WASHINGTON, April 9, 2018 (by Michael Dickens)
After completing a 4-0 sweep over Belgium Sunday afternoon, following a meaningless rubber, the United States Davis Cup team has its sights set on its first World Group semifinal berth since 2012 against Croatia this fall in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas.
The Americans, who will travel to eastern Europe to face a Croatian team led by World No. 3 Marin Cilic and No. 28 Borna Coric on Sept. 14-16, will be looking to avenge a 2016 quarterfinal loss in Portland, Oregon, in which they were unable to capitalize on a 2-0 lead. While the semifinal tie is several months away, United States team captain Jim Courier is hopeful that the Americans can maintain the momentum they’ve established this year following convincing victories over both Serbia and Belgium. Certainly, Courier is blessed with a deep roster of talent – three Top 20 players in No. 9 John Isner, No. 14 Sam Querrey and No. 16 Jack Sock – plus reliable reserves, too, in No. 51 Steve Johnson and No. 54 Ryan Harrison. Every player on the current United States roster can play both singles and doubles with equal aplomb.
“I have my fingers crossed that my team is going to be in full health and full flight from the U.S. summer series, and hopefully, we’ll have lots of momentum to work with,” said Courier, following his team’s outstanding performance in Nashville over the weekend.
Sock, who missed the Serbia tie in February, returned to anchor doubles with Harrison against Belgium. Their four-set win on Saturday night clinched the tie and also improved the United States’s win-loss record against Belgium to 5-0 – and it punched Team USA’s ticket to the semifinals. While Sock remains at the ready to move into the singles lineup, he’s proven to be one of the world’s best doubles players.
“We have an amazing group of young guys coming up, but we’re competitive. We want to hold our spots on this team,” said Sock, after Sunday afternoon’s dead rubber singles, which Harrison won over Ruben Bemelmans, 6-3, 6-4. “We want to try to duplicate what we’ve been able to do in the past. … We’re looking forward to the semis very much.”
In other World Cup quarterfinal ties:
France 3, Italy 1
Lucas Pouille‘s victory over Fabio Fognini in Sunday’s fourth rubber lifted France over Italy at Genoa and into the semifinals against Spain. The World No. 11 Pouille bested Fognini over three hours, 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-3, and it gave the French its first Davis Cup tie win over Italy on Italian soil since 1927.
France, which won six straight Davis Cups from 1927-1932, is going after back-to-back titles after winning the 2017 Davis Cup title over Belgium at Lille.
“It’s a great feeling,” Pouille told the media after his victory. “We knew that before coming here it would be a tough tie, but we gave our best. Now, we are going to try and go on and defend our title.”
Croatia 3, Kazakhstan 1
Marin Cilic‘s two singles victories on clay in Varazdin lifted Croatia into the semifinals against the United States. On Sunday, Cilic dominated Mikhail Kukushkin, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 to clinch the tie for the Croats. It tied him with Ivan Ljubicic, a member of Croatia’s 2005 Davis Cup champion team, for most Davis Cup match wins by a Croatian with 36.
Afterward, Cilic said, “It’s a beautiful thing to have that many matches behind me and a lot of victories for the team. I always enjoy playing for my nation, but (the record), is not one of the key things for me. I always play with my heart for my country and the most important part is that the team is winning.”
Spain 3, Germany 2
David Ferrer will forever be remembered for being the hero in Spain’s come-from-behind victory over Germany in Valencia, the Spaniard’s home town. After World No. 1 Rafael Nadal earlier kept Spain’s hopes alive with a 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 win over Alexander Zverev earlier Sunday, Ferrer battled Philipp Kohlschreiber on the red clay of the Plaza de Toros de Valencia for nearly five hours. When it was over, Ferrer emerged with a 7-6 (1), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 7-5 triumph.
After his team’s victory, Spain’s team captain Sergi Bruguera was quoted by DavisCup.com as saying: “I feel so much emotion. The match that they both played was unbelievable. This is very special for David who we all love. He is one of the greatest people on the circuit and he deserves a match like this.
“I think both deserved to win. I think Philipp played one of the best matches I have ever seen him play. The match was an incredible level of tennis and incredible intensity.”
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.