Bob and Mike Bryan will be looking to extend their Davis Cup record together to 21-3 against Serbia.
© Ron Angle
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
BOISE, Idaho – Whether he played the first or second singles match did not matter to John Isner. He knew when he came to Boise that he would be playing world No. 1 Novak Djokovic on the opening day of the U.S. vs. Serbia Davis Cup quarterfinal, and he knew that to win a point for the U.S., he would have to bring his best to beat the world’s best.
As it turns out, Isner won’t have to wait. He and Djokovic will open play Friday at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho, as the U.S. looks to take the first step in its best-of-five match series against the 2010 Davis Cup champions.
Also Friday, U.S. No. 1 Sam Querrey takes the court for the second singles match against Serbia’s No. 2 Viktor Troicki. The doubles match Saturday is scheduled to be the world No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan against doubles world No. 22 Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac – though there is a good chance Bozoljac could be replaced by Troicki for the doubles – and the tie concludes Sunday with Querrey versus Djokovic and Isner against Troicki in the possible deciding match.
"I want to put our team, our country up 1-0," Isner said of leading off. "In these Davis Cup ties, there are five possible points, so every point is so critical. I have to play very well. If I don’t, chances are it may not turn out so good for me. He’s the No. 1 player in the world; everyone has to play well if they want to have a chance to beat him. [I’ve] got to go out there and look to play well and aggressively."
Isner is 1-2 in his career against Djokovic on the ATP World Tour, having won their last meeting in the 2012 Indian Wells semifinals. He lost a five-set match to the world No. 1 in the first Davis Cup meeting between the U.S. and Serbia, in the first round back in 2010.
In Boise, the two men will be meeting at an altitude just shy of 3,000 feet. The thin air should help the big serves of both the 6-foot-9 Isner and the 6-6 Querrey, which will be critical against the outstanding return game and defense of Djokovic.
"I played in high altitude before, but not matches," Djokovic said. "It makes a difference. You have to try to serve well, it’s tough to control. You can’t expect too many long points because the ball travels through the air much faster than in normal conditions. I can’t serve bigger than John, so I will try to concentrate on the efficiency of my serve and the second shot also, and of course try to get as many returns back in the court as I can."
This is the first tie for Querrey as the top-ranked American man and the No. 1 player for the U.S. Davis Cup team. He won his first career Davis Cup live matches in the U.S.’s opening-round victory over Brazil, securing two of the team’s three points, including a win in the fifth-and-deciding match. Querrey said those victories have given him a dose of confidence heading into this weekend’s play.
"I’m going to hopefully take those two matches and the confidence I gained and use it here," he said. "I’ve had a good start to the year so far, so winning those two Davis Cup matches helped. Hopefully we’ll go out there and play confident and take from those matches what we’ve learned."
For the always pivotal doubles rubber, U.S. Captain Jim Courier will lean on the ever-reliable Bryans to take on Zimonjic and whichever player Serbia selects as his partner. Zimonjic partnered with Troicki to win the doubles point in Serbia’s first-round win over Belgium, and he played with both Bozoljac and Janko Tipsarevic in 2012.
"Zimonjic has been playing with us for the last 10, 15 years," Bob Bryan said of playing a familiar opponent. "We’ll just try to throw in a couple new wrinkles in our strategy to throw him off. Probably expect Troicki to jump out there. He’s played in tough finals and he plays doubles every week."
Courier said he enters the tie confident in his team’s abilities, strategies and matchups. But win or lose, he knows it won’t be easy.
"Going up against a team as accomplished as the Serbs is a big challenge, and we look forward to that challenge," Courier said. "We’re going to have to play our best tennis, no-holds barred best tennis to get through this weekend. Every single match is going to be difficult. [But] we feel like we can make things difficult for them."