Friday, September 24, 2004


Davis Cup Fever: Catch It!

Sigh. Given that I don't seem to watch ANY television anymore (hell, now that Six Feet Under and The Amazing Race are done, what's the point, really) and even if I did, I don't have ESPN, and I don't even go to anymore or ... well, let's just say that I don't have my finger on the pulse of the sports world right now.

But I can tell you without one shred of doubt that last week's Ryder Cup humiliation was far more buzzed about than this weekend's Davis Cup semifinal action, in which the US has a real chance to reach the finals in one of the most prestigious worldwide national team competition.

And I'm hearing a collective yawn from my friends who are into tennis. 90% of Americans, I can almost guarantee, have no idea what Davis Cup is.

However: it's easy to lament about the state of tennis in America ... and that pessimism only rarely leads to real change ... I've decided instead to become a cheerleader for this most beautiful of sports. So.

Hey non-tennis fans! Watching a ball go back & forth over a net may seem a bit dull to you, but tennis matches - whether singles or doubles, whether individual competitions or part of team events - are to me the essence of sport and competition. They are so physically and mentally strenuous as to be sometimes painful to watch. They combine speed, grace, power, technique, and stamina. And the amazing thing, to me, is how easy it looks and how hard it really is. No wonder the best players tend to get burned out - becoming a top player is something that HAS to consume every ounce of your being for decades. And it's impossible to perfect. And unlike some "sports" I could name, the mere idea of drinking beer and smoking cigars WHILE PLAYING is almost impossible to contemplate with tennis.

So this year, the US plays Belarus and France is fighting Spain in the annual nation vs. nation team competition in which crowds actually get into what their watching. Andy Roddick is going to have to carry the US on his back today and Sunday, and either an ailing Bryan brothers doubles team is going to have to beat one of the best doubles players in the world (Max Mirnyi) or Mardy Fish is going to have to improve on his recent play and take one of the singles rubbers. Meanwhile, the Spanish are already down a shocking point to the French - perennial top 5 player Carlos Moya dropped a very tight five-setter to young but oft-injured Paul-Henri Matheiu (whom I once saw practice shirtless ... happy birthday to me).

If you get a chance to watch any of it this weekend, I strongly suggest you take advantage of that opportunity. Who knows? You might JUST MIGHT get into it.

UPDATE: The US put on a dominating display of singles and doubles, and is now going to face Spain--in Spain, on clay--at the end of the year. It's a tremendously tall order for the clay-averse Americans, but you NEVER know in Davis Cup. I won't be surprised at all if it comes down to the final rubber. Hee hee, I said "rubber"...

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