Sam Querrey won both his singles matches in the 2013 first round vs. Brazil.
© Ron Angle
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
BOISE, Idaho - Facing world No. 1 and six-time Grand Slam singles champion Novak Djokovic is not an easy task for any opponent, on any day. But in the ultra-intense setting of Davis Cup, playing for your country and not just yourself, the task becomes even harder. Still, that’s exactly the task facing the U.S. Davis Cup squad this weekend (April 5-7) in the 2013 Davis Cup Quarterfinals at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, Idaho.
The last (and only) time the U.S. and Serbia went head-to-head in Davis Cup competition was in the first round of 2010 play, when Djokovic won both of his singles matches, defeating Sam Querrey in four sets and John Isner in five, as Serbia knocked out the U.S. and took the first step toward winning the Davis Cup title that year.
Three years later, the two (almost identical) teams meet again, as Querrey and Isner will again take the court vs. Djokovic and Viktor Troicki in singles, both knowing they will need to bring their "A" games in order to defeat arguably the world’s best returner and hard-court player.
"He’s the best player in the world right now. He’s been the best player the last few years," Isner said of Djokovic, against whom he is 1-2 on the ATP Tour. "He really doesn’t have a weakness. There’s a reason he’s No. 1 in the world. But Sam and I have beaten him before. We’re going to take the court believing that we can beat him again. It’s a tough challenge, but I think we’re both ready for it."
This will be the first Davis Cup tie that Querrey will play as the top-ranked American man in the world (No. 20) and as the team’s No. 1. Isner ranks just behind his teammate at No. 23, and captain Jim Courier’s U.S. squad will again have world No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan. In addition to Djokovic, Serbia will field a team comprised of world No. 44 Troicki, doubles world No. 22 Nenad Zimonjic and Ilija Bozoljac in the best-of-five match series.
"Team effort is a priority here. Even if I win my matches, it’s not going to be enough to win the tie. So we need to win the three points," said Djokovic, who is 20-7 all-time in Davis Cup singles. "The U.S. is the most successful nation in this competition. They are very strong, have strong serves. I played Sam and John a few times. I know their styles of the game. (But) this competition is very unique because you get to rely on the home support, so it’s going to be quite different."
Playing on the indoor hard court, at altitude could help the big-serving games of both Querrey and Isner, as the balls move faster but also can be more difficult to control. Querrey knows landing a high percentage of fast, first serves is a key to defeating both Djokovic and Troicki. Querrey has had first-hand experience recently against the world’s No. 1, falling to Djokovic in straight sets at last month’s Indian Wells event.
Harking back to the 2010 U.S.-Serbia meeting, Querrey recalls, "It was a tight tie. John lost a tight five-setter to Novak, which could have gone either way. I think we’re a better team now. I think all of us are playing better. We like our chances. If we play aggressive and play well, we can win this tie."
The Bryan brothers, who are a remarkable 20-3 together in their Davis Cup careers, are particularly committed to winning the critical doubles point in this tie, especially after suffering an unusual, disappointing five-set loss to Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares in the U.S.’s 3-2 win over Brazil in the opening round of Davis Cup play in February.
"Once we lost that last match, I was itching to play this next tie to try to rebound ," Mike Bryan said. "We want to do our job for this team and play good tennis. But it’s always on our mind. We’re very passionate about Davis Cup. We treat these matches like they’re Grand Slam finals."
The official lineup for the weekend will be determined at the draw ceremony Thursday but it is likely Troicki will pair with Zimonjic for the doubles rubber Saturday. The Bryans are very familiar with the 36-year-old Zimonjic, a former world No. 1 in doubles, but are still looking to gain every advantage to help the U.S. reach the Davis Cup semifinals for the second year in a row.