Changeover Chat: “…you okay, America?”

Andrew Eccles:
So, another year and another victory for Great Britain over the United States in the first round of the Davis Cup. It strikes me that this is a thing that should not be happening…so, in a friendly GB vs USA debate of our own, I think it’s time we untangle exactly what is going on. I’d like to call this the “…You okay, America?” edition of the Changeover Chat.

Lindsay Gibbs: *sobs forever* As a fan of American tennis, particularly when it comes to Davis Cup, I must say that this result was devastating, even if it wasn’t that surprising.

Andrew: Sorry Lindsay! First of all, let’s just address the match up question, because I don’t think there was any glaring error on the part of team USA in terms of the team they fielded. Do you feel you sent the right guys?

Lindsay: Gosh, I don’t know. It’s so hard to say. You have to nominate Isner because he’s the top-ranked guy and has had some pretty incredible Davis Cup moments over the past couple of years – or, one year – but I don’t envy the people trying to pick the second guy. Querrey was out because of an injury, but also because I’m pretty sure just the sight of James Ward would cause him to fall into the fetal position.

Andrew: James Ward is becoming the nemesis of the USA, in a strange narrative twist.

Lindsay: Really, it came down to Steve Johnson or Donald Young, and while I do think that it should be factored in how well Johnson did in a team atmosphere in college, you can’t really argue with the good February that Young had, making the semis of Memphis and the final in Delray.

Now, the question is: Do you split up the Bryan Brothers in favor of having an extra singles player in there and bring Isner, Johnson, Young, and a Bryan? I DON’T KNOW. I see the argument for doing that, but at the same time, the Bryans have been Davis Cup for the U.S., and they provide that leadership and cohesiveness that the team needs. And that doubles point is important.

So, while people are questioning the nominations, I see the justification for all of it. Did that answer your question?

Andrew: And then some! First of all I don’t think you bench a Bryan, I really don’t. That doubles point is valuable and even that one nearly slipped away. I guess your other option would have been Smyczek, who would obviously have been a gamble in himself.

In the end this match up didn’t actually go down to the second guy on team USA, it was all about that Isner vs Ward match, that’s where the tie was lost. I actually think the team selection was absolutely fine, because when you look at the numbers it should have come down to that deciding match between Ward and Young: Isner should beat Ward, the Bryans win doubles, Murray wins both his matches and then it’s a gamble for both teams in the deciding match.

Unfortunately for the USA, Britain’s second guy had…well, he had a moment! It’s not about a bad selection.

Lindsay: Right, this tie really was all about the failure of John Isner, or the heroics of James Ward. It depends on your angle. Do you see it more as a match that Isner lost or that Ward won?

Andrew: I think you’ve got to pin it on John a little bit.

Lindsay: By a little bit do you mean A LOT? Because I do.

Andrew: I mean a lot. Look, John Isner should not be losing a professional tennis match to James Ward. Nor should Querrey, by the way. I think this was a major flop from Isner against an excited overseas crowd, and it’s the kind of thing we’ve seen from him again and again when he is playing on foreign soil.

Of course, Ward played well to take advantage of the situation in front of him, and when he gets passionate in a match and starts to zone…okay, yes, he can hit some good balls and win games and sets. That said, this should be a whole other league. As somebody who has been around the top of the game for a pretty long period of time now, Isner ought to be able to put away Ward in that situation ESPECIALLY from two sets up and ESPECIALLY with his serve.

For goodness sake, get to a tie break. Bomb some serves down from the tower block height your arm can get to and make it a non-contest. Make it boring! People can shout “serve-bot!” as much as they like but a boring win is better than an exciting loss. Ward was allowed to get excited, Team GB were allowed to get excited, the crowd were let in.

Lindsay: Right. Beyond those two Davis Cup ties in 2012 when he defeated Federer and Tsonga both on the road in Davis Cup, Isner hasn’t done anything notable internationally. And it’s beyond inexcusable at this point in his career. It’s even more infuriating because he HAS beaten Federer and Tsonga on the road in Davis Cup – so he has the game!! It’s there!! We’ve seen it!!

Andrew: I’m just gonna halt this Isner-bashing briefly because we should mention that Ward didn’t exactly run away with the final set.

Lindsay: Isner kept competing, that’s true, he usually does. But he was SO PASSIVE. And when Isner is passive and nervous, he will lose close matches to anyone ranked near the top 200. We’ve seen it time and time again.

When he’s imposing his game and comfortable, then he can push top five players. It’s really not rocket science, and yet, he makes it complicated.

Andrew: It’s a shame really, because a lot of people remember John for his heroics at Wimbledon when he beat (oh wow, I can’t think of his name) over three days in the longest match ever contested.

Lindsay: MAHUT

Andrew: Mahut! My goodness.

Lindsay: I’m giving you a lot of side eye.

Andrew: My sincerest apologies to Nicolas, whose tennis I actually really enjoy.

Can we talk about something else Davis Cup related? Can we talk about Andy Murray’s social media moments?

Lindsay: PLEASE. Andy Murray was in fine form this week, on and off the court. First, there was his tweet when Ward won:

Andrew: Glasgow is COLD too.

Lindsay: Then he turned into Patrick after his brother almost knocked off the Bryans:

And then, after clinching the tie, he decided to get Inglot into a heap of trouble:

(I can’t stop watching that video. It’s amazing.)


Lindsay: It’s INCREDIBLE.

Andrew: Andy Murray is genuinely one of the funniest guys on the men’s tour I think, which is great because if you only ever watched him on the court you would NEVER guess. I kind of like to compare it to the understated, blank faced Svetlana Kuznetsova that you see playing tennis compared to the party animal you kind of get the impression she is in real life from the occasional vine here and there…

Lindsay: It’s true, and it’s been really neat watching him come into his own over the last few years – he is so at ease with himself. And, as you mentioned, he really is a leader on the team. That’s what the U.S. needs and has been missing since Roddick retired – a leader.

Andrew: Is there anyone coming up, for the USA, who you think can take that lead? I have to say, I’m hearing very little about the future of men’s tennis in America…

Lindsay: Personality wise, I still believe that Ryan Harrison would be an incredible leader if his game would just get him there. He’s so impressive in person to talk to–very charismatic and insightful. I don’t see Jack Sock having the fire that’s needed at all.

Andrew: It would be good to see Harrison picking up the pace and really making some moves on the tour. I think we’ve all given up blaming it on his unlucky draws, although granted he does seem to be cursed to face the world no. 1 in every first round he ever plays! I think these things move in ebbs and flows, maybe this is just the time for the USA to take a bit of a back seat in the men’s game, and another guy will come along in 5 years or so.

Lindsay: There are some younger younger guys who have a lot of potential: Jared Donaldson, Stefan Kozlov, Francis Tiafoe. They’re all around the same age, which is great because hopefully they can push each other up the rankings and find some camaraderie. But we’ll just have to wait and see.

Andrew: Let’s hope!

Lindsay: How are you feeling about British tennis right now, Andrew? I mean, this Davis Cup success is new to anyone like under the age of 100 over there.

Andrew: I mean, I suspect I’m one of ten British people outside of the stadium who have actually heard of Davis Cup, so I don’t think this will exactly send waves of excitement through British tennis.

Look, it’s really great having Andy Murray around at the moment because it’s added that little extra something to the grass season in the UK that Tim Henman could never quite bring. It has also made people more aware of tournaments like the US Open (!) and to a lesser degree the other two slams. Tennis is still very much Britain’s…4th sport, probably. Behind football (soccer), cricket, rugby and golf or maybe even athletics to some degree, although athletics only becomes relevant once every four years.

Murray has certainly given it greater visibility in the 50 weeks of the year that Wimbledon isn’t on, so that’s great. I feel sad that Robson has been injured for so long and that Watson became unwell and dropped down the rankings during the same period, because often what’s written about women’s tennis during Wimbledon is “another year, and further proof that the British women are RUBBISH”, which is harsh.

Lindsay: Do you think that Ward will be able to propel himself to any tour success? Or is this a DC-only performance once again?

Andrew: I absolutely, 100%, do not believe that Ward will take this experience and drive himself up the rankings, no. He didn’t last year, he won’t this year. It’s rough but I just don’t think that Ward can find the same kind of form without that kind of partisan crowd. Even at events like Wimbledon and Queens where of course the crowd would be on his side because of the flag next to his name, nobody would really expect him to win too many rounds and the atmosphere just isn’t the same, anyway.

I guess maybe it’s a shame Dan Evans couldn’t keep up that random form he showed at the US Open that time…but I suspect its best for everyone if we don’t send Evans out into the world to represent the United Kingdom! We’re fine with Murray, Helen Mirren, and The Queen.

Lindsay: LOL. Well, shall we look forward? Team USA will be back to the relegation matches in September, right? While London will face France in the quarters?

Andrew: Does London facing France mean we can’t send our Scot?!

Lindsay: Oh, GB!

Andrew: Great Britain (!) will be facing france in July haha, yes. Let’s be clear: GreatBritainWillNotBeatFrance

Lindsay: I mean, France barely beat Germany. Struff took Simon to the brink. So it’s unlikely, sure, but it’s France and nothing is a given.

Andrew: Right but Struff is better than Ward, surely. And the thing with France is that their A-player, whoever it turns out to be, is going to have more of a chance against Murray than Isner did. Murray is not somebody that John Isner wants to be facing on a regular basis. The French have a couple of guys who can make it a nervous battle – you NEVER know with Gael. Also, if we field Ward again I can’t see him replicating the results.

Am I being really anti-James Ward as the sun sets on his second glorious Davis Cup victory? I feel like I am, but still, I stand by it.

Here’s a fun question: at this early stage, who is your pick to WIN the Davis Cup?

Lindsay: I mean, the biggest contenders in my opinion are Serbia and France. I’d love to see Australia win it and have Hewitt go out with that victory, but it’s a long-shot.

Andrew: I think this young Australian team could have a really good run, you know, under Hewitt’s guidance. I’d put them above France purely for the energy they have and the way they perform when they’re in a big-time situation.

Lindsay: Argentina could have a shot if Delpo comes back and plays.

Andrew: I don’t think Delpo should play ANYTHING he doesn’t need to play, ever. That man needs to rest, and then play the US Open. And then rest again.

Lindsay: I’d say Serbia again if Djokovic keeps playing. Seems that Troicki’s form is good enough to be a solid No. 2 again. And his return might give Djokovic the boost to play again. It’s a pretty open year with the Czech Republic, Spain, and Switzerland already out.

Andrew: Agreed, a lot rides on Djokovic this year. I have to say I think it’s a bit of a shame that Wawrinka and Federer chose not to represent Switzerland this year, after winning last year. In a way I can understand that they’ve done that now and they wanted to focus on other things, but it’s obviously a bit of a shame for tennis fans here in the mountains.

Lindsay: Looking at the draw, an Australia/Serbia final would be great.

Andrew: Exactly! I think Australia could get past France just by being WAY more enthusiastic in their efforts.

Lindsay: Oh totally. Plus, I mean, who knows about the health of Team France.

Andrew: So, Australia or Serbia, you heard it here first…

I think that’s probably a good time to put this “…you okay, America?” edition of the Changeover Chat to bed.

Lindsay: I agree, Andrew. Time to go drink my sorrows away.

Andrew: Just remember, Lindsay, a new day will dawn and you’ll be able to enjoy maple pancakes while Britain solemnly chews on black pudding.

If any of y’all don’t know what black pudding is, just Google it. It’s made of BLOOD.

Lindsay: Oh, a terrible guy I was hanging out with when I visited London made me try it nine years ago, and I’ve never forgiven him.

Andrew: It’s actually really good if you don’t think about what it is.

Lindsay: That is a lie.

6 Responses

  1. BadToss
    BadToss March 8, 2015 at 9:20 pm |

    This made me sob forever for Roddick! Such a leader–played with fire. We need another…

  2. Jo
    Jo March 9, 2015 at 11:38 am |

    Harsh on Ward, and harsh on the many tennis fans in the UK. Count me in as someone who travels to Europe to watch tennis – and it isn’t to watch Andy Murray (nice bloke and good player that he is). Patriotism has never entered my thoughts when following players.

    Granted, Isner should win that match, but Ward has been making progress in the rankings of late and if a player has a bad day, he should lose to a guy who is ranked around 100.

    1. Abigail Johnson
      Abigail Johnson March 9, 2015 at 12:22 pm |

      Have to agree with Jo almost completely there. The only bit that I do not agree on is the ‘many tennis fans in the UK’. Even while me and my family were watching the tie, we were discussing how most people in the stadium probably knew more about Murray than they did about tennis. It’s got better in recent years, but as Andrew stated, tennis is still an afterthought in our sporting culture. I always feel that we don’t deserve Wimbledon.

      I will stand by James Ward to the end. I never support a player due to patriotism – that guy can simply play tennis. The circumstances that need to be involved for that to happen… Well, I shall be writing about that in days to come

  3. Matt Vidakovic
    Matt Vidakovic March 9, 2015 at 12:02 pm |

    American tennis just has not been the same in the post-Roddick era, which is a shame; I get the same feeling with Harrison, everything is in place and yet it…just…wont…click

  4. RZ
    RZ March 9, 2015 at 12:07 pm |

    I think Andrew is being a little too tough on Ward. I agree that he didn’t make a big move after last year’s heroics, but he still had improvements – qualifying for more grand slams and events and hanging tough with top pros (I saw him take the first set over Feliciano Lopez at Indian Wells).

    As for the doubles, the Bryans are key to the match ups with Team GB as the Brits have several quality doubles players in Jamie Murray, Dom Inglot, Colin Fleming, Johnny Marray (Andy Murray isn’t too bad at doubles either).

  5. Fernando
    Fernando March 9, 2015 at 10:04 pm |

    Fernando says when you focus on the serve and first strike tennis you do not develop players. The USTA is enamored with power. Start on clay and learn how to play tennis and build stamina; then progress to other surfaces. America has a wonderful tennis tradition and a large talent pool playing the sport. The U.S. ATP tennis players should not be this bad. It is starting to get a bit embarrassing,no?

    I am Fernando @vivafernando

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