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!

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