Team USA readies for Switzerland Davis Cup challenge

January 31, 2017 02:13 PM

By Ashley Marshall,

United States Davis Cup captain Jim Courier said his team is taking nothing for granted as it prepares for its World Group first-round tie against Switzerland in Birmingham, Ala., this weekend.

The U.S. squad is made up of four Top 40 players, led by Davis Cup veteran John Isner and world No. 20 Jack Sock. By contrast, the top-ranked Swiss player set to face America is Henri Laaksonen, who sits at No. 127.

Despite the strength and depth suiting up for Team USA, Courier insisted there’s no complacency ahead of the best-of-five contest, held at the Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex from Feb. 3-5.

“Rankings don't mean anything,” Courier said at Tuesday’s pre-draw press conference. “Once you get on the court, the ball doesn't care what your ranking is. You have to hit the shots and win the points.

“We come in ready to play and ready to fight for every point. We don't expect it to be easy. We're confident that we have four great players here ready to go to battle in five matches.”

Joining Sock and Isner, ranked 23rd, are Sam Querrey, who climbed five spots to No. 27 after the Australian Open, and Steve Johnson, ranked 31st.

Swiss captain Severin Luthi has nominated No. 146 Marco Chiudinelli, No. 485 Adrien Bossel and No. 598 Antione Bellier to join Laaksonen to face the U.S. Neither of Switzerland’s two stars – world No. 4 Stan Wawrinka and newly minted Australian Open champion champion Roger Federer – will play in the tie.

Isner said hosting a tie and playing in front of a home crowd is always an added advantage, and he’s anticipating a loud partisan crowd to cheer Team USA on to the quarterfinals.

Fans sold out the lower bowl of the BJCC, prompting organizers to open up the upper bowl to accommodate additional fans who were eager to see the U.S. in action.

“We're all comfortable playing in the United States,” said Isner, who will be playing his 13th tie. “We all enjoy Birmingham very much. This town is awesome. We can sort of feel the enthusiasm already. We had the kids' clinic yesterday (pictured above). They were all into it. We're expecting a good crowd. That's going to help us out a lot, as well.”

The biggest difference to the U.S. team compared with previous years is the absence of Mike and Bob Bryan. The twins announced they were retiring from Davis Cup competition earlier this month after 14 years competing for Team USA.

“We were blessed to have Bob and Mike on our team for so many years,” Courier said. “They're incredible. We'll miss them for sure. I have a lot of confidence in these guys. Any combination of these four players would be a very, very good doubles team. It is different to not have Bob and Mike here. I wouldn't say it's better, but I would say that we feel comfortable that we have great options at our disposal for all of the matches.”

Added Querrey: "I think all of us are big team guys. It's special to be part of this group. I think we're all really fortunate to be here. It's an individual sport 90 percent of the year. So any time you can get together with a team and cheer everyone on, be part of something a little different, it's real exciting."

The winner of this weekend’s tie advances to the World Group quarterfinals, 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.

The U.S. holds a 3-1 record over Switzerland in Davis Cup, last meeting in the 2012 World Group First Round in Fribourg, Switzerland.