By Jason Brown, USTA.com
SANTIAGO, Chile – Andy Roddick made a triumphant return and John Isner was stunned in a five-set thriller, making for an eventful debut for new U.S. Captain Jim Courier.
Winning the opening match on Friday of the World Group First Round series, Roddick defeated Nicolas Massu 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Up two sets to none, No. 2 singles player John Isner was toppled by a gutty effort from Chile’s No. 1 player Paul Capdeville, falling 6-7(5), 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 7-6(5), 6-4.
The U.S. and Chile are now tied, 1-1, in the best-of-five series at the Estadio Nacional Court Central.
Playing in his first match for the U.S. in nearly two years, the rough-and-tumble Texan re-affirmed his status as one of the greatest American Davis Cup players ever.
"The nerves beforehand, and the glances at your bench for encouragement – all those little things came back to me," said Roddick, who last played for the U.S. in a 2009 First Round win over Switzerland in Birmingham, Ala.
"There were various times that felt familiar and certain things that you forget about. So it was fun to get out there and battle again," he added.
Roddick also helped make Jim Courier’s debut as U.S. team captain a memorable one, with a 2 hours and 49 minute victory to earn the win. Roddick improved his Davis Cup singles record to 32-11, good for second on the all-time team list.
Courier, a two-time Davis Cup champion, succeeded Patrick McEnroe, and helped guide Roddick to the win.
"One match is tough to compare to 10 years," said Roddick, comparing the coaching styles and wardrobe choices of Courier and McEnroe.
"Jim was pretty calm out there," said Roddick. "He had the voice of reason. He had the good dress slack going. He came out dressed strong. He portrayed a sense of elegance early on which I thought set the tone."
With their top player, Fernando Gonzalez, watching from the team bench as he continues to rehab from hip surgery, the Chileans are playing a patchwork four-man unit consisting of Capdeville, Aguilar, Massu, and Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz.
Roddick quickly raced out to a 4-1 opening set lead. A double-fault from Massu on set point handed the American the early advantage.
Although his glory years are far behind him, Massu mounted a challenge. Bolstered by the energy of the crowd and driven by a need to prove his mettle against a top 10 player, Massu broke Roddick in the first game of the second set, and soon leveled the match at one set apiece.
"When he won the second set, I just went back to work," said Roddick. "As far as him getting excited, that’s what you’re supposed to do with a home crowd. Credit to him, he always competes."
The turning point of the match came midway through the third set. With Massu on serve at 2-3, Roddick summoned a charge, and pressured the Chilean into a flurry of unforced errors to secure a key break.
Roddick won nine of the final 13 games of the match, sealed with a break and consolidated service hold to put him up 4-2 in the fourth set.
"Basically, it was just about making him execute time after time," said Roddick. "It was a pretty boring game-plan, but it was one that I knew that I just had to execute."
A real American hero, Roddick punctuated the win on the sidelines with a Chuck Norris imitation that included a round-house kick to the delight of the team bench.
Bob and Mike Bryan are matched up against Massu and Jorge Aguilar on Sunday. The series concludes on Sunday with reverse singles matches featuring Roddick vs. Capdeville and Isner vs. Massu.
The U.S. holds an unbeaten Davis Cup record of 4-0 against Chile, including the most recent encounter during the 2006 quarterfinals, a 3-2 victory on grass in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
The winner between the U.S. and Chile advances to the quarterfinals to face either Belgium or Spain, July 8-10.
Spain holds a commanding 2-0 advantage over host Belgium behind impressive singles victories from Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco.
If the U.S. wins, it is guaranteed to host the quarterfinal tie at a site to be determined.
Schedule of Play:
R1: Andy Roddick (USA) def. Nicolas Massu (CHI), 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
R2: Paul Capdeville (CHI) def. John Isner (USA), 6-7(5), 6-7(2), 7-6(3), 7-6(5), 6-4
R3: Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (USA) vs. Jorge Aguilar/Nicolas Massu (CHI)
[LIVE on Tennis Channel at 10am ET]
R4: Andy Roddick (USA) vs. Paul Capdeville (CHI)
[LIVE on Tennis Channel at 9am ET]
R5: John Isner (USA) vs. Nicolas Massu (CHI)
[LIVE on Tennis Channel at 12pm ET]