Sam Querrey went 3-1 in live singles matches this year for the U.S. Davis Cup team.
© Ron Angle
Novak Djokovic won both his singles matches vs. the U.S. in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.
© Ron Angle
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
BOISE, Idaho – The U.S. Davis Cup team battled through three days, four matches and one of the longest matches in its history. But in the end, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and the Serbian team won a few more points and two more matches – enough to eliminate the U.S. and advance to the 2013 Davis Cup semifinals.
Djokovic led his team to victory, playing through an ankle injury Sunday to defeat Sam Querrey, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-0, to clinch the tie 3-1, at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.
The scheduled fifth singles match between John Isner and Viktor Troicki was not played.
The two teams entered the final day of play with Serbia holding a 2-1 lead after a dramatic, nearly four-and-a-half hour doubles match Saturday when Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac upset the world No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan, winning 15-13 in the fifth set. On Friday, Djokovic defeated Isner and Querrey defeated Troicki.
U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier credited his team’s performances and preparation in Boise as well as in the team’s 3-2 win over Brazil in Jacksonville, Fla. in February.
"We were a very well prepared team coming into the weekend," he said. "I am proud of the guys for the effort they put in out there. Everyone fought as best they could through the circumstances. These matches can hinge on a point here and there. The doubles was a big one for us. Teams won the exact same amount of points out there, but one team won the match.
"We win that one, we're out in the fifth match and it's a different energy," he added. "But [I] couldn't be prouder of the guys for the effort all the way through from Saturday when we got here all the way to today."
At 1-1, 30-40 and Querrey serving Sunday, Djokovic twisted his ankle as he slid around the indoor hard court and at the end of the point, fell to the ground. He had to be helped off the court, had his ankle taped and was given some anti-inflammatory medication. The nature and extent of his injury were still not known by the end of the tie; Djokovic planned to have an MRI when he returned to his home in Monte Carlo, with the ankle very swollen.
Playing for his country was a huge motivation for Djokovic, so he returned and ended up breaking to win the game. He was visibly limping and shaking his ankle at times at the end of points, and was a little more tentative but it did not significantly impact his usually sensational movement. Querrey rebounded to break back for 3-all a few games later, which would turn out to be his only break of the match.
"I'm very happy, very emotional about the win today," Djokovic said. "It meant a lot to me personally and the whole team and the nation, and we are very glad to be in semifinals again. So what's going to happen for me next is to try to first of all diagnose and determine the nature of the injury and how bad it is, and then see from there. … I'm a bit concerned definitely."
Through the second set, Querrey began dealing with an injury of his own, as a sore right pectoral muscle was making it difficult for him to put power on his serve, one of the two biggest weapons in his game. The set progressed to a tie-break, and Querrey evened the match when replay showed a Djokovic forehand volley landed just wide and then netted a forehand.
But Querrey, the top-ranked American at No. 20, was not the same the rest of the match. The pectoral muscle continued to give him trouble and the anti-inflammatory medication and adrenaline kicked in for Djokovic, who began moving closer to his best. Once the world No. 1 broke Querrey in the opening game of the third, he started to hit out and stepped into the court to return Querrey’s slower serves.
"The second set I fought through [the sore pectoral muscle] and was winning the baseline points," Querrey said. "I think that third set when he broke me early it gave him a little more freedom to swing out of some of the returns, which he wasn't doing as much of in the second set. When he starts to get a read on those serves and swing out and putting 'em deep in the corner, it just made it very difficult on my service games.
"I wasn't able to get my usual pop [on serve], and that's tough when you're playing against the best returner in the world," he added.
The match concluded a successful Davis Cup season for Querrey, who won his first live rubber vs. Brazil and went 3-1 in live singles matches for the season. Afterward, he said he thinks it will only help him and the rest of the team the rest of the year.
"I always feel like I really improve during these Davis Cup weeks," Querrey said. "Even though I lost today and our team lost, I'm still feeling very confident with the great work of week I got, and I know the rest of the guys probably feel that way, too."
Courier thought it was another learning experience for his team, and he hopes for 2014 to have a fully healthy squad to make a run at the Davis Cup crown. In addition to Querrey’s injury this round, Isner came to Jacksonville without much match play due to a knee injury.
"[Querrey] won three live points for us this season, so this is something for Sam to build on for next year and for the rest of this season on the tour as well, which is great," Courier said. "We fought through some trying times this year from a physical standpoint. Hopefully we'll be well rested and ready to go and healthy for next year."