Mardy Fish and Mike Bryan in the third rubber of the 2008 Davis Cup Semifinal.
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Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish after their five set victory in the third rubber.
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Spain's Fernando Verdasco serving in the Davis Cup Semifinals at the Las Ventas bullring in Madrid, Spain.
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By Jason Brown, USTA.com
Madrid, SPAIN – Keeping hope alive of staging a historic comeback, Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish defeated Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco in five sets, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, pulling the United States within a point of Spain, 2-1.
“It was just a hard-fought battle and luckily, we took our chances when we got them,” said Mike Bryan. “It took a little while to get things going. We made a run for the finish line and got stopped in the fourth and kept running.”
Serving for the match, Fish fired an unreturned serve out wide. Sans Bob Bryan, out with a left shoulder injury, the pair ditched the trademark Bryan Brothers chest-bump, and shared a self-proclaimed "Twist Bump" in mid-air and then a well-deserved embrace at the net for a job well done.
Playing without his brother for the first time in six years, it took time for Mike to get comfortable with a new partner, but once he did, the unit played a fantastic brand of tennis at the sold-out Las Ventas arena.
“It’s a little different when you’re playing with a new partner, especially when you’re throwing a Davis Cup into play, a huge crowd and a huge moment,” said Mike Bryan on the experience with Fish, the first new U.S. tandem since 2003.
“I’m not going to lie – I was a little nervous. Maybe I wouldn’t have been that nervous playing with Bob because I’m so comfortable with him, but I wanted to play great for Mardy.”
The pair started off slow, unable to earn any break points in the opening set against the powerful serves of Lopez and Verdasco.
The trend continued deep into the second where they made their first big move, breaking the Spanish at 5-4 to draw level at one set apiece.
Mike Bryan improved his U.S. Davis Cup record to 15-2, one better than his twin brother. He’s now in sole possession of fourth place on the all-time team doubles victory list, and three behind John McEnroe.
“You play your best tennis in this type of atmosphere,” said Mike Bryan. “We’re fighting 21,000 fans, so you’ve got to be smiling and staying loose. I admire the way Mardy played out there, stayed tough, even when things went bad in the fourth set. Pat kept us calm and Mardy was clutch in the fifth.”
“We just weren’t going after the returns,” added Fish on the slow start. “They were serving Mike unbelievably tough all afternoon. It gave me a lot of opportunities on my side to get chances and I was able to convert most of them.”
For Fish, the win was especially sweet, a long time coming since his last Davis Cup match in the 2004 final against Spain in Seville.
Since then, Fish unselfishly relinquished his spot on the team following the emergence of Andy Roddick, James Blake, and the Bryan brothers.
“It means the world to me,” said Fish, set to be married on September 28 to fiancée Stacey Gardner.
“Davis Cup is a huge thing. I said to P’Mac after the match, ‘I’ve been waiting four years for that?’ I hate that it happened at Bob’s expense, but I tried to step in as best I could. I was happy to get another shot regardless if I ever play again.”
Still facing elimination, Roddick faces Rafael Nadal in the first of two reverse singles matches on Sunday (Versus at 12 pm ET) in a meeting of team No. 1’s.
Roddick, ranked eighth, is a career 2-3 head-to-head against the world No. 1, but has split matches with Nadal this year, including an impressive 7-6(5), 6-2, victory in the quarterfinals at Dubai, a tournament that he went on to win.
The series finale pits U.S. second singles player Sam Querrey against David Ferrer of Spain.
The United States are 1-31 in Davis Cup history when facing a 0-2 deficit. The sole victory came in 1934 against Australia.
Spain has lost just once in their history when leading 2-0, in a 1966 tie in Barcelona against Brazil.
On Friday, Roddick was handed a tough five-set loss to Ferrer after Querrey, playing in his first Davis Cup match, fell to Nadal in four sets.
The winner of the semifinal tie in Madrid will meet the winner of the series between Argentina and Russia, in the 2008 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Final, November 21-23.
Hosting Russia at the Estadio Parque Roca in Buenos Aires, Argentina lead 2-1 behind the strength of straight sets wins from Juan Martin Del Potro and veteran David Nalbandian.
The winner of the United States-Spain series will travel to either Argentina or Russia for the 2008 Final.
Versus will broadcast same-day coverage of Sunday’s reverse singles matches featuring Nadal and Roddick at 12 noon ET. Tennis Channel will re-air coverage at 8 pm ET.
WORLD GROUP SEMIFINALS
SPAIN v USA (Spain Leads 2-1)
Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, Madrid, Spain (clay - outdoors)
Rafael Nadal (ESP) def. Sam Querrey (USA), 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
David Ferrer (ESP) def. Andy Roddick (USA), 7-6(5), 2-6, 1-6, 6-4, 8-6
Mike Bryan/Mardy Fish (USA) def. Feliciano Lopez/Fernando Verdasco (ESP), 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
Rafael Nadal (ESP) v Andy Roddick (USA)
David Ferrer (ESP) v Sam Querrey (USA)
ARGENTINA v RUSSIA (Argentina Leads 2-1)
Estadio Parque Roca, Buenos Aires (clay - outdoors)
David Nalbandian (ARG) def. Igor Andreev (RUS), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) def. Nikolay Davydenko (RUS), 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
Igor Kunitsyn/Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) def. Guillermo Canas/David Nalbandian (ARG), 6-2, 6-1, 6-7(9), 3-6, 8-6
David Nalbandian (ARG) v Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) v Igor Andreev (RUS)