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Bryan brothers, Murray come up huge in Davis Cup

It comes as no surprise that it was another fantastic Davis Cup weekend.

Our writers weigh in on the highlights with another edition of Racket Response.


Peter Bodo@ptbodo: John Isner will quite rightly be remembered as the MVP of Team USA's first-round World Group win over Australia this weekend.

But once again, the pivotal match for the Americans, the match that gave the team breathing room and loosened up Isner's arm (so much so that he was able to shatter the pro serve-speed record with a 157 mph delivery in his tie-clinching win) was Mike and Bob Bryan's critical five-set doubles victory with the tie deadlocked at one match apiece Saturday.

It was a triumph that made them the most successful doubles team in U.S. Davis Cup history at 24-4.

The importance of taking that 2-1 lead in any given tie can't be overstated. These days, with no dominant American star (never mind pair of stars), the U.S. often finds itself deadlocked after the first day of play. And the Bryans invariably deliver.

On Saturday, they withstood a furious comeback in every sense of the word. Aussie icon Lleyton Hewitt came out of his short-lived (five-week) retirement to partner with John Peers (world No. 8 in doubles). Inspired by an adoring home crowd, the Aussies battled back after losing the first two sets to force a fifth set. But the Bryans coolly slammed the door shut, winning the decider 6-3.


Carl Bialik@CarlBialik: When the next round of Davis Cup commences, neither the Swiss nor the Spaniards will be around.

Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka skipped Switzerland's opening tie against Italy. It comes as little surprise that the Swiss were routed 5-0. Spain isn't even in the World Group this year. Without these two countries, which host a slew of star-studded players, we're nonetheless going to see some blockbuster matchups moving forward. Defending champion Great Britain will travel to Serbia, a matchup that will headline the competition if the world's top two players, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, both participate a few weeks before the Olympics in Rio.

But the most intriguing July matchup might be France's visit to the Czech Republic. The Czechs won the competition in 2012 and 2013 but needed fifth-rubber heroics from Lukas Rosol to beat Germany on Sunday. France, meanwhile, is so deep that after it swept its first three matches against Canada, captain Yannick Noah sent out his No. 3 and No. 4 players -- Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who played behind Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon -- for the dead rubbers.

France has reached three finals since its last Davis Cup win in 2001. If its best players continue showing such deep commitment to the competition that France's Four Musketeers dominated 85 years ago, the French team should have a good chance to end its title drought.


Martyn Thomas@MCThomasSport: It was a good weekend to be a British tennis fan. The country's men won their first match as Davis Cup champions, while Heather Watson secured her third WTA title.

Watson's victory in Monterrey put her on the brink of a return to the world's top 50. The 23-year-old joined Johanna Konta and Naomi Broady in climbing the rankings.

But it was in Birmingham where the bigger news took place. Andy Murray once again dug deep, pushing Great Britain past Japan. His powers of recovery helped him stave off a Kei Nishikori fight-back in the decisive rubber. Afterward, British captain Leon Smith called Murray a "man of steel."

It was difficult to disagree with that assessment in the aftermath of a thrilling win. However, with Serbia coming in July, Murray will need to be at his superhuman best if Britain is to prevail once more -- and not only because of the presence of the Scot's biggest nemesis, Novak Djokovic.

That quarterfinal tie is scheduled to be played just five days after the final of Wimbledon, where both players are expected to go deep. There will be no opportunity for immediate rest following the encounter, either, with Olympic battles commencing Aug. 6.

All of which means the star names could be battling physical fatigue as much as each other in Belgrade. Murray insists he will take part in the clash, but exhaustion could dictate his eventual inclusion in the tie.


Leonardo Ayala@ESPNtenis: After the retirement of David Nalbandian, and with Juan Martin del Potro injured, Leonardo Mayer has become the new leader of the Argentina Davis Cup team, a role he probably never asked for.

Always a low-profile player, Mayer has always been a great leader by example. The first time he was in such a position was in a 2014 rubber against Israel that would decide relegation from the World Group, a position Argentina hardly finds itself in.

Mayer stood his ground, winning both his singles matches, a crucial sequence for Argentina to scrape through with a 3-2 series victory. Mayer never looked back.

This past weekend he won both his singles matches against Poland. Make that 11 wins in a row for Mayer, tying Nalbandian for the most in team history. And what makes the feat more important is that 10 out of those 11 victories came when the result of the rubber was still undecided.

The 3-2 series victory against Poland also means that Argentina will play Italy in July's quarterfinals. Mayer should have a chance to set a new record.