Roddick likes Davis Cup future
By JOHN GLENNON
The festive crowd in the Gaylord Entertainment Center last night witnessed not only an evening of competitive tennis, but also the core of a young U.S. Davis Cup team that promises to contend for several years.
Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and the Bryan brothers — Bob and Mike — played relaxed exhibitions in front of an audience of 5,380. Roddick downed Fish 6-3, 7-6 and the Bryan brothers topped local favorites Brian Baker and Bobby Reynolds 8-5.
''I like exhibitions like this because it's not life or death out there,'' Roddick said. ''You get a lot of crowd interaction, and I think Mardy and I like it even more than the fans.''
The experience was a far cry from the atmosphere the group faced earlier this month, when the U.S. took on host Spain and a hostile crowd of 27,000 — in the Davis Cup final.
In that showdown, the Spaniards, playing on their familiar slow clay surface, beat Roddick twice and downed the Americans 3-2.
''It was one of the most unbelievable atmospheres in the history of tennis,'' Mike Bryan said. ''The crowd was cheering against us in between our first and second serves. It's crazy on the road, but that's the way it's supposed to be in Davis Cup.''
The Americans left Spain disappointed, but feeling good about their chances for capturing the country's first Davis Cup title since 1995.
After all, the 22-year-old Roddick is ranked second in the world, the 23-year-old Fish is ranked 35th, and the 26-year-old Bryans are the second-ranked doubles team in the world.
''We've got one of the best singles players in the world and one of the best doubles teams in the world,'' Fish said. ''I'm pretty happy about that. We all get along great.''
In addition, winning the Davis Cup is one of the biggest goals for Roddick, who's already captured a Grand Slam title and earned the world's No. 1 ranking.
''It's right up there with winning the Slams,'' Roddick said. ''It's the biggest tennis event in the world. I'd love to win it with this group of guys because we're so close.''
Roddick and Fish played to the crowd last night, even pulling a couple of teenage boys from the stands to play an impromptu point during the second-set tiebreaker. The loser had to take off his shirt before walking back to his seat.
In the doubles contest, there was no question which team had the homecourt advantage, but it would take more than that for Baker and Reynolds to defeat the Bryan brothers.
''Those guys pick apart the top 10 teams in the world, so there's definitely no shame in losing to them,'' said Reynolds, who led Vanderbilt to the NCAA team final in 2003 before turning pro.
''It seems like every ball that gets hit, they know exactly where the other guy is on the court. But it was still a lot of fun.''
Reynolds and Baker, a Nashville native and Hillwood High graduate, heard plenty of ''Go Nashville!'' and ''Go Commodores!'' cries from the audience, and they treated the crowd to a good match.
When Baker held serve in Game 11, he helped the local favorites cut the lead of the Bryan brothers to 6-5.
But Mike Bryan smacked three service winners to help give the Bryans a 7-5 advantage, and the Bryans then broke Reynolds' serve to capture the match.
''This was a great opportunity for Bobby and I,'' Baker said. ''Bobby and I don't play together much, so it's a little more difficult for us to find our rhythm. They hit a lot of shots down the middle on us, and that usually doesn't happen when you play together a lot.''
John Glennon is a staff writer for The Tennessean. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 259-8262.
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