Davis Cup: USA ousts France
By Mike Cranston
WINSTON-SALEM ó Andy Roddick was handed the large American flag and then just stood there. He wasn’t going on a victory lap until his teammates joined him.
Roddick’s Davis Cup dominance led the United States to the title last year and his victory Sunday eliminated France and clinched a spot in the semifinals against Spain. But Roddick clearly cherishes the camaraderie of this close-knit bunch.
The same can’t be said for France. Not after its top player, Richard Gasquet, begged out of a matchup with Roddick with his country facing elimination.
Behind a blistering serve, Roddick defeated Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 for the deciding victory in the best-of-five quarterfinal. Roddick’s second singles victory in three days secured the Americans’ sixth straight Davis Cup win, including last year’s final over Russia.
“It’s nice to get rewarded for all the rough losses that we had, and I’ve been a part of a lot of big losses for us in Davis Cup,” said Roddick, who improved to 29-9 in the competition. “You’ve got to try to keep an even keel when things are going your way, but obviously it’s been fun having won the last six.”
A day after a loss by the No. 1 doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan kept France’s hopes alive, Roddick was never threatened in giving the Americans an insurmountable 3-1 lead. While he was held to 17 aces, he lost only 13 points on his serve to improve to 10-0 in clinching situations for the U.S.
“I think everyone makes a big deal about the 10-0 thing,” Roddick said. “I have to be up 2-1 in order to clinch, so I’ve been put in good positions a lot of times.”
Roddick fittingly wrapped up the win with an ace down the middle. He then circled the court while passing the flag among the Bryans and James Blake, who later beat Richard Gasquet in the meaningless finale 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4 to give the U.S. a 4-1 win.
“I don’t know why it is, I don’t know what brings us all together, but we just have a good time,” Blake said.
In other quarterfinals, Russia eliminated the Czech Republic 3-2, and Argentina ousted Sweden 4-1. Spain advanced Saturday and went on to defeat Germany 4-1.
Argentina will host Russia in one semifinal, while the U.S. will visit Spain and Rafael Nadal Sept. 19-21, which almost certainly will be on red clay.
“I know it’s not convenient for us. I know we’re not going to be the favorites,” Roddick said. “But I know we’re going to go and we’re going to try. The thing about this team is we don’t play when it’s convenient. That’s probably different from some of the other countries.”
Roddick was referring to Nadal, who skipped last year’s quarterfinal against the U.S. held here. But Gasquet’s puzzling behavior could also apply.
Gasquet didn’t hit the court until France was eliminated.
Gasquet, ranked No. 10, skipped Friday’s singles with a blister on his right hand and a sore left knee. And even though Gasquet shocked Roddick in last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals, Gasquet told French captain Guy Forget he didn’t want to play Roddick.
“He felt Roddick was playing too good for him and he had probably no chance,” Forget said.
“Paul-Henri was in better shape than me,” Gasquet said.