By Jason Brown, USTA.com
RANCHO MIRAGE, California – Andy Roddick has done it again.
For the seventh straight time Roddick had the opportunity to clinch a Davis Cup tie for his country, and for the seventh match in a row, he sealed the deal for the United States.
“You're excited, you're relieved, you're pumped up,” said Roddick after winning the series-clinching match and adding another storied chapter to his Davis Cup resume. "Your teammates come over and you're happy. There's a lot of good emotions running through you when you win."
"I've kind of been looking for something good. Maybe this was it. I came up pretty big this weekend, especially today. Fernando playing lights-out the first couple sets, I just kind of stuck around and really found a way. It feels good."
Coming back from a set down to defeat battle-tested Fernando Gonzalez in four sets, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4, the new American stopper gave the U.S. an insurmountable 3-1 lead over Chile in the best-of-five Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal at the Mission Hills Country Club.
In the weekend finale, Chilean substitute Paul Capdeville defeated James Blake in a shortened two-of-three singles match, 6-3, 6-4.
Final score: United States 3, Chile 2.
Roddick's heroics have earned the United States a berth in the World Group semifinals, an away match-up against a talented and deep Russian team, September 22 - 24, 2006.
Having just completed what Roddick described as the “best weekend for me so far this year,” the team’s No. 1 singles player defeated Nicolas Massu on Friday and followed that up with an inspired performance against Gonzalez.
“I don’t care if I don’t win another match all year as long as we win the Davis Cup,” said Roddick, who picked up the 20th Davis Cup singles win of his career.
Their sixth career meeting, Gonzalez gained the upper-hand in the first set, dominating from baseline.
Blasting deep forehand winners off Roddick’s serve, Gonzalez pumped up the large contingent of flag-waving Chilean fans in attendance with a break of serve en route to winning the first set.
The turning point of the match, Roddick did his best Boris Becker impression in the second set.
At three-all in the set, Roddick dove to stab a backhand volley winner, and repeated the feat four games later, diving to protect the net at five-all. Two important moments in the match, Roddick let Gonzalez know that he was in it to win it.
With Gonzalez serving down 5-6 in the set, Roddick hustled to earn a pair of set points, breaking the Chilean on his second attempt to level the match.
From there, Roddick took flight, rifling baseline winners that amounted to a sparkling plus 33 in his favor by the end of the match.
Breaking Gonzalez on his first service game of the third set, it was the beginning of the end to Chile’s weekend in Rancho Mirage.
Snapping his racquet in two, Gonzalez and Captain Hans Gildemeister protested two close line calls, both of which went in favor of the Americans.
Starting to smell the finish line, Roddick added a second break to extend his lead to 4-1 in the fourth.
On the match, Roddick was five of six on break point conversions, won an impressive 75% of his second serves to just 35% from Gonzalez, and totaled 36 winners from the net.
Three games later, on match point, Roddick guided an easy volley into the open court.
Turned to his team bench, screaming in joy, Roddick eagerly hoisted the American flag to set off on a victory lap with his teammates.
“I think he basically stayed the course,” said assistant coach Dean Goldfine. “He had a game plan going out there. It was to be aggressive, to put pressure on Fernando whenever he had the chance. He made a couple of minor adjustments with some things and it paid off for him.”
Fatigued from his five-set epic match against James Blake on Friday, Gonzalez revealed that physically, he wasn’t at a complete 100% against Roddick.
“It’s not easy to play against Andy when you’re not feeling well, but it’s Davis Cup,” said Gonzalez.
Although Blake dropped both of his singles matches over the weekend, he clearly wasn’t playing on his best surface and was more than happy to record the overall team win.
“Andy played great. That’s what I’m happy,” said Blake. “Even though individually I didn’t have the best weekend, I consider this week a 100% total and complete success because we won as a team. That’s why we picked grass. It probably isn’t my most comfortable surface, but it’s the best for the team. It worked out to our advantage, we won. That’s all I care about.”
Back at home in New York with his wife Melissa awaiting the birth of their first child, U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe said that he was “nervous all weekend” watching his team play on television from his vantage point on the couch, and that he was “proud of the guys” for rallying together.
“I was very impressed by Andy, the way he corralled his energy,” said McEnroe, making reference to Roddick’s overflow of emotions at La Jolla which damaged him mentally and physically.
“He weathered the storm and was extremely composed. His serve got better and better as the match went on. It was a big boost for himself as far as the rest of the year, and he answered a lot of questions about his game.”
Admitting that Blake took a bullet for the team considering that grass wasn’t his best surface, McEnroe defended the decision because of Roddick and Bob and Mike Bryan’s sterling track records.
Set to resume captaining the team in September for their away match against Russia, McEnroe lauded his team’s “experience in different situations and their ability to “not get rattled.”
A perfect fill-in during his time away from the team, McEnroe also praised assistant coach Dean Goldfine.
“He did great,” said McEnroe. “He’s been around these guys so much and at so many of these Davis Cup ties that they felt comfortable with him.”
Earlier on Sunday in Pau, France, Dmitry Tursunov came back from a set down to defeat Frenchman Richard Gasquet in five sets, 6-1, 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-3, 7-5, clinching the victory for Russia, 4-1.
In the top half of the bracket of the World Group quarterfinals, Australia shut out Belarus, 5-0, and Argentina stunned the defending Davis Cup champions Croatians, 3-2 in the final rubber.
The 2006 Davis Cup Final will be staged on the weekend of December 1–3, 2006.