— arf (@arfarfarfy) August 16, 2018
Nethead Eulogy for Davis Cup
Tennis friends around the world lend me your ears.
I am here to help bury the Davis Cup, not to praise it.
The evil that men do to tradition lives long after them.
The good that tradition has done is interred in its demise.
So let it be with the Davis Cup.
The noble ITF has determined the Davis Cup, which kept same format for 118 years, is no longer relevant. The honorable ITF says we must reduce the number of matches played per tie because the millennials cannot focus for long periods of time. We must reduce the number of sets played because today’s players, with their physios, masseuses, nutritionists, racquets, stringing, shoes and private planes, cannot match the stamina of the tennis players of the past who made tennis a professional sport with none of the advantages above. We must eliminate the home and away concept, except for a token, even though it is what makes Davis Cup unique.
But, alas, I have come to bury traditional Davis Cup. Yes, Davis Cup, as is, was my friend, faithful in its mission for the 49 ties I attended. But the ITF says that Davis Cup is out of date and the ITF is an honorable organization.
I guess Davis Cup was irrelevant when Melissa Errico gave the best live rendition of U.S. national anthem I ever heard at the 2007 Finals against Russia in Portland. Irrelevant when Alex Corretja won his only grass court match in Houston by beating the grass king Pete Sampras. Irrelevant when unknown Lleyton Hewitt joined with Pat Rafter and Aussies to beat highly favored U.S. team at Bud Collins’ 100th anniversary tie in Boston. Irrelevant when Chris Woodruff, in his only Davis Cup appearance, won match in Zimbabwe, and then disappeared from the tennis scene. Irrelevant when John Isner hits inside out backhand return of serve to close out victory over Roger Federer in Fribourg. Irrelevant when, at same tie in Switzerland, member of Roger’s Swiss fan club presented me with devil’s horns for leading the Netheads in cheers for victory by John, Mardy, and the Bryans. Irrelevant when I had the opportunity to watch every Davis Cup match played by the greatest doubles team of all-time (Mike and Bob) and maybe tennis’ greatest ambassadors.
Yes, the honorable ITF is correct. The current Davis Cup is so irrelevant I cannot recall the above memories and the hundreds more.
As for the millennials, the honorable ITF is correct about the Davis Cup being irrelevant for the thousands of ball kids I saw who had the chance to be on the court with their tennis heroes, chance current generation will not have. ITF is also correct about the bored youngsters in the stands taking in the lasting memory with their parents. My son and I, sitting one row behind Stan Smith, watched in amazement as Jim Courier beat Greg Rusedski 8-6 in 5th set of 5th match in Birmingham. I do not recall anyone of any age leaving that arena during the match but I believe all 9000 fans were cheering on every point of last set.
But the honorable ITF will remind these youngsters that current Davis Cup is irrelevant, that the chance to maybe see a Davis Cup live is not crucial. They will be able to watch the new, improved Davis Cup from Madrid, Singapore, Dubai, Shanghai, Indian Wells on television at home where video games will be available if matches last too long.
As with all friends, I did recognize weaknesses with current format. Dead rubbers should be played and counted to determine home court advantage for next round. Players from both countries should be required to spend time with the home fans. In Tashkent, even though the event was held at tennis training site, the only connection Uzbek student fans had with U.S. was talking with this old Nethead in the stands. Google “Netheads Uzbekistan” to see these amazing Uzbek kids, to see these millennials who did not lose focus during the tie. Imagine the enhanced memory some students would have had if they could have hit balls with pros from both countries. Adding 5th set tie-break made sense, as it does for slams as well. Yes, it’s only fair to let one’s friends know when adjustments could be beneficial.
But ITF is honorable and it decided the Davis Cup should be buried, not tweaked. Being honorable, the fact there were undertakers offering so much potential money could not have been a factor in the death knell decision.
I speak not to disprove what the ITF has said,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
ITF did love traditional Davis Cup, not without cause
What cause now makes ITF want to bury it?
Ah, ITF delegates have lost their reason. Please bear with me. My heart is in the coffin with traditional Davis Cup. And there it will remain until tradition is returned.