» News

U.S. advances to Davis Cup semis

April 15, 2008 05:47 PM

By Jason Brown, USTA.com

Andy Roddick hits a return to Paul-Henri Mathieu (GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Like he’s done time and again, Andy Roddick secured the clinching point for the United States.

Before 10,082 fans inside the Joel Coliseum, Roddick defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu of France in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, clinching the United States a berth in the 2008 World Group Semifinals.

Making quick work of Mathieu in just one hour and 37 minutes, Roddick laced 17 aces and a combined 47 for the series.

“I had a four-hour scouting report when James played him on Friday,” said Roddick.

The United States’ first opportunity to clinch the series, Bob and Mike Bryan were stunned in four sets by Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra of France Saturday, forcing a live reverse singles rubber on Sunday.

“I think I expected the Bryans would win, as you would in pretty much any match,” said Roddick.

The best closer in U.S. Davis Cup history, Roddick improved to a perfect 10-0 when given the opportunity to clinch.

He also moved into sole possession of third place on the all-time team singles victories list, adding a pair of victories to improve his sterling Davis Cup record to 29-7. Roddick is now just one win behind the legendary Andre Agassi (30) for second all time.

On Friday, Roddick defeated Llodra in straight sets in the opening match of the quarterfinal series, 6-4, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5).

Last year, Roddick clinched two series – the first round against the Czech Republic in Ostrava and the semifinal against Sweden in Gothenburg.

Andy Roddick improved his Davis Cup singles record to 29-7. (Photo: Ron Angle)
French Captain Guy Forget tried to convince 10th-ranked Richard Gasquet to play on Sunday but was unable to get through to the talented but frustratingly enigmatic player.

For their part, the Americans also expected the top Frenchman to play in the elimination match against Roddick.

“I told everyone I had a hunch that I was going to play Gasquet last night and this morning,” said Roddick.

“And then we saw the first warm-up session, which is normally when you find out – the first match normally takes the earlier warm-up session. Mathieu was out there hitting. There was no sign of Richard. Right then I knew I was probably going to play Mathieu.”

The visiting nation waited until minutes before the ITF deadline of an hour before match time on Sunday to announce that no changes would be made to its lineup.

In the final match, James Blake defeated Gasquet in a shortened best-of-three-set format, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, to complete a 4-1 series victory.

Roddick has a career-best nine-match winning streak in Davis Cup competition, while Blake’s streak has reached a career-best five matches. 

The U.S. will travel to Spain the weekend of Sept. 19-21 in a rematch of the 2004 Davis Cup Final played before a record crowd in Seville.

“We’re going to have to get dirty out there,” said Roddick. “Even if they put down a surface I don’t like, I think I’ll be there.”

To prepare for the clay that they’ll surely encounter in Spain, Roddick plans to play Rome and the French Open.

Blake and Mardy Fish are expected to participate in the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, before heading to Europe.

“It’s going to be tough. I don’t know if it’s going to do any good to sit here and freak out about it for the next three or four months,” said Roddick.

Andy Roddick, James Blake, Bob Bryan, and Mike Bryan played in their 10th consecutive tie together. (Photo: Ron Angle)
“I can assure you one thing: I know it’s not convenient for us. I know we’re not going to be the favorites, but we’re going to go, and we’re going to try. The thing about this team is we don’t play when it’s convenient. That’s probably different than some of the other countries.”

In the 2004 final, Spain defeated the U.S., 3-2, to clinch the championship. James Blake, Mardy Fish and the Bryan brothers competed in the final.

Since then, the U.S. foursome of Roddick, Blake and the Bryans have played together in 10 consecutive ties, a record they’ll surpass in a few months.

“Everyone knows we’ll be the underdog,” said U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe. “It’ll be the ultimate challenge.”

In the top half of the 2008 World Group semifinal draw, Russia will meet Argentina.

Russia defeated the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals, 3-2, after Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic was forced to retire leading, 2-1, in the fifth set against Nikolay Davydenko of Russia.

Playing at home, Argentina survived Sweden, 4-1, behind the strength of a marathon David Nalbandian five-set victory over Robin Soderling of Sweden.

The 2008 Davis Cup Final will be staged from Nov. 21-23.

More news:  SI.com article