WASHINGTON, April 7, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
John Isner and Sam Querrey teamed to give the United States a commanding 2-0 lead against Belgium after Friday’s opening day of their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group quarterfinal tie in Nashville, Tennessee.
Isner gave the U.S. an early 1-0 advantage over Belgium as the 6-foot-10-inch giant fired 43 service aces and hit 31 winners in defeating Joris De Loore, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (8), 6-4, much to the delight of the mostly American crowd inside the Curb Events Center at Belmont University. Then, Querrey made quick work of Ruben Bemelmans in the second rubber Friday evening, winning 6-1, 7-6 (5), 7-5. His victory in just two hours and eight minutes lifted the U.S. to a 2-0 lead.
The Americans can clinch a berth in the semifinal round against either Croatia or Kazakhstan by winning just one of the remaining three rubbers. The pivotal doubles rubber will be played Saturday afternoon.
To his credit, the No. 319 De Loore made the 32-year-old Isner work hard for his victory during the first rubber, which took 3 hours and 14 minutes to achieve. The turning point, which was played on an indoor hard court surface, came during the third set tie-break when De Loore, 24, had two set points and was unable to convert either of them. Earlier, he had fought off two set points for Isner to force a tie-break. Then, an early break in the fourth set gave the World No. 9 Isner the edge he needed to close out De Loore, which he did when he converted his fifth match point.
After his match, Isner gave props to the enthusiastic crowd. “This crowd is awesome,” the Greensboro, North Carolina native said during an on-court interview. “I think playing in a quaint venue here, the place is full. It was very, very loud. It was incredible. I hope they enjoyed the match as much as I enjoyed playing in front of these fans. They played a huge part in my victory out here.”
If it seemed that Isner was a serving machine, well, he proved it. His fastest first serve was clocked at a lethal 229 kilometers per hour (142 mph). In addition to his 43 aces, he placed 67 percent of his first serves in play and won 84 percent (74 of 88) of his first serve points. He won four of nine net-point opportunities and broke De Loore three times in 10 tries. Against many other opponents, De Loore might have won the match based on his statistics, which included 14 aces, placing 60 percent of his first serves in play and winning 73 percent (66 of 89) of his first-serve points. Also, he hit 28 winners while committing only 10 unforced errors (Isner had 18). However, he managed to break Isner’s serve just once in two tries.
While De Loore gave a good effort and kept the Belgians close, Isner proved too big and too strong.
Later, Isner said of De Loore, “I wasn’t taking him lightly; rankings mean absolutely nothing in Davis Cup. I thought my opponent played well and I had to play well to beat him. It was a tough match for me personally, but more important than that, I’m very happy we got off to a great start.”
Like Isner, Querrey was dominating against Bemelmans. He won 83 percent (45 of 54) of his first-serve points, which included 21 service aces, and broke the Belgian three times in eight tries – including the final game of the rubber.
After his win, Querrey said in an on-court interview, “It’s always nice to play second after your teammate gets a win. So, thank’s John!”
• Saturday’s doubles rubber features Americans Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison against Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen for Belgium. It should be noted that team captains reserve the right to change their nominations and with Belgium down 0-2, don’t be surprised if Belgian team captain Johan Van Herck substitutes his lineup and inserts Bemelmans and De Lorre to gain more experience. Match time is 4 p.m. local time (9 p.m. GMT).
• During the first rubber, John Isner of the U.S. reached a milestone when he hit his 10,000th career ace.
• John Isner is well known for playing tie-breaks and the first rubber of the U.S.-Belgium tie marked his 11th match out of 15 he’s played during 2018 in which he’s played at least one tie-break.
• This is the first Davis Cup tie in Nashville since the U.S. and South Africa played at Vanderbilt University in 1978.
• While the U.S. has the most Davis Cup titles with 32, it hasn’t won one since 2017 and hasn’t advanced beyond the quarterfinals since 2012.
• The entire U.S. Davis Cup roster (John Isner, Sam Querrey, Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison and Steve Johnson) are all seeded in next week’s Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship in Houston, Texas. Isner is the No. 1 seed while Querrey is No. 2.
What they’re saying
“The tennis ball never cares where you’re from, it doesn’t care where you’re ranked. It only goes where it’s told to go. Rankings will play no part in the results this week.” – Jim Courier, U.S. Davis Cup team captain.
“Curious to watch the different mannerisms of the respective captains on the change of ends in the U.S.-Belgium tie in Nashville. Johan Van Herck squatting right in front of Joris De Loore’s face while Jim Courier sits alongside John Isner barely saying much.” – Craig Gabriel, DavisCup.com reporter
“Jack (Sock) is a great partner. He has all the accolades you can imagine, has had doubles success. We’re all very excited to get out there. I think we have a very versatile team. Even though we all primarily focus on singles, we’ve all had a lot of doubles success. Any way we can help the team is what we’re looking to do.” – Ryan Harrison, U.S. Davis Cup team member, who will play doubles with Jack Sock.
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.