The U.S. Davis Cup Team at the official draw ceremony.
© Ron Angle
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
GIJON, Spain -- It has been two years since Sam Querrey played his last Davis Cup match, having to miss the competition and a few months on the ATP Tour last year due to elbow surgery.
But he has worked his game and ranking back amongst the best in the world yet again and is coming off a tremendously successful summer season, which included a title win in Los Angeles and a surge back up the rankings to No. 26. Now this week, he makes his Davis Cup return in the semifinals against Spain as the team’s No. 2 singles player and will play the opening match of the tie Friday against Spain’s No. 1 player, David Ferrer.
The order of play for the tie was determined at the official draw ceremony, with John Isner, the U.S. No. 1, playing Nicolas Almagro in the second singles match Friday. For the doubles rubber Saturday, the world No. 1 doubles team and reigning US Open champions Bob and Mike Bryan play doubles world No. 8 Marc Lopez and doubles world No. 13 Marcel Granollers. On Sunday, Isner leads off against Ferrer, and then Querrey closes the tie against Almagro.
It will be yet another challenge this year for the U.S. Davis Cup Team, which had a tough 2012 draw and has excelled. The U.S. has played each tie away on clay this year as the underdog, defeating Roger Federer and Switzerland in the first round and then eliminating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and the French team in the quarterfinals. The deep Spanish team, on outdoor red clay, is its biggest challenge yet, but the U.S. is looking forward to the tie and has a team full of players experienced with playing Davis Cup matches on clay.
"I think the home town, Spain, is the favorite," said U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier. "They are a fantastic team. They could make three or four Davis Cup teams that would be very good, considering how many players they have. But we are here to play, we are here to compete, and we will take our chances here this weekend.
"We are expecting a very difficult battle," he added. "That is what all these matches, whether it is home or away, are about. It is about getting ready, getting set and letting fire."
Isner and Querrey have played 10 and five career Davis Cup matches, respectively, and all have been on clay and on the road. The Bryans are 19-2 together in their Davis Cup careers but are undefeated on the road and on clay.
Querrey is happy to play the opening match against Ferrer, a 2012 US Open semifinalist, whom he has not played on the ATP Tour since 2010. He is enjoying the chance to be back on the team and is happy with the state of his game.
"It is really exciting to be back on the team, it has been a few years since I played back in 2010," he said. "I was out last year with elbow surgery, but I have come back, and I feel like I am playing really well. I am excited to be part of this team, and I am really looking forward to it. The handful of Davis Cup teams I have played on in the past have been really fun. It is exciting to play on a team every now and then."
Isner, the world No. 10, is the No. 1 singles player for the U.S. for the second consecutive tie after an unbelievable Davis Cup 2012 campaign that has included wins over Federer, Tsonga and Gilles Simon to help send the U.S. to its first Davis Cup Semifinal since 2008. He is happy to be back and looks forward to playing a few more of the world’s best in No. 5 Ferrer and No. 12 Almagro, who are also two excellent clay-court players.
"Our team has played in some tough environments before, and we expect a tough environment tomorrow, but at the same time, we know it is going to be a lot of fun. I am just going to go out there and try to enjoy it," Isner said.
The Bryans missed the chance to play Lopez and Granollers potentially in the US Open finals last week, as a calf injury to Lopez forced the Spanish duo to retire from their semifinal match. Later, the Bryans went on to win their Open Era-record 12th Grand Slam doubles title. But any member of the Spanish team could take the doubles court Saturday, as captains can change their lineup up to an hour before the start of play. The Bryans, however, are expecting to face Lopez and Granollers.
"This is one of the best teams in the world; they are going to make London (the ATP World Tour Finals) very comfortably," Bob Bryan said. "They have won a Masters on clay, and they have played us tough. There are going to be no surprises. We know we have our hands full. We are practicing hard, we feel good, riding some confidence from a good summer, as are they. Whoever plays better and executes on the day is going to win."
The Byrans said they will approach the match the same way they did the US Open last week in New York, expecting this to be one of their most difficult Davis Cup matches yet against another top team in the world that excels on the clay.
"We treat all these road ties as Grand Slam finals," Mike Bryan added. "We played every road tie on clay, and we are pretty comfortable on clay. We have good game plans coming in, playing a lot of clay-court players, and we are playing another really good clay-court team. This could be our toughest away tie match against a top-five team in the world. We will treat it just like we did the US Open final a week ago. Davis Cup matches are huge for us."