Isner with his return of serve and ability to win long rallies.


But in the end Isner was bailed out by his powerful serve. In the second set, Isner staved off two set points by firing aces and going on to hold at 5-5. He later overcame a mini-break in the second set tiebreak, and closed out the set with a pair of aces — he had 32 in all.


Isner — the top ranked American and number 16 in the world — took control of the third set by breaking Alves to go up 4-2, on the Brazilian’s unforced error past the baseline.


When asked whether the four-week layoff bothered him, Isner replied, “It wasn’t exactly pretty, but I knew that may be the case going into this match today because I’m real short on match practice, real short on practice in general. But these are the type of matches for me going forward that I need to get under my belt. But all in all I’m very happy with the outcome and glad I was able to contribute today.”


In the first match, Sam Querrey defeated Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. The American — whose world ranking is 20 — served 15 aces and won 96 percent of his first serve points. Early in the match, Querrey had trouble returning the Belucci’s kick serves, but the Brazilian double faulted midway through the first set to send Querrey up a break. Querrey capitalized by clinching the set as Bellucci returned his serve into the net.


“I feel like I played great,” said Querrey.  I was serving well, and that just makes things so much easier. I could play a little freer on his service games.I was a little nervous at the beginning.Once I got that first break, I felt like I got my feet settled and I was on a roll.


After that, it was all Querrey, who broke Bellucci in the first game in each of the remaining sets en route to his first Davis Cup singles victory



The number 36-ranked Bellucci said “It was not easy to play today. The court was very fast. (Querrey)  was serving very strong, very close from the lines. I didn’t play my best tennis, so I’m a little bit disappointing.



The turnout for today’s matches was low, but Querrey still gave the home crowd a thumbs up.


“Everyone that was there did a great job. They got surprisingly loud there at the end for an arena that wasn’t full.You know, it’s still good for who was there.Hopefully tomorrow we can get more. I know sometimes it’s a little tougher on Friday with people working. Hopefully tomorrow and Sunday we can get more.”


Saturday, the United States will look to clinch the tie by going with Bob and Mike Bryan, who are fresh from winning the Australian Open men’s doubles championship — a record-setting 13th major title. The twins will take on top 20 doubles players Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares.”


A U.S. victory would send the Americans to the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinals, where they would likely host Serbia. World number one Novak Djokovic and teammate Viktor Troicki won their matches against Belgium to take a 2-0 lead.


Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He is in Jacksonville, Florida covering the Davis Cup first round World Group tie between the United States and Brazil for Tennis Panorama News.


Gracias, Bogota by Junior Williams


Gracias, Bogota


By Junior Williams
I had a lot on my mind as my flight from Miami touched down at Bogota,Colombia’s El Dorado Airport Wednesday afternoon. Most prominent was whether or not I would regret my maiden voyage to South America.
A number of my tennis fan friends chose to skip the Davis Cup World Group Play-off between the United States and Colombia, citing U.S. State Department travel warnings and Bogota’s reputation for crime which goes back to the drug wars of the late 20th century.

When a driver from my hotel picked me up and engaged me in conversation -being nice enough not to ridicule my lack of fluency in Spanish – it was definitely a sign of things to come: Bogota is one of the friendliest cities I have ever visited.

I decided to spend my six days and five nights in the La Candelaria section of central Bogota, full of 300-year old colonial buildings,university students and narrow streets. My room at the Hotel Ambala was only $42 a night in U.S. currency, and the staff at the hotel made me feel very much at home.
The trade-off: A very small room with a bathroom you have to squeeze into,and the pulsating beat of bars and nightclubs into the wee hours of the morning. A far cry from the upscale JW Marriott in northern Bogota where the U.S. Davis Cup team is staying, but I’ll take the charm of La Candelaria any day of the week. 



National Capital building at Plaza de Bolivar




My American friend and I have been walking all over Bogota, from the Plaza de Bolivar – home of the national capital building – to the Plaza de Toros la Santamaria, the bullring hosting the Davis Cup. In this city that’s more than 8,600 feet above sea level, I can understand why many cited altitude as a big challenge for the U.S. team. We did lots of huffing and puffing in the hilly parts of Bogota.



Transmilenio/Museo de Oro station



When we weren’t walking, we took the Trans Milenio — a rapid transit bus system masquerading as a subway. It’s a good way to see other parts of the city, with mountain tops looking down over the metropolis.

Bogota is also the home of cheap and tasty eats, where you can get breakfasts and lunches for as little as $2 to $5 US (1800 Colombian Pesos= $1United States). Empanadas, tamales in banana leaves, and sizzling meats are just the tip of the iceberg. Dinners are also inexpensive, but don’t wait too late to go out for a meal. Very few restaurants are open past8pm.
Carrera 7 was a pleasant surprise on Friday night . No cars allowed. It was like a street fair for several blocks.

As far as safety is concerned, there is a heavy police presence in Bogota.It’s not unusual to see officers with muzzled dogs patrolling the streets.

The homeless are very savvy. Expect one of them to come to you and ask for change right after you purchase something on the street.



View of Bogota from Monserrate peak



While dining in a restaurant, I met a retiree who left Chicago to live in Bogota. I asked him for the must-see spots in the city. He mentioned Monserrate, a mountain top where a white church overlooks the Colombian capital.

I took his advice, and the views were breathtaking.


Monserrate Sanctuary



Since we were dining, he also gave me some “tips” on tipping, which is not customary in Bogota (though some eating establishments have service charges). He said if you want to give a tip, give it directly to the waiter or waitress. If you leave it on the table, anyone can take the money.
He also said Colombians are some of the nicest and most generous people you’ll ever meet. “If you ask for one thing, they’ll give you two or three.”
He went on to say that Bogota’s reputation as the most dangerous capital city in the world is unjustified.

I couldn’t agree more. Even when I was walking down crowded streets wearing clothes that screamed out I am an American, I’d get smiles,welcoming gestures and strike up friendly conversations with Bogotanos. 



I didn’t get a chance to see all of the hot spots here, such as the Museo del Oro which I hear is wonderful, but I’ll have plenty of fond memories of Colombia, and not just because of the tennis.
Gracias, Bogota! 

Junior Williams is a long-time journalist and tennis fan. At a moment’s notice he can give you a list of all the Davis Cup match-ups that would give the US home ties. He was in Bogota reporting for Global Village Tennis News covering the US vs Colombia Davis Cup tie.

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