Davis Cup

United States’ Mike Bryan, left, and doubles partner Bob Bryan celebrate after beating Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and Marcel Granollers 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 at the Davis Cup quarterfinal tennis match Saturday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

American tennis fans walked away Sunday afternoon disappointed that their nation lost the Davis Cup tie to Spain 3-1.
But thanks to Mike and Bob Bryan, they at least got their money’s worth.

The most successful doubles pair in U.S. Davis Cup history took the Erwin Center by storm Saturday afternoon, turning a match against Spain into the tennis equivalent of a rock concert.

A flying chest bump was the exclamation point of the Bryan Brothers’ 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Fernando Verdasco and Marcel Granollers in four sets, the lone win for the Americans this weekend.

The outcome of the match was never really in doubt — after all, Verdasco and Granollers had never even played a doubles match together — but the Bryans took a set to warm up.

“We were pretty jacked up,” said Mike.

Added older brother Bob: “With a best-of-three set match, you have a little more time to boogey-woogey. We had a lot of looks in the first.”

The match-up never favored Spain. With Feliciano Lopez scratching after a tiring Friday match against Mardy Fish, captain Albert Costa turned to Granollers, who was only on the team as Rafael Nadal’s replacement. And Verdasco, while an accomplished singles player, isn’t much of a doubles guy — ranked No. 398 in the world.

So they didn’t have a chance against the Bryans, identical twins who have spent much of their lives together. The first set went to Spain, and that was it. The combination of Bob’s serve and Mike’s return game proved devastating, and the two just got better as the match went on.

“We were pretty stingy on our serve,” Mike said. “We were pretty confident up the break. Had a couple of crazy, long volleys.”

The highlight of the match was a play in the final set in which the twins both went up for the same overhead attempt, only to crash racquets. The ball still got over the net, and the crowd went wild.

“I think Bob hit it,” Mike said. “But I crushed his racquet.”

Throughout the match, opposite sides of the Erwin Center engaged in pre- and post-point chants, the most common of which was a “Bob! Mike!” cheer, similar to UT basketball games when one part of the arena yells “Texas!” and the other responds “Fight!”

The win renewed hope and drew the U.S. closer to Spain, 2-1. After the match, Costa expressed concern that it was enough to change the tide of the weekend’s momentum.

“I’m not feeling like we are the favorites,” he said.

Of course, Spain’s David Ferrer shot down any hopes America had at a comeback with his four-set victory over Mardy Fish on Sunday, making the Bryans’ win on Saturday the only positive happening of the quarterfinals.

“We love [the] Davis Cup, it’s a huge part of our career,” Bob said. “Some of our best memories have come from Davis Cup.”

Printed on 07/11/2011 as: Bryans put on show for United States: Doubles pair gives crowd something to cheer about during frustrating week

Spain’s team celebrates by tossing David Ferrer, who defeated Mardy Fish of the United States, 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-6 (5) during a Davis Cup tennis quarterfinal match Sunday. Spain won 3-1.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

David Ferrer lost just one set all weekend. America had no chance.

The Spaniard embarrassed Austinite Andy Roddick on Friday in straight sets, then eliminated Mardy Fish and Team USA on Sunday, winning 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-6 (5) to give Spain a final 3-1 win over the U.S. in the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

Ferrer, the No. 6 player in the world, flummoxed Fish time and time again. He was a human backboard, sitting on the far end of the court and returning everything hit his way.

“He’s very good from the baseline,” Fish said after the match. “He’s one of the best movers in the world. That’s how he makes his living.”

It looked as if Ferrer would make it a short afternoon for the announced 16,000 in attendance at the Frank Erwin Center, making quick work of Fish in the first two sets. But the American battled back to win the third set 7-5 and put some pressure on Ferrer.

“There was a lot of tension in the match,” Ferrer said.

Fish had his chances. He led 5-3 in the first set before committing 20 unforced errors — his backhand shot seemed magnetically drawn to the net — and allowing Ferrer to break his serve twice. He lost the second set on a tiebreaker, 7-3. The fourth could have gone Fish’s way too, but Ferrer outlasted him on another tiebreaker.

“He just kind of came up with one or two better shots than I did,” Fish said.

Considering how successful Ferrer has been in his career slapping shots back and forth from the baseline, Fish and U.S. Captain Jim Courier decided to turn to a more aggressive approach in the final sets, which yielded better results.

“We wanted to put a lot of pressure on him [at the net],” Fish said. “I wanted to utilize my volleys a little bit, try to strike through the court low and hard.”

The change managed to frustrate Ferrer a bit — he was issued a warning after crushing a ball into the mezzanine — but it wasn’t enough.

“There’s a reason he’s No. 6 in the world,” Fish said.

That’s a startling fact for the other national powers in men’s tennis, because Ferrer isn’t even the best singles player in Spain. That honor belongs to the world’s No. 2, Rafael Nadal, who was a late Davis Cup scratch.

“Spain is probably the deepest nation out there in men’s tennis. That’s a great advantage to have, no doubt about it,” Courier said.

The Americans had advantages as well. Fish and Roddick, the No. 8 and No. 10 players in the world, respectively, are no scrubs. And the pro-USA crowd at the Erwin Center was louder than it is for most basketball games.

“The crowd was incredible,” Fish said. “It’s the loudest Davis Cup I’ve ever been a part of.”
Had Fish beaten Ferrer, Roddick would have played Feliciano Lopez (who beat Fish in Friday’s first match) in the decisive rubber match.

“I badly wanted to get to the point where we could get Andy out there playing for the fifth match,” Fish said. “That’s the hardest part for me, knowing how much he wanted the Davis Cup to be here in Austin. It would have been a great ending for the tie here, him playing in front of his home fans.”

It didn’t happen. David Ferrer was just too good.

Printed on 07/11/2011 as: Davis Cup Defeat

Mardy Fish is the first singles competitor to be paired up for the Davis Cup. Fish, ranked No.8 in the world, is set to play against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, No.31, on Friday.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Massive American and Spanish flags framed Austin band Asleep at the Wheel as they opened the Davis Cup's draw ceremony and belted “Happy Trails” with a country twang Thursday.

This year is the first time Austin hosts the 111-year-old tournament. Ticket sale revenue from the draw ceremony, which sold out in less than two weeks, went to relief efforts for tornado-ravaged Joplin, Mo.

The American and Spanish tennis teams will play five sold-out matches at the Frank Erwin Center from July 8-10. The draw ceremony determined and announced the match-ups for the weekend.

More than 700 people attended the draw ceremony, said Keri-Dawn Solner, a private events coordinator for Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater, where the event was held.

The United States Tennis Association created more opportunities for public participation this year by including open practices and the music at the draw ceremony.

“Usually it’s just a press event, but for the first time they opened it up to the public,” Solner said. “They turned it into more of a lunchtime musical performance.”

Ray Benson, lead singer for Asleep at the Wheel who plays tennis recreationally, drew the names of the tennis players to determine this weekend’s match-ups.

Midland business owner Jeremy Jones brought his family to see the Davis Cup and the draw ceremony.

“It gave a great taste of Texas — the whole music vibe with tennis,” Jones said. “They really did a good job of making those worlds come together.”

Local disc jockey Bobby Bones hosted the draw and brought Austinite Andy Roddick’s second grade teacher on stage. Karon Wheeless, the retired teacher, said even in elementary school Roddick had an interest in tennis that could be seen in the classroom.

“I did find out that the best place for Andy was in the back because he could get up and practice his back swing,” Wheeless said.

American Team Captain Jim Courier said fans have shown a great deal of energy that he expects to see at the matches.

“You should treat it a little bit like a college football team — in between the points,” Courier said. “We’d like you to clap a little louder for the American team.”

Andy Roddick practices Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center. Roddick will play Spain’s David Ferrer on Friday.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Mardy Fish will be the No. 1 singles player for the U.S. in this weekend’s Davis Cup, team captain Jim Courier announced during Friday’s draw.

Fish, the No. 8 player in the world, will face off against Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in Friday’s ‘A’ match.

“Mardy coming out of the blocks is good for us,” Courier said. “We’ll look forward to that.”

Austinite Andy Roddick will be the country’s No. 2 player. Some felt that Roddick could be given the top-seed because he serves as the ambassador between the host city of Austin and the Davis Cup, but Courier said that never influenced his decision.

“Andy obviously will be backing him up,” he said. “There’s no real drama for us. Sorry not to give you a headline, but it kind of is what it is.”

The Fish-Lopez match will be important for both countries, as that first point (in first-to-three format) can be vital.

“It obviously sets the tone,” Fish said. “We’ve got a pretty good guy [Roddick] coming behind me, as well. So, you know, I won’t feel any extra pressure. We’re looking to get to three, and that’s the goal.”

Roddick will take on David Ferrer, the world’s No. 6 player. On the season, the Spaniard has a 34-10 record and holds the head-to-head advantage over Roddick, 4-3.

Ferrer’s greatest asset is his elite return game — the Spanish Andre Agassi — and that should help him against Roddick’s killer serve.

But A-Rod will have home-court advantage — one that goes much farther than just partial fans. The indoor court in the Frank Erwin Center plays incredibly quick, an advantage that has been met with disapproval by the Spaniards.

“The mandate is not for us to find a court that suits everyone, it’s to find a court that suits ourselves within the rules, which is what we’ve done,” Courier said. “So we’re very happy with the court.”

The singles matches will flip on Sunday, with Roddick playing Lopez — a rematch of the third round of this year’s Wimbledon, which resulted in a win for Lopez. Fish will battle Ferrer.

The USA doubles twins, Bob and Mike Bryan, who are a week removed from victory on the Wimbledon grass, face off against Lopez and Fernando Verdasco on Saturday.

“It’s indoors. It’s a hard court. It’s different balls,” Bob Bryan said. “But we still have a smile on our face from the Wimbledon title.”

According to the Austin Sports Commission, the Davis Cup is expected to bring in $5 million in revenue to the city. The three day tournament between US and Spain is already sold out despite Rafael Nadal’s absence.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

The hum of the air conditioner buzzed over the sound of tennis balls thwacking against the floor of the Frank Erwin Center. Wednesday afternoon, top tennis players from Spain and the U.S. practiced in the nearly empty arena, which will host 16,200 people each day this weekend for the Davis Cup.

The Davis Cup is an international pro-tennis team competition. The sold out event is July 8 to July 10. The Davis Cup Draw Ceremony will feature local band Asleep at the Wheel and the two teams at the Moody Theater at 12 p.m. today.

This will be the first time USA player Andy Roddick competes in a professional event in Austin, his current home. The No. 10 world ranked tennis player vied for the Davis Cup to be brought to Austin.

The United States Tennis Association is putting on the event. Jeff Ryan, senior director of team events for the association, looked into Austin serving as the home for the tournament. It takes eight days to set up the court, conduct the practices and competitions and strike the court from the center, Ryan said.

“Andy Roddick has been telling us Austin would be a great city,” Ryan said. “For the first time in a while the Frank Erwin Center was available.”

Spain’s Rafael Nadal was the world’s No. 1 ranked tennis player until an upset at Wimbledon last week. He was expected to play in this weekend’s tournament, but he recently changed his mind because of a foot injury.

“People in this sport know that it’s a country against country competition — not individual against individual,” Ryan said. “There would have been far bigger disappointment levels if Andy couldn’t have played.”

The event is expected to bring in $5 million in revenue to the city, according to the Austin Sports Commission at the Austin Convention Center and Visitor’s Bureau.

The court is an acrylic hard court made in a warehouse and then assembled in square sections on the floor of the center, which normally hosts the UT basketball teams and events such as concerts. The Spanish team is used to clay courts which are categorized as a different speed than acrylic courts. The team protested the speed of the floor, but officials denied the claim after investigation.

Tito Moreinas, a tennis player and junior at Winston Churchill High School in San Antonio, is one of four ball boys chosen for the tournament.

“I play a lot of tennis, so I’ve always wanted to see matches close up, and I think that’s the closest you can get being a ball boy,” Moreiras said.

Printed on 07/07/2011 as: Frank Erwin Center to host Davis Cup

Andy Roddick returns a hit during Davis Cup practice Wednesday at the Frank Erwin Center. Roddick is ranked No. 12 in the world.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Andy Roddick pulled up from a sharp forehand during an open practice Wednesday afternoon, a shot that failed to clear the net, and turned to the group of a hundred-something spectators who had come to watch their favorite player at the Frank Erwin Center.

“Hey guys, could you turn the flash off your cameras?” he asked politely. “It makes it hard to see.”

Roddick, who grew up in Austin, would be wise to get used to the bright lights of this weekend’s Davis Cup World Group Quarterfinals against Spain because, as far as American tennis fans are concerned, he represents the country’s best shot at drawing some national pride to a country that hasn’t been the same since Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras hung it up.

He is no longer the top ranked player in the United States — that honor belongs to Mardy Fish, who is also participating in this weekend’s Davis Cup — but his 155-mph serve, his Lacoste flair and his swimsuit model wife Brooklyn Decker make him the most recognizable. Roddick’s practice Wednesday was half a showcase of his talent, half a showcase of flamboyance. After steaming an ace right past sparring mate Steve Johnson, Roddick let out a one-liner that would make Mack Brown proud.

“It’s cause you’re a USC fan,” he said to the crimson and gold-clad Johnson.

It was clearly a pro-Roddick crowd, one that oohed, aahed and took pictures — no flash — as he kept the highlight plays coming — a serve so fast it broke the backstop, midair forehands, a twirling, no-look forehand with his back to the net. He also provided the moment of the day, “planking” (the practice of lying face down in an unusual or incongruous location) in the middle of the court during a live volley.

“It’s just nice to see excitement for tennis in this area of the world,” he said.

Roddick, 28, won the 2003 US Open, making him the last North American male to win a Grand Slam event. He has faltered in recent Grand Slams, losing in the semifinals at both Wimbledon and the Australian Open in 2009. Former coach Jimmy Connors, an American tennis hero in his own right, said a few weeks ago that Roddick has lost a step.

“I think for him to win one, he’d have to come up with something very, very special now,” Connors said in a mid-June conference call. “The other guys have kind of gotten onto him a bit.”

Feliciano Lopez — who is representing Spain in the Davis Cup — took down Roddick in Wimbledon in three sets two weeks ago, and Roddick says the upcoming Davis Cup helped him heal emotionally.

“I felt like I was playing well going into Wimbledon. [I] played decent, ran into a guy who was serving really well and was a hot player. It’s actually probably healthy for me that I had this around the corner,” he said. “It was something that I could instantly focus on after the fact.”

Some of the oomph was taken out of the Davis Cup when Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament due to a foot injury suffered during Wimbledon, a loss that is sure to disappoint fans eager to see the showy Spaniard.

“We don’t control who Spain brings; we just have to control their efforts,” said U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier. “I think the fans will probably have more mixed emotions than we will.”

Excitement at the Davis Cup should still be in full supply though. As everyone in attendance Wednesday saw, this Roddick is pretty flashy himself.

Printed on 07/07/2011 as:  Tennis pro returns, expects to help USA advance past Spain

In a city devoid of any major professional sports teams, individuals often take on larger-than-life roles as Austin residents latch onto hometown heroes.

Relatively few international sporting events are held in town, resulting in frustration for fans that want to watch their idols up close.

That changes this summer. Local tennis star Andy Roddick will face the world’s best player, Rafael Nadal, in July here in Austin.

The only remaining question is exactly when.

The U.S. will host Spain in the second round of the Davis Cup July 8-10 in Austin, the United States Tennis Association announced Wednesday. It is the first Davis Cup tie, as the competition is known, in the city’s history.

The individual matchups will not be announced until 10 days before the tie, but Roddick is expected to face Nadal in a singles draw, possibly in a victory-clinching match on July 10.

“It will be a dream come true, and I’m excited for the tennis community of Austin,” Roddick said by telephone from Miami.

The Davis Cup is the sport’s oldest international team competition, dating back to 1899.

The U.S. is the tournament’s best all-time performer, with a record 32 titles and an overall record of 210-64. Spain has won four titles, all since 2000 and most recently in 2009.

Roddick, a Davis Cup regular, is second in U.S. history with 33 victories in the event. He secured the Americans’ first-round victory over Chile with a win on March 7.

Nadal has pledged to play for Spain in the second round and, as the top performer on the world’s top-ranked team, would most likely face Roddick.

“There has been a little bit of a history of some gamesmanship between us and Spain,” said Jack Ryan, senior professional director for USTA. “They might withhold some information until the very last minute.”

Roddick was a large part of the bid process. The USTA also considered San Antonio and Albany, N.Y., as possible sites to host the contest.

“Over the years ... he was very active in getting our attention and talking to us about coming to Austin,” Ryan said about Roddick.

The tie will take place at the Erwin Center. Tickets start at $90 and go on sale April 8 for the general public.

“I think it’s going to be one of those crowds that’s going to get riled up pretty quickly,” Ryan said. 

The United States Tennis Association is expected to announce that Austin has been selected to host a second-round Davis Cup match in a press conference scheduled for today in the Frank Erwin Center.

The Davis Cup, an international team tennis tournament, is a single-knockout competition that boasts some of the world’s best male players.

The United States plays Spain on June 8-10. The other finalists to host the event were San Antonio and Albany, N.Y.

U.S. player Andy Roddick lives in Austin and has said in the past he’d like the city to host a Davis Cup tie, as the contests are known. Roddick sealed the Americans’ first-round victory with a singles win over Chile’s Paul Capdeville earlier this month and will headline the team’s lineup in the second round.

He will face some stiff competition — Rafael Nadal, the world’s No. 1 player, has committed to play for Spain in the second round.

There hasn’t been a Davis Cup tie in the U.S. in more than two-and-a-half years.

The Erwin Center would also host the event this summer in a series of five matches — four singles, one doubles — during the three-day period.

The host nation gets to decide what surface the tie will be played on. Roddick and most of the Americans prefer hard courts, although Nadal has found success on almost every major tennis surface. The American is second all-time on his country’s list of Davis Cup appearances at 44. Overall, the U.S. is the winningest side in Davis Cup history with 32 titles. Spain, currently ranked as the world’s best team, has four titles.

Jeff Ryan, the association’s senior director of professional operations, will be on hand to make the announcement along with Gov. Rick Perry.