JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –
Sam Querrey won the first live match of his Davis Cup career on Day 1 of the U.S.’s first-round tie against Brazil at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. By Day 3, he was the team’s closer.
After U.S. No. 1 John Isner fell to Thomaz Bellucci in the opening match Sunday, 2-6, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-4, 6-3, to send the tie to the deciding fifth rubber, Querrey stepped up and regrouped to defeat Thiago Alves, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3), to clinch the 3-2 victory for the U.S.
With the victory, Querrey became the first U.S. Davis Cup team member to win a live, decisive fifth match since Pete Sampras in the 2000 quarterfinals against the Czech Republic. The U.S. will next host Serbia in the quarterfinals in Boise, Idaho, April 5-7, at Taco Bell Arena on the campus of Boise State University.
“It’s always exciting to win a fifth-and-deciding match anywhere,” Querrey said. “I was thrilled I could help the guys out. It’s a team thing. We’re all moving on to the next round. I was just very happy with the way I battled through it.”
The U.S. had entered Saturday leading 2-0, after singles wins from Isner and Querrey on Friday, but Brazil narrowed the margin on Saturday when Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo upset Bob and Mike Bryan in five sets. And Bellucci removed all margin for error with his win Sunday.
Still, in the end it was the winning result, if maybe not the way many people expected. Afterward, U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier was proud of how his team kept fighting.
“Sometimes obstacles become opportunities, and that’s what this was today for Sam,” Courier said. “John, we thought he was going to get through his match. We thought Bob and Mike were going to get through their match. It came down to Sam, and he stepped up when we needed him to.”
Querrey, the world No. 20, fell down early to Alves but began taking control in the second set, breaking for a 4-2 lead and serving it out to even the match. Alves, ranked No. 141, kept fighting, but Querrey again asserted himself in the third set, dictating play with his powerful forehand.
Querrey also struck first in the fourth set, breaking for a 3-2 lead and serving for the match at 5-4. But Alves broke back and eventually forced a tie-break.
Querrey, however, never trailed in the tie-break. He took a 5-3 lead with a deep forehand that Alves sent long, and he gained his second match point when Alves netted a backhand. This time Querrey closed it out, sending the U.S. to the quarterfinals when Alves hit a forehand long.
“I think everybody’s going to have a little nerves going to a live fifth like that, especially it’s my first one,” Querrey said. “Once I kind of went out there and played a few games, especially after that first set, I got my thoughts and my game settled a little bit and I found my range a little more.”
Isner came to Jacksonville without having played a competitive match in nearly a month due to a bone bruise in his right knee. His rust from a lack of match play showed in his straight-sets win Friday over Alves and reared its head again Sunday against Bellucci.
“I could have won this match,” Isner said. “I felt like I was playing better than I was Friday. Feel like I was hitting the ball better. I just couldn’t win the big points. I just felt like I was forcing it, wasn’t going for my shots like I should. Confidence-wise I’m not even close to where I want to be. I don’t think it is a game issue. I’m starting to get better after all the time off I had. It’s just confidence.”
Isner, the world No. 16, was on the defensive early and often on his usually dominant serve, fighting off six break point chances in the first set and facing 17 in the match.
Regardless, Isner pulled out to a two-sets-to-one lead and had a break-point chance to begin the fourth, but he could not convert and Bellucci slowly worked his way back into the match.
“A lot of times when I play matches, it hinges on a few points here and there,” Isner said. “At 1-all in the fourth, I had a break point. I played a pretty good point, hit a great return. I just missed a forehand long. If I can get that point, I like my chances to get that set. That’s how a lot of my matches go. I was capitalizing early and I was not capitalizing late.”
Fortunately for the U.S., Querrey was there to pick up his teammate. And now the entire U.S. team can look ahead to the challenge of playing Serbia and potentially world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
“That’s what these teams are all about, catching each other when we fall down, helping each other over the line,” Courier said. “We’re excited. We wanted to face Serbia. If you want to lift this trophy, you need to beat the best teams, and that is certainly one of them.”