Saturday, March 5, 2011

Davis Cup Update: Everyone is playing… ¿pero dónde está Egipto?

Day 1 of Davis Cup weekend has passed and it felt like tennis fans from all corners of the Earth had a home team to cheer for… except me! After Egypt got relegated from Group II last year having lost to Denmark 5-0 at home, I found myself jealous that almost every tennis fan I knew was pumped for their nation’s team, so I decided to devote myself to Tunisia today.

Tunisia are facing Great Britain this weekend in Group II first round action and after I found out Andy Murray wasn’t showing up for the tie, I figured I’d check out the action and see what the post-revolution Tunisia team had to offer.

The Great Britain Davis Cup Squad

I checked both squads before the matches started and saw that Great Britain was lead by world number 214, James Ward, number 416, Jamie Baker, doubles world number 48, Jamie Murray, and his doubles partner for the weekend, Colin Fleming (ranked 79 in doubles).

Tunisia, who had a tough time preparing for this Davis Cup considering the revolution and all, was headlined by world number 325, Malek Al Jaziri. The 26-year-old is joined by world number 1602, Slim Hamza, and 2 unranked compatriots, Sami Ghorbel, and Jaziri's coach, Walid Jallali, who is only part of the squad because team member, Ahmed Triki, couldn't get his UK visa in time for the trip to Bolton due to the unrest in Tunisia.

"I was on the court with Malek when we heard guns being fired and we had to leave. People were shouting: 'They're coming! The helicopters are coming!' We did not leave our houses for a week. It was scary," Jallali told The Independent, of an incident during training in January.

Jaziri had just returned from a training camp in Spain when the revolution happened. "It wasn't easy. I had six days when I didn't practice. There were very big problems, though it's safe now," said the Tunisian #1.

Jaziri may have not prepared for the tie under ideal circumstances, but he went to Bolton coming off a final showing at a Futures event in Colombia only 3 weeks ago.


Malek Al Jaziri talks to the LTA on Thursday ahead of the Davis Cup tie between Tunisia and Great Britain

I had hopes for Jaziri and the Tunisian delivered. He opened the tie against Baker and managed to score a point for the North Africans with a well-deserved 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 2-6 win.

British captain, Leon Smith, admitted he didn't know much about Jaziri before the tie and it wasn't a complete shock that he won the 1st rubber.

"It hasn’t been that easy to find out information, but I’ve done a good job with it, I think. I’ve asked as many people as possible. Jaziri is decent, and we will take him very seriously," said Smith.

"I did actually manage to get some footage of him. That was a team effort involving Jamie’s (Murray) wife, as Jaziri had been playing in Colombia, and we wanted some video footage to be sent over. She helped out."

James Ward and Leon Smith during the 2nd rubber on Friday

The second match of the day saw Ward demolish Ghorbel 6-0, 6-2, 6-0 to level the tie for Great Britain and if Jaziri and Hamza don't miraculously beat Murray and Fleming on Saturday in the doubles rubber, it is pretty much over for the Tunisians, although I would like to watch Jaziri face Ward and see how well he fairs against the Brit at home.

World Group Action

While I was fussing over a tie in Group II, all eyes were on the World Group where some interesting things went down.

While Spain easily raced to a 2-0 lead over Belgium thanks to Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco, defending champions, Serbia, suffered a bit of a shock in their tie against India where they found themselves leveled at 1-1 at the end of the first day.

Tipsarevic had a bad day in front of a partisan Serbian home crowd

The absence of their star, Novak Djokovic, seemed to have an impact on the Serbian squad, as Viktor Troicki had to go through 5 sets to outlast India's Rohan Bopanna, who is ranked more than 600 spots below the Serb, followed by a shock defeat of Serbian #3, Janko Tipsarevic, by Somdev Devvarman. As is the case in most Davis Cup ties, the doubles rubber tomorrow is crucial for the Serbs, who are playing at home.

Argentina went up 2-0 in Buenos Aires against Romania in their opening 2 rubbers as David Nalbandian and Juan Monaco earned points for their country, despite Nalbandian's hernia trouble.

The same however cannot be said of the USA whose tie against Chile in Santiago ended up a trending topic on Twitter. While Andy Roddick needed 4 sets to take care of Nicolas Massu, John Isner (ranked 32 in the world) lost a 4 hour 22 minute 5-setter to Chile's Paul Capdeville, who is ranked 133 spots below Isner, leaving the tie locked at 1-all.

Other surprises included world number 10, Jurgen Melzer, losing to Jeremy Chardy who helped France to a 2-0 lead over Austria, and 749th-ranked Joachim Johansson made it 2-0 for Sweden with a shock win over world number 76, Teymouraz Gabashvili of Russia.

The absence of Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko has certainly hurt Russia's chances. It's highly doubtful that they can pull of 3 wins in a row now, especially that Robin Soderling is on the Swedish side and he has won his last 11 straight matches including 2 back-to-back titles. So I guess what am trying to prematurely say is, Do svidaniya Russia!!

1 comment:

Sam said...

Never would have thought Tunisia would give us a hard time. I was there. Jaziri is a decent player.