JACKSONVILLE, USA: On Friday, at least on paper, it seemed like USA was destined to sail into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinals after they posted a 2-0 lead over Brazil. In the end, this first round tie went the distance before Sam Querrey defeated Thiago Alves 46 63 64 76(3) to clinch the tie in the fifth and decisive rubber enabling the USA to leave Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena with a 3-2 victory.
“Sometimes obstacles become opportunities, and that’s what this was today for Sam,” US captain Jim Courier said. “John (Isner), we thought he was going to get through his match. We thought Bob and Mike (Bryan) were going to get through their match. It came down to Sam, and he stepped up when we needed him to.
“That’s what these teams are all about, catching each other when we fall down, helping each other over the line.”
The Brazilians were anything but the surrendering type of team. They fought valiantly until they won the doubles point on Saturday and then the first of the reverse singles matches on Sunday.
“Everybody did all the best all the week trying to win this tie,” Alves said. “When I get on the court, I can feel this energy. I was feeling it today. In Brazil we have big hearts.”
Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares upset the Bryans in five sets on Saturday, the first time that the Bryans had been taken to a fifth set in Davis Cup in 23 Davis Cup doubles matches played together.
And Thomaz Bellucci won the fourth match of the tie over John Isner 26 64 67(7) 64 63 on Sunday to force this first round encounter into the decisive fifth rubber.
“I was fighting every point,” Bellucci said. “I was running every point. For me is very special to beat him here.”
With the score at 2-2, it left Querrey to bring it home for the Americans. And he didn’t disappoint.
“It’s always exciting to win a fifth and deciding match anywhere,” Querrey said. “I was thrilled I could help the guys out. It’s a team thing. We’re all moving on to the next round.”
Team USA moved into the quarterfinals where they’ll try their luck against Serbia, who will undoubtedly have world No. 1 Novak Djokovic leading their effort. It will be a home tie for Team USA and the locale will be Boise, Idaho, in the American heartland.
“The Brazilians put on a great fight but our guys came through,” Courier said. “We’ll be ready to go and they’ll (Serbia) be a very difficult ask for us, but we’ll be ready to go.
“We’re excited. We wanted to face Serbia. We thought that would be a great test for us. They’re one of the great Davis Cup nations right now.”
The USA has been taken to a decisive fifth match 35 times since the first Davis Cup contest in 1900. The Yanks don’t have a very stunning record when forced the distance, only a slim 19-16 winning margin. The last time USA was pushed into a decisive fifth match was in 2000 when it happened twice: in the first round against Zimbabwe and in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic. Pete Sampras was the last American to pull off a win for the USA in a fifth rubber with a win over Czech Slava Dosedel in Los Angeles.
Querrey’s victory was not totally smooth, but he got the job done and that’s all that was necessary. In the fourth set, Querrey served for the match in the tenth game, but wasn’t able to close it out on the one match point he had and watched his serve get broken to 5-5. The win had to wait until the tiebreake where he was able to take advantage of a second match point on a forehand error of Alves’.
The 16th-ranked Isner has now lost two of his last four Davis Cup matches in five sets -- the other came in the 2012 semifinal to Nicolas Almagro in Spain. He’s lost three of his last four Davis Cup matches back to that meeting with Spain. Isner is now 1-3 when playing the third singles rubber for Team USA.
A reflective Isner, coming off a knee injury, had the biggest moment in Davis Cup for the USA last year when he beat Roger Federer in a four-set, first round upset. But he didn’t show that gumption on Sunday. And, overall, Isner has struggled to consistently step up to the most important occasions. Overall, he’s 5-10 in five-set career matches.
“Just got to break through in a big moment, whether it’s a Davis Cup match, whether it’s a Grand Slam,” Isner said. “It’s something I haven’t done. It feels like it’s a huge gorilla on my back or something....It’s wearing on me a bit, to be honest, mentally. It’s very disappointing. It’s something I have to improve.”
In the big picture this first round tie had all the elements of excitement to keep fans on the edge of their seats. And that’s what Davis Cup is all about.
“It was a good effort from everybody, particularly the Brazilians,” Courier said. “They deserve a lot of credit for pushing us and making us come up with what we had to at the end.”
View the statistics from the matches here: Live scores
Captain Jim Courier (USA) - 03/02/2013
Sam Querrey (USA) - 03/02/2013
Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) - 03/02/2013