After playing all away Davis Cup ties last year, the US men come home as they host the World Group first round against Brazil in Jacksonville, Fla this weekend.
Those returning include top-ranked American John Isner, who did not participate in Melbourne due to an injured knee. He told the press yesterday, via ESPN, that he is ready for the tie.
"I had a very encouraging week of practice which is what I was looking for," Isner said. "I didn't know how my knee was going to react when I really started to practice hard because it's been a while. My knee hasn't been bothering me. I feel like I'm ready to go."
Joining Isner will be Sam Querrey and recently-crowned Australian Open doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan. The last tie on US soil did not go as planned, as the US lost to Spain in a lopsided tie back in July 2011. The Americans are looking to reach the World Group quarterfinals for the third year in a row and hope the home crowd will be an advantage.
However, the Brazil squad should provide a strong test, as their team includes Thomaz Bellucci (ranked No. 36) and a top 20 doubles team, Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares, who have a 2-1 edge against the Bryan brothers. The Bryans hope to exact revenge as they come to Florida with the No. 1 doubles ranking.
Although Bellucci has better results on clay, his game consists of big serves and forehands that could give Querrey and Isner problems on a hard court. Plus, Bellucci is becoming more consistent on the surface, reaching his first hard-court final in Moscow last year, losing to Andreas Seppi in three sets.
The other question mark is how Isner will fare in his first match in a month. He plays the second match on Friday and doesn’t face Bellucci until Sunday, which will relieve some pressure. Isner wanted to be ready for this tie (hence his Aussie pullout) and must be hoping to channel his Davis Cup magic of last year, where he beat top-10 players Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer. Isner will come in rusty, but he will be hoping to start February on a better note than January.
USA leads Brazil 3-1 head-to-head. Their last meeting came when Courier and team battled against a young Gustavo Kuerten in 1997. Brazil finds itself in the World Group for the first time since 2003, while the US is trying to shake off a tough road loss to Spain last September in the semifinals.
Two teams, with one looking to get back to its winning ways and the other trying to establish itself back in the World Group standings, will battle for the spot against the Serbia/Belgium winner in April.
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