Winds of change at the Davis Cup

September 20, 2010

A fan stands up to applaud during the match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Novak Djokovic of Serbia in the men's final at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York September 13, 2010. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

The 2010 US Open was a very challenging tournament for all the players this year because of the weather conditions. Players had to deal with a heat wave for the first three days with temperatures well over 100 degrees. Then the mercury dropped into the mid 80s and during the final week dropped to the mid 70’s. With the weather being so hot for the first three days, the players needed to make sure they took shade, ice towels, electrolyte drinks and consumed bananas on court to get potassium into their body. There was a real threat of players cramping with such temperatures. Hydration and prevention were key.

Elena Dementieva of Russia is covered in sweat while playing Sybille Bammer of Austria in 97 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) heat during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 1, 2010. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine

Extremely hot weather favors the more aggressive players and the ones who are in phenomenal shape. Points are quicker as the ball travels through the air faster due to the extreme temperatures. The more the temperature dropped the more it helped baseline players. But for all the players it becomes less physically demanding. There were also heavy winds in these championships which made it very difficult. The top players hate it because it is more of an equalizer for the lesser player because of the unpredictability of the ball moving through the air.

Ivan Lendl used to hate the wind and wanted to put a rule into place that when the wind reached a certain velocity, play would be stopped. When you are with the wind, you can hit the ball with more top spin to bring the ball into court. The top spin helps to bring the ball down. When the wind is into you, you can hit out on the ball more as the ball will drop in. Also, you need to find the balance of height over the net to get the right depth. Foot work becomes that much more important too because of the extra adjustment steps you need to take to get into position. This is because the ball movement is unpredictable. The drop shot against the wind is a very effective shot because the ball stops and doesn’t come towards the opponent. On the other hand with the wind the drop shot is usually a poor shot selection because the ball goes to your opponent. One shot that is great with or against the wind is the slice because it stays low and neutralizes your opponent. When the wind is swirling you have to constantly adjust and there is no rhyme or reason. You need to anticipate what the ball will do and use both theories of dealing with the wind when it swirls – this is the least favorite time for players to play.

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark gets set to serve in the wind to Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia during the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York September 8, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

The Davis Cup semi-finals were France vs Argentina and Serbia vs Czech Republic. The French team were brilliant and won 5-0 against Argentina at home in Lyon. The defining match was a second rubber with Gael Monfils from France beating David Nalbandian from Argentina. Monfils has really matured and is starting to fulfill his potential. He won in 4 sets to give France a 2-0 lead after day one. The doubles were a formality with the experienced team of Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement winning in straight sets. It’s been eight years since France have been in the Davis Cup final and captain Guy Forget has done another great job. They will be looking forward to regaining the title and having French no. 1 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga back in the team for the finals.

Gael Monfils of France reacts after winning his match against David Nalbandian of Argentina at the Davis Cup singles world group semi-final tennis match in Lyon, September 17, 2010.  REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

The more interesting tie was Serbia vs Czech Republic. Serbia were the favorites until Novak Djokovic had to pull out of day one action with gastroenteritis. But a new hero emerged, Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic was the man that beat Andy Roddick at this year’s US Open. Tipsarevic beat Wimbledon finalist and world no. 7 Tomas Berdych with the Czech Republic leading 1-0 after Radek Stepanek beat Viktor Troicki. He leveled the tie at one rubber a piece after day one. Had Tipsarevic not beaten Berdych, the tie would have been over after day one because of the superior Czech doubles team. The Czech Republic took a 2-1 lead after winning the doubles, but with the re-emergence of Djokovic for the singles match on Sunday the tie would go to the deciding match. Tipsarevic destroyed Stepanek in the final match to give Serbia a 3-2 victory and put Serbia into the Davis Cup final for the first time in history.

Janko Tipsarevic (C) of Serbia celebrates with his teammates after beating Czech Republic in their Davis Cup world group semi-final tennis match in Belgrade September 19, 2010. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Some 17,000 spectators and the whole of Serbia were ecstatic. I hope Janko Tipsarevic can continue his brilliant form from the Davis Cup and bring it onto the main tour. He played like a top 10 player this weekend but needs to bring the same mental approach when he is on tour. Serbia will host France in the finals most likely in Belgrade again and it will probably be Serbia’s biggest sporting event since the Sarajevo Olympic Games.

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