The State of the Union

Written By: achangeofends - Feb• 26•11
Roland Garros French Open Tennis Day 5 2010 25/05/2010 Andy Roddick (USA) second round match Photo Roger Parker Fotosports International

Next weekend the United States Davis Cup Team will head to Santiago, Chile in an effort to make it through to the 2nd round. Last year, the US lost to eventual champions, Serbia, in the 1st round and faced possible elimination from the World Group. In the World Group playoffs, Mardy Fish heroically led the US to victory against Colombia, winning all three of the matches he participated in. On the eve of the impending tie between the US and Chile, I thought it might be worth taking a look at the state of American tennis, starting with our four man Davis Cup squad.

Andy Roddick: For nearly 10 years, Andy Roddick has been the face of men’s tennis in America. At the age of 28, he’s still the highest ranked American man at No. 8 in the world, and the only active American to have ever been No. 1 in the world or to have won a Grand Slam. While bigger, younger players have tried to challenge Andy’s dominance, he’s very much still the best male tennis player in the United States. He consistently makes it to the second week of Grand Slam events and has won at least one title every year for the last eleven years. He’s also always performed well in Davis Cup, with a 31-11 record in singles rubbers. Under normal circumstances, I would have no concerns about Roddick representing us and I still don’t. He’s fresh off a title in Memphis and pulled out of Delray this week to rest up and recover from the cold that nearly prevented him from participating in the Memphis final. He may not be the best clay player in the world, but I think he’ll be more than ready to take on Chile.

John Isner: New captain, Jim Courier, had a tough choice between placing Sam Querrey or John Isner on the four man team. I can’t fault his choice. Looking at their performances this year, I probably would’ve gone with John as well. But, Isner hasn’t exactly had the best results in 2011 thus far. He has slipped from a career high ranking of No. 18 down to No. 32 and is in danger of not being seeded at the French Open if his results at Indian Wells and Miami are as lackluster as those in Memphis and Delray. What’s more worrying that John’s results, is the fact that he appears distracted and disinterested in a lot of his matches these days.

Bob and Mike Bryan: Like Andy, these guys have been Davis Cup stalwarts and have come through on multiple occasions to clinch the crucial third rubber. While the Bryans are great, they’re still a controversial choice for Davis Cup because they constitute half the team but they can only participate in one match. Because the Bryans only play doubles, including them on the squad means that there can be no substitutions in the singles rubbers. Normally, the Bryans almost guarantee a win in the doubles rubber because they’re that good, but Bob’s coming off a shoulder injury. The duo lost in the first round of the Abierto Mexicano in Acapulco this week to Travis Parrott and Filip Polasek, on clay, which is a dubious oman for the Davis Cup tie. However, I think the Bryans will still pull it together in Chile.

Sam Querrey: Last year, I legitimately thought Sam Querrey was going to be the next big thing in American tennis. He won four ATP titles last year, one on each surface, and achieved a career high ranking of No. 17 at the age of 23. All of his titles came at the ATP 250 level, but it seemed like someone on that kind of hot streak was bound to strike it big at a major one day. Clearly Sam could very possibly come up with a great showing at a Grand Slam in the near future, but to this point, it just hasn’t happened. What’s much more disconcerting than his lack of second week appearances at the big tournaments, is how little he seems to care about his results lately. Sam didn’t get his first match win of the year until Memphis last week and this week in Delray, he pretty much gave up on match point in his match against Ryan Sweeting in the second round. Sweeting served an ace, that the chair umpire overruled, calling it a let. Sam said he heard the umpire’s call, but decided to concede the point (and the match) to Sweeting. This may make Sam a nice guy, but it certainly doesn’t making him a champion. No way would Andy Roddick ever concede a point. I don’t want to sound too negative here, so I should note that Querrey has been dealing with some shoulder problems this season which may explain some of his results, but it certainly doesn’t explain his attitude. Hopefully Sam can regroup and show all the naysayers what he can really do.

Mardy Fish: The world No. 16 took himself out of the running for the first Davis Cup tie this year because of poor health, and if I was Courier I’d be pretty broken up about this. Mardy would’ve been the clear choice to play second singles considering his results in the past year and even in the past couple of weeks. Fish said that he was unsure he would even be able to play in Memphis, but still made it to the semifinals. He followed that up with another semifinal appearance this week in Delray. If we make it through the first round in Davis Cup, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing Mardy on the team.

Ryan Harrison: The 18 year old tagged along to Colombia last year, but did not get the chance to play. He likely would have been allowed to play the dead rubber, but it was scrapped because of poor weather. I’m not quite sure I see the fire in Harrison yet, but he’s certainly a promising player. I watched him play doubles in Memphis with Andy Roddick and he did a pretty good job of hanging with the big boys when they were up against Daniel Nestor and Max Myrni. I think we’ll be seeing Ryan play for his country a few years down the road, but for right now there are definitely more consistent choices.

James Blake: I don’t think I have to write much about this. Blake played 17 Davis Cup ties and won 18 singles matches. But the former Top 5 player is well past his prime and pretty much out of the equation.

Now for the good news, things aren’t quite as dire as they seem. We’re playing Chile in the first tie and their missing their No. 1 player, Fernando Gonzalez. Their team consists of Paul Capdeville, Jorge Aguilar, Nicolas Massu, and Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz. None of these players are ranked in the Top 100, not even close. The tie may be on clay (generally Americans’ weakest surface) but if the US can’t win this one, I’m not sure why they even bother playing. We’ve got an all-star team compared to Chile and should have no trouble making it through this tie. The bigger problem is going to be the quarterfinals, where the US will very likely face Spain, which actually does have an all-star team. But, let’s see how this works out before conjecturing about the quarters.

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