By Jeremiah Yolkut, special to USTA.com
SEOUL, Korea -- Friday’s competition at the 2012 BNP Paribas World Team Cup proved be the toughest yet for Team USA, as England dealt major blows to both the American Men’s and Quad teams, knocking the latter from its throne as world’s best.
After schedule changes on Friday, the two-time defending WTC champion quads were back on the courts at the Olympic Tennis Centre for semifinal action against the second-seeded Britons. U.S. team member Nick Taylor, who into Friday entered the match with a perfect 5-0 record in Seoul, was first up against Jamie Burdekin in No. 2 singles. Taylor came out strong with his usual tempered shots, yet Burdekin rose to the occasion, keeping the American from controlling the play. Taylor struggled to keep the ball away from Burdekin and dropped the match, 2-6, 2-6 to put the U.S. in an early 1-0 hole.
It was up to David Wagner to keep the country’s hopes alive for a chance at an eighth-straight Quad finals appearance. To do so, the ITF World No. 1 would have to defeat England’s Andrew Lapthorne (currently No. 4 in the singles ranks) in a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final, won by Wagner.
In the first set Wagner came out wary and cautious allowing his British opponent the chance to take control of the set late. It was in the second set, after falling behind 1-4, that Wagner awoke. He started pushing harder, finding Lapthorne’s holes, and driving the ball to the opposite side of the court. He battled back, winning the next five games and tying the sets at 1-1. In the third, Wagner came out hard and after dropping the first game turned back to his second set ways. He traded games with the young Brit, but lost his way at 3-2, dropping the next four games and losing the set 3-6.
The U.S. quads will miss their first quad final since 2004 and will play Japan in the 3rd/4th playoff on Saturday.
The U.S. Men’s team fared no better in their dealings with the English in their first 5-8 playoff match-up to determine overall placement, being swept for the second time in as many days. Jon Rydberg, who had a tough Thursday losing in both singles and doubles to Japan, lost his third match in roughly 24 hours to England’s David Phillipson in straight sets 3-6, 4-6. The 11-time WTC veteran saw his overall record in Seoul drop to 2-4 despite some very competitive play. Steve Welch entered the No. 1 singles match against Gordon Reid with a chance to tie the tie, but found little sustained success against the 20-year-old Reid’s game, losing the match 2-6, 4-6. In the doubles, Steve Baldwin and a debuting Noah Yablong had the chance to team together for the first time in this year’s World Team Cup, but as was the story of the day, could not match the skill of England’s duo of Phillipson and Alex Jewitt in a quick 1-6, 2-6 defeat.
The U.S. teams had a tough Friday, but all four teams will have a chance to cap off the 2012 edition of World Team Cup with wins in their final matches on Saturday. It will be an especially big day for the Team USA juniors, who will face the Netherlands in their first final appearance since 2003.
England (2) d. USA (1) 2-0
Jamie Burdekin (GBR) d. Nick Taylor (USA) 6-2 6-1
Andrew Lapthorne (GBR) d. David Wagner (USA) 6-4 4-6 6-3
Doubles Not Played
England (5) d. USA (8) 3-0
David Phillipson (GBR) d. Jon Rydberg (USA) 6-3, 6-4
Gordon Reid (GBR) d. Steve Welch (USA) 6-2, 6-4
David Phillipson/Alex Jewitt (GBR) d. Steve Baldwin/Noah Yablong (USA) 6-1, 6-2
Juniors: Final: USA vs. Netherlands
Women’s: 5/6 playoff: USA vs. Thailand
Quads: 3/4 playoff: USA vs. Japan
Men’s: 7/8 playoff USA vs. Austria