By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
FRIBOURG, Switzerland – Mardy Fish secured a 1-0 lead for the U.S. Davis Cup Team over Switzerland with a come-from-behind win over Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 9-7, in a marathon match lasting nearly four and a half hours.
It was the third longest match in U.S. Davis Cup team history since the tiebreak was introduced in 1989.
With solid play from both players, Fish earned the victory on his third match-point chance as he served for the match for the second time after earning a break to go up 8-7 in the fifth. He fought off two break points from Wawrinka, but unlike when he served for the match at 5-4 earlier in the set, this time he did not let it get away.
Fish smacked his 15th ace for his second advantage of the game, and on the next point, Wawrinka hit a short return just over the net that the American raced to before hitting a soft forehand volley winner for his 10th career Davis Cup win and a lead for the U.S.
It seemed unlikely the match was going the distance early, as Fish cruised to an easy first-set win, missing a bunch of first serves but effectively putting good spin on his second. However, Wawrinka immediately responded to open the second set with his first break of Fish at love for the early lead. Fish battled to break back for 3-all but was unable to hold the lead, as Wawrinka immediately broke back for 4-3 and then served out the set without facing another break point.
The third started exactly the same, as Wawrinka broke Fish to open the set, as a big difference in the second and third sets was Wawrinka’s ability to capitalize on big points to earn breaks and his ability to fend off Fish, who did not have one break-point chance on the Swiss’ serve in the third.
But playing for his country, Fish was not going to let the match slip away without a fight. He fought back, saving two break points early in the third game of the fourth set with help from a few Wawrinka errors, and played a great return game on Wawrinka’s serve. Fish earned the break and a 3-1 lead when he smoked one of his 93 winners in the match on a backhand cross-court first-serve return.
From there he stayed in control of the fourth, playing steady, and sent the match to the fifth with a forehand-volley winner to close out the set, 6-1.
The battle then began for the fifth, as Fish had two chances to break for an early lead, earning his first with one of his many great drop shots in the match, but Wawrinka used a solid serve, including two aces, to help keep the set on serve.
But it did not last long, as two games later, Fish gained a break point with an advantage on an overhead winner after catching up with a Wawrinka lob. On the next point, he closed out the break when Wawrinka hit a shot past the baseline for the 3-2 lead.
Fish worked hard to keep his lead three games later after falling behind 0-40 on three consecutive errors. He saved one with a lob, after Wawrinka caught up to one of his drop shots, and then Wawrinka hit a ball long and wide to bring the game to deuce. On Wawrinka’s second advantage and fourth break-point chance, Fish turned to his big serve to get him out of trouble, smacking one off Wawrinka’s racquet, and saved the fifth when the Swiss netted a backhand. After another great serve for the advantage, he secured a 5-3 advantage on a long return from Wawrinka.
Fish then served for the match two games later and, after 30-all, fell to 30-40 when he lobbed a forehand into the net, but a few points later had his first match-point opportunity, although was unable to close it out. He was a little conservative with his shot making, and the game went to deuce on a cross-court winner from Wawrinka, who then earned a break-point chance when Fish hit a forehand into the net. A forehand long from the American put the set back on serve.
With no fifth-set tiebreak, they played on, and it was Fish who struck first, breaking to put the American up 8-7 after a rally ended with a Wawrinka backhand past the baseline. And as he took the ball to serve for the match a second time, he bent slightly but did not break, securing the lead for the U.S. and one of the biggest wins of his career.