Andy Roddick tasted Grand Slam success. He was ranked No. 1. No one serves the ball faster.
One gap on his resume? A Davis Cup title, something he and the United States can move closer to by beating Austria in a first-round match in Uncasville, Conn.
“It’s a lot easier to play a big match in a Grand Slam than it is to play a big match in Davis Cup. It’s still something I’m learning about,” the U.S. Open champion said. “The more I get out there, the more chances I get, the better I will get in this situation. So I’m excited to get out there this weekend.”
The draw for the best-of-five match is Thursday. There are two singles matches each Friday and Sunday, with doubles Saturday.
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.
Roddick is joined on the U.S. team by Robby Ginepri, who’ll be making his Davis Cup debut, and the doubles pairing of twins Bob and Mike Bryan. Mardy Fish is the reserve.
It’s a young group: Roddick and Ginepri are 21, Fish is 22, and the Bryans are 25. And it’s a talent-rich roster that captain Patrick McEnroe figures can end the U.S. drought.
The United States has won the international competition a record 31 times — but zero since 1995.
“That plays on our mind a lot. All these guys, all of our players, are very committed. And the one thing they have all said to me as we look forward to this year is that we want to win it,” said McEnroe, younger brother of his predecessor as captain, John McEnroe.
“We’re not satisfied with winning a couple of matches. We want to win the whole thing. And that’s the first time I’ve heard that from them. That’s the first time that I really believe that we have a strong chance to win it.”
First things first, though.
In 2003, the United States lost in the first round to Croatia and had to beat Slovakia in a playoff just to remain in the top tier of the Davis Cup. A loss to Austria — a country with no Davis Cup titles and no players ranked in the top 50 — would be a real setback.
Roddick is 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.
“This is one of the best teams in the world,” Austrian captain Gunter Bresnik said. “I hope it is going to be a tough competition, but we are the underdogs. It is also possible to win as an underdog.”
He will count on No. 76 Jurgen Melzer and No. 94 Stefan Koubek in singles. Julian Knowle is ranked 38th in doubles, and he’ll probably team with Melzer.
“It’s Davis Cup, and anything can happen,” Melzer said. “But we will need to be 1-1 after the first day (to) have a chance.”
McEnroe likes his team’s chances in part because of camaraderie. These players have known each other for most of their lives and they all seem to get along well.
Roddick met the Bryans when he was 8, and Fish lived with Roddick’s family for a year during high school. Roddick and Ginepri started playing together a decade ago, and Roddick beat Ginepri in the 2000 U.S. Open junior final.
“There’s nothing quite like not only playing for your country, but then looking over and playing for your friends, as well,” Roddick said. “To be able to share this experience with guys that we actually get along with, that we’re all buddies, it makes it really fun.”
There will be a chance to win — and lose — away from the tennis courts this weekend. The U.S. Tennis Association put the matches in the Mohegan Sun casino’s arena. Koubek was asked during the Australian Open what he thought of the site.
“I had no idea,” he said. “Sounds good, though. At least we can have one week of fun after practice and win some money.”
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