Leon Smith and Andy Murray

Colin Fleming:

“I was part of the tie when we lost away to Lithuania in Group Two, and that proved to be John Lloyd’s last match as captain.

Then, Leon came in and we played Turkey in Eastbourne. The pressure was on because if we had lost that, it would have been Group C, which is a totally different format, and not where we would want to be at all. The tie went really well, we won 5-0, then next up we played Tunisia in Bolton, and I remember Leon doing a presentation to the guys in the team hotel.

The main theme was that we were on a journey back to the World Group. At the time, it seemed quite ambitious and optimistic, but it has proven to be a reality. Andy coming back on board has been a key thing. It makes a huge difference having him there, but it is amazing the journey from those days. It would be unbelievable to end it by winning the Davis Cup.

Obviously, the team struggled for a while without Andy. There is no doubt about it, but it gave certain people a real chance to step up and play. Over the years, a few people have proven themselves in this arena. James Ward, obviously, while Dan Evans had some amazing Davis Cup results too.”

A look at Team GB’s journey from World II group to Davis Cup final:

2010 British Davis Cup team

Great Britain’s journey to the Davis Cup final started 5 years ago after a devastating loss to Lithuania.

GROUP II EUROPE/AFRICA 1ST ROUND: LITHUANIA-GREAT BRITAIN, Vilnius, hard

A new low for British tennis, as the Davis Cup team suffered an embarrassing loss to Lithuania who had just three world-ranked players. Despite holding a 2-1 lead going into the Sunday’s action, James Ward and Dan Evans both lost their reverse singles. Grigelis, ranked 269 places below Evans and who had never played on the ATP tour, won the deciding rubber.

Andy Murray had withdrawn from the tie, so young players could gain international experience:

“It think it’s been 10 years or something since a British player outside myself, Tim (Henman) and Greg (Rusedski) won a live Davis Cup rubber. It’s time for the guys to get used to winning in the Davis Cup, rather than having so much pressure on them every time they play.”

John Lloyd, who lost 8 of the last 11 ties as a captain, resigned shortly after the tie:

“I am very proud of my time as Davis Cup captain and grateful to all the players for their support. I’ve been a Davis Cup player, captain and now it is time to become a fan.”

James Ward defeats Laurynas Grigelis 6-4 6-2 6-4
Ricardas Berankis defeats Dan Evans 6-1 4-6 7-6(5) 3-6 6-3
Colin Fleming/Ken Skupski defeat Laurynas Grigelis/Dovydas Sakinis 6-0 6-7 7-5 6-3
Ricardas Berankis defeats James Ward 7-6 6-3 6-4
Laurynas Grigelis defeats Dan Evans 6-7 7-5 6-0 2-6 6-4
Read More

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros magazine

Prior to Roland Garros 2015, Rafael Nadal talked to Roland Garros Magazine about his past decade at Roland Garros. Here are a few extracts:

2003 and 2004: injuries

In 2003, I was high enough in the rankings (No. 87) for direct acceptance into the main draw but I hurt my elbow, so I had to withdraw.

In 2004, I had a bad left foot injury and I was off from April until July. This time though I came to Paris as I was invited by one of my sponsors. It was the first time that I’d been at Roland Garros. I was on crutches, but it didn’t stop me from going all the way to the top of the stands at Philippe Chatrier Court. I sat on one of the seats to the right of the court to drink in the atmosphere. It’s a fond memory for me. I was disappointed not to be able to play but deep down, I knew that sooner or later I would be able to take part in the tournament.

Tennis on clay:

Tennis on clay is the most complete expression of the sport as far as I’m concerned. The rallies are longer since the surface is slower, so you have to construct every point and implement a strategy to try to grind down your opponent. You need to be more patient, know how to defend and find a way to take control of points. And if you like this surface and feel at home on it, Roland Garros is obviously the temple of clay. It’s a unique point in the season.

2005, first Roland Garros trophy:

I’d won a lot of titles on clay – in Brazil, Acapulco, Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome, so I had a lot of confidence. I knew that I had the game and the strength to go deep. During the tournament, I just took one match at a time, but I knew that if I played my best, I could achieve something.
When I see myself in 2005, I see a player with an incredible energy and enormous powers of concentration. I was on such a good form. I played with real intensity and passion. I was young and I had a carefree attitude you would expect of a 19-year-old. In the final against Mariano Puerta, I knew that it would be a difficult match and that’s what it was. But I knew that anything was possible. This win will always be a key moment in my career. In the space of two months, I went from No. 50 in the world to winning Roland Garros. I handled it well in my head, because after this win, I stayed the same, I carried on working hard to keep on the right path as best I could.

It’s true that after that first win, I thought “That’s it, my dream has come true, so now the rest of my career, I will be calmer.” But I’d got it all wrong. Because each season, it was the same thing – you’re nervous, you want to win because you want to get back that indescribable feeling of emerging victorious at a Grand Slam tournament. So this feeling of calm that I thought I had got with that win turned out to be very temporary because a few months later, the tension and the desire to give it my all came back – stronger than before.

Not only the King of clay:

Winning at Roland Garros gives you the strength and the confidence to win elsewhere. Because when you start winning, you get into a virtuous circle: winning boosts your confidence, it makes you calmer, you gain more experience and it gives you a healthy dose of positive energy. Roland Garros is therefore a unique tournament in my career because it also enabled me to win on hard courts, on grass and everywhere else. In 2005, a lot of people thought that I could only play on clay, but after I won the French Open, I went on to win the Masters 1000 in Montreal and the tournament in Madrid (then played on hard courts), so I was good enough to win on other surfaces.

2008, 2012, 2014:

Lots of things have happened to me at Roland Garros. 2008 for example was the year that I was further ahead the pack than ever before. I didn’t drop a set and think that this is the tournament where I played my best tennis.
In 2014 against Novak Djokovic, it was the toughest final physically. I’d never felt that tired – at the end of the first set as well. It was very hot, humid and muggy even though it had been quite cool throughout the fortnight. My body struggled with it. I also had some fitness problems during this tournament.
In 2012, I had cortisone injections to play because my knee was hurting. Thee was another year, I forget which one, when I also needed injections, this time on my foot. But injuries and fitness issues are part and parcel of being a tennis professional. With hindsight, I can see that the injuries led to me missing some important moments and tournaments but at the same time, they allowed me to put into perspective everything that I’ve achieved.

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros Magazine

2009:

That defeat in 2009 was a hard one to swallow, I won’t deny that, but at the same time it wasn’t a tragedy. You mustn’t blow it out of proportion. I’d won the tournament in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. And I told myself that I wasn’t going to win Roland Garros every year and that’s normal, I can actually lose, I know that, so I went home and decided to prepare as best I could to try to win it again.

2010:

It was a very special victory. Even if I didn’t drop a set this year, it wasn’t as easy as in 2008. I was coming from a long way back. 2009 was a very tough year, both personally and physically. I hurt my knee before Roland Garros then after that it was my stomach muscles during the American swing. I went through some bad times. And after all that, I came back and won Roland Garros again. I was very, very emotional, and this win was the starting point of an exceptional period because I went on to win Wimbledon and the US Open. And once again it all started at Roland Garros.

Source: Roland Garros Magazine

Also read:
Roland Garros 2005: Nadal defeats Puerta
Roland Garros 2014: a fan’s perspective on Nadal’s win
Roland Garros 2015 coverage

Rafael Nadal, Wimbledon 2010

From Rafael Nadal’s autobiography Rafa:

That diesel engine image Carlo Costa uses to describe me was especially appropriate in this tournament.
I started sluggishly, but once I got going, there was no stopping me. I nearly went out in the second round, squeaking through in five sets, but the further I advanced and the tougher the opponents were the more my game improved.

I beat Soderling in the quarterfinals in four sets and Andy Murray in the semis in three. In the match against Murray the Centre Court behaved impeccably. The British have been longing to have their own Wimbledon champion since 1936, when Fred Perry last won, and the crowd made it quite clear from the start where their allegiances lay. Murray, seeded four in the tournament, was the best hope they had had in a long time. Yet I felt they were entirely fair with me throughout, not cheering my double faults, clapping after my better shots. And when, to the disappointment of the great majority, I won in straight sets, they did not begrudge me a warm ound of applause.

I had expected that if I made it to the final, I’d be meeting Roger Federer for the fourth year running. I didn’t. My opponent this time was the number twelve seed Tomas Berdych, who’d had a brilliant run in the tournament, beating Federer in the quarters and Djokovic in the semifinals.
Though complacency was not on my mind, I was not nearly as nervous as I had been before the final two years earlier. Just as never having played a Wimbledon final before places you at a disavantage, the experience of having done so – in my case four times now- provides a soothing measure of familiarity. Playing an almost perfect game, I won in three sets, 6-3 7-5 6-4, to collect my second Wimbledon championship and eight Grand Slam.

Finally some live tennis! My first live tournament of the year!

My first memories of Roland Garros are from the early 80’s, watching Lendl, Wilander, Navratilova, and Evert battle on one of the 3 French TV channels. And of course like every French people, I remember Noah’s historic win over Wilander in 1983, his overwhelming joy and his run to embrace his father.
Leconte booed during the trophy presentation in 1988, Edberg heartbreaking defeat against Chang in 1989, Agassi flashy outfits, Graf-Seles breathtaking final in 1992, Guga samba tennis in 1997… Time flies.

May 2004: my first trip to Roland Garros. Agassi, Safin, Ferrero, the Williams sisters, I finally got to see some of the best tennis players I had watched for years on TV.

Marat Safin, 2004:

Marat Safin, Peter Lundgren

Marat Safin

Fabrice Santoro and Peter Lundgren, 2004:

Peter Lundgren, Fabrice Santoro

Juan Carlos Ferrero, 2004:

Juan Carlos Ferrero

From then I was hooked, and Roland Garros 2004 was the first of many tournaments I’ve attended over the years: the US Open, the Queen’s, Bercy, the Lagardère Trophy, the Optima Open, the Open GDF Suez and of course Roland Garros (in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012).

Roger Federer, 2006:

Roger Federer

Ilie Nastase, 2007:

Ilie Nastase

Novak Djokovic, 2008:

Novak Djokovic

Court Philippe Chatrier, 2010:

Court Philippe Chatrier

Rafael Nadal, 2011:

Rafael Nadal

Maria Sharapova, 2012:

Maria Sharapova

The excitement of the first tournaments slowly let place to a kind of “been there, done that” feeling, but there’s
nothing like watching a sporting event courtside. Not only can you see and hear everything as it happens, but you also really feel part of the event. Of course, you don’t get the benefit of all those fancy TV replays and close-ups but you avoid annoying commentary.
One of the best thing is court-hopping. Wandering around the grounds with a simple 24€ pass, you get to see as much or as little of the event as you want: watch Sharapova practicing on court 12, Hewitt playing on court 7 or a Goerges-Stosur doubles match on court 16.

I’ll be onsite the first week, covering the tournament for Tennis Buzz but also guest posting for Grand Slam Gal.

The last Masters 1000 of the season, the BNP Paris Masters starts in about a week. I got the chance to attend the tournament in 2010 and 2011 and I’ll be there again this year, so stay tuned for recaps, pics and videos!

Waiting for the 2012 tournament, here are a few pics and videos of the 2010 tournament won by Robin Soderling.

Robin Soderling

The hard-hitting Swede defeated Simon, Wawrinka, Roddick, Llodra and Monfils to capture his first Masters 1000 title, his sixth career title.

“I don’t have a very good record in finals, and especially here in Paris, but I think a final is that one match you really want to win. I’m really happy that I played well today, and now I’m here winning the title. When I won that last point, I just felt so happy and I felt so relieved. I really wanted to win this match so much.”

Following his win, he reached a career high number 4 ranking.

Soderling has not competed since the 2011 Swedish Open in July 2011 due to injuries and illness and his return to tennis is in doubt.

Robin Soderling

Robin Soderling and Andy Roddick

Gael Monfils

2009 runner-up Gael Monfils qualified for the semifinals after victories over Becker, Verdasco and Murray. He then beat Roger Federer in a three set thriller 7-6 6-7 7-6, but Soderling proved too strong in the final.
Monfils, who was sidelined for several months this year with knee problems, has decided to end his season and won’t play the tournament this year.

Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils

Gael Monfils

Michael Llodra

Llodra, then ranked 34, beat two former Bercy champions, Djokovic and Davydenko, to reach the semifinals in Bercy.
And he was just one point away from the final: he got 3 match points in the 12th game of the final set, but Soderling raced to the net each time for winners.

Michael Llodra

Michael Llodra

Novak Djokovic

Winner in 2009, Djokovic lost to Michael Llodra in the third round of the 2010 tournament. One month later he lead Serbia to their first Davis Cup victory.

Novak Djokovic

Nikolay Davydenko

Davydenko won his first Masters 1000 title at Paris Bercy 2006 by defeating Dominik Hrbaty in the final. In 2010, he defeated Thomaz Bellucci and Tomas Berdych before losing to Michael Llodra.

Nikolay Davydenko

Nikolay Davydenko

Andy Roddick

Despite his powerful weapons, his serve and forehand, Roddick has never done well at Paris Bercy. In 2010, he lost to Robin Soderling in straight sets in the quarterfinals.

In the stands:

Former Roland Garros finalist Magnus Norman and Soderling’s coach at the time:

Magnus Norman

Larry Stefanski, Andy Roddick’s coach:

Larry Stefanski

Amélie Mauresmo:

Amélie Mauresmo

Guy Forget and Mansour Bahrami:

Mansour Bahrami and Guy Forget

More pics and videos of Paris Bercy 2010.