In a top notch doubles match the American brothers defeat in 5 sets Hewitt and Peers 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3
Tennis doubles is as (rightfully) mistreated in the ATP circuit, as fundamental in Davis Cup. Not a fan myself of doubles, but today in Kooyong the crème de la crème of doubles was playing: the Bryan brothers – i.e. the most successful doubles team ever – against Aussies John Peers (doubles specialists, 9 titles mostly with Jamie Murray) and Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt? Isn’t he retired and Davis Cup captain? Well it was so till 11AM, when – just one hour prior match commencement – the breaking news arrived: Hewitt will replace Groth and pair up with John Peers to face the Bryan brothers. The Aussie icon is officially out of retirement and leading the charge against the best doubles team ever and when he appears on the court the Kooyong arena explodes chanting. “We were not surprised at all to see Hewitt playing” says Bob at the press conference “He’s been playing a lot the whole week, both doubles and singles, more than anyone else“. “It was decided last night. Share the workload was the determining factor“, states Hewitt diplomatically.
It’s a cloudy day in Melbourne and a temperature of 22C, much better conditions than yesterday’s scorching hot. The Fanatics, in green and gold, are singing, chanting, clapping, cheering with great choreography. After a minute silence in memory of Bud Collins, on the grass court the rubber starts at 12:08 with Bob Bryan (the lefty) serving and holding easily. Australia replies with Peers. After Mike Bryan (the righty) holding serve easily it’s Hewitt’s turn. Rusty is very focused, but also appears quite tense. At 40-15 shouts his first “C’mon” but that’s not enough. At the second break point Hewitt is broken and then the USA flies up 4-1. The American brothers – particularly Bob – are returning very well and playing effectively at the net, playing especially on Hewitt who appears at this stage less solid than Peers. At 4-2 USA, the Aussies have 3 opportunities in a row to break back, but the USA manage to hold: Bob Bryan’s serve is as deadly as his blocked backhand. That was the only opportunity for the Aussies in the first set; the Bryan brothers take the set 6-3 with a forehand return in the net by Hewitt.
The second set flows similarly to the first one; at 3 all Hewitt faces a break point after a great backhand passing shot by Bob Bryan. This one is saved, but soon after the Aussies face a second: Hewitt is broken again. At 5-3 USA, Peers – up to this point very solid on serve, leaving only a couple of points to the Americans – feels the pressure and is broken for a final 6-3. Two sets to love for the Americans in 1 hour and a forecast of a short match, as the American brothers appear in total control.
And then what you don’t expect happens: that’s why we love tennis. Hewitt’s intensity grows, as does his return: at 3 all two backhand returns by the Aussie icon and a volley by Peers bring the Australian up 0-40. As in the first set they are not able to convert them, with an overhead in the net by Peers, but a forehand return by Hewitt gives them a fourth chance. “C’mon mate, go” shouts Lleyton to Peers, who delivers and finally the Aussies break the USA, to then hold to 0: 5-3 Australia. Peers serves for the set at 5-4 and this time he holds nerves and serve: the Kooyong arena explodes chanting and Australia re-open the match. “You could feel the adrenalin flowing” says Peers commenting on the Fanatics, the vocal and colourful Aussie supporters “they got us back into the match they were amazing“.
Hewitt is now on fire, keeps on returning as well as when he was at the top of his career. Yet another foot fault for Mike Bryan (quite a few for both twins) and the Aussies break in the third game: 2-1 Australia. The match surges in intensity with great rallies at the net: this is great doubles! Both teams hold serve and it’s Peers’ turn again to serve for the set: spotless delivery and Australia takes the fourth set 6-4 and levels up the rubber.
The tension is now really high. The Bryan brothers have not won over 100 titles each by chance and get their thoughts together are regroup. As Hewitt says in the press conference “doubles is made of small momentum swings“, and so the Americans fly 3-0 in just 8 minutes breaking Peers to 0. After a quarter of an hour it’s 5-2. Hewitt faces 2 consecutive match points and then saves a third to hold serve, but it’s Bob Bryan’s turn. He’s been a machine throughout the match and the mechanism does not grip. He does not miss one point and the USA close after 2:30 with the final score of 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.
So what will happen tomorrow? Will Hewitt replace Groth in what could be the decider of the tie? “That’s not my concern, I care about what happens on my side of the net” says Courier. “Both Isner and Tomic have played very well, maybe John [Isner] has got a little advantage because he played three sets only, but it will be tough”. On his side Hewitt does not exclude playing “I feel comfortable playing double or singles“, but for now “we need Bernie [Tomic] to win, as simple as that. He needs to serve well, Isner has been serving very well. Bernie plays a totally different style of game from Sam”.
From Melbourne, Robbie Cappuccio
EXCLUSIVE Interview With US Davis Cup Captain Mardy Fish: “If Davis Cup Fails, We All Fail”
Mardy Fish takes the reins of the US Davis Cup team and feels very strongly about the new format for the competition: “If you love Davis Cup you have to support it, even with this format”
After Jim Courier’s resignation from the role of US Davis Cup Captain last September after the defeat in the 2018 semifinal against Croatia, the USTA decided to take their time and make some changes to the duties required by the role. Following Courier’s suggestion that “the new captain should be someone closer in age to the players”, the United States Tennis Association decided to trust former world no.7 Mardy Fish with this important responsibility, also making him a key figure in the Player Development Program, expanding the role of captain into a year-round presence at tournaments around the world to provide a bigger support to players.
While we were covering the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Mardy found the time to talk to Ubitennis over the phone from his house in California and provided some insight into this new adventure for him.
What can you tell us about your first few months in your new role?
It’s been a fun few months, adjusting from the role of peer to the other players to that of captain. I have found a lot of respect towards me from the other players and this is obviously a great thing. I have always been a huge fan of Davis Cup, I have always said yes whenever I had the opportunity to play it, and it’s an honor to be in this role.
You retired a few years ago from professional tennis: how do you feel about getting back on the road now that your life is structured in a different way?
My life at home has been quite established, with my wife and my two kids, but I have been doing a bit of personal traveling for some exhibitions and for golfing. This role will not require a lot of traveling, I will just do what I need to create some camaraderie in the team: I have spent a few days in Indian Wells, from Tuesday to Saturday, I will be a few days in Miami, then I won’t be around much for the European season and I will travel again to tournaments in the summer. I just need the players to know that they have my support and the support of the USTA if it’s needed.
What do you think about the new formula for the Davis Cup?
I think it’s too early to tell right now, we will find out how it goes. On paper the formula sounds awesome, the time was right for a change, although I’m not sure if it was necessary to make it as drastic as this. I know there are some people that feel very strongly against this new formula, but this means that people are passionate about Davis Cup, they really care about it.
The date in the calendar for the Finals is quite tough though. But at the end of the day, if it’s Davis Cup the majority of players will find a way to participate and I’m convinced we will get an excellent field.
As far as the US Team is concerned, I don’t foresee any availability issue from our players, especially the younger ones: they are very excited about playing for the USA, the National Team is in a lot of conversations among our players. I can’s speak for other countries, I know some of them have pledged not to play with the new format, but what we need to remember is that we are all responsible for Davis Cup: if Davis Cup fails, we all fail, we are all together on the same boat. For example, the Australian players are all very passionate about Davis Cup, they love it, and that is fantastic. But if they don’t support it, it’s not going to work.
With the new formula, a team getting to the final will need to play six ties in seven days: how important do you think it will be to have a ‘long bench’?
I think it will be important to bring players who play only singles and other players who play only doubles. I believe that teams that only have one or two players, as it could be for Russia, and relying on them to play both singles and doubles could get into a bit of a situation should they get to the business end of the competition, because their players may get there quite tired. We are lucky in that sense because we can have someone like Jack Sock who could play doubles leaving the singles guys free to worry about the singles.
Tennis politics have recently made the headlines with Chris Kermode not being renewed as the ATP CEO. What is your take on this?
I have spoken to some of the guys who are in the Players’ Council and once again I need to stress that they do what they do because they act with passion. They are passionate about tennis, they act out of love for the game even if their ranking is not high. I know Kermode personally from when he was the Tournament Directors at the Queen’s Tournament and everything was perfect for me; I don’t have direct experience with him at the helm of the ATP, I had already retired when he took the reins of the organization.
A few weeks ago the ITF decided the composition of the Round Robin phase of the Davis Cup Final and the US team will be in the same group as Italy and Canada. Can you tell us about these teams?
Well, Canada has the right mix of experience and youth: Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger Aliassime are going to be there for a long time, and Milos [Raonic] will be able to give them all the support they need. Similarly, Italy has an established core of players such as Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi that will be supplemented by Marco Cecchinato, whom I know him anyway because he is was my opponent in my last match ever at the US Open.
I am very confident about our chances in this group: we have three top 60 players who are still 21 years old or younger, who are Tiafoe, Fritz and Opelka. Tiafoe has just reached the Quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and that’s not a result that you can improvise, you need to beat good players to get there. They will be the core of our team for the years to come, and they will be helped by more established veterans like John [Isner] or Sam [Querrey].
BNP Paribas Ends Their 17 Year Sponsorship With Davis Cup
BNP Paribas will no longer sponsor the Davis Cup after 17 years.
BNP Paribas have ended their 17 year title sponsorship with the Davis Cup as they rebrand to the world cup of tennis.
The move was announced in a press release as BNP Paribas look to focus on sponsoring the Fed Cup as well as the junior and wheelchair events.
It is clear that the move has been finalised due to the Davis Cup’s new 18 team format which will be tested in November this year in Madrid.
Although there has been criticism of the new event this is the first time a sponsorship has been dropped from the Davis Cup and the banking company’s intent.
Head of communications, Bertrand Cizeau, explained his decision, “We decided with the ITF to conclude the ‘Davis Cup by BNP Paribas’ partnership as the competition format evolves,” Cizeau explained.
“During 17 years, we have been happy alongside fans, players and local audiences, all around the world, and to have fuelled their passion during unforgettable matches.”
The move is certainly stunning to the ITF but their president David Haggerty did thank BNP Paribas for their contribution, “BNP Paribas has made a vast contribution to the success of the Davis Cup as a title sponsor over the past 17 years,” Haggerty said.
“We are proud of the great work we have achieved together for Davis Cup, and we look forward to continuing our relationship across a number of properties from the grassroots to the top of the game.”
The dedicated partner will continue to work with the ITF with a variety of schemes and projects including developing the Junior and Wheelchair events.
However with talk of a 12 team Fed Cup event similar to the Davis Cup one, would BNP Paribas stop its partnership with the Fed Cup and how would that impact the ITF?
As for David Haggerty he will now aim to rebrand the competition into the ‘Davis Cup, World Cup Of Tennis,’ as many see this as a significant change in the history of the competition that has now gone on for 118 years.
Davis Cup Finals Tournament Director Asks For Patience Ahead Of November Edition
Davis Cup Finals tournament director Albert Costa is asking for patience as he believes the tournament will be an overwhelming success
Davis Cup Finals Tournament Director Albert Costa has asked fans for their patience ahead of November’s edition.
The new format will see 18 teams compete in Madrid in November for the Davis Cup trophy with many people criticising the reforms.
However tournament director Albert Costa has asked tennis fans for patience as he believes in time the Finals will be a success, “After all, it’s one of the great competitions in the world of sports, very attractive, unique and novel for everyone, and for the players it will be a very attractive format,” Costa explained in an interview with Radio Marca.
“I do not see that it will go wrong, people have many expectations, that the first year is complicated and there may be some doubt, but I think it will be a success, I have no doubt. It comes out as we hope we will have patience and we will organize the second edition in a better way, but we do not contemplate that it does not go well.”
The Spaniard is also looking ahead to the future and is in current discussion to make the Fed Cup a combined event with the Davis Cup in the future, “The Federation Cup is a two-year project, we will see if it is viable, but we have it in our heads,” Costa explained.
“We are still negotiating and talking with the ATP to do a joint event and then a larger one of men and women, it is a project but it is not a reality yet. There are opinions for everyone, the changes always generate doubts and we have to show that the competition is attractive to everyone.”
The Davis Cup Finals takes place on the 18th-24th of November with a weakened field expected as Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexander Zverev will all not participate in Madrid.
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