By Jason Brown, USTA.com
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – The official Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Draw Ceremony, featuring the United States and Spain, was held Thursday at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in downtown Winston-Salem.
Ninth-ranked James Blake will open play on Friday against Spain's Tommy Robredo, ranked sixth. An even match-up, Blake is a career 3-2 against Robredo, but fell to him at the 2006 Masters Cup.
That match will be followed by U.S. No. 1 singles player Andy Roddick against surprise substitution Fernando Verdasco.
Spain's No. 2 has given Roddick some trouble in the past, and Captain Emilio Sanchez said that he was pleased with Verdasco's play in practice this week on the fast indoor hard court.
At the 2006 US Open, Verdasco extended Roddick to five sets, winning a pair of tie-breakers. But Roddick has won their last three encounters, including back-to-back wins last year at Indian Wells and Miami, making him the prohibitive favorite.
Roddick, who is playing through a left hamstring strain that he incurred during his quarterfinal match against Andy Murray at the Sony Ericsson Open last week, is now locked into the weekend series. As expected, McEnroe designated Roddick and Blake as the team's singles players, along with the Bryan brothers, 10-1 in Davis Cup competition, manning the doubles role.
"It feels all right," said Roddick, who has practiced without pain in Winston-Salem. "I'm going to play tomorrow, and I'm excited about it. That's about it. I'm going to go out and do my best to get us some wins." By selecting Verdasco over presumed first choice David Ferrer, Sanchez clearly had decided that the 35th-ranked player gave Spain a better chance of winning than the 16th-ranked Ferrer.
"I wasn't really that surprised," voiced McEnroe on his counterpart's unorthodox selection.
"I think Verdasco is a very talented and can play well on fast courts. He has a pretty big game. So to me, one of the strengths of their team is they can mix and match a little bit. They're all competitive guys, and Verdasco is ‑‑ as I said, he's got a little more firepower. Maybe he doesn't have the same consistency as David or Robredo, but he can hit a really good ball. So it doesn't change anything about they way we were approaching the match."
"Andy is feeling great," continued McEnroe.
"James has played better and better every day in practice, and I think the conditions really suit us and suit our games. It's just a question of going out and playing, playing well. And I think if our guys play their game in these conditions on this surface, I think we'll be in good shape."
Saturday's doubles rubber will feature three left-handers -- Bob Bryan of the United States and two southpaw Spaniards, Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez.
"It's going to be a little different," said Bob Bryan. Chiding his twin brother, Bob, a left-hander, assured the audience that his twin had seen plenty of lefty shotmaking in the past. "They (Lopez and Verdasco) are really the only team on tour that are lefties."
The weekend series concludes on Sunday with team No. 1's Roddick and Robredo squaring off in the fourth match, followed by Blake against Verdasco.
A big advantage for the Americans, Roddick is a sterling 7-0 in Davis Cup-clinching matches and has owned Robredo to the tune of seven wins and no losses.
The draw determines the singles pairings and order of play in the best-of-five match series for the 2007 World Group Quarterfinal to be played April 6-8.
All three days of the best-of-five match series are sold out, with over 14,000 fans expected to root on the Americans.
When the U.S. wins the first rubber of a Davis Cup tie, it holds a 173-17 record.
Versus will air live daily coverage throughout the weekend of play from Winston-Salem at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Continuing its Davis Cup tradition, The Tennis Channel will air a primetime rebroadcast each evening beginning at 8 p.m.
The World Group Quarterfinal that directly impacts the U.S., Argentina playing at Sweden in Gothenburg, held its draw earlier on Thursday.
Thomas Johansson and Robin Soderling were chosen to compete against Argentina’s David Nalbandian and Juan-Martin Del Potro. Del Potro, a surprising selection over the in-form Guillermo Canas, will fill the second singles role and meet Soderling in the second match on Friday.
The winner of U.S.-Spain will meet either Argentina or Sweden in the World Group Semifinals, Sept. 21-23.
|April 6||2:00 - 6:00 PM ET (Live)||Versus||Singles |
|April 6||8:00 PM ET (Encore)||Tennis Channel||Singles |
|April 7||2:00 - 3:00 PM ET (Live)||Versus||Doubles |
|April 7||8:00 PM ET (Encore)||Tennis Channel||Doubles |
|April 8||2:00 - 5:00 PM ET (Live)||Versus||Singles |
|April 8||8:00 PM ET (Encore)||Tennis Channel||Singles |
| || || || |
| ||*All Times Eastern|| || |
| || || || |
Click here for the Winston-Salem schedule of play and the remainder of the World Group Quarterfinal ties being held around the world.