The first-round Davis Cup match between Britain and the United States will be played on a clay court in left field at baseball’s Petco Park from Jan. 31-Feb. 2.
While organizers haven’t decided if it will be red or green clay, they feel their choice of surface will give the Americans an advantage over Britain, which is expected to be led by defending Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
”The feeling is that Murray and anyone below him would have trouble on clay,” Jeff Ryan of the U.S. Tennis Association said after a news conference on the infield at the downtown ballpark, home to the San Diego Padres, on Tuesday. ”It’s not their preferred surface. In between now and then, with Andy still recovering from his surgery and going to Australia and playing there, I don’t think they’ll have a lot of clay court experience. The home-court advantage is right there. That’s it. We’re used to getting it against us all the time. We’re getting much more comfortable on clay.”
Organizers haven’t decided whether it’ll be red clay, which is made from crushed bricks, or on Har-Tru green clay, which is made from crushed stone.
Playing the match on clay probably is a lesser of three evils decision.
Murray is best on the speedier surfaces of hard courts and grass, as evidenced by his Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon this year and the US Open in 2012. But he’s not afraid of clay, having trained from his teen years on the slow red surface in Spain. He once reached the semifinals at the French Open, something none of the current crop of American men has come close to doing. In addition to that run to the final four in 2011 — before losing to Rafael Nadal, which is no shame at Roland Garros — Murray also made it to the quarterfinals in Paris two other times, in 2009 and 2012.
Capacity will be about 8,000. Some 2,000 permanent seats in the left-field stands will be augmented by about 6,000 more in a temporary stadium built around the court.
”I think it creates a lot of excitement,” said Bill Kellogg, president of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. ”Davis Cup is all about crowd and people and cheering, which is not what people usually think tennis is. That national pride, I don’t think it gets any greater than it does in a ballpark.”
It’ll be the first time a Davis Cup match will be played in an open-air ballpark in the United States.
The United States is undefeated in six Davis Cup matches in the San Diego area.
The Britain-U.S. rivalry is the oldest in Davis Cup history, dating to the first competition in 1900, when the Americans beat the British in Boston. The United States last faced Britain in the 1999 World Group first round in England, winning 3-2 when Jim Courier rallied in the fifth match to beat Greg Rusedski in the fifth set, 8-6. Courier, now the US captain, also won in five sets on the opening day of that match, beating Tim Henman in 4 hours, 12 minutes.
The one drawback is that the final day of the match is Super Bowl Sunday.
”We would prefer not to have it conflicting with the Super Bowl, but fact is, it will be largely decided by the time the Super Bowl starts,” Kellogg said. ”It’s really not a huge factor in diminishing the appeal of the Davis Cup. In fact, I think it will turn into a great sports day. You get to watch what could be a dramatic finish to the Davis Cup, followed by the Super Bowl.”