Jack Sock, John Isner, Steve Johnson, Sam Querrey. For the first time in 14-years, Team USA began its 2017 Davis Cup run without a Bryan brother on the roster. Bob and Mike announced their retirement from the team during their Finalist run at the Australian Open.
In an event that has faced maligned scheduling challenges from top talent for decades, Team Switzerland was also without two of the sport’s top athletes: Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka.
Team USA took full advantage of their superior rankings and experience, steamrolling the Swiss 5-0 at home in Birmingham, Alabama. On Friday, Jack Sock earned the first rubber with a straight-sets win over Marco Chiudinelli. John Isner followed with a four-set victory over Henri Laaksonen. Olympic Bronze Medalists Steve Johnson and Jack Sock then sealed the victory on Saturday, defeating Henri Laaksonen and Adrien Bossel, rendering Sunday a meaningless exhibition.
The Americans have now won the last three ties over Switzerland, including a 4-1 victory in Birmingham 8-years-ago and a remarkable shut-out in Fribourg back in 2012 where John Isner, Mardy Fish, Mike Bryan and Ryan Harrison defeated Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka on clay.
Come early April…Jack, John, Steve and Sam will head Down Under to take-on Australia in the Davis Cup Quarterfinals. It’ll be the 47th Tie between the two nations since 1905. While Team USA owns a winning record over Australia, when it comes to Davis Cup Finals, the Aussies lead the Americans 16-14 head-to-head.
Sam Querrey def. Adrien Bossel 6-4, 7-5
In Sunday’s first dead rubber, Jack Sock was scheduled to play Henri Laaksonen in what Davis Cup refers to as “reverse singles.” Essentially, Jack was to take on John’s Friday opponent and vice-versa. Seeing as Team USA had already clinched the win, both coaches elected substitutions: Sam Querrey got the nod from Jim Courier, while Adrein Bossel was called-up by Severin Luthi.
While Sam did deliver a clutch deciding-rubber win for Team USA over Brazil in Jacksonville four years ago, Davis Cup singles victories have been elusive for the World #27. He was 6-8 prior to Sunday’s exhibition with Bossel; however two sets, 16 aces and 73 minutes later, Sam’s closer to a .500 average.
Steve Johnson def. Antoine Bellier 6-4, 6-3
Sunday’s second match saw Steve Johnson step-in for John Isner, while Antoine Bellier took the court in place of Marco Chiudinelli. Steve had only played one previous singles rubber for Team USA – a five set loss to Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin on clay in Tashkent back in September of 2015. Antoine Bellier was hoping to rekindle the heroics he mustered in Tashkent last September, when he defeated Uzbekistan’s Jurabek Karimov in the 5th and deciding rubber to lift Switzerland to this weekend’s 1st-Round Tie in Birmingham.
It took Steve the two opening games to start finding his rhythm. On his fourth break-point, Bellier finally stole Johnson’s serve in game-2. Steve broke right back before the first sit down, broke again to go up 4-3, then punctuated the set victory with an ace. Steve dominated set-2, out hustling the 6’5″ Swiss southpaw. He finished the set the same way he started it, by breaking Antoine’s serve.