Bryans have Chile for lunch; U.S. looks for split
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- Chile elected to feed an inexperienced doubles team to the Bryans on Saturday, conceding the middle day of the Davis Cup quarterfinals.
The strategic move -- prompted by the physical beating Chile's best singles player took the day before -- means the U.S. team needs only a split of Sunday's two singles matches to advance to the semifinals against either France or Russia. Russia was leading 2-1 heading into Sunday.
No. 4 Andy Roddick will play the pesky, never-say-die 18th-ranked Fernando Gonzalez in Sunday's first match and No. 8 James Blake will face No. 37 Nicolas Massu in a match that wouldn't have any bearing on the outcome if Roddick prevails on grass, his favorite surface.
Roddick is 6-0 in matches where he had a chance to clinch a Davis Cup round.
Chilean captain Hans Gildemeister pulled the veteran tandem of Gonzalez and Massu an hour before Saturday's match with the world No. 1 team of Bob and Mike Bryan, replacing them with Adrian Garcia and Paul Capdeville.
Gildemeister said he decided to make the substitutions after Gonzalez, who won a wearing four-hour-plus, five-set match over Blake on Friday, awoke with a sore shoulder. Once Gonzalez had booked his afternoon schedule of whirlpools, massage and general relaxation, it made sense to rest Massu as well.
The Bryan twins dispatched Garcia and Capdeville in a mere 62 minutes, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4.
"It's a clinic!" one fan at the Mission Hills Country Club bellowed in an accurate assessment of the 17-minute first set. The Bryans were broken just once in the match and Bob Bryan, the lefty of the duo, smacked nine aces, more than twice as many as the two Chileans combined, and lost only one point on his serve.
"We just outplayed them from the first ball," he said. "Never really felt pressured at all. They didn't bring out a lot in our games."
Garcia didn't disagree. "We tried to win the match, but the main thing is to give a rest to Fernando and Nicolas," he said.
Massu and Gonzalez, ranked 31st and 53rd respectively in doubles, were considered to have at least a fighting chance against the Bryans. They beat the twins on the way to winning Olympic gold in 2004, although the Bryans crushed them 6-3, 6-1 in their last meeting at the 2005 U.S. Open.
Garcia, 27, and Capdeville, 23, had only played five matches as a pair and 28 doubles matches total before Saturday's demolition. They are ranked 196th and 252nd respectively.
The Bryans constitute a luxury few Davis Cup teams have -- top-tier doubles specialists from the same country who have played almost 500 matches together on the men's tour. They have put the U.S. team up 2-1 five out of the last six times the team has had a split on the first day, and are now 7-1 in Davis Cup matches overall.
Many other countries have to throw at least one singles player into their doubles matches.
"There's no better feeling in the world," Mike Bryan said. "Andy and James feel like that point is in the bag. We're like the hired guns. They work on their singles all week ... they know we're out there just doing doubles drills, working on the quick hands. I think it's a little intimidating for the Chileans to see that."
The Chilean captain did some mild trash-talking of the U.S. singles players after the virtual doubles walkover.
"Andy is not playing his best tennis," Gildemeister said. "Fernando has improved very much. I think he played yesterday the best match of the year. I think he has confidence against Andy tomorrow. I think the tie is still open ... Fernando can do some damage.
"In the fifth [match], anything can happen. Nicolas, he's special for that. I don't know about how Blake is going to react playing the fifth match."
Acting U.S. captain Dean Goldfine, Roddick's former personal coach, said he will try to keep Roddick somewhere between overly composed and too high, or "a little too amped up," as he put it.
"I think he played some of his best tennis when there was kind of an in-between those two, when he's out there showing energy, having fun, kind of strutting his stuff, so to say," said Goldfine, who coached Roddick for a year before their amicable split last February. "I think it's important to enjoy the moment and go out there and really let it fly."
Roddick is 19-7 lifetime in Davis Cup play and takes defeats hard -- in the first round against Romania two months ago, his stress level was so high that he threw up on the court late in his five-set loss.
Freelance writer Bonnie DeSimone is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.