Tennis

JTs ATP Cup Thoughts

“Love lift us up where we beeeeeelong”

The Davis Cup – Officially the Poor Man’s ATP Cup


Actually, before I begin my semi-serious lack of analysis, I’d like to rehash a MAJOR story – The little known Ellen Perez beat Saint Nick to the Bushfire ace donations by a solid hour.

I suppose nobody cares because it was $10, and Ellen Perez probably won’t be the Australian player being sneered and snipered by Channel 9 journalists for showing a hint of emotion.

Okay, on I go.


Let me say this straight away about the ATP Cup – If tennis were baseball (The only similarity being they both involve drugs and belting the crap out of a ball), the ATP and their assorted hombres will have hit a home run out of the park in their first at bat.

The idea behind it was almost the perfect cocktail for mild success – A similar format to the revamped Davis Cup and the old World Team Cup, meaning you had players showing a ton of passion about playing for their countries (Even the minor nations), combined with the usual incentive of a shitload of prize money, but it had three big things the hijacked Davis Cup doesn’t have.

  1. The perfect timing on the tennis calendar, cashing in on the build-up to the Australian Open, instead of getting lugged at the arse-end of the season.
  2. The sort of partisan support you used to see in classic Davis Cup ties – The Serbian fans became so rowdy in the Novak – El Shapo epic on Friday, that Carlos Bernardes had to send out a PSA that it was indeed, a tennis match.
  3. The teams/players were actually playing for ATP ranking points (Which scaled based on the opponent’s ranking), making even the most meaningless rubber worth something.

Heck, those points actually decided the seedings for the Australian Open – Daniil Medvedev was ranked 5th (Dominic Thiem was 4th) heading into the tournament, and thanks to winning 4/5 singles rubbers (Versus Thiem’s 1/4), The Bullshit Russian will be seeded 4th for the draw, huge for the simple fact that he’ll be able to dodge tennis’ equivalent of Murderer’s Row until a hypothetical Semi Final… assuming he doesn’t attempt to demolish an umpire’s chair before then.

There was the other innovations, like having instant replay available to the Team Captains, the all-new video replays for foot faults and potential shots played on the other side of the net (By my count about 2 calls out of 500 were reversed), and on-court coaching was finally present at a proper ATP event, although basically anyone not in the stands was allowed to provide it – The team captain, the competing player’s individual coach, or their fellow team members.

You could conceivably have had Nick Kyrgios coaching Alex de Minaur or John Millman, creating a paradox where a man without a coach was coaching other players.

I always find it hilarious how some people’s heads explode at the mere thought of on-court coaching in the ATP, while the WTA assimilated it into the women’s game 12 years ago, and pretty much nobody has a problem with it.


Things That Gave Me The Shits

I’ll get to the standard argument about one-sided ties shortly, but the first gripe I had was that the Perth teams were at an inherent disadvantage to the other 16 teams, quite simply due to the distance + time zone difference.

Geez, I sound like a West Coast fan complaining about Victorian bias.

Case in point – Russia played their final group rubber against the Norwgians on Tuesday afternoon, then they had to take dreaded 4 hour flight to Sydney (Believe me, it’s shit), to which Medvedev (After prevailing against Diego Schwartzman) mentioned that he was still jetlagged.

It was the same problem for Spain, who played Wednesday afternoon, then Friday evening in the QF against Belgium, and then Saturday evening against the well-rested Aussies – Although they were able to overcome everyone except the Serbs, because they’ve got more depth than the Mariana Trench.

If I could change anything for 2021, it’d be having Perth groups start playing a few days earlier than Brisbane and Sydney.

The other glaring problem the Perth section had was the crowds – Let’s just say we Sandgropers haven’t forgotten about the demise of the Hopman Cup, in the same way that Texans don’t forget about the Alamo.

The total attendance over the 6 days of the Perth group stages was 54,508, thanks mainly to the fact that there was essentially no marketable players besides Rafa, and without the Majorican Matador, that figure would have been smaller than a typical Dockers home crowd.

For comparison, the last Hopman Cup, on the back of the appearances of a certain Roger Federer and Serena Williams, attracted a record total crowd of 110,364.

Once again, we don’t forget The Alamo.

Still, the crowd figures in Sydney and Brisbane were apparently up on the old warm-up Brisbane & Sydney Internationals, and it definitely looked that way on the coverage.

That person who kept tooting that frikkin’ air horn during the Final

I honestly hope someone grabs that bloody thing and shoves it up your ar-

The competitiveness of some of the ties

Some of those group stage ties were so forgettable I’ve completely ignored them from this report, but to be honest, their stench has been more than covered up by the sheer number of epic moments & matches.


The Classic Moments

First cab off the rank – Some of those rallies between Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev in the Semi-Final – Get to the rallies starting at 50 seconds in on break point, which just about sum up why Nole is still some kind of supermutant toying with schoolboys.

The Shot Of The Tournament – Ivan Dodig

“It happens.”

“What, shit?”

“Sometimes.”

Saint Nicholas Of Canberra

Watching Nick when he’s got something to play for is fantastic – Which is why he always seems to step up in team competitions, the simple fact of having the team environment around him to provide support.

Heck, look at the match against Stefanos Tsitsipas – That was the epitome of Nick – The stage was lit, he was up against a Top 10 player – Was it any shock to see him give that kind of a performance?

If I’ve done the maths on his aces thus far, Nick hit 70 aces during the Cup, so he’s up to $14,000 already with the AO to come, there was also a $100 donation for every ace during the tournament, which ended up being around $133,000, and the ATP donated $725,000.

Alex de Minaur, aka The Cardiac Kid

When the Australian Medical Journal publishes it’s next study on heart problems, I’m dead sure they’ll find that the leading cause of heart attacks in the month of January 2020 was Alex de Minaur.

Which is quite fitting, because he plays with nothing but heart.

It all kicked off on the opening Friday against the Germans, in the major singles rubber against Sascha Zverev.

After Nick easily defeated Jan-Lennard Struff, The Demon was in a hole down 4-6 2-4 against Alex The Exorcist, only to break back, take the 2nd set into a tiebreak (Which he won 7-3), and then demolish T=the German No.1 in the Final Set, to such a degree that Sascha had his fit of anger towards his dad.

It ended up being the exact same story in the Sunday tie against Denis ‘El Shapo’ Shapovalov, in a match that was arguably even better in quality (IMO it was a match of the decade contender).

This time, John ‘The Mailman’ Millman won the opening singles rubber to put the Aussies up, only for Shapovalov to kick off the second singles by taking the 1st Set in a tiebreak (After de Mianur fought off 7 break points), and broke for a commanding 4-2 lead, only to get broken straight back for 4-3, de Minaur held serve, broke again to serve for the set, and had to fight off another 3 break points before finally claiming the set.

The final set ended up being a carbon copy of the Zverev match, minus El Shapo abusing his family members – De Minaur raced out to a 5-1 lead, and took out the set, match and tie 6-2.

And this after the Aussies withdrew Nick from the opening singles due to some apparent back soreness – Based on those push-up celebrations he whipped out, if Nick’s back was sore, then I imagine he could strangle himself with his legs doing yoga at full fitness.

After a rest against the Greeks (With the group secure), The Demon found himself up against Dan Evans in the No.1 singles rubber in the Quarter Final, a match that on paper looked in De Minaur’s favour, only to realise that the fancier of the nose powder had been sprinkled with the same magical bullshit pixie dust that so many players seem to get sprinkled with when they play Australia in team events – Nicolas Escude defeating a World No.1 Lleyton Hewitt in the ’01 Davis Cup Final in Melbourne…. or Kiki Mladenovic knocking off Ash in last year’s Fed Cup Final.

Actually, that’s probably not magical bullshit pixie dust – That’s just French people having their typical random moments of brilliance.

Anyway, you probably know what happened next – de Minaur lost an outstanding 3 setter to Evans, who probably got randomly drug tested straight after the match, especially with how intense some of that celebrating was.

And then in the Semi Final against Rafa, Alex broke him in the opening game of the match, and managed to take the 1st Set in a desperate effort to keep the Aussies alive in the Semi-Final (After going down 1-0 with RBA’s singles win over Nick), only for Rafa, off about 3 hours sleep from Friday evening, to turn into Rafa, and seal Spain’s place in the Final that they ultimately lost.

Good signs for another solid run in Melbourne from The Demon if you ask me.

THAT TIEBREAKER

One of the really great things about team tournaments (Davis Cup & Fed Cup) is the decisive final rubber – Sudden death, winner take all, with the crowd toeier than a broken thong.

The classic example of that situation – Cashy vs Mikael Pernfors in the 1986 Davis Cup Final.

It was absolutely the case in the Quarter Final on Thursday – If that de Minaur – Evans singles match was absolute top draw material (And believe you me, it was), what came up after that in the deciding doubles was nothing short of remarkable, especially for the fact that Little Lleyton made the ballsy call to back Alex up in the doubles and not play the specialist Johnny Peers alongside Nick, which many people (Including me), thought was a suicidal move, especially after Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury steamed to the opening set.

But, Nick and Alex (Who had never played an official match as a pair) took the 2nd set, setting up what turned into an utterly mesmerising tiebreak, which lasted a lazy 35 minutes, and saw a grand total of 10 match points.

It was moments like that made the ATP Cup worth watching – Amazing.

I think I died 4 times alone – The dog revived me on 3 of them.

When the Poms had those 5 match points , I figured the Aussies were doomed to another heart-crippling defeat to the Soap Dodgers, which always seems to be the case when you get these extremely close Ashes sporting match-ups.

I still can’t believe Jamie Murray overcooked that backhand at 11-10.

Still, thank goodness he did, because we couldn’t have got the celebration that summed up the performance of Nick and Alex.

After that brutal deciding doubles rubber loss in the Fed Cup Final, it was sweet relief to see the Aussies come out clean on the other side.

A Forgotten Classic Match – The tie-deciding Bulgaria vs Great Britain Doubles

Yep, there was another thrilling tiebreaker the Poms came out on the wrong side of.

Despite Grigor Dimitrov and World No.517 Alexandar Lazarov (I know what you’re thinking, who?) being the underdogs to the established pair of Murray and ‘Salisbury Steak’, the Bulgarians pulled off a superb 11-9 win in the tiebreaker, which finished at 2am on Saturday morning.

The Pablo Cuevas Protest

Packed up his bags and threatened to walk off court after getting a warning from the chair for a supposed lack of effort, which wound him up like a kid on a sugar overdose, to the point that Nikoloz Basilashvili had to step in like a police negotiator talking to a jumper and convince him to come back on court.

Classic.

Daniil Medvedev, Again

I couldn’t tell what was funnier – That stoush, or Marat Safin’s comments, while Daniil stood behind him rolling his eyes.

It was important for him to stay mentally strong, and just hold on to what he can, give the best and see what’s going to come, and not to go too crazy.

ESPN Australia

And yes, that is correct, Marat Safin was the Russian captain.

I wouldn’t be surprised if their pre-match preparation was hopping in the spa with a couple of blondes.

The Serbian Fans

Now THAT was the type of atmosphere that was practically non-existent during the Davis Cup – A crowd getting so rowdy to the point the umpire actually had to get up and tell them to shut up.

The sad part is, there’s a 98.98% chance you won’t see a crowd get that rowdy in Rod Laver Arena during the Australian Open – Mainly because they’ll be inside Melbourne Arena.

The Final

So after everything that went on for the previous 9 days, we got the final between the 2 best teams on paper – Rafa and the Spaniards, versus Novak and the Serbs.

After Roberto Bautista Agut followed up his awesome display against Nick with a comprehensive win against Dusan Lajovic, it was time for Rafole 55.

To cut a long and predictable story short, The Djoker took down the Hairplug Enthusiast in another hard court rout between the pair (It’s now 19 sets in a row on the hard stuff to Nole), setting up the ending this tournament deserved – A decisive doubles match, featuring Novak & Victor Troicki, against Pablo Carreno-Busta Rhymes….

And coming in with a steel chair, doubles ace Feliciano Lopez.

That worked for about 4 games, before Nole and the Serbian Lawn Mower (Ya geddit? He’s Victor!) proceeded to treat the Spaniards like Nole treats Rafa in places that don’t resemble Paris.

To be honest, without Rafa there (Obviously completely knackered after playing more matches in 3 days than he’ll play in Melbourne) the doubles felt like an anti-climax.

Honestly, the most entertaining thing about it was listening to Todd Woodbridge and John Fitzgerald verbally eviscerate Lopez and Busta-Rhymes about how utterly useless their tactics were.

If one half of The Woodies and that guy who played with Anders Järryd are suggesting that your doubles tactics are crap, they’re probably crap.

So there we have it, the Serbians are the inaugural ATP Cup champions, and I can’t say they haven’t earned or deserved it – Good on em.


In all, I felt the ATP Cup was very enjoyable to watch, plenty of superb tennis, and let’s be honest, they’ll struggle to get this kind of passion in Melbourne next week.

Categories: Tennis

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