DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Davis Cup teammates Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish were once racing rivals.
Living together at Roddick’s house as teenagers, they raced each other to high school every morning, trying to find the fastest route while avoiding a speeding ticket. Roddick drove a Chevy Blazer, Fish a Mustang.
“The loser paid for lunch,” Fish said.
The stakes will be higher when the two young Floridians lead the United States against Sweden in a Davis Cup quarterfinal that starts Friday.
Roddick grew up in Boca Raton, and Fish lived with him for a year at age 17 while both attended Boca Prep. The distance from the school to the hard courts where this weekend’s matches will be held is just 15 minutes — maybe less with Roddick or Fish driving.
“Everything is going to hit close to home,” Fish said.
He’ll play the opening match Friday against Jonas Bjorkman, with Roddick to follow against Thomas Enqvist. On Saturday, brothers Bob and Mike Bryan will play Bjorkman and Thomas Johansson in doubles. Reverse singles Sunday complete the best-of-five series.
“If we play well, I like our chances,” U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said.
The winner advances to the semifinals in September. The Americans are seeking their 32nd Davis Cup title but first since 1995. Sweden has won seven titles, most recently in 1998.
“We always feel we’re going to win in Davis Cup,” Swedish captain Mats Wilander said. “It doesn’t matter where or against who.”
The other quarterfinals this weekend: Netherlands at Spain, Argentina at Belarus, and France at Switzerland.
With Joachim Johansson sidelined by a shoulder injury, Wilander may need an ironman performance by the 32-year-old Bjorkman, who is 33-14 in Davis Cup and led Sweden to an upset of defending champion Australia in February.
Fish beat Bjorkman in their lone meeting, on grass last year at Nottingham. But as both teams acknowledge, Davis Cup is different, and Fish is just 1-2 in Davis Cup singles.
“Mardy is pretty new to this,” Wilander said. “Jonas is not.”
But while Fish is less heralded than Roddick, he’s emerging as perhaps the second-best American of their generation. While Roddick won the U.S. Open last year, Fish cracked the top 20 for the first time and has reached five tournament finals since March 2003.
At Delray Beach he’ll play not only for his country, but for about 20 friends and relatives. That includes a childhood friend who will sing the national anthem.
Roddick will also have a large rooting contingent, and the home-court advantage could come in handy. He’s 1-2 against Enqvist, including a loss in February in Memphis.
“I know what I need to do to have a chance to beat him,” Enqvist said. “I will just try and get his serve back. If you can do that, you have a chance to stay with him in the rally.”
Roddick and Fish are trying to revive Davis Cup fortunes for the Americans, whose nine-year title drought is their longest since the 1930s. It’s a little different from being teammates at Boca Prep, where Roddick and Fish played basketball as well as tennis.
Both agree Fish was the better basketball player.
“Andy sat on the bench a lot,” Fish said. “And when he did get in, he missed layups.”
Roddick was better at tennis, but both had modest career expectations.
“The thing we joked about was taking full scholarships to Montana State,” Roddick said. “I don’t remember us talking about something this big.”
In the quarterfinal at Palma de Mallorca, Spain welcomes back French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero and No. 7-ranked Carlos Moya, who missed the first round with injuries. Moya will open Friday against French Open runner-up Martin Verkerk, followed by Ferrero against Raemon Sluiter in singles.
In doubles Saturday, 17-year-old Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo will play Verkerk and John van Lottum.
At Lausanne, Wimbledon and Australian Open champion Roger Federer was drawn to play Nicolas Escude on Friday, with Ivo Heuberger against Arnaud Clement. The top-ranked Federer and Yves Allegro will face Escude and Michael Llodra in doubles.
Federer is 11-1 in Davis Cup action since February 2002.
At Minsk, Argentina’s Agustin Calleri will take a nine-match Davis Cup winning streak into Friday’s opener against Vladimir Voltchkov, with Guillermo Canas playing Max Mirnyi.
Mirnyi and Voltchkov face Calleri and Lucas Arnold in doubles.
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