Isner helps U.S. earn split on Davis Cup Day 1

March 4, 2016 08:30 AM

By Ashley Marshall,

Big-serving John Isner sent down 20 aces to post a victory in the opening match of the United States’ Davis Cup first-round tie, and the U.S. and Australia split the two singles matches on the first day of competition.

In the 46th edition of this long-standing rivalry, the two nations are even at 1-1 heading into Day 2 at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club outside Melbourne after each country’s top representative defeated the other country’s No. 2 player.

In the first matchup of the day, world No. 11 Isner beat world No. 77 Sam Groth, who was filling in for an injured Nick Kyrgios, 7-6(2), 6-2, 6-2. Isner was never broken in the match, saving all six break points he faces, and he broke Groth, also one of the biggest servers on tour, twice each in the second and third sets.

With the victory, Isner improved to 9-9 in Davis Cup singles play.

“It was a very, very good performance for me,” Isner (pictured above) said. “Certainly I’ve played some matches in a lot in my career where I’ve struggled on return, but I think today I was pretty solid. … Anytime you win a match you’re on cloud nine. Anytime you win a match in a situation like this, you feel like you’ve got a lot of confidence.”

In the second contest, world No. 24 Jack Sock, playing in just his second Davis Cup tie after debuting last year in Uzbekistan, fell to world No. 20 Bernard Tomic, 7-6(2), 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, in two hours and 24 minutes.

The results leave the match finely poised entering Saturday’s play, which will see Mike and Bob Bryan square off against the Aussies. Groth and doubles specialist John Peers are tentatively scheduled to face the Bryan brothers, although playing captain Lleyton Hewitt can change the lineup up to an hour before the contest.

The Bryans hold 109 ATP doubles titles together and are going for their 24th Davis Cup doubles win together. The all-time winningest doubles team in U.S. Davis Cup history, the twins have never played Australia’s nominated team of Groth and Peers, but hold a 5-2 record over Peers in doubles on the ATP World Tour and a 3-0 record over Groth.

“Bob and Mike Bryan seem to be at advantage in the historical count of doubles in Davis Cup, but every day is a different day,” U.S. captain Jim Courier said. “You know, they’ve played awfully well. We feel confident in them, but again, they’ve lost matches in Davis Cup too. We don’t take anything for granted, we’ll be ready to go, but I love having them on our side.”

The U.S. Davis Cup team is 57-26 all-time when level at 1-1 after the first day of play and 26-11 when even since the World Group format was instituted in 1981.

Regardless of the outcome of the doubles match, both nations will have a chance to seal victory on Sunday when each country’s No. 1 player takes the court, followed by each country’s No. 2s. Isner will start Day 3 against Tomic, and, if necessary, Sock will face Groth to decide the tie.

Tennis Channel will air live coverage Saturday at 12 p.m. local time (8 p.m. ET Friday) and on Sunday at 11 a.m. local time (7 p.m. ET Saturday).