Patrick McEnroe, Mardy Fish, Mike Bryan, Andy Roddick and Sam Querrey during the Davis Cup draw in Madrid
© PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images
Sam Querrey will make his Davis Cup debut Friday against Rafael Nadal
© 2008 Getty Images
By Jason Brown, USTA.com
Madrid, SPAIN – United States Davis Cup rookie Sam Querrey was handed the ultimate assignment at the draw ceremony Thursday, selected to play top-ranked Rafael Nadal in the opening match of the best-of-five semifinal.
Before an expected crowd of over 21,000 fans inside the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, a converted bullfighting ring in central Madrid built in 1929, Querrey will attempt the near-impossible – to upset the world’s best clay-court player in his own backyard.
“We feel great. We’re going to go out there and have fun,” said U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe after the draw at the Communidad de Madrid Puerto Del Sol.
“Obviously we’re the underdogs but they’ve got a lot of pressure on them playing at home, but they’ve got a lot of crowd support and motivation as well. I think it’s an opportunity for us to go out there and let our games fly, take some chances, and play aggressively as often as we can.”
The 39th-ranked Querrey recently took a set off Nadal at the US Open, but that match was contested on the fast hard court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, a stark contrast to the slow and unpredictable conditions of the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas.
“I can try to make some faces at him, but I’m not sure how much that will do,” said Querrey about Spain’s leading man. “I’ve got to go out there and be aggressive and hit big serves and dictate the point if I can. He’s arguably the best clay court player ever, so it takes a lot to intimidate him.”
Set to become the 135th player in U.S. Davis Cup history and the first American rookie since Robby Ginepri in 2004, Querrey’s laid-back California personality could help him on Friday.
“I don’t know if there are any words of advice,” said Roddick. “It would be a little bit weird if Sam wasn’t a little bit nervous going in. The one thing with Sam, he’s a little bit more relaxed than I was in 2004 so I think he may handle it a little bit better than I did back then.”
A four-time defending French Open champion, Nadal is 6-0 in Davis Cup singles play on clay (8-1 overall), an intimidating presence in the opener opposite Querrey in the bullfighting ring.
“I'm expecting Sam to play well,” said McEnroe. “Obviously going up against Rafa here is a tall task. But I think the environment and the situation, you couldn't draw up a tougher task. At the same time we're hoping he's going to go out there and play 110%, put it out there, see what happens.”
This weekend will mark the ninth time that the United States and Spain have met in Davis Cup competition. The U.S. posted the only road win in the series in 1972 in Barcelona. Overall, the U.S. leads the series 5-3 and won the last meeting in the 2007 World Group Quarterfinal at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC.
Schedule of Play
R1 – Sam Querrey (USA) vs. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
R2 – Andy Roddick (USA) vs. David Ferrer (ESP)
R3 – Mike Bryan/Mardy Fish (USA) vs. Feliciano Lopez/Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
R4 – Andy Roddick (USA) vs. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
R5 – Sam Querrey (USA) vs. David Ferrer (ESP)
A must-win match for the Americans, eighth-ranked Andy Roddick (29-9 in Davis Cup singles play) carries a nine-match winning streak against David Ferrer on Friday. Roddick is a career 2-3 against the current No. 5-ranked player in the world.
“David has improved as much as anybody in tennis over the last couple of years,” said Roddick. “He’s earned his spot in the Top 5 in the world and has been one of the most consistent players on tour. He’s a very good clay-court player, so I’m going to be up against it, that’s for sure.”
On Saturday, the unlikely partnership of Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish will take on Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco in the pivotal doubles rubber.
This tie marks the first time that the Bryan Brothers (14-2 in Davis Cup competition) won’t play together for the United States.
“We’ve had a great week of practice, Mardy and I,” said Mike Bryan. “Our communication is down – we’ve had five days of practice and played some sets together. Mardy’s a great guy and a great doubles player and he’s got a great serve and return, so that translates well to doubles.”
Fish, ranked No. 23, is a last-minute substitute for the injured Bob Bryan, out indefinitely with a left shoulder injury. He can play either singles or doubles, giving McEnroe flexibility with his lineup selections.
The team hasn’t had an ideal amount of clay-court preparation given the short turnaround from the US Open, but their captain isn’t overly-concerned.
“Well obviously with the US Open just ending not particularly long, but the guys were able to get a few days of practice,” said McEnroe on the quick transition to clay. “Probably about a week or so since the US Open ended to get used to the clay back at home, and then we arrived here on Sunday.”
The Americans would always prefer to play on hard courts or grass, but they’ve won important matches on European clay in recent wins over Belgium, Czech Republic, and in the first round this year against Austria.
Last year, in the World Group Quarterfinals, Bob and Mike Bryan won the clinching point over Spain’s Lopez and Verdasco in four sets en route to a 4-1 team victory.
Versus and Tennis Channel will air same-day coverage of all three days of competition. Versus will broadcast each day at 12 noon ET. Tennis Channel will re-air coverage at 8 pm ET.
USA vs. Spain TV Schedule
Friday, September 19
12 pm ET VERSUS Same-Day Coverage – Singles
8 pm ET Tennis Channel Same-Day Delay – Singles
Saturday, September 20
12 pm ET VERSUS Same-Day Coverage – Doubles
8 pm ET Tennis Channel Same-Day Delay – Doubles
Sunday, September 21
12 pm ET VERSUS Same-Day Coverage – Reverse Singles
8 pm ET Tennis Channel Same-Day Delay – Reverse Singles
The winner of the semifinal tie in Madrid will meet the winner of the other semifinal series between Argentina and Russia, in the 2008 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Final, November 21-23.
Argentina are playing host to Russia at the Estadio Parque Roca in Buenos Aires. Favorites to advance on a red clay surface Argentina is led by rising superstar Juan Martin Del Potro and veteran David Nalbandian.
If the United States were to advance, they would travel to either Argentina or Russia for the 2008 Davis Cup Final.