By Jason Brown, USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, California – Sacrificing the doubles point on Saturday to give Chile a fighter’s chance of winning both reverse singles matches on Sunday, Captain Hans Gildemeister made a calculated decision.
Pulling his two best players, Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu, less than an hour before the doubles match was set to begin, Gildemeister replaced them with the inexperienced 23-year-old Paul Capdeville and 27-year-old Adrian Garcia.
“Last night when we talked,” said Gildemeister, “we decided it’s up to the four players to be ready to play today because there’s a good chance that Fernando and Nicolas couldn’t play, especially Fernando because he got some cramps (and) was very sore last night.”
At the breakfast table on Saturday morning, Gonzalez told the team he was “50-50” to suit up for doubles. And, after hitting on the practice court, Gonzalez knew he needed the extra day since he was still feeling sore.
On Friday, Blake and Gonzalez played a grueling 4-hour, 20-minute singles match, so the decision to ease Gonzalez’s load was imperative and did not come as a huge surprise to either team.
“My idea was to be alive on Sunday because on Sunday anything can happen,” continued Gildemeister. “I think the tie is still open. If Fernando plays his best tennis and Andy makes some mistakes or doesn’t hit the ball or serve well, Fernando can do some damage. In the fifth point, anything can happen. Nicolas, he’s special for that. I don’t know about how Blake is going to react to playing the fifth match. I hope we get to the fifth match.”
Thrown into the fire on center-stage at the Mission Hills Country Club after not expecting to compete during the weekend, Capdeville and Garcia were promptly dismissed by American twins Bob and Mike Bryan in a shade over an hour, losing in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
“We’ve worked hard to become No. 1. Maybe that gives us a little intimidation factor,” said Mike Bryan, thinking through Chile’s logic for the late change.
“We were real happy to see they put the younger, and less experienced guys on the court. We just outplayed them from the first ball.”
Enjoying their first lead of the weekend series on the strength of back-to-back wins, the U.S. is now in front of Chile, 2-1, in the best-of-five quarterfinal series.
Gonzalez and Massu were scheduled to play the Bryans in a highly-anticipated rematch of their 2004 Athens Summer Olympics quarterfinal thriller.
Instead, two players ranked outside the top 100, Capdeville (No. 103) and Garcia (No. 185) were subbed in.
Asked if they were upset that they didn’t get to play Gonzalez and Massu, the Bryans replied were a resounding “no.”
“It’s 1-All. It’s a very important match,” said Mike Bryan.
“We’ve seen those guys play some great tennis before in big matches, especially at the Olympics. I was actually extremely nervous before. Right when Dean came and told me, it gave me new life. I know these guys (Capdeville and Garcia) haven’t played too many doubles matches. I think they just didn’t really believe they could come out and win today.”
Breaking the Chileans on their first service game of the match, the Bryans ran away with the first set in just 17 minutes.
The misery continued for Chile in the second and third set.
With left-hander Bob Bryan dropping just a single point behind the power and accuracy of his lethal serve, the U.S. tidily wrapped up the second and third frames.
“I thought I was serving really well,” said Bob Bryan. “I knew when I was getting my first serve in, I wasn’t losing any points. I didn’t know that stat. I took a little off on the match point, threw them a bone, you know.”
The third of four consecutive Davis Cup matches Bob and Mike won the doubles rubber for the United States with the series tied at one-all, the Bryans have emerged as a stable bridge between Friday and Sunday.
Roddick, the No. 1 singles player for the U.S., will play Gonzalez in an elimination match for the Chileans beginning at 11 am local time, 1 pm eastern.
Should Gonzalez lose to Roddick, Chile will be eliminated from the 2006 Davis Cup World Group.
The American stopper, Roddick has won the clinching match for his country six straight times, most recently against Razvan Sebau in the 2006 first round against Romania.
That match will be followed by Blake against Massu.
The Outdoor Life Network will carry live television coverage of both reverse singles matches, beginning at 11 am pt; 1 pm et.
The Tennis Channel will re-air both matches in the evening.
The winner of the U.S. vs. Chile quarterfinal will meet the winner of France vs. Russia in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinals in late September.
Russia currently leads France, 2-1.