|Online Tournament Coverage
by Mike Panozzo Dec 21, 2002, 6:01 AM EST
Seizing on what it felt was a tactical error by Team Europe, Team America swept the first session of singles matches to narrow the Euros' lead to 5-4 Friday night at the 2002 Ladbrokes.com Mosconi Cup in London.
"As soon as we saw their lineup, I said 'This is our opportunity,'" said Earl Strickland after opening the three-game assault with a 5-2 win over Marcus Chamat of Sweden. "I thought they made a mistake by not putting their best two players, Ralf [Souquet] and Mika [Immonen] out first. With a 5-1 lead, they had a chance to really put the heat on us."
Instead, European captain Oliver Ortmann opened the singles matches with Chamat and Mosconi Cup rookie Nick Van den Berg of Holland, with Immonen anchoring the session. The plan backfired when Strickland's win was followed by a 5-1 shellacking of Van den Berg by firecraker-hot Cory Deuel. With momentum clearly in the Americans' favor, Charlie Williams punched out Immonen, 5-2, in a nerve-wracked match to send the U.S. squad into Saturday's action trailing by just a single match in the best-of-23 Ryder Cup-style tournament.
"Game on!" said Jim Wych, play-by-play man for Sky Sports, the European sports cable network that is airing every minute of the Mosconi Cup live throughout the United Kingdom.
After floundering through the opening two doubles sessions, the Americans were confident that the format's shift to singles matches would be in their favor.
"Even with a random selection, I'd like our chances against the Europeans in singles," said America's Jeremy Jones.
Throughout the eight-year history of the Matchroom Sport-promoted tournament, the U.S. has traditionally dominated the singles matches.
Saturday action will open with three singles matches. The format will shift back to doubles for the Saturday night session, followed by singles matches all day Sunday through the competition's completion.
Through Friday - Team Europe 5, Team USA 4
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