UNCASVILLE, Conn. - With a flick of his right wrist, Andy Roddick whipped a serve, then spied the speed meter’s neon yellow readout: 150 mph.
As simply as that, Roddick set the record for fastest serve and set the tone for a lopsided Davis Cup victory. Teammate Robby Ginepri had to work much harder for his own precedent-setting win.
Together, they gave the United States a 2-0 lead over Austria on Friday in their best-of-five first-round series.
Ginepri came all the way back to beat Jurgen Melzer 6-7 (6), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, becoming the first U.S. rookie in the 105-year history of the Davis Cup to win a match after dropping the first two sets.
In the second match, U.S. Open champion Roddick overwhelmed Koubek 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 in 1½ hours — half the time Ginepri needed at the same casino arena used by the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. The entrances to the arena are about a 30-second walk from the jingle-jangle of falling coins and the other assorted carnival sounds of a gambling hall.
Appropriately, Roddick observed: “My serve was my wild card today.”
He only faced two break points, saving both, and finished with 19 aces. He connected at 150 mph on the final point of the match’s eighth game; Roddick and Greg Rusedski shared the old mark of 149 mph.
“The first couple of games, I glance at the radar. That’s sort of a gauge for me,” Roddick said. “When I opened up with a buck-fifty, I thought, ’That’s out of the ordinary.”’
Koubek never managed to get a good read on Roddick’s offerings.
“If a guy serves like him, it’s not fun,” said the Austrian, now 0-4 against Roddick. “Especially if you’re close to breaking his serve, and he hits an ace, it’s ...”
Koubek paused, looking for the right word in English. That’s when Austrian captain Gunter Bresnik chimed in to say, “Annoying.”
Repeated Koubek: “Annoying.”
By the end of the third set, Roddick was still slamming serves at more than 140 mph. He showed his versatility, too. On match point, with a partisan crowd of 5,143 standing and seemingly hoping for a big blast of a serve, Roddick spun in a 98 mph offering that completely fooled Koubek. The Austrian returned the ball meekly, and Roddick tapped in a volley winner to end it.
The United States can clinch victory and advance to a quarterfinal meeting against defending champion Australia or Sweden by winning Saturday’s doubles match. The Americans will send out the top-ranked pairing of twins Bob and Mike Bryan, while Bresnik said he’ll pick a team Saturday morning.
Elsewhere in the first round, the Netherlands led Canada 2-0, and Argentina took a 2-0 lead over Morocco. Tied at 1-1 were: Sweden-Australia, Switzerland-Romania, Croatia-France, Spain-Czech Republic and Russia-Belarus.
Hoping to end the U.S. Davis Cup drought — the most recent of the country’s 31 titles came in 1995 — captain Patrick McEnroe took a chance and went with Ginepri, 21, who turned pro in 2001. McEnroe bypassed James Blake, Mardy Fish and Taylor Dent, who have a combined 10-7 career record in Davis Cup matches.
“Robby has had a great year. Robby deserved a shot,” McEnroe said. “He showed why in the last three sets. He kept his composure.”
Ginepri is ranked a career-best 25th — 51 spots better than Melzer — after reaching the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at the Australian Open last month. And perhaps McEnroe had this in mind, too: Ginepri’s only ATP Tour title came with a victory over Melzer in the final at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships at Newport, R.I., in July.
Unlike in tournament play, where in-match communication between players and coaches is barred, Davis Cup captains are allowed to sit on the changeover benches. So McEnroe took advantage and offered Ginepri encouragement.
“When I was down two sets,” Ginepri recalled, “he asked me if I have come back from two sets down. I said, ’No.’ ’Well,’ he said, ’today is going to be the day.’ He had a lot of confidence in me, which meant a lot.”
Melzer, meanwhile, tightened up and grew increasingly frustrated. By the last set, he would follow lost points by kicking the ball into the net or drop-kicking his racket to the court.
He began the fifth set by taking a 40-0 lead on his serve. But Ginepri won reeled off eight straight points to break in that game and set up a hold in the next.
A telling statistic: Melzer had more double-faults (12) than aces (10).
The Austrian didn’t offer any complex explanations, saying simply: “I choked.”
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