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The Reuters global sports blog

Zivojinovic: Novak’s greatest weapon is his mind

SThe Davis Cup, where the pride of playing for the country is the overriding sentiment, has done different things to different players.

On Dec. 5, 2010, it transformed Serbian player Novak Djokovic’s career. Djokovic guided his team to the historic title victory against France on home turf in Belgrade. And from there began the fourth-longest winning streak in the Open Era. Djokovic went on to win 43 matches on the trot, going back to the Davis Cup final.

What changed in Novak Djokovic? “The Davis Cup victory helped Novak throw out all the dirty tennis aspects from his game,” said Bogdan Obradovic, who was the non-playing captain of the Davis Cup-winning Serbian team in 2010. “All the doubts and negativity were washed away from his mind. The victory triggered that confidence in him where he started believing he can be the champion player he always wanted to be.”

The Serbian team began playing in the Davis Cup under the name of Serbia only in June 2006. To inspire his team, representing a tiny nation of 7 million people, to win the most coveted team event in tennis was monumental. The immensity of the achievement can be measured from the fact that Roger Federer, perhaps the finest tennis player of all times, is yet to do it for his country, Switzerland.

Spain, Nadal and the Davis Cup

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By Greg Rusedski

The Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina was always going to be a great tie. The atmosphere was electric due to the huge Argentinian contingent in Seville who were present to support their team. Both the Spanish and Argentinian fans got into the tie and with 26,000 plus spectators the atmosphere was more like a football match.

The tie all depended on how well Juan Martin Del Potro played on the opening day. The feeling was that he had to win his opening match on day one for Argentina to have a chance to win the tie. No one was going to beat Rafa on clay, and the only player to have done so all year was Djokovic. The other problem for Del Potro was that Nadal and David Ferrer were 25 and 0 on clay in Davis Cup. Yes, Nadal and Ferrer were a little tired after the ATP World Tour Finals but playing on clay at home was a huge advantage. Nadal looked physically strong at the ATP World Tour Finals but was unlucky to have picked up a stomach bug and never recovered properly for the event. This was bad news for the Argentinians because he was going to take out his frustration on the clay courts of Seville.

The future of British tennis

The Great Britain Junior Davis Cup team were trying to win the Junior Davis Cup for the first time in UK history. We have a great team and were seeded number 1 because we won the European team championships for the first time this summer.

The team consisted of Kyle Edmund at number 1, who at 16 had made the semi-finals of the junior U.S. Open, Luke Bambridge at number 2, and Evan Hoyt at number 3. We prepared very well by getting to Mexico 6 days early to acclimatise to the altitude, time zone, and heat. We were determined to win. The reason we arrived 6 days early is that it takes a day for every hour to adjust to the time zone. The ball flies quicker and further through the air because of the altitude. Also in altitude it is harder to breath because of the air.
As the number 1 seeds we drew Thailand, Germany and Canada in our group to qualify for the semi-finals. We had to beat all the teams to be certain of qualifying, which we did. We won all our matches but it wasn’t quite as straight forward as that. Evan Hoyt our third ranked boy was struck down with food poisoning an hour before his opening match against Thailand and our number 1 Kyle Edmund was on antibiotics for the whole event because of a fever and couldn’t play singles on the opening day against Thailand. These kinds of situations are always a balancing act, but the depth of the team is so good that we could play any one of the three boys.

Getting the job done at the Davis Cup

There were no real surprises in the Davis Cup result this weekend. It was all about getting the job done and winning and that’s what the boys did. Captain Leon Smith knew before the match that he would definitely win the 2 matches against the Tunisian number 2 and the doubles as well, which would give Team Great Britain the 3 rubbers for victory.

Tunisia got off to a perfect start with the Tunisian number 1, Malek Jaziri beating the British number 2 Jamie Baker in 4 sets. Both men were nervous as you would expect in an opening rubber. Both men also struggled with cramp which is unusual for an indoor match. Cramping can happen from being dehydrated, lack of fitness or nerves. I believe it had to be the latter. Then British number 1, James Ward demolished the Tunisian number 2 in 3 easy sets to level the tie at 1 rubber a piece.

Analyzing Serbia’s first Davis Cup win

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The Davis Cup finals between Serbia and France were always going to be a tight affair. A lot of tennis pundits and players thought it was going to go down to the final rubber. Day one was very predictable with Gael Monfils beating Janko Tipsarevic in 3 straight sets. The only surprise was how poorly Tipsarevic played and would his performance cost him his place in the singles on the final day?

Gael Monfils of France hits a return against Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia during their Davis Cup World group final tennis match in Belgrade December 3, 2010.   REUTERS/Ivan Milutinovic

In the 2nd rubber Novak Djokovic disposed of Gilles Simon in straight sets. Simon was an interesting choice from the French captain Guy Forget and he made no impact in the match. Would he play in the final match come Sunday?

Serbian players, fans set new Davis Cup celebration standards

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TENNIS-DAVIS/Passers-by in downtown Belgrade unfamiliar with Serbia’s appetite for sports success would have been forgiven for thinking that the Balkan country won the soccer World Cup on Sunday evening and not the Davis Cup, an annual tennis competition featuring 16 teams in its top tier.

Several thousand jubilant fans, sporting national flags and team shirts, brought traffic to a halt in the city centre moments after Serbia beat France 3-2 in a pulsating three-day final to win the event in front of 17,000 supporters in the Belgrade Arena.

Winds of change at the Davis Cup

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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.

Spain look forward to ‘Bon Nadal’ in Barcelona

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Spain got the draw they wanted for the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic, with Rafa Nadal to get the tie underway at 1600 GMT on Friday with his singles match against Thomas Berdych on Friday.

It has been, to say the least, a testing time for Nadal of late, with the Spaniard having to fight his way back from an injury that kept him out of Wimbledon and wrecked his chances of finishing the season as world number one.

Spain’s sporting state of grace

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pauPau Gasol’s triumph with the LA Lakers has prompted more articles in the Spanish media celebrating the country’s incredible run of sporting success.

Gasol was a vital cog in the Lakers machine this season and joins a long list of Spanish champions in individual and team sports.

India fears Davis Cup decision may spark other no shows

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Indian officials will be keeping their fingers crossed that Australia’s decision to boycott next month’s zonal Davis Cup tie in Chennai over security fears will turn out to be an isolated case and not one which will set a precedent for other sporting events.

India has ambitions of becoming a global sporting destination and over the next two years, the Commonwealth Games, cricket World Cup, a Formula One race, hockey World Cup and badminton world championships are all scheduled to take place in the country. However, the ambush of the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore last month triggered fears that sport could become a target for more attacks in South Asia.

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