Draw set for Team USA vs. Colombia Davis Cup Qualifier
RENO, Nev. — Tommy Paul and Jack Sock were entangled in a heated intrateam tiebreaker on Wednesday, the back-and-forth thwack of the practice-session ball-striking echoing throughout an empty Reno Events Center.
Lunch was already on the line, but U.S. Davis Cup captain Mardy Fish decided to sweeten the pot.
“Loser serves the winner,” he called out from courtside.
Paul would prevail in the end, though there’s no word as to whether Sock indeed made good on the victuals.
No added incentive will be needed when the U.S. vs. Columbia Davis Cup Qualifier gets underway on Friday. Fish & Co. are still smarting from November’s loss to these very same opponents in Turin, a stinging 2-1 defeat that knocked the 32-time champions out of the 2021 Davis Cup Finals.
Their quest for revenge will begin with the first two singles matches on Friday. The surging Taylor Fritz, No. 20 in the ATP rankings, was all but an automatic at the top of Fish’s singles lineup, but it was more or less a pick ‘em when it came to Paul and Sebastian Korda, ranked consecutively at No. 39 and 40, respectively. In the end, he went with the 21-year-old Korda, who in his Davis Cup debut will open the action against 265th-ranked Nicolas Mejia. Fritz, 24, will follow against 33-year-old Alejandro Gonzalez, ranked No. 453.
“Pretty special to be representing the United States, especially with this group of guys. We’re really good friends, having a lot of fun,” said Korda, whose father, the 1996 Australian Open champion Petr, represented his native Czech Republic in Davis Cup on 18 occasions between 1988 and 1997. “It’s going to be a really cool experience, one I’ll remember forever.”
Korda is more than familiar with his first opponent’s game, though they have yet to face each other at the tour level: “I’ve been really good friends with Nico since I was probably about 14 years old. We would always play in the juniors, always practice together, always travel together. It’s really special.
We always dreamed about playing against each other in Davis Cup. Now we have the opportunity. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Some great memories together. We’re going to bring it.”
“I’ve said it lots of times: There’s not many team events in tennis. We play an individual sport, so these weeks are always special,” added Fritz, who earlier this year broke through to the second week of a major for the first time at the Australian Open. “Playing for your country makes it more special.”
Americans Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram will face Colombians Robert Farah and Juan-Sebastian Cabal in a much-anticipated doubles showdown on Saturday, a matchup featuring more than a few Grand Slam trophies.
“They’re a great team, world No. 1s, won a couple of Slams,” said Ram, the reigning US Open champion (with Joe Salisbury). “We know each other really well. I expect nothing but a good fight and a great match. There are no surprises out there.
"Always excited to play next to Jack. He’s one of the best players in the world in doubles. Looking forward to a good battle, for sure.”
The reverse singles will follow: Fritz vs. Mejia and, lastly, Korda vs. Gonzalez.
Colombian captain Alejandro Falla was forced to move ahead without his go-to No. 1, 105th-ranked Daniel Elhai Galan, who was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Galan was instrumental in Columbia’s dismissal of the U.S. in November, outpunching John Isner in a third-set tiebreak, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5).
“It was a shame that Daniel couldn’t make it,” said Falla. “Unfortunately, we don’t have many players in Colombia to choose from, so Alejandro has more experience in these kinds of events. But we have a strong team also.”
Now in his third year as captain, Fish has set out to reestablish the U.S. as a consistent Cup contender, instilling a passion that he hopes could bring the title back to his homeland for the first time since 2007.
“It’s why I wanted to be in this position,” said Fish, who went a combined 11-8 in Davis Cup singles and doubles as a player from 2002-12, including a heroic showing against Colombia in 2010. “It’s a different role. It would certainly be really special. I took the job in 2019 with the goal of building a team and sort of coming in at a time when some guys had stopped playing — myself, James [Blake], Andy [Roddick], the Bryans, then the new wave of guys coming in. It’s a good time to reset as a captain and come in with six, seven, eight guys that we can choose from.
"Each one of these guys is separating themselves from the pack. They’re pushing each other, which is great, which is what we did in our generation, too.”
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