THE DRAW: Davis Cup Birmingham. USA vs. SUI

Team USA and Team Switzerland met at the Birmingham Zoo on “Groundhog Day” for the Davis Cup Draw, setting the field of play for the weekend’s World Group 1st-Round Tie at the BJCC / Legacy Arena. The state’s local groundhog, Birmingham Bill drew the names, selecting Marco Chiudinelli first. Here’s how the weekend stacks up:

R1: (USA) Jack Sock vs. (SUI) Marco Chiudinelli

R2: (USA) John Isner vs. (SUI) Henri Laaksonen

R3: (USA) Steve Johnson / Sam Querrey vs. (SUI) Antoine Bellier / Adrien Bossel

R4: (USA) Jack Sock vs. (SUI) Henri Laaksonen

R5: (USA) John Isner vs. (SUI) Marco Chiudinelli

Day-1 starts at 3:00p featuring the first two singles rubbers. Doubles on Saturday will start at 2:00p. On Sunday, Day-3 starts at 11:00a featuring reverse singles.

The weekend’s winner advances to the World Group Quarterfinals April 7th-9th, where they’ll face either Australia or the Czech Republic. The losing team advances to the World Group Playoffs September 15th-17th, where they’ll compete to stay in the World Group for 2018.

Click here for a history of Team USA and Team Switzerland’s Davis Cup rivalry, including a previous Tie held here in Birmingham 8-years-ago…

Team USA without Bob and Mike Bryan

For the first time since 2003, the United States Davis Cup Team is competing in a World Group 1st-Round Tie without a Bryan on the roster. For 14-years, Bob and Mike have been Team USA’s rock. The twins announced their retirement from the team shortly after their 3rd-Round victory at the Australian Open last week. They would go to reach their 30th Grand Slam Final – 10th at the Australian Open – where they fell to Jonathan Peers and Henri Kontinen.

Throughout their career, Bob and Mike went undefeated in Davis Cup Finals. In 2004, after Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish dropped the first two rubbers to Spain in Seville, the Bryans kept the Tie alive with a clutch straight-sets win in doubles. While Spain would capture the title the following day with Carlos Moya’s 3-set win over Roddick; three years later, Bob and Mike clinched the Cup for Team USA with a win over Russia in Portland.

In their retirement announcement on Instagram, the Brothers wrote that winning the Davis Cup Title in 2007 was “one of the greatest highlights of our career.” Together, they own a 25-5 Davis Cup doubles record. Remarkable.

USA Captain Jim Courier‘s take on Bob and Mike’s absence: “We were blessed to have Bob and Mike on our team for so many years. They’re incredible. We’ll miss them for sure…I have a lot of confidence in these guys [Jack Sock, John Isner, Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson]. Any combination of these four players would be a very, very good doubles team.”

Swiss Captain Severin Luthi‘s assessment of the Bryans absence: “Honestly, I don’t think that it’s a big advantage [for Switzerland] because they have more flexibility…When they had the brothers in the team, you knew which players are going to play singles. Now…I think all four players can also play doubles. They can change. They can wait and see how the matches on Friday went. I don’t think that it’s an advantage for us.”

Switzerland without Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka

Without World #3 Stan Wawrinka and 18-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer, who just won his 5th Australian Open title on Sunday, not many give the Swiss a chance in this weekend’s Tie.

Captain Jim Courier, however, is not ready to count his chickens: “Now, rankings don’t mean anything…Once you get on the court, the ball doesn’t care what your ranking is. You have to hit the shots and win the points. We come in ready to play and ready to fight for every point. We don’t expect it to be easy. We’re confident that we have four great players here ready to go to battle in five matches…It’s nice to play at home, of course. Nice to have a facility that we like, like this, a court that we like, like this. It’s not always the case.”

Captain Severin Luthi thinks his team’s recent track-record in Davis Cup play gives Switzerland a chance: “I think one of our strengths is really that the players we have here, especially Marco and Henri, who played more matches already in Davis Cup, they’re always playing well. They give all the time 100%. They’re ready to fight. Yeah, they had good results in Davis Cup. I think that’s one of our big strengths. With Antoine, we have a rather young player who is playing the first time last year and helped us staying in the Group. With Adrien also we won the doubles there. Obviously we’re completely outsiders here, but as I said, we’re going to try our best and give 100%.”