ROQUEBRUNE CAP MARTIN, FRANCE: The strategy of playing USA on clay has, at least for now, not worked out for the opposing Davis Cup teams this year with Jim Courier's men recording wins against Switzerland and France.
If the Americans are to continue their impressive run on the dirt then they will have to overcome clay court masters Spain on away soil, as they are now set to meet the defending champions in the World Group semifinals in September.
But Courier and his team will worry about that later, for now they can enjoy their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal triumph over France, achieved when John Isner put together another impressive match victory on Easter Sunday.
The 11th-ranked Isner defeated the sixth-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 63 76(4) 57 63 to put the Americans ahead an insurmountable 3-1 at the Monte Carlo Country Club in Roquebrune Cap Martin, France.
In the fifth match -- the dead rubber -- France’s Gilles Simon beat Ryan Harrison 62 63 to close the tie at 3-2 for the United States.
“He just played well and I wasn’t in good shape,” Tsonga said. “John was just better than me and he played the important points pretty well. When you play like that, serve like that, you can play everywhere, so I was not surprised he played well on clay.”
In the Davis Cup first round back in February, Switzerland chose to play the USA on indoor clay and were surprised -- even with Roger Federer on-board. The Swiss went down 5-0 and Isner posted one of his best career victories when he beat Federer on the opening day.
USA is now 72-9 when they are 2-1 and have won the doubles in Davis Cup history. They move into the Davis Cup semifinal for the first time since 2008.
Isner is turning into a Davis Cup source of confidence under the guidance of U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier, who seems to be saying all the right things on the bench. On Friday, Isner looked even more invincible during his 63 62 75 win over Gilles Simon.
“I like playing on clay,” Isner said. “I played three of my best matches this year, my best wins have come on clay. It’s a surface I enjoy playing on and a surface I feel I can do very well on.”
Although Isner offered Tsonga seven break point opportunities, the only time he proved vulnerable was in the 11th game of the third set. He saved two early break points at 15-40 and 30-40, but couldn’t save the third break point at ad-out. Miserably, Isner double faulted that game away to watch Tsonga serve out the set with an ace in the next game.
In all, Isner had 16 aces, took advantage of two of nine break points, posted 56 winners and 49 unforced errors.
“I had a great week of practice and I was ready to go,” Isner said. “Just like on Friday, I came out there and played very well and I’m just very thrilled with my performance. I’m very happy that our team is going on to the semifinals.”
The Bryans put Isner in position to clinch the tie with their solid 64 64 76 (4) doubles win over Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra on Saturday.
The Americans only points lost came from live match newcomer Ryan Harrison. He also lost his match on Friday to Tsonga 75 62 26 62 in the opening rubber of this quarterfinal.
John Isner (USA) - 08/04/2012
Captain Jim Courier (USA) - 08/04/2012
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) - 08/04/2012