Monday, July 12, 2010
A massive Serbian win propels them to their first Davis Cup semi.
Novak Djokovic has his band of merry making rackateers into the Davis Cup finals. Straight set wins over Ivan Ljubicic and Marin Cilic bounced a formidable Croatian team on its home soil (and their chosen hard court surface) in front of a shell-shocked crowd that expected much more of a fight from its own side.
Djokovic, fresh off a Wimbledon semifinal appearance, has been instrumental in his nation's success this year - he's won all four of his Davis Cup ties, and all of them have been live. Emotional wins over Querrey and Isner clinched Serbia's victory at home against the Americans in March, but this weekends clinical deconstruction of Ljubicic and Cilic, on the Croatian surface of choice, was an even more impressive feat for the 23-year-old world No. 2.
For the Serbs, it is a golden opportunity to get to the final, as they'll play the Czechs at home, and do their best to choose a surface that is suited to the dimensional game of their big horse, Novak Djokovic. The Czechs, meanwhile, won easily in Coquimbo, Chile, even without their newly anointed top-ten player Tomas Berdych or savvy Davis Cupper veteran Radek Stepanek.
Many details of the upcoming Serbia-Czech semifinal will likely remain undecided until the week before the tie, as is typically the case with Davis Cup. It's no secret that the event presents a problem for successful singles players in that it is scheduled to begin just five days after the U.S. Open final.
With Djokovic's emotional reaction to Serbia's unprecedented victory, one might wonder if the 23-year-old might be inclined to focus more on the upcoming home tie than the U.S. Open in early September.
It sounds crazy, but then again, so is Novak (and I mean that in a good way). Knowing what an amazing effect the success of the Serbian team would have on his homeland, it's probably tempting for Djokovic to want to focus on the more obtainable goal of winning two singles matches behind throngs of supporters than winning seven consecutive matches in the sometimes oppressive heat of Flushing Meadows, with the Nadal's, Federer's, and Soderling's of the world taking aim at his jugular in the later rounds.
Meanwhile, if the suddenly elite Berdych can continue on his rampage and go deep at the U.S. Open, it's probably more than likely that he'll forego the Davis Cup and instead take a well-deserved vacation after what is sure to be a long and grueling hard court season.
It's hard to imagine the Czechs having a chance against Serbia without Berdych in tow. Which is why the Davis Cup, more often than not, is a test of depth rather than starpower.
The Spaniards were the shining example of the perfect Davis Cup blueprint, and in spite of their crushing 5-0 loss at the hands of the French this weekend, they remain so.
The fact that they have been able to secure four titles in a span of ten years is a testament to just how much of a tennis world beater the Spaniards have become. And the fact that the French were able to overcome them in such dominant fashion is a testament to just how well they played this weekend. (The French are third in all-time Davis Cup titles, but haven't won since 2001.)
On a slick fast surface, against a Spanish squad that many feel was preoccupied - and rightfully so - with their countries' quest for a World Cup football title, the French executed their gameplan to perfection. Gael Monfils, who has been lambasted by French Captian Guy Forget in the press as recently as last year, came up with just enough of that "je ne sais quoi" to overcome David Ferrer in five sets.
But the big surprise was yet to come. 30-year-old Michael Llodra produced enough sparkling serves and volleys to give Fernando Verdasco fits. Then he produced some more. And some more. The Frenchman, who is now 2-1 against Verdasco (with both wins coming indoors), came back from a one set deficit and squeezed Verdasco until he just couldn't take it anymore, extending the French lead to 2-0, with a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(2) upset.
The following day, the doubles didn't provide the venerable Spanish squad with much of a reprieve. Llodra and Bennetau were forced to a fourth set by Lopez and Verdasco, but in the end they simply had too much of the good stuff for the football-crazed Spaniards to overcome.
The first win for France over Spain since 1923 came on the same day that Spain won its first-ever football World Cup. If it was a Faustian deal for Albert Costa's squad, it still had to sting that they were so thoroughly dominated by the French.
Click here for the results of all four ties.
Posted by a.k.a. Chris Oddo at 10:56 AM