Sunday, February 22, 2015

Davis Cup 2015: a USA vs. GBR round table preview

On the Rise (a tennis blog) is pleased to bring you our first non-jokey round table! This one is a preview of the upcoming Davis Cup World Group first round tie between the United States and Great Britain, where Team USA will be looking to avenge last year's first round defeat in San Diego. Joining blog proprietor Jonathan Kelley will be Lang of Just Drop the Ball, Baseline Bagels of Baseline Bagels, recurring contributor Patrick Rourke, and everyone's favorite favoriter Parsa.

To begin, here's an intro from Parsa himself:

Last year, Great Britain defeated USA 3-1. One main reason for the United States’ defeat last year was that number one American John Isner was forced to miss the tie with a right ankle injury which allowed Donald Young to take his place and play his first-ever Davis Cup tie. The tie was contested in San Diego, California and played on red clay courts, which was selected by the Americans. Young got crushed in three sets by Andy Murray in the first rubber before Sam Querrey was upset by James Ward in five sets (after leading 2 sets to 1 and 4-2 in the fourth)., who at the time was ranked 175 in the world. The Bryan Brothers, the most dominant doubles duo in the past decade, then got the lone victory for the United States in doubles before Murray took out Querrey in four sets to clinch the tie for Great Britain. The match that most thought would decide the outcome of the tie, Young against Ward, was not played.

Unlike like last year, the United States will not have home-court advantage this time around as the tie will be played in Glasgow, Scotland on indoor hard courts. The Brits will have some extra support as about 7,100 rowdy British spectators are expected to watch the tie in the Emirates Arena, where a temporary tennis court has been built. Great Britain will surely select their top two singles players, two-time grand slam champion Andy Murray as well as James Ward (ranked #106), who this week qualified to the main draw of Dubai. The Brits will have more options to choose from on the doubles side as they can put Andy Murray in for doubles, or they could pick from their four top-100 doubles players, Jamie Murray, Dominic Inglot, Jonathan Marray, or Colin Fleming. Jamie Murray, Andy's older brother, has twelve career doubles titles including one this year in Brisbane with his partner John Peers. Former Virginia Cavalier Inglot has three career doubles titles and has reached two finals this year as well as the quarterfinals at this year’s Australian Open. Marray has two career doubles titles including one this year in Chennai with Yen-Hsun Lu. Meanwhile, Fleming has seven career doubles title and he also reached the finals of Marseille this past week with Marray, losing 10-8 in the supertiebreak to Kontinen & Draganja.

Unlike the Brits, there are some question marks for the United States as to who captain Jim Courier will select for second singles. Last week on The Tennis Podcast, former world number four American James Blake said, “I think John Isner and the Bryans are pretty much locked in.” Although he has struggled mightily this year with a 3-3 record and has reached only one QF (Memphis), John Isner barring any injury will be the number one American for the tie against Great Britain and the incredibly reliant Bryan Brothers will play the doubles rubber. That leaves just one singles spot to be determined by Captain Courier and his options are Donald Young, Sam Querrey, and Steve Johnson.

Jonathan Kelley: Have the results of the past two weeks changed your calculus of who Captain Courier should pick for Davis Cup?

Baseline Bagels: Possibly for me. Querrey still seems like the comfortable choice due to better form, experience and the surface. Steve Johnson is an intriguing option, though. Davis Cup is a natural extension to the college tennis format, and he competes really well. I think Johnson has the perfect mentality to overachieve in a hostile environment. To me, DY's form is exciting but he's not a guy I'd pick, even is Isner wasn't available.

Patrick Rourke: Not for me. We always knew that the Bryan Brothers and Isner were going to be mortal locks, although leaving Isner out seems to be an increasingly popular option in some circles. This is so ridiculous to me that I wont even dignify it with a response. As has been said time and time again, the question is who can consistently beat the British no.2 And for that reason it has to be Steve Johnson for me. I think Querrey has the best chance to beat Murray, but with one Isner win and the doubles rubber virtually guaranteed, the last spot shouldn't be picked off this. Donald Young has played some of his best tennis in recent memory, but I still feel more comfortable with Johnson to beat Ward. Am I judging this more off DY's past than what he's shown lately? Probably. But it will take more than a couple good weeks for me to believe he's really turned the corner. Now this will all be irrelevant because Courier will just pick Querrey again. That worked out great last time, didn't it Jimmy?

Lang: Given the British strength in Dominic Inglot, Jamie Murray etc., difficult to remove the Bryans from doubles duty.

Querrey is a veteran, having contested in numerous DC matches alongside Isner for many years. He is a good indoor player and has reached the semis of ATP Memphis before falling in a nail-biter to eventual 3-peat champion Kei Nishikori. However, he retired in the first round of Delray Beach this week with back problem so health could be an issue. And despite the DC experience, mental strength is not really his forte.

Johnson is having a good year thus far. He reached the 3rd round of the Australian Open and quarterfinals of Auckland, Memphis, and Delray Beach. In the mold of Isner and Querrey, his big serve and forehand are advantageous on indoor surface. He thrives in team competitions (singles and doubles), having won four straight NCAA team titles for USC and was named Mylan World TeamTennis Rookie of the Year. He also makes a good cheerleader on the sideline. Despite the consistency, his backhand will be vulnerable against Murray.

Young is in great form, reached semis of Memphis and final of Delray Beach. Young lacks the big weapons of the previous mentioned players but he is a lefty, versatile, and matches up better against the Brits than Johnson. He also has had doubles success recently defeating Querrey/Johnson in Memphis before falling 10-8 in the final. He struggled mentally in the past, but has improved a lot this past year. Though he kinda reverted back today in the final against Karlovic. However, he would not face a huge server in Glasgow.

And it is hard to justify stripping John Isner of the No. 1 singles given his ranking, experience, and the tie surface (indoor). If going with my head, I would say Isner, the Bryans, and Johnson. As Patrick said, getting wins over No. 2 Brit should be the focus and Johnson is mentally better for this situation than Young.

Parsa: With an impressive 10-4 record this year, Young has managed to have his best season in his career thusfar as he looks to continue upon his promising start through the first two months of the season. In their only encounter, Young cruised by Ward in straight sets in the first round of the 2014 Aegon International. Young easily handling Ward begs the question of whether Young could have gotten the job done against Ward last February had Querrey not been upset by Ward.

Young has certainly had an impressive 10-4 start to the season. Querrey had a good showing in Memphis, but Johnson has been the most consistent among the three in the past few months and his team experience from college is certainly something that must not be overlooked. Johnson has five losses this year coming from Anderson (2), Karlovic, and Nishikori(2). Stevie hasn’t performed the best when he’s faced big servers this year, but that’s not something he has to worry about as neither Murray or Ward have booming serves to say the least. Isner, Johnson, and the Bryan brothers can certainly go to Glasgow and tough out a 3-2 victory over the Brits!

JK: I said earlier this week on Twitter and I still strongly believe - Courier would be foolish not to pick Johnson at #2 singles. His success in team format is off-the-charts amazing. He's not likely to crack under the pressure of a hostile crowd. And he would likely beat Ward on a fast surface with few problems. I also think he has a decent chance to make things uncomfortable for Andy

Next question: If Courier does go with Querrey, what can the team do to rid itself of the horrors of last year's rubber vs Ward?

PR: Win. Revenge. It's that simple.

Lang: Yeah, what Patrick said. Win!

BB: The surface for me is all the difference. Really bad call by England IMO. Ward had a better shot against these guys on clay. Querrey should smoke him on this surface. That and he's playing much better now than he was this time last year. I think the USA can totally win this 3-2 with Querrey.

PR: No doubt Querrey is playing better, but Ward's improvement has been even greater. He was what many would call a "journeyman" last year (we could have a whole different discussion about this word) but he is a legitimate top 100 player right now. And he steps up in Davis Cup, just ask Querrey or Seppi. Or Dan Evans. What happened to that guy?

Lang: Querrey also smoked Ward last year before the collapse! Nothing is guaranteed with Sam.

BB: No guarantees about Sam but I feel better going in with him than I did last year. Much better.

JK: Bryans won a title today - their first of the year. Meanwhile, Inglot, J. Murray, Marray and Fleming are all playing great ball this year. Three-part question:

1) Who should Captain Smith pick?

2) Who will Capt. Smith pick?

3) Should Los Bryans be worried?

Lang: I actually think the Bryans are better on slower surface. I think their DC losses are mostly on fast indoor surface.

BB: Inglot beat the Bryans recently so i'd take him. But they'll probably pick whoever Andy Murray is most comfortable playing with. Either way, the Bryans will be fine and win. Because it's fast and indoors, I think Inglot makes most sense as the biggest server.

PR: This is the toughest question for me. I think Smith has shown in the past that he's not willing to take huge risks (see: Ward over Evans v Italy 2014), and he will probably play it safe here. Colin Fleming has played Davis Cup every year since 2009, and I don't see that changing. It's tough to leave out Murray, but I think BB is right, Inglot's serve on this surface can't be ignored. The Bryan's are consummate professionals, they won't take this lightly, they'll be worried. But they shouldn't be.

JK: I find it notable that Fleming and Marray are a team now. I wouldn't be surprised if their improved play - including a final in Marsailles this week - plays into the decision-making here. If it were me, I'd go Jamie and Andy for doubles. Brothers vs Brothers, what could be more exciting?

Parsa: The Brits have a lot of options on the doubles side, and I can see them going with any of the combinations, but I think it's hard not to insert the number three ranked player in the world, even if he mainly plays singles. Andy has played the majority of the doubles matches in his career with his older brother, as well as some with Marray.

Conclusion: I think Captain Smith should pick Fleming/Inglot as they have the best chance to beat the Bryan Brothers indoors, however I think the two Murray brothers will be selected for doubles. Bryan Brothers will certainly have to respect whoever they will have to face in the doubles rubber, but no matter who goes up against them, I'm confident they'll get the win for the Americans!

JK: Who do you bring along as practice partners? Either in terms of building a team for the future, or the players who will give the best shot of preparing for Murray/Ward?

BB: Kozlov and Donaldson are the future. They need to experience this. It's not like anyone can simulate Murray.

Lang: The USTA always send young upcoming players and I don’t think it will change any time soon. Could see Jared Donaldson and Stefan Kozlov invited. JD was invited to the San Diego last year, but had to turn it down due to playing conflicts (was in Turkey).

PR: Donaldson won't be there. Kozlov and (I think?) Mmoh will be. Sorry for ruining the guessing game.

BB: Ha that's cool. Mmoh is a great choice too. He might have the highest ceiling of them all.

JK: Him and Fritz. Taylor's ceiling is scary high.

PR: *insert obligatory comment praising Taylor Fritz*

Lang: Yes, would love to see Taylor invited, and Tiafoe, and Mmoh, and Escobedo, etc.

Parsa: As BB pointed out, it's impossible for a practice partner to simulate how Andy Murray brilliantly plays and moves around the court. I think it's important to let the young guns experience a Davis Cup tie as representing your country feels amazing and gives you a sense of pride so l’ll go with 17 year-olds Kozlov and Fritz. Now I would love to watch a practice between Fritz, Isner, and Johnson as they all have three booming first serves and nasty kick serves.I could see Mmoh selected as well but personally, I would love to see Tim Smyczek selected as a practice partner as he is the epitome of #merica!

JK: Final question: regardless of how this tie goes down, and assuming everyone's healthy, who would be your ideal team - including captain - for the first round of Davis Cup World Group 2016. (We're assuming USA stays in the World Group. Because they better!)

BB: Oh man. Captain. I'll stick with Courier for now. He cares and commands respect. Isner and the Bryans still give us the best shot at winning. Stick with them and Sock at #2 assuming health.

PR: Captain: John McEnroe (we need some fire, plus it might get him off TV).
The Bryan Brothers (I hope they play every Davis Cup rubber for eternity).
Jack Sock and Jared Donaldson. This may be more realistic for 2017. But that's my ideal team.

BB: Captain most likely to give me an aneurysm: Gimelstob. Please never let this happen.

Lang: My dream team: Captain James Blake, the Bryans, I guess Isner if I want us to win. Don’t mind Jack Sock. Would love to see JD in the future.

JK: I'm going to go Steve Johnson, John Isner, Jack Sock, and Donald Young, with James Blake as captain. (I have Sam on permanent probation even though he was brilliant against Martin Klizan last fall in Chicago.)

Parsa: My dream team for the USA in the first round of Davis Cup World Group 2016:
Captain: John McEnroe
Doubles: Bryans
Singles: Steve Johnson and John Isner

BB: Steve Johnson should be on this squad. I want to be clear on my stance here. He's earned it. He has the right moxie, results, and attitude. Long term he doesn't have the all around game to possibly compete for a grand slam one day. That's my opinion. He's a top 20 ceiling player. Sock, though, does have that potential in my eyes. That's why I'd love to see Sock and Donaldson as the singles guys in the not too distant future. They are the future.

JK: Thanks everyone - this was fun. Best of luck to whomever Captain Courier picks!

Who should be the USA Davis Cup #2 vs GBR


  1. Collin Altamirano might just be in the mix with the other USA young guns mentioned here, as he has recent wins over Kozlov, Donaldson (by retirement), Escobedo, Fritz not to mention recent atp finalist Luca Vani.

    1. Looks like it was Kozlov and Tiafoe who were named:

      Nice to have so much young talent to work with!

      Altamirano has a lot of game, no doubt. Excited to see how this season at UVA plays out for him!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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