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Fish to lead off for U.S. Davis Cup Team against Switzerland

February 9, 2012 09:22 AM
Mardy Fish plays Stanislas Wawrinka in the opening match.
Roger Federer and John Isner play the second singles match.
Mike Bryan with teammate Ryan Harrison and Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka at the draw ceremony.
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com

FRIBOURG, Switzerland – The U.S. Davis Cup Team knew that coming to Switzerland to face a team featuring Roger Federer in his home country on an indoor clay court would not be an easy task, but the U.S. will open the tie with a favorable matchup.
At the official draw ceremony Thursday, Mardy Fish, the U.S. No. 1, was drawn to face the Swiss No. 2, Stanislas Wawrinka, in the opening match, a player to whom he has never lost in two career meetings. The two last met in Montreal on hardcourts last summer, which was a three-set win for the American.
In the second singles match Friday, Federer plays John Isner, the No. 2 singles player for the U.S. On Saturday, the doubles pairings are scheduled to be co-world No. 1 Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison for the U.S. against Federer and Wawrinka. And Sunday, Federer and Fish play the third singles match, followed by Isner and Wawrinka.
However, captains do have the option of changing their doubles lineup up to an hour before the start of play Saturday and changing their third singles players Sunday also up to an hour before match time.
Fish, the world No. 8, was pleased to draw the opening match of the tie.
"I prefer to play first," he said. "I like to know when I am playing. On a team note, I would also like to get the team off to a good start."
A win for Fish in the opening match would put the U.S. in a position to potentially go up 2-0 on Day 1 and also take some pressure off Isner, the world No. 17, who is 0-2 in his career against Federer.
Isner’s massive serve will need to be an important weapon, even on the clay surface, as he knows long rallies against the 16-time Grand Slam champion would probably tilt in Federer’s favor, so getting free points and holding serve will be crucial. He is taking some confidence from his last clay-court match, a five-set loss to six-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal, in the first round of Roland Garros last year, even though it was awhile ago.
"In any match, making a lot of first serves is very important, especially for me. I am going to have to serve a high percentage to give myself the best chance of winning," Isner said. "When I do miss a first serve, I am going to have to hit my second serves big. I can’t just roll them in there. He can do everything. He is so talented and has every shot in the book. For me, it is all going to start with my service game. I am going to have to go out there and serve my absolute best to have a shot to win.
"Taking him (Nadal) to five sets will give you some confidence heading into your next clay-court match, even though it was nine months ago I played that match," he added. "l know what I am capable of. I gave him a good scare, and I am hoping to do the same tomorrow against Roger. I am going to go out there and try my best to win."
Federer, arguably the second best clay-court player in the world behind Nadal, knows what to expect from Isner’s big game and that returning his serve is challenging on any surface.
"I think facing John, with his big serve, is a challenge for anyone, especially indoors, but it does not matter what surface it is," he said. "We will see how it is going to go. For both of us, it is a bit of an unknown, just because we are coming off playing on hardcourts for quite some time now, since Paris last year, and we will try to get off to a good start. I am feeling good about my chances, but then again, with that kind of serve, it is not all in your control."
Depending on what the score is after play ends Friday, U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier may adjust his lineup for doubles and put in Fish or Isner, with consideration to the length of matches they play on Friday. Fish is the only player Mike Bryan has played doubles with in the last 10 years besides his brother, Bob, but he can easily play with any of his three teammates.
"We have been practicing all week together. Ryan is a great doubles player. He won Newport last year for his first ATP Tour doubles title, and he has great hands," Bryan said of Harrison. "He has good instincts around the net, and I am excited to play with him. He has big pop on the serve, great returns, and hopefully we will suit up, but if not, these other two guys can play great doubles, too."
But first they have to play singles Friday and then adjust if need be, especially if the score is 1-1 heading into Saturday. The Swiss doubles team, however, is unlikely to change, with its two best players set to play already.
"We have up to an hour beforehand to decide who the two players for the doubles will be," Courier said. "At this stage, we don’t know. This is the team we are nominating now, but certainly things could change, given whatever happens tomorrow. We will see as we go." 


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