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Foes to Friends: Davis Cup captains Fish, Falla share storied history

Richard Osborn | March 02, 2022

RENO, Nev. — Mardy Fish and Alejandro Falla have a long and storied history, one that began nearly a decade-and-a-half ago when they were young, title-contending players; one that continues to this day between opposing Davis Cup captains.


When the U.S. hosts Colombia March 4-5 in Reno, in an all-important Davis Cup Qualifier, it will mark their second straight encounter within a matter of months. Fish’s troops will be seeking revenge for a 2-1 loss that knocked the U.S. out of contention in the November Davis Cup Finals.


“We’ve come full circle,” Fish said of his relationship with Falla on Tuesday following a practice session at the Reno Events Center.


“He’s such a good guy, one of the nicest guys you’ll meet out here on tour. I look forward to competing against him again in a coaching role as opposed to a playing role.”

Team USA Davis Cup captain Mardy Fish holds a 3-2 lifetime edge over Colombian captain Alejandro Falla as a player.

“I know Mardy well,” said Falla, a former Top-50 player who took over Colombia’s Davis Cup captaincy in 2019. “He’s a very good friend of mine. That’s the most important thing. Pro athletes, sometimes their egos are pretty big when you are competing. That’s normal. You have to defend yourself against everybody. But there is a life after tennis, after sports.” 


They faced each other on five occasions back in their playing days, with Fish owning a slight 3-2 edge in the head-to-heads. Fittingly, their most memorable clash came in a Davis Cup World Group Playoff, on a red clay court in Bogota back in 2010. On paper, Fish was out of his element in the 8,700-foot elevation of the Plaza de Toros de Santamaría, in a bullring filled with a hostile fan base on a surface upon which he rarely summoned his best tennis.


But the Minnesotan, who would reach a career-high No. 7 the following year, rose to the occasion and then some, all but singlehandedly leading his country to a 3-1 victory.

Colombian captain Falla reached the ATP's Top 50 in 2012.

Fish kicked off the weekend with an epic three-hour, 59-minute, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 triumph over Falla. He was then called upon to partner with John Isner, with the duo defeating Davis Cup debutant Robert Farah and teammate Carlos Salamanca, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3.


Finally, he clinched the tie for the U.S. with yet another five-set triumph, this time over Santiago Giraldo, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 8-6.


In all, he would play the maximum three matches and spend an American record total of 10 hours and 59 minutes on court. 


“Certainly one of the fondest memories of my career was that week in Bogota,” said Fish.


“I was just watching footage of that tie,” said Falla. “It was a tough one for us, but I enjoyed playing that five-setter against Mardy, one of the best players at the time. Davis Cup, for me, is the most important event.”


When they face off this weekend, the three Fs—Fish, Falla and Farah—will still be in the mix, though only Farah is still active on the ATP Tour. Now 35, the onetime USC standout remains a force on the doubles court with countryman and longtime friend Juan-Sebastian Cabal.

Fish will counter with a lineup that includes Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, Sebastian Korda, Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram


“It’s going to be tough for us,” said Falla of the matchup. “The U.S. is a favorite, for sure, but we’re going to try our best, as we did in Turin.


"Playing for your country is the biggest thing we can have in tennis in Colombia. My players are so passionate about it. They give everything they have. It’s a different competition than just playing for yourself.” 


More from Reno:

Davis Cup rematch offers U.S. shot at redemption

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