Who watches Davis Cup these days, anyway? Not many serious tennis fans, I imagine (especially ones who don’t subscribe to The Tennis Channel — no more ESPN freebies, I’m sad to say). Sure, you’ll check in on the results throughout the weekend, but watching actual games, let alone a set? Maybe if you’re killing time.
I’m not suggesting this weekend’s tie between the U.S. and Sweden is totally inconsequential (it actually does get old seeing Roddick and his mates get humiliated at some point on their way to the Cup). It’s just that Davis Cup has been skating on a sheet of half-assedness and mediocrity for some years now: top players (Federer, Nadal) play, then don’t play; they’re injured (Sweden’s Soderling for this tie, among many others on other national squads); the latest powerhouse team (Russia) isn’t made up entirely of “Russians” (Tursunov has lived in California for well over a decade; he actually tried to get a U.S. green card, and when it didn’t happen, he said: “OK, I’m playing for Russia.”)
Outside of doubles — which, other than the Bryans, has a low Q rating -– tennis is an individual sport: we as fans like that about it. You’re out there on your own. Davis Cup, so we surmise, is a team sport, even if there’s singles play. Guys sit on the sideline and cheer their teammates on, which is either really cool, or just a tad creepy, depending on your sensibility.
Speaking of creepy, the (Swedish — or do all teams do this??) ritual of exchanging gifts with their opponents on the eve of a tie takes quite a bit of the piss out of the competitive element: it finally and completely destroys the façade of battling warriors duking it out in the Coliseum.
Not to mention their fraternizing with each other as if the Davis Cup were an ongoing international rush…
Lastly, let’s not forget that the Davis Cup tie between Britain and Croatia will feature Tim Henman’s last professional match. One more time, then, and with feeling:
“Come on, Tim!”
(photos via Davis Cup)
Michael Shaw writes about tennis and other subjects for the Los Angeles Times, and is also an artist. He can be reached at michaelshaw_sar AT yahoo DOT com. Read his previous posts for TSF here.