Sunday, February 12, 2012

U.S. odd couple eliminates Federer, Switzerland

   Bob and Mike Bryan go together like Ben and Jerry. The Pittsburgh Pirates and losing. Wall Street and greed.
   It's impossible to think of one without the other. The Bryans, 33-year-old identical twins and former Stanford All-Americans, have played tennis together all their lives. With 11 Grand Slam men's doubles titles and 76 overall, they form arguably the greatest team of all time.
   So it was more than a little strange when Mike Bryan took the court Saturday with Mardy Fish. No matter. They knocked off Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, the reigning Olympic champions, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 Saturday to give the United States an insurmountable 3-0 lead over host Switzerland in the first round of the Davis Cup.
   It was only the second time in the last 10 years that Mike has played with anyone other than Bob, who was unavailable because of the birth of his first child last week. Mike Bryan and Fish won in five sets in the 2008 Davis Cup semifinals on outdoor clay in Spain over Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco.
   "It's great that the guy I have to tee it up with is the best doubles player ever," Fish told reporters Saturday. "I'm just trying to do my part."
   On Friday, John Isner shocked Federer 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-2, and Fish outlasted Wawrinka 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 9-7 in the best-of-five series on indoor clay, supposedly the United States' worst surface.
   Speaking in French to the Swiss media Saturday, Federer was candid regarding Wawrinka, ranked 28th in the world in singles after reaching a career-high ninth in 2008.
   "I played well enough in doubles, but Stanislas not so much," Federer said. "He didn't have his best match in singles. It's a shame. Because of that defeat, we weren't able to put he U.S. under pressure."
   The United States redeemed itself after losing to Spain, minus Rafael Nadal, 3-1 in the quarterfinals last July on an indoor hardcourt in Austin, Texas. Fish went 0-2 and Andy Roddick, playing in his hometown, 0-1. The Bryans accounted for the Americans' point.
   The U.S. will go on the road again in the quarterfinals, April 6-8, against the winner of the France-Canada matchup in Vancouver, British Columbia. France leads 2-1. The winner of that quarterfinal will play on the road, probably against defending champion Spain on clay.
   That raises the question, if the U.S. couldn't beat Spain, playing without Nadal, on the Americans' preferred surface, how would it beat a Spanish team playing on clay at home with Nadal?
   "We have the worst draw you could have on paper," U.S. captain Jim Courier conceded Saturday. "But you saw what paper means here, which is absolutely nothing. That's the statement: It's that our guys are committed and played well."
   Cal women reach semis -- Seventh-ranked Cal defeated No. 6 Georgia 4-0 in the quarterfinals of the ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championship in Charlottesville, Va., avenging a loss to the Bulldogs in the round of 16 of last year's NCAA championships at Stanford.
   The encounter featured a matchup of the last two NCAA singles champions. Fifth-ranked Jana Juricova, the reigning titlist from Cal, dominated second-ranked Chelsey Gullickson 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1 singles.
   In today's semifinals, the Bears (6-0) will face third-ranked Duke (7-0), and fourth-ranked UCLA will meet 16th-ranked USC.

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