US powered by twin engines
We could think Andy Roddick would be the key factor for U.S. success in the Davis Cup, but in this team event, it's the doubles that count -- a rule of thumb Spain has taken to heart. In preparation for their face-off versus the Americans, Spain's focus is on US doubles Mike and Bob Bryan.
"For me, the doubles will be the most difficult rubber," Spain coach Juan Avendaño said.
"On paper they [the Bryan bothers] are more experienced as a duo," he said.
The Bryans won all three of their 2004 Davis Cup doubles matches without losing a set. Spain's Rafael Nadal and Tommy Robredo, in contrast, could only muster one win in three 2004 ties.
The Bryans have certainly been a blessing for U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe. The twins practically guarantee the USA a point in Davis Cup play, a vital competition for the Americans and one that has left them in shambles since 1995, when the USA last lifted the Cup.
That year, Pete Sampras and Todd Martin beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Andrei Olhovskiy for the go-ahead point in a tight 3-2 doubles victory.
Since 1995, however, American doubles teams have been 7-13 -- until, of course, the Bryans came aboard.
One year ago the brothers saved the US from being relegated, bringing in a point in a crucial rubber against Slovakia.
High-spirited and "excited" to be in the US mix, the Bryans have had their brown eyes on the prize since the age of six, when they won first tournament they entered, a 10-and-under event in Westlake, California.
"We've been together 24-seven all our lives. We can basically read each other's mind," says Mike.
"Doubles is communication, and after thousands of matches together we communicate better than most teams. We are never going to give up on each other. He's not going to dump me, and I'm not going to dump him. Sometimes we go back to the room and box it out, too. That spices it up a little bit."
Bob says: "This feels great to have a day dedicated to you and doubles. Doubles doesn't get the spotlight. We're on TV maybe five times a year, and ESPN is a huge stage. We want to get out there and show some excitement."
It is difficult to remember an American entry with greater team spirit.
Although the Yankees are a long way from guzzling champagne from the historic Cup on December 5, at least this year they're finally true contenders.