By Jason Brown, USTA.com
Ostrava, Czech Republic – Nominated as the United States’ No. 1 singles player, Andy Roddick drew the first match of the best-of-five weekend series against the Czech Republic in the results of the official draw ceremony held at the Conference Hall of the Ostrava Magistrate.
His captain couldn’t have been more pleased.
"We’re happy with the draw. I think it is good for us to have Andy play first,” said U.S. Davis Cup Captain Patrick McEnroe, who is entering his seventh year under the helm for the Americans with a record of 9-6, including victories last year over Romania and Chile.
“It will give James a little more time to recover and get ready for his match after coming in from the U.S. I think it worked out well for us. Normally, I don’t worry too much about the draw because you like to win both matches anyway, but certainly I feel in this case that it probably worked out better for us that Andy plays first. It gives James a little more time to rest and prepare, so I think it worked out well for us.”
Ranked fourth, Roddick will be in an excellent position to give the Americans an early lead on Friday as he prepares for untested 160th-ranked Ivo Minar.
Minar, selected as the second singles player for the Czech Republic, will be competing in his first-ever Davis Cup match.
Carrying a 20-9 single record over his seven-year Davis Cup resume, Roddick is a heavy favorite in Friday’s opening match, but expects nothing to be handed to him.
“I know he hits the ball pretty big. He hits the ball pretty hard. It should be a tough match-up, but hopefully I can get the win,” said Roddick.
“We have never played before, but I have seen him play a couple of times. He is pretty aggressive. He tries to hit the ball pretty hard. It should be tough, but I feel like I am ready.”
The pivotal match on Friday features American James Blake against 20-year-old Czech No. 1 Tomas Berdych. Blake owns a perfect 2-0 record against the Czech star, including a straight-sets defeat at the 2006 US Open.
Berdych, the only Czech player ranked in the men’s top 20, must win both of his singles matches if the home nation stands a chance at winning.
“Tomas is a great player,” said Blake, 12-7 for his country, including a win on clay over Russian Marat Safin in the 2006 semifinals.
“I have played him twice. I have gotten the upper hand both times, but those were both on hard. He’s a little more comfortable at home I am sure now. Maybe he has had a little more success than me on clay, but I feel great coming over here. The court is playing really nice, so I am excited about it. He’s an excellent player so I have a feeling we’ll have a great match.”
Arriving late in Ostrava because of a rain-affected championship match in Delray Beach, Florida that carried over to Monday, Blake practiced twice on the indoor red clay at CEZ Arena and has shaken off any effects of jet-lag.
“I’m not going to forget how to play tennis,” said Blake. “No matter how late I come nor how ill prepared I am, I know how to play tennis. I know how to hit the ball. This is what I have been practicing for the last 20 years of my life. I’m not worried about that. A little change in surface, hopefully, I’m good enough to adjust.”
On Saturday, top-ranked doubles pair Bob and Mike Bryan aim for their tenth combined victory for the United States over eleven matches played.
Together, the Bryans recently repeated as Australian Open men’s doubles champions, but are showing plenty of respect for their weekend opponents, Lukas Dlouhy and Pavel Vizner.
“We consider them a top eight team in the world, so we’ll have to bring our good stuff,” said right-hander Mike Bryan.
Sunday’s reverse singles matches feature the two team No.1’s Roddick and Berdych, followed by Blake and Minar.
All matches will be aired on VERSUS beginning at 12 pm eastern time on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with encores on the Tennis Channel at 8 pm.
|Feb. 9||12:00 - 6:00 PM ET (Delay)||VERSUS||Singles |
|Feb. 9||8:00 PM ET (Re-air)||Tennis Channel||Singles |
|Feb. 10||12:00 - 3:00 PM ET (Delay)||VERSUS||Doubles |
|Feb. 10||8:00 PM ET (Re-air)||Tennis Channel||Doubles |
|Feb. 11||12:00 - 5:00 PM ET (Delay)||VERSUS||Singles |
|Feb. 11||8:00 PM ET (Re-air)||Tennis Channel||Singles |
| || || || |
| ||*All Times Eastern|| || |
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The winner of the first round tie will face either Spain or Switzerland in the 2007 World Group Quarterfinals. If the United States advances, they would hold home-field advantage against either country, and have already selected Winston-Salem, North Carolina as their site. The quarterfinals are scheduled for April 6-8.