A Goring in Order?

Friday, September 17, 2010 /by

104064996 by Pete Bodo

Mornin'. One of the things I love about Davis Cup is the sheer, unmitigated, smile-inducing globalness of it. I don't mean that in the conventional sense, that so many nations are part of the world Davis Cup community (133 nations in 2010 to be precise). I mean the way it feels to be sitting up in the dead of night and watching the live-scoring module blinking pale green in the dark, updating a match being played in broad daylight on the other side of the world.

Davis Cup reminds me that the world is smaller than it used to be, but in some ways it's also bigger. A few decades ago, that tie being played halfway around the globe didn't, for all practical purposes, exist. You eventually heard what happened there, shrugged (you were out of Davis Cup mode by then) and said something like, Musta been some match. . .

Today, you can sit, remote in hand, and, if you have the right cable or satellite provider, or the right computer software, monitor a dozen matches taking place all over the world at the same time. Can you feel any more like a Starfleet Commander?

I'll be home watching it all on Tennis Channel today, as I'm sure many of you will be, too.

As far as the semifinals go, I was all set to go with Serbia until I saw the news that Novak Djokovic had withdrawn, suffering from a case of gastroenteritis after rushing back from New York, where he put in that heroic performance in the men's U.S. Open final (he lost to Rafael Nadal).

I thought that despite Djokovic's exhausted state, a little hometown love and the desire to win something/anything to balm his wounds would provide sufficient inspiration for him to overcome fatigue. It's hard to imagine Serbia winning now, but never underestimate Tomas Berdych's capacity for screwing up, and Radek Stepanek hasn't played very much this year. 

In France, I think the home court advantage (mainly in terms of surface speed on the indoor court at Lyon) will be a little too much for the Argentines to overcome. But let's remember that Argentina remains the strongest tennis power not to have won the Cup at least once, and David Nalbandian is on a personal mission to bag the championship for the baby blue-and-white at least once before he retires. That only adds further spice—as if any were needed—to Nalbandian's second-rubber meeting with Gael Monfils. 

This is a real "step up" moment for Gael the Entertainer. I'm not convinced he'll put up that W, because Nalbandian likes this surface even if his henchman in singles, Juan Monaco, does not.

On a domestic note, the U.S. is in for a real dogfight in Bogota. When I read the elevation at the Plaza de Toros la Santamaria (8,000 feet-plus), I was pleased on behalf of my countrymen. But then, having read that the Colombians are making us play with pressureless Tretorn balls (hitting one is a bit like striking a rock, which is why they use the relatively dead balls at altitude, where conventional pressurized balls tend to fly), I had to temper my enthusiasm. This suddenly looks like a towering assignment for the hard-serving, attack-minded, relatively green crew from the U.S.

Plaza de Toros la Santamaria. It sure is a pretty, poetic kind of name, just right as the site of a massacre of historic proportions. We learned long ago that when it comes to Davis Cup play in a Spanish-speaking nation, beware the atmosphere in any place that contains the word "toros" (bulls). Is a goring in order?

The big secret weapon for the U.S.? Inspiration. Pat McEnroe, who's giving up the captaincy after this tie, is one of the most popular captains in U.S. Davis Cup history; his protégés will want to send him out with a win.

The big question mark? McEnroe's decision to leave Bob and Mike Bryan off the squad. He had hoped to take one of them, in a effort to keep his singles options open (and in the knowledge that his singles players are able doubles competitors as well), but it didn't really work out, and the Bryans felt they could use a rest week after the U.S. Open, which they won. Sheesh, even doubles players are playing the fatigue card now!

Anyway, feel free to call the matches here. I'll be back with a wrap of some kind later today.

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