This will probably be the first and last time I lead off a post with Dudi Sela. That’s right, the Dudi Sela, the same guy who helped his Israel team pull off the upset of the weekend beating home team Sweden in Davis Cup first round play. Was there a better story or bigger performance by anyone else? I don’t think so.
The diminutive Sela and compatriot Harel Levy went the distance in all four singles rubbers, going five sets in each to finally turn away the floundering Swedes.
Sela won both his matches defeating the long-lost Andreas Vinciguerra 11-9 in the fifth Friday, then former Australian Open champ Thomas Johansson in five Sunday to set up Levy’s heroic 8-6 clincher in the final rubber. Great effort by both guys.
Of course the tie was played in front of as many fans as I play for – none – that due to Sweden’s inability to guarantee the safety of the Israeli team amid the backdrop of protests and violence in Malmo.
A pretty incredible outcome for Israel given the political climate. And yet further evidence of the decline of the once great tennis power Sweden. Israel now gets thrown to the wolves as they host Russia in July.
As for the other ties, everything went fairly according to form except France! I had France beating the Czechs and then winning the entire Davis Cup (woops!), but credit to Tomas Berdych and Stepanek who clutched-up when needed to secure the win. Despite their depth, France I felt made the right moves putting Gilles Simon and Jo Tsonga out there in singles, but I counted on the French to win the doubles which didn’t happen.
No surprise for the U.S. as Andy Roddick held firm leading his team into the quarterfinals against Croatia. Argentina crushed the Netherlands, they now get the Czechs.
In the marquee matchup of the weekend, Spain had its way with Serbia as Ferrer and Nadal won three singles matches without dropping a single set to Novak Djokovic and Janko. In fact, Nadal lost just a total of 12 games in six sets – can we give him the French trophy now? As I said going in, no shame in losing to Rafa on clay but I would have expected a bigger fight from Novak Friday against Ferrer, a guy he beat to win Dubai a week earlier. Spain next hosts Germany, a winner over Austria.
Of note in the oft-entertaining, oft-crazy lower group ties, the Brothers Lapentti took care of business in Toronto, stunning Canada 3-2. Down 2-1 and 2-1 in sets Sunday, Nicolas Lapentti charged back to overcome Frank Dancevic to force a fifth rubber, which younger brother Giovanni promptly cashed in for Ecuador.
In Asia, after Lleyton Hewitt fell in five sets to Dania Udomchoke, Chris Guccione saved the day for Australia by winning the decisive fifth rubber over Thailand.
And that brings me to Britain. How much money do they pump into that system? How many different coaches, tournaments, etc, do they have set up? From where I sit it seems like a lot compared to other countries, but unfortunately without Andy Murray their tennis program is in absolute shambles. With Murray sidelined with a virus, the Brits were hammered at home by the Ukraine losing all four live rubbers. That’s an outright failure.
And with that as a backdrop, Murray is now on a flight to the California to get away from it all. How perfect.
Of course the Indian Wells tournament starts tennis’ own version of March Madness later this week. I believe first round play for the men is Thursday with the seeds taking the court on Saturday. So ample rest for the Davis Cup guys. Let’s hope everyone’s is well.
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Davis Cup Playoffs: Serbia Goes To India, Spain Travels To Brazil