Category Archives: Davis Cup

Davis Cup hard courts will be just right from now on, not too fast and not too slow. Boring!

After the U.S. won the Davis Cup title in smashing fashion by winning the first three rubbers in the final, I asked the following question: Can the U.S. win the Davis Cup again next year? I gave it a less than 50/50 shot at it because U.S. players are terrible on clay court surfaces.

I forgot that Davis Cup organizers at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) are adding rules to regulate hard court speeds. Now it’ll be even harder for the U.S. to repeat.

This year’s final was a home court event for the U.S. so they got to choose the playing surface. You can be sure they chose the fastest hard court they could get their hands on. If an ice skating rink had been available, they’d have used that.

In the future, Davis Cup rules will prevent countries from choosing a hard court surface that is too fast or too slow.

This hurts the U.S. because they specialize in hard servers and big hitters and they’ll be forced to choose a slower court next time. No word yet on what range of speeds is acceptable but it makes a difference. Roger Federer complained about the slowness of the court in Paris after he lost to David Nalbandian there.

I notice that the ITF hasn’t mentioned regulating the speed of clay courts. The indoor clay court Belgium used against the U.S. last year looked like a bunch of kids had thrown some loose clay on a gym floor so they could wallow around in it. At this point, the ruling change appears to benefit South America and Spain which have the largest number of clay court lovers.

If Spain met Argentina at home in Davis Cup next year, I wonder if they’d choose grass courts so Nadal could beat up on Argentina since he almost beat Federer at Wimbledon? Even better, why not just use that half-grass half-clay concoction Federer and Rafael Nadal played on last year?

Remember that the ITF will not allow countries to choose hard courts that are too slow either. I’m not sure I see the point of this. If a country wants a slow court, all they have to do is choose a clay court.

I’m also not sure I like the changes. Tennis is becoming too regimented. Grass courts are slowing down. Davis Cup has unlimited challenges making linespeople secondary. How long will it be before all lines are called electronically? Round robin tennis was booted out before it even got started.

It’s no fun anymore. You can’t watch someone hit ace after ace on a fast grass court. You can’t even argue a call or cheat at Davis Cup.

I guess that’s the point.


Here are my previous last thoughts about the Davis Cup final.

Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 176 user reviews.

The Davis Cup final is finally finished after two meaningless matches. Let’s see what it all means.

an•ti•cli•max (ān’tē-klī’māks’, ān’tī-) n.

  1. Something trivial or commonplace that concludes a series of significant events.
  2. The act of sitting through the fourth and fifth rubber of a Davis Cup tie after the home team has already clinched the title by winning the first three rubbers.

I did sit through Bob Bryan’s match with Igor Andreev even though it was a dead rubber – the results did not affect the outcome. The U.S. clinched the Davis Cup title last night after Bob and his brother Mike took the doubles rubber and concluded a dominating weekend of tennis.

You have to wonder how anyone could play today after Saturday night’s celebration as described by Bob Bryan:

We spent a couple of hours here just dumping champagne all over each other. Then we went out to a local spot and danced, did everything. We had a long, drawn-out celebration.

I left to play some indoor tennis myself after Bob’s match was over, but before I left I had a few thoughts about this title and this weekend.

Will the U.S. Repeat?

It depends how many ties they have to play on clay. They beat the Czech team on clay this year but the Czechs don’t have anyone other than Tomas Berdych.

The U.S. avoided Argentina on clay because Sweden beat them on a fast surface at home. Can you imagine having to play David Nalbandian on any surface this fall? He won two Masters Series events in a row after never having won even one of them.

If the U.S. has an early match against a weaker opponent on clay they should be okay – they won a tie on clay early last year too over Belgium. But if they have to play a semifinal or final on clay, it’s not gonna happen. They were bounced out of the Davis Cup on clay in three of the last six years so let’s say they have a less than 50/50 chance.

Biggest Surprise

No doubt about it: James Blake. He took the one match the Russians hoped to win by beating Mikhail Youzhny in the second rubber and he did it after failing to serve out the match at the end of the fourth set.

Blake failed under pressure in the third set tiebreaker too but he kept at it and his victory made this competition a route.

Against all odds, he does seem to keep getting better. It’s not happening as fast as I’d like. He’s still terrible in five-setters and he dropped out of the top ten this year after going to the year end championships last year. But this week was a big step forward. He not only won a critical match but he won the fifth rubber over Dmitry Tursunov after losing the first set 6-1.

I’m pretty excited to see if it carries over to next year.

Let’s Give Marat Safin Some Love

This is the essentially the same team that won the Davis Cup title over Argentina last year except for Marat Safin and they won it on a fast indoor surface similar to this week’s surface in Portland. Safin won the doubles match with Tursunov and clinched the title with a victory in the fifth rubber.

Safin also won both his singles matches when Russia beat France in the 2002 final.

Safin hasn’t had a great season this year but his ranking is actually one point higher than it was at the end of last year. He hasn’t yet recovered from his Tibetan mountain trip but if he had, he might have given Russia the emotional fire they were sorely lacking.

Do We Like Unlimited Challenges?

No we do not. Challenges have joined bathroom breaks and unnecessary injury timeouts as tools of gamesmanship. If your opponent is serving up aces and you have unlimited challenges, call up a few hopeless challenges to mess with his rhythm. At the very least it’ll create confusion as it did this weekend.

In the second set tiebreaker in the match between Blake and Youzhny, Blake challenged one of Youzhny’s first serves which had been called out. Blake hit a return winner off the serve so he wanted to the ball to be in. It turned out the serve was out so the chair umpire gave Youzhny another first serve because the wait for the challenge result had delayed Youzhny’s second serve.

Oh great tennis gods, make up your mind. If you give players unlimited challenges then both sides should be able to deal with the delay. A better approach would be to allow only three challenges so they can’t be used to mess with an opponent’s head. If you’re concerned that a match could be decided by a bad call because a player’s challenges are all used up, do what the National Football League does.

In the final two minutes of each half of an NFL game, the replay official in the booth can call for an instant replay if the official thinks it’s necessary. In a tennis match, allow the chair umpire to call for a challenge in a deciding game or tiebreaker if the umpire thinks it’s necessary.

Politics

By the time I got back from playing tennis, the award ceremony was in full swing and now I know who U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe is voting for in next year’s Presidential election.

I didn’t get the exact quote but when McEnroe thanked his players for their classy behavior as members of the Davis Cup team, he made a point of saying that it hasn’t been easy traveling the world as a representative of the U.S. in the past few years.

If that is not a political statement about the war in Iraq, I am not a tennis fan.


I wrote about the deciding doubles match yesterday and the first day of Davis Cup on Friday. You can also see if my predictions were correct. Of course they were!

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 260 user reviews.

The Bryan twins won the doubles rubber to clinch a Davis Cup title and there’s still one more day to go.

After Bob Bryan smashed the last volley and saw it bounce high over the heads of Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev, he turned back to his twin brother Mike, spread his arms and beamed in disbelief and joy.

The twins had just clinched the 2007 Davis Cup title for the U.S. and it had been a long time coming. The U.S. had not won a title for 12 years and the Bryans had been dreaming about this moment for their entire lives.

I was so happy that I was actually crying. I can’t help it. I get patriotic. I was happy for Andy Roddick because a Davis Cup title was his dream too and he has absolutely carried this team on his back for the past few years. I was happy for James Blake because he got an unexpected victory over Mikhail Youzhny in what he called the best win of his career.

How could you not be happy for these guys?

The only thing that’s making me unhappy is the wait. The cup won’t be handed out till the last two meaningless matches are played tomorrow evening. And that was the only problem this weekend: the tennis was too one-sided.

There were a few tiebreakers here and there and one four set match but it was all over too soon. No marathon five set matches or 17-15 scores and, really, no doubt about the outcome except for the set Blake dropped and his failure to hold serve to end his match.

The doubles match was interesting if only to see whether a couple of very good singles players could hold their own against the number one doubles team in the world. These days top singles players skip doubles because they don’t need the money. Back when they did need the money, you were likely to find the same players at the top of the singles and doubles rankings.

Would the Bryans be anywhere near as successful if all the top singles players took up doubles again? Yes they would and today we found out why.

Virtually all of the top singles players are baseliners and that goes for Davydenko and Andreev too. And most of the top players serve big. But it was the Bryans who won most of the baseline rallies and as for the serve, Bob Bryan put 27 out of his first 29 first serves into the court. The first set went to a tiebreaker but after that it was no contest.

That could also be said for this year’s Davis Cup final.


Read more about the first day of Davis Cup here and see if our predictions were accurate.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 229 user reviews.

The U.S. should beat Russia in the Davis Cup final that starts tomorrow in Portland, Oregon but then, the Michigan’s college football team should have beaten Appalachian State and England’s soccer team should have beaten Croatia. But they didn’t.

What could go wrong this weekend in Portland?

Andy Roddick’s back could start hurting again and Mike Bryan would have to play one of the reverse singles matches. Roddick hurt his back in the year end championships.

Mike Bryan’s elbow could start hurting again and James Blake would have to play doubles. The Bryan brothers skipped the year end championships because Mike’s elbow was injured. I thought those guys were going for too many aces with their new Prince rackets. Don’t they know doubles players should focus on getting the first serve in?

James Blake could fail under the pressure of a Davis Cup final and lose both of his matches. He’s lost more than half his Davis Cup singles matches when the outcome of the tie was undecided.

Dmitry Tursunov could rise to the occasion and beat Roddick 17-15 in the fifth set of the decisive match as he did when Russia defeated the U.S. in Davis Cup last year.

Mikhail Youzhny could beat James Blake just like he did in last year’s Davis Cup match with Russia.

Here’s why that won’t happen.

Roddick will have a day off to rest between matches and Davis Cup means the world to him. If he can’t beat Roger Federer and win Wimbledon, at least he can bring home a Davis Cup title.

Mike Bryan’s elbow can make it through one match.

James Blake might lose two matches but Roddick will win both of his singles matches and the Bryan brothers will win doubles so it won’t matter, luckily, what Blake does.

Tursunov beat Roddick on clay last year and it’s a miracle that Roddick even got to a fifth set on clay. On an indoor hard court, he should be fine.

So what if Youzhny beats Blake? Go back two paragraphs and see why that doesn’t matter.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned Nikolay Davydenko. He’s Russia’s top singles player yet he’s scheduled to play doubles. Russia’s top doubles player, Tursunov, is scheduled to play singles.

Davydenko has had a bear of a time since he was implicated in a possible fixed match in August of this year. Former Scotland Yard investigators interviewed his brother and wife on behalf of an ATP investigation into the matter.

The ATP gave Davydenko seven days to submit phone records to the investigators despite the fact that they had little legal standing to do so. Davydenko is so beleaguered that he has agreed to turn the records over. That might be an indication that he is wearing down because it makes little legal sense to turn over such evidence. In the U.S. at least, the ATP should get that information from the phone companies if they are legally entitled to it.

You know what, this has all the ingredients of a huge upset. The pressure is all over the huge favorites while the underdogs feel little or no pressure. This is especially true for the Russians since they’ve won two Davis Cups in the last five years while the U.S. hasn’t won since 1995.

Could happen but probably won’t. Feel free to weigh in and clobber me if I’m wrong. I’d expect nothing less.


Read more about Davydenko’s legal problems: Celebrity Tennis, Gambling, Blow and Poison.

Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 251 user reviews.

Not the game of tennis itself. That’s not boring.

Serena and Venus Williams took home a pair of slams and we had a fantastic final at the women’s year-end-championships. Roger Federer still got his three slams but he missed out on four Masters Series titles by losing consecutive matches twice to an unexpected player. One of those unexpected players, David Nalbandian, not only resurrected his career, but he improbably took it further than it had ever gone before.

It’s not over yet. Next week Andy Roddick gets a chance to lead the U.S. to its first Davis Cup title since 1995 and leave his mark on the game as one of the great Davis Cup players of all time.

No, it’s the other stuff that’s missing. Look at the rest of the sports world, for instance.

Barry Bonds was indicted and Michael Vick reported early for his jail sentence in the past week. Alex Rodriguez’ superagent screwed up and upstaged the baseball World Series thereby damaging A-Rod’s reputation so badly that A-Rod sidestepped his agent and asked the Yankees to take him back. University of Alabama football coach Lou Saban got in trouble for comparing two straight losses to disasters such as 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. England lost to Croatia knocking them out of the 2008 European Championship and fired its coach.

Tennis has had a few drug suspensions this year but, hell, the entire peloton at the Tour de France was probably juicing up their blood. Last year’s champion was barnstorming the U.S. to raise money for his defense fund and this year’s yellow jersey holder was sent home because he’d lied about his whereabouts to avoid pre-race testing then got caught lying about his lies.

Tennis does have a gambling controversy. Nikolay Davydenko is buckling under the pressure of the investigation into whether he fixed a match and Alessio Di Mauro got a nine month suspension for laying down $15-20 bets on tennis but that’s all we got. Baseball had the Black Sox scandal which had eight players fixing games. And they also had Pete Rose who bet on baseball and lost his guaranteed place in the Hall of Fame.

Tennis is like ice skating: we have one criminal. Ice skating has Tonya Harding and we have Roscoe Tanner, though he’s old news. There is actually some new news about him and I’ll get to that in a few weeks.

Is tennis culturally relevant? Other sports are.

Baseball reflects cultural and political changes in the U.S. The number of Latino ballplayers is increasing yearly while the number of black ballplayers is decreasing. That reflects the U.S. culture as the Latino community is passing the black community both in economic and political power. The NBA reflects the growth of the global market with its high number of international stars including a new star from China this year, Yi Jianlian.

Same thing in tennis. Tennis in the U.S. is losing popularity and losing tournaments while the huge Asian market is getting new tournaments. Shanghai gets a new Masters Series event in 2009 and Roger Federer and Pete Sampras flew all over Asia – not Europe or the U.S. – for their barnstorming exhibition this week.

Tennis is exciting to watch and more or less culturally relevant. Two out of three ain’t bad don’t you think?

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 209 user reviews.