x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Davis Cup – Not just for love of game

Ahmed Rizvi explains Davis Cup ties are exciting because it requires a team effort.

Take that for passion: Gael Monfils celebrates during his Davis Cup singles match against Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk. Vincent Kessler / Reuters
Take that for passion: Gael Monfils celebrates during his Davis Cup singles match against Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk. Vincent Kessler / Reuters

The Davis Cup might seem like a poor cousin of the four grand slams, with top players generally showing a lack of reverence and failing to show up, or constantly moaning about its format and schedule.

But none of the majors can really match the fascinating ebb and flow of a Davis Cup tie, or the football-like jingoism, and its pomp and pageantry. Over those three days, new heroes come to the fore and a few reputations are buried.

The Davis Cup is a theatre of dreams, a theatre of intrigue and the four quarter-finals over the weekend followed the script.

In Geneva, playing in front of cheering home fans, the Australian Open champion and world No 3 Stanislas Wawrinka was humbled by Kazakhstan’s Andrey Golubev, a man who has never been in the top 30 of men’s tennis and currently resides at No 59.

And that was not the end of the surprises.

Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov then got together to beat the ace Swiss pair of Wawrinka and Roger Federer to give the Kazakhs a surprise 2-1 lead going into the final day.

In Nancy, Arnaud Clement, captain of the host French team, decided to take a gamble on Julien Benneteau, picking him as his No 2 ahead of Gael Monfils. And it backfired. The world No 50 was drubbed in straight sets by Tobias Kamke. Then Peter Gojowczyk, a lowly world No 119, stunned Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to give Germany a 2-0 lead on the first day.

In Naples, the temperamental Fabio Fognini blew a set point at 5-4 in the third after splitting the first two with Britain’s James Ward, but recovered to give Italy a 1-0 lead. Andy Murray, however, levelled the scores and then teamed up with Colin Fleming to give Great Britain a 2-1 lead.

Going into the final day, it was impossible to predict which of these teams would join the two-time defending champions Czech Republic, who had taken a 3-0 lead against Japan, in the semi-finals. And the suspense continued into the fifth and final rubber.

Monfils, ignored for the opening-day singles, was the hero for France; Fognini and Andreas Seppi won both their duels to take Italy into the last four, and the class of Wawrinka and Federer prevailed over the spirited Kazakhs.

“I’m excited to bring the deciding point to my team,” Monfils said. “We really want to have a great year in Davis Cup.”

“I think I was for sure more nervous than a match in a normal tournament,” said Seppi. “Here you are playing for your team, for Italy, not just for yourself, so you have a lot of responsibility.”

“I just felt I was playing such great tennis the last six months that I would find a way, as well, and I did,” Federer said. “It’s a relief but it was a great feeling.”

arizvi@thenational.ae

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