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Davis Cup Preview: USA v France, in Monte Carlo

Can Isner do it, again???


April 05, 2012 | 09:39 PM

The Monte Carlo clay has sent every American male player since Captain Jim Courier to a very early flight home (that is, if they bothered to show up, which Roddick and Fish haven't done since 2003). Though John Isner has won more matches there in the last two years than the total number of wins by US Cup players in the 21st Century, that makes only 3 wins (to 3 losses). Playing #2 singles for the USA, Ryan Harrison has never been there and has only played one Cup match, a dead rubber in the last tie. John had a HUGE win on clay indoors against The Fed in the 1st cup round, but outdoors at the MC Country Club is a different world. Their French opponents will enjoy a partisan home crowd happy to see Americans bloodied in red dirt.

The tie begins Friday at noon (6am EST) with:

Tsonga v. Harrison (#6 v #55)

Tsonga brings an 18-5 record this year, Harrison is 10-7; Jo is 9-2 in Cup singles competition:

- Jo has lost to players ranked below 50 only 6 times in his last 100 matches (4 of whom have been top 20 players); Ryan's beaten only 7 players in the top 50, with Troicki being the highest ranked at #16

- Jo's winning percentage on clay is a respectable .600, the same as his record in tie-breakers; Ryan's won 2 ATP matches on clay, and his breaker win percentage is .419

Unlike Isner, Harrison does not have a background playing 4 years of team tennis on a top NCAA team, so his ability to handle the Davis Cup pressure of an opening match against a partisan crowd is unproven.

Advantage FRANCE after the first singles match... (0-1)

As the #1 player, Isner will take the court second against Gilles Simon, if afternoon showers haven't pushed the schedule back to Saturday.

Isner v Simon (#11 v #13)

John is 2-0 with Simon (both hard court matches, both struggles, a 4 setter which he won with 3 tie-breakers at The Open last year, and a 3 setter at Indian Wells last month in the 3rd round, which ended 7-5 in the 3rd):

- John is 15-6 this year, vs. Simon's 12-8

- John is .447 on clay, Simon .579

- John's breaker win percentage is .633, vs, Simon's .487

- Neither man has won more than 3 Cup singles matches

Advantage USA: Isner ties it up (1-1).

Assuming the reliable Bryans (19-2 in Cup doubles; French Open champions) dispatch the volatile Llodra and partner Benneteau in the doubles, the tie may rest on the 4th rubber, between John and Jo. The two are 1-1, with their most recent match going to the Frenchman in the Paris Masters last fall, 3-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (3).

With an Isner loss, 19 year old Harrison would have to pull off the HUGE miracle in this Cup, beating a master of consistency (Simon). Courier should receive an honorary Masters in Psychology if he can prepare Ryan for this challenge and see him through it...

BOTTOM LINE:

Isner will have to carry the team again, beating Simon and then Tsonga. Long shot to pull off in consecutive ties - away - against heavy favorites. Only an NCCA champ could pull this of...

Stay tuned.

Rick

April 4, 2012 (Round 2 World GroupP


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