By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
AUSTIN, Texas – The U.S. Davis Cup Team came to Austin looking forward to treating the fans to the city’s first-ever Davis Cup match and playing in front of not just a home crowd, but in Andy Roddick’s hometown.
U.S. Captain Jim Courier asked his team of Roddick, Mardy Fish and Bob and Mike Bryan to give it their all against Spain in this Davis Cup Quarterfinal tie and fight their hardest as always.
And each team member did just that and fought to the last point, behind a sellout crowd at the Frank Erwin Tennis Center, but unfortunately came up just short to the Spanish team, who won just a few more big points to defeat the U.S. 3-1, and advance to the Davis Cup Semifinals against France.
On the final day of play, David Ferrer, the world No. 6, fought off Fish to clinch the tie for Spain, winning 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-6 (5) in four hours and 11 minutes. It was the longest four-set match in U.S. Davis Cup Team history.
The originally scheduled fifth singles match between Roddick and Feliciano Lopez was then not played.
This is the first time the U.S. has lost a Davis Cup tie at home since a first round loss to Croatia in 2005 and the first time the U.S. has ever lost to Spain at home.
"We ask really one thing of our guys, which is to leave it on the court," Courier said. "We succeeded from that standpoint. We didn’t succeed in the wins department overall. I’m very proud of all the guys for all the efforts they put in all the matches. We definitely laid it all out there.
"We were ahead in a lot of sets. But that’s never a guarantee against players that are strong and that are professional," he added. "You have to close the door on these guys. You have to win the last point every set… We had a lot of chances and just didn’t get ‘em."
Ferrer was very happy to come through for Spain, who has won the Davis Cup title in two of the last three years, knowing how close the match was and that it could have gone either way.
"I had a lot of break points down. I was very strong mentally. It was not easy," he said of how he pulled it out. "I know I can win the (first) two sets. But I know I could lose the two sets. It was a very tense match. It was not easy because we know the match was very, very important."
Spain entered the final day of play with a 2-1 lead, as it received singles victories from Lopez over Fish and Ferrer over Roddick on Friday. Bob and Mike Bryan then kept the U.S. alive Saturday with a victory in the doubles rubber over Fernando Verdasco and Marcel Granollers.
It was Fish, the world No. 8, who first took the lead in the first set Sunday, breaking Ferrer for a 4-3 lead to standing ovation from the sellout crowd at the Frank Erwin Center, despite struggling early with his usually great serve that was not as sharp as it was Friday in his five-set loss to Lopez.
But a few games later, he served for the set but double faulted to give Ferrer a break point, which the Spaniard converted on the next point when Fish hit a crosscourt shot wide for 5-all. Two games later Ferrer closed it out with another break, this time when Fish hit a forehand into the net.
Fish stepped things up in the second, taking control of his serves and errors, but was unable to take advantage of any of seven break point chances to take the lead. After holding his first four service games in the set at love, he battled back a challenge from Ferrer at 5-4, saving five break points and closing out the game for 5-all with a winner down the right line.
The set, which featured no service breaks, progressed to the tiebreak where Ferrer took a 3-2 lead and never trailed again for a commanding two sets to love lead.
Missed opportunities were a problem for Fish throughout the match, as he was able to convert on just four of 18 break point chances. Ferrer was not much better, only taking advantage of four of 15 opportunities. But Fish knew he missed a bunch of opportunities to win both the first and second sets.
"I had a lot chances out there," Fish said of his missed break points. "You take advantage of some of those breakpoints, not even all of them, and I could win that match in straight sets. But that’s now how it works."
Fish kept fighting but was again unable to convert on a couple break point chances early in the third, as Ferrer held for 2-all, and had four chances to break in the eighth game but after the second deuce, Ferrer hit an ace for the advantage and then won for 4-all when Fish hit a return long.
But the American finally struck as Ferrer served to bring the set to a tiebreak and was up 40-30. But after a rally, Ferrer hit a forehand long and then a crosscourt shot wide to give Fish another break point. Ferrer saved that one on an errant Fish forehand, but the American then took the advantage when Ferrer hit wide crosscourt for his second break point of the game. And this time he converted to win the third set and stay alive when Ferrer netted a forehand.
Ferrer put himself in position to win with a break in the third game of the fourth set to go up 2-1, which was his first break of Fish since the last game of the first set. Fish kept fighting from there, evening things up at 3-all when Ferrer missed a forehand volley wide on a short return.
After just one break of serve in the previous two sets, the breaks kept coming in the fourth as Ferrer went back up 5-4 in a game Fish once led 40-30.
Ferrer then took the ball to serve for the match but could not close it out, as he hit a forehand long for 15-30 and then a great Fish shot to the right he could only lunge at gave the American two break points. He then handed Fish the game with a double fault for 5-all. But Ferrer closed it out in the tiebreak, winning when Fish hit a forehand wide crosscourt.
Fish was of course disappointed to not be able to push the tie to the fifth singles match and give his good friend Roddick a chance to win the tie for the U.S. in front of his home fans, who could hardly have cheered louder or given the team more support throughout the three days of play.
"The crowd was incredible. I had so much fun all weekend playing," Fish said as he reflected on the tie. "I badly wanted to get to the point where we could get Andy out there playing in front of them as well in the fifth match.
"Obviously I’ll look back and remember the crowd and the week," he added. "This is the loudest Davis Cup I’ve ever been a part of. So I’ll certainly remember that."