U.S. WINS IN DOUBLES,
STAYS ALIVE ON DAVIS CUP DAY 2
Pat Mitsch | April 8, 2017
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – Facing elimination on Davis Cup doubles Saturday, the United States turned to its greatest strength – versatility – to carry it into a live third day of competition vs. Australia.
Jack Sock and Steve Johnson – both polished singles and doubles players – defeated the relative specialist Australian team of world doubles No. 2 John Peers and the big-serving Sam Groth, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, at Pat Rafter Arena, keeping alive its hopes of winning this World Group Quarterfinal tie.
Coming into the weekend, this American team was heralded for having four players who could capably compete in both singles and doubles. Facing a daunting 2-0 deficit, Captain Jim Courier called on those options, nominated the 2014 Wimbledon doubles champion Sock – the singles world No. 15 and doubles No. ADVERTISEMENT 18 – instead of the originally-tabbed Sam Querrey. Sock and Johnson, who won the bronze medal in doubles at the 2016 Rio Olympics, came from a set down to turn in their second Davis Cup doubles win of the year and give the U.S. a chance on Day 3.
“We're not the most standard doubles team, by doubles standards, I guess, but we complement each other well,” said Johnson, who is ranked No. 27 in singles and No. 75 in doubles. “We feel that if our names get called together, we're a formidable team. The other guys are going to have to do a good job of staying away from our strengths, because it's going to be tough to find [a weakness] with both of us out there.”
Said Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt: “It was always going to be tough. They’re a couple of quality doubles players, and Davis Cup doubles are five sets. It sometimes hinges on only a couple of points the whole match. We knew that going in. We weren’t quite able to keep the momentum, especially after the first set, and then once we got back into it and won the fourth set, just to try to keep our noses in front there in the fifth set would have been important and try to build some pressure, but they played a really good game to break.”
While the U.S. has still only come back once from 0-2 down in its storied history, it has come back from 1-2 down five times, most recently in 2000, when the Americans made two such comebacks.
“It feels obviously refreshing to have a challenge in front of us,” Courier said. “We know it's a huge mountain to climb, still, but super-proud of these guys today. It was a tremendous effort against a high-quality doubles team, and it's going to take a really monstrous effort from us tomorrow, but we have great players on this team who are capable of great things that you saw today, so we're going to lay on one and see if it's enough.”
Sunday’s reverse singles matches begin with a blockbuster showdown between the U.S. and Aussie No. 1s, Sock and Nick Kyrgios. Sock and Kyrgios, ranked No. 16 in the world and fresh off a run to the Miami Open semifinals, don’t have much on-the-court history, despite their known off-the-court friendship. They’ve only played in the exhibition Hopman Cup this year in Perth (won by Sock, 6-2, 6-2), and at a clay-court USTA Pro Circuit Challenger in Savannah, Ga., in 2014 (won by Kyrgios in three sets).
“Obviously, he's a very talented player," Sock said of his opponent, who defeated American No. 2 John Isner in straight sets on Friday. "It seems like he's maturing mentally on the court. You could see it yesterday, he was letting a lot of things go. John's an incredibly tough guy to play. Obviously, he's not the most standard player, but Nick did a great job of being crafty and getting some returns back into play, and in the end he came up with some pretty incredible shots to win in three."
Should Sock win and push the tie to five matches, the U.S. and Aussie No. 2’s – No. 23 Isner and No. 79 Jordan Thompson – would face off to decide who advances to September’s semifinals vs. Belgium or Italy (Belgium led, 2-0, heading into Saturday's doubles match). Isner and Thompson, who scored the opening upset over Sock to kick off this weekend’s tie, have never played.