U.S. will need patience in Davis Cup final
Stephen Wade / Associated Press
SEVILLE, Spain - Andy Roddick is known for his explosive play. He'll need patience, too, in the Davis Cup final against Spain.
Playing on red clay in front of a record crowd, Roddick may need to turn down his power when the best-of-five series starts Friday at the Olympic Stadium.
"We're not going to be able to just hit through these guys in a five-set match," said American captain Patrick McEnroe, who is trying to lead the United States to its first Davis title since 1995. "We're going to have to do some of that, but we're going to have to play smart."
Roddick, Mardy Fish and doubles partners Mike and Bob Bryan are underdogs. They would be the favorites any place but Spain - and on any other surface.
"We know the Spanish are very tough at home," McEnroe said. "But I think if we can win here it will make it all the sweeter in probably the toughest place to play away from home."
Roddick has a 12-0 career record against all members of the Spanish team - Carlos Moya, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Robredo and Rafael Nadal. But only one of those wins came on clay. Fish is 4-1 against the Spaniards.
Playing in their third final in five years, the Spaniards are relying on the crowd, the clay and a balanced lineup. Spain has won the Davis Cup only once - in Barcelona four years ago. The United States has a record 31 Davis Cup titles, but hadn't reached the final since 1997.
Spain picked the southern city of Seville for the final because the sea-level venue reduces the Americans' power. The temporary clay-court setup has been configured to hold 26,600 fans.
"It will be a very humbling experience to play in front of that many people," Roddick said Tuesday. "Having said I need patience, I will still have to play my game and do what I do well. I have to stick to my weapons, which is hitting big shots."
Moya and Ferrero are former No. 1-ranked players and French Open champions. No. 5-ranked Moya is sure to play singles. Ferrero is in doubt, however, after a season that has included chickenpox, broken ribs and wrist problems. He is currently nursing a blister on his right thumb.
Jordi Arrese, one of the three Spanish captains, won't announce his lineup until Thursday's draw. Robredo is ranked No. 13 and is coming off a strong season. Ferrero is ranked No. 31, and 18-year-old Nadal is No. 51.
"They (Americans) are not going to change their style of play," Arrese said. "We have to make them run for a few more balls, make the rallies longer. One thing is for sure, playing on clay is their handicap. They don't have great results on clay and they're not as good away from home."
Asked how much he would bet on a Spanish win, Arrese replied: "I would bet anything on us winning - except my wife."
The Americans are counting on Roddick and the Bryan twins, who are 4-0 in Davis Cup play since joining the team just over a year ago. A victory for Fish would be a bonus, and probably seal an American victory.
"We've all got pretty good records against the Spaniards and hopefully we can carry that over," Fish said. "But it's tough to look a lot at records. You kind of throw everything out in the Davis Cup."
Spain has spent about US$1 million (?755,000) to install the clay court inside its 60,000-seat Olympic Stadium, which hosted the world track and field championships in 1999. The stadium has a roof, but the sides will be open, giving it an outdoor feel.
Each day's attendance is expected to break the record for a "sanctioned" tennis match.
The existing mark was set in 1954 in Sydney, Australia, when 25,578 watched the United States defeat Australia in the Davis final.
Several exhibition tennis matches have drawn bigger crowds. The 1973 match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the Houston Astrodome drew 30,472.
"I've only played a couple of times before 23,000 fans, and that was in the U.S. Open," Ferrero said. "A crowd that size you really notice. You go out trying to play like always, but with size of the crowd - and this time a home crowd - it can make you nervous."
Bob Bryan said the crowd might even help the Americans.
"It's the biggest crowd any of us will ever play in front of," he said. "It will make the match that much more special and pump everyone up that much more."