Colombia’s No. 2 Alejandro Falla will lead the home team’s charge against USA’s No. 1 Mardy Fish in the opening singles rubber at the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie in Bogota on Friday. Santiago Giraldo follows against Sam Querrey in the second rubber.
The doubles nomination began with early drama as Colombian captain Felipe Beron announced a last minute surprise change by replacing the veteran Juan Sebastian Cabal with Robert Farah, teaming up with Carlos Salamanca.
The Colombian duo are scheduled to play John Isner and Ryan Harrison, although the line-up might well be changed by both teams before the deadline on Saturday.
As to be expected the altitude of Bogota - 2,650 metres - and the Tretorn pressure-less balls used were the main topics of discussion following the draw ceremony.
“We have been playing Davis Cup for five years with these balls, and we are very comfortable with them,” said Beron. “They are heavy and slow. The most difficult thing for the players will be to control the second serve. Plus, we feel that we have the advantage of physical conditioning in respect to the altitude as we have all grown up here.”
That is something that Alejandro Falla wants Colombia to take advantage of this weekend. “Our main goal is to get the return of serve in play, and to make the Americans pay a heavy price for each and every point,” he said. “Obviously, it is to our advantage to make them play long points.”
Veteran Mardy Fish has other plans, though. “We didn’t feel great the first day, it took a couple of days to get used to the altitude,” he admitted. “Yesterday was the first day we felt really well out there. However, now it is the balls that are effecting us more than the altitude. For that we have to play really aggressive early. We are looking to strike first and finish the points early.”
Querrey agrees. “I am definitely going to attack early in the point,” he stated. “You cannot hit with much spin, so I am going to hit hard, flat and hopefully, inside the lines. We are the higher ranked team, but the home site conditions are in their favour. It should be a great battle down here in Bogota.”
Captain Patrick McEnroe, who is taking charge of his last Davis Cup tie after ten years of service for the American team, feels that USA is the favourite, but it will be a tough fight.
“It has been quite an honour to be a captain and I would like to go out with a win,” said McEnroe. “We always feel the pressure to win in a play-off tie.”
USA holds the edge in rankings. Fish is No. 19 in the world and Querrey is No. 21, while Giraldo and Falla are at No. 60 and No. 65 respectively. If needed, the Americans can also call on Isner, the world No. 23, for a singles rubber on Sunday.
“We have the advantage in the rankings and they have the home court advantage,” continued McEnroe. “We have been here for a few days so the players are getting used to the way the ball moves. It is a great venue for a tennis match.”
“The Plaza de Toros is very emotional and symbolic place in Colombia,” said Gabriel Sanchez Sierra, President of the Federacion Colombiana de Tenis. “We consulted with the Spanish Federation and they gave us very good advise. We are very happy with this venue. Our players feel very proud here.”
The last time the two teams met was 1979 in Cleveland, Ohio with USA winning 5-0. The only other time before that was five years earlier in Bogota, when Colombia stunned the Americans 4-1. This one could go the distance.
The full draw is as follows:
Alejandro Falla (COL) v Mardy Fish (USA)
Santiago Giraldo (COL) v Sam Querrey (USA)
Robert Farah/Carlos Salamanca (COL) v Ryan Harrison/John Isner (USA)
Santiago Giraldo (COL) v Mardy Fish (USA)
Alejandro Falla (COL) v Sam Querrey (USA)