John Isner shocked Roger Federer in four sets to secure a 2-0 lead for the US away to Switzerland in Davis Cup World Group action on Friday, while holders Spain carved out the same advantage over Kazakhstan in their first-round tie.
Big-serving Isner beat Federer 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), 6-2 to end his opponent’s 15-match unbeaten run in Davis Cup singles rubbers and described it as the greatest win of his life.
He had lost his two previous meetings with the Swiss, both on hardcourts, but this time the 17th-ranked Isner spoiled a rare Davis Cup appearance by the 16-time Grand Slam singles champion with a clinical performance on clay in Fribourg, Switzerland.
“It’s one of the greatest wins of my life. No, that’s wrong, it’s the greatest win of my life,” Isner said courtside after the two hour, 39 minute contest.
Mardy Fish had earlier edged Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 9-7 as Switzerland’s bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2004 got off to the worst possible start against the team that beat them in the 1992 final.
The winners of the tie will play away in the last eight against Canada or France, who were tied at 1-1 in Vancouver after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Vasek Pospisil 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 and Milos Raonic got the hosts back on terms with a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Julien Benneteau.
Spain began the defense of their title with Nicolas Almagro, their No. 1 in the absence of Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, and Juan Carlos Ferrero winning in contrasting fashion.
Almagro had a fairly comfortable 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over stubborn Kazakh Andrey Golubev, while Ferrero returned to the Davis Cup with a thrilling 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 4-6, 6-4 win over Mikhail Kukushkin in a grueling 4 hour, 28 minute contest.
Last year’s runners-up Argentina took a 2-0 lead against Germany after David Nalbandian and Juan Monaco saw off Florian Mayer and Philipp Petzschner respectively on the Bamberg, Germany, indoor clay court.
Monaco dismissed Petzschner 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 as the US Open doubles champion committed 47 unforced errors in a disappointing performance before Mayer lost 2-6, 6-0, 6-1, 7-6 (7/5) to Nalbandian.
Serbia, the 2010 winners who are without world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, are 2-0 up at home to Sweden thanks to a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory for Janko Tipsarevic over Filip Prpic and Viktor Troicki’s 6-4, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 triumph over Michael Ryderstedt.
Austria hold a 2-0 advantage over Russia after Juergen Melzer fought off Igor Kunitsyn in five sets and Andreas Haider-Maurer beat Alex Bogomolov in four in Wiener Neustadt, Austria.
Czech Republic also have a 2-0 lead over Italy thanks to Radek Stepanek’s battling 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Andreas Seppi and Tomas Berdych’s 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory against Simone Bolelli.
Spain captain Alex Corretja was unable to call on any of the four players who beat Argentina in last year’s final as Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco all joined Nadal in stepping aside.
World No. 2 Nadal, who has never lost on clay in 16 Davis Cup singles rubbers, blamed the packed calendar for his decision to opt out this year and Corretja drafted Ferrero back into the team after an absence of more than two years.
Meanwhile, Ivo Karlovic and Ivan Dodig beat Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 yesterday to give Croatia a 2-1 lead over Japan in their first-round Davis Cup World Group series.