GIJON, Spain – When the draw came out for the 2012 Davis Cup, it looked like one of the toughest paths the U.S. could possibly have to move out of the first round, let alone advance to its first semifinal since 2008 or final since 2007.
The U.S. had to play now 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and Switzerland in the first round, a daunting task any time, but especially away and on clay. But the Americans were equal to the task with a sensational weekend of tennis, upsetting the Swiss team 5-0, as John Isner beat Federer in four sets and Mardy Fish outlasted Stanislas Wawrinka in five sets, to help the U.S. win with the improbable sweep.
The draw did not get any easier with having to travel to France, away on clay again, to face a few other top 20 players in Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon, but again the U.S. prevailed, behind two singles wins again from Isner and as usual, a clutch doubles win from Bob and Mike Bryan to advance to the semis.
Then came arguably the most difficult ask in Davis Cup: play Spain, the defending Davis Cup champion, away again and on clay again.
The U.S. team of world No. 10 Isner, No. 26 Sam Querrey and doubles world No. 1s the Bryans, behind Captain Jim Courier, played their hearts out and battled world No. 5 David Ferrer, world No. 12 Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez over three days in Gijon, Spain, with four and five-set marathon matches but in the end, the home team won a few more key points and prevailed.
Ferrer provided the tie-clinching point Sunday, defeating Isner 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in three hours to give Spain a 3-1 victory in the tie and advance to the Davis Cup Final. With the clinching win, the scheduled fifth singles match between Querrey and Almagro was canceled.
But even with the loss, the U.S. Davis Cup Team closes its 2012 chapter after a positive, successful season, although of course Courier and his players all had hoped to bring home the title.
"I think it was a great battle between two of the best teams in the world. Spain is the high water mark in Davis Cup in the last 15 years and we knew it was going to be a very tricky tie for us and we were close," Courier said. "We are proud of our effort and we salute the Spanish team for its efforts and its victory. Two great teams went out there and competed and it was very close and the team that played better when they needed to won the matches.
"It has been a very positive year for us on the US Davis Cup Team," he added. "We have been given the most difficult draw that you can have in this era to play the teams we have on the road and we had some great wins and we had some competitive losses. There is a lot for this team to be proud of and what we have achieved this year."