Davis Cup 1985: Sweden defeat West Germany

For the first time since Fred Perry led Britain to four successive victories in the 1930’s, a European nation retained the Davis Cup when Sweden defeated West Germany 3-2 at the Olympiahalle in Munich. The year was immensely satisfying because it saw the consolidation of the finest and most powerful all-round Davis Cup team since Neale Fraser was able to call upon the likes of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe in the early 1970’s. Hans Olsson‘s men are a true credit to tennis, not merely for their abundant and varied skills but for the refreshing spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship that they bring to a game badly in need of it. In marked contrast to Gothenburg 12 months before, when the referee, Alan Mills, had to consider defaulting Jimmy Connors, Patrick Flodrops, the French referee in Munich, found himself pleasantly under-employed. Olsson was not so very far from the mark when, in reply to a flippant question about the need for code of conduct agreements, he replied “My boys are so good they don’t even need umpires”.

For Boris Becker, too [the Davis Cup in 1985] had become a whirl of triumph which remained quite untarnished by West Germany’s defeat in Munich. He could, it is true, have done better in the doubles but his performance in both singles, first in beating Stefan Edberg on the Friday, and then in keeping the tie alive for the Germans by outplaying as solid a competitor as Mats Wilander on the Sunday, were performances that required an extraordinary level of determination and self-belief. But not even Becker could beat the Swedes on his own. Proving their amazing versatility and depth of talent, Olsson’s team were able to shrug off the loss through illness of Anders Jarryd, their no. 2 singles player and doubles expert, and still win on a German-made carpet that was really too fast for good quality tennis. It was a tribute to the skills of all the players that we saw anything other than one-shot rallies.

Olsson’s remark after beating Australia in Malmo –

“Germany can choose whatever court they want; I have the players for it”

– was not the statement of an over-confident captain. It was merely the truth. With Wilander beating Westphal in the first rubber despite the young German’s 19 aces; Wilander and the brilliant Joakim Nystrom taking advantage of Maurer‘s service weakness to win the doubles; and Edberg overcoming his nerves (and another 22 aces from Westphal) to prove that he now has the character to match his talent, Sweden’s right to retain the Cup was never questioned either by impartial observers or even by the Bavarian crowd who devised a new form of noisy support for their players by clapping rhythmically between every point. The best team won, and, to their credit, the Germans were the first to recognise it. Now they have beaten such stalwart opposition on an alien court, with a new no.2 singles player and a reserve doubles team, it is difficult to see how anyone is going to take the Cup away from the Swedes in the foreseeable future. But in Davis Cup who knows?

By Richard Evans, World of Tennis 1986

Sweden wins the 1984 Davis Cup

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