Tenniszine - UK tennis blog.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Davis Cup, GB v Israel, first day

The GB v Israel Davis Cup tie took place in Eastbourne on grass at Devonshire Park, which is where I go annually to see the ladies WTA warm up for Wimbledon. I was lucky enough to visit on Friday 21st the first day of the Davis Cup tie in which the two opening singles matches are held.

During the opening ceremony I found the occasion to be rather surreal seeing the Israeli team parading in the pleasant surrounding at Eastbourne, knowing that their country was currently engaged in the wanton destruction of Lebanon and its civilians. The other side of the argument is that is just what Hezbollah are engaged in against Israel. This blog is not the place to debate those arguments, but I still found the occasion surreal.

The normally gentile grounds of the WTA visit were transformed into the harsher tones of the advertising hoardings and colors of the ITF Davis Cup. The crowd were noisy, raucous, decked out in the slightly common look of the Union Jack. This was quite different from the polite audience that occurs during ladies week. It occurred to me during the opening ceremony that the UK flag needs a makeover, some modern design to replace the dated look that has associations with football hooligans, yobs, and chavs. So too does the National Anthem. The Israeli National Anthem was grand, stirring, emotional, but sadly for me the UK National Anthem reminds me of Billy Connolly's send up of it during one of his classic shows.

By comparison to the ladies, the speed and power of the men was there to be seen. Best of five sets too for the Davis Cup instead of best of three which the ladies play. Rusedski was out, injured with a labral tear in the hip. I saw him retire at Queens and he missed Wimbledon too, so let's hope he recovers. That let in Alex Bogdanovic. His talent was there to be seen at times, but his opponent Noam Okun rose to the occasion with solid first serves and powerful backhands that proved too much. The second set could have gone either way, but Alex lost it and that gave Noam more confidence and he won quite easily in the end. Second rubber was Andy Murray against Andy Ram.

Now I've blogged about Murray before, and seen him in person too a couple of years ago at Superset tennis before he was well known, and I was looking forward to watching him ply his craft. He took to the Court like a menacing warrior and it was soon clear that he is not a one-dimensional player. However his game took a while to click and for two sets he was a petulant teenager, scowling, distracted, and unhappy with his game and everything around. He went down two sets to love and the crowd were stunned. He scraped the third set with some courageous, harrying play. The fourth set finally showed his full range of talent: screaming passing shots, drops shots, lobs and counterpunching at its best. Irrespective of the fact that his opponent is a doubles specialist ranked a few hundred places below him. there's no doubt that Andy Murray showed he has the grit and heart that makes a champion. Read the BBC report here. I have to say I was won over.

However I fear that five sets over four hours is too much since he's scheduled to play in the doubles and reverse singles.

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