Day-3: World Group Quarterfinal between Belgium and the United States
The final day of Nashville’s World Group Quarterfinal was an afterthought. With yesterday’s Tie-clinching doubles victory by Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock, the teams decided to play only a single “dead” rubber on Sunday.
An inconsequential match, Captain Jim Courier elected to replace John Isner with Ryan Harrison. Belgium fielded its originally scheduled opponent – and the team’s top-ranked player – Ruben Bemelmans. After a shakey start, Ryan regrouped to win the match in straight sets.
Team USA will travel to Croatia this September for the World Group Semifinals, where they’ll compete for a spot in the 2018 Davis Cup Final. If victorious, it will be the US Davis Cup Team’s first Final appearance since capturing the title in 2007.
In the other half of the draw this weekend, David Ferrer lifted Spain into the Semifinals with a deciding rubber defeat of Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. Spain will face France in September, after Lucas Pouille clinched the Tie in Italy, defeating Fabio Fognini in four sets.
Ryan Harrison -54- (USA) def Ruben Bemelmans -110- (BEL) 63 64
It was Ryan Harrison’s turn.
Back in February, Team USA defeated Serbia on indoor clay in Nis. Like in Nashville, during that 1st-Round Tie, Sam Querrey and John Isner put the U.S. up 2-0 after the first day of play. Ryan and Steve Johnson then clinched the Tie with a doubles victory on Saturday. Steve Johnson – then the World #50 – handled Sunday’s only dead rubber, falling to Serbia’s Pedja Krstin (World #230) in straight sets.
Here in Nashville, Captain Courier chose Harrison for Sunday’s ATP points-weighted “exhibition.” Aside from dropping serve in the opening game, Ryan put together a much better match than Steve did in Serbia.
Harrison won Sunday’s toss, then opened the match with a double fault, ultimately dropping his serve. It didn’t take him long to rediscover Saturday’s rhythm. After the first changeover, he broke Bemelmans right back and scored another break late in the set, allowing him to serve it out 6-3.
In set-2, Bemelmans served first. Harrison earned break #3 before the first sit-down. Ruben nearly leveled the set, down 3-4 – Ryan fell behind 0-40. But Harrison saved all three break points, then earned the hold from the 4th deuce. After that clutch save, Ryan was impenetrable. Despite Harrison’s aggressive confidence, Bemelmans managed one final hold before Ryan served out the match 6-4.
Team USA headed to Croatia in September
With Ryan and Jack’s doubles win yesterday, the Americans advanced to the World Group Semifinals for the first time in six years. Earlier today, Marin Cilic defeated Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan to clinch Croatia’s Quarterfinal Tie, meaning Team USA will travel to Croatia this September for a shot at 2018’s Davis Cup Final.
In the other half of the World Group Draw, David Ferrer lifted Spain to the Semifinals with a 5-set victory over Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber in the deciding rubber. In Italy, Lucas Pouille defeated Fabio Fognini to clinch the win for France. The French will host Spain in September.
Looking ahead to the Semifinals, it’s important to look back. Team USA last faced Croatia in the 2015 World Group Quarterfinals, at home in Portland, Oregon. Portland was where the U.S. captured its 32nd Davis Cup title 9-years prior. Despite being up 2-0 after the first day of play in that Quarterfinal, Team USA lost the doubles rubber and both reverse singles matches.
With Marin Cilic, Borna Coric, Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic – Croatia is a formidable opponent. Team USA needs to be healthy and determined come September……A huge ask, considering it’s the week following the US Open.