The United States Davis Cup team needed just one more victory versus their Colombian opponents after Friday’s 2-0 start to advance to the 12-nation Group Play stage, which will be contested across four cities next September.
The Americans accomplished their goal on their first opportunity, winning the only doubles match of the competition 6-3, 6-4 to begin the Saturday session.
The reigning U.S. Open doubles champion Rajeev Ram and his partner Jack Sock ousted the determined Colombia team of Juan Sebastian-Cabal and Nicolas Barrientos, who was playing in place of Robert Farah and making his Davis Cup debut.
Both teams had their share of highlight reel shot-making and made for an entertaining matinee for the healthy crowd gathered in downtown Reno.
Sock, with a 5-1 Davis Cup doubles record and owner of one of the game’s most devastating forehands, who along with Ram own eight grand slam doubles titles together, proved to be just too much for the veteran Sebastian-Cabal who was playing in his 25th Davis Cup doubles tie and his rookie substitute partner.
“For sure it’s a weapon. If I didn’t have it, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here. Obviously if you can find my backhand, you’re probably going to beat me. If I can hit with my forehand, I’m probably going to win. It’s a nice cushion to have,” said Sock after the win.
Reno turned out to watch some of the best professional tennis players in the world, cheer on team USA, and applaud some wonderful tennis from all the competitors again on Saturday.
Rajeev Ram and the rest of team USA noticed.
“It really helps. I don’t know if people realize how much of a difference it makes for us players, especially when it’s a home and away team competition thing,” Ram said. “When you can have that kind of crowd support, it just happens to be important in the biggest moments, kind of create that little magic that you need.”
Ram added, “It was so cool. I thought everybody did a great job. It was awesome.”
Team USA captain Mardy Fish was a mixture of pleased and relieved to have advanced to Group Play after tangling, unsuccessfully, with the Colombians last year in Turin, Italy.
“First step of the year. Obviously, a great result. We clearly can lose to them and did last time we played them,” said Fish.
“But as far as we go, this was the first step of the process of trying to win this thing this year. I think we’ve got a great opportunity with the guys that we have and the depth that we have,” Fish added.
With the advancement of team USA secure after their doubles victory the schedule was altered a bit, as is normal in Davis Cup ties that have been decided.
Even though the official competition was over, the fans were in for a pair of treats.
An impressive exhibition by the USA wheelchair tennis team was followed by a match between the USA’s Tommy Paul and Colombia’s Nicolas Mejia, whose tight match with Sebastian Korda opened the competition on Friday.
Paul would eventually prevail 7-5, 7-6 (4 tiebreaks), but the scrappy Mejia and team Columbia once again made an impression on captain Fish.
“They’re very tricky. Nico (Nicolas Mejia), you can’t kill that guy. He never goes away,” Fish said. “Two breaks in a set, 3-0, dead rubber, and you still can’t kill him. Pretty impressive. Much respect to them and their team.” Should team USA advance from the Davis Cup Group Play in September, they will play in a knockout-style quarterfinal bracket versus the seven remaining nations Thanksgiving weekend at a location to be announced to determine the 2022 Davis Cup champion.
Michael Smyth is a writer and photographer who moved to Reno from the Bay Area in 2007. Michael retired from a corporate road-warrior sales career in 2017 where he wrote freelance small-venue music reviews on the side to keep his sanity on the road. When he isn’t covering a concert or sporting event he might be found concocting a salsa recipe, throwing barbless flies in search of trout, or recapturing the skip-and-stop wedge shot of his youth.