by Jim Krajewski, Reno Gazette-Journal, March 2, 2022
Some of the top tennis players in the world are in Reno this week, looking for a chance to advance in the 2022 Davis Cup — and for the Americans, a chance to avenge a loss last year.
The United States takes on Colombia Friday and Saturday at the Reno Events Center in downtown Reno in a Davis Cup qualifier.
A synthetic court is in place in the 4,000-seat building, with a surface that, combined with the high altitude and indoor venue, should provide a fast-paced game.
The U.S. and Colombian teams practiced Tuesday morning on the court.
Mardy Fish, the U.S. team captain, is familiar with the region, as he’s played in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe the past several summers, even winning the event in 2020.
But this week, tennis and avenging America’s loss to Colombia in the knockout stage of last year’s Davis Cup Finals in Italy is at top of mind for Fish, a former professional player.
“It’s super unique to be able to play a country sort of back to back,” Fish said after Tuesday’s practice. “Obviously we’re really familiar with them. They don’t have the exact same team, but we’re familiar with who they’ve brought, who they have. They have a phenomenal doubles team, one of the best doubles teams in the world.
“… We’ve got our best guys here, kind of putting the bad taste of Italy out of our system and (moving) on with this year.”
The best-of-five match series begins with two singles matches on Friday. A doubles match and two reverse singles matches (if necessary) follow on Saturday, with the winner advancing to the 2022 Davis Cup Finals — a 16-nation, multi-city competition to be held later this year.
Fish said playing on U.S. soil in front of a pro-American crowd should help the team.
“We’ll get the crowd behind us. There’s going to be a lot of passion from our guys,” Fish said. “We’ll certainly, certainly be able to match their intensity … That’s all I can ask of these guys.”
Taylor Fritz, No. 20 in the ATP rankings, will play singles for the U.S. Jack Sock (No. 144) will play doubles with Rajeev Ram (No. 4).
Sock said it is a huge honor to play on the team and represent the U.S.
“I think back to when I was a practice partner 12 years ago for the first time. To get that call even just to be a part of the squad was a great honor,” Sock said. “Just to be around the guys, to learn from all the older guys … now to be kind of in a reverse role, hopefully I can give some wisdom as well to these younger guys if they’ll listen to me or ask questions. I feel like I’ve had a lot of great experiences at Davis Cup.
“I’m an American through and through. I love representing the red, white and blue, do what I can. Anytime I get to put the flag on our shirt (and) go play, I’ll be there.”
Fritz said being part of a team brings a different energy to the sport of tennis.
“Just being able to be here as a team, practice as a team, then when we’re on the court competing, having the team cheering for you, it just adds an extra element that we don’t typically get on tour,” Fritz said. “It’s a lot of fun, something I kind of always look forward to. I think most people do.”
He enjoys the team aspect, even though he admits there’s an added pressure.
“Normally it’s just yourself out there. If you lose, you’re letting yourself down, obviously, which is tough. Here you’re playing for a team, you’re letting your team down,” Fritz said. “For me, I love the added pressure. I feel like it makes me play better and compete harder. I’m really excited. I think I play my best tennis in these type of situations.”
News and notes
Davis Cup titles: Billed as the World Cup of Men’s Tennis, Davis Cup is the largest international team competition in world sport, with nearly 150 nations competing each year.
The U.S. has won 32 Davis Cup titles, more than any other country since the annual event began in 1900.
The U.S. last won the Davis Cup in 2007 with the team of Andy Roddick, James Blake, Mike Bryan and Bob Bryan and captain Patrick McEnroe.
Reno debut: This weekend’s qualifier marks the Reno debut for the Davis Cup.
The event has only come to Nevada once before, a 1995 matchup between the U.S. and Sweden at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas that the U.S. won en route to winning the title that year.
Tickets: Per-day tickets at the Reno Events Center start at roughly $60, including fees, available on Ticketmaster.
Who: Team USA single players are Taylor Fritz (No. 20 in the ATP rankings), Tommy Paul (No. 39) and Sebastian Korda (No. 40). Doubles players are Jack Sock (No. 144) and Rajeev Ram (No. 4).
Colombia ‘s team includes singles players are Nicolas Mejia (No. 265), Alejandro Gonzalez (No. 447) and Nicolas Barrientos (No. 475); doubles are Juan-Sebastian Cabal (No. 9) and Robert Farah (No. 9).
Captains are Mardy Fish (USA) and Alejandro Falla (Colombia).
Head-to-head: The U.S. and Colombia have split four Davis Cup matches. Colombia beat the U.S. last November, 2-1, in the knockout stage of the Davis Cup Finals in Turin, Italy.