Rafael Nadal wins the first match for Spain
© Ron Angle
Sam Querrey in action against Rafael Nadal
© Ron Angle
By Jason Brown, USTA.com
MADRID, Spain – Sam Querrey played more like a grizzled veteran than a wide-eyed rookie. He didn’t win his U.S. Davis Cup debut, falling to Rafael Nadal of Spain in the opening match of the best-of-five semifinal series, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, but he proved that he belonged on the same court as the best player in the world.
“I didn’t have any expectations, but it was a thrill just to walk out there the first time and circle the court with the team and see the crowd,” said Querrey. “It was a joy to be out there – an honor to get picked on the team.”
Before a capacity crowd inside the Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, Querrey silenced 21,000 flag-waving Spanish fans, albeit temporarily, seizing the first set in a tiebreak behind the strength of seven aces. He served a total of 17 aces on the match.
“Luckily for me, I played him two weeks ago at the US Open on Arthur Ashe in front of 20,000 people, so it was a little bit of the same thing here,” said Querrey. “So I didn’t get too caught up in the moment. It was a tough four-setter, and I think that I showed him that I could play a little bit.”
The four-time defending French Open champion then mounted a furious comeback. Querrey broke out to a 2-0, second-set lead and was close to extending the lead. With a chance to go up 30-love in the game, 3-0 in the set, Querrey was thwarted.
“He hit a forehand up the line that he kind of shanked, and the ball landed on the back of the line. He got himself fired up, and he got the crowd back into it,” said Querrey.
The Spanish No. 1 arrived in Madrid fatigued. He had appeared sluggish during a semifinal loss to Andy Murray at the US Open, the result of a long season that included a marathon victory over Roger Federer at Wimbledon, a grueling Olympus US Open Series campaign and an Olympic gold in Beijing.
“I’m aware that I got here a little short of energy and strength after a very long season, but I really want to thank the crowd for making me feel better,” said Nadal, who improved his Davis Cup record to 9-1 and a perfect 7-0 on clay.
The turning point of the match, Nadal held and immediately broke Querrey, winning six of the next eight games to draw level. “He just doesn’t go away, and that’s what makes him tough,” said Querrey.
From there, the Spanish dynamo continued to delight the crowd, as he scampered back and forth across the temporary clay court at Las Ventas. Serenaded with chants of “Ole” every time he struck a winner, Nadal broke Querrey in the fourth game of the third set and took a two-sets-to-one advantage.
A final break of Querrey in the fourth set at 4-5 sealed the victory and opening point of the weekend series for Spain.
“It’s not too often that you get to play in front of a crowd, where 98 percent of the people are against you,” said Querrey. “So it’s something new.”
In defeat, Querrey became the most recent rookie to drop a debut in a live match, joining Americans Jim Courier, Mardy Fish and Pete Sampras.
The last U.S. player to win a live debut took place in 2004, when Robby Ginepri defeated Jurgen Melzer in Uncasville, Conn. Overall, U.S. rookies are 88-28 in their first match.
In a must-win match for the Americans, eighth-ranked Andy Roddick (29-9 in Davis Cup singles play) carries a nine-match winning streak into the second singles rubber against David Ferrer on Friday. Roddick is a career 2-3 against the current No. 5-ranked player in the world.
“David has improved as much as anybody in tennis over the last couple of years,” said Roddick. “He’s earned his spot in the top 5 in the world and has been one of the most consistent players on tour. He’s a very good clay-court player, so I’m going to be up against it, that’s for sure.”
Versus will broadcast Friday’s singles matches from Madrid at 12 noon ET. Tennis Channel will re-air coverage at 8 pm ET.
WORLD GROUP SEMIFINALS
SPAIN v USA (Spain Leads 1-0)
Plaza de Toros Las Ventas, Madrid, Spain (clay - outdoors)
Rafael Nadal (ESP) def. Sam Querrey (USA), 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
David Ferrer (ESP) v Andy Roddick (USA)
Feliciano Lopez/Fernando Verdasco (ESP) v Mike Bryan/Mardy Fish (USA)
Rafael Nadal (ESP) v Andy Roddick (USA)
David Ferrer (ESP) v Sam Querrey (USA)
ARGENTINA v RUSSIA
Estadio Parque Roca, Buenos Aires (clay - outdoors)
David Nalbandian (ARG) v Igor Andreev (RUS)
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) v Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Agustin Calleri/Guillermo Canas (ARG) v Igor Kunitsyn/Dmitry Tursunov (RUS)
David Nalbandian (ARG) v Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) v Igor Andreev (RUS)