Is The Big 4 Era Coming To An End?

08-31-2014-0117Who would have thunk this one?

A US Open Men’s Final between Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic? With both Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer going out on the same day?

Wow! Just Wow!

Furthermore, you have to wonder if this chain of events marks the decline of the Big 4 era in tennis, where the courts were ruled by Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

You have to go back to 2005 when Marat Safin took out Lleyton Hewett in the Australian Open to find a Grand Slam Final without a member of the Big 4.

And you need to go back to 2003 when Andy Roddick won his only Slam to find no Big 4 members playing on the last day in Flushing.

” I think it’s exciting for the game, you know, to have different faces from time to time,” Federer said after his loss. “At the same time, I think people still enjoy seeing the guys they have seen for a while or often in the big matches. But I think it’s definitely refreshing to some extent. It’s big for Croatia and big for Japan I guess on some level, especially on sporting terms and tennis terms. Everybody who gets to this stage of this kind of a competition deserves to be there because they have put in the work and they hoped for the break, and this is it for both of them. I hope they can play a good final.”

The folks at CBS are probably not happy, since there are no Americans or household names in the finals. And unless you are a huge tennis fan, you probably won’t have the same interest.

However, this may be good for the sport. As much as tennis thrived, especially in Europe, with the Big 4 headlining and everyone else getting union scale, there is always room for change.

The sport needs new stars to come up through the rankings. With Federer clearly on the backside of his career, Nadal’s injuries, and Murray’s decline, it leaves Djokovic as the only member of the group on at the top of his game and he is going through changes in his personal life with marriage and a baby on the way.

Simply put the field has caught up to the varsity here. And it’s good to see others at the top. It’s good for tennis in general and interest in the sport in other parts of the work.

With Michael Change in his corner Nishkori looks like the next up and coming star in the sport.

“This is definitely huge for Japan,” Djokovic said. “It’s a big country. Over a hundred million people. This can definitely be a great encouragement for tennis in that country. He’s been around for last couple of years. He’s been making a lot of success. But playing finals of a Grand Slam and now fighting for title is definitely something different. You know, he has gotten to another level, and I’m sure that people will praise him.”

And Cilic, who dropped bombs on Federer out there has brought himself up to the top of the game.

” I just think he was quite erratic before,” Federer said. “You know, especially from the baseline. I think in some ways his game has little margin, I find, because he takes the ball early. If he doesn’t feel well on the half volleys it’s tough for him. But I feel like he’s cleaned up his return game to some degree. I think he’s serving much more consistent throughout an entire match and entire tournament; whereas before he could have a good day, bad day, good set, bad set. I think his mental approach has been one of always a true professional, always super fair play on the court. Always well-behaved. Always a guy I kind of liked watching play.”

So there you have it, a reason to watch on Monday. Too bad the American men’s varsity isn’t up to par, but maybe someday it will return.

In the meantime, a page may have turned and now let’s enjoy the next chapter of tennis’s book.

US Open Late Night

Mens FinalsCilicDef.Nishikori in straight setsTick tock. Tick tock.

There’s always a night of the US Open where we get clipped. An evening where a match for one reason or another goes to the wee hours of the morning.

Last night was that night.

It started out innocent enough with no rain and everything going off on time. The first match with Victoria Azarenka winning over Aleksandra Krunic went three sets.

And the second match between No. 5 seed Milos Raonic and No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori seemed innocent enough.

In the end, though, we witnessed history. The 5 set epic won by Nishikori 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4 lasted four hours and 19 minutes and ended at 2:26 am, tying it for the latest ending in US Open History with John Isner’s first case of Kohlschreiber back in 2012 and in 1993, in a second-round match between Mats Wilander and Mikael Pernfors.

Sure the match was exciting, but the time in the press room under Arthur Ashe Stadium was even more interesting.

You could hear a sigh of relief from the 20 or so reporters left as the match completed. No one really cared who won, rather everyone just wanted to go home.

There were reporters sleeping at their desks and some even snoring pretty loud and the coffee flowed but since the coffee pots were not marked, we had to guess which one was regular and decaf. (The one on the right was regular).

As the match continued, this version of US Open Survivor became a test of wills. Some left, but when you invested this much time into a match, you had to stay to the end.

And there were times we thought we were getting out of there early. But Raonic couldn’t do it and Nishikori kept battling.

And when the fifth set started with about 34 minutes to go for the record, you were rooting for it just to go 35.

We didn’t get it. We got a tie and that’s good enough.

And it’s back to the grind today. Hopefully Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki will have better times today in their matches.

We can only hope.

Tick Tock…

 

Caroline Should Spell It “Woz-NY-Acki”

Women's Finals, Wozniacki loses to Serena WilliamsEven though she’s from Denmark, Caroline Wozniacki should be a New Yorker. She loves it here, especially playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium at night.

“It’s so different, because you walk out and you basically can’t see the top stands,” she said after making easy work of Sara Errani, 6-0 6-1 to advance to the US Open Semifinals. “The crowd is always cheering even a little louder and it feels a little more cozy as well at the same time because it’s dark around. I don’t know. There is just something special about that atmosphere.”

Then there’s the Marathon, but that’s a story for November.

There’s something special about her tennis game. Older, wiser and maybe with a little to prove, Wozniacki is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2011 and looking to make the Finals for the first time since 2009.

“I have to say the finals [in 2009] feels closer than the semifinals 2011,” she said. “It’s weird. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think just because it was such a huge experience for me and it was my first really deep run in a Grand Slam. I’m just so happy to be back in this stage and having another match out there.”

She said her game has evolved, because of that she has an actual shot to win the whole match.

Wozniacki seems different. She’s confident and in the best shape of her career.

And it helps that Golfer That Must Not Be Named won a few majors this year in his sport.

However, she’s not talking about that, but old Rory obviously looms out there and it gives her purpose. And maybe some focus on the task at hand.

That includes the evolution of her game.

“It’s definitely evolved,” she said. “I’m definitely more experienced. I know my game much better. I have been in these big matches before, and, you know, I think all the time I improve. I think everybody improves and wants to try and get better. Women’s tennis keeps getting stronger. So, you know, I think I keep putting things onto my game. I try and, you know, have more — or stronger serves, better returns, you know, kind of the first few points.

It remains to be seen if she can beat Serena, but first has to take out Peng Shuai, who beat Belinda Belcic today.

“She’s been playing well,” she said. “She’s playing aggressively. She she’s strong from both sides. She’s been serving well. It’s going to be a difficult match. It’s going to be a different match than against Sara today. Sara runs a lot of balls down, doesn’t make many mistake. Peng is closer to the baseline going for her shots more. It’s going to be a hard one, but, again, it’s going to fun.”

That’s what she seems to be having again. If she gets through the Chinese veteran, then who knows? Serena is obviously the favorite, the No. 1 seed has imploded before.

And maybe, just maybe, the girl who no one expected to do anything this tournament will call Flushing Meadows home.

 

US Open Men’s Final Now On Monday

The US Open is making a change.

Well you can consider it just making it official.

Much like the last few years, the Open Men’s Final will take place on Monday with the Women’s final on Sunday.

Because of rain, this was the way it happened over the past few years, but now it’s etched in stone.

“We listened to the players and understood we needed to accommodate their request for an extra day of rest between the semifinals and final,” said USTA Spokesman Widmaier said. “The USTA reached out to many of the top players, player agents as well as the respective tours. So far, everything has been fairly positive. The day of rest is being embraced across the board. Because of the nature of the game, and to assure a final that can be played at the highest competitive level, you need an extra day of rest. We recognized that.”

But the ATP isn’t happy about it.

“The ATP and its players have made it clear to the US Open that we do not support a Monday final,” the ATP said in a statement. “We strongly believe the US Open should keep a similar schedule to the other Grand Slams, with the men’s semifinals completed by Friday and the final on Sunday.

“It is unfortunate the US Open response did not reflect our views on this issue and the ATP and its players will continue to pursue this matter in its discussions with the USTA.”

Of course, the Open is going to go where the TV networks say and if CBS wants it on Monday it will be on Monday. No bowl betting odds will say otherwise.

And with the rain a factor now, having the extra day will build in a buffer so the Open doesn’t go any longer.

Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) – Monaco Wins Fourth Title Of Year; Peya/Soares Win Doubles

Singles – Final
[2] J Monaco (ARG) d [7] J Benneteau (FRA) 75 46 63

Doubles – Final
[3] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) d C Fleming (GBR) / R Hutchins (GBR) 57 75 10-7

WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID

Monaco: “I think we played a great match, with a lot of ups and downs. I got a little nervous when I had chances, but I never gave up, particularly in the 12th game of the first set. He surprised me a little bit with his comeback in the second set. In the final set, I knew I had to be more aggressive and I am happy the way I finished the match.
“I’d like to relax now and enjoy the victory. It isn’t easy to win tournaments, but I will focus on the next challenge and go to Tokyo tomorrow. It has been nice to be in this city and win the trophy. It feels very good. When I win a title, I think of my family and my team, as they believe in me, they have supported me and we have worked hard to win tournaments.”

Benneteau: “I was very focused on this game, because I wanted to win this final. The fans were great; there was a lot of French in the crowd. It was a nice atmosphere and the game was a good level.”

Soares: “It feels very nice. Every title is very good, really special; a different story and different atmosphere. It is only our fourth tournament, so it feels really good. This week was special, because we felt we were playing better with each match.”

Peya: “We are starting to click more as a team, also on our off days as we work on our games. It paid off this week. We enjoyed the tournament a lot, it was a lot of fun.”

Tashkent (Sat): Begu Nets First Title By Ending Teen’s Run

TASHKENT OPEN
Tashkent, Uzbekistan
September 10-15, 2012
$220,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Saturday, September 15, 2012
Singles – Final
Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) d. (Q) Donna Vekic (CRO) 64 64

Doubles – Final
Kania/Pekhova (POL/BLR) d. Chakvetadze/Dolonc (RUS/SRB) 62 ret. (Chakvetadze: back injury)

Final Facts
- Begu wins her first WTA title in her third final, having previously been runner-up at Marbella and Budapest in 2011.
– The only set Begu lost all week was in her 36 76(1) 75 quarterfinal win over Galina Voskoboeva in which she rallied from 5-2 down in the third set.
– Begu’s previous best results this year were semifinal showings in Acapulco and Palermo.
– Begu is the ninth first-time titlist this year after Barthel in Hobart, Kerber in Paris [Indoors], Arruabarrena-Vecino in Bogotá, Babos in Monterrey, Hsieh in Kuala Lumpur, Bertens in Fès, Oudin in Birmingham and Jovanovski in Baku.
– Vekic was playing her first career WTA main draw after winning three qualifying matches.
– Vekic recorded her first three Top 100 wins this week – over No.54 Magdalena Rybarikova in the first round, over No.91 Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino in the second round and over No.64 Bojana Jovanovski in the quarterfinals.
– The 16-year-old Vekic was the youngest WTA finalist since 15-year-old Tamira Paszek won Portoroz in September 2006.
– Vekic started the week ranked a career-high No.183 and is projected to rise to a new career-high of about No.135.
– Kania and Pekhova teamed up for the first time this week.
– This was the first WTA title of any kind for both Kania and Pekhova, each of whom was playing in their second WTA doubles events.

Final Quotes
Irina-Camelia Begu:
“It feels great to win a title. I’ll take back sweet memories from the Tashkent Open. I’m glad I made the last minute decision to play here, and I will surely come back to defend my title next year.”

Donna Vekic: “I’m happy I had a good week, but a little disappointed of not being able to win the title after coming close. But I will come back. And the event has brought me a lot of experience and will surely help me in the WTA events I play now – this week will be great for my future on the tour.”

Paula Kania & Polina Pekhova: “We are thrilled and speechless. We were the last pair to get in and to win the tournament is amazing. We have always seen the winners here wearing the Uzbek Chapans, and we never imaged we would ever wear them, but we are proud to wear them today!”

For Results
www.wtatennis.com/page/Scores/

For Draws
www.wtatennis.com/page/Draws/

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www.wtatennis.com/page/PressCentre/

For Mobile Site / Chinese Site / Spanish Site
http://m.wtatennis.com/
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Tournament Website
www.tashkentopen.uz

WTA
www.wtatennis.com
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London office: +44.20.7386.4100
Beijing office: +86.10.5910.2700

Davis Cup Preview

WORLD GROUP SEMIFINALS

Spain (s) v USA (s) Parque Hermanos Castro, Gijon (clay – outdoors)

Argentina (s) v Czech Republic (s) Parque Roca, Buenos Aires (clay – outdoors)
(s) = seed

BACK-TO-BACK FINALS…
Both Argentina and Spain are looking to reach back-to-back finals. If both teams win this weekend, it will be the first time since 1989 that the same two nations have contested back-to-back finals. Sweden and West Germany reached the Final in both 1988 and 1989.

RETAINING THE TITLE…
Since the formation of the World Group in 1981, there have been 5 successful title defences by 4 different nations. Reigning champions Spain were the last nation to successfully defend their title in 2009. The successful title defences in World Group history are: USA 1981-82; Sweden 1984-85; West Germany 1988-89; Sweden 1997-98; and Spain 2008-09.

SPAIN LOOK TO PRESERVE WINNING STREAK…
Spain hold the record for the longest run of wins at home in Davis Cup World Group history. The Spanish have won their last 23 home ties. The last team to defeat Spain at home was Brazil in the 1999 World Group first round. Gustavo Kuerten was the hero of that tie winning all of Brazil’s points as the visitors won 3-2. Italy hold the all-time record with 28 wins at home from 1949 through 1964.

ALL FOUR SEEDS…
For the second consecutive year all 4 semifinalist nations are seeded and it might be good news for Argentina. Four seeds progressed to the semifinals in 2006, 2008 and 2011, with Argentina making it through to the final on all those occasions.

WORLD GROUP PLAY-OFFS

(s) Kazakhstan v Uzbekistan National Tennis Centre, Astana (clay – indoors)

(s) Germany v Australia Rothenbaum Stadium, Hamburg (clay – outdoors)

Japan v Israel (s) Ariake Coliseum, Tokyo (hard – outdoors)

Belgium v Sweden (s) Royal Primerose Tennis Club, Brussels (clay – outdoors)

(s) Canada v South Africa Uniprix Stadium Montreal (hard – outdoors)

Brazil v Russia (s) Harmonia Tenis Clube, Sao Jose do Rio Preto (clay – outdoors)

(s) Italy v Chile Tennis Club Napoli, Naples (clay – outdoors)

Netherlands v Switzerland (s) Westergasfabriek, Amsterdam (clay – outdoors)
(s) = seed

• Uzbekistan are looking to qualify for the World Group for the first time. They face local rivals Kazakhstan, who are bidding to maintain their position in the top tier for the third successive year.

• There is a battle of 2 Davis Cup former champions in Hamburg as 3-time winners Germany take on 28-time champion Australia. The Germans have been in the World Group every year since 2006, while the Australians have been in Zone Group competition for the last 5 years.

• Japan, who fought their way back into the World Group for the first time in 26 years by defeating India at the same stage of the competition last year, are aiming to maintain their place among the Davis Cup elite. They play Israel, who defeated Portugal in Europe/Africa Zone Group I in April to book their place in this year’s play-offs.

• Sweden jointly hold the record for most World Group appearances (31) with Czech Republic and USA. That record is at risk as they take on Belgium in Brussels this weekend.

• South Africa, who have lost their last 5 World Group play-off matches, have not been in the top tier since 1998. They play Canada, who returned to the World Group this year for the first time since 2004.

• Brazil and Russia face off in the World Group play-offs for a second successive year. The Russians have played in the World Group every year since 1993 and the 2002 and 2006 champions will be looking to continue that streak. Brazil are bidding to return to the World Group for the first time since 2003. They have lost at this stage of the competition for the last 6 years.

• The Italians maintained their perfect record against Chile with victory at this stage of the competition last year. Italy defeated the South American team to claim their only Davis Cup title in 1976. Chile are looking to bounce straight back to the World Group and are no strangers to the play-offs, having featured in them for 7 of the last 9 years.

• Switzerland were relegated from the World Group by Kazakhstan in 2010. They lost to USA 5-0 in the first round this year and now face the Netherlands, who are trying to gain promotion to the World Group for the first time since 2009.

CHOICE OF GROUND – WORLD GROUP FINAL

The Davis Cup Final will take place on 16-18 November. Below is the choice of ground for all potential match-ups. The venue details are due to be submitted to the ITF by the beginning of October.

Possible Final Venue
SPAIN v ARGENTINA ARG
SPAIN v CZECH REPUBLIC CZE
USA v ARGENTINA ARG
USA v CZECH REPUBLIC USA

PAST CHAMPIONS

In total, 13 nations have won the Davis Cup.

­ USA 32
­ Australia 28
­ France, Great Britain 9
­ Sweden 7
­ Spain 5
­ Germany 3
­ Russia 2
­ Croatia, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Serbia, South Africa 1

ALL FIVE TO FIVE…
Only twice have all 5 rubbers of a Davis Cup tie gone to 5 sets: 1946 European Zone semifinal, Yugoslavia defeated France 3-2 and 2003 World Group play-off, Romania defeated Ecuador 3-2.

COMEBACKS FROM 0-2 DOWN…
There have been just 7 comebacks from 0-2 down in World Group ties. Sweden has produced 4 of these comebacks including the most recent one in 1998 (Sweden d. Slovak Republic 3-2, first round). In the Davis Cup overall there have been 47 since the competition began in 1900.

TOP TIEBREAKS…
The most tiebreaks in a Davis Cup tie is 11 (Croatia d. Brazil 4-1, 2008 World Group play-off).

PARTICIPATING NATIONS…
123 nations entered the 2012 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas.

DAVIS CUP NATIONS RANKING…
The ITF Davis Cup Nations Ranking was launched at the end of 2001. It is published following every tie weekend and measures success over the preceding 4-year period, with recent performances weighted more heavily. It is the sole criteria for seeding at all levels of Davis Cup competition.

Latest Davis Cup Nations Ranking (9 April 2012)

1 Spain 11 Israel
2 Argentina 12 Sweden
3 Serbia 13 Canada
4 Czech Republic 14 Russia
5 France 15 Italy
6 USA 16 Switzerland
7 Croatia 17 Chile
8 Austria 18 Belgium
9 Kazakhstan 19 Japan
10 Germany 20 Australia

DAVIS CUP RECORDS^

World Group Davis Cup
Most Games in a Tie (post-tiebreak*) 275:
France d. Switzerland 3-2, 2001 Quarterfinal 281:
Romania d. Ecuador 3-2, 2003 WG Play-off
Most Games in a Tie (pre-tiebreak*) 281:
Paraguay d. France 3-2, 1985 First Round 327:
India d. Australia 3-2, 1974 Eastern Zone Final

Most Games in a Singles Rubber
(post-tiebreak*) 82:
Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Ivo Karkovic (CRO) 2009 Semifinal 82:
Richard Ashby (BAR) d. Jose Medrano (BOL) 1991 Americas II, First Round
Most Games in a Singles Rubber
(pre-tiebreak*) 85:
Michael Westphal (FRG) d. Tomas Smid (TCH) 1985 Semifinal 100:
Harry Fritz (CAN) d. Jorge Andrew (VEN)
1982 Americas Zone Semifinal
Most Games in a Doubles Rubber
(post-tiebreak*) 77:
Arnold-Ker/Nalbandian (ARG) d. Kafelnikov/Safin (RUS), 2002 Semifinal 78:
Di Laura/Noriega (PER) d. Menezes/Roese (BRA), 1991 Americas I First Round

Most Games in a Doubles Rubber
(pre-tiebreak*) 77 (twice):
Annacone/Flach (USA) d. Cash/Fitzgerald (AUS) 1986 Semifinal
Casal/Sanchez (ESP) d. Gonzalez/Pecci (PAR) 1987 Quarterfinal
122:
Smith/Van Dillen (USA) d. Cornejo/Fillol (CHI), 1973 American Zone Final

Most Games in a Set (singles)
40 (21-19):
Carlos Kirmayr (BRA) v Uli Pinner (FRG)
1981 Relegation Tie
46 (24-22 twice):
Alvaro Betancur (COL) v Dale Power (CAN) 1976 American Zone
Andrei Chesnokov (URS) v Michiel Schapers (NED), 1987 European Zone

Most Games in a Set (doubles) 40 (21-19):
Edberg/Jarryd (SWE) v Amritraj/Amritraj (IND) 1985 Quarterfinal 76 (39-37):
Cornejo/ Fillol (CHI) v Smith/Van Dillen (USA) 1973 American Zone Final

Longest Fifth Set (Singles) 17-15 (twice):
Michael Westphal (FRG) v Tomas Smid (TCH) 1985 Semifinal
Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) v Andy Roddick (USA) 2006 Semifinal 20-18 (twice):
Richard Ashby (BAR) v Jose Medrano (BOL), 1991 Americas II, First Round.
Nuno Marques (POR) v Nenad Zimonjic (SRB)
1998 Europe/Africa II, Second Round
Longest Fifth Set (Doubles) 19-17:
Arnold-Ker/Nalbandian (ARG) v Kafelnikov/Safin (RUS), 2002 Semifinal 23-21:
Fernandes/Vieira (BRA) v Avidan-Weiss /Davidman (ISR), 1957 American Zone Semifinal

Longest recorded
playing-time (tie) 21 hours, 2 minutes:
France d. Switzerland 3-2, 2001 Quarterfinal 21 hours, 37 minutes:
Romania d. Ecuador 3-2, 2003 WG Play-off
Longest singles rubber 6 hours, 22 minutes:
John McEnroe (USA) d.
Mats Wilander (SWE), 1982 Quarterfinal see World Group
Longest doubles rubber 6 hours, 20 minutes:
Arnold-Ker/Nalbandian (ARG) d. Kafelnikov/Safin (RUS), 2002 Semifinal see World Group

Fewest number of games conceded in a tie 26:
Germany d. Indonesia 5-0, 1989 First Round 6:
Sri Lanka d. Syria – 1991 Asia/Oceania II, First Round
Longest tiebreak* 15-13:
Patrick Rafter (AUS) d. David Rikl (CZE),
1997 First Round 19-17:
Young-Jun Kim (KOR) d. Aqeel Khan (PAK),
2003 Asia/Oceania Zone Group I
*the tiebreak was introduced in Davis Cup in 1989; ^for further details see 2012 Davis Cup Media Guide, General Records, p. 164-70

SPAIN v USA

Head-to-head: tied 5-5
In 10 previous meetings between these 2 former champions only twice has the away team won – most recently when Spain defeated USA in the 2011 quarterfinals in Austin, Texas. USA will be hoping to avenge that defeat and reach their first final since 2007.

SPAIN v USA

1 Current DC Nations Ranking 6
Champion 5 times Best Result Champion 32 times
1921 First year played 1900
77 Years played (incl 2012) 98
28 Years in World Group (incl 2012) 31
191 Ties played 277
121-70 Ties Win-Loss 212-65
0 Comebacks from 0-2 down 1

• Defending champion SPAIN won their 5th Davis Cup title by defeating Argentina 3-1 in last year’s final in Seville. It was their 3rd title in the last 4 years.

• Spain are looking to reach back-to-back Finals for the 3rd time in their history. They also reached back-to-back finals in 2003-04 and 2008-09.

• Spain defeated Kazakhstan 5-0 and Austria 4-1 to book their place in the semifinals for the 4th time in the last 5 years. In their last 6 semifinal appearances Spain have progressed to the Final.

• This is Spain’s 16th consecutive year in the World Group. They hold the World Group record for the longest run of wins by a nation at home. Spain’s quarterfinal win against Austria was their 23rd consecutive victory at home. Spain’s last home loss was in 1999 (l. Brazil), which was also the last time they lost a Davis Cup tie on clay. They have won 25 straight ties on the surface since that defeat.

• If Spain win this weekend they will close the gap on Italy, who have the longest run of wins at home with 28 wins at home from 1949 through 1964.

• Spain have been crowned Davis Cup champion 5 times since 2000, having never previously won the title. They lifted the trophy in 2000 (d. Australia 3-1), 2004 (d. USA 3-2), 2008 (d. Argentina 3-1), 2009 (d. Czech Republic 5-0) and 2011 (d. Argentina 3-1).

• If Spain win this weekend, they will play away in the Final to either Argentina or Czech Republic.

• Spain is currently No. 1 in the Davis Cup Nations Ranking and is one of 5 nations to rank No. 1 since the rankings were introduced in 2001 (alongside Australia, Croatia, France and Russia). Spain was ranked No. 1 between September 2004 and September 2005, and has also held the top spot since July 2009.

• USA are playing in their 278th tie – the most for any nation – in their 98th year of Davis Cup competition.

• USA jointly hold the record for most World Group appearances (31) with Czech Republic and Sweden. All 3 nations have played in the World Group every year but one since its inception in 1981. USA was absent from the World Group in 1988 and has the longest unbroken streak of World Group appearances (24).

• USA whitewashed Switzerland 5-0 and defeated France 3-2 to reach their first semifinal since 2008. That year they lost to this weekend’s opponents on clay in Spain.

• Both USA’s victories this year have come away from home and on clay. They are looking to reach their first Final since winning their 32nd Davis Cup title in 2007, defeating Russia 4-1 in Portland, Oregon.

• USA’s triumph in 2007 came 12 years after their previous title, the longest gap between USA Davis Cup successes.

• Last year, USA lost to this weekend’s opponents in a quarterfinal tie in Austin, TX. It brought to an end their 6-match winning streak on home soil.

• USA are currently ranked No. 6 in the ITF Davis Cup Nations Ranking. The lowest they have been ranked is No. 8 (from April-September 2003 and again in September 2005) and the highest ranking position they have held is No. 2. The Davis Cup Nations Ranking was introduced in 2001 and is updated after each round.

• If USA win this weekend they will either play away to Argentina or at home to Czech Republic in the Final.

ARGENTINA v CZECH REPUBLIC

Head-to-head: Czech Republic lead 3-1
The 2 teams have met 3 times since the introduction of the World Group, with the home team winning on each of those 3 occasions. Czechoslovakia defeated Argentina on clay in Buenos Aires in an Inter-Zonal semifinal in 1980 that featured a dominant display by Ivan Lendl over Jose-Luis Clerc and Guillermo Vilas.

ARGENTINA v CZECH REPUBLIC

2 Current DC Nations Ranking 4
Runner-up 4 times Best Result Champion 1980
1923 First Year Played 1921
58 Years Played (inc 2012) 79
20 Years in World Group (inc 2012) 31
138 Ties Played 193
79-59 Ties Win-Loss 117-76
0 Comebacks from 0-2 down 0

• ARGENTINA are into the semifinals for the 8th time since returning to the World Group in 2002. They have reached the quarterfinals or better every year since 2002. They are looking to reach their 5th final.

• Argentina are playing their 3rd consecutive tie this year at Parque Roca in Buenos Aires. They defeated Germany 4-1 and Croatia 4-1 to reach the semifinals.

• Argentina are a 4-time runner-up in Davis Cup: in 1981 (l. USA), 2006 (l. Russia), 2008 (l. Spain) and 2011 (l. Spain). Argentina are the only nation to have lost 4 Davis Cup Finals without winning the title.

• Last year, Argentina finished runner-up, losing 3-1 to Spain in Seville.

• The doubles rubber in the World Group semifinal between Russia and Argentina in 2002, featuring Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin against Lucas Arnold-Ker and David Nalbandian, is the longest recorded men’s doubles match in Davis Cup, at 6 hours, 20 minutes.
• The last time Argentina lost a home tie on clay was against Slovak Republic in 1998. They have won 18 of their last 20 Davis Cup ties on the surface. Their only losses in that time both came against Spain, in the 2003 semifinals and in last year’s final.

• If Argentina win this weekend they are guaranteed to have a home Final against the winner of Spain v USA.
• CZECH REPUBLIC are looking to reach their second Final since the formation of the World Group in 1981. The Czechs reached the final in 2009, losing to Spain on clay in Barcelona.

• Before the nation divided into Czech Republic and Slovak Republic, Czechoslovakia won the Davis Cup in 1980, defeating Italy on carpet in Prague in the final.

• Czech Republic are making their 31st World Group appearance, the most for any nation along with Sweden and USA. They have competed in the World Group every year with the exception of 2006.

• This year Czech Republic defeated Italy 4-1 in Ostrava and Serbia 4-1 in Prague to reach the semifinals. Between them the Czech duo of Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek have combined to win all 6 live rubbers.

• Last year, the Czechs lost to Kazakhstan in the first round in Ostrava. They were 2-1 up after the doubles rubber before a stunning Kazakh comeback by Andrey Golubev and Mikhail Kukushkin. The Czechs defeated Romania 5-0 in the World Group play-offs to maintain their place in the top tier.

• If Czech Republic win this weekend, they will be at home to Spain or away to USA in November’s Final.

Ashaway’s Crandall Calls New Polyketone-Based Tennis Strings, “Manmade Natural Gut”

Ashaway, RI – In a recent column on his company’s website, Ashaway Vice President and frequent stringing commentator Steve Crandall says that newly developed tennis strings made from a polymer material called Polyketone, or PEEK, play more like natural gut than any other synthetic string yet devised. According to Crandall, the key to the gut-like playability of these strings, which are marketed under the brand names Dynamite® and MonoGut® ZX, is their “dynamic stiffness.”

“What makes gut a superstar,” says Crandall, “is its ability to stretch on impact and then rebound quickly without deformation or loss of tension. This quality is called “dynamic stiffness” and means several things: 1) the string absorbs the force of impact, not the racquet or the player’s arm. In other words, gut plays “soft;” 2) it returns that force to the ball very quickly and efficiently, providing more power; 3) because it stretches, it allows the ball more dwell time on the strings. This lets you “pocket” the ball and enhances control; 4) gut maintains tension over the life of the string, enhancing its value.”

On the downside, Crandall added, gut is very expensive and, without protective coatings, is very sensitive to moisture—it sags.

Crandall says dynamic stiffness can be likened to elasticity. He quotes Bruce McIntosh, the inventor of the leading PEEK string material, Zyex®, who defines dynamic stiffness as “the ability of a material to resist stiffening up as it is rapidly stretched and released—become ‘boardy.'” It’s measured in pounds per inch, and in layman’s terms, is a measure of how much a string stretches when it strikes the ball. The more stretch, the more power it returns to the ball and the less impact it has on your arm and elbow. The less it stretches, the more energy is lost in flattening the ball and the less total power is available for rebound.

Dynamic stiffness is measured in pounds per inch, and as in golf, the lower the rating score, the better. Using data supplied by the US Racquet Stringers Association, Crandall shows that Zyex-based Dynamite and MonoGut ZX strings have dynamic stiffness ratings of 145 and 151, respectively, compared to 102 for the top selling natural gut. In contrast, the leading polyester and copolymer strings are much stiffer, with dynamic stiffness ratings generally in the range of 220 and 250 lbs./in.

Says Crandall, “By comparison, the dynamic stiffness of Zyex is the closest to gut of any synthetic string material. That’s why we call it a “manmade polymer equivalent to natural gut.” This means it absorbs and returns impact force more like gut. It controls the ball more like gut, especially in thinner gauge strings, and holds tension as well as, or perhaps even a bit better than gut. Zyex is impervious to moisture and offers excellent abrasion resistance to enhance durability. And, of course, it’s cheaper than either gut or the high-end polyesters.”

All of Steve Crandall’s tennis stringing tips columns, including, “Ashaway’s Zyex®-Based Tennis Strings: the New ‘Manmade Natural Gut,'” can be found at http://www.ashawayusa.com/TennisTips.php

Ashaway Racket Strings are made by Ashaway Line & Twine Mfg. Co., the only U.S. manufacturer of string for squash, tennis, racquetball, and badminton. Operated by the Crandall family since 1824, Ashaway has been making racquet strings since 1949, and is responsible for several important technical innovations. Ashaway is the Official String of USA Racquetball and the Women’s International Squash Players Association. Ashaway Line & Twine Mfg. Co. also makes braided products for medical and industrial applications. For more information visit www.ashawayusa.com

For additional product information, contact:
Ashaway Line & Twine Mfg. Co.
PO Box 549
Ashaway, RI 02804 USA
Tel: (800) 556-7260 (U.S. only) or +1 (401) 377-2221
Fax: +1 (401) 377-9091
Website: http://www.ashawayusa.com
Email: sales@ashawayusa.com

Murray’s Biggest Challenge Comes Next

Some players may feel there’s a higher power helping them.

And it very well could be the case.

But if God is too busy, Andy Murray can rest assured he has Sean Connery on his side.

The Oscar winning actor had an unexpected cameo during his post match presser after the Scotsman beat Tomas Berdych in four sets 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 to reach the Open Finals for the second time of his career.

The match was marred by high winds which made play very difficult for both sides.

You can’t really sort of allow yourself to enjoy it because anything can happen,” he said. “The match turns around so quickly.  He serve‑volleyed a couple times, came to the net more, and played a couple of good points.

“All of a sudden, you know, you’re back tied at 3‑All when you’ve been in total control for two hours of the match.  You can’t allow yourself to lose focus.  If you do, it can get away from you quickly.”

But Murray survived and he will face the winner of the David Ferrer and Novak Djokovic match with Ferrer up 5-2 in the first set before it was called due to a pending storm.

Murray, though, may have a good chance to win it all. He has been playing his best tennis this year, going to the Wimbledon final and then winning the London Olympics.  He lost to Djokovic in the 2011 Australian Open finals, but the other three Slams he went to, Roger Federer was standing in his way and the Maestro was sent home by Berdych earlier this week.

“I think, you know, my results in the slams over the last couple of years have been very good,” he said. “And obviously this year in the major tournaments, you know, along with the Olympics, it’s been my best year.  Never made two Grand Slam finals in a year, so that’s obviously a good sign that I’m playing better and still learning.

“And the Olympics was the biggest win of my career by far.  You know, it meant a lot to me, too.  Whatever happens in the final, it’s been a great year.  But, you know, all I want to make sure I do in the final is that I give 110%.

I know how hard these opportunities are to come by, and, you know, I will give it everything.”

And he knows the road will be hard no matter who is facing on Monday. Both Djokovic and Ferrer are very tough competitors.

But neither are lopsided with Djokovic holding a 8-6 edge over Murray, while the Scotsman is leading 6-5 over Ferrer.

David makes it very, very hard.  He makes it very physical.  He’s in great shape.  He’s playing the best tennis of his career this year,” he said. “I have played him many times, and, you know, unbelievably tough match with him at Wimbledon.  I lost to him at the French Open; the previous year I played him in the Aussie Open, as well.  That was also a brutal match.  It was very, very tough.”

I handled a big match against (Djokovic) well in Australia this year,” he said of his other possible opponent. “ It was a great match.  I think both of us played very well.  It came down to a couple of points. I know how much the Olympics meant to all of the players, and winning against him in the Olympic semifinal, you know, was a big win for me.  I know how tough it is to beat the top, top players in big matches.”

But Murray will have the rest as he the Men’s Final was moved to Monday. And with the momentum, the Scotsman certainly has a chance to get the monkey off his back and win a Slam.

So hopes Sir Sean Connery.