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'We got stronger as a team': U.S. captain Bob Bryan reflects on Davis Cup Finals

Arthur Kapetanakis | September 16, 2023


Making his competitive debut as full-time captain of the United States Davis Cup team, Bob Bryan led the country to victory in his first tie but ultimately fell short of qualifying for the Davis Cup Final 8 in Malaga, Spain.

 

Bryan selected Frances Tiafoe, Tommy Paul, Mackenzie McDonald and doubles players Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram for the Davis Cup Finals Group Stage in Split, Croatia. Wins from McDonald and Krajicek/Ram earned the U.S. a 2-1 victory against hosts Croatia on Wednesday, but defeats to the Netherlands on Thursday and Finland on Saturday ended hopes of a record-extending 33rd Davis Cup crown for the Red, White and Blue.

Despite the result, it was not hard for Bryan to find positives from his first competitive week at the helm of the most successful country in the competition's history.

 

"We got stronger as a team this week," he said. "This team really likes each other. We had a blast outside the court. We had great practices, we had great meals. We had a great week. Unfortunately we're not going to Malaga, and that stings. But that sting will make us stronger."

 

Bryan, who won the Davis Cup title with the U.S. as a player in 2007, was named the full-time captain in March after serving as a coach and acting captain in 2022. The former champion is already looking forward to similar success next season in what will be his first full year in the role.

"I think next year our guys are going to really put this Davis Cup on the front of the goal list and keep that in the back of their mind that they want to win," he said. "This only adds to the hunger."

 

Bryan was proud of his team's effort in Split, especially in the winner-takes-all tie against Finland. McDonald held two match points against Otto Virtanen and applied pressure to the Finn on a net approach on one of them, only to be beaten by an extraordinary passing shot that ended a lengthy rally.

 

McDonald was ultimately defeated in a third-set tiebreak, before Paul lost in straight sets to Finnish No. 1 Emil Ruusuvuori—but not before he denied his opponent's attempt to serve out the match at 5-3 in the second with a valiant last stand

 

"Tommy put his body on the line. He was sliding all over the place, got bloody out there," Bryan said of the world No. 13's effort. "That's really all we ask as a team, is to go out there and give that much effort... You can't really hang your head after performances like that."

Rajeev Ram and Austin Krajicek. Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images for ITF.

McDonald scored the lone U.S. singles win of the week, a 6-4, 6-2 decision against Croatia's Dino Prizmic, while Krajicek and Ram went 2-1 as a doubles pair.

 

The duo did not lose a service game in their three matches, and they claimed a crucial 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 6-2 win against Croatians Ivan Dodig and Mate Pavic to clinch the opening tie.

 

"It's a real doubles team that you can build a team around," Bryan said of the dynamuc duo. "The guys I think will come back hungrier from this."

 

The U.S. Davis Cup team will next play in the 2024 qualifying round, with dates, site and opponent to be announced in the future.

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