2009 Davis Cup first round tie

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View from the upper level during Friday's single's matchup. Photograph by Kevin Stephenson

The 2009 Davis Cup first round tie was an international men's tennis competition between the United States and Switzerland that was held March 6-8, 2009 on a hard court inside the BJCC Arena. The United States team, led by Andy Roddick, defeated the Swiss 4-1 to advance to a quarterfinal match against Croatia in Split. Roddick clinched the match on Sunday with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 straight-sets win against Stanislas Wawrinka.

The Birmingham tie drew record crowds to a first round Davis Cup event, with 45,708 counted over the course of the weekend, as many as half of whom traveled from out-of-state. Tourism officials projected an $8 million "economic impact" for the region.

Roddick was joined by James Blake and the doubles pair of Bob and Mike Bryan on the American team. The Swiss team was expected to bring Roger Federer, the world's second-ranked player, to the match-up, but the star pulled out, concerned about healing from a back injury. Wawrinka replaced him at number one and was joined by Marco Chiudinelli. Wawrinka also played on the doubles team with Yves Allegro.


Birmingham's bid for the Davis Cup event was entered by Gene Hallman's Alabama Sports Foundation. Initial inquiries to the United States Tennis Association were made by Susette Hunter, marketing director for the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, and David Galbaugh, director of sports sales and marketing for the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau. Hallman was initially reluctant to mount the bid, but was inspired by radio morning-show host Bubba Bussey, a newly-minted tennis fanatic.

The bid, which was crafted during an intensive two week application process, was strongly supported by Birmingham mayor Larry Langford and Retirement Systems of Alabama head David Bronner. The city was pitted against San Antonio, Texas; Greenville, South Carolina and Las Vegas, Nevada in the final selection process. The mayor's insistence on putting together a compelling bid was, according to Hallman, a key to setting itself apart from other contenders. Langford set the tone during the group's first meeting with USTA officials by offering to help raise the money needed and refusing to accept failure. Corporate sponsors for the Birmingham event included Heineken and Coca-Cola. In-kind support came from the city, which offered Boutwell Auditorium as a site for children's events coinciding with the tournament, and from Samford University, which allowed the teams to use its indoor tennis facility for practices.

The US team stayed at the Sheraton Birmingham adjoining the BJCC. The Swiss team stayed at the Ross Bridge Resort, which reported a near sell-out for the Davis Cup weekend. Players and officials were given a private dinner at the Barber Motorsports Park and Museum. The pairings ceremony took place at the Birmingham Museum of Art, and an expo and public party, the "Tennis Ball" was held at Boutwell Auditorium. Highland Park hosted a children's tennis clinic. Alabama's Southern Junior Cup team served as ballpersons for the event, clad in black Hugo Boss sponsor-apparel.

The BJCC arena was subjected to a 24-hour transformation as soon as the whistle blew on the State High School Basketball Tournament. During that period temporary seating platforms were installed, the restrooms and concourse were renovated and repainted and roof leaks were repaired. In the center of the arena a cushioned acrylic hard-court surface was installed by Premier Concepts of Baltimore, Maryland. The type of surface was specified by the United States Tennis Association. The Arena Club was outfitted as a hospitality area.


Play opened on Friday with Blake playing Wawrinka in the first match and Roddick playing Chiudinelli in the second. About 15,000 fans witnessed a three-hour opening match that resulted in a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory for Wawrinka. In the second match, Roddick won 6-1, 6-3, 7-6(5) to level the tie. With the victory he tied Andre Agassi with 30 career Davis Cup victories.

On Saturday the Bryan brothers beat Wawrinka and Allegro in four sets (6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2)) to establish a 2-1 lead in the tie. With 15 victories in 17 attempts, they became the winningest Davis Cup doubles team ever to play for the US. Allegro double-faulted on his serve in the 8th game. Wawrinka later spiked his racket in frustration at their poor play. The Swiss pair did mount a challenge in the third set, but couldn't match the Americans' effort in the fourth.

The final match was punctuated by a questionable call in the third game of the second set. Wawrinka argued with the chair umpire that his serve bounced twice before Roddick returned it, but did not get the call. He did spend a few minutes getting his left shoulder treated for a muscle ache before returning to play with a fresh racket. Roddick was able to maintain the advantage through the 7th game, advancing to match point with his 14th ace of the day and winning on Wawrinka's backhand error. It was Roddick's 31st Davis Cup victory.

Blake and Chiudinelli then played a dead rubber which Blake won 6-4, 7-6(6) to close out play and provide the 4-1 margin.


  • Crenshaw, Solomon Jr (November 21, 2008) "Birmingham serves up pitch for Davis Cup." Birmingham News
  • Crenshaw, Solomon Jr (December 18, 2008) "Birmingham will host Davis Cup first-round." Birmingham News
  • Crenshaw, Solomon Jr (February 18, 2009) "Federer out of Davis Cup in Birmingham; Hallman still looks to put on a first-class show." Birmingham News
  • Solomon, Jon (March 2, 2009) "Birmingham, Alabama civic complex makes quick turnaround from high school basketball to Davis Cup tennis." Birmingham News
  • Tomberlin, Michael (March 6, 2009) "Birmingham, Alabama-area businesses hope Davis Cup events bring in tourist dollars." Birmingham News
  • Solomon, Jon (March 6, 2009) "Odds looked stacked against Birmingham landing the Davis Cup." Birmingham News
  • Melick, Ray (March 6, 2009) "How Birmingham radio host Bubba Bussey helped bring Davis Cup to Magic City." Birmingham News
  • Ramsey, Ethan (March 7, 2009) "Young ballpersons get a bird's-eye view of Davis Cup tennis." Birmingham News
  • Zhonga, Enea (March 7, 2009) "Busy Davis Cup rivals still impressed with city." Birmingham News
  • Solomon, Jon (March 9, 2009) "Tennis fans, passion help city score with Davis Cup." Birmingham News

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