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Bryan And Fish Stop The USA Bleeding At Davis Cup

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Black Tennis Pro's USA Davis Cup Doubles SemifinalAmericans Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish kept the defending champions’ hopes alive, defeating Spain’s Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 6-4, 63 4-6, 6-4, spoiling Lopez’s 27th birthday celebrations and Spain’s dream of a 3-0 sweep in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Semifinals. Bryan, playing Davis Cup doubles without twin brother Bob for the first time, and close friend Fish made a strong pair but their opponents also played a tough match.

“The key to this match was us bonding,” said Fish. “We’ve been great friends for years and you play your best tennis when you are having fun. I admire the way Mardy played today,” added Bryan. “It was tough to read Feliciano’s serve. It was a hard fought battle. We took our chances when we got them but it took a little while to get going.”

“It was very close. The toughest thing was to come back from two sets to one down and a break,” said Lopez. “With a bit more luck we could have won. The crowd helped us a lot in the fourth set.”

Good Start For Spain

Madrid’s Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas was rocking with nearly 21,000 fans, most hoping to see Lopez and Verdasco win the third point for Spain and propel their country into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final for a sixth time. Lopez was treated to a chorus of “Happy Birthday” by the fans who were clearly in a celebratory mood but a smaller but no less noisy contingent of American fans also had their dreams of an American comeback.

The Spanish were on fire in the first set, serving better than the Americans and making only two unforced errors compared to 10 and converting the first break point opportunity in the seventh game on Bryan’s serve. Lopez served for the set, poaching a volley from Verdasco to seal the opener for Spain.

There were many celebrities on hand at Las Ventas including former IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who earlier in the day received a Davis Cup replica trophy from ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, to LA Laker Pau Gasol, a friend of Rafa Nadal’s. The iconic bullring was clearly the place to be this weekend and the excitement levels were very high.

Bryan And Fish Find A Way Through

The Americans started more confidently in the second set, making fewer errors and generally looking stronger while the Spanish pair made a few more errors to give the USA an opening and on their first break point of the match, Fish hit a stunning forehand volley to win the second set 64.

In the third set, the Americans really began to gel, playing solid tennis and making the Spanish work for every point. The Spanish were able to save two break points on the Verdasco serve at 4-5 but, on the third, Lopez hit a return just wide but Bryan hit it anyway, a winner down the line to finish the point. Fish held serve to give the Americans a two-sets to one lead.The traditional Bryan bump was adapted to a sort of Mardy/Mike twist bump that made its first outing in this set, never to be seen again.

Grabbing the momentum with both hands, the Americans broke Lopez in the first game to take a 1-0 lead but they were not able to hold on, with the Spanish breaking Mike Bryan in the eighth game to get back on serve. At 4-5, Fish served to stay in the set, saving five break points before the Spanish were able to capitalise and level the match at two-sets all.

Vital Break For USA

Verdasco served first to open the set, saving three break points and squandering two game points before a Lopez winner gave the Spanish a 1-0 lead in the set. The set went with serve until it was Verdasco’s turn again and he was broken to give the Americans the lead. Fish struggled on his serve but held on for 4-2 then Lopez held serve easily for 4-3. Bryan held serve for 5-3 and then Verdasco, who had struggled in his last two service games, needed to hold serve if Spain were to have a chance of victory in today’s doubles. If he was nervous, the Spaniard didn’t show it and forced Fish to serve for the match at 5-4. The American had a comfortable service game, converting the first match point to win the match and keep American hopes alive.

“It means the world to me,” added Fish who played on the losing side in the 2004 Final against Spain in Seville. “Davis Cup is a huge thing. I’ve been waiting four years for this.”

“Nobody can say that our players don’t play their guts out when they are playing for their country,” said US captain Patrick McEnroe. “This is a big shot of adrenalin going into Sunday. We lost two heartbreakers yesterday, won a close one today against a great team. We will take our chances, play aggressively when we can and see what happens.”

Nadal Vs. Roddick Tomorrow

Celebrations on the American bench and the prospect of a Nadal-Roddick opener tomorrow tantalised the crowd at Las Ventas who are excited about another day of live tennis. All three of the matches played so far have registered just over 3 hrs. 15 minutes on the Rolex clocks on court and tomorrow’s could also be a long one with the Madrid altitude helping a big server like Roddick, even against a player with the clay court prowess of Nadal.

Asked if he was worried about the crowd tomorrow, McEnroe said: “Rafael Nadal worries me a lot, more than the crowd. He’s the best clay court player in the world. Andy played a tough match against David Ferrer. He got a bit frustrated, losing his serve at 6-6 in the fifth. He’s a competitor who wants to win. I’m not worried. Andy knows what he has to do. He has been in this position before.”

“The crowd behaved well. We can’t complain. This is normal in Davis Cup,” said Spanish captain Emilio Sanchez. “If I were Andy Roddick, I would be concentrating on facing Nadal. If he is worried about the crowd, he won’t be playing his best tennis.”

Photo Paul Zimmer

Posted by Shelia

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