— Tomáš Berdych (@tomasberdych) January 31, 2014
“The ITF, in a rare burst of sense and forgiveness, announced in 1973 that all pros were now eligible for Davis Cup. She’ll be apples! That’s an old Aussie expression for good days ahead.
And I got the Davis Cup itch again after years of feeling it was no longer for me. Why not? But, realistically, I was 35, not at my very best, and for a very long time hadn’t been involved in the most stifling of tennis pressure, Davis Cup – yes, greater than a Wimbledon final. Especially in Australia where so much success had raised expectations to the clouds. I hadn’t been on the team for 11 years, a lark, overrunning Mexico in 1962. But I was getting itchy to prove myself since the 1960-61 Cups were also romps, over Italy. The lone tough encounter of my four winning teams was the U.S. in 1959, and I lost both singles, to Barry Mac-Kay and Alex Olmedo. Only the presence of Neale Fraser, winning both singles plus the doubles with Emmo, saved us.
Now I had to talk to Fraser, the successor as captain to Hopman. A good friend, but very practical. Was I up to it? And how would the other guys feel about a newcomer at this stage? They had won two series to lift the team to the semis. Happily, I was accepted by my mates: Newcombe, Rosewall, Geoff Masters, Ross Case, Mal Anderson. They just wanted to win for Australia. If I could help, fine.
But could I? Fraser wasn’t at all sure. The acid test prior to the semifinal against Czechoslovakia was the Australian Indoor Championships in Sydney. Captain Fraser made it clear that I’d have to do well to have any chance to play against the Czechs.
I worked my bum off to get fitter than I’d been in almost a year. The lineup of would-be Laver-flatteners was daunting. In the quarters, it was Raul Ramirez, the quick, sharp-volleying Mexican, and I got him, 6-3 6-4. Next, world No. 6 Rosewall. Where did they find him? I barely escaped, 6-4 3-6 8-6. Finally, it was No. 2 Newcombe, in a roaring five sets, 3-6 7-5 6-3 3-6 6-4.
Captain Fraser shook my hand with, “Rocket, welcome to the team.”
It couldn’t have been a nicer setting after gloomy, rickety Hordern Pavilion, site of the Indoor. We were in Melbourne for the semi, plenty of November sunshine heralding the onset of summer on the famed grass courts of Kooyong. The Czechs would have preferred clay, but Jan Kodes, a future Hall of Famer, could handle the lawn. He’d won Wimbledon and was finalist to Newcombe at Forest Hills only months before.
For the last time, my parents saw me play, and fortunately I didn’t let them down. Or Fraser and the country. It was extremely difficult, though. After I stopped Kodes, 6-3 7-5 7-5, Jiri Hrebec, wildly erratic, put it all together to stun the crowd as well as Newcombe – on grass! – 6-4 8-10 6-4 7-5. Now Rosewall and I were on the same side for a change, and we needed each other in a long, demanding go-ahead doubles over Vladimir Zednik and Kodes, 6-4 14-12 7-9 8-6. That left it up to me to tame Hrebec (seldom heard from again) 5-7 6-3 6-4 4-6 6-4 settling it.
We were on our way to Cleveland, a quartet called, by my co-author, “Captain Fraser’s Antique Show” – Rosewall, 39; Laver, 35; Mal Anderson, 38; Newcombe, 29. Rosewall had been away from Cupping for 17 years, Anderson for 15, Laver, as I said, for 11, Newcombe for six, Fraser for 10. Never been anything like it.
We were old enough to go out alone, but nobody wanted to in the December chill of downtown Cleveland. What a place for a Cup final. Old, vast, drafty Public Hall, attracted few people to see us do our stuff: a 5-0 triumph that ended the U.S. streak of five years and a record 15 encounters. A terrible promotion. Some writers were calling us the greatest of all Davis Cup teams, yet nobody wanted to see us (maybe 7,000 for three days) or the home heroes.
It didn’t matter to us. We wanted Yank heads to show that the, shall we say mature, Aussies were still breathing. And we got them on an overly drawn out Friday night and a brief Saturday afternoon. Newcombe led off with a mixture of uncharacteristic spins, soft stuff, plus his usual muscle to overcome Stan Smith in five 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. Then Tom Gorman and I went at it furiously, charging the net, serving and-volleying for five more sets. A bit of revenge for Wimbledon ’71 was mine, 8-10 8-6 6-8 6-3 6-1.
Fraser decided he wanted two forehands down the middle plus troublesome serving in picking me and Newc to conclude the assignment. We fast-finished the Yanks, Erik van Dillen and Smith, 6-1 6-2 6-4. How pleasant to have the company of our old friend, the Cup, again, and swill victory grog from it. Long time no guzzle for all of us. My Davis Cup itch had been unexpectedly scratched.”
Watch out Australia’s winning team of 1973 reflect on their famous 5-0 victory over the United States in Cleveland.
Best of February 2012:
She is not a one-hit wonder after all: 2011 US Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber beat Lucie Safarova, Monica Niculescu, Maria Sharapova, Yanina Wickmayer and Marion Bartoli en route for her first WTA title.
19 yr old Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino won her maiden WTA title in Bogota, playing in just her third WTA main draw and facing a 5-2 third set deficit in her opening match.
David Ferrer keeps flying under the radar and he keeps winning: after Auckland in January, he captured 2 titles in February: Acapulco and Sao Paulo.
Lleyton Hewitt recorded its 38th Davis Cup singles victory, a remarkable 14 more than by any other Australian player.
I love every time I put the gold jacket on and playing for my country whoever it’s against and my preparation is exactly the same
Manuel Orantes has been elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the master player category. Orantes won the 1975 US Open by beating Jimmy Connors in the final, and he was the runner-up to Bjorn Borg at the 1974 French Open.
Like father, like daughter: Jessica Korda, daughter of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, won her first LPGA tournament this month. The place of her triumph: Australia of course.
A nice tribute to her father’s infamous “scissor kick”.
February tournament winners: Angelique Kerber (Paris), Daniela Hantuchova (Pattaya), Victoria Azarenka (Doha), Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino (Bogota), Sofia Arvidsson (Memphis), Agnieszka Radwanska (Doha), Timea Babos (Monterrey), Sara Errani (Acapulco), Su-Wei Hsieh (Kuala Lumpur), Roger Federer (Rotterdam and Dubai), Nicolas Almagro (Sao Paulo), Milos Raonic (San Jose), Juan Martin Del Potro (Open 13 Marseille), Jurgen Melzer (Memphis), David Ferrer (Buenos Aires and Acapulco), Kevin Anderson (Delray Beach)
Worst of February 2012:
The Arantxa Sanchez Saga: the Sanchez clan seemed to be a much more normal family than the Grafs and Seles’ … until Arantxa’s autobiography release.
Lleyton Hewitt will be sidelined for four months after having surgery on his left foot, but eyes a return in tile for the Olympics. Ranked 170th, the 31 yr old Australian, will have to rely on a wild card from the International Tennis Federation to contest the London Olympics.
Aravane Rezai, for her Fed Cup debacle.
The Swiss Davis Cup team of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka: 0-5 loss against the US team on clay. Enough said.
Sidney Wood, the only player to win a Wimbledon final without striking a ball, is born in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
In 1931, Wood is scheduled to play Frank Shields in the Wimbledon men’s singles final, but Shields, who injured his ankle in his semifinal win over number 1 seed Jean Borotra, is pressured by the US Davis Cup committee to default the final in order to rest up and prevent further injury in preparation for the US Davis Cup team’s match with Britain the following week.
Frank wanted to play, and so did I. It was insulting to the fans and the tournament. I didn’t want to win that way. But the US Davis Cup committee ordered Frank to withdraw so he’d be ready for Davis Cup the next weekend againt Britain, which we lost. It shows you the control the USTA had over us amateurs.
Wood, at age 19, was the youngest man to win Wimbledon at the time, a record that 17-year-old Boris Becker eclipsed in 1985.
Source: On this day in tennis history by Randy Walker
Sidney Wood’s son, David, chronicled this controversial victory in his book The Wimbledon final that never was
Sidney Wood -who reached the final of the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills back in 1935, later founded the prestigious Town Tennis Club in Manhattan. His fascinating life also included dating the iconic Grace Kelly prior to her marriage to Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956. He was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1964. He died in 1999, age 97.
Frank Shields was ranked eight times in the U.S. Top Ten, reaching Number 1 in 1933. He died in 1975. He was the grandfather of actress (and Agassi’s ex-wife) Brooke Shields.
6. The Davis Cup’s schedule also has to be brought into the real world. Should it be held for a week every other year, like golf’s Ryder Cup? Or maybe once a year? Whatever the answer, the powers-that-be need to
sit down and decide how to re-interest tennis’ top players in participating in this great event.
Changing the Davis Cup format has been a huge argument over recent years, as top players have shown their “intolerance” towards this event that is such a part of tennis history. Many suggested that it becomes a biennial event or a Ryder Cup style event. Rafael Nadal, one of the more frequent Davis Cup players, has also once stated it should be played at the best of three sets… I think these format changes would only depreciate the competition. The way it is, Davis Cup has contributed to bring the sport in many parts of the world that are excluded from élite tennis or can’t afford to host top-level tournaments. Maybe an increase of the number of matches in the ties would prevent a country with only a big player from succeeding and would provide a fairer representation of the real tennis power of a nation. Where players are right, instead, is on the calendar collocation of the Davis Cup. Such a big event can’t be placed in the week immediately after Wimbledon or the US Open: this is clearly an aspect that discourages the big names from taking part in it and on which the heads of the game should really work.
7. Only tennis’ top-notch amateurs should be allowed to compete in the Olympics. The lure of a gold medal would encourage young players to stay in college and wait longer to turn pro. The results would be more mature professionals and a purer Olympics.
To be admitted in the Olympics has been a great conquer for our sport. Though winning a gold medal will never be the same as winning a Major tournament for most of the players, you can’t deny that competing for your nation in a stage like the Olympics has a huge charm for any athlete. What would be the meaning of making amateurs compete at the Olympics? Do you really think a single person in the world would love to watch Mr. John Smith play on the Wimbledon Centre Court in 2012? Or do you think that a young who aims at becoming a professional tennis player would wait longer to turn pro, encouraged by the prospect of winning a gold medal for his/her country competing against other amateurs? Sports have changed since Pierre De Coubertin’s age. You can’t even think of sports today without thinking of the media and world-wide audiences. Tennis already struggles to find room on the general media. If played by amateurs, it would be completely cut off.
8. The service line should be moved three to six inches closer to the net. The serve has become far too important to tennis – especially at Wimbledon, where the best fans in the world sit patiently through rain delays, only to sit through boring serve-a-thons.
A lot (maybe too much…) has already been done to limit the service power over the last ten years. Indoor surfaces are no longer fast carpets, Wimbledon grass has higher and more regular rebounds (and there’s a roof on Wimbledon Centre Court, so… no more endless waiting for tennis…). I don’t remember a “service-only” player winning an important tournament in the last eight years. Maybe the last big success by a player who mostly based his game on service power has been the 2003 US Open won by Roddick. This point had sense maybe twenty years ago, in the era of Ivanisevic and Rosset. Tennis has moved on and has maybe gone too further on this aspect.
9. Let cords should be eliminated. Having to play all let serves would speed up the game and make it more exciting.
What would you think if, facing a match point, your opponent’s serve should hit the net and bounce just an inch beyond it? I would feel extremely angry…
10. Tennis players should be far more involved in charity work. The sport should champion a couple of causes as a group and try to make a difference – the kind of difference Andre Agassi and Andrea Jaeger have made, Andre with his school for disavantaged kids in Las Vegas, and Andrea with her Silver Lining Ranch for terminally ill children in Aspen, Colorado.
Again, much has changed on this aspect as well in recent years. I think the real turning point has been the “Rally for Relief” played in Indian Wells in 2005, that collected money for the populations hit by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean at the end of 2004. We have to give Roger Federer big credit on rising tennis world’s attention on charity. Maybe it’s never too much, but these events have increased by a great deal, compared to the past.
Article written by Tennis Buzz’s contributor Mauro Cappiello
Read the first part of the article»
Some pics of Nadal rocking his Nike outfit during the Davis Cup semifinals against France: