Connors and Ashe, 1984 Davis Cup final

From John McEnroe’s autobiography, Serious:

You know that line in the Beach Boys song, ‘Sloop John B’ – “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on”? That’s what it was like to fly to Sweden and play Davis Cup that December. As it would turn out, it was my last Cup match for three years. I really went out with a bang.

My heart sank as the plane took off from Kennedy. Tatum was back at my apartment. Connors and I still weren’t speaking. My mind was a million miles from tennis. I sighed and sank into my seat, hoping the week would pass quickly.

I arrived in Gothenburg Tuesday morning to find a debacle already in progress. Jimmy had come over despite the fact that his wife was just about to give birth to their second child, so he was totally on edge, and acting like it. To give just one instance, the car that had been supposed to pick him up for practice on Monday hadn’t come, so he was furious, and – if you can believe it – wrote a nasty message to Arthur (Ashe) in the snow.

Things felt frosty between Peter Fleming and me. And Jimmy Arias was our fourth player, and he’s always been a personality I don’t quite get – I just don’t understand his sense of humor. Add to this the fact that I was in love and wishing I wasn’t there in the first place…

What’s the opposite of team spirit? That’s what we had in Gothenburg.

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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

John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, jim Courier and Pete Sampras

From John McEnroe’s autobiography’s Serious:

My final Davis Cup tie, in Fort Worth, was a brief, strange respite. I has brought along a support group: my parents, my brothers, all three of my children, a nanny, and my agent, Sergio Palmieri. I needed every one of them. A few days before, I had been staying at Andre Agassi’s house in Las Vegas, telling Andre, “I don’t know if I can do Davis Cup – I just can’t function”.

The news of my separation with Tatum had leaked to the press – a couple of photographs of Tatum out kicking up her heels with new friends had fanned the flames – and it was all the reporters wanted to talk about. I spent the days before my match (I was there to play doubles with Pete Sampras) trying to practice and spend time with my kids as I dodged inappropriate questions.

The strain showed when I finally got on court to play. The atmosphere inside the Tarrant County Convention Center was the kind of chaos I’d once loved in Davis Cup – American fans waving flags and sounding boat horns at lederhosen-wearing Swiss fans chanting and rattling cowbells – but now it felt all too much like the chaos inside me. I double-faulted at set point in the fist set tiebreaker, then dropped my serve again at 5-4 in the second set, which Pete and I went on to lose in another tiebreaker.
I felt furious and humiliated. This was my final Davis Cup; I couldn’t go out on a loss – to the Swiss! (It was the first time they’d ever made it to the final). I began yelling at Pete, trying to psych him up; trash-talking at Jakob Hlasek and Marc Rosset, the Swiss team. Somehow we managed to hang on and take the third set, 7-5, but by the time we went into the locker room for the ten-minute break, I was in some kind of altered state. All my fear and anger and frustration and sorrow had built up to the point where smoke was practically coming out of my ears.

“We’re going to go out and kick some ass!” I screamed, at Pete and Jim Courier and Andre Agassi.

“We’re going to go out and kick some ass!” I repeated. I screamed it over and over, like a war chant, until my voice was hoarse.
And when Pete and I went back out, that was exactly what we did. Every time we won a point, Agassi and Courier would shout, “Answer the question!” a little phrase I occasionally used to shout at umpires. Pete – imagine it; Pete Sampras! – was shouting, pumping his fist. The fans in the stands were going crazy, the boat horns drowing out the cowbells. We won the last two sets 6-1 and 6-2. When it was over, Pete hugged me. “I love you, Mac”, he said.

I rested up my voice that night, then screamed it hoarse again the next day as Jim beat Hlasek in four sets. When it was all over, I took a big American flag from courtside and ran around and around the court, waving it high from both hands, as the crowd went nuts. I was as happy as I’d ever been.

Davis Cup 1992

From Pete Sampras’ autobiography, A champion’s mind:

Shortly after the US Open, we played our Davis Cup semifinal against Sweden on indoor clay at the Target Center in Minneapolis. Because clay was not my best surface, I played only doubles – with McEnroe. We toughed out a real war with one of the best doubles squads of the era, Stefan Edberg and Anders Jarryd.

This was my first Davis Cup experience as a “doubles specialist”, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the assignment. Doubles is an enjoyable sideshow at most tournaments, but it has a starring role in Davis Cup because of the format. As the third and only match on Saturday, doubles is the kingmaker in Cup play. Most Davis Cup teams that enjoyed long-term success were anchored by a great doubles team. When a tie is 1-1, which is often the case after the Friday opening singles matches, getting to that 2-1 lead can be huge. It also didn’t hurt my own enthusiasm level, or results, that my partner on some key occasions was McEnroe. Remember, it was McEnroe’s own longtime partner, Peter Fleming, who famously quipped, when asked to name the best doubles team of all the time “John McEnroe and anyone”.

We went on to meet the Swiss team in the 1992 final, on an indoor hard court in Fort Worth, Texas. Gorman, perhaps still mindful of Lyon, decided to play it safe. He named Courier and Andre, who were both playing very well, to the singles slots, and put me down for doubles, again partnered with Johnny Mac.
That was fine with me – Andre had proven himself a great Davis Cup singles player. He’s an emotional guy who really gets into all the hoopla. Jim was right there with Andre as a Davis Cup warrior. He gave his all, he was gritty and very cool under pressure. We had, arguably, the greatest Davis Cup team of all time – and a pretty subborn bunch. In the opening ceremony, the promote wanted us to wear these ten-gallon hats and it kind of freaked Jim out. He snapped, “I’m not wearing that stupid hat!” So there were no cowboys hats.

1992 Swiss Davis Cup team

The Swiss had a very tough two-man team consisting of Jakob Hlasek and Marc Rosset. Both guys were very good on fast courts, which is unusual because most Europeans prefer the slower clay. So much for our home-court/fast-court advantage. Hlasek was in the midst of his career year in singles, and Rosset was a guy with a game as tricky as it was big. He could play serve and volley, even though his career moment of glory occured on slow clay a few months earlier, when he won the singles gold medal at the Barcelona Olympic Games.
Andre won the opening rubber, but then Rosset showed his mettle with an upset of Jim. McEnroe and I would be playing Hlasek and Rosset in what suddenly looked like a critical doubles match. And when we lost the first two sets, both in tiebreakers, it looked like tiny Switzerland might pull one of the most shocking of Davis Cup upsets – and on US soil, no less.

John was in one of his McEnroe moods. Throughout the match, he trash-talked Hlasek, a very quite but cool guy who minded his own business and got along with everyone. John was suffering, and coming dangerously close of losing control. But then he was unlike anyone else in that he often played better after going nuts. Some of the line calls in the first two sets seemed dodgy, and in the third set John finally lost it over another apparent bad call. He started in on the umpire, and he just kept going on. He yelled at the official, and he yelled at our own captain, Gorman (for not making more of a fuss and “standing up for us”). He was just going ballistic in general, in any direction he wanted, long after the point in question was over.
Finally, I just lost it myself. I turned on John and snapped,

“John, it’s over. Done with. Let’s not harp on what happened three games ago, it’s time to move on, man.”

For some reason, my own little outburst had two welcome results. It calmed John down (emotionally, if not verbally) and it fired me up. We won the third set and adjourned for what was then still the required ten-minute break before the start ofthe fourth set. John and I came off the break with wild eyes and fire in our bellies. It was one of those rare occasions when I got into the emotion of it all. I was pumping my fist and yelling. McEnroe must have said, “Come on, let’s kick ass” a thousand times. We clawed and fist-pumped and yelled our way to a not very pretty but extremely relieving win, 6-2 in the fifth.

John McEnroe and Pete Sampras, 1992 Davis Cup final

Although I became very emotional in that match, in general John and I were like a Jekyll and Hyde pairing; I tended to be cool and forward-looking, he was hot-tempered and all wrapped up in the moment, always ready for an altercation. He thrived on that, and I understood it. We were good for each other. He pumped me up with his emotional outbursts, even if I didn’t show it, and I calmed him down with my self-control, even if he was, externally, still the same contentious, fiery player.

The next day, after Jim beat Hlasek to clich the tie, I became a Davis Cup champ. It mattered not at all that I had played only doubles in the final; I had done my share all year and felt as proud and entitled as if I had played every singles match for the United States in our drive to win the Cup.

Photo credit: Paul Zimmer

Tsonga and Gasquet

The countdown to the Davis Cup final has begun, follow our Davis Cup final coverage on Tennis Buzz!

Le compte à rebours a commencé, suivez toute l’actualité de la finale de Coupe Davis sur Tennis Buzz!

Wednesday 19 November

The Davis Cup was exposed in the Tennis Village in Lille today. Here are a few pics.

Quelques photos du Village Tennis inauguré ce midi par Martine Aubry et Jean Gachassin place de la République à Lille: des courts de mini-tennis, un court de padel, quelques stands et …. la Coupe Davis:

Davis Cup

Tuesday 18 November

Wawrinka and Federer arrived in Lille yesterday: by Eurostar for Stan, by private jet for Roger.
Really disapointing behaviour by both players who avoided their fans who waited for several hours in front of the Hermitage Gantois and entered their hotel through the kitchen door!

Wawrinka et Federer sont arrivés à Lille hier après midi, Stan par l’Eurostar et Roger en jet privé. Tous deux ont évité leurs fans qui les attendaient depuis plusieurs devant l’Hermitage Gantois et sont entrés dans l’hôtel par la porte des cuisines! Lamentable…

French and Swiss players practiced for the first time today on the clay court of Stade Pierre Mauroy, see video below.

Français et Suisses se sont entraînés pour la 1ère fois sur la terre battue du Stade Pierre Mauroy.

I have tickets for Friday and Saturday’s matches, and that the view I will have:

J’ai des tickets pour vendredi et samedi et je verrai… ça:

Monday 17 November

Lots of talk about Federer’s withdrawal and alleged dispute with Wawrinka in the press today.

Le forfait de Federer à Londres et son altercation avec Wawrinka font la une ce matin:

Le mystère Federer, l'Equipe

Sunday 16 November

They’re coming! The French Davis Cup team is coming to Lille this evening, they will stay at the Hôtel Couvent des Minimes. The Swiss come tomorrow evening, they stay at l’Hermitage Gantois, a former 15th Century hospice that had been coverted into a 5-star hotel.

Ils arrivent! L’équipe de France de Coupe Davis arrive ce soir à Lille, ils logeront à l’hôtel Hôtel Couvent des Minimes, quai du Vault. Les Suisses arriveront lundi soir et logeront à l’Hermitage Gantois, un ancien hospice du XVIè siècle reconverti en hôtel 5 étoiles:

Hospice Gantois, Lille

Photo credit: Velvet

Meanwhile in London, Roger Federer pulls out of his final against Novak Djokovic.

Pendant ce temps-là, à Londres, Roger Federer, blessé au dos, déclare forfait pour la finale des Masters face à Novak Djokovic.

Saturday 15 November

Today we have a look back at the 1992 Davis Cup lost by Switzerland and at the mythic 1991 final won by Henri Leconte and Guy Forget over the american dream team of Agassi, Sampras and Flach-Seguso.

Séquence souvenir: la finale 92 perdue par les Suisses contre les Américains, et la mythique finale 91 remportée par Henri Leconte et Guy Forget face à la dream team américaine d’Agassi, Sampras et Flach-Seguso:

Friday 14 November

Seen in the tramway today, a poster urging people to use public transport to attend the matches.

Vu aujourd’hui dans le tramway, un poster incitant les spectateurs à utiliser les transports en commun pour se rendre au Stade (désolée de la mauvaise qualité):

Tramway Davis Cup poster

Thursday 13 November

While the French Davis Cup team is training in Bordeaux and Federer and Wawrinka are battling in the London ATP finals, the team of Roland Garros head groundsman Bruno Slastan is preparing clay courts at Stade Pierre Mauroy.

Pendant que les Français sont en stage à Bordeaux et que Federer et Wawrinka bataillent au Masters de Londres, l’équipe de Bruno Slastan, responsable des courts à Roland Garros, commence la préparation des courts en terre battue au Stade Pierre Mauroy.


Wednesday 12 November

Autograph session with kids for the French Davis Cup team in Bordeaux.

Séance d’autographes pour les Bleus à Bordeaux:

No autograph session in sight for Les Bleus in Lille, but a few events are planned. The Tennis Village, Place de la République, aims to recreate the Davis Cup atmosphere in the center of Lille, to allow as many people as possible to participate in the event: mini-tennis, competitions, quizzes.. The matches will also be broadcast on a giant screen.

Pas de séance d’autographes prévue à Lille, mais des animations seront organisées Place de la République, pour essayer de recréer l’ambiance Coupe Davis dans le centre de Lille: mini-tennis, concours, quizz… Et bien sûr, les matches seront retransmis sur écran géant.

Tuesday 11 November

Captain Arnaud Clément picks Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau to play the final next week.

Head to head / Face à face
Tsonga – Federer: 5 – 11
Tsonga – Wawrinka: 3 – 2
Monfils – Federer: 2 – 8
Monfils – Wawrinka: 2 – 2
Gasquet – Federer : 2 – 12
Gasquet – Wawrinka: 1 – 1

Head to head on clay / Face à face sur terre battue
Tsonga – Federer: 1 – 2
Tsonga – Wawrinka: 2 – 2
Monfils – Federer: 0 – 4
Monfils – Wawrinka: 0 – 0
Gasquet – Federer: 2 – 2
Gasquet – Wawrinka: 0 – 1

SWI or FRA who will win the Davis Cup final?

  • Switzerland (73%, 45 Votes)
  • France (27%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 62

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Monday 10 November

First training day in Bordeaux for Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon.
Début du stage d’entraînement à Bordeaux pour Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon.

Tuesday 4 November

Sans surprise, le capitaine suisse Severin Lüthi a sélectionné les mêmes joueurs que pour la demi-finale contre l’Italie: Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Marco Chiudinelli et Michael Lammer.

Saturday 1 November

Just a few weeks to go to the much awaited final between France and Switzerland!

Plus que quelques semaines avant la finale tant attendue entre la France et la Suisse!

Richard Gasquet, le coq sportif

Saturday 11 October

Behind the scenes of the Stade Pierre Mauroy that will host the final, read my report here.

Visite guidée du Stade Pierre Mauroy qui va accueillir la finale de Coupe Davis, lisez mon reportage ici.

Stade Pierre Mauroy

Saturday 4 October

Bienvenue à Lille for the Davis Cup final! All you need to know if you plan to attend the final: how to get to Lille, buy some tickets and more.

A lire si vous envisagez d’assister à la finale de Coupe Davis: Bienvenue à Lille for the Davis Cup final!

Grand Place

Monday 22 September

The French Tennis Federation announced today the Davis Cup final between France and Switzerland will be staged on clay. Do you really know what clay is made of?

Les Français ont choisi la surface sur laquelle sera jouée la finale de Coupe Davis entre la France et la Suisse, ce sera la terre battue (indoor bien sûr). Découvrez ici ce qu’est réellement la terre battue (article en anglais).

Friday 19 September

It is now official, the Davis Cup final France vs Switzerland will be played in Lille, my hometown! So stay tuned for news, photos and exclusive coverage on Tennis Buzz!

C’est officiel: Lille (la ville où j’habite) accueillera la finale de Coupe Davis entre la France et la Suisse! Suivez toute l’actualité de la finale sur Tennis Buzz!

Also read/à lire aussi:

Vitas Gerulaitis

Excerpt of Jimmy Connors‘ autobiography The Outsider:

A friend remembered

Vitas Gerulaitis was 17 and I was 19 when we first met, after he met the Riordan circuit.
We hung out a lot together through the 70s and 80s. When I won the US Open in 1978, I went out for a celebration dinner at Maxwell’s Plum in Manhattan. Vitas drove up and parked right in front of the restaurant, and let me tell you, he was hard to miss: Vitas was the only guy around tennis – or around most places – who drove a yellow Rolls Royce. He got out of the car with two cute young girls who couldn’t have been a day over 18, waltzed in, and sat down to congratulate me. He was the only one who did that. He was all class.

What the public saw was the real Vitas: the dazzling smile, the free-spirited guitar-playing rocker, the over-the-top playboy lifestyle. Yet he was also one of the most decent guys I’ve ever known, and everyone liked him.
Although he had his own crowd that included Borg and Mac, Vitas and I were close, and it was a no-bullshit friendship. It was an open secret that Vitas had a big problem with cocaine, and it led to his retirement from the game at the end of 1985.
Without the discipline of tennis to hold him in check, Vitas’ habit intensified dramatically. It’s the reason I asked him in 1989 to travel with me to Europe for five months. I might not have been his closest buddy, but you don’t abandon people when the going gets tough. As much as I hated drugs, we were buddies throughout the good, the bad and the ugly of it all.

My friend Vitas was only 40 years old when he died. He was very close to his mom and his sister, he was a good son and brother and always looked after his family. Patti and I went to his funeral, at St Dominic, in Oyster Bay, Long Island, and joined 500 other people – including Mac, Borg, Billie Jean King, Tony Trabert, Jack Kramer, Bill Talbert, Fred Stolle, and Mary Carillo – to mourn our friend. Out if respect for Vitas, the governor closed the Long Island Expressway when they took his casket from the church to the cemetery.

Vitas brought a lot to tennis – not just his athletic style of play but also his rock-star sex appeal, which added a new dimension to the tour. He was a wild and flamboyant but also a great champion, winning the Australian Open in 1977 and reaching the finals of the French Open and the US Open. He was a Davis Cup participant and winner of 25 Grand Prix tournaments.
Is any of that recognized by the tennis establishment? No. Vitas had a Hall of Fame career, but apparently he didn’t have a Hall of Virtue career, but who does? It shouldn’t be the case but his outstanding record and major contribution to the sport have, sadly, been overshadowed by his issues off the court.
I miss him.”