La Jolla, Scottsdale Lead Bids To Host U.S. Davis Cup Tie
By Tennis Week
The United States may launch its 2006 Davis Cup campaign on the west coast. La Jolla, California and Scottsdale, Arizona have emerged as the front runners to host the February 10-12th first-round tie against Romania with Richmond, Virginia a long shot to win hosting rights.
The tie will be staged on a hard court. The USTA will select a site by the end of this week. The west cost sites have an edge over Richmond in the bidding for hosting rights in that both sites could host the event outdoors and the Davis Cup weekend precedes the San Jose tournament, which begins on February 13th and is a popular ATP stop for American players.
Continuing its quest for a record-extending 32nd Davis Cup championship, the United States is playing for its 200th Davis Cup victory and enters the tie with a 5-0 record against Romania in Davis Cup competition. The two nations last met in February of 1978 when an American team captained by Arthur Ashe and featuring John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Peter Fleming swept Romania, 5-0, in Bucharest.
There are currently five American men — No. 3 Andy Roddick, No. 5 Andre Agassi, No. 17 Robby Ginepri, No. 24 James Blake and No. 29 Taylor Dent — ranked in the top 30. Barring injury, Roddick and the Bryan brothers will lead the United States against Romania with the second singles spot up for grabs. U.S. Open quarterfinalist Blake, who was 1-1 in his return to Davis Cup play in September, U.S. Open semifinalist Ginepri, who made his Davis Cup debut in the Americans' 5-0 first-round sweep of Austria in 2004 and Dent are all candidates for the second singles spot. It is highly unlikely Agassi, who plans to play the pro circuit in 2006, but must limit his schedule to protect his sciatic nerve that forced him out of Wimbledon this year, will return for another Davis Cup appearance.
Indianapolis champion Ginepri and Blake, who has won two tournament titles this year, are the top contenders to complement Roddick as singles starters. Both Blake and Ginepri have posted their best results on hard court, which means their performance at the Australian Open in January will factor into U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe's decision. Both Blake and Ginepri will be seeded in Melbourne and McEnroe will be on hand to watch their matches as ESPN's tennis analyst.
The United States owns a 136-17 record in Davis Cup ties contested in North America. In addition to the home court advantage, McEnroe said American success will require contributions from several players.
"I would be extremely surprised if we won the Davis Cup — if we win the Davis Cup — that we'll do it with four players," McEnroe said. "We're going to need five, six players. Whether we're playing on a fast court, maybe its Taylor Dent who comes in. Just depending on the situation. We need the guys to be on the same page, understand that it's a group effort."
Should the Americans beat Romania they would host the winner of the Chile-Slovak Republic opening-round tie in the quarterfinals. The United States is 3-0 against Chile though the two teams have not met since 1978 when Brian Gottfried, Harold Solomon and John McEnroe led the U.S. to a 3-2 victory over a Chilean squad of Jaime Fillol and Hans Gildemeister in Santiago. The Americans hold a 2-0 advantage against Davis Cup finalist the Slovak Republic, eking out a 3-2 victory in the 2003 World Group Playoff on the red clay of Bratislava.
Of course, after an all-star American cast of former top-ranked singles players Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick and the top-ranked doubles team of Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan watched Ivan Ljubicic delivering a stirring Davis Cup performance in accounting for all three points to lead Croatia to a stunning 3-2 victory over the United States in the 2005 opening-round Davis Cup tie in Carson, California it's highly unlikely anyone on the American team will be overlooking a Romanian team that beat Belarus, 3-2, in the opening round of World Group play in Brasov. Andrei Pavel registered two singles victories and Victor Hanescu beat Vladimir Voltchkov, 7-6(2), 6-4, 7-6(6), in the decisive fifth match to clinch that victory before Romania bowed to Croatia, 4-1, in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.
An experienced player who is solid in virtually all phases of the game, owns a biting one-handed backhand, but lacks one authoritative weapon, Pavel owns a 34-18 Davis Cup record. He will be 32 by the time Romania takes on the U.S. next February. American No. 1 singles starter Roddick has won three of four meeting with Pavel, but the pair have not played since Roddick's, 7-6, 6-4, victory in the 2002 Paris indoors. Pavel's ability to engage Roddick in backhand rallies using his best shot against Roddick's worst shot, his two-handed backhand, has created close contests in the past, but Roddick is certainly a stronger and more complete player now than he was the last time the two met. Prior to his 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(11), 6-7(7), 6-2 loss to Ljubicic in the decisive fifth match of the opening-round loss to Croatia, Roddick had never lost a Davis Cup match on American soil.
The third-ranked Roddick rebounded from his first-round loss to Gilles Muller in the U.S. Open by winning two singles matches on his worst surface, red clay, to lift the Americans to a 4-1 victory over host Belgium in September's World Group Playoffs. Aided by an out call virtually no one in the Sportplaza Leuven saw out, Roddick broke Olivier Rochus' serve to seize a 4-2 edge in the final set and earn an exhausting 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 victory that clinched the United States’ triumph over Belgium and secured the Americans' spot in the prestigious Davis Cup World Group for an 18th consecutive year in 2006.