by Stephanie Neppl
Being at a Davis Cup Finals tie is unlike any other tennis experience I have ever personally been a part of. In addition to the players coming together to represent their countries, another personality is often on court with them: the crowd.
The Davis Cup crowd during the Spain versus Argentina final in Seville this weekend was electric. The tennis often felt like the supporting act as fervent supporters of both teams tried to out-chant, out-cheer and out-spirit the other. Whether it was shouting during serves, delaying play with the stadium wave or starting up what felt like a percussion band in the middle of a game, there was constant noise from beginning to end. It really was fabulous for those of us lucky to be present.
During today’s match between Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro, the crowd was certainly a major player. Play was interrupted time and again. It didn’t matter who was serving; games were delayed, even second serves were delayed and despite some fans (and players, coaches, teammates) getting irate it just didn’t stop. Whether it was done due to pure excitement or to distract one of the players (or both), the cheering, drums and horns were just part of the action. Both team captains got into discussions with the chair umpire and it wasn’t until the Argentineans were given a warning did the crowd scale it back a bit.
For the first time in his storied Davis Cup career, Nadal was in the position to clinch the Davis Cup for his team and as expected he won his 20th straight singles match in Davis Cup play (he hasn’t lost since his debut in 2004). But Del Potro certainly was no pushover and the match looked likely to go to a fifth set when the Argentinean battled back from a break down to serve for the fourth set at 5-3. At that stage in the match, Del Potro had wrestled back the momentum and the Argentinean fans saw their hopes return as Del Potro bounced around the court with a new fire.
The next five games would be an emotional rollercoaster for all 24,000 fans in the Estadio Olímpico de Sevilla as Del Potro lost three straight games before breaking Rafa as he served to seal victory for Spain. But Del Potro’s legs seemed to be gone and the tiebreak ended 7-0 in Nadal’s favour. The Spaniard’s final forehand winner sent him flat on the court in joy.
After the match, Nadal acknowledged how amazing the Davis Cup crowd can be. “The atmosphere is really, really unbelievable so thank you very much all the Spanish crowd, all the Argentina crowd that makes this confrontation really really special and unforgettable.”
That ambiance is what makes Davis Cup so special. In tennis, it can be rare to see such emotional cheering throughout an entire match, let alone four or five matches. It’s what makes Davis Cup so special and challenging for fans and players alike. It makes each point seem so vital. Whether a double fault or simple missed return, each point won is celebrated as if a set was won. And that is incredible to experience.
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.
(Del Potro and Spanish team via Getty Images; Nadal photo via AP)
Waterville Valley Resort, NH- For 125 years people have been playing tennis in Waterville Valley Resort. But, what many people don’t know is that the18 red clay outdoor tennis courts in Waterville Valley have been consistently ranks as some of the best in the world. A small secret, but set amid the peaks of the White Mountains National Forest, they are inspiring as well as world class.
Not surprisingly, if tennis is your passion or your hobby or you would like it to be, Waterville Valley Resort’s tennis center has something to offer you. Whether you are playing with friends, family, or are just looking for a quick pick-up game with someone new, you can do this on the red clay outdoor tennis courts. And, a similar experience can be had indoors on one of two nova grass courts. The spectacular view of the White Mountains that engulfs the tennis courts sets this Tennis Center apart from the rest.
The Tennis Center recently announced its’ inclusion as a Gold Medal Resort in the annual tennisresortsonline.com rankings of tennis resorts across the globe. The Waterville Valley Tennis Center earned a Top 25 in the world ranking. The ranking was voted on by vacationers who rated the tennis center by going online to tennisresortsonline.com and describing their experience in Waterville Valley.
The Tennis Center, in existence since 1884, is part of Waterville Valley Resort. The resort features hotels, restaurants, fitness center, and a variety of other amenities (i.e. golf, mountain biking, hiking, in-line skating, canoeing, paddle boating). The Tennis Center offers a variety of instructional lessons and opportunities for unstructured play for visitors.
The Waterville Valley Tennis Center’s Director is United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) professional Tom Gross, Jr., who was trained by and worked for Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Lew Hoad, Mal Anderson and Jack Kenney.
Gross provided four reasons families and individuals should visit the Tennis Center, “it’s affordable, you can play all day, we have lessons to make all players better in an hour, and it’s a unique tennis experience.”
A very popular type of competition offered at the Tennis Center is the Round Robin program. Waterville Valley Resort visitors who are interested in a game can put their contact information on a sign-up board inside the tennis pro shop. Players rated 3.0 and above can participate and players are matched according to skill level. This program is held Monday through Friday for 2 ½ hour sessions at $2 a day if you are either a member or on the activity pass. It is a great way for players to improve their game while meeting new players. Visitors to the Tennis Center are from New England and various locations nationally and internationally.
The Tennis Center also features two 90-minute junior and adult clinics in the mornings. The clinics are very individualized. Instructors during the adult clinic do not try to alter a player’s style but just increase their skill level. While the kids learn the essential skills required to play a game of tennis.
Juniors also learn the strokes of the game, the rules, and tennis etiquette for $15 per session. Adult clinics are tailored to each players needs with personal instruction, along with drills and competitive play for $40 per session. Every lesson in every clinic is dependent on the player’s skill level and their personal goals. These clinics are for recreational players and can have as little as one player or upwards of 4 players for adults and up to 12 kids and multiple instructors or the junior clinics. Clinic packages are also available.
Private lessons are available in the afternoon for players who are part of a league or who want to get better and faster. Private lessons range from $55 for 1-hour for an Assistant pro lesson to $90 for 1-hour for a semi-private lesson with Head Pro Tom Gross. Cost for court time is $20 per hour for singles and $30 per 1 ½ hour for doubles. Season passes are also available for $75 through $275.
Tom Gross is the resorts instructor for the adult clinics and for private lessons.
The centers’ tennis pros instruct the kids. They create a fun atmosphere while teaching the basics, etiquette, and strategy. They model Gross’s philosophy of teaching, “by teaching each person individually, we will improve our players enough so they can go from the teaching court right onto the competitive court and feel good about their game, and what they have learned.”
The vision for the Tennis Center is “to keep the courts busy by making it affordable for families to enjoy tennis as part of a fun, family vacation,” added Gross.
The Tennis Center is also host to a variety of tennis tournaments. The Friendship Cup tournament is held June 27-28 and features USA players vs. Canadian players. The Annual New Hampshire Open July 10-12 is a USTA/NE event open to all ‘A’ players. The Neil Roche tournament August 1-2 is the Center’s largest event. The Neil Roche tournament encourages all tennis players who still play and who have ‘been away from the game’ to participate for a fun mixed doubles weekend. There are also other tournaments for singles and doubles throughout the summer until early fall.
A unique aspect of the Tennis Center is the ability for tennis coaches to bring their teams to practice and play on the courts. This option is not usually offered at a tennis facility. This is an opportunity for coaches to expand their players’ skills and build camaraderie amongst the team.
The tennis courts can also serve as a site for corporate outings. The sunken stadium courts being the perfect court for exhibitions, demonstrations or matches.
Tom Gross uses his passion to help people become better players and to learn the sport of Tennis correctly for a lifetime. “Tennis is the greatest sport ever! Whether you win or lose, there are so many different shots you can perfect. There’s always the chance that you’ll hit the shot of your life and you can always come back and win,” said Gross.
The Waterville Valley Tennis Center is open from mid-May through Columbus Day Weekend. A variety of clinics, lessons, round robins, kid’s programs, racquet stringing and pro shop sales are all available.
For an economical and fun summer deal families can take advantage of Waterville Valley Resort’s Summer Unlimited Package. The Waterville Valley Summer Unlimited package includes boating, mountain biking, tennis, golf, access to the White Mountain Athletic Club, use of the Waterville Valley shuttle, a scenic chair lift ride up Snow’s Mountain, and access to the Waterville Valley Recreation’s open gym program. In addition, families staying for at least three nights can send their children between the ages of six to 12 to one day of Kids Camp. An all-inclusive price for activities provides guests an opportunity to save at least 50 percent on their family vacation through this package. It is also valid at the many summer activities at the Rey Center’s Curious George Cottage, and productions of the North Country Center for the Arts Children’s Theatre.
The Waterville Valley Summer Unlimited package includes boating, mountain biking, tennis, golf, bike rentals, access to the White Mountain Athletic Club, use of the Waterville Valley shuttle, a scenic chair lift ride up Snow’s Mountain, and access to the Waterville Valley Recreation’s open gym program. With all the activities included in the price, guests who take advantage of this package will save at least 50 percent on their family vacation.
Waterville Valley was designed and planned as a self-contained, four-seasons resort. Today, in addition to its world-class ski area, Waterville Valley Resort has award-winning tennis courts, golf, hiking, biking, lodging, cultural activities and summer theater, an indoor ice rink, boating, a skate park, and a host of outdoor activities. Dining options include both traditional favorites and elegant eateries. For more information, call 1-800-GO-VALLEY or visit www.visitwatervillevalley.com
Jelena Jankovic moved away from the baby doll dresses she and clothing sponsor ANTA dreamed up for the beginning of 2009, choosing Miami as the event to debut this faux one-shoulder kit (hey, if it’s good enough for Michelle Obama, it’s good enough for Ms. Jankovic!).
Jelena crashed out of that tournament, unfortunately (losing to Gisela Dulko in the second round after a bye), but she bounced back the week after with a title win at the Andalucia Tennis Experience. Following that, she had three quarterfinal losses at Stuttgart, Roma, and Madrid.
What’s in store for Paris? We here at TSF eagerly await what she’ll wear while playing on the terre battue of Roland Garros (which begins next week). Judging from her choices so far, I don’t think she’ll disappoint…
More: A few more pictures during Janks’ Madrid Open run — including the white/blue sneakers and the blue mascara she paired with her blue warm-up.