Tuesday, May 10, 2005


(OLD) Russia winning Davis Cup 2002

Battles hard to beat for emotion and passion
December 4 2002
By Linda Pearce

For a stubborn non-subscriber to pay TV, access to the weekend's dramatic Davis Cup final was limited to a few seconds of evening news highlights, squeezed in after clattering English wickets in Perth and the latest golf bungle at Coolum. It is a pity because if there is a tennis event reliably worth watching, it is this one.

By its nature, tennis is an individual and often selfish sport,inwhich grand slam titles are generally the most coveted. Yet, for the likes of Patrick Rafter, Lleyton Hewitt and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Davis Cup success means at least as much. Certainly, if passion and emotion are the measures, it is rarely surpassed.

Consider this recent finals evidence, admittedly from an Australian perspective. In 1999 in Nice, Mark Philippoussis stunned a partisan crowd, anchoring an improbable and drought-breaking victory and ending in an all-is-forgiven embrace with his one-time enemy John Newcombe.
In 2000, before a rabid mob in Barcelona, Hewitt overcame illness in a first-day performance against Albert Costa that Newcombe described as among the best he had seen in 15 years as a player and captain - only for Australia to then crumble 3-1, souring Newcombe and Tony Roche's farewell and leaving an injured Rafter's dream unfulfilled.

Last year's long-awaited home decider was again dominated by Rafter's suspect fitness, although the enduring image from an extraordinary final day was the sight of the brave but unfortunate Wayne Arthurs sobbing beneath his towel after losing the final rubber to unexpected hero Nicolas Escude.

Considering that the 2001 final has been hailed internationally asone of four classics played in only 10 years, the strike rate is formidable, and the shame is that, despite the sensational weekend theatre played out at the Bercy stadium in Paris, the whole worldhas not caught on.
Kafelnikov packed his considerable ego off to Siberia, replaced inthe deciding singles match by young Mikhail Youzhny. The climax was better than sex, beamed Marat Safin, whose love of a blonde entourage would suggest he is well qualified to judge. Even losing captain Guy Forget proclaimed that "with this atmosphere, you can't not like the Davis Cup".

Such is the event's popularity in France, and so sought-after were the 15,000 tickets to the three-day final, that it was reported that even local soccer stars such as Thierry Henry had trouble procuring seats reserved for the likes of Boris Yeltsin and Jacques Chirac.Yet, in the country that has its name on Dwight Davis' fruitbowl a record 31 times, the event went curiously unseen. Of the 160 countries that broadcast the final, the United States was not among them.

Fortunately, insular Americans are defying the competition's resurgent trend, not representative of it. Crowds have risen significantly, as have rates of participation among the leading players. This year, the only non-participant from the top 20 was veteran Andre Agassi.

Grand slams are wonderful, elite events, punishing endurancetests. But the Davis Cup is something else, and from this perspective often something far more - including, it seems, America's loss.

Now, um, about that Foxtel subscription . . .

oh yeah, so happy for dear russky
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