I usually travel hundreds of kilometers to watch live tennis, so it was a strange feeling to leave home, take the metro, walk about 10 minutes and be there in front of the Stade Pierre Mauroy, ready to attend the much expected Davis Cup final between France and Switzerland.
It’s kinda ironic that’s the only times I’ve been to a football stadium were to attend rugby matches (when I was a volunteer for the rugby World Cup in 2007) and tennis matches.
Despite the queue, it took only a few minutes to enter the stadium.
The road to the Davis Cup final has been quite a rollercoaster for me: the excitement when I learned Lille (my hometown) would stage the final, the disappointment when I wasn’t able to buy tickets, the relief when I managed to buy tickets (thank you Twitter), the doubts about the visibility from the category 4 seat. But here I am. The court, the crowd, the flags, the atmosphere, as soon as I sat in my place I knew it would be something like I never seen or lived before.
Skip the use
But first, a mini-concert by local band Skip the use. I honestly couldn’t care less.
First big moment of this historic Davis Cup weekend, the teams presentation. And no surprise, Federer is the most applauded player.
I look at the giant screen and I have a bad feeling: I see Tsonga’s face, he looks scared, exactly the same face he had just before his semifinal disaster against Ferrer at Roland Garros last year.
Unfortunately, I was right…
Tsonga vs Wawrinka
3 meters behind the baseline, the French number one can’t do anything to counter Wawrinka‘s powerful grounstrokes. He just can’t pull a ball in the court and keeps making errors after errors after errors. A really bad start for Tsonga. Wawrinka wins five straight games to clinch the first set 6-1:
27,432 spectators! The previous record for a tennis match (27,200) had been set in Seville in 2004 for the Davis Cup final between Spain and the USA.
Things look a bit better for Tsonga in the second set, he is more aggressive and Wawrinka starts making a few errors here and there. Second set for Tsonga 6-3, a little hope for the French fans:
Wawrinka breaks in the sixth game of the third set and leads 4-2. Tsonga then saves two set points at 2-5. Tsonga and the French crowd are on fire..
But it only lasts two minutes, the Swiss wins the third set and leads 2 sets to one. An early break for Stan in the fourth set, Tsonga looks resigned and nobody believes in a win from behind. Game, set, match Wawrinka 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2. Switzerland leads 1-0.
Tsonga’s game was bad but his attitude was worst, he kept complaining for nothing, looked at times completely lost, and the only excuse he found for his non-match was that the crowd didn’t support him enough. Seriously…
Too much pressure on his shoulders? Too much expectations? Visibly still bothered by his right arm injury (he kept saying “J’y arrive pas” to Clément during the changeovers), he perhaps should have been preserved for Sunday’s reverse singles or perhaps Tsonga wanted to play this final at all costs because he missed the Belgrade final in 2010? In any case it is too late to change the course of the final now.
Monfils vs Federer
There had been much talk about Federer’s back injury during the week, his first serve is at 207km/h, the case is closed. A completely different match from the first rubber and a completely different atmosphere: Monfils is on fire from first point on and so is the crowd! First set Monfils 6-1:
He keeps the pressure on Federer in the second set: solid serve, powerful forehands, and 6-4 for Monfils:
Monfils leads two sets to none and I start thinking: please Gael, don’t go nuts!, because the last time both players met, at the US Open this year, Monfils led by two sets to none, wasted 2 match points in the fourth set, only to lose in five sets. This time, no regret for the Frenchman who is rock solid on serve: 6-1 6-4 6-3 in less than two hours.
When you watch Monfils playing like that, so focused, you can only ask yourself: what if? What if he had a coach? What if he had a more professional attitude? What if he had taken time to improve his technique. He probably would have been a top 5 and a perennial Grand Slam contender. I guess we’ll never know…
It’s now time to go home:
Bothered by a right arm injury, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdraws from the first reverse single. He is replaced by Richard Gasquet who can’t do anything to prevent Federer from winning his first Davis Cup.
The match was broadcasted on a giant screen in the center of Lille. Here are a few pictures and videos (thanks to Miroslav).
A Tennis Village had been installed Place de la République in Lille, with a mini tennis court, a speed of serve game and a padel court:
More Davis Cup coverage:
Sweden created history and hoisted a signpost for the future at the huge Scandinavium stadium in Gothenburg the week before Christmas when, with clinical and emphatic efficiency, they defeated the United States in the NEC Davis Cup final – thus becoming the first nation outside the competition’s big four (America, Australia, Great Britain and France) to win the Cup more than once. The eventual margin was four rubbers to one, John McEnroe having salvaged a modicum of American pride and dignity by beating Mats Wilander over the best of three sets; but by then Father Christmas, having delivered the goods ahead of time, had climbed back up the chimney, cracked his whip and sent his reindeer skidding over the nation’s roofs to spread the joyous word. Sweden’s tennis players were the best in the world!
Dispassionately one could argue otherwise, but why bother? The United States had taken an unbeaten doubles partnership and two of the greatest singles players that country has ever produced to Sweden, and had lost not only the first three matches but nine of the first ten sets played. The specially laid clay court obviously helped the Swedes, but there were far more significant reasons for the severity of America’s humiliation.
The U.S. team lacked harmony, spirit and, most of all, proper preparation. Jimmy Connors, never a good team man at the best of times, was worrying about the pending arrival of his second child and had not played competitive tennis for six weeks. As a result of suspension and then injury, McEnroe had not played for seven weeks. Even then the Americans wasted two practice days by not arriving in Gothenburg until Wednesday for a tie due to start on Sunday. Disaster, like the snow, hung in the air, and by Monday both had arrived – a blanket thrown over the corpse of American ambition, but for the Swedes a white, glistening carpet of triumph.
It had started, in front of 12,000 people, with Wilander‘s 6-1 6-3 6-3 annihilation of Connors. Still tanned by Kooyong’s sun where he has triumphed in the Australian Open exactly one week earlier, Wilander seemed imbued with a new spirit of aggression after his second title-winning performance on grass. He repeatedly came in behind hard-hit forehands that put Connors under tremendous pressure and frayed the American’s nerves. Connors, in fact, was docked a penalty point for an audible obscenity midway through the second set and then a whole penalty game for a further outburst. At the end Connors shook umpire George Grimes’s chair and called him names which were heard by millions of television viewers…
[In the second singles] Henrik Sundstrom played the match of his life to beat McEnroe 13-11 6-4 6-3 – serving coolly when his big chance came at the end of that crucial first set and then keeping McEnroe off balance with the depth and variation of his heavy topspin groundstrokes…[and then, in the doubles], after a run of 14 Davis Cup matches without defeat, McEnroe and Peter Fleming came apart at the seams in the face of some inspired play by Anders Jarryd and, in particular, by his 18-year-old partner, Stefan Edberg, who poached brilliantly on the backhand volley, never dropped serve despite twice being 0-40 down and returned serve with enormous power. Although marginally less spectacular, Edberg was just as effective in determining the outcome of the match as Paul McNamee had been for Australia when facing Jarryd and Hans Simonsson in the final at Kooyong 12 months earlier. Fleming did not play well and compounded American frustration by double-faulting on match point. But McEnroe would not want Peter to take all the blame. John did not play well either and looked like his real self only in the fourth rubber. But by then it was all too late. Sweden had turned what everyone had felt would be a very close contest into a rout…
Incredibly, that was exactly what Hans Olsson‘s superb young team – Jarryd, at 23, is the oldest – had also done to the Czechs in the semi-final at Bastad. As in Gothenburg, Wilander had done the expected by beating Smid, and then Sundstrom had then followed up with the killer blow. This time Ivan Lendl had been the victim, losing his temper, his timing and eventually the match 4-6 3-6 6-3 6-1 6-1 after Sundstrom had trailed 0-40 on his serve at 0-3 in the third set. The Czech captain, Jan Kodes, was furious with Lendl’s performance and was not much happier with Smid and Pavel Slozil the next day when his team served for the match in the fourth set and then, as Edberg got his big-match nerves under control, succumbed 2-6 5-7 6-1 10-8 6-2…
France were unlucky to be without the services of the injured Yannick Noah when they travelled to meet Czechoslovakia outside Prague [in the quarter-final], but even so Henri Leconte scored a sensational upset in the opening rubber by beating Lendl in straight sets. However, the reliable Smid steadied the Czech ship to give Kodes’s team a 3-2 victory. With Noah playing it might have been different, but even so it is doubtful if anyone could have prevented the 1984 Davis Cup from being a Swedish celebration.
by Richard Evans, World of Tennis 1985
Led once again by an impressive Wawrinka, the Swiss defeat Gasquet and Benneteau 6-3 7-5 6-4. The dream to win a 10th Davis Cup slowly goes away for the French team.
The pressure was on Monfils shoulders after Tsonga’s loss to Wawrinka, but Gaël delivered and beat Federer 6-1 6-4 6-3 in an electric atmosphere.
Photo and video credit: Miroslav
Read more Davis Cup coverage