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U.S. Davis Cup Team gains confidence, momentum in victory over Switzerland

February 12, 2012 01:10 PM
Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish clinched the tie for the U.S. over Switzerland in the doubles rubber.
Ryan Harrison won his first career Davis Cup match.
John Isner won two singles matches over Switzerland.
By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com  

FRIBOURG, Switzerland – In the days leading up to the U.S. Davis Cup Team’s first round tie against Roger Federer and Switzerland, Mardy Fish said he was hoping to win some matches to put himself back on track after losing in the second round of the Australian Open.

John Isner said he was hoping to put a scare into Federer on the indoor clay court much like he put a scare into six-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal in a five-set loss in the first round of Roland Garros last year, and do his best to keep points short.

He also said the U.S. knew how hard it was to come to Switzerland and defeat Federer and the Swiss team on indoor clay but believed the U.S. could pull out the win, noting the Americans would not have traveled all the way to Europe in February if they did not know they could come away with a victory.

U.S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier, consulting with Isner’s coach Craig Boynton back in the U.S., reminded Isner all week in practice that he did not have to change the way he played against any opponent, including Federer, and to not let the score dictate his play, to continue going big and aggressive, the hallmarks of his power game.

Consider it mission accomplished for Fish, Isner, Courier, Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison as their 5-0 sweep away, in front of a packed crowd in Federer’s home country, against the 16-time Grand Slam champion, leaves them with nothing but confidence and momentum for the rest of their matches on the ATP Tour for the players, and for their quarterfinal tie in April, knowing they can come back from that underdog spot and beat the best.

It was a victory that seemed unlikely if not improbable, especially a sweep, to many outside the team.  Heading into the tie, it seemed perhaps more likely that the U.S.’s best chance of winning was for Fish to defeat Stanislas Wawrinka in singles Friday, win doubles Saturday and then Isner pull it out in the last rubber over Wawrinka, considering Federer was 7-1 in his career against Fish and 2-0 against Isner.

But Isner was right. They believed, played their hearts out and now move on to the quarterfinals in April away against either France or Canada.

Isner earned his greatest career win and first over Federer in just four sets Friday, sticking to the game plan Courier and Boynton gave him of how he needed to play, which was just what the world No. 17 needed.

"I can take a lot of good things away from this week. I had a very good win against Roger and another good win today. I definitely played top notch tennis this weekend and it was in tricky conditions," Isner said after his win over Chiudinelli. "I do realize now that no matter the surface, no matter the opponent, a lot of the times, the ball, the point the match is going to be in my control no matter who I am playing. No matter if it is Roger Federer or someone who is not even ranked. It is the same thing every time I go out on the court and that is what I have to do in these upcoming tournaments, because there is a lot of big ones. I have to make a conscious effort of doing everything in the future that I did this week."

Fish, the world No. 8, leaves Fribourg with two huge victories, the first a gutsy, five-setter to edge out Wawrinka, the world No. 28, Friday in the third-longest match in U.S. Davis Cup Team history since the tiebreak was introduced in 1989 at four hours and 26 minutes. And the other was a tie-clinching, well- played doubles win with Mike Bryan Saturday, in which he dropped serve just once the entire match. More than just good-enough wins to put his game back on track for the season.

"It is a good win to beat Stan period," he said after his 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 9-7 win Friday. "Clay is his best surface, his favorite surface and in his home country. It was mentally, just staying in there. It is Davis Cup; it is not that hard to do. But sometimes your mind can go so I will take a lot of confidence in that. I didn’t have a good Australia at all so hopefully this will help me."

Bryan brought his A-game as usual for Davis Cup, making him 20-3 overall and 20-2 in doubles in his career. The co-world No. 1 played without brother Bob for just the second time in ten years, as he elected to stay home in Florida with his newborn daughter before hitting the tour again.

For Harrison, 19, although it was a dead rubber, he played and won his first career Davis Cup match over Michael Lammer 7-6 (0), 7-6 (4). He substituted for Fish and Lammer substituted for Federer Sunday with the tie already decided and in the process became the 20th teenager to make his U.S. Davis Cup Team debut.

But it was another milestone win for the rising American star with the booming serve, who acknowledged he learned a lot during the week from some of the best players in the world as teammates and Courier as his captain to take with him going forward. And he hopes his teammates learned something about him as well.

"It was really exciting to be out there, even though it was a dead rubber match," he said. "You are still playing for your country. To get the experience of playing away on red clay in a Davis Cup match I think was crucial and a very big learning experience for me.

"You see the way (Courier) handles things on a day to day basis, and the way he is organized, he is structured and for someone like myself at this point in my career, where I am trying to be exactly that, more organized and more structured, so to be part of this this week was a huge experience," he added of the things he learned from Courier. "I also want to add that seeing someone like John and Mardy play the way they played on Friday, in these conditions, we have obviously shown a lot of people that what is in (the heart) is probably the most important thing at all times and we have guys on our squad who are willing to put it on the line and give it everything we have got. To be a part of that, to see that firsthand and sit there in the first row as those guys did that and the way they came through is something I can really learn from in my career and I hope they have seen I that I would be more than willing to put my heart on the line for them too."

It was a pleasure for Courier to see the way all his players executed over the weekend, including the veterans Fish, Isner and Bryan.

"I think we certainly saw Mardy show some real heart out there. He had a tricky moment where he had match point in the fifth set, Stan took it from him, and Mardy hung in there, "he said. "I learned that Mardy is mentally tough when we need him to be and that is a great thing for him to carry going forward and for us to know as a team.

"I learned that John can beat anyone at any time because no one has a chance if he plays the way he plays and serves the way he serves unless they play incredible defensive tennis because he plays first strike tennis that is first rate," he added. "Certainly we knew Mardy and Mike could play good doubles and they just proved they could play clutch doubles against a world class team. 

And then there was seeing the development of the young Harrison, his talent, potential and the promise of having him on many future Davis Cup teams.

"What you are seeing with Ryan is a work in progress. He is in the top 100 right now and there is so much he is going to learn so much he is going to improve," Courier said. "It is shot selection and being organized in his game and knowing what he can do well to hurt people. That is coming. He has made a lot of progress in the last year and I would say even more progress in the next year because he is now physically prepared for the rigors of the tour and now the game is going to come behind that and he is going to play well, I am quite confident of that. He has a lot of upside and I look forward to sitting on the bench with him and watching it firsthand."



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