By Jason Brown, USTA.com
La Jolla, Calif. – After dropping the first set to Bob and Mike Bryan of the United States, 6-2, Victor Hanescu was forced to retire because of a rib injury, handing the Americans a fortuitous break and their first lead of the best-of-five Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first-round weekend series.
An injury described by neutral ITF doctor Stuart Marshall as a tear to the ligaments that hold his eleventh rib (aka, “a floating rib”), Hanescu took a three-minute timeout in the seventh game of the first set, down a break, serving at 2-4.
“We’ll take it,” said Bob Bryan. “It’s a strange tie. What happened to Roddick yesterday, and then today with Hanescu. You don’t see that every day.”
After striking his first serve to the ad-court following the injury timeout, Hanescu immediately reached for his side, grimacing in pain.
Admirably trying to forge on and give the sold-out crowd a show, Hanescu and partner Horia Tecau were forced to retire from the match two games later after just 33 minutes of match play.
“The bottom line is that we won the match,” said United States Captain Patrick McEnroe, whose team would be in line to meet Chile in the world group quarterfinals. Chile clinched their first round tie on Saturday against the Slovak Republic.
“Just like yesterday for Romania, they won the match when Andy got sick. So we’re up 2-1 and I’m feeling good about our chances tomorrow.”
On Sunday, a rested and rejuvenated Roddick will try to secure the clinching win for the Americans.
Roddick will be nearly 48 hours removed his physically-painful five-set match against Andrei Pavel where he was drained of all his fluids, depleting him of much-needed energy.
Who Roddick will oppose tomorrow, though, remains up in the air.
Following the match, Romanian team captain Florin Segarceanu was non-committal on his players’ availability for tomorrow, deciding to wait and see how Hanescu feels by Sunday morning.
The Romanian number one was on his way to the hospital to undergo an MRI exam to determine the extent of the damage.
Should Hanescu be unable to suit up for his first reverse singles match against Roddick, Segarceanu will choose between the hard-serving second-year Davis Cup player Tecau or the more-experienced 28-year-old pro Razvan Sabau.
Asked why he chose to substitute Tecau for Andrei Pavel in the doubles rubber, the captain cited the length of Pavel’s match against Roddick, and the age factor for a the 32-year-old veteran that had played a nearly four-hour match on Friday.
McEnroe, however, remained skeptical.
“I think a lot of teams do that because of who they’re playing against,” said McEnroe, referring to the Bryans, the top-ranked doubles players in the world and reigning US Open and Australian Open champions.
To make up for the abrupt end to the match, tournament organizers quickly pieced together a special doubles exhibition match which turned into a highly-entertaining contest.
The Bryan twins, who barely broke a sweat during their half an hour of play against the Romanians, cheerfully trotted back onto the court to challenge their captain, Patrick McEnroe, and his older brother broadcasting the match from the television booth, John McEnroe.
“It’s an awesome crowd and you want to play a lot of tennis,” said Bob Bryan. “But we did play the McEnroe brothers which was just as good. The crowd stayed, so we got to enjoy the atmosphere. Playing in southern California is special, and we got to stick around after the match to sign some autographs with the fans which was neat.”
With father Wayne Bryan filling in as master of ceremonies and hall-of-fame tennis writer Bud Collins calling the shots from the sidelines, the La Jolla crowd roared in delight as the two pairs of brothers put on quite a show.
And, for the record, the brothers Bryan defeated John and Patrick McEnroe in a pro-set format, 8-4, even with Patrick blasting a 100-mph serve past a blushing Bryan.
“Ask me how I’m feeling tomorrow morning,” chided Patrick McEnroe, a bit sore about his first foray into match play in quite some time. “But we had some fun out there. The boys were good sports to stick around.”