Okay, so I admit that its United Nations meets World Cup lingo intimidates me (World Groups Play-off tie, anyone?), but I am making a real effort to get over my squirmishness and start loving Davis Cup. I’ve already figured that it has a couple of big things going for it: 1. it’s (partially) televised and 2. it involves men taking endearing and slightly embarrassing group photographs while dressed in matching outfits.
Davis Cup reveals a lot about the players and I’m not just talking about the funny pictures (all found, by the way, on the absolutely fabulous Davis Cup Website). Here’s what I’ve gleaned so far.
ROGER’S LOOKING OUT FOR NUMBER 1
You know I love him, but does this not sound just a wee bit self-centered coming from Mr. RF? Especially considering Roger’s dodgy DC participation – he usually ditches his compatriots unless their World Group status is threatened (as it is this time ’round). Well, we’ll see if the bad karma catches up with him when he faces wily Stepanek and big-boy Berdych, two guys who’ve posted wins over him in years starting with 20. It’s a stretch to think Roger won’t have his way, but I do think it could get interesting. The Czechs have a real chance in doubles, at least, with Damm and Dlouhy. On the other hand, Wawrinka looked better than Berdych at the US Open and may end up making Roger less indispensable than everyone thinks he is. Too bad none of this is making it onto Tennis Channel.
USA V. SWEDEN
I love the above photo of the Swedish and American teams exchanging gifts. The Bryan brother in the foreground looks like he just hauled in the mother load at an Easter egg hunt. And aren’t the gray boxes with the white bows really nice looking? I wonder what’s inside of them? From the look on James’s face, I’m guessing some yummy nonperishables from IKEA’s food department. And for the Swedes? Jimmy Connors instructional videos.
The Sweden v. USA showdown is not all fun and games, however. It’s a semi-final, meaning that the winning team advances to face either the Germans or the Russians for the title. It’s also a legendary rivalry, particularly going back to the teams’1984 meeting where Jimbo and Johnny Mac really stunk it up. The DC website has its own wonderfully over-the-top take:
There’s a line in ‘Waterloo’, the song that launched the iconic Swedish pop group Abba in 1974, that runs: “The history book on the shelf is always repeating itself.” That could very easily be Sweden’s omen going into this weekend’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas semifinal that sees the home side as distinct underdogs against the powerful United States.
Three times the Americans have visited Gothenburg’s charismatic Scandinavium arena, three times it’s been a semifinal or final, and three times the visitors have left with their tails between their legs.
That cracks me up, but not nearly as much as this photo of Andy and Jamie Murray.
BRITAIN V. CROATIA
I wish I could watch some of Britain v. Croatia on t.v., and not just to see that hair in action. This is Tiger Tim’s last waltz, and knowing him, he’ll make it a nail-biting, hair-pulling, running-into-the-bedroom-to-bury-my-head-under-the-pillow, five-set thriller. Most likely he’ll be playing Marian Cilic in the deciding fifth rubber (you know this is going to be decided in five.) Speaking of hair, it will also be nice to see Ivan Lubicic in his DC element for once and not choking-up big time at a Slam.
RUSSIA V. GERMANY
Russia v. Germany is the other semifinal, and thus, along with USA v. Sweden, will make it onto my television set this weekend. Am I excited? Not really. No beefcake with game, unfortunately, although Safin has returned early from his mountain adventure.
“You’re telling me there’s not one decent restaurant at this base camp? Where am I, anyway, Cincinnati?”
Oh to be the Sherpa in the pup tent during that discussion.
The one thing that I love about the Russian team, whether we’re talking Fed or Davis cup, is captain Shamil Tarpishchev. This guy is one of the great minds and great showmen of the game, keeping fans and teams guessing with brilliant last-minute substitutions and inspiring his second tier players to moments of greatness (Tursunov! Vesnina! Andreev!) So, no, I’m not warming up the TIVO to watch Nikolay Davydenko v. Philipp Kohlschreiber, but I am looking forward to seeing what Shamil has up the sleeves of his track suit.
SERBIA V. AUSTRALIA
Serbia vs. Australia is not exactly keeping me up at night, although the idea of meeting any of these guys in a dark alley is. . .scary!
ISRAEL V. CHILE
One of the most interesting things I’ve figured out about Davis Cup is that tennis as a team sport is more than a sum of the players’ ranking points. It’s one of the few times in the season where rank-and-file players transform into Tennis Heroes. Sometimes the “honor of playing for one’s country” is more than just sentimental pap. It makes me wonder what I could do if I just found the right motivation. Maybe I should give Dudi Sela a call.