The defending champions have now won 17 consecutive home ties and 19 in a row on clay. Even with world No. 2 Rafael Nadal and No. 9 Fernando Verdasco inactive due to injury, their 4-1 victory over Israel was just as comprehensive as one would imagine.
David Ferrer and Juan Carlos Ferrero lost no sets and only 14 total games in their day one singles wins over Harel Levy and Dudi Sela. It took perhaps team Israel’s strongest link, the doubles pairing of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, to win their first set.
Both Nadal and Verdasco were in attendance during this past weekend’s tie, which indicates their intense interest in DC competition. December’s final round match will take place at home, most certainly on clay, and if those two are healthy it will be all but a formality against…
The Czech Republic
Radek Stepanek is a cagey veteran and Tomas Berdych a huge hitter, but neither has been known as a clutch player in their professional years. Their results this past weekend may prompt a re-evaluation: Away against the towering Croatian pair of Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic, both Stepanek and Berdych turned in wins that rank among their best achievements.
Berdych took down one of the tour’s hot hands in Cilic, while Stepanek survived an unprecedented 78 aces by Karlovic, winning 16-14 in the fifth set of a five hour, 59 minute match.
Their odds of triumphing away against Spain (especially if Nadal and Verdasco are playing) are slim, but it’s worth wondering if Davis Cup success will galvanize Berdych’s career, much as it did Verdasco last season.
Karlovic’s ace count against Stepanek—23 more than the record he previously set—ought to solidify his status as the biggest server to ever play the game.
Still, he is widely known as the most one-dimensional player in the men’s top 100, so his five-set loss, though heartbreaking, was hardly a surprise.
Cilic coming out on the losing end of a five-setter is another matter. The soon to be 21-year-old Croat ought to have had the wind at his back following his quarterfinal run at the US Open, but instead found himself down two sets against Berdych. Then, after managing to dig himself out of that hole, he fell in the fifth.
Berdych ought to serve as an example of the type of player Cilic does not want to become: a tall, gangly, massive hitter who only wins titles sporadically and has made only one Grand Slam quarterfinal in his whole career. A win on Friday would’ve gone a long way to making us believe Cilic is not Berdych, but now we’ll have to see how well he recovers from disappointments.
This weekend’s World Group tie against Italy showed how impressive the Swiss can be when the world No. 1 is in their ranks. Unfortunately, it also showed why his being at their fore during Cup ties is so rare.
His win over Simon Bolelli surprised no-one. Coupled with world No. 22 Stanislas Wawrinka’s impressive display against Andreas Seppi, the Swiss went into day two with a 2-0 lead.
The days of Federer as the youthful, long-haired wunderkind with the boundless energy required to play three straight days of singles and doubles are evidently over, however. Following another draining US Open campaign, he sat out the doubles on Saturday and watched Wawrinka and Marco Chiudinelli fall in straight sets.
Federer clinched the tie on day three by easily dispatching Potito Starace, but this bodes badly for the Swiss’ Davis Cup hopes. One of The Great Swiss’ breakthrough victories came in 2001 when he played two singles and one doubles match to defeat the United States. If such feats are required for the Swiss to advance, they may be beyond what even the now 28-year-old Federer can achieve.
Of course, it’s a moot point if the grind of the tour prevents The Great Swiss from competing in DC, as it did this spring against the Americans. To make the 1,009th comparison between Federer and Pete Sampras, the U.S. team longed to see The Pistol play in the Cup for many years, but he was scarcely able to compete full-time until 2002.
And by then, he wasn’t really The Pistol anymore.