spanish team

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.

The Weekly Debrief – Top Moments of the Week

In the week following any Grand Slam, and especially right after the Spring slam combination of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, news is usually sparse. Even for us dedicated tennis devotees, it can feel like tennis overload at this point in the season. However, this week was an exception with Davis Cup action, an ATP 250-level tournament in Newport, Rhode Island, and a small soccer tournament you may have heard of in South Africa, the World Cup. Here is my Weekly Debrief of the Top Moments of the Week.

Top Four

1. The World Cup of soccer was played in South Africa between Holland and Spain yesterday. “How is this significant to tennis?” you may ask. Well, be not dismayed. After Rafael Nadal held up the winner’s trophy at this year’s Wimbledon, he announced he would skip the Davis Cup quarterfinals, receive platelet-infusion treatments on his knees, and fly down to South Africa to support the Spanish team in the Finals.

Rafa with one of the biggest smiles in tennis. Here, with women’s Wimbledon winner Serena Williams.

Rafa must have been a good cheerleader as Spain won 1-0. After the win, he was quoted as saying:

“I cried like a baby. We have to celebrate for a whole year, because this is unbelievable. It is very difficult to repeat this.”

2. Rafa wasn’t the only Spaniard in action this week. The entire Spanish Armada consisting of Fernando Verdasco, Feliciano Lopez, David Ferrer, and Nicolas Almagro took part in Davis Cup this week in France. Spain was the defending champion so their 0-5 loss to underdog France was a shock. But it seems that tennis may not have been the primary sport on their mind. Should we still be surprised that they lost given this?

3. In other Davis cup action, Argentina defeated Russia 3-2, Czech Republic took out Chile 4-1, and in the most controversial matchup, Serbia beat Croatia 4-1 in a fiery environment in the coastal city of Split, Croatia. The sign below was found near the Spaladium Arena were the event took place. It roughly translates into “Hang the Serbs. Never forget. Never forgive.” in reference to the political and cultural differences that have plagued this region of Europe for decades. Having myself been born in Split, Croatia and raised with the Serbian language in the United States, it is heart-breaking to hear that such anger is still existent between the two nations.

Despite the atmosphere in the Spaladium Arena, Serb Novak Djokovic ranked #2 was just happy that he won:

“It’s sensitive circumstances that we play in and considering the situation between the two countries that they had 20 years back and, of course, it’s still very fresh [in the mind],” he said. “We are professional athletes and tennis players and we don’t involve politics in sport. We want to perform our best for the country and win; that’s what I did today and in the end I got a nice appreciation from the crowd for what I have done today so this is what I remember from the match.”

Croat Ivan Ljubicic ranked #16 and a good friend of Djokovic’s said he was also annoyed by the chants from the crowd:

“They affected my concentration just as they did his,” he said. “It was strange to see guys, the crowd, whistling on Serbian anthem and the players and so loud on ours. You could feel the tension; you could feel the emotion so it was really difficult for me to play the first couple of games.”

4. Back on US soil, a newly-fit Mardy Fish won his fourth career title in Newport yesterday at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships.

But the tournament wasn’t without controversy. The first-round matchup which saw #552 Richard Bloomfield take out #160 Christophe Rochus drew suspicion of a betting scandal. A UK-based agency, Betfair, reported unusual betting changes in the hours just prior to the match and a rather hefty wager of $1.5 million riding on the match. Bloomfield, who had only won one tour-level match before this week, found himself in the semifinals before he lost to eventual champion Fish. Whether Bloomfield had any part in the scandal or was even aware of it is unsure at this point. He did, however, have the run of his life rising 260 spots to sit comfortably at world number 292 in today’s released rankings.

Another memorable moment from Newport came at the beginning of the tournament. Remember that 11 hour marathon match at Wimbledon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in the first round? Even though Mahut lost that encounter, he was granted a wildcard into the main draw here. He also stopped by the Hall to give a piece of tennis histroy: a signed shirt that he wore during that memorable Wimbledon match.

BONUS
Players usually drink electrolyte-infused water or some other liquid concoction to replenish their bodies on changeovers. On the Champions tour, they have come up with something quite different … beer. Watch as retired pro John McEnroe takes a few swigs before serving an ace to Goran Ivanisevic. If that’s the secret to serving in tennis, I’ll take a lifetime supply.

That’s it for this week’s Debrief. Just stop by at the beginning of every week for a recap of the ATP tour. We’ve got you covered!