Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Davis Cup Review : Timing is Everything

With Andrew Murray enjoying some good times in Scotland celebrating his win and Ivan Lendl going back to his other job as the Easter Island statue. Last weekend was Davis Cup time, the World Group Semis and the playoffs to get that spot in the promised land.

My views about Davis Cup are clear. It's a great event, those casual fans who don't get it or the player fans yes the ones that only follow players and not care about the sport. Then this post isn't for them. Yes, the top players bitch and moan about Davis Cup so the player fans usually one of the big 4 think that's good for them to do so without thinking about the subject.

Yes, there are scheduling issues but that concerns the whole tennis world and no playing at a neutral venue would kill one of the unique aspects of the event. Playing away from home, winning in conditions that they aren't familar with and it's not just playing for themselves which lead to specific challenges that regular tournaments don't have.

World Group

Czech Republic def. Argentina 3-2

Huge effort from the Czechs to win away from home and hand Argentina their first defeat at the Parque Roca and on clay since 1998 when Davis Cup warrior Dominik Hrbaty led them to a 3-2 win when he defeated Hernan Gumy in the 5th rubber.

As with anything in life timing is everything and opportunities must be taken when on offer. This result is an example of this in numerous ways. Argentina when they picked the clay knew it would be tough to beat the Czech team but the plan starting coming apart a few weeks ago. Davis Cup stalwart David Nalbandian who pretty much is playing these days only to win this event had to withdraw from the US Open due to injury, he wanted to play here but captain Martin Jaite who was his former coach told him he wouldn't be selected.

David Nalbandian

Losing the spirtual leader and one half of your doubles combination tested the depth on clay normally Argentina are pretty solid so Juan Monaco stepped up. It got worse with Juan Martin del Potro having wrist issues being told by the doctor to rest, but he told Jaite he was ready to play on Day 1. The fact he defeated Stepanek handily while having problems hitting backhands was outstanding.

Sadly for Argentina this is where it unravelled. Tomas Berdych after winning a comfortable 1st set, started looking heavy in the legs, making errors and getting irritated with the loud crowd. Juan Monaco lifts his game and leading 2 sets to 1 with a break in the 4th. This is Monaco while he is courageous he is famous for getting tight in situations when he has the chance to take a big slap, maybe he should do some transcendental meditation. Once Berdych got back on serve, then Monaco walked through door of inevitability, even coming back from a double break in the 5th and losing serve for the match.

Berdych and Stepanek

Once the tie was 1-1, the Czechs with Berdych and Thunder Lips too good in the doubles. It came down to Carlos Berlocq replacing the injured del Potro to salvage the tie for Argentina. Three years ago Berlocq was struggling financially who only turned it around in the last two years that he was able to pay back his sponsor and keep some money for himself.

Berlocq fought so hard and left everything on the court as per usual, but he is limited as a player though he has improved significantly since he joined the tour. The feeling in this match was while Berdych wasn't near his best, wasn't really in any trouble even with Berlocq having more break point chances. There was a clear difference in their levels, the break point conversion rate Berdych 5/8 and Berlocq 1/13 summed it up. While the crowd were disappointed in losing they gave Berlocq a great reception and deservedly got very loud "Charly" chants at the end of the match.

Carlos Berlocq

After the match the Argentine media showed they're world class when it comes to scapegoating for when they lose at sport especially football and tennis. Del Potro has been copping a lot of criticism and can read more about the dramas Davis Cup Drama - A Look Back at the Lost Semifinal.
Yes, they lost at home and it was tough for them under the circumstances. Yes, got to take the praise when doing well and vice versa with criticism which doesn't tend to be constructive in moments like this. Monaco refusing to talk to the press is smart in a way, he could have always done it this way, though not in German.

- Hello..There are 4 Questions and 4 Answers...
- I will ask the Questions and give the answers, too.
- Atmosphere in the team? The team worked very well.
- Tactics? it will depend on the personal situation, because a few players are injured.
- How I see the opponents ? Aachen has to win, we are prepared for this.
- Is the team prepared for this pressure? What I saw in the training, yes. and the team will give the answers on the field.
thank you

Argentina is one of the hardest places to play for visitors. The clay and the boisterous fans who provide a fun and football atmosphere unlike you see on the regular tour. Hrbaty commented that it was his favourite place to play, not sure Stepanek and Berdych will say that but they can be proud of their victory. As Jaro Navratil said they were lucky to win without Nalbandian and del Potro, but got to be good enough to take advantage which they were.

Unless next year Nalbandian can remain fit and del Potro as well then the Davis Cup dream for Argentina might be a long way off. Timing is everything, the previous golden generation of Coria, Gaudio, Nalbandian, Calleri, Cañas they couldn't do it, due to injuries and a lack of viable number 2 options off clay but it didn't happen. This time Argentina couldn't get their top 2 fit for this tie, which is something the Czechs didn't need to worry about this time.

Spain def. USA

Best thing about this tie was that it held was in Gijón. Asturias hasn't seen top class for a long time. No, I'm not including Galo Blanco the Real Oviedo fan and current coach of Milos Raonic.
The crowd was full of sportinguistas (Sporting Gijón football fans) who have been starved of success.

The result of this tie was doubtful as the sun rising in the east.

World Group Playoffs

There were a few fallen giants who didn't get promoted to the World Group. The Russians were thrashed by Brazil, while their decline is noticeable it's not as bad as Sweden or to a lesser extent Australia.

Sweden had to select 31 year old Andreas Vinciguerra who hadn't played any tennis since December and this was local league tennis. He became a father and trying for another comeback, while he played well considering his time out of the game there was no danger of him winning a match.

Andreas Vinciguerra

Robin Söderling being out indefinitely with glandular fever and financial mismanagement from the federation the lack of quality coming through is a problem that won't be sorted in the near future.
In the 80s Sweden had a brilliant generation to the point where Peter Lundgren was ranked number 23 in the world, yet was the only the 7th best Swede. This is where the time machine needs to be invented.

Australia lost to Germany on the clay. The weekend highlighted the funkiness of Florian Mayer who was the star of the tie. Lleyton Hewitt who is almost at the end of his career and struggles to play 3 days in a row. Nard Dog Tomic well he won the only singles match but will be remembered for the attitude where Tony Roche giving him a bollocking.

Canada won easily at home after South Africa forfeited their option of hosting the home time. Just not enough money there in South African tennis and Kevin Anderson has had his issues with the federation doesn't help.

Amir Weintraub was the star of the Davis Cup weekend leading Israel into the World Group with a win in the final rubber over Soeda. Weintraub who writes an interesting blog about the problems of the lower ranked players on tour especially coming from Israel. He is a man who loves the Davis Cup environment he defeated Raonic before taking down Ito on Day 1 after Dudi Sela failed to win his singles matches. Nishikoro levelled at 2-2 leaving it down to the final match.

Amir Weintraub

Weintraub was rallying well, dominating from the baseline using his backhand down the line to smash clean winners. He was showing Eli Ohana like flair over the weekend. At the end of the 3rd set he was cramping, but once he held a long service game at the start of the 4th set he was able to regain the momentum and playing much better tennis than Soeda who was waiting for Weintraub to make errors. Amir held on and showed that Davis Cup is more than just the World Group.


shank said...

Good round-up.

Hopefully the Czechs can finish the job in the final.

Denys said...

Excellent round up of Davis Cup, no one can do drama quite like Argentina.