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A Bar Too High 11/20/2008 - 9:30 AM

Budge by Pete Bodo

I can't imagine a better way for getting fired up for Davis Cup than by delving into Davis Cup lore and legend, but I'm afraid that this time around the approach sort of backfired - that's because I've just finished A Terrible Splendor, the soon-to-be-published (April of 2009) book on the key match of the 1937 Davis Cup Interzone final between the United States and Germany - the winner almost surely a lock to win the Davis Cup in the Challenge Round because the holders, England, had lost their top (and by far best) player, Fred Perry.

The author of the book is Marshall Jon Fisher, a frequent contributor to the Atlantic magazine, and the title is borrowed from musings by Thomas Carlyle on the work of the great German poet, Freidrich Schiller. In my 20s, I bought a pair of handsome alabaster busts/bookends; one is a sculpture of Johann Wofgang von Goethe and the other is Schiller. While I read Goethe copiously, I never became enamored of Schiller. Maybe I should re-think that. After all, I've kept those busts, all these years.

Anyway, the book will be published by Crown, and it was edited by Rick Horgan, who also edited my recent collaboration with Pete Sampras (A Champion's Mind). Rick sent me an advance copy of A Terrible Splendor in galley form, and I just finished it the other day. It's an extraordinary work and we plan to excerpt it in Tennis magazine. We'll also be focusing on it more closely here at TW as the publication date approaches; I'll try to get Fisher to come around and drop a post, or perhaps do a Q and A session. One thing I can say for sure is that many, many of you are going to devour this book because it not only brings to life a fascinating - and harrowing - period in history, it does so without ever wandering from the original mission - doing justice to a specific match, two extraordinary tennis players, and the game of the time in general.

Some of you may already know that the epic confrontation matched J. Donald Budge, a callow, 22-year old redhead and son of an Oakland, Ca., truck driver, against a dashing German aristocrat, baron Gottfried von Cramm. The pride of Germany was not merely, as y'all would say, hott (Barbara Hutton, a wildly famous heiress and great beauty, had a lifelong crush on him; they were even briefly marrried although von Cramm always preferred the company of men).

Von Cramm was also held in highest esteem by fans and rivals for his gentlemanly conduct, legendary sportsmanship, and elegant, powerful game. It often struck me reading the book that Roger Federer is the present-day heir to the von Cramm legacy - although von Cramm he never did win Wimbledon (for reasons that don't matter here).

Hutton In any event, that critical fifth rubber ultimately was hailed and often referred to as "the greatest tennis match ever played", and for a variety of reasons, starting with the level of play. But there was also this little matter of the telephone call von Cramm allegedly  received from Adolph Hitler just as the players were ready to take Wimbledon's Centre Court on that fateful July day (Wimbledon hosted the Interzone final under the system in place at the time). But don't jump to conclusions: it was widely known that von Cramm loathed the Nazi regime and its machinations, a fact that only made the anecdote more potent, and portentious.

The world was on the brink of World War II at the time, yet the official flag of the Third Reich - red and white, with a black with a swastika at the center - flew above Centre Court, along with the stars and stripes (and, I presume, the Union Jack). There was, in fact, a great deal of admiration among upper-crust Brits for the Nazi cause and leadership, just as there would be a few decades later for the Soviet Communist overlords after the Berlin wall went up and the world drifted into the Cold War (the name Kim Philby ought to ring a bell). I mention these elements because they provide a hint of the context brought to life (with seemingly unflagging accuracy and impeccable research) in A Terrible Splendor, and because they help illuminate the task that lay before chocolate milk-shake and jazz loving, borderline goofy-looking Don Budge.

Like many of you, I'd heard bits and pieces about the match as well as the context in which it was played, but one of the first things that struck me as I read the book was that I really didn't know very much about that match, never fully grasped the significance of the context, or recognized the pressure upon the principals - von Cramm, as an unwilling but de facto representative of Aryan supremacy, Budge as the green kid dispatched to the job of a grizzled veteran. Greatest match of all time? I shrugged; to each his own, right?  But in my own mind I got hung up on the fact that it wasn't even a Davis Cup final, and that von Cramm's resume doesn't exactly put him in the company of Budge (who soon would record the first tennis Grand Slam), Bill Tilden, Rene LaCoste, Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer. . .

Now I'm thinking that I really missed something all these years, and while we saw a pretty good little match at Wimbledon last July, there's plenty of room for discussion on this "greatest" subject - and resolution isn't even necessary.

Anyway, this book will blow many readers away, although it left me kind of bummed out contemplating the Davis Cup final coming up this weekend. There's no point extolling one generation at the expense of another; times change sufficiently to make generational comparisons an exercise best begun and ended on a couple of barstools. But there's also no doubt that despite the enormous advances of the Open era, tennis in general and Davis Cup in particular no longer rouse passions and excite curiosity the way they once did. It's counter-intuitive, but the more I read about some of the towering players and events of the past, the more it seems that the tennis players were stars of a greater magnitude. Open era be danged - the real heyday of tennis players as rock stars may have been in that era framed by the careers of Bill Tilden and Jack Kramer.

If that's true, it may be less a comment on some theoretical decline in the prestige of the game than on changing times. The world was simpler then, with a limited radar screen of public interest, and a much smaller pool of those exceptional individuals (like Babe Ruth, or the horse, Seabiscuit) capable of transcending their sport to grip the imagination of a worldwide audience.

I can think of a number of Davis Cup ties, featuring the likes of John McEnroe, Stan Smith, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander, Ilie Nastase, Andre Agassi that, if played in a context comparable to Budge-von Cramm, might have loomed far more significant, and attained a comparable resonance. But what are you going to do, set the world on fire to help a Davis Cup match transcend its most immediate and obvious context? By the same token, the Budge-von Cramm match might  be an obscure and largely forgotten clash today, had it not also been fought out agains so dramatic a geo-political backdrop. One thing, though, is for sure - the match was played at an extraordinarily high level, on wickedly tense and evenly-matched terms.

I don't know if Spain vs. Argentina this weekend will produce anything like the drama of that 1937 USA vs. Germany clash, even as a mere tennis spectacle; Rafael Nadal's withdrawal seems to have put the kaibosh on that. The fact that Argentina is vying to shed its reputation as the best nation never to win the Cup still gives the crippled event a measure of specific gravity, but it also hurts this final that none of the players involved is a transcendent international star on the order of Nadal, Federer, or many of the men mentioned above. I may be underestimating the degree of enthusiasm for this tie, sitting on the sidelines here in New York, but I don't get a strong sense that there are a lot of sweaty palms anywhere beyond the outlying suburbs of Buenos Aires, and I personally don't feel that cool breeze that heralds the gathering of a massive storm as this tie approaches. Perhaps our friends in Argentina or Spain can correct this misconception, if that's what it is.

Granola The upcoming tie seems flat, at first glance, and it's partly because of the curious decision to insert Marcels Granollers into the line-up - although I'll be the first to admit that this puzzling move might represent a degree of craftiness in Emilio Sanchez that we're more inclined to expect coming from the puppeteer of the Russian squad, Shamil Tarpischev. That Sanchez had to go so deep into the Spanish depth chart to pluck out his replacement for Nadal was, and remains, a mystery (perhaps MarieJ can help us out?).

Given the extraordinary degree of pride the Spanish take in their international athletic exploits, I would have thought that guys like Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro, Juan Carlos Ferrero, even Carlos Moya would have been furiously lobbying Sanchez for Nadal's spot. Call me crazy, but this was an ideal opportunity for Moya to rally his inspiration - and a big game nicely suited to a fast indoor hard court - and end his career in a blaze of glory.

After all, Moya consistently tacked up some fine results on hard courts, including appearances in the final of the Australian Open and, more significantly, the year-end ATP Tour championships in Hanover Germany in 1998 (on a fast indoor carpet). He's a salty veteran carrying something that never entirely vanishes  - the aura left by his status as a former no. 1 and Grand Slam event winner. I wouldn't discount the psychic value of that, especially in light of Argentina's position: the pressure on Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro will be off-the-charts insane in the final - which is about the best face you can put on Nadal's inability to compete. And while Moya was in his prime a full decade ago, he's periodically caught fire in the late stages of his career. In three of  his last four tournaments of 2008, he was a quarterfinalist - or better.

The real question bubbling up here is whether Granollers - just the 10th best player in Spain - was picked because nobody with better credentials or greater experience volunteered his service (this would be astonishing, and a sad comment on the state of Davis Cup, given the stakes). What we know for sure is that this will be Granollers first Davis Cup tie; if he's selected to play singles, he'll be thrown into the deep end like nobody since Pete Sampras made his debut for the U.S. in the final against France in Lyon, in 1991 (Sampras "froze up" [his words] like a deer in the headlights in that tie, losing both his singles matches). Could it be that Nadal's withdrawal has so demoralized the Spanish side that Granollers is the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a Hail Mary pass?

I guess we'll know more after seeing what level of fire - and firepower - the Spanish bring to the arena on Friday. I hope, for the sake of the Davis Cup, that Sanchez is playing mind games with his opponents, or taking a calculated risk that will become manifest as the tie unfolds, instead of desperately gambling that a boy can do a man's job, knowing that Nadal's absence has already provided the squad with an airtight rationalization for a loss.

I hope, for the sake of Davis Cup, that the Spanish rise to the occasion. They don't have to come up with Budge vs. von Cramm, July of 1937 - that bar is set way too high, and unlikely to be vaulted any time soon. In some ways, we're all better off if it stays that way.

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Posted by mina 11/20/2008 at 09:32 AM


Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 09:43 AM

Think Sanchez will choose Verdasco or Lopez today and Granollers will be able to experience Davis Cup as a spectator. However, if the tie is over on Saturday, Marcel may be asked to play a "dead" rubber.

Posted by mina 11/20/2008 at 09:47 AM

"I hope, for the sake of Davis Cup, that the Spanish rise to the occasion. "

same here... fervently hoping thst they don't just roll over and hand the Argies the cup, cos of the "airtight rationalization" Pete mentioned... loss of the leader doesn't have to mean certain death, at least i hope not...

how great would it be should the Armada make this a tightly fought final? Armada, this is where heart comes in, just when the chips are stacked against you... Vamos!

Posted by mina 11/20/2008 at 09:51 AM

"I hope, for the sake of Davis Cup, that the Spanish rise to the occasion. "

same here... fervently hoping that they don't just roll over and hand the Argies the cup, "airtight rationalization" and all that... loss of the leader doesn't have to mean certain death, at least i hope not...

how great would it be should the Armada make this a tightly fought final? Armada, this is where heart comes in, just when the chips are stacked against you... Vamos!

Posted by mina 11/20/2008 at 09:51 AM

ick... sorry for the double typepad has gone loco on me today...

Posted by jb (imissmykeyboard!) 11/20/2008 at 09:59 AM

That's true Master Ace, perhaps the spanish captain is trying to get granollers some experience? But he's not that much younger than the 'other spaniards, is he? (Certainly not rafa)

Pete - I for one raise my hand as being excited about Davis cup this weekend. But then again, I'm a bit of a tennis sl-t, and i really like many of the players taking to the court. (And of course, two of my headcase stable are taking the court! Vamos!)

The book on this match btween budge / von cramm sound fascinating, nice mix of history and tennis (2 of my fav things, really.) I'll be looking forward to it coming out.

>"The world was simpler then, with a limited radar screen of public interest, and a much smaller pool of those exceptional individuals (like Babe Ruth, or the horse, Seabiscuit) capable of transcending their sport to grip the imagination of a worldwide audience.."

This I think is key in the explaination of tennis's place in the sporting world, on tv etc. There's so much competition for people's attention. there's a tv station or stream for almost everything out there. (and much as we complain, we actually do pretty well grabbing misc streams from all over the world to watch tennis.)

crap - late for a meeting.

Posted by Rosangel 11/20/2008 at 10:00 AM

I also expect that Lopez or Verdasco will play tomorrow. If I had to bet, I'd say it would be Lopez. If he manages to have a big-serving day on a fast court, he could pull something off.

By the way, JC Ferrero has the best record of any of the top Spanish players against David Nalbandian, at 3-3, and all of his wins have been on HCs, including at the AO earlier this year. It would have been very fitting for him to become Spain's hero this weekend, after being bumped off the squad in favour of a young Nadal the last time Spain played a DC final.

Posted by Violetta 11/20/2008 at 10:00 AM

DC draw for anyone who wants to watch it:

Posted by mina 11/20/2008 at 10:08 AM

thanks violetta

Posted by Carrie 11/20/2008 at 10:21 AM

I amy be wrong- but I think the tie is a pretty big deal in all of Argentina- and not just in the country's biggest city and its suburbs. Nike even made a special commercial for Argentina with JMDP thanking Argentina for its support.

That's one thing I love about the Davis Cup- while some/most of the world may be going "meh" it can still be very, very important to other countries.

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 10:23 AM

good morning good people. i logged on to read Master Ace's article (when are you posting this sir). I am anxious to read your decision.
I too have been wondering why moya wasn't tapped. had totally forgotten about Ferrero in fact. Dont know what sanchezv is thinking and find it near impossible to believe he was unable to get any of these other fine players aforementioned.
would love to watch the matches but must find a stream first.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/20/2008 at 10:32 AM

6-8, 5-7, 6-4,6-2, 8-6

It seems like coming back from 2 sets down is a fine DC tradition dating back more than 70 years.

Do you think, maybe, that the Budge-von Cramm match only seems momentous in retrospect? That it only seems significant when framed by what followed?

Posted by Vanessa 11/20/2008 at 10:33 AM

It's David vs David first tomorrow
then JMDP vs Feliciano Lopez

I got away from one of my meetings only to see MA has not posted his much awaited answer ; )

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 10:34 AM

Oh my god, I want that book! I loved the six page article in SI on the subject and I think I would enjoy reading about it if it was a fictional match with fictional characters. The fact that it actually happened and these people existed in this world makes it all the more awesome.

Posted by Vanessa 11/20/2008 at 10:34 AM

Acasuso/Calleri vs Verdasco/Lopez

Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 10:35 AM

Thanks for listing the Davis Cup matches.

Correct as usual on Lopez.

Posted by Pete 11/20/2008 at 10:36 AM

Ptenisnet - I might go for that, but the description of the public interest in the match, the backstory, and the quality of the match (it left the spectators dazed in a Federer-Nadal kind of way) all make me want to reiterate that the context, while remarkable, was not the key element here. I think memory of the match might have faded, given that it wasn't, say, a Grand Slam or even Davis Cup final. . .

Posted by Vanessa 11/20/2008 at 10:37 AM

You're welcome Master Ace
Do I get your answer in return? (had to ask, lol)

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 10:38 AM

Sher: that's why i'm a history fanatic and never bother with fiction. the real stuff is plenty wonderful and exciting.
I must find a stream for David vs. David tomorrow. help! anybody?

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 10:38 AM

Here's the original article I read:

"Baron Of The Court"

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 10:40 AM

Pete: Is there any film footage of this match? Available on video?

Posted by ptenisnet 11/20/2008 at 10:42 AM

Got it. Thanks.

Posted by Pete 11/20/2008 at 10:43 AM

Good question, Annie, and I'm afraid I can't answer it. . . gotta run now, back later!

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 10:44 AM

I'm picturing the reich flag and the stars and stripes over the court. ooooohhh so good vs. evil. i love it! swastikas
will forever give me the creeps.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/20/2008 at 10:48 AM

Thanks. This is a very instructive article.

Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 10:50 AM

The Roger/Rafael answer will be in today's Your Call. Good choice by Sanchez choosing Lopez. Will explain more later.

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 10:51 AM

Master Ace: (sound of fingers tapping)

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 10:56 AM

okay thanks MA. will wait for YC

Posted by naughty T, gone fishing 11/20/2008 at 10:58 AM

That sounds like a cracking read. Thanks for the heads up Pete.

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/20/2008 at 10:58 AM

interesting about the new book. I'd like to read that. Thanks very much for bringing it to our attention. A few things to add ,if I may? It wasn't only the British who were much impressed by Hitler in the '30's. There is plenty of evidence that significant segments of the population in the U.S. also thought that he was doing a good job.

While(as you seem to believe) this DC final may be just ho- hum to people in the U.S.,Pete,it is absolutely HUGE in Argentina. After Nadal's withdrawal much less so in Spain. This is also because a win by the Argentines is something that a lot of Spanish don't mind at all. Sort of "Oh well,if not ourselves then at least one of the other Spanish speaking nations..."

There are other instances of young untried players playing the deciding singles match in DC - notably JC Ferrero in 2000 and Rafael Nadal at 18 in 2004. I doubt that Granollers is going to emulate JCF or RN but he isn't the only rookie who has ever been thrown to the lions.

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 11:03 AM

"he isn't the only rookie who has ever been thrown to the lions"
good one GV!

Posted by tina 11/20/2008 at 11:18 AM

Sher: thanks for that link.

I am a WWII buff and was literally watching the Ken Burns documentary when I came on here.

Maybe someone in Britain can clarify something for me: I remember learning years ago that Fred Perry was known as a Nazi sympathizer, and that explained why so many British skinheads have worn the Fred Perry label. This might very well be completely off-base - when I say "years ago", I mean decades, really. This is something someone brought to my attention probably in 1980, and I never ascertained whether or not it had any basis in fact.

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 11:20 AM

GV yes I am a Nadalnik who also loves Roger. Brilliance is brilliance and these two bring an extra something to the court that i don't find in other players, for instance, JMDP yawn.

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 11:22 AM

tina I have heard that about perry too.

Posted by harini 11/20/2008 at 11:23 AM

Cannot wait to read this book now, Pete. Thanks for the preview!

I hope we get a good DC final. I personally think the Spanish will bring out their best. In my thinking, they've got to play their best whether or not Rafa's on the team. I mean, they're playing for their country, you'd assume they go into it to play their best.

That said, they better show up with their best quality tennis!

Posted by Gabriela Valentina 11/20/2008 at 11:30 AM

ANNIE? still here? drop by the other thread where we are all letting our hair down...

Posted by tina 11/20/2008 at 11:38 AM

Croatia defeating the US on American soil was a pretty stirring first-round tie, though mind you, it was played in a part of the US known as little Croatia. But perhaps that year France won the Cup - 92? - goes down as my most emotional.

I'm hoping the Spaniards, with their backs to the wall, will come up with something surprising. Nobody wants a 3-0 DC final with 2 dead rubbers on the Sunday.

Posted by Ruth 11/20/2008 at 11:47 AM

I have to say that during this year's Olympics, I thought about that great, old SI article on von Cramm (that Sher cited)when Gonzalez claimed not to know that his racket had knicked the ball in his match with Blake. During a doubles DC match, von Cramm, by insisting that his racket had touched the ball before his doubles partner returned the ball for the winning match point, caused Germany to lose the crucial doubles match. (They later lost the tie.)

What is interesting is that von Cramm thought that his action in that doubles match was appropriate because he had touched the ball whereas, after a singles match on a different occasion, he chastised the young Don Budge for deliberately doublefaulting to give a point to his opponent who had lost a point after his (the opponent's) ball was incorrectly called out.

According to von Cramm, Budge should not have embarrassed the linesman in front of 15,000 spectators. Yet, von Cramm felt so strongly about admitting to what HE had done (even if the umpire had missed it), that he did not consider it wrong to insist that his matchpoint be overruled by the umpire.

take note, Henin, Gonzalez et al!!!!

Posted by jb (imissmykeyboard!) 11/20/2008 at 12:01 PM

Sher - thanks for the link to the si article. I think I heart the baron.. :)

now i REALLY can't wait for the book!

Posted by Jenny Q 11/20/2008 at 12:04 PM

About the Spanish Declination: I do not know exactly what it stands for, but according to a Spanish insider, the reason Robredo, Almagro, Ferrero, and Moya all flatly refused to play is that Sanchez said "No 'BJs' during Davis Cup." So Granollers said, "I'll take the hit."
Now that's team spirit. Long live DC, with or without BJs (whatever that means)!

Posted by tina 11/20/2008 at 12:20 PM

Well, Jenny Q, that's hilarious - guess Hott Sauce and Ivanovic will have to occupy themselves some other way.

Posted by harini 11/20/2008 at 12:42 PM

Just read that SI article, Sher. Thanks for posting, it was a great read.
Am looking forward even more for the book now.

Posted by jb (imissmykeyboard!) 11/20/2008 at 01:05 PM

I dunno - I think the Spanish team is going to come out all guns firing. Ferru played his heart out against the US, and prevailed. Florence has a hail of a game on hard courts, he could be trouble, as could hott sauce, should he be able to NOT go all melty midmatch.

I'm completely looking forward to it.

Posted by Todd and in Charge 11/20/2008 at 01:10 PM

Wow, what a post!! Thanks for the heads-up on this book, I'm a WWII buff so the intersection of tennis and pre-war Europe seems amazingly fascinating.

What can I say, I'm also a sucker for Davis Cup so I'm looking forward to it, whether or not it carries the same import as some other earlier matches.

Posted by april 11/20/2008 at 01:28 PM

robredo refused cause he thinks that he is not in shape to play(and he is on vacations). come on!!!!!it`s a dc final, if you want to play anything matters. the unoficcial verssion is that he has not a good relation with the rest of the team.
ferrero also refused, also on vacations.
moya, did not play the last series.

i read this in spanish newspapers.

Posted by C Note 11/20/2008 at 01:30 PM

Disco probably didn't want to be there because it's all awkward now with Hot Sauce dating Ana. Poor Tommy. The rejection, it still stings.

Posted by Annie 11/20/2008 at 01:31 PM

Rafa is SI's sportsman of the year?? that's fantastic!

Posted by crazyone 11/20/2008 at 01:32 PM

Nalbandian looks so different.

The difference in the expression on his face and that of Ferrer's is just hilarious.

I still think this Davis Cup final is shaping up to be more exciting than last year's (and would have been mind-blowingly so had Nadal been present), and certainly the Argentine public cares more about the Copa Davis than the American public...too bad the Argentine Tennis federation seems to have made a hash job with the pricing of the tickets.

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 01:35 PM

Annie, I love history myself, so I really look forward to this book.

Posted by announce 11/20/2008 at 01:35 PM

It was just released that Larry Stefanki will be Andy Roddick\\\'s new coach.

Posted by Arun 11/20/2008 at 01:35 PM

Didn't know that Disco Tommy had a futile romantic episode with AI!

Posted by 11/20/2008 at 01:39 PM

Annie, I think Weirtheim only _nominated_ him, just like he has nominated Federer for the past couple of years. It would be amazing if a tennis player won SI's sportsman of the year award, but I think it would be very much a shock. But many other athletes were nominated as well, I believe.

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 01:39 PM

that's me above @ 1.39

Posted by linex 11/20/2008 at 01:46 PM

I guess the Davis Cup today is very but very big in the whole Argentina and in Spain. And it doesn´t matter who plays the top ranked players playing are more than an attraction for these people, and for Agentina the only thing that matters is winning.

Only for the rest of the world it could be important that Roger or Rafa were participating. And still I think that it will be compelling for the rest of the tennis world, because everybody knows how much it means for Argentina.

Posted by Carrie 11/20/2008 at 01:47 PM

C1- hee hee. That pic doesn't even look like Ferru. He looks so resigned- but he always gives Nalby a good fight so I think he may see shades of Ferru 2007 and not 2008 in his match against Nalby. (Which would be a good thing for fans of the Spanish team.)

Posted by greenhopper 11/20/2008 at 01:48 PM

C Note -- what rejection ? do tell more.

Posted by crazyone 11/20/2008 at 01:50 PM

linex: sitting here in the USA, i agree with you completely.

Posted by C Note 11/20/2008 at 01:51 PM

Disco went after Baby E at the 07 USO. Sat in her box with her mom and everything. Nothing ever panned out afterwards though.

Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 01:54 PM

C Note,
What is this news that Ana is not at Mar del Plata? Heard that she was in Belgrade.

Posted by Vanessa 11/20/2008 at 01:54 PM

Paging Master Ace ~
On a quick lunch break before resuming my meetings
We're still impatiently awaiting your post :(

Posted by C Note 11/20/2008 at 01:56 PM

Yeah, Kiki posted another Spanish article on my site last night that said she wasn't going to be in Mar del Plata. She was in Belgrade last night for the Serbia/Bulgaria soccer match. And now, with FeLo being tapped for singles over Tabasco, maybe she's staying home? I don't know.

Or, maybe her Grandma's chicken soup really is THAT good.

All this is to say, we're right back where we started. No clue whether she'll show up or not.

Posted by Slice-n-Dice 11/20/2008 at 02:01 PM

Interesting effort, Pete. I look forward to the book's excerpts on, and I appreciate your take on the Davis Cup final that is before us.

I agree with Rosangel, though, that Juan Carlos Ferrero would have been a great choice to carry the flag for Spain into Argentina. He's got a decent hard-court record, has even taken out compatriot Nadal on the surface, and as a former World #1 would inject some excitement and raise expectations.

That said, I do think that Feliciano Lopez might just be up for an upset if his serve is firing on all cylinders.

Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 02:06 PM

We must await today Your Call or Jackie's Deuce Club whichever comes first.

Posted by skip1515 11/20/2008 at 02:19 PM

Two swings of the bat, two hits out of the park with this and A Ragged Federalism, Pete.

I cannot remember when I first heard about the Von Cramm/Budge match, but I know it was told to me as The Greatest Ever then, both because of the tennis and the setting. It's interesting to realize how post-event history can affect how we view episodes like this; had WWII percolated but never come to a boil, never exploded into full blown warfare, would we see this match in the same light?

Some part of the appreciation for Von Cramm's admirable code of honor comes from his having been an amateur. When you play only for glory, and you disdain a winning advantage your code of behavior prohibits, you have truly put your code above *any* rewards in the temporal world. I mean no disrespect towards today's pros who behave honorably, but the fact is that when they walk off the court as the loser they still walk off with a paycheck. It's not their fault, but that's very different than the consequences in the story about Von Cramm's doubles match that Ruth recounted above.

Besides all that, there's nothing like Davis Cup.

Posted by Orpheo 11/20/2008 at 02:23 PM

If anyone can tell me..Who was J Adams Davis?? after which the Davis cup is named?? we seem to have a lot of history and lore in some of petes posts but i havent yet found what this guy did.

Posted by Black Matt 11/20/2008 at 02:27 PM

Wow, Larry Stefanki is Roddick's coach? I don't even know what to think about that...I was not expecting it. I didn't even know Stefanki had left Gonzalez.

All I really know about his coaching career is he is credited with sort of calming Gonzo down, tempering his go-for-broke style. I hope that's not all he can do, because frankly, I think Andy needs to go for broke more often.

Would love to see Bodo's or Tignor's analysis of this, though I kind of don't see anybody making much of it. Certainly not like a Federer coaching change.

Posted by linex 11/20/2008 at 02:27 PM

As much as I like Nalbandian´s tennis and on court intelligence, I cannot understand him sometimes. Why on earth not answering a question in English if you usually speak fine English ... and have provided a series of speeches in Spanish after winning matches or tournaments ...

It seems that today he refused to answer a question in English when an English speaking reporter asked him to respond in English and asked for a translator, in the end at the request of the Argentine Tennis Federation Press chief, he provided a brief answer in English.

From La Nación newspaper:
"Un Rey con pocas pulgas. La última pregunta fue de un periodista de lengua inglesa. Pidió, al igual que hizo con Sánchez Vicario, si Nalbandian podía responder en inglés. El cordobés, de mala gana, se negó y pidió “que haya un traductor”. Con la insistencia del jefe de prensa de la AAT, sólo se limitó a contestar: “It will be a tough match.” (”será una serie dura”"

Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 02:27 PM

Davis Cup Preview for Friday:

David Ferrer vs David Nalbandian : Ferrer 2008 has not been good since he won Valcenia. His hard court record since Wimbledon is 5-8. He did win a tough 5 set match against Andy Roddick in their previous Davis Cup tie in September.
Nalbandian has been playing well since the United States Open having a title in Stockholm, 3rd round finish at Madrid(Del Potro), and finalist appearances in Basel(Federer) and Bercy(Tsonga).

Prediction: Nalbandian in straight sets

Feliciano Lopez vs Juan Martin Del Potro : Feliciano's favorite surface has to be hard court where his lefty serve will come into play. Think Sanchez made a good choice by picking him as he made a final in Dubai(Roddick) against top players. If he repeats his 2007 United States Open performance against Roger, Argentina has no chance in this rubber.
Juan Martin has had a great 2nd half winning 4 titles (Stuttgart, Kitzbuhel, Los Angeles and Washington) and his 2 previous Davis Cup matches in straight sets against Russia (Davydenko and Andreev) but his hard courts results since United States Open has been average and he has been dealing with a problem with his toes and fatigue. He played 3 matches in Shanghai last week and even though he has had a few days to rest, his toe injury is still going to be a factor.

Prediction: Lopez in 5 grueling sets. Don't be surprised if you see a 8-6 or 9-7 final set score.

Posted by Fim 11/20/2008 at 02:32 PM

I thought the rest of the team may have snubbed Sanchez & Spanish DC, seeing as they have complained of the complete dismissal of everyone not name Nadal in the past few years--in Spain.

Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 02:34 PM

Black Matt,
I have not ran across any news that Roddick will be teaming with Stefanki so far but will keep looking.

Posted by Black Matt 11/20/2008 at 02:36 PM

Master Ace -

It's on his website. Roddick's, that is.

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 02:36 PM

skip1515, word on your 2:19 comment

Posted by ptenisnet 11/20/2008 at 02:40 PM

Davis Cup is named for this guy.

Posted by ptenisnet 11/20/2008 at 02:41 PM

sorry this one

Posted by Fim 11/20/2008 at 02:44 PM

Stefanki appears to be the patron saint of lost causes!

Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 02:52 PM

Black Matt,
Thanks for the information.

Will be very interesting to see what he brings to Andy and why he and Gonzo are no longer a team.

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 02:57 PM

Master Ace, link at 2:52 doesn't work for me

Posted by Pierre 11/20/2008 at 03:05 PM

Very nice post, and the SI article that Sher linked, also.

Someone who held manners in the highest regard, and yet who never acquiesced to the Nazis, which would have been the easy or "polite" thing to do: truly a fascinating person.

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 03:15 PM

Pierre, I'm not sure he held 'manners' in the high regard, so much as 'honour'. In which case his opinion of the Nazi regime is perfectly inline with that belief, isn't it?

Posted by greenhopper 11/20/2008 at 03:15 PM

Master Ace added an extra character to the tinyurl link, delete '3' in the end, and it works.

Posted by Master Ace 11/20/2008 at 03:29 PM


Posted by jb (imissmykeyboard!) 11/20/2008 at 03:36 PM

Holy crap - did roddick get larry stefanki? wow. that's a coup, imo. Should be interesting to see how they work together. I suspect that will be a good pairing actually. wow. wonder if rachael knows?

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 03:43 PM

Rafa, enjoying himself

i love doing that too

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 03:44 PM

It'll be an interesting pairing for sure, and Larry is a well-respected coach. Hope he does Andy good.

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 03:46 PM

Serbian newspaper: "Novak lacks Federer’s strength, but can be No. 1" (Serbian Davis Cup team advisor Nikola Pilic)

[“If anyone had wanted to award us the toughest opponent in the hardest possible circumstances, it would have been Spain on their own turf. There is no stronger national team at this moment, and the fact that it is played in Spain means that we have a lot of work ahead of us. Nevertheless, we still cling to hope, because we don’t intend to surrender to anyone without a fight. If they are better than us, they will have to prove it on the court, even if it’s their favourite clay. My decade-long experience assures me that this competition is unpredictable”, says Pilic.]

Posted by Pierre 11/20/2008 at 04:06 PM

Sher, you are right, the honour was the main thing.

But looking at Ruth's example, in the case where his own racquet touched the ball, he called it against himself, which was the honourable thing to do. But in the case of Budge, the linesman made an incorrect call in Budge's favour. The right or "honourable" thing would be to reverse the decision, but the polite thing was to stay quiet, so as not to embarrass the linesman. And in this case, Von Cramm advocated doing the polite thing.

So in the world of the tennis court, he placed utmost importance on manners, but in more serious matters he was not unwilling to go against the grain.

Someone who had impeccable manners, but at the same time was a true rebel- someone who took an unpopular stand in his own country, and paid the price for it-that was the interesting thing to me.

Phew, I'm spent!

Posted by Sher 11/20/2008 at 04:53 PM

Pierre, I see your point but I think we are reading the definition differently. For example, the decision he made to not embarrass the linesman might be considered to be preserving linesman's honour, i.e. allowing linesman to save face. I guess we won't know except through the filter of the years, but in either case, that was one fascinating individual.

Posted by Andrew Miller 11/20/2008 at 05:04 PM

FLOWpez can definitely win that match. Lopez often shows brilliance - just does not sustain it to bag titles. Get the sense there are two Lopez: Feliciano, who is the pretty boy; and Lopez, who is always aiming to destroy the opponent.

Rosangel: Would have been nice to see Ferrero redeem his past misfortune. I don't think that is happening - I think the game has passed the top 30 star by.

Posted by Bismarck 11/20/2008 at 05:09 PM

thanks Pete (and Sher for that link!).
fascinating read about a forgotten figure.

Posted by Ruth 11/20/2008 at 05:13 PM

I would like to think that Stefanki dumped Gonzo because he (Stefanki) was as disgusted by Gonzo's Olympics racket-gate act as I was...but I doubt it. :)

Posted by Ruth 11/20/2008 at 05:18 PM

Orpheo: I remember reading that the Davis Cup was named after the Harvard student and tennis player who came up with the idea of international team tennis competition, and I think that he purchased the first (or only) Davis Cup.

Posted by tina 11/20/2008 at 05:30 PM

Niki is now advising the Serbian DC team? Bless him, what an opportunist - I guess the split with the Croatian Federation was more acrimonious than I thought. I'd assumed that once he brought them the Cup, he was simply going on his merry way back to his academy. Good for him - but Croatia needs him - and his advice - more now. Did the relationship with Bobo Z. not work out for Serbia? Or is this just an ad hoc advisory position Niki's got with them now?

Watched a few minutes of the Original Martina on "I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Outta Here" - voting people off starts tomorrow apparently, though O.M. seems quite safe.

Funny, I thought Ana was already down in Argentina.

I'm contacting friends in Belgrade to see if I can get a bootleg copy of "Jelenin Svet". And speaking of sports films - I only just found out that there's a documentary of the legendary Yale-Harvard 29-29 tie of 1968. Since I am not going up to Cambridge for the 40th anniversary, I'll pop into New Haven to relive the original.

Posted by marie j vamos rafa numero 1 ! 11/20/2008 at 06:20 PM

to answer pete's question about robredo, almagro, ferrero and even moya not participating in this tie i can only make assumptions on what i've read in the spanish internet press :

- robredo end his season after bercy, and he said he wouldn't be any helpfull to the cause... since he was among the possibilities between him and ferru and he wasn't choosed, i'm sure the motives to have him out where strong enough, he still felt useless, but i can imagine he wasn't that motivated either. he won one, i'm sure he's fine with it in his resumé.

- almagro : since the spanish press talks most of nadalmania, it's hard to know whats going on with him or ferrero... but as far as i know, nico needed surgery on his wrist this summer, not sure it healed properly considering his USO and indoors results... wrong, he had a shoulder injury since madrid and hasn't been able to rehab since then, he was so so sorry to miss that chance.
nico's link

- moya, he dropped playing for the DC after winning it in 2004, he said he would not play, i don't think the particular case of rafa not playing this final changed his mind, but i agree with you it would have been great to see him going to argentina... but i think nothing will match up the fact he was the one giving the decisive win in 2004...
- ferrero, i simply have no idea if he's commited to the dc anymore, he hasn't play since 2005 play offs against italy.

all in all, grannollers looks the only first choice option to me... yep ! crazy no ?

i just hope DC gives him the strengh to surpass himself, like it did for rafa in 2004... after that, he became almost unstoppable... don't see marcel having a carreer surge like that, but he could have a break through tks to it.

i will be happy wathever the outcome of the tie... if it's spain, it will be a huge win, if it's argentina, it will give the country one of the biggests sport achievments and some huge confidence for the winners.

may the best win !
vamos chicos !!!

Posted by Pspace 11/20/2008 at 08:13 PM

Can't wait for the book, Pete. Am halfway through a Champion's Mind right now, and have Sporting Gentlemen next, which goes into the Budge-von Cramm match.

Btw, was there a TW discussion on Champion's Mind that you promised? I really love the (albeit short) technical discussions. I wish Pistol said more about how he got the revelation to use his wrist more in serving. After several hours of video analysis, I still can't figure it out.

Posted by crazyone 11/20/2008 at 08:53 PM

Wow the Argentines really want to elevate Nalbandian

Posted by Pete 11/20/2008 at 08:54 PM

Pspace - that will have to wait until after DC, but we'll definitely have the discussion of the Pete book. . .

Posted by samael 11/20/2008 at 11:37 PM

Hi Im from argentina and yeah, its a really big deal over here(even if Im in NY right now for 2 weeks)
were very proud of our rise into relevance within the tennis world since vilas and a davis cup WIN, not runner up(weve 2 of those) would mean a lot to the many many fans of the sport in our country.
so vamos argentina carajo!!

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