2014/11/23

Teams On The Edge

Courier and Bryans

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(February 1, 2014) SAN DIEGO – With the Southern California sun finally making an appearance and a partisan crowd finally making their presence both seen and heard, it was clearly a new day in this US vs. Great Britain Davis Cup World Group tie.  Nonetheless, the American team was still haunted by yesterday’s failures at Petco Park in San Diego.

 

For a doubles pairing that had just kept the American side alive in this Davis Cup, the Bryan Brothers were in no mood for celebrating—or even smiling—about their win today, neither was US Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier.  The Bryans raised their record as a team to 21-4 in the competition on the back of a decisive 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Dominic Inglot and Colin Fleming. Yet, it was clear from the beginning of their press conference that the twins had other things on their minds.

 

“Always feels bad to let the team down,” Bob said.  He was responding to the first question raised.  While the query was about winning this match following two uncharacteristic, five-set Davis Cup losses a season ago, Bryan’s allusion wasn’t lost on anyone.  Bob was as much referencing the still-stinging memories of their 2013 Davis Cup campaign as he was yesterday’s upset loss by Sam Querrey at the hands of James Ward.

 

The Bryans had little mercy on their opponents today, avenging their teammate’s defeat by drawing 45 forced errors from the British pair in a match that didn’t reach the two-hour mark.  Their only hiccup, a loose game on Bob’s serve in the third set, that cost the USA a straight sets triumph. “I think they just take it to you every time,” said Inglot about his opponents. “They always ask a question of you and they’re never going to give you any free points.” “The match can rush away from you,” Fleming added.  “When we got behind in sets, it can become a blur against them.”

 

As uncharitable as the Bryans were on-court, Courier matched in the pressroom.  When asked about Querrey’s chances of springing an upset of 2-time major champion Andy Murray tomorrow, Courier fired with little hesitation, “He’s going to have to play significantly better than he did yesterday to stand a chance.” The British squad, while realistic, wasn’t taking anything for granted.  When asked about Andy Murray’s chances against a player who had just suffered a disappointing loss, another thinly veiled reference to Querrey, British captain Leon Smith stifled the rumor of a smile breaking out on his face and replied “Very good.  Yeah, very good.”

Vito Ellison is in San Diego, California covering the Davis Cup tie between the USA and Great Britain for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on the site’s twitter @TennisNewsTPN, on his personal twitter @vblacklabel. and visit his site Blacklabeltennis.com.

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Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

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Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

James Ward

James Ward

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(January 31, 2014) SAN DIEGO – “Yeah, from London, Arsenal fan, see myself as a pretty normal bloke,” that’s how James Ward described himself to the assembled press following what was a rather abnormal moment in his career.  On a temporary red clay court constructed in the outfield of a baseball field, 175th ranked James Ward stunned No. 49 Sam Querrey 1-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in 3 hours and 10 minutes at Petco Park in San Diego.

 

Querrey opened the match in ominous form.  Although he only served 52% in the frame, he stormed to a 6-1 lead in 26 minutes.  This US Davis Cup team’s alpha male was doing the expected versus a presumably outmatched opponent and without much help from his most vaunted weapon.  Asked about moving on from that first set in his post match presser, Ward deadpanned “I thought I couldn’t play much worse than I did in the first set anyway.”

 

With Ward unable to inflict much scoreboard pressure early, he waited for his chances, fully knowing that the situation should ultimately reward him with a few. “They’re one rubber down,” Ward noted. “He’s expected to beat me on paper.  He’s not in an easy position.” After splitting the first six games of the second set though, it looked as if Querrey were about to re-establish his authority on the match. Ward engineered an unlikely comeback from 0-40 down on his serve to hold for 4-3 on serve.  The set went to a tiebreak and it was in that pressure cooker that the big-serving Californian first lost his grip on the match.

 

Sam Querrey

Sam Querrey

It was a topsy turvy affair for the next two sets, Querrey opening the 3rd set strongly, riding newfound momentum to a 6-3 win, backed up by a 4-2 lead in the 4th.  From there, with the expectations shifted back to Querrey, the American, up two sets to one, with a break in the fourth, would only win one more game.  “You know, I think he started to gain some momentum and get some reads on my serve,” Querrey said reflecting on the match.  “You know, kudos to him for making some big shots in the latter part of the match.”

 

The crowd, which had largely been out of the matches all afternoon, in part thanks to Andy Murray’s suffocating victory over Donald Young in the first rubber, began desperately cheering for Querrey to right the ship, but to no avail.  The American No. 1 found himself in a fifth set, a place where he had a 2-7 record; in Davis Cup where he had a 4-6 record.  He wouldn’t improve any of those numbers tonight and his loss leaves the Americans with yet another stat line to try to reverse, 0-2.  The Americans are down 0-2 to Great Britain and will begin trying to take the long road back, starting with the Bryan Brothers tomorrow.  With Murray up next for Querrey, it’ll be the American’s turn to play with no expectations.

 

Vito Ellison is in San Diego, California covering the Davis Cup tie between the USA and Great Britain for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on the site’s twitter @TennisNewsTPN, on his personal twitter @vblacklabel. and visit his site Blacklabeltennis.com.

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Djokovic Limps, Serbia Advances: World No. 1 overcomes ankle injury to eliminate U.S. in World Group Quarterfinals

Djokovic 6 32

DAVIS CUP: DJOKOVIC LIMPS, SERBIA ADVANCES

World No. 1 overcomes ankle injury to eliminate U.S. in World Group Quarterfinals

 

By Junior Williams

 

(April 7, 2013) BOISE, Idaho –  The toughness of Novak Djokovic was on full display Sunday at the Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals.

The world’s top ranked singles player battled through an ankle injury suffered early in the match and defeated American Sam Querrey 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-0 to give Serbia a 3-1 victory against the United States, earning a berth in the semifinals.

 

Midway though the third game of the first set with the score tied at 1-1, Djokovic crumpled to the ground in pain and had to be carried off the court by members of the Serbian team, stunning thousands on hand at Taco Bell Arena who were wondering if the six-time grand slam winner would continue playing the match.

 

After receiving treatment for several minutes, Djokovic — who led Serbia to its first and only Davis Cup championship in 2010 — returned to the court amid cheers from the crowd, and went on to actually break Querrey to put Serbia up 2-1.

 

Djokovic said his physiotherapist “did everything in his power after (the injury) happened to make sure I can continue playing. Because in his interest, my interest, and everybody, of course I want to continue on playing. I don’t want to retire the match.

 

“We did tests that indicated I could continue on, that it wasn’t an extreme ligament strain. That allowed me to continue on. I took some medications.”

Djokovic also made it clear he didn’t want to let Serbia down: “Obviously it’s very strong emotion when you play for your country. I guess that’s the biggest reason why I kept playing.”

 

The watch was on to see how well Djokovic would serve following the injury. He went on to hold that game, but it was clear that the ankle was bothering him as he hobbled during and after rallies. The U.S. broke back at 3-3 on a Djokovic double fault.

 

In the eleventh game of the set, Querrey’s forehand into the net cord gave Serbia a break and a 6-5 lead. Djokovic had to save three break points to close out the set.

 

Querrey bounced back in the second set despite a pectoral injury which prevented him from executing his trademark booming serves. The top-ranked American had no aces in the entire after striking six in the first. Querrey saved two break points to go up 6-5, and went on to win the second set tiebreak 7-4. The U.S. secured a mini-break at 6-4 when Djokovic took a Querrey return in mid-air and hit it wide of the sideline. A Djokovic shot into the net on the next point gave the U.S. the game and knotted the match at a set apiece.

 

But in the third set, a Querrey double fault gave Serbia a break and a 2-0 lead. After that, it was all Djokovic. His mobility improved as did his groundstrokes and his service game. The Serb hit twelve winners in the set to Querrey’s five, and had a 70-percent first serve percentage.

As for Querrey, the 20th-ranked player in the world couldn’t overcome his pectoral injury. The result: A 48-percent first serve percentage in the set, and three double faults. For the entire match, he ended up with more double faults (eight) than aces (seven).

 

“It hurt on my serve,” said Querrey. “I wasn’t able to get my usual pop, and that’s tough when you’re playing against the best returner in the world. I was trying, but, yeah, it was just kind of sore there second, third and fourth sets. ”

 

The first game of the fourth set saw Querrey broken at love, and Djokovic swept the remainder of the games.

 

“You take away Sam’s serve,  that is a different change” said U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier. “That would be like stripping Novak of his movement. That’s one of Sam’s two big key weapons. His serve went from 130 to barely over 100 at times just because he couldn’t get it there because of his pec.”

 

After the final point of the 2 hour 35 minute match, the world number one raised his arms in victory and was lifted off the ground and hugged by his Serbian teammates, whom he saluted in the post-match news conference.

 

“It wasn’t about my win Friday or today,” said Djokovic. “It was just about the team win, the team effort. That’s something that is very special and beautiful about this competition. You can represent your country and you get to be part of a team. You get to feel the team spirit that carries you on to victory.”

 

Next up for Serbia: A home tie against Canada, fresh from a quarterfinal victory over Italy. As for what’s next for Djokovic, he said he first has to assess the seriousness of his ankle injury. “I was planning to play Monte-Carlo,” said the world number one. “I live there and train there, so it feels like a home tournament to me. I love playing there, so I’m going to do everything in my power to recover for that tournament.”

 

“How realistic it is, to be honest, I don’t know. I don’t know what to tell you right now. It’s still too early.”

 

The home loss is a bitter pill to swallow for the U.S., whose Davis Cup season has come to an end. The Americans — whose last home defeat was in 2011 to Spain in Austin, Texas — now must wait until a September draw after the semifinals and World Group Play-offs — to find out who their first opponent will be for the 2014 campaign.

 

But Captain Courier had some kind words for Boise, saying the city “did an outstanding job welcoming both teams … It was a tremendous atmosphere. It’s one of the pluses about the way Davis Cup is played today is the atmosphere.

 

“I think Boise has a lot to be proud of.”

 

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Spain Takes a Commanding 2-0 Lead Over US in Davis Cup Semifinals

Spain is a win away from advancing to the Davis Cup final for the fourth time in five years. In Gijon, Spain’s  David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro gave Spain at 2-0 lead on day 1 versus the United States in the Davis Cup World Group semifinals on Friday.

No. 5 Ferrer, days removed from the US Open, where he lost to Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, moved past No. 26 Sam Querrey 4-6 6-2 6-2 6-4.

“It’s never easy to adapt from hard court to clay, and with only three to four days even less,” said Ferrer. “I didn’t feel too bad, but I didn’t play perfect tennis, either.”

Querrey failed to convert on 12 break point chances. “On a couple of them, I should have been more aggressive but he played good points,” said Querrey. “I feel if I get one of those breaks, it could be a different game.”

“It was a very tough match throughout, he didn’t make it easy for me,” Ferrer said to Spanish television.

In the second rubber on the day, Almagro braved 25 aces from the racquet John Isner to complete a perfect day for Spain 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

The doubles rubber takes place on Saturday with brothers Mike and Bob Bryan taking on Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez. Reverse singles will take place on Sunday.

Only once has the US ever rallied from an 0-2 deficit, back in 1934 against Australia. Spain is a perfect 37-0 after winning both opening singles matches, since World Group play began.

“Nothing is impossible, said US Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier about coming back from an 0-2 deficit on the road. “Our sport doesn’t have a clock; you have to win the last point. Spain will do everything it can to win the last point, as will the United States, but nothing is impossible,”

“Proud of both these guys. They both went out there and laid it on the line and fought hard. They were two great battles, and all of us on the team are very proud of what these guys did today.”

The winner of the tie will face either Argentina or the Czech Republic in the Davis Cup final in November.

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Davis Cup: Looking Back at US vs France in 2002 at Roland Garros

Tennis Panorama News will be covering the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie this weekend between the United States and France being held at the Monte Carlo Country Club. We’re taking a look back at  past ties between the two countries.

 

2002 US Davis Cup Team (L-R Todd Martin, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and Captain Patrick McEnroe)

By Guillaume Willecoq

 

2002, Davis Cup semifinals in Roland-Garros  (September 20-22) : France d. USA 3/2.

The French Tennis Federation pays tribute to the Musketeers hosting the tie in Roland-Garros. In the beginning, the French stadium was built in 1928 to receive the United States after the Musketeers won their first Davis Cup in Philadelphia. Seventy-five years later, France and USA face each other again at Roland-Garros.

 

The players:

France: The team built by Guy Forget is the current champion, and the captain brings the best line up possible: Sébastien Grosjean, 9th, as the leader, followed by Arnaud Clément, 42nd. The doubles team is a young Michaël Llodra with the almost veteran Fabrice Santoro. On clay, French players are the favorites of this tie.

 

USA: Since his arrival at the head of the US team, in 2000, Patrick McEnroe makes the choice of bringing new blood to the team. For this tie against France, he lines up three young guns: Andy Roddick (11th), James Blake (27th) and Mardy Fish (88th). The last guy is Todd Martin (still 51th), veteran of the glorious 90’s for the US tennis. The view from France – Roddick and Blake are a scary duo, with loads of potential! In seven matches, Roddick is still undefeated in Davis Cup.…

 

The tie :

Clément d. Roddick 4/6 7/6 7/6 6/1

Grosjean d. Blake 6/4 6/1 6/7 7/5

Blake - Martin d. Santoro – Llodra 2/6 7/6 2/6 6/4 6/4

Grosjean b. Roddick 6/4 3/6 6/3 6/4

Blake b. Clément 6/4 6/3

 

The quotes :

Sébastien Grosjean : “Before, I was struggling to give my best in Davis cup. I wanted to do too well for all the team and I didn”t play my best tennis. This time, I think this tie between France and USA was my best performance. I tried to play for myself on court, and only after I shared my joy with the rest of the team. It helps me to focus on myself on the court.”

Andy Roddick: “It hurts me. I’ve lived so many things not very funny this week, new sensations for me, and I will have to learn from it. Now, I think I will be better prepared to play difficult matches in Davis Cup… But the atmosphere here was absolutely fantastic. I hope some day I will live that with the US team !”

Arnaud Clément: “There is nothing more exciting than playing this match against Andy. I knew that if could run well, I would neutralize him on the baseline, and eventually drive him nuts !”

James Blake: ”It”s the biggest deception of my life. Really, losing a match in Davis Cup breaks your heart, particularly because I had my chances. I never felt so bad, but now I’m going home and try to forget. I look forward to do something well in this team in the future. It’s when I lose like this that I really want to go back to work harder. I’m going to do the gym.…It will look less painful than before.” 

Fabrice Santoro: “I would say that those kind of matches are the ones I enjoy the most. I really had fun during this doubles, even if we lost. You enter the Central of Roland-Garros, your team leads 2/0, the Central is packed from the start… There is something in the air!”

Michaël Llodra : “This loss against the Americans in doubles really hurt me a lot. The press said it was my fault if we lost, that maybe I shouldn’t have play, that I lacked experience. I took everything in the face and it took me sometime to get over it. But I bounced back… Since 2003, I was never out the team. It”s Davis Cup! There is a lot of pressure. It has made me stronger. “

 

Todd Martin – The End: Does he know? Probably. This France/USA tie is the last selection of the long career of Todd Martin. The American, who won the Davis Cup in 1995, is here to bring his experience for his young fellows. I did the perfect job during the doubles, with James Blake. The veteran made a strong impression about his knowledge and tennis culture in his news conferences, citing Decugis, Lacoste and Cochet as legends of the French tennis.

 

After that :

In December, in Bercy, the French will lose the final against the Russians. The end of a great period for that team: Guy Forget gets his first critics about the selection of young Paul-Henri Mathieu for the last rubber; the French captain splits with Fabrice Santoro a few months later; and, little by little, Escudé, Grosjean and Clément step down from the team during the following campaigns, to let young Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga take over. Three time finalist in four years between 1999 and 2002, it will take 8 years for the French team to reach another final.

On the other hand, this tie starts a new chapter for the US team. Roddick and Blake take the lead of the group, joined by Bob and Mike Bryans in 2003. They will be the hard core team for almost ten years, occasionally joined by Mardy Fish. They will reach the final in 2004, and most of all win the title in 2007.

Tennis Panorama News is covering the Davis Cup between the United States and France this week taking place at the Monte Carlo Country Club from April 6-8.  Look out for updates here and on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

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