FRIBOURG, SWITZERLAND: One of the biggest shocks in recent Davis Cup by BNP Paribas history was completed on Saturday afternoon when the US doubles team of Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish beat Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka in four sets to see the Americans through to April’s quarterfinals.
The reverberations from John Isner’s stunning win over Federer on Friday night carried through to the doubles, which followed a very similar pattern to the Isner-Federer singles. The Swiss won the opening set and looked reasonably comfortable for a set and a half, but once the Americans had broken, the balance of power shifted, and Federer in particular fell away at the end as the US pair won 46 63 63 63 in 2 hours 18 minutes.
Because so much was made of Federer’s return to the Davis Cup first round for the first time in eight years, it’s easy to see this result as a disaster for the Swiss. A disappointment it certainly is, but to view it as a disaster would be to take too much credit away from an American team that seems finally to have lost its fear of away clay.
Isner said after his match against Federer that clay suits his game, Fish has done well on the red stuff as his career has progressed, and the French Open was the first of the Bryan twins’ Grand Slam titles. Add to that a team captain in Jim Courier who is the only American to have won the French Open twice, and maybe one shouldn’t be too surprised to see the Americans triumph.
It’s also payback time for Fish, who suffered two heartbreaking losses in marathon matches in last year’s quarterfinal in Austin, when Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and David Ferrer played outstanding matches against him. The 30-year-old from Tampa has now won his singles and doubles in successive days to see the US through to an away quarterfinal against either Canada or France.
“It feels pretty good to win these,” he said immediately after the victory. “I certainly know what it’s like to lose, and it’s not a great feeling. This guy [Mike Bryan] is the greatest doubles player of all time, and I’m just trying to play my part.”
The doubles began well for the Swiss, though the difficulty with which they broke Fish in the opening game of the match when the American threw in two double faults and some loose volleys was perhaps ominous. The break sufficed to win the opening set, but the Swiss pair never looked totally comfortable, and Wawrinka looked an uncertain presence at the net, certainly not the confident figure he cut at the Beijing Olympics four years ago when he and Federer won the doubles gold medal.
Once Wawrinka was broken in the sixth game of second set, a game in which he too served two double faults, the momentum began to shift, and after 66 minutes the score was identical to that after two sets of the Federer-Isner match. But if that went to a third set tiebreak, this one went more quickly the Americans’ way once Wawrinka was broken in the seventh game of third set. The Swiss got to 0-30 on the Fish serve in the next game but couldn’t return well enough to complete the break.
Indeed the Swiss just couldn’t break serve after the first game of the match. Once Wawrinka had been broken for the third time for the Americans to take a 3-1 lead in the fourth set, the Swiss had to break. They had the sniff of a chance as Bryan served for the match at 5-3, but three backhand errors from Federer – including one air shot at 30-30 – thwarted any chance of a revival, and a netted backhand by Wawrinka saw the Americans home.
Federer was magnanimous in defeat. “I thought we actually played pretty well,” he said, “it was again a high standard of match from both sides, with not much between us. We had our chances but maybe they were a touch better than us, and that shows in the score. We played well for a long time, but we had a couple of games when we struggled a bit too much. But they did well and got the victory they deserved over the weekend.”
Federer was asked whether this defeat affected his commitment to Davis Cup. “No,” he said, “I’m still taking things round by round, and our next round is in September. In principle I’m in, but we’ll have to see what happens between now and then.”
USA showed no remorse in Sunday's dead singles rubbers. Ryan Harrison and John Isner continued thier teams winning ways with straight sets victories over Michael Lammer and Marco Chiudinelli respectively to leave the final score at a bruising 5-0.
Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish (USA) - 11/02/2012
Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) - 11/02/2012
Captain Jim Courier (USA) - 11/02/2012
Captain Severin Luthi (SUI) - 11/02/2012