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Davis Cup is Net Gain for Boise

Tennis tournament starts Friday, April 5

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Most of us have good days and bad days. Greg Patton--the effervescent Boise State University tennis coach--has good days. Really good days. And Friday, April 5, he'll probably jump out of his skin.

"I'm on pins and needles," Patton told Boise Weekly in late January about the chance that Boise could play host to the Davis Cup Quarterfinals.

"You're looking at the happiest man, not in Boise, not in Idaho, but in the entire United States right here, right now," Patton told BW a few of weeks later, when U.S. Tennis Association officials flew into town to officially announce that Boise had secured the Davis Cup competition.

When the three-day tournament gets under way at Boise State's Taco Bell Arena, Patton said he'll feel like he's at the rock concert of his dreams.

"I know I told you before that I likened the Davis Cup to Woodstock. Why don't we start calling it 'Fuzzstock?'" he said with twinkling eyes and laughter usually reserved for a kid who can't wait until Christmas.

Linking Patton to the Davis Cup is a bit like playing "six degrees of Greg Patton" (with apologies to Kevin Bacon): Patton was instrumental in securing Boise as a site selection; the matches will be played a few steps away from what Patton calls his "office," the Steve Appleton Tennis Center; and Patton once served as a Davis Cup coach, helping to cultivate some of the best players the game ever knew: the legendary Pete Sampras, Sam Querrey (who is leading this year's U.S. singles matches), and Jim Courier, four-time Grand Slam winner and current U.S. Davis Cup coach.

"I coached Jim Courier when he used to play Davis Cup, and in 1998, he came here to Boise to play an exhibition match to raise funds for the Appleton Tennis Center," remembered Patton. "And I looked at Jim and told him, 'One day, you're going to be the Davis Cup captain and you're going to bring that team back here to Boise."

Courier told Boise Weekly he was 15 when he first met Patton.

"He was my coach when I was in Junior Davis Cup," said Courier. "Coach Patton is ... what's the word? ... He's a pied piper. He has so much energy and enthusiasm for life. And there's no doubt he's instrumental in bringing this to Boise."

But Courier had a large say in the U.S. team's selection of Boise to play host to the quarterfinals.

"We sat down and looked at all of the options that could give the U.S. team the best possible advantage against a real difficult [Serbian] team," said Courier. "And high altitude does some interesting things to a tennis ball. The ball moves through the court faster, it bounces higher, and that's pretty good for a very offensive player. It will take a little time for our players to adjust to the conditions, so we're going to try to get to Boise fairly early to adjust to the altitude."

Courier told BW that he expected to bring his team, assistant coaches and support staff into the Treasure Valley as early as Saturday, March 30, to give his players a full week at Idaho's altitude.

However, Courier wasn't eager to share his strategy in going against Serbia's Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world.

"I can't tell you; I just can't tell you," he said. "That's the kind of stuff we share with the team in private as we're practicing."

And while the task of facing Djokovic--winner of six of the last nine Grand Slam events--is daunting, Courier said he fully expects the atmosphere in Taco Bell Arena to be in his team's favor.

"I think the best way to describe the vibe is that it's going to be like a college sporting event where there's a very partisan crowd," Courier told BW. "Tennis is typically known to be a pretty quiet sport, and while we don't expect our fans to cheer during play, we do expect and even encourage a very partisan crowd. We're playing for our country. The umpire doesn't call 'Game to Sam Querrey.' He calls 'Game to the United States.'"

This year, 122 nations are entered in the Davis Cup competition--the largest annual international team event in the world. With competition dating back to 1900, the United States has won 32 Davis Cup titles, more than any other nation.

"National pride and home court advantage is so much a part of this competition," said Jeff Ryan, senior director of team events for the USTA.

The USTA announced March 26 that its team would include Sam Querrey and John Isner representing the United States in singles competition and the Bryan brothers--Bob and Mike--playing doubles.

Meanwhile, Serbia's Djokovic said he's looking forward to a trip to Boise.

"I have some friends who live in Sun Valley," Djokovic told reporters in Miami, where he was playing the Sony Open. "I know that Boise is famous for its potatoes, so I'm looking forward to some good mashed potatoes there."

Courier said a Djokovic-led Serbian team is "one of the best squads in the Davis Cup draw."

"When you have the No. 1 player in the world, that's a nice place to start," said Courier. "Novak is setting the standard. But Davis Cup is Davis Cup. And our guys will be able to step up."

Patton added that the Davis Cup experience is a very unique dynamic for a professional tennis player, who traditionally strives for personal glory.

"In Davis Cup, they're playing for each other and, above all, they're playing for their country," said Patton. "Soon enough, something I'm so in love with is going to be here in my home with my friends and family. I just can't wait."

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