Day-1: World Group Quarterfinal between Belgium and the United States
After the first day of play, Team USA has a commanding 2-0 lead over Belgium. An inspired Joris De Lorre took World #9 and Miami Open Champion John Isner four determined sets, finally falling in just under 3-and-a-half hours. Loose, relaxed and relieved after John’s hard-fought win, World #14 Sam Querrey steam-rolled Ruben Bemelmans in the second rubber.
John Isner -09- (USA) def Joris De Loore -319- (BEL) 63 67(4) 76(8) 64
John Isner just won the biggest title of his career at the Miami Open, climbing back into the top-10 for the first time since 2014. Joris De Loore is the World #319. Do the math.
But as Captain Jim Courier put it this week: “The tennis ball never cares where you’re from. It doesn’t care if you’re ranked. It only goes where it’s told to go. Rankings will play no part in the results…”
De Loore needed 18-minutes to earn a single point off of John Isner’s serve, but he hung-in – even after falling behind 2-4. Down 2-5, he didn’t crack, earning a strong hold at deuce while serving to keep the set alive. In the next game, Isner pounded three consecutive aces to take the first, but De Loore’s composure was impressive. Set-1 gave him time to adjust to John’s pace.
Set-2. The World #319 is For Real
On serve, halfway through the second, Isner earned another hold with three consecutive aces. Unrattled, De Loore answered with a love hold, maintaining focus. Up 5-4, he was two points away from earning the set, but Isner recovered with two more aces and four consecutive points. Two games later, it came down to a tie-break.
The Curb Event Center was electric. By 3-all in the breaker, both had broken twice. The two traded breaks again, punctuated by an Isner finger wag as he delivered a forehand pass on a De Loore approach. Three points later, Joris proved his composure, winning the tie-break 7-4, as Isner sent a forehand long.
Set-3. Momentum’s Pendulum Swings Both Ways
De Loore opened the third with a break. Isner’s focus faded. Set-2’s tie-break was a total deflater. Down 1-3, John got his pop back, earning a hold behind aces 21 and 22; but De Loore answered with a scrappy hold from deuce. By the third changeover, Isner was still down a break, but fans were recommitted. The energy retured.
Down 15-40 in the next game, De Loore missed a half volley at the net. The building erupted. John was back on serve, and five points later, was ahead 5-4.
Just when you thought the pressure would finally get to De Loore, the Belgian climbed out of a love-30 hole while serving to stay in the set. John answered with a dominant hold, shifting the weight right back to Joris’ shoulders. Down 5-6, De Loore again fell behind love-30. John earned two set-points with a well placed drop, while chants of “USA” filled the arena; but Joris erased them both to reach deuce and eventually the tie-break. Remarkable headiness.
In the breaker, De Loore took an early 3-1 lead with a phenomenal lob. Two points later, Isner broke back with an unreachable forehand pass. From 3-all, both held. Isner erased De Loore’s first set-point with an ace, then delivered ace number 30 to earn his 3rd set-point. With crafty play at the net, Joris earned another set-point, up 8-7. Three points later, thanks to a De Loore backhand miss at the net, Isner took the breaker 10-8 – and the lead 2 sets to 1.
Set-4. Attrition and Aces
After 2-hours and 30-minutes on court, both showed signs of wear and tear. The pace of play slowed. Isner earned a break before the first sit-down, while De Loore had his left wrist taped on the changeover.
That early break made all the difference. John maintained his early lead the rest of the way, lifting Team USA to a 1-0 advantage behind 43 aces.
All the respect in the world for Joris De Loore, who played top-level tennis for over three hours, saving five match points to force Isner to serve it out.
Sam Querrey -14- (USA) def Ruben Bemelmans -110- (BEL) 61 76(5) 75
Pumped and relieved by Isner’s gutty victory over an inspired Joris De Loore, Sam Querrey came out firing against Belgium’s top-player this weekend in Nashville. The World #14 served-up 5 aces and went 2-for-2 on break points, racing through set-1 in under 30-minutes. Bemelman’s unforced errors accelerated the 7-game set. The Belgian gave-up four double faults and lost the aforementioned break points with a backhand wide and a forehand pumped into the middle of the net.
Bemelmans – who reached the Singles Semifinals and Doubles Final last week in the Guadaloupe Challenger – got a grip on his inconsistency in set-2. At the 66-minute mark, he rifled a southpaw forehand up the line to take a 6-5 lead, forcing Querrey to serve for the tie-break. Sam delivered, winning the next game at love.
The breaker was riddled with errors. Querrey gave up his 2-0 lead with a double fault. Up a break at 3-2, he missed a volley, then sent a forehand long to fall behind. Bemelmans returned the favor, giving up two breaks and the lead. After breaking Querrey back to reach 5-all, Ruben fell behind 5-6 and gifted Querrey the tie-break with another unforced-error.
Querrey’s Convincing Conquest
Down 3-4, on serve in the third, Ruben Bemelmans “pulled a Joris De Lorre.” He was clutch. At deuce, the Belgian saved two break points, then took it to 4-all with an ace. Down 2-sets to none, momentum squarely with Querrey, Bemelmans refused to go away.
But Sam was steadfast. 2-hours in, at 5-all, Sam continued to punish ground strokes, and delivered another tight service game. Again, he forced Bemelmans to battle just to hold.
Up 40-30, Ruben finally cracked, giving up two double faults to gift Querrey his first match point. With a Bemelmans backhand error long, Sam lifted Team USA to a 2-0 lead, just one victory away from the 2018 Davis Cup World Group Semifinals this September.
Saturday’s Order of Play
Doors open at 2:30 | Ceremony starts at 3:30 | First match begins at 4:00 / Tennis Channel
The second day includes an Opening Ceremony, followed by the weekend’s only doubles rubber. The match is the best of five tiebreak sets. Opponents are subject to change per Team Captains.
Sunday’s Order of Play
Doors open at 12:30 | Ceremony starts at 1:30 | First match begins at 2:00 / Tennis Channel
The final day of competition features a formal Opening Ceremony, followed by a pair of “reverse singles” rubbers. Each match is the best of five tiebreak sets. Best of three if a team wins the Tie 3-0 or 3-1. Opponents are subject to change per Team Captains.