QUERREY, ISNER GIVE
U.S. 2-0 LEAD ON DAVIS CUP DAY 1
Pat Mitsch | February 2, 2018
NIS, Serbia – Tireless resolve amid the comforts of home gave way to mammoth serves and powerful forehands on Friday, as Sam Querrey and John Isner powered the U.S. to a 2-0 lead over Serbia in a Davis Cup World Group First Round tie in Nis, Serbia.
Querrey defeated Laslo Djere, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-5, 6-4, and Isner wore down Dusan Lajovic, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (4), to spot the Americans a lead they rarely relinquish, as the U.S. is 158-4 in Davis Cup ties after a 2-0 start.
It didn’t come easy, despite the disparity in world rankings between the two singles pairs – Querrey at No. 12 and Djere No. 88; Isner at No. 18 and Lajovic No. 84. Such is the Davis Cup mystique, of which players often talk, and the task of performing in front of a partisan home crowd on a temporary red clay court, this time inside the snug Sportski Centar Cair.
The towering Americans found solid footing on the strength of serves clocking near 140 mph – they combined for 44 aces – and a steady variety of forehands to the tune of 90 combined winners that left the score a simple 2-0 after a total of 6 hours, 17 minutes on court.
“Long and successful is how I would sum it up, in the briefest of sentences,” said U.S. Captain Jim Courier. “It was a grind. The matches were both highly competitive. There were some pivotal moments in the matches – John’s match, in particular, came pretty late. But it’s a satisfying feeling. We’ve been on the other side of days like today, so to be up 2-0 is a tremendous feeling, and we’re very proud of these guys’ efforts.”
Before Isner notched his latest, laborious win over Lajovic, a familiar opponent, Querrey met Djere for the first time in a match between the American No. 1 and Serbian No. 2., and Djere played a near-flawless first set in front of his home fans. Querrey’s relentless power, though, eventually wore down the 22-year old former Orange Bowl boys’ champion, as the tall Californian bopped 20 aces and fired 40 winners, compared to Djere’s 11 and 19, respectively.
“I expected a tough match,” Querrey said. “Davis Cups are always tricky. If you just look around at the other scores from the other ties today, there were some close ones, with some guys where there were some ranking discrepancies, so Davis Cups are different. I came out as a little nervous, but once I got a break in the second set I settled in a little bit. It was a battle until the end there. He had some looks at love-30 twice in the fourth, and I was fortunate enough to serve those out. It just feels good to get through it.”
Isner shared that sentiment after a 3-hour, 15-minute grind against Lajovic, whom he had beaten three out of the four previous times they’d played. Though Lajovic showed tremendous resolve and committed a tidy 11 unforced errors, as compared to Isner’s 49, the lanky Georgian’s serve and forehand stayed with him through all five sets – he hit 24 aces, and 42 of his 50 winners came on the forehand.
“For me, personally, I knew the match was going to be tough,” Isner said. “I didn’t come into this tie playing great tennis. It’s been awhile since I was playing really good tennis – it was at the beginning of November last year, in Paris. Didn’t play too well in Australia. You don’t just go out and play lights-out. You play well from a culmination of winning matches and winning matches like that. For me, personally, that’s exactly what I needed. I needed to play a match like that, get my legs fit, and my body needs to be sore. That’s what I needed.
“More importantly than that, I’m happy I was able to contribute to the USA being up 2-0,” Isner said. “Sam did his job. I barely did my job, but we’re up 2-0.”
The U.S. team hands the controls to Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson to attempt to close out the tie on Saturday in doubles. Harrison and Johnson have only played doubles together five times and are 3-2, though each has had impressive doubles results individually.
Harrison is the reigning French Open champion, while Johnson was a Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and is 3-0 on Saturdays in Davis Cup.
They’re scheduled to take on the upstart Serbian team of Nikola Milojevic – a former junior world No. 1 – and Miljan Zekic – a 29-year old Challenger- and Pro Circuit-level clay-court specialist, though Serbian Captain Nenad Zimonjic may substitute either player up to one hour before Saturday’s match.
Play begins Saturday at 3 p.m. locally, 9 a.m. ET and will air live on Tennis Channel.