spanish crowd

Argentina Stays Alive with Doubles Victory – Live from the 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.

Religious Fanatic Disrupts Men’s Pro Tennis Event

A religious fanatic disrupted play at a men’s professional tennis tournament October 20, walking on to the feature court and in front of a sell-out audience and preached about the evils of credit cards and of Satan before being escorted into the custody by local officials. This was the scene on October 20, 1985 during the final round match between Ivan Lendl and Henri Leconte at the Australian Indoor Championships in Sydney. The excerpt of this event, and others from this day, from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, can be found below…

1985 – A religious fanatic walks on the court, serves drinks to Ivan Lendl and Henri Leconte and preaches a sermon in the middle of the final round match of the Australian Indoor Championships in Sydney. In the ninth game of the third set, the man, wearing a caterer’s uniform, walks onto the court with a tray with two glasses of orange juice and religious pamphlets that he presents to both Lendl and Leconte. Reports the Associated Press of the incident, “To the astonishment of the players, officials and crowd, he put the tray down in the center of the court and proclaimed loudly, ‘I would like to bring these gentlemen two drinks.’ He then began babbling about the evil of credit cards and the devil before being escorted away by embarrassed officials. The tournament was sponsored by a credit finance company.” Says Lendl of the incident, “I was really, really mad at that. Not for the security reason, but because they were too gentle with him. They should have been rougher with him.” Lendl wins the match from Leconte by a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 margin.

2006 – Czech Tomas Berdych illicts jeers from an angry Spanish crowd after putting his finger to his lips in a silencing motion after defeating Spanish favorite son Rafael Nadal 6-3, 7-6 (6) in the quarterfinals of the Madrid Masters. Nadal calls Berdych a “bad person” because of the gesture. Berdych responds that is done in response to the Spanish crowd cheering his mistakes. “I can understand they want him to win the match and the tournament, but this is not a Davis Cup where you can expect this — not in this tournament,” Berdych says. Counters Nadal, “When I played him in the Czech Republic, the crowd was the same and I didn’t say anything. If you play against a local player, that’s normal. That’s good for tennis because the public supports you.”

1974 – Evonne Goolagong defeats Chris Evert 6-3, 6-4 to win the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles and the first prize paycheck of $32,000, at the time, the largest payout ever in women’s tennis.

2003 – Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium officially becomes No. 1 in the world for the first time in her career. Henin-Hardenne holds the ranking for a total of 117 weeks during her career. Her last week in the No. 1 ranking comes on June 2, 2008, when she announces her shocking retirement from the sport and has the WTA Tour immediately pull her name off of the rankings.

1991 – Sixteen-year-old Anke Huber of Germany upsets nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4) to win the Porsche Grand Prix Championships in Filderstadt, Germany. Says Huber “I have been dream about this victory, but I never thought it would happen. I still can’t believe it.” The win for Huber spoils Navratilova’s bid to equal Chris Evert’s record of 157 tournament victories (which she does on Nov. 4, winning the Virginia Slims of Oakland). Despite being too young to drive a car in Germany, Huber chooses a Porsche car in lieu of $70,000 first prize paycheck.

1991 – Pete Sampras needs less than one hour to defeat Olivier Delaitre of France 6-1, 6-1 to win the Grand Prix singles title in Lyon, France.