Llodra

Vancouver Stoked to Host Davis Cup Elite

Two years removed from hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the city of Vancouver will be all about tennis this week as many of the sport world’s eyes will be focused on the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, which will host Canada’s biggest Davis Cup tie in the last decade beginning Friday.

Canada will host a powerhouse team from France, which includes Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in their first World Group tie since 2004. This also marks the first time since 1992 that Vancouver will host a Davis Cup tie.

Led by their two young guns, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, who played the role of Davis Cup hero last year to give his country this opportunity, Canada will attempt to pull off a huge upset in their first home tie since 2009. For the occasion, Tennis Canada has selected a fast indoor hard court that should help produce a few more aces and winners from the heavy-hitting Canadian racquets.

Not only did the event sell out within an hour, but the organizing committee has pulled out all of the stops to give their squad every advantage as they go after this monumental victory. “Operation Red and White” is encouraging fans to wear their country’s colours regardless of where they will be watching the matches and reinforces that France won’t win, at least “Not On Our Court”.  In addition, the Cactus Club Café in Vancouver is the official Team Canada Headquarters to watch the tie for fans who don’t have a ticket.

The one and only meeting between Canada and France in Davis Cup came way back in 1966 on the clay courts of Roland-Garros with the home side coming away with a dominant 5-0 win. The home team this time around is hoping for a much different result and Raonic and Pospisil will have to play the matches of their lives to make it happen. Not only will France be tough in singles, but they have also brought Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra, two of their doubles specialists to counter Canadian legend Daniel Nestor, who usually guarantees a point when he suits up for the crucial doubles rubber.

“It’s a short time frame compared to the other years, usually we have play in March so we have an extra month to get the match count high enough to feel really good about anybody’s game,” said Team Canada captain Martin Laurendeau. “But, the fact that it’s following a Grand Slam and it’s early in the season has forced the guys to be sharp early in the year and we are playing some good tennis right now.”

The task at hand may be a very difficult one, but there is a reason they play the game and the Canadian underdogs plan on showing their home fans why.

Lindstedt-Tecau and Matkowski-Fyrstenberg Wins Signal Shift in the Doubles Landscape

Former Grand Slam titlists should have the upper hand against doubles teams that have had to scrape and claw their way into qualifying for the World Tour Finals, right?

Well, no one told that to the duos of Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau seeded 6th, who beat the #4 seed Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, or #8 seed Marcin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg, who topped the #2 seed Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic in opening round-robin matches.

Add to that the 5th seeded Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, aka the “Indo-Pak Express,” coming within points of beating this year’s French Open champs Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor seeded 3rd, and a major power shift could be on the way in doubles.

Among the top four teams competing at the O2 Arena in London this year, seven of the eight players have ranked number one at some point in their careers. And aside from the Bryans, the players on the three other squads have enjoyed success with others at the tournament: for example, Zimonjic and Nestor are actually the “defending champions,” beating none other than the tandem of Bhupathi and Mirnyi in the finals last year.

If there were an actual Hall of Fame for doubles, the players among the top four seeds currently would be first-ballot selections, no question.

Their challengers, on the other hand, have barely accomplished a quarter of what they have in terms of titles.

Still, though, that hasn’t seemed to instill any sense of deference among them.

Bopanna and Qureshi have actually beaten Mirnyi and Nestor twice this year, including last week on the way to the Paris Indoors crown, their first Masters 1000 victory. Lindstedt and Tecau showed no signs of nerves in their debut appearance at the year-end championships with the straight-sets win over the “Indian Express.” And Fyrstenberg and Matkowski snapped a three-match losing streak to Llodra and Zimonjic at a crucial time as every little point helps when it comes to getting out of round-robin play.

Fyrstenberg and Matkowski aren’t exactly strangers to the tour finals though, making their fifth appearance. But as long as the Poles have been playing together, they just made their big breakthrough at this year’s U.S. Open. There, they lost to Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner in the finals.

Also the winners of the Wimbledon title in 2010, Melzer and Petzschner are two of the only three players in the doubles draw who maintain top 100 singles rankings (Llodra being the other). It would be hard to argue against the impact of the workload: Petzschner made the final in Halle this year and Melzer reached his career-high singles ranking, eight, earlier this year.

The players at the top—together or with different partners—have won titles by the dozens, but the new crop appears ready to take over and start reaping its share of the prizes.