USA Captain Patrick McEnroe has had to make some tough decisions about his doubles team for the World Group Playoffs lately. First off, the absence of the Bryan brothers, number one team in the world and recent US Open champions was questioned. Secondly, he changed the doubles line-up substituting veteran Mardy Fish for young Ryan Harrison, and in taking a chance that his top player would not get injured or exhausted.
With the US team without their top team and world number one, McEnroe wanted his best man on the court for this important point. “The altitude had a lot to do with it (absence of Bryans),” says McEnroe. “I felt that we might need a couple of extra singles players. Fortunately, Mardy gives us choices as a great singles and doubles player.”
Making his Davis Cup debut for Colombia was Robert Farah. Farah charged onto the court like a raging bull and if he was nervous he did not show it. However, he and partner, Carlos Salamanca, might have been too pumped up for this match, as early on they over-hit routine volleys and midcourt balls for unforced errors.
“I just went out and gave my best,” says Farah. “Unfortunately, it was not good enough. They (Fish and Isner) played just too good today. I always knew that Mardy Fish is a great doubles player, but I was surprised just how hard John Isner served. I mean there was some balls that I could not even see. Except for losing, I really enjoyed the experience. The environment was just magical.”
What was also obvious was how both teams struggled to find the touch on low volleys and shots requiring touch.
“The ball just gets stuck to your racquet,” claims Farah. “With these balls you to have it hit them really hard or they don’t move.”
Team USA broke Carlos Salamanca in the fifth game of each set and John Isner served out the both sets giving the Americans a two sets to love lead, 6-4,6-4.
Locked at 6 games all in third set, the match went to a tiebreak. The first mini-break for the Colombians came when Farah pounded a passing shot to Fish’s body, jamming the American for a forced error. Then Isner missed a forehand volley for an unforced error, and the Colombians raced to a 6-2 lead. On their fourth set point, they won, sending the match to a fourth set and the crowd into a frenzy.
The constant tennis player
Over the years, Mardy Fish has spent plenty of Davis Cup ties on the bench. So, now being the veteran on the team, he wanted to play as much as possible. Being the best doubles player on this team, it only made sense.
“I am ready to play all three days if the team chooses me,” admitted Fish earlier. “I want to play.”
“I was certainly happy to see Mardy and John played so well,” McEnroe said afterwards. “Mardy volleyed really well today, and John played well for his first match here.”
All day, John Isner hammered down first serves on big points like a carpenter on commission. So, it was only fitting that he served out the first and second sets, and fourth set at love to win the match. In doing so, giving the Team USA a 2-1 advantage going into the final day where it is all on the line for both teams.
“My first serve percentage was not as high as I would have liked,” admits Isner. “But I played well when I had to. And Mardy played great.”
McEnroe is not tipping his hand as to who will play singles tomorrow.
“I am going to think about it tonight,” McEnroe explained. “The good news is that three of our guys have had a match under their belt, so they should be used to the conditions.”