UNCASVILLE, Conn. - Their haircuts match, and their pingpong games are loud and spirited.
Now if only the U.S. team could end its Davis Cup drought.
Led by U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, the Americans are loose and confident heading into Friday’s start of their best-of-five series against Austria in the first round of a competition the United States last won in 1995.
“It’s been a pretty high level during our practices this week,” Roddick said after Thursday’s draw. “We are all pretty excited, and I think we are over-practicing, so we’re ready to get it started.”
Robby Ginepri will make his Davis Cup debut by playing Jurgen Melzer of Austria in the opening match. Roddick meets Stefan Koubek in the second singles match.
American twins Mike and Bob Bryan will play Julian Knowle and Alexander Peya in doubles Saturday. On Sunday, Roddick will face Melzer, followed by Ginepri against Koubek.
“Hopefully I will get my team up 1-0 before anything happens with Andy and the Bryan brothers,” Ginepri said.
The U.S. team is aiming for its 32nd Davis Cup championship; Austria never has won the title. The Americans are 27-0 in first-round matches at home and enter this weekend as heavy favorites.
They had a special pingpong table shipped in from the U.S. Tennis Center in New York, and the matches get rather boisterous.
“Before you even get off the floor on the elevator, their screaming is unbelievable,” USTA spokesman Randy Walker said. “You would have thought it was the final of the U.S. Open.”
Good friends since junior tennis, the Americans go everywhere together in the sprawling Indian casino. On a whim Thursday, Roddick and the Bryan brothers plopped down in a barber’s chair to get buzz cuts.
They’ll get down to serious business soon enough Friday.
Ginepri beat Melzer in July to win Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at Newport, R.I., for his first ATP Tour title.
Roddick is ranked No. 3, while Ginepri is a career-high No. 25 after reaching the fourth round of a major for the first time at the Australian Open. The Bryans lead the doubles rankings.
Melzer is ranked 76th, and Koubek is 94th.
Roddick is 3-0 against Koubek, his former doubles partner. Roddick has yet to lose a set to Koubek, whom he last played in 2002 in Canada. But the Davis Cup brings a different kind of emotion, Roddick said.
“It’s very equalizing if someone gets, you know, the passion of their teammates going,” Roddick said. “So you definitely have to guard against it. I’ve got to try to set the tone early, maybe make him try to press a little bit.”
U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe was pleased with the order of play and said it would be a plus to get Ginepri to start quickly.
“Andy has got obviously a lot of experience ... so from that standpoint, I think it works out well,” McEnroe said.
Austria, a Davis Cup member since 1905, is looking for its first title. Austrian captain Gunter Bresnik, who coached Patrick McEnroe in the 1990s, said his players should adapt well to the indoor surface.
“It think it’s very, very fair. It’s not too fast,” Bresnik said. “It’s really a nice high bounce so it’s the perfect setup for a good match.”
Other first-round matchups include defending champion Australia hosting Sweden, and Switzerland — led by Australian Open champion and new No. 1 Roger Federer — at Romania. Also, Spain is at the Czech Republic, Argentina at Morocco, Canada at the Netherlands, Russia at Belarus, and Croatia at France.
At Adelaide, Mark Philippoussis will open for Australia against Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist on hard courts. Two-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt plays Robin Soderling in the second match.
At Bucharest, Federer will play Victor Hanescu on indoor clay, followed by Michel Kratochvil against Romania’s Andrei Pavel.
At Minsk, Australian Open runner-up Marat Safin meets Belarus’ top player, Max Mirnyi, in the second singles match. Rookie Igor Andreev will open for Russia against Vladimir Voltchkov.
At Brno, Spain will be without reigning French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, who has leg and stomach muscle injuries. But 17-year-old Rafael Nadal will become the country’s youngest Davis Cup player when he opens against Jiri Novak on indoor carpet. Radek Stepanek plays Spain’s Tommy Robredo in the second match.
Despite winning the French Open, Rafael Nadal will be seeded merely No. 5 at Wimbledon, opening the prospect of a quarterfinal with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray.
Scenes from Down Under
Check out the best images from the 2013 Australian Open.
The best of Wimbledon
The best images from the Grand Slam tournament at the All-England Club.
French Open 2012: Top 10 Shots
June 10, 2012: John McEnroe, Ted Robinson, and Mary Carillo look back at the Top Ten best moments from the 2012 French Open.