One Last Davis Cup Hurrah For Bryan Brothers

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

The Davis Cup returns to Hawaii for the first time since 1992 as the United States team comprised of both legends and rising stars competes against Uzbekistan in the Davis Cup by Rakuten Qualifiers Friday and Saturday on an indoor hard court at Blaisdell Center in Honolulu.

The U.S.-Uzbekistan tie is one of the 12 Qualifiers taking place this weekend throughout the Asia Pacific region, in North and South America, and throughout Europe and Asia.

The other matchups include:

• Croatia vs. India at Zagreb, Croatia

• Colombia vs. Argentina at Bogotá, Colombia

• Australia vs. Brazil at Adelaide, Australia

• Germany vs. Belarus at Düsseldorf, Germany

• Slovakia vs. Czech Republic at Bratislava, Slovakia

• Japan vs. Ecuador at Miki, Japan

• Hungary vs. Belgium at Debrecen, Hungary

• Italy vs. South Korea at Cagliari, Italy

• Kazakhstan vs. Netherlands at Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan

• Austria vs. Uruguay at Premstätten, Austria

• Sweden vs. Chile at Stockholm, Sweden

The format for this weekend’s ties is they will be played as best-of-5-matches. On Friday, the home nation’s No. 1 player will play the away nation’s No. 2 player and vice versa. On Saturday, the doubles match will be played first, followed by the home nation’s No. 1 player against the away nation’s No. 1 player, then home nation’s No. 2 player against the away nation’s No. 2 player. All live matches are played as best-of-3 tiebreak sets.

The winning 12 nations who emerge will advance to the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals at La Caja Mágica in Madrid November 23-29. They will join last year’s semifinalists Spain, Canada, Great Britain and Russia as well as wild card nations France and Serbia.

Highlighting Team USA, which is a 32-time Davis Cup champion but has not lifted the trophy since 2007, will be doubles legends Bob and Mike Bryan. The 41-year-old twins are making their final Davis Cup appearance before retiring. The team, captained by Mardy Fish, also includes No. 24 Taylor Fritz and No. 38 Reilly Opelka, who will anchor the U.S. singles lineup, plus No. 57 Tommy Paul in reserve. No. 156 Denis Istomin, once ranked as high as No. 33, anchors the Uzbekistan squad that is captained by Farrukh Dustov. It will be the second meeting between the Americans and Uzbeks, following a 3-1 U.S. victory in the 2015 World Group playoffs.

“Excited to be back, part of a young team, the next generation,” said Mike Bryan during a press conference in Honolulu on Tuesday. “I think they’re half our age, Fritz and Opelka and Tommy Paul. Yeah, good to be back.”

Bob Bryan echoed his twin brother’s sentiments. “Yeah, it’s an honor to represent the USA again. Captain Fish was our teammate for many years. He helped us in that run in 2007 when we held up the Cup. 

“For him to ask us to come back, it’s a big honor. We’re excited to be here. Davis Cup has meant everything to us throughout our career. We’ve had some of our best memories playing for this team. So, we’re excited to do that in our last year on tour.”

Both of the Bryan brothers share a common goal of helping to get the United States team to Madrid, where the finals will be held at the end of the 2020 season.

“Doubles is a swing point. It’s a big one,” said Mike Bryan. “We want to get the point for the team on Saturday. We feel like we have the firepower to get it done. They’re a tough squad. We traveled over there a few years ago. It wasn’t easy. We expect a tough match.”

Around the Davis Cup

• Germany, which reached the quarterfinal round of last year’s Davis Cup Finals, returns with a strong lineup against Belarus at Düsseldorf that includes a nice mixture of experience and youth. World No. 34 Jan-Lennard Struff and No. 73 Philipp Kohlschreiber anchor Germany’s singles lineup with  No. 92 Dominik Koepfer in reserve. Also, the Germans have a formidable doubles team in reigning French Open champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies.

“Struffs is an amazing team player and loves Davis Cup,” Kohlschreiber said, as quoted by DavisCup.com. “He’s always 100 percent committed. … He’s a great guy, brings a lot of energy and is very positive. He’s very strong in singles, but if something happens he is also a very good doubles player. He’s very important for the team.”

Struff accepts his role as a team leader, a go-to player. “It is always an honor for me to play for Germany and to play in the German colors. I like to give something back,” he told DavisCup.com. “When I started playing, there were guys who were leading the team and I always looked up to them. To have a role like that now, playing No. 1, is very big for me. I like to give everything.” 

• The Kazakhstan-Netherlands tie at Nur-Sultan, will be a rematch of their 2019 Davis Cup Finals tie that the Kazakhs won. No. 51 Alexander Bublik and No. 91 Mikhail Kukushkin will be featured in singles for the host country. “I think on paper we’re better because we have me in the Top 50 and Kuku (Kukushkin) around 85, but still a solid player,” said Bublik, quoted by DavisCup.com. The Netherlands are led by No. 169 Robin Haase and have a solid doubles pair in Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer, both who are ranked Top 25.

• The Japan-Ecuador tie at the Bourbon Beans Dome in Miki, Japan, will go on as planned. However, fans of both nations will no longer be able to attend. That’s because the tie will be played without spectators in response to the current Coronavirus outbreak. The International Tennis Federation made the decision to play the tie behind closed doors after consulting with the Japan Tennis Association and following advice from the Japan Sports Agency and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Matches will be broadcast on Wowwow in Japan.

• Among the top players who are expected to play this weekend are No. 37 Marin Cilic, who returns to Davis Cup for the first time since he lifted Croatia to the 2018 Davis Cup title. Croatia hosts India in Zagreb. Also, World No. 11 Fabio Fognini will lead Italy against South Korea.

Cilic won five singles and one doubles match in 2018 when he guided Croatia to its first Davis Cup title since 2005 and second overall. Meanwhile, Fognini has been representing Italy since 2008 and has a lifetime Davis Cup record of 30-15 in singles and doubles combined.

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