Mardy Fish makes his return to Davis Cup action tomorrow as a pivotal player in the United States’ quest to return to the World Group. Fish opens against Alejandro Falla in the first match of the Davis Cup World Group Playoff against host Colombia on the red clay of the Plaza de Toros La Santamaria in Bogota.
It is a critical tie for the USA, which must win to avoid relegation. If the USA loses, next year will mark the first time since 1988 that it is ineligible to play for the Davis Cup championship.
The 19th-ranked Fish and Falla have split two prior meeting, both on hard court in 2008.
Sam Querrey will play Santiago Giraldo in Friday’s second singles match. Itis the first first match between the 21st-ranked Querrey and World No. 61 Giraldo, who is playing in his hometown.
The tie marks a beginning and an end for American tennis.
Patrick McEnroe will lead the U.S. in his last match as captain. McEnroe has been the United States Davis Cup coach since 2000 and led the team to its record-extending 32nd Davis Cup title in 2007.
Ryan Harrison, who knocked off Ivan Ljubicic at the US Open, makes his Davis Cup debut on Saturday, partnering with John Isner in the doubles against Robert Farah/Carlos Salamanca.
McEnroe opted against selecting US Open champions Bob and Mike Bryan for the tie, citing the high altitude in Bogota in preferring to pick four players who can play singles and doubles.
It is the first time since 2005, and just the fifth time since the World Group was instituted in 1981, that the U.S. has had to compete in the play-off round.
The U.S. is 3-1 in World Group Playoffs, having defeated Belgium on red clay in its last appearance in the World Group Playoff.
The World Group Playoff against Belgium in 2005 was the first of 10 consecutive U.S. Davis Cup ties that featured the lineup of Andy Roddick, James Blake and the doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan, shattering the previous U.S. record for most consecutive ties with the same lineup. The previous record was three consecutive ties by eight different combinations.
In Sunday’s reverse singles, Fish plays Giraldo and Querrey closes the best-of-five match tie against Falla.
WORLD GROUP PLAY-OFFS
COLOMBIA v USA
Venue: Plaza de Toros La Santamaria, Bogota, Colombia (clay – outdoors)
Mardy Fish (USA) v Alejandro Falla (COL)
Sam Querrey (USA) v Santiago Giraldo (COL)
Ryan Harrison/John Isner (USA) v Robert Farah/Carlos Salamanca (COL)
Mardy Fish (USA) v Santiago Giraldo (COL)
Sam Querrey (USA) vs. Alejandro Falla (COL)
Richard Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.