DAVIS CUP: POWERFUL START FOR U.S.
Isner, Querrey Serve Up A 2-0 Lead Over Belgium in World Group Quarterfinals
By Junior Williams
(April 6, 2018) NASHVILLE, Tenn. – John Isner and Sam Querrey blasted a combined 64 aces, winning their respective matches against Belgium to give the United States a commanding 2-0 lead in the Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals at the Curb Event Center on the Belmont University campus.
In the first match, Isner, now ranked No. 9 in the world and fresh from winning his first Masters title – the Miami Open Masters, faced Joris De Loore, who has a singles ranking of 319. On paper this would indicate a blowout, but instead the American was engaged in a 3 hour, 14 minute battle, beating his 24-year old opponent 6-3, 6-7(4) 7-6(8) 6-4.
Isner and De Loore each put their firepower on display, blasting serves at more than 135 per hour. But Isner drew first blood by breaking De Loore in the first set to go up 4-2, as the Belgian’s volley at the net went wide. Isner closed out the set with three aces.
But De Loore evened the score by winning the second set tiebreak. Isner failed to convert two mini-break opportunities. After losing the set on a backhand into the net and a forehand shot gone wide, the 32-year old American threw his racket in disgust.
Things didn’t get any better for Isner at beginning of the third set. De Loore broke him with a crosscourt forehand winner — and continued to play aggressively, controlling the rallies. But Isner fought back to knot the set at 4-4 after De Loore failed to convert a volley at the net after the American returned serve.
That set the stage for another tiebreak, which De Loore forced after saving two set points. The tiebreak involved a number of points that excited the crowd, including a De Loore lob over the 6-foot-10 Isner to give Belgium a mini-break at 3-1, only to have Isner snatch it back by ripping a forehand down the line.
The U.S. held on to win the tiebreak 10-8 after a De Loore backhand hit the top of the net.
Isner said the crowd support really motivated him, especially in the third set. “I was down 4-2 and breakpoint, was able to hold that game, then break back to make it 4-All.The crowd was crucial. They were awesome out there today.”
The fourth set saw Isner break to put the U.S. up 2-1, but the Belgian wouldn’t go down without a fight, saving three match points in the ninth game to force Isner to serve out the match. The Georgia Bulldog did just that, to the delight of the home crowd. He ended up with 43 aces.
“It’s big absolutely,” Isner said of his victory to give the U.S a 1-0 lead. “The first match is critical. We’re in a battle to three points. We have the advantage right now. So I’m very happy I was able to do my part, so to say, to put our team up.”
The second match featured American Sam Querrey against Belgian Ruben Bemelmans in a battle of 30-year-olds. There were many more rallies than in the first match, and very few unforced errors. Querrey — the Californian ranked No. 14 in the world — won 83 percent of his first serve points and only faced one break point which he staved off. Bemelmans — whose singles ranking is 110 — often served into Querrey’s body, but nine double faults hurt the lefty’s chances. Querrey went on to win 6-1, 7-6(5), 7-5 in 2 hours, eight minutes.
“It’s always nice going out there up 1-0,” noted Querrey. “I was fortunate to get a break right out of the chute there. That freed me up. I felt like I hit my backhand great. Felt like I competed really well. I had a lot of opportunities where I had Love-30 looks, 15-30 looks, up a mini break in the third set tiebreaker that he got back. Still managed to get the set. I felt I did a good job of keeping positive and staying in there.”
The Belgians are playing without their top two players – Top Ten player David Goffin and Steve Darcis due to injuries.
The Americans can advance to the World Group Semifinals against either Croatia or Kazahkstan with a doubles victory on Saturday. Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison are scheduled to play for the U.S. against Belgian doubles specialists Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille, though the team captains may make substitutions to their teams up to one hour before the match begins.
“Winning the match tomorrow (Saturday) was always going to be a focus no matter where we were on the scoreboard,” admitted U. S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier. “It becomes a real opportunity for them to really put a stamp on the weekend for us. I know whoever we put out there tomorrow is going to be really excited about that.”
Gille and Vliegen are the Belgians’ highest-ranked doubles players, at No. 84 and No. 98, respectively. This would be their Davis Cup debut.
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 Nashville, Tennessee covering the Davis Cup Quarterfinal World Group tie between the United States and Belgium for Tennis Panorama News.
SCHEDULE OF PLAY
DAY / MATCH TIME
Friday, 4 p.m. CT
Singles A: John Isner (USA) d. Joris De Loore (BEL), 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-6(8), 6-4
Singles B: Sam Querrey (USA) d. Ruben Bemelmans (BEL), 6-1, 7-6(5), 7-5
Saturday, 4 p.m. CT
Doubles: Jack Sock (USA)/Ryan Harrison (USA) v. Sander Gille (BEL)/Joran Vliegen (BEL)
Sunday, 2 p.m. CT
Singles C: John Isner (USA) v. Ruben Bemelmans (BEL)
Singles D: Sam Querrey (USA) v. Joris De Loore (BEL)