By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
Having home-field or home-court advantage for any sports team is important, with the fans often giving their team the extra edge it needs to win.
For no team has that been as true as for the U.S. Davis Cup Team in recent years, as the U.S. has not lost a home tie since falling to Croatia in the first round back in 2005. Since then, the U.S. has won six straight ties at home, including the 2007 final, and next weekend Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and Bob and Mike Bryan will be looking to make it seven in a row when they face Spain in a blockbuster quarterfinal match-up in Austin, Texas, on an indoor hardcourt at the Frank Erwin Tennis Center at the University of Texas.
It will be the first home tie for U.S. Captain Jim Courier, and it will be no ordinary home tie, as it is taking place in Roddick’s adopted hometown, which should only add to the already strong crowd support the team should enjoy. Tickets for the tie sold out in minutes.
Although Spain is without world No. 1 Rafael Nadal, facing the Spanish team will be a tough assignment, as the Americans will still face world No. 6 David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez and Marcel Granollers.
The two teams are meeting for the first time since the 2008 semifinals in Madrid on clay, which Spain won 4-1 behind two singles wins from Nadal. However, Spain has never defeated the Americans in the U.S., which includes a U.S. quarterfinal victory in 2007 in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Both teams are filled with veterans who are very familiar with each other. Lopez played a great all-around match with fantastic serving to defeat Roddick in the third round of Wimbledon last week for the first time in his career, to seven previous losses to the American.
It was Roddick’s earliest exit at Wimbledon since 2008. He also battled a shoulder injury this spring that forced him out of Roland Garros, but the second-most winning player in U.S. Davis Cup Team history with 33 singles victories will be ready in Austin.
"The next plan is you get ready for Davis Cup. I'm going to be seeing some of these guys again in two weeks. So you go home and regroup and see where we’re at then," Roddick said after his Wimbledon loss. "I'm certainly thankful for the opportunity (to have a Davis Cup tie in his hometown)."
Courier and Spanish Davis Cup Captain Albert Costa do not have to announce their official lineups until the draw ceremony on Thursday, July 7, but it would seem likely Ferrer and Verdasco would play singles for Spain as the two highest-ranked singles players, although maybe Lopez’s win over Roddick will put him into the mix.
Roddick and Fish will certainly start out as Courier’s two singles players to go with the world No. 1 doubles team of the Bryans.
Both have had prior success against Ferrer and the southpaws Verdasco and Lopez. Roddick is just 3-4 against Ferrer, but the two have not played since 2009. Against Verdasco, Roddick has a 10-3 advantage in their careers, including a straight-sets win at Queen’s in June on grass.
Fish is coming off a great run at Wimbledon, where he advanced to the quarterfinals, matching his best career showing at a Grand Slam. He reached his career-high ranking of No. 9 in June and has picked up in 2011 much where he left off in 2010, when after shedding 30 pounds, amongst other changes, he has played some of the best tennis of his career.
He was not on the U.S. team for its first-round victory over Chile in March in Santiago and is looking forward to playing for Courier and returning to Davis Cup for the first time since winning all three matches (two singles and doubles with John Isner) for the U.S. in its 3-1 victory over Colombia in the World Group Playoffs last September. Fish's stellar performance secured the U.S.’s place in the World Group for 2011.
"Andy’s always been the guy. He’s gonna be the guy that we all sort of bounce off of and lean on and get our energy from," Fish said of the team. "It will be great playing for Jim. Obviously I wasn’t there in Chile. This will be my first time with him, so I’m really excited."
Fish defeated Ferrer in straight sets on the hardcourts in Miami in March, and he holds a 3-1 career mark against Verdasco, winning their only match of 2010 on a hardcourt in Cincinnati. He won both his matches against Lopez last year.
In doubles, the U.S. would seem to have a distinct advantage with the Bryans, arguably the greatest doubles team of all time, who are a dominant 18-2 in their Davis Cup careers. Granollers is Spain’s highest-ranked doubles player, sitting at No. 25 in the world rankings.
Roddick has been the team leader in his Davis Cup career, in which he is 19-2 on hardcourts as part of his 33 wins and 20-4 indoors, and he will be again, especially in a city that means so much to him in a tie he has been looking forward to playing.
"It’s weird to have my home life in Austin and my tennis life; it seems like they’re almost two different existences. For the two of them to come together for that weekend, it’s pretty cool," he said. "There’s normally such a distinct line between the two. I’m curious to see how it goes. I was excited to see the support that it got in Austin."