U.S. defeats Switzerland in Davis Cup World Group first round

February 4, 2017 04:32 PM

By Ashley Marshall, USTA.com

The last time Jack Sock and Steve Johnson stood on the same side of the court, they earned Team USA an Olympic bronze medal in Rio.

On Saturday, some six months and 5,000 miles north in Birmingham, Ala., the duo booked America's ticket to the Davis Cup quarterfinals.

Sock and Johnson defeated the Swiss team of Henri Laaksonen and Adrien Bossel, 7-6, 6-3, 7-6, at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Center on Day 2 of the World Group first-round tie.

The victory gives the U.S. a 3-0 lead in the best-of-five matchup and assures captain Jim Courier's team a spot in the final eight of the international team competition. The triumph follows singles victories by Sock and John Isner on Friday.

"It's a new generation for us for a Davis Cup team," said Sock, who did a lap of honor around the court with the American flag after the victory. "You got four very capable singles and doubles players. We all love being together and we all get along so well.

"At the end there, definitely nice to kind of celebrate a little bit and get the first-round win under the belt and move on to the next one."

The U.S. will now travel to Australia after the Nick Kyrgios-led squad took an unassailable 3-0 lead over the Czech Republic earlier in the day. America beat Australia, 3-1, in Kooyong last March in a first-round tie. The U.S. has played Australia more than any other nation and owns an 26-20 overall record, including wins in eight of 17 matches away from home.

Team USA was originally scheduled to pair Johnson with Sam Querrey on Saturday, but Courier decided to turn to world No. 20 Sock, an accomplished doubles player who has dedicated more time to individual competition in recent years.

It marked the ninth time since 2012 that Sock and Johnson have partnered and the the first time at a Davis Cup tie. It was also the first time they've played together since the 2016 Rio Olympics, when they teamed up to win Team USA's first tennis medal of the Games.

An evenly matched opening set saw neither nation create a break point, but it was the U.S. that struck the first body shot of the match by winning six of the final seven points in the tiebreak to establish a 1-0 lead.

Sock and Johnson raced out to a 5-1 advantage in the second set behind breaks in the second and sixth games, and they dealt the Swiss another damaging blow by serving it out to inch the U.S. closer to a trip to Australia this spring.

The Swiss refused to follow the script, breaking at 1-2 in the third to keep the balance of the tie in doubt. The U.S. saved three set points with Switzerland serving at 5-4 and eventually forced a tiebreak. Sock and Johnson won the breaker on their first match point, after the opening 11 points had gone to the serving team. 

"I think I can speak for all of us when I say we're anxious to get down there and battle on," Courier said of the April's quarterfinal in Australia. "We're looking forward to the opportunity to go back and battle those guys again. We really want to get out to the semifinals and see what we can do this year."

Regardless of which combination Courier sent out to face the Swiss on Day 2 in the Magic City, it was always going to be a little different from the norm following last month's announcement that Bob and Mike Bryan were retiring from Davis Cup play.

The brothers had played and won more matches than any other tandem in U.S. Davis Cup history. Their absence created a void in Courier's lineup, but it also afforded him more flexibility in selecting four players who could play both singles and doubles.

Since the Bryans made their Davis Cup debut in 2003, the U.S. had only sent out four different combinations for the doubles rubber in 34 ties. That makes the duo of Sock and Johnson just the sixth different U.S. pairing at a Davis Cup tie in the past 15 years.