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By Jason Brown, USTA.com
PORTLAND, Ore. – A clean sweep that puts the United States on the brink of their 32nd title, teammates Andy Roddick and James Blake won their singles matches on Friday at the 2007 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Final, giving the U.S. a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
The most storied nation in the history of the prestigious international team competition, the U.S. is an indomitable 156-3 when holding a 2-0 lead.
In the series home opener, Roddick set the tone for his country, slamming 25 aces en route to the winner’s circle, defeating Russian No. 2 Dmitry Turusnov, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.
“I wanted to set the tone for the tie, whether it be with energy or a result,” said Roddick. “I was looking forward to that opportunity.”
Later on, Blake gained a two-set lead and hung on, besting a game Mikhail Youzhny in four hard-fought sets, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 7-6(3), that had the partisan crowd on their feet, applauding with delight.
“I got to say this is probably my biggest win,” said James Blake. “No, I'm not going to say probably, I'm going to say this is the biggest win of my career.”
“I just couldn't be happier with James' performance,” said U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe. “I just thought it was one of his best performances ever.”
ORDER OF PLAY
Friday, November 30 at 1:00 pm Pacific
Andy Roddick (USA) def. Dmitry Tursunov (RUS), 6-4, 6-4, 6-2
James Blake (USA) def. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS), 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (3)
Saturday, December 1 at 12:30 pm Pacific
Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA) vs.
Igor Andreev/Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Sunday, December 2 at 1:00 pm Pacific
Andy Roddick (USA) vs. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)
James Blake (USA) vs. Dmitry Tursunov (RUS)
In front of a 12,000-strong sold-out Memorial Coliseum that included tennis pioneer Billie Jean King, Roddick, the American stopper, settled the nerves in his stomach riled during the emotions of the opening ceremonies and took it to Tursunov, defeating the Russian in an economical performance which lasted 1 hour and 53 minutes.
“The crowd was amazing,” said Roddick. “I mean, that last game when they just stood up was probably one of the coolest moments of my career so far. We’re a third of the way there, which is even more important.”
On a lightning-quick surface designed to favor the host’s strengths, Roddick faced just one break point against his mighty serve. Slamming serves past his opponent with rapid frequency, Roddick dialed up the radar gun, settling into the mid-140 mph range.
“I wanted to be able to kind of maybe serve my way through a couple of game, get my feet in,” said Roddick. “Once I did, I felt pretty good out there actually. I didn’t get overly excited, but I thought I did when it was needed.”
Roddick improved his Davis Cup career singles record to 26-9, one behind Arthur Ashe for third on the all-time victory list.
“You don’t make individual goals for Davis Cup,” said the 25-year-old Roddick. “It’s surreal. I know I’m (almost) tied with Arthur Ashe, which is just insane. You never think that’s going to happen.”
As the resident of Austin, Texas continues to re-write the history books, only three other Americans – Ashe (27), Andre Agassi (30), and John McEnroe (41) – have more career Davis Cup singles victories than Roddick.
At Thursday’s draw, Tursunov was a surprise nomination in lieu of his higher-ranked teammate Nikolay Davydenko.
Siding with the player that clinched Russia a berth in the 2006 final by defeating Roddick in a five-set marathon on clay, Tarpischev’s trust in a year later Tursunov back-fired.
Erratic from the baseline, Tursunov totaled 27 unforced errors, while his American counterpart was a sturdy plus 5, content to bide his time and wait for the mistakes to come.
“I wouldn’t say that he actually won the match in the sense where he didn’t come up with the great shots on my serve,” said Tursunov, 5-1, after suffering the first singles loss of his Davis Cup career.
“I was the one who was playing a little too passive. Had I not done that, I would say that the outcome would have been different. At least it wouldn’t have been as easy as it was.”
When the United States wins the first rubber of a Davis Cup tie, it holds an imposing 175-17 record. Furthermore, the U.S. is 14-0 the last 14 times it has won the opening rubber, dating back to 1997.
With a great deal of pressure lifted from his shoulders, carrying a one-point cushion, America’s second singles player looked to extend the Americans’ lead against Youzhny.
Wearing a specially-designed red, white & blue Nike sleeveless outfit with matching sneakers inspired for the Davis Cup final, Blake walked onto the court determined to succeed.
Racing out to a 4-1 first lead behind the strength of an early break, Blake closed out the frame, 6-3. Staying on serve in the second set, Blake and Youzhny matched one-handed backhands and fiery temperaments.
The momentum of the match hanging in the balance, Blake seized a 3-0 lead in a pivotal second set tie-break and never looked back, closing out the breaker to grab a two-set lead.
After Youzhny fought back to pull within a set, Blake stood tall in the deciding fourth set. Breaking Youzhny at four-all, Blake leaped in the air following an errant Youzhny backhand into the net, sprinting to the team bench.
His first opportunity to serve for the match, Blake quickly fell into a 0-40 hole. Following a Blake ace, Youzhny broke back, forcing a backhand error into the net.
With their sweep of Friday’s singles, the U.S. can clinch their first Davis Cup title since 1995 if they can secure the double point on Saturday (Versus at 12:30 pm Pacific Time).
Bob and Mke Bryan, 12-1 in Davis Cup competition and the consensus top-ranked doubles team in the world, are scheduled to face Igor Andreev and Davydenko.
“I'm not sure they're going to be able to sleep tonight,” said McEnroe. “I've already been texting them. They're pretty pumped up I mean, to put it mildly.”
Team nominations for the doubles rubber could change up to an hour before match-time, but the Bryans won’t be fazed by whomever they play.
“We know all four of these guys,” said Bob Bryan on Thursday. “We're going to be prepared for each one individually also.”
The final wraps up on Sunday with the reverse singles. A match-up of team number ones, Roddick is set to play Youzhny followed by Blake against Tursunov.
On the heels of Tursunov’s uninspired performance against Roddick, Tarpischev could substitute Andreev or Davydenko in for the fifth match.
The Versus network is airing live daily coverage at 4 pm ET on Friday and Sunday and 3:30 pm ET on Saturday. Tennis Channel will continue its Davis Cup primetime tradition, re-airing coverage daily at 8 pm ET.