By Jason Brown, USTA.com
Portland, Ore. – The U.S. Davis Cup team is set to play in its most important series of the new millennium, but you’d never know it from the players' jovial moods.
Less than two days away from taking on Russia in the 2007 World Group Final, the U.S. practiced inside the 12,000-seat Memorial Coliseum, a short ride across the Willamette River from the downtown district in the Rose Quarter area.
With the adjacent arena, the Rose Garden, hosting a basketball game in the evening, the hometown Trailblazers versus the Indiana Pacers, and the 111th edition of the “Civil War,” the annual Oregon-Oregon State college football game set for Saturday in nearby Eurgene, the U.S.-Russia clash is not the only show in town, but the stakes are much higher.
The United States, the most storied nation in Davis Cup history with 31 victories, hasn’t hoisted the title since 1995 and is hosting its first final since 1992.
On Monday night, the team went to the Trailblazers game, and Roddick came away impressed by the level of crowd support from the Portland fans.
“We got a sneak peek at the Rose Garden last night,” said Roddick, the team leader with a sparkling Davis Cup singles record of 25-9.
“I think we’re expecting a rowdy crowd just based solely on the fact that it (the Davis Cup Final) sold out in about 17 minutes. That shows us that the people here want to be here and they’re excited about being here. And so are we.”
On such a unique occasion, with the anticipation of the best-of-five weekend series nearing its crescendo, visitors have begun streaming into this gem of a city nestled just south of the Washington state border in the Pacific Northwest.
Visitors will be treated to three days of world-class tennis, but they will also get to eat, drink and be merry during the festive holiday season in the one of the United States’ breakout culinary destinations.
The celebrated Pearl District can whet the appetite of the most savvy shopper and food aficionado, while attractions like the Rose Garden, Oregon Zoo, and omnipresent Nike campus in Beavertown provide entertainment for the whole family.
For wine lovers, the storied Willamette Valley is less than an hour away, with wineries by the dozens, including Pinot Noir-producing standouts Adelsheim, Beaux Freres, Argyl, Chehalem, and Domaine Serene.
A clean, often free, and reliable service, the “Max” can transport fans from the busy shopping streets surrounding Pioneer Courthouse Square in the heart of city to the historic Waterfront district and Chinatown.
A word to the wise for those making the trip to Portland, don’t bother renting a car, instead, take the yellow, red or blue line from nearly any hotel straight to the Memorial Coliseum, located a stone’s throw away from the Rose Quarter stop.
Extended Band of Brothers
Andy Roddick, James Blake, and the Bryan twins are the visible participants in this weekend’s clash of powerhouse nations, but have been joined in Portland by several close friends and fellow American tennis players.
Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri, John Isner, and Donald Young – a dynamic four-pack of U.S.-bred talent – are in town on invites from team captain Patrick McEnroe.
Together, they could easily field a second competitive team against the Russians, but are here this week to serve as practice partners and to flesh out an extended cheering section on the team bench.
Fish, a member of the 2004 team that played against Spain before a record crowd in Seville, has a unique perspective on what this final means.
Blake’s best friend and a close confidant of Roddick and the Bryans, Fish unselfishly gave up his spot on the roster without an argument after Blake cemented himself as a Top 10 player and the teams’ second singles player.
Practicing with the team on Wednesday, Fish and Ginepri played doubles at The Memorial Coliseum against Bob and Mike Bryan.
Later on, Ginepri, a former US Open semifinalist, played a singles match with Blake, pushing the American No. 2 to his limits in a spirited encounter that drew ooh’s and ahh’s from on-lookers McEnroe, Fish, Isner, and Young.
“Having Mardy and Robby here is huge, because those are two guys that can really push me” said Blake on Tuesday.
The team finished up their practice session with a game learned during their stay in Gothenburg for the semifinals. Blake, Fish, Ginepri, and Young each took a quadrant of the service box, playing a spirited game of box ball that they learned from the Swedes.
Roddick was schedule to rally against Fish later in the day.