Croatia Will Put Roddick, Blake(?) on Clay in Davis Cup Encounter
by Richard Vach | April 7th, 2009, 3:02 pm

Croatia officially announced they will host the U.S. Davis Cup team on red clay at the Zatika Sports Hall in Porec when the Davis Cup quarterfinals commence on July 10-12.
The last time the U.S. and Croatia faced off was in the 1st round in Los Angeles in 2005, when Ivan Ljubicic almost single-handedly led the Croats over the U.S. “Dream Team” of Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick, winning two singles matches and beating the Bryan brothers in doubles with Mario Ancic. The only other time the two countries met, in 2003, Ljubicic also led the way for a Croat win with two singles and a doubles win, with James Blake and Mardy Fish playing singles and doubles for the U.S.

Roddick and Blake in singles, and the Bryans in doubles, will likely be the shoe-in squad for U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe, unless captain Pat Mac goes with the bold move of subbing Sam Querrey for the slumping Blake.

The Croat line-up is a little more complicated as Ljubicic, the hero in the last two ties against the U.S., has shunned Davis Cup since 2007, concentrating on raising his ATP ranking. If Ljubicic were to make himself available for the tie, he is currently ranked behind countrymen Marin Cilic (No. 18), Ivo Karlovic (26), and Ancic (33) in singles.

Ljubicic could very well make himself available in doubles only, as he and Ancic are one of only two teams to ever defeat the Bryans in Davis Cup play.

Blake is 1-4 on clay in live-rubber Davis Cup singles matches during his career.

Red clay has been the Achilles heel of the U.S. squad in the era of captain Patrick McEnroe, with the team compiling a 4-4 win-loss record since 2001. Against the current claycourt powerhouses, the U.S. hasn’t beaten Spain on clay since 1972, when Stan Smith and Harold Solomon led the way in singles at Spain; and the U.S. hasn’t beaten Argentina on clay since 1988 when the “Dream Team” of career No. 1s John McEnroe and Andre Agassi, and Ken Flach and Robert Seguso in doubles, propelled the U.S. to victory in Buenos Aires.

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7 Comments for Croatia Will Put Roddick, Blake(?) on Clay in Davis Cup Encounter

MMT Says:

I’ve said in a previous thread that if McEnroe dumps Blake at this moment, he’ll never be able to use him for Davis Cup again.

But if I were P.Mac, that’s exactly what I’d do, but I wouldn’t replace him with Querry. I’d choose Fish, because Fish can double a doubles partner – after all if (God forbid) one of the Bryan’s goes down with an injury, Fish is a good doubles player and gave the US their only point in the DC against Spain last fall.

Richard Vach Says:

MMT — I’d have to disagree, simply because Fish would have to s-and-sometimes-v out of his mind to beat anyone good on clay in singles, and any opponent would break down his forehand from the baseline. But I get your meaning as the Bryans backup. I’ve heard Querrey is a functional doubles player but have never seen him play — anyone seen him on the doubles court?

Von Says:

Well, roddick had better think that he’ll have to win both singles live rubbers, which has been happening 75 percent of the time, because dear James is not into winning anything.

The Croat doubles team of Ljub/Ancic is not the same as they were when they beat the Bryans. The Bryans have improved since then, while Ljub/Ancic are just a shadow of their former selves. Karlovic hasn’t won anything in quite a while and Cilic is an up and down player.

Fish would be a good addition to the US team, and I don’t think he can be any worse than Blake is at the present time. And, as MMT points out, could be a substitute for doubles as in Spain.

I don’t think Querrey is ready to be launched in the second player spot for the US. He is another one who runs hot and cold, but more cold.

tennismonger Says:

The U.S. is screwed on clay any way you look @ it -except maybe against the Croats ’cause they ain’t n great shakes on the dirt either. They may have out-smarted themselves lige the Argies did by going w/hard courts against Spain.

Too bad P-Mac didn’t keep Vince Spadea around as a go-to for clay ties but apparently he didn’t quite fit in w/the boys…

MMT – why the finality w/Blake? Isn’t the idea that you have to earn your spot? P-Mac would be fully justified in subbing Blake w/Querrey or Fish. Or Spadea for that matter.

MMT Says:

Sorry for the late response tennismonger: James Blake is so mentally fragile, that being dropped from the US Davis Cup team would destroy him professionally. It is the one shining moment of (spotty) success he’s had in his career, and if that’s taken away from him, there’s very little source of confidence for him, particularly given his ranking. Upon his return, you’d see a man so heavily weighted down by his own desire to justify his place that’d he’d probably lose to his own brother. That’s why you have to either stick with him or drop him altogether.

Von Says:


I agree with you on Blake, and I feel very badly for him, but the reality of the situation regarding his game is very abysmal. I’m also concerned for the US DC Team because of Blake’s inability to perform on a consistent level and even though Andy Roddick has been the one to win 75 percent of the live rubbers, it was always a comfort to know Blake could once in a while pull out a live rubber win. However, everything concerning Blake’s game has changed drastically over the past year. He just recently got knocked out of Houston in the first round, and Houston is a small clay tourney, with Blake as the No.1 seed, so that alone speaks volumes. They say a man’s strength is his hair (Samson) so I wondering if Blake were to let his hair grow, then it might help his game as well. Ha, ha. ☺☻

I’m having doubts about Mardy Fish also. Without a doubt Mardy’s a very good doubles player, and he has a very nice angled 2 handed BH when at the net, but sadly his singles game is fast becoming obsolete veering towards ashes. I say this as a sort of obiter dictum, but who knows I might not be that way off in my thinking going by his recent form. I think mardy should seriously think about ditching his singles game and moving into doubles.

As I’ve mentioned Sam is a hot and cold player, but he does show promise on clay, taking a set from Nadal at DC in Spain last year, and he did get to the QFs at Monte Carlo last year also, losing to Djoko. So, looking at the whole picture, I’d say PMc will have to decide between Querrey and Fish. BTW, Fish also got knocked out in the first round at Houston, which tells me the US DC Captain is now between a rock and a hard place, having to decide between Fish and Querrey. We need help!!

tennismonger Says:

Paging Vince Spadea & Hugo Armando…

But seriously, MMT/Von -I get your drift; this is a very delicate time for Blake. I would like to think he has at least one more surge/comeback left in him but…maybe not. I had thought Fish was picking his game back up nicely but his US Open run last fall has not translated into a big impression in ’09.

So that leaves Sam (provided he is healthy) as our go-to #2 for Croatia. P-Mac should give him a shot & cross his fingers. Of course don’t they (DC Team) have practice matches @ some point to help determine who has the best form leading up to the tie? It’s P-Macs job to make that call so you’ve gotta give him the benefit of the doubt whatever he decides.

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