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post #25 of (permalink) Old 01-08-2010, 06:57 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 2010 Davis Cup Thread

from Pete Bodo:

Roddick, Blake leave untarnished Davis Cup legacy

Friday, January 8, 2010 | Feedback | Print Entry

It's a sad, somewhat sentimental day for American tennis, because for the first time in nearly 10 years, neither Andy Roddick nor James Blake will represent the U.S. in Davis Cup this year. Both men have taken their names out of contention (Roddick believes the decision will help preserve his knee, while Blake, presumably, wants to focus on his ranking) for places on the squad they helped create, with a big assist from the U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan.

Those four men have shown admirable loyalty to a competition that many top international stars, including Americans, often avoid. In the long term, Roddick's and Blake's most praiseworthy and lasting achievement might be having elevated Davis Cup back to a pre-eminent place in the eyes of young players and, to some degree, the public. Among others, Ryan Harrison, a rising American star (he's got a wild card into the Australian Open -- watch for him) is all fired up about playing for the nation.

Roddick and Blake leave significant statistical legacies. Blake was 21-12 (including 3-1 in doubles). Roddick's 31-11 record (all singles rubbers) is the best by any American player other than John McEnroe, whose brother is the 10-year team USA captain who put -- and kept -- together the Roddick-Blake team.

P-Mac, incidentally, doesn't want us to overlook the fact that most of the other U.S. players, most notably Mardy Fish, have always been ready and willing to step into the breech if needed. "You want to give Andy and James the props they deserve," McEnroe told me. "But the other American players were always ready to go, and when needed, they stepped up. It may be the end of an era, but I don't think it's the end of an attitude."

For example, in a relegation-round battle played in the Slovak Republic on clay in 2003, Dominik Hrbaty took out Roddick in the first match of the tie on an outdoor clay court. But in the next match, Fish stunned the Slovaks by taking out its No. 1, Karol Kucera -- despite the fact that clay is basically kryptonite for Fish. The U.S. went on to win (thanks, Bryans!) the tie. Remaining in the World Group enabled the Americans to make the final of 2004.

The U.S. lost that final, on red clay in Spain. But the team clinched the Cup three years later, beating Russia in Portland, Ore. Blake didn't handle Davis Cup pressure quite as well as Roddick, but he did a great job in Portland. After Roddick put the U.S. up one in the first match, Blake stopped Russia's Mikhail Youzhny in a tight second match before the Bryans clinched the shutout.

When you look at the success Spain has enjoyed recently (four Davis Cup championships since 2000), the U.S.'s 1-1 record in finals in this decade might not appear dazzling. But the astonishing global growth of the game (something for which Davis Cup rarely gets the credit it deserves) combined with the nosedive of the American game, presented formidable obstacles to success. What the U.S. achieved it earned with a rare degree of commitment, passion, team spirit, blood, sweat and tears.

Nobody bled or perspired or cried more than Roddick and Blake. You can throw the Bryans in there, too, but they're not done yet. In fact, if the team belongs to anyone now, it's Bob and Mike Bryan -- fitting role models for the Sam Querreys and John Isners of this nation.

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