Sunday, April 7, 2013

Inspiring Davis Cup weekend

It was Davis Cup weekend, with matches taking place all over the world.  Though I don't always like the idea of Davis Cup every year, several times during year, with the players having to choose whether to expend even more energy to play in a couple more best of five matches in an already exhausting season, it can make for some pretty high drama.  There were several examples of that on this occasion.

Since I'm from the U.S. I will start with that.  On Friday team USA and team Serbia ended up splitting sets, with John Isner losing to Novak Djokovic and Sam Querry pulling out a high intensity five setter against Victor Troicki.  Most people assumed, with the #1 Bryan Brothers playing the doubles rubber against Nenad Zimonjic and virtual unknown Ilija Bozoljac, that it was almost a given it would soon be 2-1 USA.  Many were saying Bozoljac was the weak link and assuming straight sets.  They didn't bargain for the incredible fight the Serbians put up, taking the first two sets in tiebreaks.  The Bryans came back to level it in the next two sets and then the match really began.  With no tiebreak in Davis Cup in the fifth set it became a battle of wills to hold serve and each team did their job with amazing veracity.  It was quite nerve wracking watching from my couch as the score crept higher and higher.  Finally, in the 27th game of the set, the Bryan Brothers faltered and the Serbian team came up with a break.  In spite of tremendous crowd support for the U.S., team Serbia pulled off an incredible victory, clinching it at 15-13.  All credit to them for an amazing win against the best doubles team of all time.

 The drama continued the following day for the Serbian team.  Djokovic was due to play Sam Querry.  Though Querry has beaten Djokovic before, it still appeared it would be a fairly easy win for world #1 Novak Djokovic.  However, in only the 2nd game of the match Djokovic turned his ankle mid point.  He continued on to finish the point, only to fall to the ground as soon as it ended in obvious pain.

The big question was would he be able to continue.  When he was barely able to get off the court it certainly didn't appear he would be able to.  But the responsibility he felt in getting a victory for his country propelled him on and with some extra wrapping on the ankle and pain pills he continued to put forth great effort and energy.  Though he did drop the second set, soon he was on a roll and easily completed the victory for his team.  There is certainly speculation now, however, as to what this means for him in his next couple scheduled tournaments beginning the clay court season.

It was quite an exciting weekend for Canadian tennis fans.  The Canadian Davis Cup team has reached a new milestone - a trip to the DC semifinals, something they had never achieved before.  After splitting matches with visiting team Italy on day 1, their doubles team of Nestor and Pospisil did what the Bryan brothers weren't able to do - they closed out another five setter with the exact same fifth set score as the American-Serbian match - 15-13, giving Canada a 2-1 lead.  Milos Raonic had the honor of clinching the winning match for Canada, which will take them to Serbia in the fall for their first semifinal.  You can tell what the victory meant to Raonic.

 And finally I have to give some props to the team from Great Britain.  They were playing against Russia, not in the main draw of Davis Cup but in one of the lower tiers trying to gain entry into the elite group for next year.  Without their main man Andy Murray, they were playing with low ranked players who haven't been able to do much at the normal ATP level.  Down 0-2 after the first day of competition, their chances were pretty slim.  But at that point what did they have to lose?  After getting the doubles point to give them a slight chance, first number 214 James Ward came back from being down 2 sets to 1 to pull off the 5 set upset against Dimitri Tursonov.  But the likelihood of world number 325 Dan Evans, with all the pressure in the world sitting on his shoulders, beating someone ranked 245 places above him seemed virtually impossible.  Yet it turned out to be a fairly straight forward straight set win for an inspired player trying to get his team back into the World Group again.  Incredible effort by team Great Britain.  

Quite an inspiring weekend to lead us into the clay court season.

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