Sock, Isner to lead off for U.S. in Davis Cup tie vs. Switzerland

February 2, 2017 02:07 PM

By Ashley Marshall,

On a day when a lovable rodent embraces legend and folklore to predict the length of winter, Team USA went to find a groundhog of their own in the pursuit of playing meaningful Davis Cup tennis this spring.

Birmingham Bill emerged from his burrow at Birmingham Zoo on Wednesday to determine the order of play for this weekend’s first-round tie between the U.S. and Switzerland, to be played at the nearby Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center.

Top-ranked American and world No. 20 Sock will play No. 146 Marco Chiudinelli when play gets underway in Alabama and Isner will face world No. 127 Henri Laaksonen. Should both Americans win on Day 1, Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson will team up to play Antoine Bellier and Adrien Bossel in Saturday’s doubles rubber with a chance to seal the tie.

If either team loses one of the first three matches, the outcome will be decided on Sunday, when each nation’s top player faces each other and each country’s No. 2 player goes head to head. On Sunday, Sock would play first against Laaksonen and, if necessary, Isner will contest the final rubber against Chiudinelli.

“We're feeling pretty good with them,” U.S. Captain Jim Courier said of his lineup. “We feel actually quite good with all the guys up here, so we couldn't have made a bad choice. We know [Switzerland is] going to be tough. They're experienced. They've played plenty of Davis Cup. Our guys are going to have to be ready from the first ball to the last ball.”

Saturday’s and Sunday’s nominations are subject to change, and the final match may not be played if one country has already wrapped up the tie.

Sock and Chiudinelli have met just once before, with the Swiss beating the then-17-year-old Sock in four sets in the first round of the 2010 US Open. Neither Sock nor Isner has played Laaksonen before, but Isner has beaten Chiudinelli on three occasions, including in the second round of the 2010 US Open and when the teams last played a Davis Cup tie in 2012.

The U.S. also likely has the advantage in the doubles rubber. Querrey is ranked 27th in the world and Johnson sits at No. 31. By comparison, 30-year-old Bossel is ranked No. 485 and Bellier, 10 years his junior, is ranked No. 598.

Courier said earlier in the week that he is confident in his team’s ability to advance to April’s quarterfinals, but that he’s not taking anything for granted. On Wednesday he said he hopes the competition among the team, as well as from young up-and-coming Americans climbing the ranks of the professional tour, will help push Team USA to greater heights.

“You're looking at the present and the future of it right here, for starters,” Courier said. “The even better news is that we have a cluster of 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds that are starting to make their way onto the tour, starting to get through the challengers, move up to tour level."

Courier went on to compare the current competition among the American men to his playing days, when he came up with Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Todd Martin and others.

“I was lucky enough to come through a generation that pushed each other," Courier continued. "We had a cluster back then. We were able to push each other to great heights. It can only benefit American tennis if we have this young group here. I know these guys are very proud of their positions that they've earned in the sport. They're not going to let those youngsters come up and take them easily either.”

The winner of this tie advances to the World Group Quarterfinal, April 7-9, and will play either the Czech Republic or Australia. The losing nation will compete in the World Group Playoff, Sept. 15-17, for the right to remain in the World Group in 2018.

Tickets are available for as low as $25 and may be purchased at or at the Legacy Arena box office.