By Herman R. Gibbs, special to USTA.com
Jon Rydberg laid down the championship marker in the Men's World Group 2 competition when the US side made it's bow at the 2011 ITF Wheelchair Tennis World Team Cup in Pretoria, South Africa, on Tuesday.
Rydberg and his teammates had a vacation day on Monday but when they swung into action Morocco bore the full brunt of the US challenge, which is on a mission to win promotion to the elite Men's World Group 1.
The Morocco No 1 Mohamed Bakhtali was blown away in a matter of 36 minutes as Rydberg swept to a 6-0 6-0 win. "It was just a smooth, solid performance and I was not trying to do too much," said Rydberg afterwards. "It was a good chance to work on net play and when I had a chance I gave it stick." Rydberg's cavalier approach made for a treat as his supporting US team mates lapped up his show of power tennis, laced with bouts of serve and volley.
Steve Welch was next up to continue the rout and Morocco's Boukartacha Haj wilted under his 6-0 6-2 onslaught 53 minutes later.
Paul Moran stepped into the fray along with Rydberg to round off the 3-0 tie drubbing with a 6-0 6-2 triumph over Haj and Ayoub Ettali.
The impressive US quads side were made to work hard against Italy in their Group A clash, but they prevailed 3-0 in the end.
First up, Nick Taylor overcame an indifferent start and ground out a workmanlike performance for his 7-6(4) 7-5 win over Italy's Antonio Raffaele.
David Wagner didn't have it all his own way initially against Marco Innocenti but once he pocketed the first set 7-6 with a 7-4 tiebreak scoreline he wrapped up the second set fairly comfortably for an eventual 7-6(4) 6-1 win over the Italian.
Taylor was up for the kill in his power chair later again when he was joined by Bryan Barten for the doubles showdown against Innocenti and Giuseppe Polidori. After a first-set breeze the Americans duo were stretched to the limits but they seemed to feed off the courtside support as they ran out 6-1 7-5 winners.
Wagner said afterwards the US team were mentally attuned for the week-long event and were wary of under-estimating opponents. "Wheelchair tennis has shown that any one can beat any one on any given day," said Wagner. "Our team seem to have benefited from the play at Sun City last week, and I for one, have not been affected by the high altitude. "At a tournament such as this there can be many distractions so one can expect some testing times when you need to stay focused."
Near the end of day, the US juniors ran into the Spanish Armada and were at the end of a 3-0 defeat in their Group A clash.
Spain's juniors won the championship last year and their experience was in always in evidence as first Roberto Chamizo defeated Ryan Nelson 6-1 6-1 and then Daniel Caverzachi triumphed against rookie Shelby Baron 6-2 6-2.
The Spanish duo oif Chamizo and Caverzachi rounded off with a 6-0 6-3 win as the US pairing Nelson and Baron went down fighting to the end.