By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
In between BNP Paribas World Team Cup appearances, Jon Rydberg coaches varsity tennis. On Wednesday, with a chance to help the Team USA men's squad remain in World Group I, Rydberg took Poland to school.
The Minnesota native defeated Kamil Fabisiak, 6-4, 0-6, 6-1, and after teammate Steve Welch dropped a tough match against former world No. 3 Tadeusz Kruszelnicki, he and Welch re-focused and took the rubber match, 6-2, 6-4, against the Polish team of Piotr Jaroszewski and Albin Batycki.
By virtue of the win, should Poland lose 3-0 to top-seeded France – highly possible, given the dominant play of Top 10 Frenchmen Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer – the U.S. would finish second in its group and avoid any chance of relegation to World Group II for 2015. In that scenario, the U.S. would advance to the weekend's Position 5-8 draw, while Poland would fight to remain in World Group I.
Of the 12 teams in the group, the teams that finish first through 10th automatically qualify for World Group I play at the 2015 WTC, thus also remaining in play for a WTC title.
World No. 1 David Wagner helped the U.S. quads advance to the 2014 WTC semifinals and picked up longtime partner Nick Taylor in the process, as the defending champs defeated Italy, 2-1. Wagner made short work of Antonio Raffaele, 6-2, 6-1, and then teamed with Taylor to knock out Marco Innocenti and Alfredo Di Cosmo, 6-3, 6-1. Innocenti defeated Taylor to open the day, 6-4, 7-6, necessitating the rally.
“It is always nerve wracking going into a deciding doubles," said Taylor. "But playing with David, we have had a lot of success, so we had a lot of confidence."
The top-seeded U.S. will square off against Israel in the Position 1-4 draw, a rematch of last year's WTC fInal. The Israelis are led by Noam Gershony, the reigning Paralympic quad gold medalist in singles. Both Gershony and Wagner are undefeated in singles thus far at the WTC. The winner of the semifinal would then take on either No. 2 Great Britain or Japan.
The U.S. juniors also earned a semifinal berth with a 2-1 victory over Great Britain, and will meet Russia on Thursday to try to reach their second WTC final in three years.
Exactly like the quads, the juniors relied on their best player, Chris Herman, to dig themselves out from an early deficit after Great Britain's Luz Esperanza Merry held on to defeat Casey Ratzlaff, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Herman dominated Ian Payne, 6-0, 6-0, and then paired with WTC rookie Conner Stroud to win, 6-2, 6-0, against Payne and Nicholas Smelt. Herman, 16, improved to 7-0 this week in singles and doubles, playing in his third consecutive WTC for the Team USA juniors.
Should the Americans advance past Russia, they would meet the winner of Spain and the host country, the Netherlands. The two teams will play on Thursday.
Also Thursday, the U.S. women's team takes on Russia to complete play in the Group B pool.
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