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Sock, Ram clinch Davis Cup Qualifier for Team USA
RENO, Nev. — If U.S. captain Mardy Fish was looking for some passion, that indispensable intangible that often separates Davis Cup champions from Davis Cup wannabes, he found it in the Sierra foothills, in a town known more for blackjack tables and Johnny Cash lyrics than for world-class tennis.
On Saturday afternoon at the Reno Events Center, the American duo of Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram put the finishing touches on Colombia, clinching the Davis Cup by Rakuten Qualifier for the hosts via a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the surprise pairing of Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Nicolas Barrientos, a last-minute sub for the injured Robert Farah (neck).
The one-sided team triumph, payback for a 2-1 campaign-ending loss to the same opponent only months ago in Turin, means the U.S. will be among the dozen teams heading to the Group Play stage of the Davis Cup Finals in September.
The loss of Farah was just another hard-luck turn of events for Colombian captain Alejandro Falla, who was already competing without his top singles player, 105th-ranked Daniel Elahi Galan (shoulder).
Barrientos, 34, captured four Challenger doubles titles in 2021 and has been ranked as high as No. 71 in the discipline, but he was stepping into some big shoes in the absence of Farah, who with Cabal finished 2019 as the world’s top-ranked doubles pairing after capturing trophies at Wimbledon and the US Open.
Cabal and Barrientos found themselves in an early hole in the fourth game of the opening set. With Barrientos serving at 30-40, Sock smacked a return at the former University of West Florida star’s feet for the break and a 3-1 advantage. Sock would later serve out the set with a 111-mph ace.
Sock and Ram carried that momentum into the second set, opening with a service break and consolidating for a 2-0 lead. Their opponents did their best to stay alive, saving three match points serving at 3-5, but couldn’t fight off a fourth in the 10th and final game of the one-hour, 18-minute match.
“We were up to a big challenge playing the USA with two guys from our team not here. It makes a huge difference,” said the 35-year-old Cabal. “We got out there and tried to do our best to fight, but the result didn’t go our way.”
Cabal was especially impressed with Sock’s forehand, long one of the heaviest in the sport.
“It’s no secret that’s his weapon. Big serve, big forehand,” he said. “He can do whatever he wants with it. He did it here in altitude. He feels the ball. That’s a big weapon, especially in doubles when you can do damage in the point. It’s always a danger when you go to him.”
A triumphant Sock and Ram celebrated by circling the stadium hoisting the Stars & Stripes, teammates Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul and Sebastian Korda in tow.
“The boys gave us an opportunity yesterday by playing so well, with so much heart,” said Ram of Korda and Fritz, who nailed down the first two points of the tie in singles on Friday. “I thought we did a great job coming out and bringing energy today. It was awesome. There’s no other way to describe it.”
“I feel like I always used to watch the [Bryan] bros trying to clinch the doubles,” said Sock.
“But it feels great, especially after Turin. To bounce back with a very energetic team, a very positive team that went out there and showed the emotion to the bench, to our captain, to themselves, it was awesome. It’s so easy to get behind. I think the tennis was a result of that. The results we had were because of the energy.”
With the three points secured, Fish turned to Paul instead of Fritz for the dead-rubber singles against Mejia. The world No. 39 responded with a straight-sets 7-5, 7-6 win to cap a 4-0 shutout.
“We knew we were facing a very strong team,” said Falla. “USA has so many good players with experience. We tried our best in every match. Unfortunately, Robert Farah, he couldn’t come to court. To try to beat Jack and Rajeev, you have to be ready to play. Experienced guys. Also, we missed Daniel. It’s a very important piece of our team. But we competed the best we could. We gave everything we had out there on the court.”
That passion, that energy Fish was seeking? It was on display for all to see on this weekend in Reno.
“The bunch of us left Turin, with a bad taste in our mouth for sure. We figured we could do better on that front,” he said. “We certainly did this week. We had a couple different guys in there. Sebastian for the first time, which is great, to get the match under his belt.
"Having Tommy back in the mix again was awesome. They’re great teammates. That’s all we ask for. You see the camaraderie. You see the team aspect of it. There’s a lot of mutual admiration, mutual respect and friendship there that these guys have for each other. That certainly showed.”
More from Reno:
Korda, Fritz put Team USA in command
Draw revealed: Fritz, Korda to lead U.S.
Foes to Friends: Captains Fish, Falla share storied history
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