From the first ball on, the stakes are high in Davis Cup. Playing for one’s nation creates a pressure-packed situation: How will one respond when they’re competing for more than just themselves?
Here’s a look at some players who have risen to the occasion this millennium in the first round.
Mardy Fish, United States
Playing on the road against Switzerland in 2012, Fish faced Stan Wawrinka in the first rubber and squeaked out a five-set win. Just as impressive, the American teamed up with Mike Bryan to defeat Roger Federer and Wawrinka in doubles to clinch the tie after John Isner had beaten Federer in the second rubber.
Fabio Fognini, Italy
After the first day of singles, the host nation Argentina found itself in a 2-0 hole against Italy in 2017. Starting from the doubles, it became the Carlos Berloq show as he and Leonardo Mayer won their nation’s first point, then Berloq took the first reverse singles match. In the live fifth rubber, Guido Pella won the first two sets against Fabio Fognini. The Italian rallied from that disadvantage to take the next three and clinch the tie.
Ivan Ljubicic, Croatia
In its 2005 tie against the United States in Las Vegas, Croatia rolled out the two-man team of Mario Ancic and Ljubicic, with the latter serving as a one-man wrecking crew. The Croat beat Andre Agassi in straight sets in the opener, teamed up with Ancic to defeat none other than Bob and Mike Bryan in doubles, then clinched the tie with a win over Andy Roddick in the fourth rubber.
Leonardo Mayer, Argentina
Argentina faced a 2-1 deficit against Brazil after the doubles rubber in front of its home crowd in 2015. Having accounted for Argentina’s first point, Mayer won the team’s second one: All it took was winning the second-longest men’s match of all time as the Argentine beat Souza 15-13 in the fifth set to level the tie. Federico Delbonis completed the comeback with a four-set win in the live fifth rubber.
Rafael Nadal, Spain
Tapping a 17-year-old to play on the road is a tough ask of many a captain. In 2004, Nadal was chosen for the Spanish team facing the Czech Republic, and lost his opening tie against Jiri Novak on carpet. By the fifth rubber, the nations were tied at 2-2, with Nadal facing Radek Stepanek. The young Spaniard defeated his more-experienced opponent in straight sets.
Sam Querrey, United States
Playing against Brazil on hard courts in Florida in 2013, the U.S. went up 2-0 behind wins from Querrey and John Isner. Then, the unexpected happened: The Bryan brothers fell to doubles specialists Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo. That was followed by Isner’s loss to Thomaz Belluci and just like that the heavy favorites found themselves in a live fifth rubber. Querrey came through in the clutch against Thiago Alves to right the ship and push the U.S. through.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Russia
In the opening rubber in 2001, Karol Kucera of Slovakia rallied from two sets down to defeat Marat Safin of Russia. Safin’s countryman Kafelnikov followed that result up with a singles win, then the two took the doubles to give Russia a 2-1 lead. After Safin dropped the fourth rubber, Kucera went up two sets to none over Kafelnikov in the live fifth match. It seems like turnabout is fair play: This time, it was Kafelnikov’s turn to rally as he won a thriller in five sets to put Russia through to the next round.
Thomas Johansson, Sweden
Coming off the biggest moment of his career at the 2002 Australian Open, where he surprisingly won the title, Johansson pulled off another tremendous feat. Sweden and hosts Great Britain were tied at 2-2 going into the fifth rubber. There, Johannson beat Greg Rusedski to help Sweden advance.
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