Davis Cup Quarterfinal Preview
Once again, emerging Davis Cup hero Novak Djokovic has been asked to step up for Serbia, as well as for the Davis Cup competition. And once more, Djokovic is answering the call.
If you remember the first round of World Group play, you’ll recall that Djokovic won the Australian Open and immediately flew to Belgium where, in the course of just four days, he overcame jet lag, adjusted to indoor red clay (he’d been on outdoor hard courts) and stepped up in grand style.
Viktor Troicki made Nole’s life easier by overcoming Belgian No. 1 David Goffin in the opening rubber. But Djokovic followed that win with a quick, three-set demolition of Olivier Rochus, and the Serbian doubles team then clinched the tie.
It may not be quite as easy for Djokovic this weekend as he leads Serbia against the USA in Boise, Idaho. He’s coming off back-to-back Masters 1000 events and facing two Americans who can bring the heat on hard courts. On the other hand, the transition by region or surface won’t be as demanding as it was a few months ago, and Djokovic has had reasonable rest — he’ll have had a full week to recover and train following his mid-week loss last week in Miami. He’s the only player in action this weekend who can legitimately complain about having been playing too much tennis before the end of the spring hard-court season.
So let’s take a quick look at the four quarterfinal ties, with the head-to-head record in parentheses:
Serbia at USA (Serbia leads, 1-0)
You could be forgiven if you feel a jolt of déjà vu when you check out the details of this one. These two teams met for the first (and until now, last) time in 2010. And while that first-round tie was on red clay in Belgrade, it seemed to represent a dramatic transition for the USA — for the first time in ages, neither Andy Roddick, James Blake, nor Mardy Fish represented the USA in singles. Instead, it was the new, emerging American stars, the twin towers: John Isner and Sam Querrey.
A lot has happened since Djokovic clinched that tie with a fourth-rubber win over a game, pleasantly-surprising Isner. Not all of those changes have been good, at least for the USA. The pair of ace machines has yet to establish itself as the new, bankable USA singles team. Both men have had ups and downs.
Querrey hit a wall and he also experienced injuries — he’s only played four Davis Cup matches since then. And while Isner has emerged as a Davis Cup hero (he had wins last year over Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Gilles Simon — all on clay), he’s struggled in general lately. Querrey has surpassed him to become the top-ranked American at No. 20 (Isner is No. 23).
The Serbian team is almost identical to the one that stopped the Americans at home back in 2010, at least in terms of the singles players. Given the pace of the medium-slow hard court, it’s hard to see either Querrey or Isner scoring the big upset of Djokovic, especially not the way either of the American lads have been playing.
The United States needs to win the doubles (consider it done; the USA has Bob and Mike Bryan) and get two wins over Viktor Troicki. That’s not impossible: Troicki is ranked just No. 44, but he’s played above his head on a number of Davis Cup occasions. It would be a great morale booster for the Americans if they can get this done, but I have my doubts.