July 10, 2009

Davis Cup Surprises

First off, I want to apologize for the scarcity of posts this week. I promise to be more diligent! But some tennis stars are going to have to be diligent this weekend.

Today the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup began with some surprising results. Defending champs Spain claimed homecourt advantage in Marbella, but are still tied with Germany at one rubber apiece. And the U.S. had to struggle through two five-set matches and now needs to win all three of their remaining matches against Croatia.

Top-ten player Fernando Verdasco had a bit of a hiccup in his match against German Andreas Beck, dropping two close sets but taking his three fairly easy. But Tommy Robredo, who's already won two titles on clay this year, was wholly unimpressive against Philipp Kohlschreiber. The twenty-five year old scored thirty-three winners to Robredo's nineteen and kept his serve percentage high. In three relatively quick sets Philipp notched his first win in five tries over his opponent and held his country even with the heavy favorites.

Slightly more disturbing is the performance of the U.S. Not too long ago all the talk surrounded James Blake and his inability to win a five-set match -- when he finally got the monkey off his back at the 2007 U.S. Open, I thought he was on his way to undisturbed greatness. Unfortunately today the headlines were reversed and James allowed someone else to jump over that hurdle. He had an impressive two-set lead over big-serving Ivo Karlovic in their rubber but eventually gave the Wimbledon quarterfinalist his own first victory in a match that went the distance. Ivo stayed tough in the fourth set tiebreak and converted late in the fifth to give the Croats an early lead.

In the second rubber Mardy Fish took on Marin Cilic, a rematch of last year's Pilot Pen championship, which Fish lost. Mardy had been called in as a replacement for Andy Roddick who had pulled out of the competition due to a hip injury sustained in his epic Wimbledon final last week -- he wasn't meant to play here this weekend, but he was obviously going to put up a fight. He took a two-set to one lead and broke back at 3-5 in the fifth, putting the pressure on Cilic just as he was trying to close out. But extra innings were too much for him, and Mardy eventually fell 6-8 in an hour-plus final set.

As disappointing as those matches were, the biggest shock had to have come in the Russia-Israel match-up. Russia has won two Davis Cup titles this decade and is led by strong players like Marat Safin and Igor Andreev. Israel, on the other hand, boasts a realatively unknown Dudi Sela as its best player, followed by world #210 Harel Levy. But the Israelis were not deterred, taking both singles rubbers in four sets and setting themselves up with a comfortable lead going into the weekend.

Incidentally in the final tie being battled this weekend, 2008 runner-up Argentina is tied at one match apiece with the Czech Republic as Juan Martin Del Potro and Thomas Berdych each took their respective rubbers. The winner will get to meet either the U.S. or, more likely it seems, Croatia in the semis. But it sure would be fun to watch a comeback -- and I am definitely excited to see if they can do it!

By the way, I'll be at the Hall of Fame championships -- which Fish pulled out of to play in Europe -- in Newport this weekend. I'm sorry I won't get to watch him in action, but am totally psyched to catch the games on the grounds of the one-time host of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Championships!

If you're in the area give me a shout!

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