U.S. team likely will play at home again

Updated: April 11, 2004, 5:11 AM ET
By Cynthia Faulkner | ESPN.com

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- After acknowledging the need to still win this quarterfinal tie on Sunday, U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe likes what he sees when he looks ahead to semifinals.

Belarus upset Argentina in Davis Cup this weekend to advance to the semis and await either the United States or Sweden. After Saturday's doubles win, the Americans lead 2-1 headed into Sunday's reverse singles (ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET).

If the Americans advance, it means that after the U.S. Open, which follows closely on the heels of the Olympics, they will not have to travel to another hemisphere to play a Davis Cup tie on their least favorite surface -- clay. Instead, they'll be at home, where McEnroe says they'll probably select a surface similar to the one they're playing on this weekend in Delray Beach, Fla.

"If we do end up playing Belarus -- stressing the 'if' now because we're only up 2-1 -- we'll probably look to play in similar conditions as this -- fairly slow and slow hard court, or maybe even clay," McEnroe told ESPN.com on Saturday.

Argentina had a tough matchup in Belarus, McEnroe said, because the courts there are fast, which plays well into both Max Mirnyi's and Vladimir Voltchov's games.

"Certainly losing (David) Nalbandian and (Guillermo) Coria was a huge blow for them," McEnroe said. "Obviously, they couldn't recover from that."

The U.S. already got one travel break this year in that Sweden's upset of Davis Cup defending champion Australia meant that instead of traveling from Miami to Australia this weekend, the Americans drove just an hour up Florida's I-95.

"To go to Argentina after the U.S. Open is a big ask," McEnroe said. "Just traveling, obviously, to play them on clay would be difficult.

"So when we get through this one -- hopefully we will on Sunday -- you know, we like our record at home."

The United States is 102-14 when at home, and under Patrick McEnroe's leadership, the Americans are undefeated on U.S. soil.

It's understandable, then, why McEnroe expressed his firm belief in No. 2 Andy Roddick's ability to defeat Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman or any substitute the Swedes may use, which they can do up to an hour before Sunday's match.

"We're not really concerned with (a switch), to be honest," McEnroe said. "Either way, the bottom line is Andy Roddick is going to be stepping on the court. So whoever they've got, bring 'em on."

There's nothing Andy Roddick likes more than a big-pressure situation. He feeds off the crowd even when it's against him, which this sold-out crowd will not be. Roddick went to high school not far from here. And if that's not enough, he'll have the Bryan brothers, fresh from clinching the doubles point to give the Americans a 2-1 lead, cheering him on to get the tie in the fourth singles match.

"It's gonna be really fun for us after ... releasing this pressure to go out there and just root our guts out for Andy," Bob Bryan said. "Yesterday, we didn't really root the hardest because of the sun. We had to get ready for this match & it's going to be really fun just to go out there, get our pom-poms out and go crazy."

"Blow horns," Mike added.

"Yeah, blow the horns," Bob agreed.

The singles matches on the first day came down to Roddick and Bjorkman adjusting to the slow surface by using their kick serves smartly while throwing in the occasional heat. Unfortunately for Bjorkman, he served abysmally in Saturday's doubles, with a 35-percent first-serve percentage and allowing four breaks with the Swedes not even winning a point on his serve until the second set.

Still, Bjorkman said you have to go in confident to the next match.

"You can't go out and (look as if) you have no chance; then you shouldn't be out on the tennis court," Bjorkman said. "I'm here to play. I'm ready to play, and everyone that's out there should always try to believe that they can win."

It will be Bjorkman's third match of the tournament, and he'll have to face the physical firepower that Roddick brings, McEnroe said.

"Even if you're fresh, going out to play Andy Roddick tomorrow is going to be a physically demanding match for anybody," McEnroe said. "I think that gives us confidence, knowing the type of game Andy will play.

Sweden's Davis Cup captain Mats Wilander pointed out that Bjorkman beat Roddick in Doha earlier this year.

"What I saw yesterday, Andy is a tough guy to beat, but you get a chance to play with him," Wilander said. "He's not No. 2 in the world for nothing, but he doesn't go through the whole year without losing either."

Wilander wasn't ready, however, to talk about a potential live fifth match.

"Geez, we'll get to that when we get to that, I think," he said, smiling.

Cynthia Faulkner is the tennis editor at ESPN.com.

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