Saturday, February 11, 2012

Gate Crashers 2012 Style

by Savannah


There was a lot of snarking about what Jim Courier, newly minted United States Davis Cup Captain, decided to wear while he prowled the sidelines. Most DC captains dress casually as if they're one of the boys to emphasize the "team" spirit thing. I guess Courier isn't about that.
He's the boss. He's in the business of tennis now and I guess that is what he's trying to project not only to the tennis world but to his players. And after the last two days who's gonna argue with the man?

The United States held onto World Group status by the skin of it's teeth. When the draw was announced and the US drew Switzerland in Switzerland many of us, myself included, prepared for the inevitable shellacking the team would endure at the hands of the top Swiss player. There was a chance the United States would win one of the singles rubbers but no way were they going to win both. There was also a chance of winning the doubles even though the US was up against the Olympic Champions. The original doubles pairing was supposed to include Ryan Harrison and Mike Bryan. Bob Bryan is back in Florida with his wife and new daughter. Instead Captain Courier subbed Mardy Fish in place of young Harrison. Genius? When you get the last laugh I guess you can be called that.

First there was Friday's play. Mardy Fish was up first against Stan Wawrinka. Fish has been streaky and temperamental on court as of late so who knew which version of Fish would show up. The version that showed up ushered Wawrinka to his seat with a 6-2 4-6 4-6 6-1 9-7 victory over the Swiss #2. You could almost hear people going "Yeah, whatever" since the next rubber would feature John Isner against a player named Roger Federer. The best the US could hope for was a 1-1 split on day one. Once again jaws dropped as Isner, in a four setter, defeated Mr. Federer 4-6 6-3 7-6(4) 6-2. At the end of play the United States was up 2-0 and the doubles match became a must win for the Swiss.

I was so unconcerned with the tie between the US and Switzerland I was out almost all day yesterday. When I got home and saw the scores I had to sit down. Had Courier found pods for his singles players? What had happened? Needless to say I went right to Twitter and found a lot of comments about the error the Swiss had made in choosing a fast indoor clay surface. The ball was bouncing high the cognoscenti were saying and the altitude coupled with the quickness of the court played into the American's hands.

I was born at night but not last night. There is no way in hell Swiss DC Captain Luthi chose that surface on his own. He got his orders and executed them. Maybe the thought process was that while I don't like clay all that much if you speed it up I'll play better and coupled with it being an indoor tie I should do well.

Some said it was the fast clay surface coupled with altitude that did the Swiss in. I was going along with that until someone pointed out that the altitude at Fribourg was about half that of the US city of Denver, known as the mile high city.

Of course the man calling the shots had played a very good indoor season at the end of 2011 so I'm sure everyone went in feeling as if they'd take this in, if not three, four rubbers.


What no one, including many of us in the States counted on was that Jim Courier brought his team in prepared to face the men across the net. They played with no fear and that in the end led to the shock on the faces of everyone on the Swiss bench. No one came in with the attitude "I can't beat this guy". Instead you saw good solid play and players that bent but didn't break. I'm guessing Mr. Courier is not a member of the GOAT club and he wasn't going to let his players continue their membership in it.

I did see the doubles today and what I saw on the court was quiet determination. There was no idol worship, no "I can't" from the American players. Yes the court played fast. Yes the ball was bouncing high. And yes, the Swiss men had no idea what to do in the face of the calm, focused play they were presented.

In the end the American's held their nerves and their serves and when the dust settled found themselves up 3-0 over the Swiss Davis Cup Team.


At the end they were breaking the Swiss seemingly at will and that was the biggest surprise of all. All the nerves, all the tension, was in the men wearing red. And that was a huge surprise.

What does this mean for the Olympics? I have no idea. It's too early in the season to start that kind of speculation. What it means right now is that Jim Courier has put his stamp on his United States Davis Cup team. It also means he can wear a business suit on the sidelines and if you've got a problem with that I'm guessing he'll meet you outside.


The French tennis federation has gone mad. That is all I'm going to say about that shit that went down on a French television station. I am not going to put up a link. I am not going to get into the why. I did that already. If that's the way they want to play, so be it.

Petra Kvitova pulled out of Paris and Doha, a Premier 5 event. I said it before and I'll say it now. She is not ready for the pressure of being a top player. That's not a bad thing in and of itself. At least she knows she's not ready.

Speaking of Paris I wonder if the WTA is going to rethink it's schedule? Don't you think it's a bit much to ask the top players to play a Slam, a Premier and a Premier 5 back to back to back? And lets not forget Fed Cup. The men have been vocal about the ridiculousness of their schedules. The women for the most part have been silent. I guess they're following the actions speak louder than words strategy. That could be a bit too subtle though.


lynney62 said...

Great write-up, Savannah! And I love the suit!

Randy Burgess said...

I saw all of USA vs SUI. Apparently the problem with the court was not that it played fast for clay, but that it was poorly made and spewing bad bounces everywhere. Somewhere I heard that Fish had commented it was the worst-made clay court he'd ever played on.

Of course bad bounces are an equal-opportunity problem, but Wawrinka and Federer seemed to have the most problems trying to cope. Both played ridiculously far back while trying to return serve - presumably trying to get a better gauge on the hop, but putting them at a big disadvantage. And you can imagine what bad bounces meant for Federer vs. Isner: Isner's atomic serve could only benefit, while Fed's timing could only be thrown off. And it was.

But it was more than that. Mentally the U.S. was stronger in every match. Federer is always prone to getting rattled at this stage of his career, and it doesn't help that Stan W. makes so many mistakes. I posted on Craig's blog that Stan W. is the Verdasco of Switzerland - an anxious sort of enthusiasm that he cannot seem to back up with solid play. Plus Mike Bryan is amazing. I think people underestimated how much of an advantage it gave the U.S. to have a real doubles player on their side. He made Fish better.