Fritz Australian Open 2021

USA out of Davis Cup finals as captain faces selection questions

Team USA have crashed out of the Davis Cup finals, falling to a surprise quarter-final defeat against Italy, however the main talking point was not the tennis as American captain Mardy Fish faced tough questioning over his team selection.

Team USA have a rich history in the Davis Cup having won it 32 times, more than any other nation, and would have expected to compete for the title this week. Going into the tie USA were the clear favourites with Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe leading the men in stars and stripes, especially with Italian star Matteo Berrettini missing with injury.

However, the story seemed to be going against the script when Lorenzo Sonego beat Tiafoe to give Italy the perfect start. US no.1 Taylor Fritz did get things back on level terms after coming through against talented youngster Lorenzo Musetti, leaving it all down to the deciding doubles.

This is where the controversy stemmed from as Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli, who won the Australian Open doubles title in 2015, got the all important doubles win to send Italy into the semi-finals.

The USA went with the two remaining players in their squad, Jack Sock and Tommy Paul, for the deciding doubles rubber after their captain chose not to bring former doubles no.1 Rajeev Ram. This decision was met with some strong questioning from the press, followed by a defiant response from Fish who was defending his decision.

“Speaking specifically about the doubles, I think the world of him (Ram) in terms of his game. Obviously he’s one of the best players in the world. But putting a team together isn’t as simple as just taking a player that’s ranked high and put him with another player and just hope that they do well.”

“The hardest part is having that conversation with someone like Rajeev, a friend, someone that I competed against, and I think the world of in terms of his game and him as a teammate. He’s been phenomenal.”

“I told him that this is just this tie and that I don’t want to lose him in terms of him not wanting to be a part of the ream or the process. Again, I’m the only captain that’s actually given him a shot as well, and he’s said yes every time and he’s been great. We miss him here. I’m sure he’ll be in obvious consideration for the next tie that we have, whenever that is.”

Fish was fairly calm at this point, although he did seem to be getting fed up with the continued questions about his decision, “I want to put a different doubles team on the court, period.”

The USA captain made the point that he had been the first to pick Ram for the Davis Cup, which he did back in September for the group stages. Ram partnered with Sock, winning two out of their three matches to help send USA through to the quarter-finals. It was clear that he was gutted to not have been chosen again when he discussed the team selection at the ATP Finals.

“I’m very disappointed. I put in a lot of hard work this year to help the team get there,” said Ram. “I felt like I had earned the spot if you will. So I was quite surprised when I wasn’t picked, and even more surprised to be honest that they only went with four players instead of five. That was the choice. But, yeah, I was hoping to be on the team for sure.”

Following his countrymen losing the match against Italy, the world no.3 posted on social media which some fans thought could have been a dig the USA captain.

Tommy Paul however, was certainly showing support for his captain, Fish, suggesting that people on Twitter could not do any better.

It is fair to say that eyes will certainly be on the American captain’s next Davis Cup team selection, to see whether Ram will be given another chance.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.