- Peter Bodo, Tennis
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When we last left Sam Querrey, he was utterly disgusted after a shockingly one-sided 6-1, 6-1 loss to Tomas Berdych in the fourth round of the Sony Open a little more than a week ago. After the match, Querrey turned ruefully philosophical: "You know, the more you miss, the harder it gets to get the ball in. It just kept getting worse. I want to put it behind me and move on to Davis Cup."
Did anyone tell this poor guy that now that he's the No. 1-ranked player in the U.S. (at No. 20, he's three ticks ahead of his pal and fellow tall boy, John Isner), his assignment in the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie this week in Boise, Idaho, will be to face world No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the often decisive fourth match?
Any port in a storm, as they say.
And that's just the problem for captain Jim Courier's Team USA. Both of the squad's singles players, Querrey and Isner, are hoping to overcome recent setbacks. By the same token, earning a Davis Cup win over the champions of 2010 would be a big step in the right direction for both men. The task isn't as daunting as it was before the Serbs lost the services of injured No. 10 Janko Tipsarevic. He's been replaced by Viktor Troicki, whose ranking is No. 44. But Troicki handles Davis Cup pressure well.
Troicki's face will be familiar to Isner and Querrey, for he played a significant role the first and only other time Serbia and the U.S. have met. Troicki opened that first-round tie, played in 2010 on clay in Belgrade, with a win over Isner. Djokovic then stopped Querrey in four sets to leave the U.S. down 2-0 after the first day of play. Only the reliable Bryan brothers' win in doubles kept the tie live until Sunday, when Djokovic wrapped it up with a solid but by no means easy win over Isner.
That tie was significant because for the first time in about a decade, the U.S. was without the services of Andy Roddick, James Blake or Mardy Fish. And though Querrey and Isner acquitted themselves well and had excellent chemistry (they had a bromance going there for a while), they never did become the overnight one-two punch some expected. It was partly because Querrey struggled with his form and Fish had an unexpected but impressive resurgence -- until he was laid low by heart trouble last year.
Isner and Querrey represented the U.S. in its last two ties. This is an excellent chance for them to continue the promising but aborted transition that began in 2010 and to get their own games back on track as well. Isner has produced some terrific Davis Cup results; last year, he had upsets of Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon -- all on red clay, no less. But he's been in the doldrums lately.
After Isner lost to Marin Cilic in the third round in Miami, he used almost the same words that Querrey would a day later. He said, "It felt like every ball that he made, I then missed with my forehand. That's what it felt like out there. [Now I have to] go back, train and try to get my a-- in gear for Davis Cup. That's a big task for our team, a big task for me."
Perhaps their shared discontent with recent events will inspire Querrey and Isner. Hitting the reset button could benefit this pair of tall, power-serving kids, and it could do wonders for the U.S. Davis Cup effort.
Two wins over Troicki and the usual Bryan brothers doubles performance could get the job done. Add (or substitute) a win over Djokovic, the best player in the world, and the win would be even sweeter.