AUSTIN, Texas Everything about the Davis Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Spain is built to favor the Americans.
The sellout crowd of 16,000-plus in Andy Roddicks hometown is sure to be a rowdy, flag-waving bunch. The indoor surface at the Frank Erwin Center at the University of Texas plays hard and fast and isnt ideal for Spanish players raised on clay.
And subtract Spains Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 player in the world who is skipping the quarterfinal to rest after Wimbledon, and the Americans are feeling very good about their chances of knocking off a Spanish team playing for its third Davis Cup championship in four years.
The best-of-five quarterfinal begins today with singles matches. Mardy Fish, the No. 8-ranked player in the world, is the top seed for the Americans and will play Feliciano Lopez in the first match. Roddick, ranked 10th in the world, will meet No. 6 David Ferrer in the second.
Fish is 3-2 lifetime against Lopez. Ferrer is 4-3 against Roddick, who carries a 33-11 Davis Cup record into the match.
We have a true home-field advantage with Andy in Austin, United States captain Jim Courier said Thursday. You know, hes roughly the mayor of this town.
Roddick, a 10-year veteran of Davis Cup play, lobbied hard to get the quarterfinal in Austin. In 1992, Roddick went to Fort Worth to watch Courier and the U.S. defeat Switzerland in the Davis Cup final. The raucous, vibrant crowd and the cheering, clanging cowbells and airhorns left a lasting impression on the 10-year-old.
Roddick hopes a pro-U.S. crowd in Austin will create a similar atmosphere.
Just seeing the people go mental for tennis, USA chants, flags, all sorts of stuff, Roddick said. It left me with a dream.
With Nadal sitting out the quarterfinal, Ferrer will play as Spains top seed.
Nadal, who was part of Spains Davis Cup winning teams in 2004, 2008 and 2009, said he needed time off after losing last weekend in the Wimbledon final. Nadal criticized the timing of playing a Davis Cup quarterfinal just one week later.
The American and Spanish teams are full of players who were at Wimbledon. Fish lost to Nadal in the quarterfinals. Lopez beat Roddick in the third round. Ferrer made it to the quarterfinals, and the American team of Bob and Mike Bryan won the Wimbledon doubles championship.
For sure, Rafael is a very important player in our team, but right now he is not here, Spain captain Albert Costa said. We have these four players; they know how to win Davis Cup. They are very experienced. For sure they will play with passion, with heart.
Costa said being in Austin could put some unexpected pressure on Roddick.
(Its) big pressure for him to play with his public, his people, his country, Costa said.
Roddick appeared loose enough while hamming up a prematch news conference with jokes and funny faces. In the crowd was Roddicks second-grade teacher.
Thank you for teaching me to read, Roddick said. That was great of you. Its served me well.
The quarterfinal also will be the first Davis Cup home tie for Courier as the U.S. captain. The four-time Grand Slam champion and former Davis Cup singles player, Courier made his Davis Cup debut as captain in March in a first-round win over Chile in Santiago.
As hosts, the Americans got to choose the court surface and picked a hard and fast acrylic they hope will help big hitters like Fish and Roddick.
Its a little bit faster than normal, said Lopez, who beat Roddick on grass at Wimbledon. But this is what we expected.
Picking the court surface is part of squeezing out every advantage possible for the home team, Courier said.
The mandate is not for us to find a court that suits everyone, its to find a court that suits ourselves within the rules which is what weve done, Courier said. Its playing beautifully.
Spain and the U.S. have met nine previous times in Davis Cup play, with Spain holding a 5-4 series lead. Nadal led Spain to a 4-1 semifinal win in 2008. The only time they met in the final was a 3-2 Spain victory in 2004.
Weve had a lot of battles against them, you know, especially over there on the dirt, Mike Bryan said. I dont want to say theres a rivalry, but there is.