Patrick McEnroe wanted to make a statement with this Davis Cup team. Instead of going with the veterans, who have helped him over the past 10 years, he decided to make his swan song with youth by taking Ryan Harrison, John Isner, and Sam Querrey with him to Bogota.
Yet, it was the old man of the team in Mardy Fish who save the United States in their Davis Cup match against Colombia.
The 28 year-old Fish, who has made a tremendous comeback this year, pulled out a five set thriller over Alejandro Falla 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the best-of-five.
And it came in handy, because Querrey was not able to pull off the sweep, being downed Santiago Giraldo, 2-6 4-6 7-5.
“We’ve been in this situation before a few times — in a relegation match at 1-1 going into doubles,” McEnroe said to reporters in Bogota. “I feel good about our doubles. We have three players who have played together so there are a lot of options. I like that we have three or four players available tomorrow and Sunday.”
Both Fish and Querrey seemed to have problems adjusting to the altitude. At an estimated 8700 feet, it is the highest elevation either player has played. And McEnroe believes the higher elevation was the reason both players dropped the first set of their respective matches.
“The first set of both matches was pretty rough for us,” McEnroe said. “We practiced well all week, but you can’t simulate match conditions. Moving forward I think we’re in good shape now that the guys have gotten a match under their belts at the altitude.”
Querrey also said he was caught off guard during his match.
“I wasn’t surprised how well he (Giraldo) played,” Querrey said. “I have seen him play before and he hits the ball low and flat which is perfect for these conditions. It is difficult to adjust to the altitude.”
Fish, though, was able to adjust to the heights and even took the send and third sets in the match, but couldn’t close it out in the fourth. It took a veteran’s fifth set for Fish to pull out the match.
“The key was staying ahead in the fifth set,” Fish said. “I had some tough games to hold but was always able to stay ahead of him. When he (Falla) had to serve to stay into it at 5-4, that’s when all the pressure kicked in.”
It was also difficult to get adjusted to the surface. After two months on the hard courts, this series will be played on red clay, something most of the Americans consider their worst surface.
“He (Falla) hits the ball flat and I think he would have preferred a hard court,” Fish said. “We both would have preferred to play on a hard court. Maybe the tennis would be a little bit better.”
Tomorrow it may be as doubles take place. Colombia is expected to field the team of Robert Farah and Carlos Salamanca. The Americans have announced they will counter with Ryan Harrison and John Isner, although Fish said to reporters after his singles victory that he would be ready to step in.
Reverse singles are Sunday.
If the U.S. loses this quarterfinal, then it will be eliminated from Davis Cup play in 2011, only the second time in the country’s history.