Category Archives: Dmitry Tursunov

Davis Cup Final Thoughts

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.


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!

Roddick and Blake Drive the U.S. to a 2-0 Lead in Davis Cup

Andy Roddick and Dmitry Tursunov played cat and mouse while James Blake played drama queen as the U.S. won both matches on the first day of the Davis Cup final.

Whenever you see footage of the 1995 Davis Cup final. you always see Pete Sampras crumple to the court immediately after winning a five set marathon over Russian Andrei Chesnikov.

Sampras was the ultimate winner. His mind was able to hold off his body and its meddlesome cramps until the very last second. When that second came, two trainers had to carry Sampras off the court, his legs dragging along behind him.

That may not be necessary this year. Sampras’ match was on clay. We’re on an indoor hard court this weekend in Portland, Oregon, and who wants to be dragged along a hard court and risk scraping the skin off your body? Besides, Andy Roddick and Dmitry Tursunov play the first match so don’t expect too many long points.

There were more long points than expected because Roddick and Tursunov were playing cat and mouse. Roddick was keeping the ball in the court and waiting for Tursunov to hit an error. Tursunov was drawing Roddick into rallies and waiting for him to hit an error.

This was a classic no win situation. Roddick was counting on Tursunov to play his usual thoughtless game and hit everything as hard as possible thereby racking up bunches of errors, whereas Tursunov was expecting Roddick’s ground strokes to fail in long rallies.

It was a contest to see which of these two players had the worst baseline game. The answer is Tursunov and it only took five games for him to hit enough errors to lose his serve and go down 2-3 in the first set. Even Roddick has trouble hitting errors when he’s just trying to keep the ball in the court.

Tursunov gave up his strategy as soon as he went down a break, as he did in every set, and that’s when he played his best. He had his chances because Roddick was not returning serve well. At one point Roddick had converted only 1 out of 14 break points and he hit an unusually high number of squash shot returns – otherwise known as desperate forehand slices.

But this is a fast indoor hard court and Roddick is the biggest server of all. He hit 25 aces and a selection of serves over 140 mph (225 kmh) and the result was a relatively easy 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win.

At the end of his match, Roddick told the crowd: “Now we gotta get Jimmy Blake through his next match.” Roddick was not being helpful, he was being honest. The crowd and the team really would have to get “Jimmy” through his match with Mikhail Youzhny because he could not be counted on to do it himself.

Any best of five set match is an adventure if you’re counting on Blake. He’s currently 1-10 in five set matches and there are two reasons for that.

He has one style and one style only: go for broke. That works fine until the shots stop falling and his first serve breaks down and that’s when he gets into fourth and fifth sets and the fun begins.

Blake doesn’t deal well with pressure. He went up 4-1 in the first set and was cruising until he served for the set and hit a double fault to give Youzhny a break point. He recovered to win the game and the first set and he won the second set tiebreaker.

When it came to closing out the match in the third set tiebreaker, however, he lost five of the last six points. The pressure had risen and the drama had begun.

Blake broke Youzhny to go up 4-5 in the fourth set and all he had to do was hold serve to win the match. Where’s the drama in that I ask you? Nah, he’d rather hit three straight errors, essentially giving the game away, and ratchet the pressure up just a tad more.

Blake got behind in the fourth set tiebreaker before he finally decided he’d had enough drama for one day. He won six of the last seven points to win the match, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 7-6(3).

The media gets in trouble because we’re always questioning players’ mental toughness but I like to think we play our part in developing players by pushing them to excellence. After the match Blake said he was tired of having his mental toughness questioned:

I don’t think anyone can be in the top ten …without being mentally tough and I wanted to prove it today.

That 1995 Davis Cup final was the last U.S. Davis Cup title and it was won entirely on Sampras’ shoulders. He won both his singles matches and teamed with Todd Martin to win the doubles.

It doesn’t look like any such heroics will be necessary this time. The U.S. needs one more win and the Bryan brothers should be able to take care of business in doubles. Instead of watching two meaningless matches on Sunday, I’d rather go out and play some tennis myself.

The U.S. Wins the Davis Cup – on Paper

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.