The time has come! While Andrea has done a great job breaking down the World Group match-ups, I thought I’d spell out for you the specific reasons why you should set your alarm for 5AM, skip work, cancel all of your social plans, and dedicate your entire Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to the wonder that is Davis Cup.
10. The Newcomers
It’s been 8 years since Canada has been in the World Group. For Japan it’s been 27. In both cases the newcomers, led by youngsters Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori respectively, will be looking to prove that they belong with the big guns. Both teams have uphill battles- Japan hosts Croatia and Canada hosts France, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as fresh blood.
In a giant reversal of storylines, Federer is the only one of the “Big 4″ playing in Davis Cup this weekend. To top it off, he’s playing in Switzerland, against a depleted but still fun-to-beat American squad, and with good buddy Stanislas Wawrinka by his side. Love him or not, it will be fun to see the Legend soak in the well-deserved adoration and play in a team atmosphere on his home turf.
8. Russian Roulette
The Russian Davis Cup Team has undergone a bit of a makeover. Alex Bogomolov, Jr. is not only making his Russian debut, but he’s the team’s #1 player. Dmitry Tursnov and Igor Andreev, team mainstays, are absent while the struggling Nikolay Davydenko and the wildcard Igor Kunitsyn take their place. Mikhail Youzhny is coming off singles and doubles victories in Zagreb, but has been complaining to the press about an injured shoulder. All in all, there’s absolutely no telling what to expect from Team Russia as they travel to Jurgen Melzer’s Austria this weekend, and as always- that’s part of the fun.
7. Veterans Day
Some players have proven time and time again that they adapt to the Davis Cup atmosphere better than others. Whether it’s Melzer leading his Austrian team, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek becoming mental giants for the Czech Republic, or David Nalbandian discovering the game (and legs) of his youth, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as seeing the veteran guys play their hearts out for their country.
6. The Battle of the Misfits
One of the ties I’m most looking forward to is Spain/Kazakhstan. The Spanish Davis Cup stalwarts (Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco) who have dominated the team competition for the past few years are sitting out this year, paving the way for their less heralded countrymen (Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers, Legend and Former #1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Marc Lopez). Meanwhile Kazakhstan’s team is full of former Russians (Mikhail Kukushkin, Andrey Golubev, Yuri Schukin, and Evgeny Korolev) who migrated over to the neighboring country for a chance to shine. It will be fun to see all of these former “back-ups” take the stage and fight for Davis Cup glory.
5. Tommy Haas
Do I really need to explain this one? The often injured but forever adored German (when he’s not American) is back in Davis Cup action for the first time in five years! How lucky are we? Let’s just sit back and enjoy.
4. The Other Groups
Believe it or not, the World Group Playoffs aren’t the only Davis Cup action happening this weekend. There are some pretty crucial ties happening in “Group I” and “Group II” (don’t you dare ask me to explain what that means). Teams in action that you might be interested in are: Ukraine (Sergiy Stakhovsky! Sergei Bubka- yes, Vika’s boyfriend!) vs. Monaco, Uzbekistan (Denis Istomin- am I the only one interested in him?) vs. New Zealand, Australia (Hewitt! Tomic! You know them!) vs. China, P.R., Great Britain (Murray-less) vs. Slovak Republic (starring recent ATP Zagreb finalist Lukas Lacko). You’d be amiss if you didn’t scavenge for some (surely static) streams for the lesser-known teams this weekend too.
3. The New Heroes
Every year Davis Cup weekend, especially the first round, breeds unheralded heroes. Something about the five-set format, the team unity, and the pressure/invigoration of playing for one’s country brings out the best in some unsuspecting players. Who will it be this weekend? Could Milos lead the Canadians past the accomplished French team? Could the upstart Japanese make Davis Cup history against Croatia? Could the Swedish team find a miracle and cause the Serbian team to sweat? As cliche as it sounds, expect a new Davis Cup legend to be born.
2. Double Trouble
Davis Cup is the time for Doubles to shine, and this weekend is no different. This weekend we have spectacular Doubles storylines: the reunions of fan favorites Fedrinka (Federer and Wawrinka) and Bendra (Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra), the eternal mystery of who the other Bryan Brother will be (Bob Bryan is home playing father duty, so either Mardy Fish, John Isner, or Ryan Harrison will take his place alongside Mike Bryan in Switzerland), and the always delightful Davis Cup return of BerdWorm (Berdych and Stepanek). Whether you’re a fan of doubles, awkwardness, hysteria, or just misplaced volleys, Saturday will be a special day for you.
1. The Cheerleaders
Let’s be honest- Davis Cup really isn’t about the tennis. It’s about seeing the bromance on the benches as the fellow team members watch and frazzle along with us. Nothing is as great as seeing a good cheerleader- whether it be Roger Federer on his feet urging on Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Carlos Ferrero fist-pumping a Nicolas Almagro winner, or John Isner and Ryan Harrison embracing when Mardy Fish gets to set point, there is no better reason to watch Davis Cup than to inspect the camaraderie on the benches.
There’s always a tennis lull for a week or two after a Grand Slam. How many of you were really paying attention to what happened in Zagreb or Montpellier or Viña del Mar? Tell the truth, do you even know where Viña del Mar is? Well, perk up, Davis Cup weekend is coming up. It’s an excellent way to ease back in to watching tennis. There are ties in watchable time zones for almost any part of the world and there are only three days to keep track of. Sounds too easy? Well, it kind of is. There are eight ties to keep track of, spanning three continents. Here’s a short guide to this weekend’s action.
Spain vs. Kazakhstan
Venue: Oviedo, Spain
Spain’s been the team to beat for the last several years, led by the nearly invincible Rafael Nadal. They’re the defending champions, and it would be embarrassing if they were to lose to Kazakhstan in the first round. Kazakhstan has exactly one player in the Top 100. Spain has thirteen, a veritable smorgasbord of options to compile a four man team. Spain’s top guys, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, have chosen to sit out, so the team will be led by No. 11, Nicolas Almagro. Throw in Marcel Granollers, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Marc Lopez for the doubles, and the home advantage and I’m pretty sure they will be able to conquer Team Kazakhstan.
Austria vs. Russia
Venue: Wiener Neustadt, Austria
This tie is notable because Alex Bogomolov, Jr. will be making his debut on the Russian Davis Cup team, as the top ranked player no less. Mikhail Youzhny will be second in command and coming in strong off both a singles title and a doubles title in Zagreb last week. Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Kunitsyn round off the Russian team. Team Austria has the hometown advantage but their star, Jurgen Melzer, has been struggling lately and they don’t have much in the way of depth.
Canada vs. France
Venue: Vancouver, Canada
Canada is kind of like the little engine that could. Not known for a strong tennis tradition, they put in a very impressive performance to beat Israel in the playoffs. But, France is no Israel. France is a Davis Cup power house. Much like Spain, their options for Top 100 players number in the double digits. They will also be bringing their two strongest players to Vancouver, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils. Versatile players Julien Benneteau and Michael Lloda will also make the trip. Either player can be called up for singles or doubles. Vasek Pospisil stepped up as the hero of the Israel tie, but it will take some serious team work to get past France. Canada will likely need a great performance from Milos Raonic.
Switzerland vs. USA
Venue: Fribourg, Switzerland
I’m not one of the believers that US tennis is dead, but I don’t give them great odds when it comes to beating Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, on indoor clay, in Switzerland. Mardy Fish and John Isner are reasonable clay players, but neither is up to Federer’s level on any surface. The US can usually count on a doubles win by Bob and Mike Bryan, but Bob has chosen to sit out the tie to spend some time with his newborn daughter so Mike will be making the trip solo. He could play with either Fish or Isner, as both are fair doubles players, but they almost certainly won’t have the magic that Bob and Mike create. Switzerland might as well be a two man team. Federer and Wawrinka will play until the tie is won and the doubles will be good practice as they will be looking to defend their Olympic title this summer.
Czech Republic vs. Italy
Venue: Ostrava, Czech Republic
Tomas Berdych was triumphant last week in Montpellier and Radek Stepanek is fresh off a doubles title at the Australian Open. Much like Federer and Wawrinka, they will likely make up a two man team that should easily conquer the crafty Italians.
Serbia vs. Sweden
Venue: Nis, Serbia
Both of these teams will be missing their best players this weekend. Novak Djokovic is sitting out the tie and Robin Soderling has been sidelined since Wimbledon. Lucky for Serbia, they have two singles players in the Top 25 and Sweden doesn’t have a singles player in the Top 300. It’s going to be a tough ask for Michael Ryderstedt and Carl Bergman.
Japan vs. Croatia
Venue: Hyogo, Japan
Kei Nishikori is the high ranked Japanese player in history and the first to make it to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam. He leads a reasonably strong team on home turf. I’m calling upset potential on this one. Croatia is a tough opponent, but if Nishikori can win his first singles match and Japan can swing the doubles, I would give them a strong chance.
Germany vs. Argentina
Venue: Bamberg, Germany
This is possibly the most interesting tie on the schedule for this weekend. Argentina had a rather gut wrenching loss to Spain in last year’s final and is still in search of their first Davis Cup crown. If Juan Martin del Potro was participating, I would give Argentina the strong edge. Even without their best player, Argentina has a very good team. Juan Monaco won his first title in five years last week and David Nalbandian always brings his best in Davis Cup. I honestly can’t reason out why Germany chose indoor clay. The Argentines love clay. Why not go for a hard court? Either way, the German team is also pretty strong this time around. There’s not really a weak link among Mayer, Kohlschreiber, Petzschner, and Haas.
I was going to write about the Meaning of Life today, but I put it aside when I got a hot tip to write about Novak Djokovic’ match versus Viktor Troicki that went down on the opening days of the last major tournament of the year 2010.
Novak Djokovic had a hard time earlier this week playing in the hot hot sun at the US Open. He was down two sets versus fellow countryman Viktor Troicki and it didn’t seem like The Djoker was able to turn the tables this time. Not with the full sun heating up the court.
Troicki must have thought that he had bagged the match already when an epiphany struck The Djoker. With the sun going down and the shades providing cool air, The Djoker rallied and turned the tables and bagged the match in five.
Brad Gilbert asked him what the shade felt like and The Djoker just gave the perfect analogy:
And this is what The Djoker had to say at the press conference:
Q. Did you see the replay or the actual live shot of [Roger Federer’s] tween the legs shot last night?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No. I’ve seen it live last year passing next to me (smiling). That’s enough traumatic experiences for me. Today when Viktor tried to do the same thing, I said, No, no, please. He was running for the ball between the legs. Please miss it. Please don’t embarrass me again.
Q. As somebody who does very good imitations, is that something you can imitate?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: No, definitely not. I am not as good as he is in that. I’d like to be very careful with my racquet (smiling). You know what I mean.
Q. You made a comment about sleeping with your girlfriend out on the court. What was that analogy to?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. He asked me for the comparison of the feeling, what kind of feeling was it to feel the shade. The sun came down and I didn’t have any more heat, what kind of feeling was it. It just came up to me. It’s one of the best feelings, I guess, when you’re sleeping with your close one. So I compare it to that.
Q. Must have felt good.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It felt unbelievable (smiling). Let’s get back to tennis now (laughter).
In other Djokovic news it seems that some attendants of his match versus Germany’s Philip Petzschner could have used some shade as well when things heated up and they got in a fight.
The horrors of having to witness that.
Update! The video of the incident can be seen below:
And he keeps sending us stuff! Ralf Reinecke is running around on Madrid and it shows. Pressconferences and celebrities, noone is safe from his photo camera. And they shouldn’t be. Ralf’s photography is once again great.
He sent me pics of Melzer, Almagro, Federer, Nadal, Na Li, Andy Murray, Gulbis and as extra bonus shots none other than Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulino Rubio!
Keep ‘em coming and we’ll keep upping them and serve our readers and viewers the best of the best!
Twelve years ago on November 16, 1997, Andre Agassi finished his first step towards his comeback from the depths of tennis – and as his new book OPEN revealed – the depths of his life. As excerpted from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), Agassi returned to the minor league Challenger circuit to try and resurrect his game, Andre Agassi was surprisingly defeated by No. 202-ranked Christian Vinck of Germany 6-2, 7-5 in final of the Luxor Challenger in Las Vegas, Nevada “I have my goals long-term, and this week was assisting me to getting there,” said the former No. 1 ranked Agassi, whose ranking dropped to No. 141 after a dismal stretch of play over 18 months. “I can’t start questioning the big picture because of this. It’s ridiculous. That’s what the press’ job is. For me, it’s just to go one at a time.”
In OPEN, Agassi revealed that depression lead him to taking the drug crystal meth for much of the 1997 season.
French player Marc Gicquel will take on Andy Roddick in the third round of Roland Garros and will be especially wary of Roddick’s famed rocket serve – clocked at a record 155 mph back in 2004. Back on June 14, 2007, as documented in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press www.tennishistorybook.com), Gicquel took the brunt of a 129 mph serve in the groin area, which is documented below from the book.
2007 – French tennis player Marc Gicquel is dragged off the court to be treated after being on the receiving end of a 129 mph serve in the groin. Gicquel eventually returns to the court and beats Germany’s Benjamin Becker 6-2, 7-6 (5) but spends the night vomiting and suffers with swelling and pain and withdraws from his quarterfinal match with Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen the next day.