Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bryan twins face key Davis Cup match

   The United States faces a critical doubles match today in the Davis Cup quarterfinals against France.
   It's a good thing for the Americans that they have the top-ranked doubles team in the world and arguably the greatest ever, twins Bob and Mike Bryan. Still, their opponents, Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra are no slouches. Plus, France is playing at home on clay in Monte Carlo.
   The teams are tied 1-1 in the best-of-five series following Friday's opening singles matches. French veteran Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, ranked sixth, defeated Ryan Harrison, ranked 66th and playing his first meaningful Davis Cup match, 7-5, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. Then No. 11 John Isner beat No. 13 Gilles Simon 6-3, 6-2, 7-5. Harrison, 19, is replacing ninth-ranked Mardy Fish, who withdrew with fatigue this week.
   Had the 6-foot-10 Isner, who beat Roger Federer on clay in Switzerland in the first round, lost to Simon, the United States would have been in deep trouble. Simon, who has a sore back, is filling in for No. 14 Gael Monfils, who pulled out with an abdominal injury.
   "We'd love to be up 2-0, but 1-1 seems just about right, and (today) will be a great doubles (match)," U.S. captain Jim Courier told reporters. "John did what he was supposed to do, which is to be emphatic and dominant."
   Tennis Channel will televise today's doubles match live at 5 a.m. PDT and on tape at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.
   The Bryans, who won the 1998 NCAA doubles title as Stanford sophomores before turning pro, are 18-2 in Davis Cup doubles. Their last loss, though, came to Arnaud Clement and Llodra in the 2008 quarterfinals in Winston-Salem, N.C.
   Llodra is 18-6 in Davis Cup doubles, including 3-1 with Benneteau, a singles semifinalist in his SAP Open debut in San Jose last February.
   The Bryans have collected 11 Grand Slam men's doubles titles, tying the Open Era record of Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. Llodra, ranked fifth in the world in doubles, has won three. Although Benneteau, 30, has won none, he has reached the doubles quarterfinals or semifinals at all four Grand Slam tournaments.
   "We'll be in great position if we win," French captain Guy Forget said. "If we lose, it will be difficult."
   Kops-Jones loses -- The Bryans are not the only former NCAA doubles champions from the San Francisco Bay Area in pro tennis. Raquel Kops-Jones of Fresno and former Cal teammate Christina Fusano, a Sacramento native who retired last year, took the 2003 women's doubles crown.
   Kops-Jones, now ranked a career-high No. 25 in women's doubles, and Abigail Spears of San Diego lost earlier this week in the first round of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C. They fell to fourth-seeded Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-1.
   Hlavackova and Hradecka will defend their French Open crown when the tournament begins late next month.
   Colleges -- The No. 11 Stanford men and No. 12 Cal men both improved to 3-0 in the Pacific-12 Conference with 7-0 victories at home.
   The Cardinal (13-5 overall) whipped No. 62 Oregon (15-4, 0-3), and the Bears blitzed No. 22 Washington (12-6, 0-3). Stanford won its third straight and earned its first shutout of the season. Cal, which played its first home match in more than a month, received a 6-2, 6-2 victory from 76th-ranked Nick Andrews of Folsom over No. 14 Kyle McMorrow at No. 1 singles.
   The UC Davis women (7-11) lost 5-2 at Nevada (4-8) in a nonconference match. The Aggies earned points from Lauren Curry and Layla Sanders at No. 4 and 5 singles, respectively. Sanders crushed Gabriela Eufrasio 6-0, 6-0.
   The 10th-ranked Mississippi State men (16-5, 7-2 Southeastern Conference), led by Artem Ilyushin of Granite Bay, lost 6-1 to No. 6 Kentucky (21-4, 9-0) in Lexington, Ky. Ilyushin, ranked 15th, lost to No. 7 Eric Quigley 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-1 at No. 1 singles.

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