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The Magic of Davis Cup

Rafa

Tennis is known as a gentlemen’s sport, a well-mannered game where spectators are expected to be on their best behaviour at all times. Other sports are highlighted by audience chants of “DE-FENSE!”, breaking out in song and creative team encouragements. Tennis is all about quiet, please.

Tennis etiquette is thrown out the window for one event during the year, adding a dimension to the sport that is both exciting and refreshing. Davis Cup, the only team event on the tennis calendar, embodies passion, team spirit, national pride and is the ultimate physical and mental test. It brings out the best in players regardless of their ranking and propels them to dig deeper than they ever thought possible.

Everything that makes Davis Cup so special was on display this weekend during the final between two tennis powerhouses, Spain and Argentina, in Seville. On paper, it seemed Spain had a distinct advantage given that they had their hometown fans and the king of clay, Rafael Nadal on their side. The Spaniards jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Friday and seemed well on their way to another Davis Cup title. David Nalbandian, Argentina’s Davis
Cup stalwart, teamed with Eduardo Schwank to cut the deficit in half after a masterful performance in Saturday’s doubles rubber. Argentine hopes rested on the shoulders of Juan Martin Del Potro who had to recover from a gruelling five set loss to David Ferrer on Friday to try and pull off a monumental upset against Nadal to keep the tie alive for his country.

The much-anticipated duel certainly lived up the hype and captured all that is magical about Davis Cup during more than four hours of tennis bliss. Del Potro came out like a man on a mission to take the opening set and get an early break in the second. Urged on by the Spanish faithful, Nadal turned the matched around as Del Potro seemed to tire with each passing point. Trailing two sets to one and down a break in the fourth with both of his thighs heavily wrapped, the Argentine somehow found another gear. He pummelled forehands, played inside the baseline and found himself serving for the fourth set. But, the final momentum shift of the match went the way of Nadal and his tenacious defense. The Spanish hero once again played the part as he hit a forehand winner down the line on match point to allow his country to taste Davis Cup glory once again.

The fourth set, in and of itself, was something to behold. The compete level on every point was remarkable. Play was halted on several occasions because fans for both teams broke into spontaneous chanting and applause. Emotions were high, the fist pumping was fierce and the celebrations were incredibly heartfelt. Seeing grown men break down in both tears of joy and anguish showed just how much it means to play for your country.

Over the past few years, the Davis Cup format has come under heavy scrutiny and rightfully so. The competition may be difficult to follow, but this year’s final reminded us all that is right about this one-of-a-kind tennis event that can be experienced in nations around the world.

Argentina Stays Alive with Doubles Victory – Live from the Davis Cup

Nalbandian Davis Cup

by Stephanie Neppl

The Argentinean fans seemed to have known something the rest of us didn’t before the start of today’s do-or-die doubles match in the Davis Cup Final in Seville, Spain.

David Nalbandian and Eduardo Schwank needed to defeat Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez in order to keep Team Argentina’s hopes alive. So as the crowd waited for the ceremony and match to begin, the Argentinean fans in particular were extremely energized and vocal. Perhaps it was their way of blessing the stadium and court so things would go in their favor.

And they certainly did. The Argentinean duo played near perfect tennis. Nalbandian in particularly served very well and came up with huge serves whenever he was in danger. Schwank also was solid and very much stepped up to the challenge of ensuring at least one of Sunday’s singles matches still mattered.

The Spanish team, on the other hand, was largely abysmal. For every one of Verdasco’s scorching winners there were five bad misses. Lopez’s net play was tight and erratic. Nothing the team tried seemed to work. Their shot selection, their court coverage – neither were good enough. Verdasco was certainly the most emotional player on the court, and he used a  lot of energy reacting to his play. He frequently tried to get the Spanish crowd to make some noise and help them get into the match but the latter never happened.

After losing the first set, the Spaniards went down a double break. The Spanish players on the sidelines were still and quiet as Verdasco and Lopez went down 6-4, 6-2.

In the third set, the Argentines again broke early but midway through the set it seemed as tho the Spaniards might make a match of it. Up a break, Nalbandian served and faced several break points. Each time the break point was forced, Verdasco tried to pump up his partner and the crowd. Each ad point, Nalbandian served big and Lopez missed the return.  The short-lived threat to pull even was gone and the Spaniards would go down in straight sets.

After Friday night’s exciting five-set match between David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro, it didn’t seem as if the crowd in the Estadio Olímpico de Sevilla could get any louder. But in the first set of today’s doubles match, it did. Both the teams’ supporters seemingly got into a chant fest after just a few games. Neither would stop blowing horns, pounding drums or singing until the other stopped and neither did, even though play was being disrupted. Team captains Albert Costa and Tito Vazquez spoke with chair umpire Carlos Ramos and assumedly tried to see what could be done. Often, points would begin amidst all the chatter while in other points fans threw out whatever distraction they could during a player’s serve and the teams just got on with it.

So now it’s up to Juan Martin Del Potro to try and keep Argentina’s hopes of its first Davis Cup alive. After last night’s heartbreaking five-set loss to David Ferrer, it’s going to be a huge challenge for him to recover enough emotionally and physically to tackle Rafael Nadal on clay.

Stephanie Neppl is in Seville, Spain covering the Davis Cup Finals as a guest contributor for Tennis Grandstand. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Grand Slam Gallivanting: Day 1, Part 1

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By Rishe

And then I went to watch the kind of tennis where they actually write down what you do on these big thingys that blast the numbers out in lights and on chalk and on iPhone applications and scoreboards across computers everywhere. The kind of tennis called Grandslam tennis.

Turns out being day one, we were in for chockablocks, which as a tennis fan, is amazing because it means people are loving my sport. But as a tennis fan, it sucks for me because I want to see my boys, dammit!

Bypassed the showcourts and arenas, just missing out on Sammy Q’s epic fail against Kubot. With the hopes of America failing left, right and center (or courts 3, 5 and 7, to be precise) I skipped the flailing Fish and went straight for Ryan Harrison. I fell in love with my giant-sized Justin Bieber at his epic Grandstand match against Stakhovsky in the US Open, but was completely disappointed to see that Mr America had also imported a serious atitooood to Aussieland.

To be precise, whingeing about the wind. Comparing the conditions to winter in Florida. In a decidedly whingey tone that seemed to question why he bothered coming out to Australia at all.

Because it’s a grand slam, dude.

Felt a tall shadow behind me and looked behind to see none other than my favourite wildcard and current top-rated Frenchie (in my all-important book, to be clear) Benoit Paire behind me. Figured I’d say hi but alas, the English was limited. The hotness? Not at all.

Meandering about next was when things really got interesting. Stopping by to see Xavier Malisse take on Pablo Andujar, I ducked around the corner to find a full-blown fight between some red-shirted Spaniards and security.

My humble understanding of the conversation I cheerfully eavesdropped included a situation where Xavier, unhappy with the Spanish noise-making, had motioned for these spectators to shut up. This was allegedly mid-point, although he had already won the point. Or something. Either way, the red-shirts were adamant that being that he talked to them, they had a right to talk back. And when he asked security to take them away, he should’ve first contacted the umpire. Props go to the lovely Aussie blokes who heard out the whole story and soothed them in that gorgeous Aussie way (beer cups in hand), along the lines of “Yep, but those are the rules… Yep.. I know it’s ridiculous… Happened to us too… but you gotta abide by the rules.”

I love my country.

With time to kill before the long awaited Serbian-army attack, I came to see Rebecca Marino, up-and-coming Canadian girl who was looking just lovely.

And lunge-y.

Couldn’t decide where to go next, but luckily my decision was made for me as I contemplated the scoreboard:

Rainbow-suspender clad Kangaroos, playing the trumpet to the tune of “Tequila!” in Garden Square. Too good.

Waiting for entry between change of ends behind the lovely Pammy who was looking quite the frazzled Mom, I headed in to catch the end of the five-setter between Mardy Fish and Victor Hanescu on Show Court 3. I love our Aussie audiences. The same guys cheering “Victor, Victor” were also the ones clapping enthusiastically when Mardy won a point. Two young girls clutching plastic cups of Jacob’s Creek were enthusiastically cheering for Fishy, and over on the other side, we heard “Fishy, Fishy, Fishy, Oi Oi Oi!”

I settled in near Pammy and the Fish family. Pascal got into a few narrow scrapes, being in a huge show court without Hawkeye, and Victor switched on fire the moment a match point arrived.To quote the kids nearby, “This guy should just always play as if he was on matchpoint.” My three-game stint turned into a half hour ordeal as deuce after deuce rolled by, the Aussie kids cheered the ballboys “You’re the best roller I’ve ever seen, woooo”, and Mardy was – well, looking really svelte, if I must say. Tee hee hee.

And then Pammy ran – nay, sprinted – for her post-match interview. It was funny. I laughed.

Then I heard a thump and a thud. It was Nikolai Davydenko, falling down down down the rankings. Alas.

Almagro And Montanes Put Spain In Winner’s Circle

Spain continues to reap athletic rewards as the Spanish duo of Nicolas Almagro and Albert Montanes won the two clay-court titles on the ATP Tour this past week.

Montanes defeated Gael Monfils 6-2, 1-2 in Stuttgart before the Frenchman had to retire with a right ankle injury. It was the second title of the year for Montanes.

“I twisted my ankle on the court and it was impossible to finish the match,” said Monfils. ”The week was good. I played pretty good tennis, a lot of confidence came back. To reach a final again was pretty exciting. I had a bad experience (today) but hopefully it will be better soon and I can get back to my best level and try to reach some other finals.”

Meanwhile in Bastad, Sweden, Nicolas Almagro defeated defending champion Robin Soderling in three sets, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 to capture the SkiStar Swedish Open. Almagro improves to an impressive 6-2 in ATP finals, although one wonders why we don’t see this more often from him on the red clay.

“I didn’t play very well in the 2007 final here, but today I fought very hard and I’m really happy with the physical and mental sides to my game,” said Almagro. “It was a big match, a big fight and we were both battling like gladiators. Robin is a great player and I’m sure he will have many more chances to win this tournament in the future.”

The victories are important for the ranking points that both Spaniards will add to their 2010 totals. With the North American hard-court swing about to start I wouldn’t expect we see any results like this from either player for some time. All of the 11 career titles between them have come on clay.

G’DAY FOR THE AUSSIES IN SYDNEY

Wednesday was a “G’Day” for the home Aussies at the Sydney International. Lleyton Hewitt needed just 55 minutes to beat Andreas Seppi 6-0, 6-2 to advance into the quarterfinals. The win avenged a loss to Seppi in Sydney’s quarterfinals four years ago after wasting two match points; Also 30-year-old Aussie Peter Luczak reached first ATP-quarterfinal in his home country after 1-6 6-4 6-2 win over Tomas Berdych.
The Spaniards are the main force at the Heineken Open in Auckland where they comprise of the top four seeds. However, only two of them advanced to the quarterfinals. Swiss qualifier Michael Lammer, 27, advanced to the first ATP-quarterfianl when he led 3:1 in the first set when his opponent, Juan Carlos Ferrero (No. 3 seed), was forced to retire (sprained right ankle).

Spain To Host Czechs In Davis Cup Final

Rafael Nadal

Spain completed a 4-1 victory over Israel in the Davis Cup semifinals on Sunday, as the nations split a pair of dead singles rubbers following the clinching doubles victory for the defending champs on Saturday.

Feliciano Lopez and Tommy Robredo posted a 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-2 win over the Israeli tandem of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram on Saturday to give the Spaniards an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the best-of-five tie.

The decision also rendered Sunday’s reverse singles meaningless.

David Ferrer, who gave Spain its first point with a singles win over Harel Levy on Friday, breezed to a 6-3, 6-1 victory Sunday over Ram for Spain’s fourth point of the weekend.

Levy ensured it would not be a sweep, as he toppled Lopez in the final match, 7-5, 6-2.

Spain won a home Davis Cup tie for the 17th straight time and will try to make it 18 in a row in December when the Czech Republic visits for the Davis Cup final.

The Czechs, who beat Croatia this weekend, will play for the Davis Cup crown for the first time since 1980, when the former Czechoslovakia — led by Ivan Lendl — beat Italy for its lone title.

Spain won this weekend without its top two players, as both Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco sat out. Verdasco had the clinching point last year when the Spaniards won their third Davis Cup crown with a triumph at Argentina.

Israel was playing in the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time.

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