Stefan Edberg, Wimbledon 1988

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

For the obvious reason that he is still a young man, capable of striding along the summits for many more years, ths can be no more than a half-term report on a graceful, classic exponent of the ‘big’ game. Unless memory lies, Mal Anderson has been the only other player of comparable class who, in the past 30 years or so, has served and volleyed with as much elegant facility as Edberg. In 1968, in Hamburg, I spent a long time watching Anderson. The serve and volley routine can be hard to take. It lacks charm. But Anderson’s instinctive ease of movement and racket-contol somehow gave that routine the uncomplicated allure of a Strauss waltz. So it is with Edberg. This is not to suggest that Edberg is the most efficient modern graduate of the serve-and-volley school. One refers only to the natural flair with which he does his thing. Unlike such heavily muscled contemporaries as Becker and Pat Cash, Edberg brings an aesthetic quality to the three-shot rally. His emergence is a striking eminder that Bjorn Borg‘s playing method – that of a baseliner with a two-fisted backhand – inspired no more than a transient trend in Swedish tennis. That method was Borg’s, not Sweden’s.

The main features of Edberg’s game are his mixture of services (many players find the second ball more difficult to handle than the first), his volleying, especially the cross-court backhand, and his backhand service eturns, which often explode down the court like shells. His forehand is a comparatively second-class shot for a first-class player: seldom threatening, and often wayward when his confidence is low. But Edberg’s command of the backhand and the top-spin lob gives him weapons enough for counter-punching from the back of the court. He is happiest in the forecourt, bending like a sapling in a gale as he springs this way and that and tucks away the volleys – whereupon he often gives a little hop of satisfaction at a point well won.
His general demeanour, though, is one of sad, dreamy languor. Often, he looks only half-awake. But this embodiment of a sight is a dangerously deceptive as those tall, quiet gunfighters familiar from Western movies. Edberg seems reluctant to hurry but, when he does move, the action tends to be swift and short and terminal. One can picture Edberg casually blowing the smoke out of the barrel and instantly going most of the way back to sleep.

He is that kind of man: by no means the aggressive, pushy type, but stubbornly resistant to being pushed. Edberg likes a peaceful, comfortably stable life. Gentle and unassuming, reserved and laconic, he is a private man who enjoys company as long as it is not too demanding. No fuss, if you please. He is among those who apply to themselves the principle that everybody is important but nobody is very important.
Physically, Edberg is a long-limbed, willowy 6ft 2in (which Rod Laver considers may be the ideal height for a tennis player) and weighs around 11st 7lb. He has an arresting and attractive court presence and when that handsomely composed but gloomy mien is enlivened by one of his slow smiles, the mothering instinct wells up in ladies of all ages.

Edberg has a London apartment, in Kensington, but his home is the industrial home of Vastervik on the Baltic coast. He played tennis from the age of seven, took up the game full time at 16, and in the following year, 1983, won the junior Grand Slam. This invited less attention than the 17-year-old’s form in the now defunct Bournemouth tournament. He had to qualify but then reached the semi-finals by beating the cerebral and charming Balazs Taroczy, a specialist on such slow surfaces. Edberg told us that he was a policeman’s son and took up tennis because his mothe wanted him to. His Bournemouth form, plus the comment about his mother, was the first hint we had that he was something special but needed help in fuelling the fires of ambition.

For a few years he was none too sure of himself, none too sure what he wanted out of tennis, and none too sue if the ultimate prizes were worth the effort. He was lucky in that the European representative for Wilson’s, the company who made Edberg’s rackets, turned out to be a congenial friend and, before long, assumed the more constructive roles of manager, coach, and – most important of all – motivator. Tony Pickard had, in fact, turned up in Sweden almost five years before Edberg did. That was in 1961, at Bastad, where Pickard made his Davis Cup debut for Britain. As a player Pickard did not have quite enough talent to match his self-assurance. He soon discovered that it was the other way round for Edberg.

The biggest problem, was to get him to believe in himself. It took nearly three years.

Pickard, almost 32 years older than Edberg was exactly what the young man needed: a wise, witty, avuncular extrovert who knew when to nag Edberg and when to leave him alone.

At 18 Edberg made his Davis Cup debut, playing a spectacular role as Anders Jarryd‘s partner in two remarkable doubles wins. At 19 he confirmed his growing reputation as a tough, resilient competitor by winning the Australian championship. He saved two match points against Wally Masur and beat Ivan Lendl 9-7 in the fifth set. A week after his 21st birthday Edberg produced further evidence of his guts and his belief in himself when he retained the Australian title by beating Melbourne’s local hero, Pat Cash, in a five-set final contested in fierce heat. Between them, Edberg and Mats Wilander won that Australian title for Sweden five years in a row. No other overseas nation has done that.

The next big triumph for Edberg came at Wimbledon in 1988, when he recovered from two sets down to beat Miloslav Mecir in a semi-final that provided an enthralling contrast in playing methods – and then played a glorious match to beat Boris Becker in the first men’s singles final to begin one day and end the next. That year, too, Edberg came from behind to beat Mecir 9-7 in the fifth set of a decisive Davis Cup match.

In 1989 Edberg played the finest clay-court tennis of his career to each – and almost win – the French final. Becker was too strong for him in the Wimbledon final. But it takes a player of exceptional talent and competitive maturity to advance to the French and Wimbledon finals in the same summer. During the era of open competition (1968 onwards) the only other men to manage it were Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe – formidably distinguished company for a player who, for a time, had seemed to be vulnerably diffident. With Pickard’s help, Edberg learned the truth of a couple of lines in Shakespeare:

Our doubts are traitors, And make us lose the good we oft might win

Adriano Panatta

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

Panatta had much in common with Ilie Nastase in that both were under-achievers who never fully exploited their talent but gave immense pleasure and attracted huge followings. The obvious differences between them lay in playing method and conduct. Nastase was the more flamboyant competitor but his behavior was often offensive. Panatta had more power and his deportment was elegantly disciplined as his tennis. He was a heart-throb who milked the role in an engaging way, rather as John Newcombe did. His teenaged fans could admire the man and his tennis without the reservations necessary in Nastase’s case. Panatta was a model of the tall, dark and handsome hero or, to flaunt another cliché, the strong, silent man. At the same time he could be demonstrative in the Italian way and the ladies did not mind at all when he put on his sulky look or tossed back his forelock.

At six feet and almost 13 stone Panatta was a fine athlete, though the professional sportsman was always slightly at odds with his well developed taste for food and wine and the dolce vita. He was a renowned, attractive sportsman who fitted perfectly into fashionable Roman society. When he appeared at the Foro Italico the public’s excitement was so passionately partisan – to the point of conducting matches rather than merely watching them – that players from overseas felt no more popular than early Christians did at the Colosseum. In Panatta’s era the crowd’s hostility towards his opponents was sometimes frightening. Nor was justice consistently evenhanded. But all that was not Panatta’s fault. His presence simply kindled emotional fires that occasionally out of control.

On the other hand one would not wish Italians to be anything but warmly appreciative of tennis players whose brush-strokes respect the nation’s proud artistic traditions. Panatta was not the first.
Two particularly interesting characters 30 years ago were Beppe Merlo and Nicola Pietrangeli. Merlo was a dapper little chap who defied most of the conventions except in his ability to put the ball where his opponents didn’t want it and, often, didn’t expect it. He used a short grip and had no more than a hint of a backswing. No more than a hint of a service, either. He just prodded the ball into play. Merlo’s racket was so loosely strung that his strokes were noiseless save for a muffled plunk. But he was an artful nudger commanding a deceptive variety of spin. Merlo’s tennis was so eccentric, so baffling, that opponents ran the risk of getting their legs knotted.

By contrast Pietrangeli was a classically conventional clay-courter. Born in Tunis of Franco-Russian parents, he could have been a top-class footballer. Instead, Pietrangeli played and won more Davis Cup matches than any other player, took Italy to two challenge rounds with the help of a giant called Orlando Sirola, and twice won the French championship. He played with enviable economy of effort and had such a deft touch that occasionally, like Manuel Santana, he could make a drop-shot spin back over the net. In 1962 Pietrangeli and Nikki Pilic established a Wimbledon record with a 46-game set. Pietrangeli was also an active socialite who often stayed up half the night, arguing that there was nothing much to do in the mornings except sleep.

Panatta first caught ou attention when he beat Clark Graebner in the 1968 Queensland championships in Brisbane. It soon became evident that for all his size and strength and his agility at the net, Panatta was most at ease when using the drop-and-lob routine to design leisurely, almost languid patterns across sunlit clay courts. […]

His annus mirabilis was 1976, when he won the Italian and French championships in three weeks and – with the help of Corrado Barazzutti in singles and Paolo Bertolucci in doubles – brought Italy the Davis Cup for the only time in the competition’s history. It helped that four out of six ties were played at home. Panatta’s individual triumphs in Rome and Paris were remarkable for the fact that in each tournament he came within a point of losing in the first round.

In Rome, Kim Warwick had no fewer than 11 match points. In Paris, Pavel Hutka, an ambidextruous Czechoslovak newcomer to Roland Garros, had only one match point – but the memory of that point is vivid. Silence fell like a pall over the sunny stadium as Panatta prepared to serve. Fault. Both men fidgeted. There was no other movement, no sound. The birds had stopped singing. Hutka clipped the net cord in returning the second ball. Panatta, dashing in, had to break his stride but hit deep and stood towering at the net, waiting to see what Hutka and the gods had in store for him. Hutka’s lob looked a winner but Panatta’s vertical take-off achieved a feeble return off the frame. Hutka’s passing shot looked a formality but Panatta guessed right, flung himself headlong like a torpedo and hit a winning volley – again, off the frame. Whereupon Panatta crashed on to the court, the ground seemed to shiver and the stadium thundered with applause. That was the most amazing point I ever saw.
After that it was all profit. Even Bjorn Borg, champion in the two preceding years, could not cope with the imaginatively adventurous Panatta, who no longer recognized any distinction between the improbable and the inevitable.

Panatta’s arresting presence and artistically macho tennis also gave us memorable hours of pleasure when he was playing on grass, a surface hostile to the graces. And at Wimbledon in 1976, when he was playing Charlie Pasarell, the was an incident that told us much about the man. As Panatta was about to serve, a sparrow twittered away on the grass a few yards behind him. Distracted, Panatta gently olled a ball towards it, but the sparrow could not or would note move. So Panatta strolled back, picked up the fluffy chirper in a strong yet tender hand, and carefully took it across a spectator. Panatta had a way with birds. He had a way with tennis, too. The game was a means of expression, a form of communion with the ghosts of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Manolo Santana Roland Garros

From Love Thirty, three decades of champions – published in 1990

One of the craziest anomalies of the 1960s, a decade in which the great champions were bared from the great tournaments, concerned two Spaniards born within nine months of one another duing the Civil War. There was nothing to choose between their levels of performance. But Andres Gimeno turned professional in 1960 and played his best tennis in the proud, exclusive environment of Jack Kramer‘s tour. Towards the end of the 1960s, only Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall were better players.
But superficial historians may recall Gimeno only as the chap who, at the age of 34, won the 1972 French championship from an unusually modest bunch of challengers. By contrast Santana stayed in the ‘shamateur’ ranks, picked up an impressive array of Grand Slam titles, had a wonderful Davis Cup record, became a national hero, and captivated everybody in sight. So Santana received far more publicity and achieved a bigger reputation, except among the cognoscenti. Santana played no better than Gimeno did but had the more spectacular game, the more crowd-pleasing court presence, and probably a greater depth of competitive self-belief.

First a word about Gimeno, who was Santana’s Davis Cup teammate from 1958 to 1960 and 1972-1973, winning 17 out of 22 singles and breaking even in ten doubles. Gimeno was 6ft 1 1/2in tall but looked even bigger because he was straight-backed, held his head high, and had a tiptoed style that suggested he was wary of damaging the court. His bearing was patrician, his manner courteous, his game elegant. Gimeno stroked the ball with the teasing flourish one associates with the bull-fighting breed. The forehand was his stronger flank and although it was sometimes said his backhand couldn’t break an egg, he placed the shot shrewdly.
Gimeno had a sure touch and made effective use of the lob. There was a purpose behind every shot he played and his game was as tidy in detail as it was sound in conception. But he had nothing that could really hurt his opponents and on big occasions he tended to be too highly strung, too diffident, to do himself complete justice. Gentleman that he was, Gimeno may have had too much respect for the likes of Laver and Rosewall.

Would Santana have done any better in that company? One doubts it. He turned down a professional offer because he considered he could more tournaments and more prestige, make more money, and have a more congenial lifestyle by remaining in the ‘shamateur’ ranks. There came a time when Santana and Roy Emerson, as the biggest fish in a thinly stocked pool, could command $1,000 to $1,500 a week. They had no illusion. They knew that they would be smaller fish in the professional pool. An embarrassing decision was forced upon them and they chose the course that suited their circumstances and their natures. It worked out pretty well for them and it worked out pretty well for Spain, too. By winning two Grand Slam titles on clay and two on grass, and twice guiding his country to the Davis Cup challenge round, Santana did even more for Spanish tennis (and the nation’s sporting reputation in general) than Severiano Ballesteros was to achieve via golf.[…]

Santana was the Ilie Nastase of the 1960s: less of an athlete, true but more disciplined in his conduct and his match-play, and in the same class when it came to artistic wizardry. An example of the shots they had in common what that rare flower, the chipped forehand, which both played with such facility that they might have been picking daisies. The joyous feature of their tennis was a common ability to mask their intentions. Their dextrous powers of deception were such that they consistently pulled off the tennis equivalent of the three-card trick.

Santana used every hue in the box during the 1961 French championships, in which he beat the top three seeds – Roy Emerson, Rod Laver and Nicola Pietrangeli – to win his (and Spain’s) first major championship. Santana beat Laver 3-6 6-2 4-6 6-4 6-0. Laver led 4-1 in the fourth set but, emmeshed in a beautiful network of shot-making, could not win another game. In the final, Santana beat a kindred spirit, Pietrangeli, by 4-6 6-1 3-6 6-0 6-2. It was a sunny afternoon and the arena was as much an artists’ studio as a tennis stadium. Each man in turn stepped up to the canvas while the other was, so to speak, taking time off to mix his colours. The vast assembly could hardly believe their luck. Ultimately Pietrangeli, champion in the two previous years, had to admit that he was the second best. […]

They met again in the 1964 final but by that time Santana’s star had waxed and Pietrangeli’s was beginning to wane. On clay, Santana had proved all he needed to prove. So he concentrated his attention on the grass-court bastions: and had luck on his side in that, at Forest Hills and Wimbledon in turn, the most fancied contenders never turned his path. At Forest Hills he played only two seeds, Arthur Ashe (5th) and Cliff Drysdale (8th), and at Wimbledon he played only one, Dennis Ralston (6th). Never mind. Santana beat everybody he had to beat. He had conquered the ‘shamateur’ world on the two extremes of clay and grass.

There was an engaging but frustrating appendix to the years of glory. In the 1969 French championships Santana and Gimeno, both 31, clashed after a nine-year beak. It was Madrid vs Barcelona plus, for watching players, a leftover battle between the now united ‘shamateur’ and professional armies. For two sets, Gimeno was too nervous to play his best tennis, whereas Santana’s shot making had a subtle splendor about it. Then Gimeno settled down and in the stress of combat santana pulled a groin muscle and eventually had to retire. Gimeno won 4-6 2-6 6-4 6-4 1-0.

Santana and Gimeno had explored different avenues in their pursuit of fame and fortune. Their joint achievement was to lift Spanish tennis to a level it had never reached before: a level that was consolidated by Manuel Orantes and to some extent Jose Higueras. Orantes was runner-up for the 1974 French title and in 1975 he won the first of the three US Open contested on a gritty, loose-top surface.
That was a memorable triumph for two reasons. In a semi-final Vilas led Orantes by 6-4 6-1 2-6 5-0 and had five match points. Orantes won, but he was up half the night because he could not tourn off the bathroom tap and had to find a plumber. Then he went back on court and, in the final, gave Jimmy Connors a lesson in the craft of clay-court tennis.

Radek Stepanek

Two time defending champions eased into the Davis Cup semifinals with a 5-0 victory over Japan. Both teams played without their number ones, Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori.

Czech Republic will next face France who came back from a 2-0 deficit to top Germany 3-2.

Radek Stepanek vs Tatsuma Ito

Davis Cup 2014 Japan vs Czech 1st Day | Tatsuma Ito vs Radek Stepanek

Davis Cup 2014 Japan vs Czech 1st Day | Tatsuma Ito vs Radek Stepanek

Davis Cup 2014 Japan vs Czech 1st Day | Tatsuma Ito vs Radek Stepanek

Davis Cup 2014 Japan vs Czech 1st Day | Tatsuma Ito vs Radek Stepanek
Read More

Fabio Fognini

Great Britain was looking to reach the semifinals for the first time since 1981 but Italy rallied from a 2-1 deficit to win the tie 3-2.
Andy Murray was totally overplayed by Fabio Fognini who levelled the tie at 2-2, and Andreas Seppi secured Italy’s victory in the fifth and decisive rubber with a straight sets win against James Ward.
Italy will face Switzerland who beat Kazakhstan 3-2 thanks to victories from Stanislas Wawrinka and Roger Federer in their final singles rubbers.

Fabio Fognini def James Ward 6-4 2-6 6-4 6-1
Andy Murray def Andreas Seppi 6-4 7-5 6-3
Colin Fleming/Andy Murray def Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini 6-3 6-2 3-6 7-5
Fabio Fognini def Andy Murray 6-3 6-3 6-4
Andreas Seppi def James Ward 6-4 6-3 6-4

Thanks to Andrea for his great pictures of the Fleming/Murray win over Bolelli/Fognini:

davis cup 1

davis cup 5

davis cup 4

davis cup 8

davis cup 6

davis cup 7

davis cup 9

davis cup 10

davis cup 11

davis cup 12

davis cup 13

davis cup 14

davis cup 16

davis cup 17

davis cup 19

Which team will win the Davis Cup this year?

  • Switzerland (67%, 31 Votes)
  • France (20%, 9 Votes)
  • Czech Republic (7%, 3 Votes)
  • Great Britain (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Italy (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Germany (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Japan (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Kazakhstan (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 46

Loading ... Loading ...
Czech Republic defeats Netherlands: 3-1

Robin Haase def Radek Stepanek 3-6 6-4 6-7 6-2 6-1
Tomas Berdych def Igor Sijsling 6-3 6-3 6-0
Tomas Berdych/Radek Stepanek def Robin Haase/Jean-Julien Rojer 7-5 1-6 7-6 7-6
Tomas Berdych def Thiemo De Bakker 6-1 6-4 6-3

The Czechs have not lost since suffering a huge upset against Kazakhstan in the first round in 2011. The last time the Dutch won a World Group tie was in 2005 against Switzerland. That’s quite a long time ago…

Japan defeats Canada: 3-1

Kei Nishikori def Peter Polansky 6-4 6-4 6-4
Franck Dancevic def Go Soeda 6-4 7-6 6-1
Kei Nishikori/Yasutaka Uchiyama def Franck Dancevic/Daniel Nestor 6-3 7-6 4-6 6-4
Kei Nishikori def Franck Dancevic 6-2 1-0 ret

Lead by 18th ranked Kei Nishikori, Japan sailed into the Davis Cup quarterfinals for the first time with a 3-1 victory against an injury-plagued Canada: Milos Raonic pulled out with a left-foot injury on Thursday while Frank Dancevic retired with a stomach injury in the fourth rubber.

Germany defeats Spain: 3-0

Philipp Kohlschreiber def Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2 6-4 6-2
Florian Mayer def Feliciano Lopez 7-6 7-6 1-6 5-7 6-3
Tommy Haas/Philipp Kohlschreiber def Fernando Verdasco/David Marrero 7-6 6-7 7-6 6-3

Five-time champion Spain will face a World Group playoff in September for the second year in a row. Playing without Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Tommy Robredo, Spain was ousted by Germany 3-0.

France defeats Australia: 3-0

Richard Gasquet def Nick Kyrgios 7-6 6-2 6-2
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def Lleyton Hewitt 6-3 6-2 7-6
Richard Gasquet/Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def Chris Guccione/Lleyton Hewitt 5-7 7-6 7-5 6-2

Arnaud Clément relied on his two top players Richard Gasquet and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to get past Australia, lead by Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt and Guccione were previously undefeated in the Davis Cup as a doubles team, but they were overpowered by the French pair.

Great Britain defeat USA: 3-1

Andy Murray def Donald Young 6-1 6-2 6-3
James Ward def Sam Querrey 1-6 7-6 3-6 6-4 6-1
Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan def Colin Fleming/Dominic Inglot 6-2 6-3 3-6 6-1
Andy Murray def Sam Querrey 7-6 6-7 6-1 6-3

Great Britain are into the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup for the first time since 1986. It is also the first time Britain have beaten the USA since 1935! The hero of the tie is James Ward, ranked 175, who beat former top 20 Sam Querrey on Friday.

Italy defeats Argentina:

Carlos Berlocq def Andreas Seppi 4-6 6-0 6-2 6-1
Fabio Fognini def Juan Monaco 7-5 6-2 6-2
Simone Bolelli/Fabio Fognini def Eduardo Schwank/Horacio Zeballos 6-7 7-6 7-6 6-4
Fabio Fognini def Carlos Berlocq 7-6 4-6 6-1 6-4

With his third victory of the weekend, Fabio Fognini sent Italy through to its second quarterfinal since 1998. It is Argentina’s first opening round defeat in 13 years.

Kazakhstan defeats Belgium: 3-2

Mikhail Kukushkin def Ruben Bemelmans 6-4 6-7 6-2 6-3
Andrey Golubev def David Goffin 7-6 3-6 4-6 6-2 12-10
Ruben Bemelmans/Olivier Rochus def Evgeny Korolev/Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2 6-7 6-3 7-6
David Goffin def Mikhail Kukushkin 4-6 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-0
Andrey Golubev def Ruben Bemelmans 6-2 6-3 6-1

Switzerland defeats Serbia: 3-0

Roger Federer def Ilija Bozoljac 6-4 7-5 6-2
Stanislas Wawrinka def Dusan Lajovic 6-4 4-6 6-1 7-6
Marco Chiudinelli/Michael Lammer def Filip Krajinovic/Nenad Zimonjic 7-6 3-6 7-6 6-2

Roger Federer made last-minute decision to play the Davis Cup tie in Serbia and he joined forces with recent Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka and doubles pair Marco Chiudinelli and Michael Lammer to oust Djokovic-less Serbia 3-0.
The Davis Cup has never been a top priority for him and it remains a true hole in Federer’s impressive curriculum vitae.

The quarterfinals:

Japan – Czech Republic
France – Germany
Italy – Great Britain
Switzerland – Kazakhstan

Which team will win the Davis Cup this year?

  • Switzerland (67%, 31 Votes)
  • France (20%, 9 Votes)
  • Czech Republic (7%, 3 Votes)
  • Great Britain (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Italy (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Germany (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Japan (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Kazakhstan (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 46

Loading ... Loading ...