GIJON, SPAIN: Spain have one foot in the final after Nicolas Almagro defeated John Isner 64 46 64 36 75 to put the hosts 2-0 up.
Spain, the reigning Davis Cup by BNP Paribas champions, came into this weekend’s semifinal tie against USA as the favourites. Beyond being the defending champions, they have two strong singles players in No. 5 David Ferrer and No. 12 Nicolas Almagro.
By the end of first day action at Gijon, Spain, on Friday, the host country had lived up to their favoured nation status, going to bed with a 2-0 lead and only in need of one more point to return to the final to defend their title.
Spain has an incredible 37-0 record in Davis Cup when 2-0 ahead in a tie since the start of the World Group concept in 1981.
“It was a very tough day,” said Spanish Davis Cup captain Alex Corretja. “I thought the U.S. guys, I think they did great, but we fought very hard and we were a little bit more lucky than them. It’s nice to be 2-0 now, but it’s very difficult to get one more point that we need.”
In contrast to Spain’s impressive 2-0 record, the USA has a sorrowful 1-37 record in Davis Cup history when it comes to rebounding from a 0-2 deficit. The only time USA managed a 0-2 comeback was in the 1934 Inter-Zonal final against Australia.
“I like our team and I’m very happy with the team we have here,” Courier said. “We will miss Andy Roddick but things change and we have to change with them. And we’ll be ready for Sunday. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, we have to come and win that (doubles), but John and Sam will be ready for Sunday.”
Ferrer put Spain ahead of USA 1-0 with a 46 62 62 64 win over Sam Querrey in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinal tie
Almagro followed and just barely edged his way past John Isner 64 46 64 36 75 in a thriller that went four hours, 16 minutes.
“It was very tough,” said Almagro, who now leads Isner 2-0 in their head-to-head record.
“I knew everything about John Isner well. I think he served really good. I didn’t feel very comfortable at the court when he was serving. But we are happy because it’s Friday and we’re 2-0 up.”
Isner was so close, but not even 24 aces could help him to be Team USA’s hero again this year. He’d been the kingpin at the first two ties of the year when USA beat Switzerland 5-0 and France 3-2, respectively.
While the match was lengthy, Isner’s 95 unforced errors is a statistic that should be worrisome. He also offered Almagro 19 break point opportunities and was lucky that the Spaniard only capitalized on three of those chances.
Almagro admitted he had difficulty dealing with Isner’s serve, but he held it together long enough to wait for the American to make the critical errors.
Isner, who saved three break points on his serve in the 10th game, allowed Almagro a fourth match point when he dumped a routine forehand volley into the net in the final game. Isner, who had two chances in that final game to even the score at 6-6, hit a forehand long to hand the match to Almagro.
“Those were pretty bad errors, simple shots, especially the volleys I missed,” Isner said. “I think I missed three volleys in that last game and I should’ve made all of them. So, maybe, fatigue made those routine shots a little harder. That was really disappointing because I did such a good job the whole fourth and fifth set of just hanging in there and I just kind of gave it away at the end.”
Ferrer broke Querrey’s first service game, but the lanky American came back to recoup the break in the eighth game, and broke serve again in the 10th game, to give the U.S. the opening set.
“I felt pretty good after winning the first set after being down a break early,” Querrey said. “But I knew it was a long way to the finish line.”
But Ferrer, a ruthless scamper on the court, was not to be outplayed on the day. He raced through the next two sets, but struggled to close out the match in the fourth set.
Ferrer faced nine break points between the second and fourth games in the fourth set. Querrey, however, could not meet the challenge of breaking Ferrer’s serve.
“In the fourth set he had a lot of times to have won and that’s it,” Ferrer said. “But I was very focused at the important moments.”
Of those break point chances, Querrey knew that if he had been able to take advantage of one opportunity he would’ve likely been into a decisive fifth set instead of back in the locker room.
“But he played good points on those break points,” Querrey said. “I could’ve been a little more aggressive on those points."
Coming off of a semifinal showing at the U.S. Open, Ferrer looked alert and ready for action despite his recent travel back to Spain. He now holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Querrey.
In all, Querrey was done in by 70 unforced errors in the three hour, three minute match. His serve also let him down as he only had a 53% first serve percentage compared to 67% for Ferrer. Interesting, Ferrer is not known for his serve but he served eight aces just like Querrey did in the match.
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Nicolas Almagro (ESP) - 14/09/2012
Captain Jim Courier (USA) - 14/09/2012
John Isner (USA) - 14/09/2012
David Ferrer (ESP) - 14/09/12