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A New Outlook on US Chances in Davis Cup?

Day 1: Tsonga def. Harrison, Isner def. Simon


April 06, 2012 | 09:24 PM

After a predictable 1-1 split of the first two singles matches today, the outlook feels more positive to Team USA - and not just because #11 ISNER was so convincing in dominating #13 Gilles Simon, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. This win both gave confidence to John for his big match Sunday against #6 Tsonga (shaken perhaps after losing to Florian Meyer 6-4, 6-2 in Miami's 2nd round), and - perhaps - shook up Simon before he plays Harrison.

The more important aftermath of today may have been the confidence Ryan should take from playing an in form Tsonga as closely as he did through 4 sets and 3 hours (losing 7-5, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2). Ryan is still the diamond in the rough coach Courier labeled him today, but Simon will have to get his game face back on to outlast the new kid from Austin (actually he's from Shreveport, but lives in Austin). And if the tie rides on the outcome of that 5th rubber, Davis Cup pressure will do a number on both players (Simon has only played a handful of ties). Simon should have the advantage, but that advantage is a lot less than it seemed before today.

Previewing the Sunday singles

How good was Isner today, and how did his performance compare to Tsonga"?

ISNER (in 3 sets, in 29 games) TSONGA (in 4 sets, 36 games)

- won 57% of the points - won 53% of the points

- 74% of 30 points at the net - won 76% of 46 points at net

- hit 9 aces and 8 service winners - hit 5 aces and 11 service winners

- hit 30 forehand winners and 53 total winners - hit 28 forehand winners and 60 total winners

- forced 40 errors - forced 39 errors

- faced only 5 break points and saved all 5 - faced 13 break points and was broken 4 times

- converted 4 of 8 break points - converted 7 of 13 break points

- won twice as many points as Simon in 6-2 2nd set - won 60% of points in 6-2 2nd set

- made 13 unforced errors - made 15 unforced errors

- his opponent made just 13 errors against 15 winners - opponent made 13 errors against 4 winners

Summary: Isner was more productive in winners in almost 20% fewer games and made fewer unforced errors, against a player who made many more winners without making more errors.

Analysis like this isn't going to dent Jo's confidence the way knowing that in 5 matches against Simon, they've split sets 3 times. Guy Forget will have to hop his big guy focuses, and that the other big guy doesn't have one of those days when it doesn't matter who's on the other side of the net. Bulldog John's having more of those days lately, and he seems to like the big occasion in Davis Cup.

John and the US are still underdogs... until after the Bryans get off work tomorrow morning (they start at 6am EST, LIVE on The TC). Then (presuming the Bryans win) the oddsmakers will probably desert the French hosts and predict another upset.

By Sunday, everyone may feel like an underdog, and the tennis may be bigger and better as a result.

This is the magic of team competition!

Rick

USA v France in Monte Carlo, 4.6.12


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