Is there anything more difficult than beating Spain in Spain?
For the fourth time in five years, Spain are into the final of the Davis Cup after another dominant performance, this time in beating a dogged yet limited and injury-hit USA team in Gijon. David Ferrer sealed the win with his second singles victory while Nicolas Almagro’s win over John Isner on day one was a huge factor. The last time they lost at home was in 1999, when Gustavo Kuerten led Brazil to a famous 3-2 win. Their win over the USA came without the injured Rafa Nadal, who may now try to return for the final. They will be favourites for the final but on a quick indoor surface, the Czechs are in with a chance.
The competition remains incredibly popular
You only have to look at the crowds in Gijon and in Argentina to see that the Davis Cup is still a popular ticket for the fans. The chance to see top players over three days giving their absolute all is one they grab with both hands. Everyone in the two semi-finals and in the World Group play-offs this weekend were tired from the US hard-court summer but they still turned out and gave it everything they had. In Spain, France, Italy, Great Britain (even when they’re not in the World Group) and South America and Australia, especially, the Davis Cup has the prestige and history to ensure good crowds. Plus there’s nothing like cheering wildly when the other team messes up.
Not all countries are created equal
South African Kevin Anderson has responded to criticism that he did not represent his country this weekend in the Davis Cup. Anderson played World Team Tennis in the US instead – but as he points out, he was only asked to do so months after making his decision not to play Davis Cup. Anderson, a genuinely nice, decent guy, has worked his way up the rankings without any financial support from South African tennis, which just does not have the money. With a coach and physio to support, Anderson said that the expenses offered by South Africa were not enough to cover his costs. It’s a shame that it has to come to this, but as Sergiy Stakhovsky points out, for countries that do not stage grand slams, and therefore lack those huge injections of cash, they are left with relatively nothing. Anderson has represented his country well in the past and no doubt will again, but he should not be vilified for doing something that many, many other players have done, including the very top ones.
Perhaps the format need changing?
As a spectacle, playing best-of-five-set matches over three days is fabulous, creating incredible tension and often, some outstanding comebacks. But for the players, playing potentially three matches over the distance is an arduous task that sometimes can leave players injured or shattered and therefore have an effect on them for the rest of the season. Look at Juan Martin Del Potro, who was battling a left wrist injury at the US Open but played Davis Cup 10 days later and eventually pulled out of his second match with injury. The Davis Cup deserves to remain the sport’s premiere competition and I don’t want to see it turn into some sort of World Team Tennis. But maybe it’s time to make it the best of three? Perhaps more top players would play more consistently, which in turn would doubtless secure bigger crowds and more money coming in.
There’s nothing like team spirit
Ask anyone who plays Davis Cup and they will tell you that they love playing it because it’s great to be together with a team, especially as they spend almost every week of the year out there on their own, working away for themselves. Look at the emotions of Alex Corretja, the Spain captain, who has been there as a player and who will now lead out his country in a Davis Cup final next month. Some of these players are competing against each other week in week out, and yet, put them in the same shirts and they’ll do everything they can for each other. It’s great to see.