U.S. team poised to make a racket in Birmingham with Davis Cup tie against Switzerland

U.S. team poised to make a racket in Birmingham with Davis Cup tie against Switzerland
US Davis Cup Team Captain Jim Courier, left, grins as team player John Isner squirms as he talks about being a Georgia Bulldog in Alabama and Auburn country. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr. / Alabama NewsCenter)

On paper, the first round Davis Cup tie between the United States and Switzerland is an absolute mismatch.

American captain Jim Courier sends four of the top 50 players in the world into this event, which starts Friday, Feb. 3, in Legacy Arena at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. No. 19 John Isner leads the way, followed by No. 20 Jack Sock, No. 30 Steve Johnson and No. 32 Sam Querrey.

The Swiss counter with a squad whose highest ranked player is No. 128, Marco Chiudinelli. The remaining players available to Swiss captain Severin Lüthi are No. 133 Henri Laaksonen, No. 488 Adrien Bossel and No. 612 Antoine Bellier.

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But Courier and his squad aren’t yet making plans for the second round. They know that despite their lofty rankings, they still have work to do.

“Once you get on the court, the ball doesn’t care what your ranking is,” Courier said. “You have to hit the shots and win the points.”

Team USA has come to town ready to roll up its sleeves and put in a full weekend of work as it looks to move past visiting Switzerland.

“We come in ready to play and ready to fight for every point,” Courier said. “We don’t expect it to be easy.”

Former world No. 1 Roger Federer of Switzerland won his 18th Grand Slam singles championship as he outlasted his longtime rival Rafael Nadal in a five-set final at the Australian Open. Along the way, Federer dispatched his countryman Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals Down Under.

Those two would have certainly bolstered the roster of the visitors and switched the Swiss into the role of favorites. But, as Lüthi said, this is no B team that he’ll pit against the Americans.

“Most people know the two players,” he said of Federer and Wawrinka. “But … we have the best players behind them here. We’re going to try to do our best and give 100 percent. We’ll also try to improve this week. All the rest really doesn’t matter for us.”

Courier said his team brings a confidence into Legacy Arena, where the Americans knocked off the Swiss in 2009. Isner echoed that sentiment.

“We’re all comfortable playing in the United States,” the former Georgia Bulldog said. “We all enjoy Birmingham very much. Me, in particular. This is SEC country, so I like that.

“This town is awesome,” Isner continued. “We can sort of feel the enthusiasm already. We had the kids’ clinic yesterday. They were all into it. We’re expecting a good crowd. That’s going to help us out a lot, as well.”

While the Swiss are missing Federer and Wawrinka, the USA is without the doubles tandem of Bob Bryan and his twin brother, Mike. The pair announced last week that they have retired from Davis Cup.

Lüthi said not facing the American twins isn’t necessarily a big edge for his team. He suggested that Courier now has more flexibility with his lineup.

“When they had the brothers in the team, you knew which players are going to play singles,” he said. “Now I think all four players can also play doubles. They can change. They can wait and see how the matches on Friday went.”

Courier said the Americans were blessed to have the Bryans for so many years.

“They’re incredible. We’ll miss them for sure,” he said. ”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,” Courier continued. “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.”

The draw for playing positions is Thursday. Action begins Friday with the first of two singles matches at 3 p.m. One doubles match is set for 2 p.m. Saturday and reverse singles will begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

All matches of the tie are best-of-5. The format may be revised to best-of-3 if either team clinches the tie in the third or fourth match.

Single-day advance tickets range from $25 to 175; single-day tickets purchased on the day of play are $50 to $185. Tickets can be purchased at www.usta.com/daviscup or at the box office on the day of play.

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