Davis Cup Dispatch: Spain Reigns In Austin

Monday, July 11, 2011 /by

AUSTIN, Texas—To borrow a phrase from a colleague, the drought continues in Austin, Tex., but it reigns in Spain.

On Sunday, the Spanish team beat the United States when David Ferrer defeated Mardy Fish 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 7-6 (5). The victory clinched the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie for Spain, 3-1. Captain Albert Costa and his team now move on to a semifinal meeting with France, which defeated Germany, 4-1.

The American player put on a valiant show, but ultimately a shaky forehand and an inability to convert breakpoints—out of 18 chances, he only broke Ferrer four times—hurt him the most. Of course, Ferrer’s never-say-diestyle of play was also a major factor this weekend. Many times during his two matches, fans at the Frank Erwin Center would begin cheering when it seemed like his American opponent had hit a clear winner, only Ferrer would be able to run down those shots and put the ball away or keep the point going until his opponent committed an error. “That’s how he makes his living,” said Fish after the match. “He’s one of the best movers in the world. Makes you play extra balls. He can hit passing shots extremely well. He’s six in the world for a reason, and that’s why.”

After falling behind two sets, Fish was able to come back and win the third with some gutsy serve-and-volleying and confident play at the net that put pressure on Ferrer. And he was able to control many points from the baseline in the fourth set to push Ferrer to a tiebreaker. But it wasn’t enough to stop the Spaniard, who fell to the floor when Fish hit yet another shaky forehand out on match point.

Much to the disappointment of the 16,000-plus fans, it was decided by the coaches that there wouldn’t be a fifth dead rubber played between Austin resident Andy Roddick and Feliciano Lopez. At the postmatch press conference, Captain Jim Courier said that while Roddick “had a history of not liking to play those matches,” the fans witnessed “one of the best four-set matches you could ever see, plenty of theatrics, plenty of intensity.” In fact, at four hours and 11 minutes, it was the longest four-set match in Davis Cup history since the tiebreaker was added in 1981.

Speaking of theatrics and intensity, there was plenty to go round. During the pre-match player introduction ceremony, there were enough pyrotechnics and fireworks going off, you’d think it was 1979 and you were attending a Kiss concert. Even during the guitar solo National Anthem by Austin guitarist Gary Clark Jr., there were a few sparks going off.
 

 And, as was the case on Friday and Saturday, the crowd was trying its best to rouse the players. “This is the loudest Davis cup I’ve ever been a part of,” Fish said after his second loss. Before almost every second serve, the chair umpire had to motion for silence. Too bad a fan dressed as The Simpsons’ Duffman or Brooklyn Decker, who was sitting behind said fan and wearing stars on her cheeks and rattling a pompom noisemaker, couldn’t help motivate Fish to overcome the human backboard otherwise known as David Ferrer.

As for what lies ahead for the Americans, Courier is optimistic. “We certainly felt like we were one of the favorites as far as teams go this year because we have such depth,” he said after the match on Sunday. “We have four great singles players and Bob and Mike Bryan. A lot of options, a lot of weapons. Next year I feel the same. Our guys are very strong players.  We'll learn from this and take these lessons forward. Only one team can win this year. It's not going to be us. We'll point our attention towards 2012.”

And with that, here are a few other notes from Austin:

Would You Like Fries with Your Burger?

Midway through the fourth set, benchwarmer Fernando Verdasco was seen gobbling up a hamburger. During the post-match press conference—attended by all the Spanish team—I asked him how the burgers were. First, he corrected me and said he had only one burger and some popcorn. “I enjoy a lot eating that American way,” he said. He also said that he was used to supporting Ferrer and that he was his assistant, to which Ferrer responded. “He was my assistant this week.” And laughter ensued.

Show Some Respect

While to this observer the fans suffered from a little over-enthusiasm (Seriously, rattling those horrible noisemakers in between serves? Not cool}, but the Spanish team didn’t seem to mind. They even went as far as to call the fans “respectful.” First Verdasco: “I think that the crowd was, of course, supporting the U.S. team, but I think it was a good crowd, no? We’re used to playing in countries like Argentina or other ones that they were much worse that this. I think that everybody was respectful.” Then Captain Albert Costa agreed with him. “They support their team, but it’s very respectful. They don’t yell in the middle of the first and second serve,” he said. Yeah, but they do like to use those noisemakers, no?

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