By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
It was truly a memorable 2007 for the U.S. Davis Cup team of Andy Roddick, James Blake, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan and captain Patrick McEnroe. The U.S. dominated in each round, winning 4-1 in all four ties played against the Czech Republic, Spain, Sweden and Russia, with a group of players and a captain dedicated to making the team the best it could be and bringing home the title.
The U.S. clinched the title, its 32nd overall and first since 1995, over Russia in Portland, Ore., on Saturday. The doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev for a 3-0 lead, after Roddick and Blake won their opening-round singles matches on Friday. The win fulfilled a key professional goal for each of the team members, including Roddick, whose story of watching the Davis Cup as a child is now well known.
“To be here and bring the Cup back to the States is an amazing feeling," Roddick said. "But more important, just to share the journey with these guys, it's just been so much fun. For us to have our moment, I feel like we really do deserve it. We’ve been the ultimate team, and it's just been a blast, and it's been an honor to be a part of that.”
Roddick has been a clutch performer for the U.S. team since joining in 2001, and this year his play was as great as ever as the No. 1 singles player, going undefeated with a 6-0 record. And not surprisingly, in the first round against the Czech Republic, Roddick earned two wins to help lead the team to the quarterfinals.
On the slow clay courts against the Czech team, Roddick’s victories included a defeat of Tomas Berdych in the fourth match to help send the U.S. to the next round against Spain.
The quarterfinal tie against Spain, which the U.S. hosted in Winston-Salem, N.C., in April, was a rematch of the 2004 Davis Cup final, in which the Americans fell to Spain, 3-2. It was also the first time the two countries had met in Davis Cup play since. This time, however, with the U.S. able to choose the surface, the competition was on indoor hard courts, as opposed to the clay of the 2004 final in Spain. The result was much different.
Much like the final against Russia this past weekend, both Roddick and Blake won their opening-round singles matches against Spain. The event moved to Saturday and the doubles competition, with a chance for the Bryans to clinch a place in the semifinals.
The brothers, currently the No. 1 doubles team in the world, defeated Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco in four sets, giving the U.S. team an insurmountable 3-0 lead and sending the Americans on to the semifinal round.
The Americans then traveled to Sweden in September for the semifinals to play on a fast indoor carpet. Roddick was in his usual top form, defeating Joachim Johansson in straight sets in his opening match and, after a Blake loss to Thomas Johansson, the Bryans gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead, with a huge victory over Simon Aspelin and Jonas Bjorkman.
It was then – who else – Roddick, who sent the U.S. to its first final since 2004 and kept alive the team’s dream of winning a Davis Cup trophy, taking out Jonas Bjorkman in straight sets. The team's second road win of the year was a huge boost for the Americans, according to McEnroe.
“This year I think it sort of looked like, hey, maybe we could play a decent country, and the Czech Republic has a good team, but maybe not one of the top, top teams, away on clay,” McEnroe said. “When we won that, I think we thought maybe things can break right for us. But to go to Sweden and to win away in the semis was big. I think we caught a little break when Argentina lost. They would have been obviously very tough on clay. But, you know, to win two matches away (this year) was big for us.”
The win over Sweden brought the U.S. to its first home final since 1992, and the team chose a fast, indoor hard court, which works extremely well with the hard hitting and serving games of Roddick and Blake.
The two came out firing against Russia. Roddick was his usual self, defeating Dmitry Tursunov rather handily in straight sets. Blake took the court next against Mikhail Youzhny, against whom he had lost when the U.S. fell to Russia in the semifinals in 2006. But this time, Blake emerged victorious, battling back after losing the third set to win in a fourth-set tiebreaker to give the U.S. a comfortable 2-0 lead heading into Day 2 with the Bryans taking the court.
Bob and Mike Bryan remained undefeated in Davis Cup doubles play this year, giving the U.S. the win and fulfilling the Davis Cup ambitions of each of the team members.
“I mean, (it was) a dream for us to win the final match and have the guys rush and come jump around with us. There's nothing like it,” Mike Bryan said. “(I) thought we played a good match. I thought, you know, it's a sneaky team. We're the heavy favorites. We have all the pressure on us. I thought they hung with us for, you know, a set and a half. I mean, we were getting a little frustrated. We wanted to jump on them right from the start and blow them out.”
After winning, the team reflected on what it meant after a long ride together.
“To come in here and to share this with these guys and to have developed the friendships and everything that goes along with it, the laughs and the tears, it's just amazing,” Roddick said. “I think we're trying as best we can to enjoy this. It's definitely on par with anything that I've accomplished in tennis.”
For Blake, who also had another great year in Davis Cup singles play, he finishes the year with a 5-2 record, including winning the last match of the final on Sunday over Dmitry Tursunov.
“For this year it makes this my best year on tour ever. 2006 would probably, as a ranking standpoint, be ranked as my best year,” he said. “But I've never had a feeling like this that I have right now. This, by far, is the best year of my career.”