Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic via DavisCup.com
I’m so sorry, dear readers, that during this entire weekend of Davis Cup drama the top story on GTT was “Serena Booty Dance.” Such is the danger of running a news site all by your lonesome – you never know when life is going to make you hit the Pause button.
Moving on. . .
To all Davis Cup skeptics: BLLLLLLLPHPHPHPHPHHP! (That’s sound of my lips slapping together in that funny farting sound.) As usual, the DC weekend has packed in more drama than most Major tournaments can pack in in two weeks. This was semifinals weekend, with defending champs Serbia hosting three-times “close but no cigar” Argentina in Belgrade, and the stylistically opposed tennis powerhouses Spain and France battling it out in a Cordoba bull ring. SEXY STUFF, tennis fans!
Photo by Paul Zimmer for DavisCup.com
Especially if you like Spanish tennis. The Armada destroyed Team France this weekend, with the bright exception of my beloved Llodra/Tsonga winning the doubles vs. Lopez/Verdasco (whoa, that’s a whole lotta good looking on one clay court). As a big Jo-Dubs fan, here’s hoping that his 0-6, 2-6, 4-6 flame out vs. Rafa in the live fourth rubber bodes absolutely nothing for the season ahead. “Give up, Tsonga!” a spectator reportedly yelled as the Frenchman went down 0-5 in the first set. As the writer at DavisCup.com put it: “Bulls at the Plaza de Toros de los Califas are usually shown more mercy.”
*And let me be sure to mention here, that Rafael Nadal is to be commended for his strong showing on the heels of both a US Open finalists effort and swallowing yet another bitter loss to his nemesis, Novak, in the final. The guys still had quite a bit of spring in his step and took to the Spanish clay like, well, a king! No doubt this, paired with some fishing, will raise Rafa’s spirits going into the final leg of the season.
Photo by Matt King/Getty Images via Daylife
Meanwhile in sexy Sydney, Roger Federer and Team Suisse was pushed to the limit vs. Hewitt, Tomic & Co. in a battle to get back in the World Group and in medal contention, with Fed/Wawa’s loss in the doubles on Saturday hopefully a mere bump on the road to Gold! The drama Down Under continues into Monday, as the live fifth rubber between Lleyton Hewitt* and Stan Wawrinka was suspended due to darkness with the struggling Stan up 5-3 in the fifth.
I don’t care where you’re from or how you feel about nation on nation competition, tennis fans must watch Davis Cup because of its impact on the lives of rising tennis stars. Just think of the incredible season Novak Djokovic came up with this year after leading Serbia to its first Davis Cup title in 2010. I still get chills thinking back to the 2004 Davis Cup finals and that amazing match the 18-year-old Rafael Nadal won vs. Andy Roddick in front of a record-breaking crowd of 27,000+ spectators in Seville. Thus started Rafa’s historic clay court streak.
Photo by Phil Hillyard via The Australian
To underline my point about the importance of Davis Cup to tennis players’ psyches, Roger reminisced this weekend about one of the toughest five set losses in his career: a 2003 defeat to Lleyton Hewitt in the DC seminfinals in Melbourne, after being up two sets and 5-3 in the third. Sound familiar?
“I still believe it was one of my toughest losses I have ever had as a player,” Federer said via The Australian. “People think losing to Novak was rough for me. That was nothing compared to the Lleyton loss back in 2003 because I felt I should have won so bad.”
The passion of Davis Cup may have helped boost Novak’s confidence to superhuman degrees this season, but his pain-filled defeat to Juan Martin Del Potro today, as he retired down a set and three games in front of a rapturous home crowd in Belgrade, will go down as the (be)low (sea-level) point of his Everest high season. Arriving in Serbia hot off his success in NYC, with less than 24 hours before the tie vs. Argentina commenced, Novak was obviously still feeling the effects of the lower back problems he was treated for during the US Open final. Thus the World Number One didn’t play on Friday, and the Serbian team paid the consequences with Troicki and Tipsarevic going down to Nalbandian and Del Potro, respectively. With Zimonjic and Troicki keeping Serbian hopes alive in Saturday’s doubles rubber, the home team apparently had no choice but to pit their hampered hero vs. Del Potro in the live fourth rubber. It was remarkable to watch, the way the crowd both worshipped and in their own adoring way, tormented, the ailing Nole during this match. The tears he shed on court were as much for the crowd as they were for the pain in his lower back and ribs. Some video:
Nole spoke to the press (via DavisCup.com):
“I feel very disappointed to end the tie in this way, I tried although I was only 60 percent fit and I got into the match knowing there was a risk of aggravating the injury which I first felt at the U.S. Open,” Djokovic told a news conference.
“We knew my condition was not good but we believed that even so I would have a better chance against Del Potro than my team mate Viktor Troicki would, at the end of the day it was my decision and it backfired.”
“I am not saying I would have won if I had been 100 percent fit because Del Potro played at a very high level today and never in my professional career did I struggle with my return of serve as I did today.”
“The important thing now is to determine the extent of my injury and how long it will take me to recover, I was able to battle through the pain in the U.S. Open final but not today.”
So goes a weekend of mixed results for the sport’s biggest heroes. But let’s not forget the lesser gods who emerged victorious from the World Group playoffs.
Look out for young Canadian Vasek Pospisil, who won all three of the matches he played (he paired with Daniel Nestor in doubles) to guarantee a Canadian victory over hosts Israel at the aptly named Canada Stadium in Ramat Hasharon. The stadium was named after a group of wealthy Canadian donors who helped build the facility in Israel. Also, it was nice to see Milos Raonic back on the courts following surgery this summer.
Here’s a Davis Cup scoreline for you: Mikhail Youzhny defeated Thomaz Bellucci 2-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 14-12 to force a live fifth rubber in Kazan, Russia. Dmitry Tursunov won the subsequent final battle in four vs. Ricardo Mello to keep the Russian squad in the elite World Group.
The Czech team, led by Stepanek and Berdych, throttled a Hanescu-less Romania 5-0 for a place in the World Group.
Photo by Matt King/Getty Images via Daylife
As for Stan in Sydney, all he needs to do is hold serve vs Lleyton Hewitt on Monday to secure Team Suisse’s place in the World Group. Wawrinka, who’s been suffering from a leg inflammation this weekend, has quite the fan-atical support in teammate Roger Federer. A great quote via DavisCup.com:
With his Sunday night air-ticket out of Sydney in the shredder, Federer will be a support to his teammate Wawrinka instead. “If Stan wants me to do push-ups to pump him up I’ll do that. If he wants me to sleep on the floor of his bedroom, to keep him warm as we’re both missing our children… Whatever he wants me to do. I’ll be here tomorrow – except if he doesn’t want me, if he tells me ‘Go to Bondi Beach and relax, I’ll take care of the rest’”.
Yes, Davis Cup is powerful enough to Make Mirka Wait.
***I guess those push ups helped – When Stan and Lleyton got back on the court on Monday, Wawrinka didn’t even have to wait to serve it out. Lleyton dropped his service game in disasterous fashion. According to The Australian, 14 shots, four errors and three minutes.
Oh, and the paper also quoted Stanislas, in this head scratcher of a quote. I guess we can call it a realist’s take?
is never easy because it doesn’t matter what I am going to do or which ranking I am going to have because it’s never going to be enough for Swiss people because they always look to Roger – but that’s okay,” Wawrinka said.
In other weekend heroics, Italy (after 12 years out of it), Japan (after a 26 year absence) and Austria all secured their spots in the World Group.
Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic for DavisCup.com
All of this, and we still have the Spain vs. Argentina final, in Spain, to look forward to in December. As a long suffering David Nalbandian fan, I remember the pain of his team’s home soil loss to Spain in 2008 and am rooting for a happy ending for the South Americans this go ’round! But I think it will again be Del Potro, not David, who plays the pivotal role. The drama continues! Onward!