BOGOTA, Colombia (AP)— Mardy Fish defeated Santiago Giraldo 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 8-6 to give the United States an insurmountable 3-1 lead in its Davis Cup World Group playoff against Colombia on Sunday. The fifth match, which could not change the outcome, was canceled because of rain.
Winning the tie on outdoor red clay means the United States will remain in the World Group, the top tier of the Davis Cup, while Colombia stays outside a group for which it has never qualified.
Fish became the first American to win three times in a tie since Pete Sampras in the 1995 final in Moscow. He won in Friday’s singles and teamed up with John Isner to win the doubles on Saturday.
Venezuela's Caracas F.C.'s Heatklif Castillo, second from right, celebrates his goal against Colombia's Santa Fe at a Copa Sudamericana soccer match in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday Sept. 16, 2010. Caracas F.C.'s Cesar Gonzalez is second from left.
"To win three points in one Davis Cup match under these circumstance in such an important tie is one of the biggest—if not the biggest— accomplishment of my career," Fish said.
It was a sweet exit for retiring American captain Patrick McEnroe, whose team battled with the 2,650-meter (8,700-feet) altitude, a determined Colombia team and the absence of top players like Andy Roddick, James Blake and the imposing doubles team of Bob and Mike Byran.
"What a Herculean effort from Mardy this weekend," McEnroe said. "Mardy’s was one of the greatest efforts in Davis cup history—forget my 10 years as captain. To win three points in these conditions—with the altitude, the crowd and everything. He is in illustrious company."
Giraldo broke Fish in the final set to lead 6-5, needing only to serve out to win the match and force a deciding fifth match. But Fish broke back to level at 6-6, held his serve—fighting off two break points—and then broke the Colombian again for the 8-6 victory in 4 hours, 5 minutes.
"I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my captaincy," McEnroe said.
Fish was up and down during the match in the Santamaria bull ring, but resolute when he needed to be. He had 14 aces and 11 double faults. The American played three straight days and logged 11 hours of tennis in winning two singles matches and a doubles, a tribute to his new level of fitness.
"A lot of work and a lot of sacrifice went into this," Fish said. "A year ago today I wouldn’t have been able to do this. I fought as hard as I could. He passed me 100 times today and I kept coming."
Fish was more restrained than McEnroe, praising the Colombian effort and noting the rugged playing conditions.
"It was as tough a relegation match as we could have had with the altitude, the balls and a quality opponent," Fish said.
Ryan Harrison was to have made his Davis Cup debut in the final match for the United States. In an interesting twist, Andy Roddick made his debut in Davis Cup in 2001 in McEnroe’s first match as captain. Harrison’s debut, which was washed out by rain, would have come as McEnroe exits.
The United States has dropped out only once since the World Group began in 1981. The Americans have won the Davis Cup a record 32 times, the last in 2007— McEnroe’s only title as captain.
Fish said the match showed the United States has enough depth to compete.
"I think we have a lot of guys who can play well on a lot of surfaces— myself, John, Sam (Querrey), Andy, James and the Bryans," Fish said. "We wish we had six or eight spots to take everyone each tie."