Net Talk: Courier's big mistake
Our Andy Schooler says USA Davis Cup Jim Courier made a big mistake by playing Great Britain on clay.
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Jim Courier was always a gritty, stubborn player, characteristics which carried him to four Grand Slam titles during the course of his playing career.
However, those were the same traits which left him looking like a man refusing to take responsibility for a major error on Sunday night as his US Davis Cup team suffered what will be regarded in their homeland as a pretty embarrassing defeat.
Yes, the visiting Great Britain side had the world number six in their line-up but the fact is the US were hot favourites to win the other three rubbers. You can never say for sure but had the tie been played on a fast indoor hardcourt they probably would have claimed them. As it was, they opted for clay and defeat followed.
Courier's stubbornness shone through in the post-match press conference, which at one point drew an expletive from a clearly disappointed skipper.
Asked, 'if you were to do it over again in this tie, would you consider hardcourt?', his reply was short and curt. 'No.'
Few could possibly agree with that assessment. The US had chosen their least-favourite surface - John Isner, Sam Querrey, Donald Young and the Bryan brothers have all had better results on hardcourts, even grass - in what appeared to be an attempt to stifle Briton Andy Murray. It didn't work and neutrals will be happy that such negative tactics failed to reap the intended dividends.
Of course, Courier had been asked about the choice of clay prior to the tie. Even then he appeared to be setting himself to pass the buck. "The reason we chose the surface are these four guys (the team, which at that point did not feature Young). That's what they wanted to play on. "
The answer of one of the players sitting alongside him, Querrey, probably said more. "We thought it was the surface that gave us the best chance," he said.
He was wrong.
And it was Querrey who in some eyes is the fall guy for it was he who was on the wrong end of the upset which swung the tie in GB's favour, losing from two sets to one and a break up against the dogged James Ward, the world number 175 who simply would not go away.
While Querrey hardly covered himself in glory with his late-match collapse and the US were certainly unlucky to lose their best claycourt player in Isner due to injury on the eve of the tie, Courier needs to take at least his share of the blame.
Murray's comments in the wake of victory, one which takes GB to their first Davis Cup final in 28 years, highlighted the mistake which had been made.
"I was surprised they put it on clay, to be honest," he reflected.
"Obviously it did have a bearing in the tie, you know, for Sam especially. I think his best surface is hardcourts. He will have had all his best results on hardcourts."
The Scot hinted there may have been another reason for the selection, adding: "I don't know if they thought I wasn't going to play because I had problems on clay last year with my back and coming off surgery."
We can only take Courier at his word and believe that his own players wanted to play on clay. But as captain, he should have warned them the dangers of doing so and, if necessary, swayed their decision.
The man who sat suited and booted on the bench as the tie slipped away from his side - it was somewhat fitting that his trousers had been soiled by the red dirt come the end - should at least have been able to admit the mistake afterwards.
We'll have to see what his employers, the USTA, have to say. But I'd be prepared to bet that if a September play-off tie is lost, the claycourt gamble will come back to haunt Courier in more ways than one.
Sky Bet have priced Italy up as favourites to beat Great Britain in the sides' Davis Cup quarter-final in April.
Andy Murray and co are now 14/1 to lift the trophy in November.
My three tips for the Davis Cup all survived the opening round. France, picked out last week at 11/2, are now 2/1 with Sky Bet. They host Germany next. 66/1 selections Italy host Great Britain in the last eight - they are now 20/1 with our betting partners. Kazakhstan also made it through but they now face the tough trip to Switzerland. Well, I did pick them out at a big price before Roger Federer announced he would be playing!
Meanwhile, my preview of this week's ATP action can be found by clicking here.
Stat of the week
Great Britain last reached the Davis Cup quarter-finals in 1986 by beating Spain (they then lost to Australia in the last eight). The team that got them there? John Lloyd, Jeremy Bates and Colin Dowdeswell. For those wondering, the last time GB reached the semis was in 1981.
What you may have missed
Great Britain reached their first Davis Cup quarter-final in 28 years by beating the USA 3-1 in San Diego.
Tomas Berdych led holders the Czech Republic to victory in the first round of the Davis Cup but Spain and Serbia were among those to bow out.
A host of big names will miss this coming weekend's Fed Cup World Group ties.
Organisers have announced details of the expanded WTA Championships.
This week in tennis
All week:The ATP World Tour stages tournaments in Zagreb, Montpellier and Vina del Mar.
Tuesday to Sunday: The Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone I matches, featuring Great Britain, take place in Budapest. GB play Latvia on Wednesday, Romania on Friday and Hungary on Saturday and need to top that group of four to progress to a promotion play-off on Sunday.
Friday: The draws for the weekend's Fed Cup World Group first-round ties take place.
Saturday to Sunday: Those Fed Cup World Group ties are held. Defending champions Italy have named a weakened side, leaving first-round opponents USA as the bookies' tournament favourites.
If you're planning on following that Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone I event in which Great Britain are taking part, @HungaryFedCup has plenty of info. I'm not sure if it's an official source but it's ahead of the game. The official feed of the Fed Cup is, unsurprisingly, @FedCup.
And, as ever, make sure you are following us - @SportingLife and @NetTalkTennis
If Twitter is not your thing, you can also contact me via email - firstname.lastname@example.org.