Thursday, September 19, 2002

Roddick, Blake seek U.S. revival in Davis Cup semifinal

Associated Press Writer

        PARIS — The U.S. team is counting on two up-and-comers in a bid to end years of Davis Cup frustration.

        Andy Roddick and James Blake lead the Americans against defending champion France in this weekend's semifinal on the red clay of Roland Garros, home of the French Open.

        With Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi declining to play, Roddick and Blake are charged with the first U.S. berth since 1997 in a Davis Cup final. The draw is Thursday, and play starts Friday.

        “We're trying to build something with our younger players,” U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe said this week. “They like the team aspect of the Davis Cup.”

        The United States, which has won the Davis Cup a record 31 times, hasn't taken the title since 1995. And that's despite having Sampras and Agassi, the top two players of the last decade and winners of 21 Grand Slam singles titles between them.

        Right now, Roddick and Blake are putting the Davis Cup high on their list of tennis priorities — and they're a combined 12-0.

        “It's the most important thing in a tennis player's life,” Blake said. “It's an honor to play for your country.”

        Blake is 5-0 in Davis Cup matches, including two wins in doubles, while Roddick has won all seven of his Davis Cup matches.

        Their French counterparts have been less successful. Sebastien Grosjean, France's top player, has an 8-6 Davis Cup record, while 2001 Australian Open finalist Arnaud Clement is 5-4. Both have only played singles matches.

        France has the advantage of playing at home, and on clay. It hasn't played the United States at Roland Garros since 1932, when France won.

        The United States leads France 7-6 overall in Davis Cup play.

        “Obviously, the French team picked the surface they thought they had the best chance on,” Roddick said. “We're playing on their surface, so that makes us the underdogs.”

        McEnroe's team is completed by Todd Martin, who probably will play doubles with Blake, and Mardy Fish. The French squad, captained by 1991 Davis Cup champion Guy Forget, also includes Fabrice Santoro and Mickael Llodra.


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