If my trip to San Diego for this weekend’s World Group First Round Tie was any indication…I should have known it would come down to an “impossible ask” for the Americans after the first day of play.
Just before my wife and I pulled into the Springfield-Branson National Airport on Thursday, my phone lit-up with an email from the airline. Simple language, really: “Your flight is cancelled. Please see an airline representative.”
90-minutes later, my wife and I were in a one-way rental, racing northeast up I-44, traveling anywhere from 80-95 mph, destination St. Louis. You see, our connection city, Chicago…had become Fairbanks. With the blizzard, nothing was getting in, nothing was getting out; and with two major airlines handling stranded passengers, it was doubtful they would even be able to get us to San Diego the next day. Seemingly out of options, getting to America’s Finest City had become an “impossible ask.”
Not an option.
If we could get there on time, St. Louis had a 7:00pm flight to San Diego via San Francisco. It was 3:00pm. According to Mapquest, it would take 3-hours and 44-minutes to cover the 230-miles. We made it in 2-hours and 55-minutes. Just enough time to return the rental and race to the plane. We arrived in San Diego shortly after midnight.
During the chaos and mad scramble, some line-ups had changed here in San Diego…His ankle still an issue, John Isner was out for Team USA. Donald Young was in. With the Brits, Captain Smith replaced 19-year-old Kyle Edmunds with the experienced doubles veteran Dominic Inglot, currently the #27 doubles player in the world. Necessary strategy for the Americans; potential stroke of brilliance from the Brits.
The draw shook-out like this:
- R1: Donald Young (USA) vs. Andy Murray (GBR)
- R2: Sam Querrey (USA) vs. James Ward (GBR)
- R3: Bob and Mike Bryan (USA) vs. Andy Murray and Colin Fleming (GBR)
- R4: Sam Querrey (USA) vs. Andy Murray (GBR)
- R5: Donald Young (USA) vs. James Ward (GBR)
As I wrote in my Davis Cup preview, even with the original line-up including Isner, there were no guarantees for Team USA; however, on paper, the Americans appeared to be a stronger squad. With Isner’s absence, Davis Cup San Diego became quite an intriguing match-up…
- At first glance, I think most assumed it would be an even split after the first day – Andy Murray would easily dispatch Donald Young, while 49th-ranked Sam Querrey would overcome 175th-ranked James Ward.
- Doubles would be critical, and with the Bryan Brothers 14-0 on clay in Davis Cup, they’d most likely put the Americans ahead at the end of Day 2.
- On Sunday, Murray would level the Tie with a win over Querrey…and the deciding rubber would fall on the shoulders of Donald Young and James Ward. Classic Davis Cup – a HUGE opportunity for two “non-marquee” players to earn a spot in tennis history.
SO MUCH FOR THAT PREDICTION! – At the end of Day-1, Team Great Britain left Petco Park in command, a first round Davis Cup victory just one win away. Andy Murray delivered on expectation, dispatching Donald Young in three sets. Sam Querrey disintigrated down the stretch and fell to the inspired play of James Ward in five.
- R1: Andy Murray def. Donald Young 6-1, 6-2, 6-3
- R2: James Ward def. Sam Querrey 1-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
Querrey’s loss was devastating. He was up 2-sets to 1, serving at 4-3, but couldn’t put the match away. Lack of mental toughness? Is Sam lacking the will to win? Those are questions only he can answer. Take nothing away from James Ward. The man battled brilliantly down the stretch for the come-from-behind win, earning instant adoration of the demanding British tennis fan, and deep respect from his opponents.
Day-2 = Doubles. You know Bob and Mike are on board for Team USA. In fact, for the twins, its about redemption. Last year they went 0-2 in Davis Cup play. They’ve only lost four Davis Cup matches throughout their career. With Team USA’s back against the wall, the brothers are in a situation both adore…an opportunity to deliver for their teammates. It’s win or go home.
Andy Murray and Colin Fleming are scheduled to play for Team Great Britain, but the line-up is still subject to change. With an unexpected 2-0 lead, Leon Smith’s decision to bring Dominic Inglot to San Diego appears to have been a brilliant tactic. For many fans, common-sense says rest Murray today. Let two very talented doubles players, Inglot and Fleming, have a go at the Bryan Brothers; then have Andy deliver the win for Team Great Britain with the fourth rubber on Sunday.
Down 0-2, a victory for Team USA in San Diego certainly FEELS like an “impossible ask.” Call it whatever you like, I prefer to see it as an opportunity. The Americans have no other choice but leave everything on the court. The truth is, this team has the talent. The question is, do they have the desire? The outcome of this Tie now depends solely on Bob, Mike, Sam and Donald’s individual determination.
…and if I’ve learned anything this weekend: Never underestimate someone’s individual determination when confronted with the “impossible ask.” Crazy things can happen – like covering 230-miles in under 3-hours, during rush hour, to catch a San Diego bound flight, the only remaining option to get you to work on time.