Fish latest addition to afflicted U.S. Davis Cup squad

Updated: September 16, 2008

Four Points

Hitting the wall
James Blake bowed out of the trip to Madrid for the Davis Cup semifinal, ending his participation streak at 10 straight. Blake's longtime coach Brian Barker said he knew Blake, who was replaced by No. 39 Sam Querrey, must be suffering from serious exhaustion when the player confided he was considering opting out. "He'll never say anything's wrong with him,'' Barker said. "The only time I ever remember him saying he didn't feel good, or stopping practice, is once when he still had shingles [in 2004]. Two days later, he was in the hospital.'' Barker said Blake is worn out not only from his recent voyage to the Beijing Olympics, but also from two years of almost continuous play. Preparing for last year's Davis Cup final shortened the offseason considerably, and two months later, the U.S. team turned around immediately after the Australian Open and flew to Austria defend its title in the first round on indoor clay. Blake clearly was sagging at the U.S. Open, where he escaped a serious challenge by Donald Young in five sets, struggled against Belgium's Steve Darcis before Darcis retired with an injury, and couldn't put up much resistance against his in-form pal Mardy Fish.

And speaking of Fish
Hope his fiancée Stacey Gardner has all the last-minute details dialed for their Sept. 28 wedding, because the 23rd-ranked Fish answered the bell when half of the world's best doubles team had to send regrets. Bob Bryan's left shoulder has been bothering him all summer, and although he was able to win the U.S. Open title with brother Mike -- their first Slam since the '07 Australian and sixth lifetime -- it's now officially inflamed. He's already taken one cortisone shot and his doctor wants him to rest the shoulder for six weeks, which could bump up against the year-end championships. The Bryans are the ultimate Davis Cup devotees and like Blake, Bob B. wouldn't have pulled out unless he had to. The twins have played 16 Cup matches together and lost only 2. Fish will be making his first Davis Cup appearance since his breakthrough 2004 season. Both Fish and Querrey are coming off best-ever performances at the U.S. Open, where, coincidentally, they were eliminated by Rafael Nadal in back-to-back four-setters. Although clay is not their preferred surface, Querrey reached the quarterfinals at Monte Carlo this season, and Fish won the U.S. clay-court championships in Houston in 2006. Their big serves should win them some points, especially with Madrid's slight altitude boost -- the ball flies faster at 2,188 feet than at sea level.

Querrey

AP Photo/Stephen Chernin

A central figure in an ongoing gambling scandal for more than a year, Nikolay Davydenko was cleared of any wrongdoing.

Case closed
Russia's Nikolay Davydenko and his somewhat forgotten opponent Martin Vassallo Arguello of Argentina were formally absolved of responsibility for betting irregularities in their August 2007 match in Sopot, Poland last week. The news leaked out during the U.S. Open and apparently has been a done deal for a while, which leads to the question of why authorities didn't announce it during a Grand Slam when the assembled world media could have given it as much prominence as the original suspicions. The ATP's report made it clear that investigators didn't get all the information they would have liked, but as they say on TV cop shows, you either have the goods or you don't. This was the final act of a saga that could have and should have been handled in a more timely fashion from the start.

Back to Russia, with love
So much for the "depleted'' team Russia fielded against Spain in the Fed Cup final, minus its top three women, Maria Sharapova (shoulder injury), Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina (fatigue). The bench players did pretty well: Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva swept three singles matches before the fourth was called off by mutual agreement, and Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina went ahead and took the dead-rubber doubles for good measure to give their country its fourth title in five years. After competition ended in Madrid, Kuznetsova announced she would be leaving her longtime training base in Barcelona and moving back to Russia. The gregarious 23-year-old said she needs a change and even admitted she's a bit homesick. "This is what my soul is telling me to do,'' said Kuznetsova, who struggled with a knee injury this summer and hadn't won a tournament all year. Good on her for having that insight. Kuznetsova comes from a family of athletes and surely recognizes that she needs to tweak something to pull out of a season-long pattern of not being able to close out big matches. The women's game could use her and her fearsome forehand at full strength.

Bonnie D. Ford covers tennis and Olympic sports for ESPN.com. She can be reached at bonniedford@aol.com.


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