Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The United States is expecting a difficult challenge this week when it battles a Novak Djokovic-led Serbian squad in a Davis Cup quarterfinal showdown in Boise.
The Americans lead all nations with a record 32 Davis Cup titles, but haven't put their hands of the coveted chalice since 2007. And when they did win it in '07, it marked the first U.S. victory in 12 long years (since 1995).
Basic math reveals that the "mighty" Americans have captured only one Davis Cup championship in the last 17 years, which is pretty bad for a country with as rich a tennis tradition (arguably the richest tennis tradition) as the ol' Red, White & Blue.
In Boise, a big-serving American team will entertain the 2010 champion Serbs on an indoor hardcourt at Taco Bell Arena (catchy), and it will do so with one of its weakest teams at this stage of the prestigious international event.
The top American player, Sam Querrey, is ranked only 20th in the world and has a losing 3-5 record in his limited career Davis Cup singles outings, while the American No. 2 this week, 6-foot-9 John Isner, is only 6-6 in his D-Cup singles and rests outside the top 20 altogether at No. 23. The Serbs, meanwhile, will counter with one of the best players in the Open Era (or any era for that matter), in Djokovic, as well as 44th-ranked Viktor Troicki. Fortunately for the U.S., Serbia will play without injured world No. 9 star Janko Tipsarevic.
Note: The reigning Aussie Open champion Djokovic is a solid 20-7 in his career Davis Cup singles action, while Troicki is a respectable 12-8.
Team USA's strength lies in its' lethal doubles tandem of Bob and Mike Bryan ... or one of the greatest doubles duos in the history of tennis. The Serbs, meanwhile, are expected to counter the twin Bryans with doubles specialist Nenad Zimonjic and either Djokovic, Troicki or Ilija Bozoljac on Day 2 of the three-day affair in the high altitude in Boise.
The Americans and Serbs have met only once in Davis Cup competition, with Serbia prevailing 3-2 in an opening-round best-of-five tie in Belgrade three years ago. Djokovic clinched the win by giving the hosts an unassailable 3-1 lead in the first reverse singles rubber in that one and his Serbs would go on to capture their first-ever title later that year.
The U.S. surprisingly reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year, spearheaded by Isner, who shocked the great Roger Federer, on clay, en route to a stunning 5-0 opening-round victory in Switzerland; and the towering North Carolina native then stunned former Australian Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, also on clay, in a 3-2 U.S. win over host France in the quarterfinals. Unfortunately, the Americans' luck would finally run out in the semis when powerful Spain hosted and bested an overmatched U.S. unit 3-1 in Gijon.
As far as this week is concerned, you would have to figure the amazing Djokovic is probably going to win both of his singles rubbers and the Bryans will probably notch yet another doubles victory, which would mean the matches between Querrey and Troicki and Isner and Troicki are likely going to decide the tie. If Troicki can pull out one of his singles, the chances of the U.S. advancing would be less than great.
"It's going to be very exciting," said Isner. "Playing Serbia is going to be a huge challenge. The guy that anchors their team is the best player in the world so we're certainly going to have our hands full but it's going to be a lot of fun."
Note: Isner took Djokovic to five sets in a Davis Cup opening-rounder in 2010 and won their last ATP World Tour meeting in a semifinal at Indian Wells last season.
Back in February, a host U.S. barely got past Brazil in the opening round, needing a fifth and deciding rubber to stave off the game visitors in Jacksonville. The Americans jumped out to a 2-0 lead in that one before the formidable Bryans suffered their first Davis Cup loss in five years, getting outplayed by a quality Brazilian twosome of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares. Querrey would eventually send the U.S. into the quarters with a big victory over Thiago Alves (who?) on Day 3.
For the record, team USA is captained by former world No. 1 star Jim Courier, while the Serbs are guided by Bogdan Obradovic (who is not to be confused with the late Serbian architect/urbanist/essayist Bogdan Bogdanovic).
"They're one of the best squads out there clearly," Courier said. "When you have the No. 1 player in the world, that's a nice place to start. But Davis Cup is Davis Cup, and hopefully our guys will be able to step up. They'll certainly be underdogs on paper and be ready to let it fly."
Whoever wins in Boise will face the Canada-Italy victor in a semifinal in September.
I actually like the U.S. to sneak out a win at Taco Bell this week ... but we'll see what happens.