Davis Cup Australia USA day 3: Isner, solid like a rock, gives USA the victory 3-1 over Australia - UBITENNIS
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Davis Cup Australia USA day 3: Isner, solid like a rock, gives USA the victory 3-1 over Australia



While Isner focuses on serving aces – a total of 49 – Tomic blames Kyrgios for faking his illness and his injured wrist; as a result the USA win the rubber and the tie

49 aces for John Isner today

49 aces for John Isner today

It could have been Australia’s resurrection, taking the USA to the decider (with Hewitt possibly taking to court again), instead Isner displayed a spotless performance and his huge serve (“it’s breath-taking watching him serve the way he did” says Jim Courier at the press conference) against a listless Tomic (“it looked like he was playing possum during the warm up” says Isner at the press conference) who showed intensity only in a few games. Isner was always in control during his serving games and took every opportunity on Tomic’s soft flat balls to bury down Australia’s hope.

A sunny Sunday in Melbourne and perfect conditions for a tennis match with temperature just shy of 30C; the centre court at Kooyong Lawn Tennis club is as crowded as loud, hoping in a comeback by the Aussies, trailing 1-2 after yesterday’s doubles. The stakes are high and the Aussie crowd responded splendidly filling every seat at Kooyong. The Fanatics are chanting and singing and inspiring the rest of the patrons. A few minutes past 11AM the rubber starts, with Isner trying to get the decisive point against Tomic to give USA the victory.

Tomic starts serving well, Isner better. Tomic is a baseline player, but it’s usually Isner to win the medium-length rallies, waiting for a slow sliced backhand by Tomic and then attacking him with an inside out forehand on Tomic’s backhand and closing with a volley. On 2-2 Tomic is up 40-15 but then faces a break point which the American converts with the usual attack on Tomic’s backhand and easy forehand volley. That is basically a set point. Isner keeps on serving brilliantly with 72% of first serve, aces (10 for him in the first set) travelling at 247 km/h and kick serves on the second serve, leaving only 2 points to Tomic on his serve in the first set. Tomic’s ball is usually flat and soft, giving Isner plenty of opportunities to move on the forehand and put pressure on the Aussie. On 5-4 Isner goes up 40-0 and converts the first set point, for a final 6-4 in less than half an hour.

The second set flows very similar, with Tomic losing mobility, and sending some backhands wide. The notorious 7th game is the key: Isner has just changed his racquet. The American passes Tomic with a great forehand along the line passing shot, and a successful attack brings him to 0-30 and then 15-40. The 2 break points are saved by a serve and a forehand unforced error by Isner. Tomic is stiff on his legs and is surprised by a return landing at his feet. A double fault gives the American a third break point, which is saved, but it’s just a matter of time and Tomic again still on his legs sends an easy backhand in the net. USA leads 4-3 and 2 minutes later 5-3 with an ace on a kicked second serve by Isner, who then take the set 6-4 with a trivial error on the net by  Tomic which reminds me of my social tennis matches rather than World Group Davis Cup. A total of five points so far for Tomic on Isner’s serve.

Nothing really changes in the third set, despite the Fanatics singing “Eyes of the Tiger” at every point by the Aussie. Tomic does not put any pressure on Isner when returning. His body language suggests he would rather be anywhere else rather than on a tennis court, and during a change of ends says to Hewitt “He [Kyrgios] has faked it twice, sitting down there in Canberra. Bullshit that he’s sick“. Can’t wait for Nick’s reply on Twitter. The accident was discussed at the press conference with Tomic confirming his stand, especially after talking to Kyrgios over the phone after the match “He told me he is still ill but will be better tomorrow and is playing in Indian Wells. If he plays Indian Wells he will lose a lot of my respect […] It’s the same situation as it happened last year […]” Hewitt instead dismisses any doubt “we had a fitness check on Thursday morning and he just was not fit”.

Tomic manages one way or another to hold serve and for the first time goes up 6-5. Then out of nowhere he is up 40-30. That’s not only the first break point of the match, but also a set point. Isner saves it with his serve followed by a forehand winner. Finally you can see intensity in Tomic’s eyes. Tomic gets a second set point, saved by an ace and a fourth, guess what? saved by an ace. Either there is something wrong is the speed camera or Isner aces now at 253 km/h (16 in this set only). However, a backhand passing shot along the line gives the Aussie the set point number 5 which is finally converted thanks to a forehand in the net by Isner. 7-5 Tomic and the match is unexpectedly re-opened. Tomic has made more point on Isner’s serve in that game than in all previous returning games together.

Aussie Fanatics chanting Eyes of the Tiger: not enough to shake Tomic

Aussie Fanatics chanting Eyes of the Tiger: not enough to shake Tomic

Tomic now shows belief in himself and hold serves to love in 2 consecutive games, but Isner keeps on serving formidably well and pressing from the baseline in case Tomic returns the serve. The tension surges and the central court explodes at every point Tomic makes. It’s 4-4 with 41 aces by Isner so far and 74% of first serve in. Isner though is not as sharp as before when returning Tomic serve, which is often slow but very sliced, sliding away on the grass (a total of 15 aces for him in the rubber). We reach the same situation of the previous set, with Isner serving to stay in the set. This time though he delivers 3 aces in the first three points and then holds serve taking Tomic to a dramatic tie-break which could mean the rubber and tie.

Tomic starts with an ace, followed by a cross court forehand winner to take a 2-0 lead. On 3-1 Isner breaks back: it’s the decisive momentum swing, which the American consolidates with ace n. 48 and a winning serve. In the only real rally of the tie-break a funky bounce makes Tomic losing his rhythm and committing an unforced error, which gives USA the break 4-5. Isner serves an ace but the net machine calls a let … a replica of the previous serve, which Tomic can just touch but cannot control, takes the USA to 6-4: it’s tie point. And guess what? Isner closes it with an ace (n.49), for a final 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 in 2:15 and 3-1 USA.

Isner has been absolutely impressive on serve with 49 aces, 76% of first serve, but the key has been the percentage of points won on second serve: 68% for Isner, only 56% for Tomic, who  was never able to put pressure on the American when returning, apart from the 12th game of the third set, and showed lack of energy, mobility and fighting spirit for at least 2 sets and a half. “After the last couple of years it has been massive for us” comments Jim Courier at the press conference “It was a tough match on paper and on the court“.

From Melbourne, Robbie Cappuccio


Could Regional Groups Boost Davis Cup’s Appeal?

Home-and-away ties are charming, but may be complicated and expensive. Round-robin groups are efficient, but may lack atmosphere. A possible solution for Davis Cup to have the cake and eat it, too



The Australian Open ended barely a week ago and tennis has celebrated another milestone of its ever-grueling calendar. The past weekend saw Davis Cup select the 16 teams for the final stage of the competition through the Qualifiers that took place across continents and time zones.

We gave an account of the results of these 12 ties, some of which ended in a nailbiter, over the course of the past few days. Here, however, we want to stress once again how this highly criticized event, profoundly changed in its formula by the “Kosmos revolution”, still manages to generate unique emotions in its actors despite the lack of some components that had accompanied its history for over a century.

The tears of Nicolas Massu, captain of the Chilean national team, after the victory of the decisive match by Alejandro Tabilo over Peruvian Ignacio Buse summarise what Davis Cup means in that country, in which there are entire areas devastated by fires and whose populations were mentioned by the former Olympic gold medalist: “This victory is for those who are going through a difficult time – said Massu in front of the packed stands of the Estadio Nacional in Santiago even though it was already past midnight – in the hope that it can bring them at least a little happiness.”

The tie between Chile and Peru, won 3-2 by the hosts, reminded everyone, in case it was needed, of the charm of the “home and away” component of the Davis Cup, that is when one of the teams hosts the opponent on their own turf. But he wasn’t the only one: the tie decided in the third set tie-break in the deciding singles between Argentina and Kazakhstan, played on clay in Rosario, in which Sebastian Baez angrily snatched the last four points against Dmitry Popko, as the light was fading in the Argentine summer evening, provided a moment of great emotional intensity.

And it is worth noting that nothing has been taken away from the drama of these matches by the distance of the two sets out of three of all the matches: the “best of five” would have lengthened the matches and made some of these clashes as epic as perhaps impossible to follow by a television audience that cannot have entire days available (and it would have been three days instead of two) to follow Davis Cup matches.

This year the ITF has granted greater flexibility on the scheduling of matches: when this new formula debuted, the “home and away” ties had to be played on Friday and Saturday, to leave Sunday as a travel day for players who had to reach the venue of the next tournament. However, we have now seen different variations, with some host countries deciding to play on Saturday and Sunday to maximize the attendance of the crowd. The match between Ukraine and the USA even took place on Thursday and Friday in Vilnius, Lithuania, to facilitate the return of American players to Dallas, home of the next ATP tournament.

This Davis Cup formula is not perfect, this has been clear for quite some time. And the ITF, now back in control of the event after the failure of the Kosmos experiment, is going ahead in a succession of trials and errors trying to fit a round peg in a square hole, or rather safeguarding what good things the old Davis Cup formula still had by mixing them with the new element of the round-robin groups which significantly simplifies players’ lives, makes the competition logistically more predictable and, most importantly, limits the total cost of the competition.

The solution with the four groups in September and the knockout finals in November seems promising, but there are still too many matches played in front of half-empty arenas populated by only a few hundred fans. The groupings in a single venue, if on the one hand allow for more efficient logistical planning and limit unexpected changes of surface for the players, on the other hand in some cases remove the crowd factor which has very often been the essence of historic Davis Cup matches. One of the pillars of Kosmos’ vision, the ”World Cup of Tennis”, immediately proved to be an unattainable chimera, and that’s where Kosmos’ entire business plan started to crumble. Expecting tennis to have a sufficient number of fans willing to travel across the world to follow their national team, and do so every year, has proven to be completely unrealistic.

It is necessary to find corrective measures to bring the atmosphere of “home and away” ties to the arenas of round-robin groups. And one of these corrective measures could be to group the teams taking into consideration some geographic criteria. Up to this moment all the round-robin groups of the “new Davis Cup” have been played in Europe: many of the top players are European, most of the teams competing are European, and therefore it was a quite logical consequence. But if we look at the list of the 16 teams qualified for the September 2024 groups, we will notice that there are five teams from the American continent: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile and the USA.

If it were possible to organize a grouping with four of these national teams in North America, Davis Cup would benefit immensely: a week-long event in a large arena in Canada or the USA, in a city with a strong immigrant component in which each of the South American national teams could count on a base of “local” fans, with the strong historical rivalries of these national teams (for example Canada vs USA, Argentina vs Brazil, Argentina vs Chile just to name a few) creating an incandescent atmosphere in the stands.

American players should not travel to Europe after the US Open and before the Asian swing, at that time NBA basketball and NHL hockey have not yet started, so it should not be difficult to find the availability of one of the iconic arenas in the United States or Canada. Furthermore, in this way, television broadcasters would also benefit as they would have some matches staggered by time zone instead of having four events almost all at the same time in Europe. Not to mention that American broadcasters would be able to show the ties of their own teams at more comfortable times, rather than early in the morning.

If we think about it, even American professional leagues such as the NBA and the NHL have created “divisions”, sub-groupings that require some teams to face each other more often than others, which not only limits the travel days in the very busy calendars of professional leagues but they are also designed to fuel historic rivalries in order to create an ever-increasing number of matches that can ignite the interest of fans.

The Davis Cup needs to find a similar mechanism to ensure that fewer and fewer aseptic matches are played in the echoing void of a deserted arena. In a few weeks the draw will decide the four September groups, when at least two of the three venues seem more or less safe (Bologna, Valencia and probably one in the United Kingdom). Last year the fourth venue for the September groups was Split, in Croatia, but this year Croatia will not take part in the Final stage after the defeat at home against Belgium last weekend. It will be unlikely that the ballot box will deliver an “entirely American group, but for the Davis Cup and for tennis it would be a godsend. Let’s hope the ITF can spot this enormous opportunity and acts accordingly.

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Novak Djokovic Refuses To Blame Fatigue For Davis Cup Defeat



Novak Djokovic at the 2023 Davis Cup Finals in Malaga (photo by Marta Magni)

Novak Djokovic says his defeat in the Davis Cup on Saturday was a ‘huge disappointment’ but he isn’t taking any credit away from the performance of his opponents. 

The 24-time major winner was on the verge of taking Serbia into the final of the competition. Taking to the court after Miomir Kecmanović beat Lorenzo Musetti, Djokovic knew that beating Jannik Sinner would secure his team an unassabile lead. Against the world No.4, he had a 5-4 lead in the deciding set with three consecutive match points at his disposal. However, Djokovic was unable to convert any of them and ended up losing 6-2, 2-6, 7-5. 

Then in the deciding doubles match, Djokovic and Kecmanovic lost 6-3, 6-4, to Sinner and Musetti. Resulting in Italy progressing to their first title tie in the competition since 1998. 

“Congratulations to Italy for qualifying for the finals,” Djokovic said afterward. “They deserved it. They played really well, particularly Jannik, in singles against me and then doubles, as well. He barely missed a ball the entire match.
“For me personally it’s a huge disappointment, because I take the responsibility, obviously having three match points, being so close to winning it. It’s unfortunate really. This is sport. When you lose for your country, the bitter feeling is even greater.”

It is only the fourth time in Djokovic’s career that he has suffered a loss after having match point opportunities. It is also the first time in his career he has been beaten by the same player (Sinner) multiple times in the Davis Cup. 

The defeat is a bitter end to what has been a highly successful season for Djokovic who has won three out of the four Grand Slam events held in 2023. Last week he beat Sinner to win his 98th Tour title at the ATP Finals in Turin. To put that tally into context, only Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors have won more ATP trophies than him. 

When asked if end-of-season fatigue played a role in his latest performance, Djokovic refused to find excuses. Coming into this weekend, he had won 21 consecutive matches in the Davis Cup. 

“I don’t want to talk about it because it’s going to sound like an excuse,” he said. 
“Obviously this is a tough one to swallow. I was really trying to hype myself and encourage myself for this week. 
“Throughout the entire season, my thoughts were this week with my Davis Cup team. I tried to contribute. I did in the first tie, but it wasn’t meant to be.”

As Djokovic begins his off-season, Italy will face Australia for the Davis Cup title on Sunday. It will be the first meeting between the two countries in the event since 1993. If Italy wins, it will be only the second time they have claimed the trophy after 1976. 

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Novak Djokovic At Odds With British Captain Smith Over Behaviour Of Davis Cup Crowd



Novak Djokovic practicing at the 2023 Davis Cup finals (photo by Marta Magni)

Novak Djokovic’s comment that it is normal for fans to ‘step over the line’ during Davis Cup ties has been disputed by British team captain Leon Smith who argues that the highly animated atmosphere is a positive. 

The world No.1 clashed with a group of British fans during his country’s quarter-finals win. Just moments after beating Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4, to seal an unassailable 2-0 lead for Serbia, Djokovic was frustrated with fans during his on-court interview. Whilst speaking, he had to contend with a group of fans deliberately beating their drums.

 “Learn how to respect players, learn how to behave yourself,” the 24-time Grand Slam winner responded to those drumming before adding, “No, you shut up, you be quiet”.

During the match, Djokovic also expressed his displeasure with some of the crowd by cupping his ear and blowing kisses after winning the first set. The tie featured an estimated 5000 British fans in attendance at the event which is being staged in Malaga, Spain. 

Speaking during his press conference, Djokovic said he felt that there was ‘disrespect’ from some of those in the stands throughout his match but acknowledged that this was not unusual in the competition. Although he believes the way he reacted was justified.

“In the Davis Cup, it’s normal that sometimes fans step over the line but in the heat of the moment, you react too. You in a way show that you don’t allow this kind of behavior.” He said. 
“They (the crowd) can do whatever they want but I’m going to respond to that. That’s what happened.’
“I was trying to talk and they were purposely starting to play the drums so that I don’t talk and they were trying to annoy me the entire match.”

Reacting to the incident, British captain Smith has dismissed a suggestion that there should be a review into the policy on having drums during matches when asked if he thinks more should be done to show respect to players whilst they are playing. The former coach of Andy Murray has been in charge of his country’s team for more than a decade and oversaw their run to the title in 2015. 

“The best ones are the noisy ones. When it’s flat and dead and no one’s clapping, no music, it’s pretty boring.” Said Smith. 
“That’s one of the things that’s good about Davis Cup and the team competition that actually you’re kind of meant to make noise. And there is always, whether there is a bit that goes over, comments, I could hear a couple. I don’t think it’s that bad.”
“I would hate to see it quietening down because there’s enough quiet tennis as it is. If anything, that atmosphere is good for us.”

In the competition itself, Serbia is set to play Italy in the semi-finals where Djokovic could continue his rivalry with Jannik Sinner. The two clashed twice at last week’s ATP Finals with Sinner winning their group match before Djokovic triumphed in straight sets in the final. 

“We’re kind of developing a nice rivalry lately. I have tons of respect for him.” Djokovic said of the world No.4.
“He’s been playing arguably the tennis of his life. I saw a little bit of singles and doubles that he won. He really played on a high level. I could see that he was very pumped to play for his nation.’
“I know that he’s confident and playing some of the best tennis that we saw him ever play. But I’m not playing bad myself. So it’s going to be a great match.”

Serbia’s semi-final clash with Italy will take place on Saturday. 

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