Isner, Harrison need a win
April 07, 2012 | 08:54 PM
After the Bryans straight set win in doubles today, 6-4, 6-4, and 7-6 (4) over Llodra and Benneteau), they celebrated their team's 2-1 lead in the Mediterranean sun with their team-mates, two of whom have some reason to be nervous about having the burden of favorite shifted on to their team, a burden they have to carry tomorrow. Instead of having to stage two upsets to win, they now have to take one of two, a seemingly more achievable outcome which diminishes neither player's individual challenge. The team's odds may have improved as much as Justin Gimelstob suggested yesterday (whoever won the doubles point would be a 75% favorite to win the tie), but Courier is veteran enough to recognize the possible undercurrent of tension and help his players deal with it before they take the court.
With both Fish and Roddick off the roster at this tie, the Bryans have become the sole veterans of Cup competition playing among relative rookies (Isner completed just his 6th singles match yesterday; Bob an Mike maintained their perfect record in winning matches away from home and improved their overall record to 20-2). In spite of the experience and age difference between the Bryans and their singles playing team-mates, they do have an important common thread in their career pathways that seems to have given them a shared gene for success in Davis Cup: college tennis.
While 6'4" Bob is a little dwarfed by 6'9" Isner and outweighed by over 40 pounds, he and John belong to an elite club that includes McEnroe and precious few others: they were both NCAA singles and doubles champions ('98 for Bob, '07 for John). When locker room bragging rights are contested between them, Bob stands taller as a Triple Crown winner (Stanford also won the team title in '97). But following today's win, the talk in the locker room and elsewhere should be more about the quality of the Bryan's flawless doubles performance:
- they didn't face a single break point and were pushed to deuce only twice
- they began both the 1st and 2nd sets by breaking the French, first Llodra and then Benneteau
- they committed just 6 unforced errors
- they were unfazed by being out-shot 2 to 1 in winners (56 to 27), knowing that the key to victory lay in their superior ability to force errors (61 to 26).
The 3rd set was close because the French serving percentage improved (to 74%) and, playing with more intensity, they won 9 of 9 points on their own 2nd serves. Llodra's return errors remained a problem for the french; though he saw more 2nd serves from Bob and Mike in the last set, the twins crossing had so messed with his mind that he never got it going. The Bryans never alowed an opening until a mini-break at 1-1 in the tie-breaker, from which they broke back with two straight points, and built their lead to 5-2.
RESULTS AND PREVIEW, OTHER QUARTERFINAL TIES (all played on clay)
Czech Republic leads Serbia 2-1
- in the O2 Arena in Prague, Serbia evened their tie at 1-1 with the Czech Rep. on the strength of win by Janko Tipsarevic over Radel Stepanek, 9-7 in the 5th set of the second rubber (this was one of two singles matches on day 1 which typify Davis Cup action; both were 5 sets and 5 hours long).
- Berdych won the first rubber 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 over Troicki.
- Stepanek and Berdych teamed up to win the doubles point 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (4) against the doubles specialist Zimonjic and Bozoliac (winning in straight sets in less than 2.5 hours may have improved their chances to survive tough singles tests tomorrow against fresher legs).
PREVIEW: Tomorrow, Berdych comes back to seek revenge against Tipsarevic, who beat him in 4 sets in their Cup semi-final match two years ago. Berdych won their last two of four matches in 2011, but is 2-4 with him in their careers (all six played on hard courts). It's hard to choose a favorite between them, but it isn't much easier to pick Stepanek or Troicki's in the final rubber. While Radek has a 4-2 career edge in their matches and will be playing on 33 years legs, the Serb hasn't beaten anyone this year ranked higher than #48 Ferrerro (Radek is #24).
Argentina leads Croatia 2-1
- in Buenos Aires, Croatia was tied 1-1 with host Argentina thanks to a come-back 5 set win by Marin Cilic over David Nalbandian, 6-3 in the 5th.
- Del Potro beat Karlovic in 3 sets, 6-1, 7-6 (7), 6-1.
- Cilic and Nalbandian came back to play 5 more sets against each other in the doubles today: with David partnered with Schwank to reverse the tables on Marin (playing with Zovko), winning 3-6, 7-6 (6) 6-3, 6-7 (6), 8-6. Between the two opponents, Cilic and Nalbandian have played 10 hours on clay the weekend after the hard court winter.
PREVIEW: Del Potro will be a heavy favorite to end the tie against a tired Cilic in the first rubber tomorrow. If he were somehow to fail to beat someone he's usually beaten when fresh, it's possible Ivo Karlovic could outlast Radek this time in a battle of 33 year olds: their last Cup tie in '09 (on clay) went to the Czech in one of the longest 5 setters in recent Cup history, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (2), 16-14.
Spain (without Rafa) leads Austria 2-1
- Ferrer and Almagro lost a combined 13 games in 6 sets to Haider-Muarer and Melzer.
- #24 ranked doubles specialist Marc Lopez and his most frequent partner Marcel Granollers failed to close out the tie at home, losing 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (12) to the #31 ranked team of Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya.
PREVIEW: With #5 Ferrer the heavy favorite over #21 Melzer in the first rubber tomorror, Spain will await the winner of France and the USA. If the USA wins, Spain will host us. More clay for Isner & Co.!
For the USA to reach a Cup finals winning three ties on clay in Europe might be an unprecedented feat for Americans. Given the preponderance of host countries choosing clay as the surface for their ties, this is a challenge the US will have to face if it wants to continue as a top World Group competitor.
Davis Cup Quarters, Day 2 Results, P