By Alexandra Willis in Oviedo
All of us, at some stage in our lives, will have spent our birthdays in a place out of the ordinary. For Juan Carlos Ferrero, though, he’s usually at home in Valencia, enjoying some much-needed post-Australian Open rest.
Not this year. Today, the occasion of his 32nd birthday, he was wrapped up warm on the Spanish bench, urging on his team-mates as they rounded off what has been a very successful weekend for the defending champions.
The crowd even sang ‘Cumpleaños Feliz’ to the Davis Cup stalwart, competing in his 17th tie this weekend, as he did a turn around the court before being thrown into the air by his team. New Spanish Davis Cup captain Alex Corretja followed the celebrations by presenting Ferrero with a birthday cake.
"I don't remember [the last time] that I spent my birthday here, usually I spend the day playing in Brazil, so it was very special to spend it here with all the team, here, very nice,” Ferrero said. “I expect something but I didn't expect the cake and all the people so I'm very happy about how they treat me here so I felt very special today.”
Over in Nis, Serbia, another birthday was celebrated during this Davis Cup weekend. Viktor Troicki turned a young 26.
Ferrero’s not the only one who will be spending their birthday on the court, or by the court, this year. Rafael Nadal turns another year older during the French Open, on 3rd June, the tournament organisers do their best to always come up with a different sort of cake.
Novak Djokovic is luckier, his birthday on 22nd May usually falling in the week before the French Open. Andy Murray, another May baby, celebrating his date of birth on the 15th, is normally in Madrid.
For some, it’s a more pleasant experience than for others. Poor Nicolas Mahut, for example, turned 30 on the day that he was demolished 60 61 61 by Novak Djokovic at last month’s Australian Open, spending an hour and 14 minutes on the court. At least he had more time for celebrations, I suppose.
So many happy returns Juan Carlos. Here’s to a happy 32nd year.
Players in bathrobes?
By Clive White in Wiener Neustadt
Perhaps the answer to Austria’s success in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie against Russia was to be found in the waters.
The team was ensconced in a luxury spa hotel in Bad Erlach, about 40 minutes drive from the Arena Nova venue in Wiener Neustadt. The hotel blurb described it as such: “A place of tranquillity. Achieved with Far Eastern philosophies. To rejuvenate mind and body. When you stay here, you will view atmosphere and inspiration in a different light. Wholly relaxed. With Linsberg Asia as your maxim.”
No advantage to the Austrians here, mind you, because the Russian team was nicely bedded down there, too.
But the Austrians, one sensed, like the Scandinavians, know a thing or two about spas, saunas and things and know how to take the “maxim” from them. Jurgen Melzer and company were frequently to be seen wandering through the hotel lobby in bath robes on their way back to their rooms.
A tennis venue to tribute
By Fred Varcoe in Hyogo
Tennis arenas around the world have different characters, some determined by their location, others by their design. The Bourbon Beans Dome in Japan has to rank up there with the most unique tennis arenas in the world.
As happens in many places, the Bourbon Bean is not located in what you would call downtown. It’s not actually in a town. OK, theoretically it is part of Miki City in Hyogo Prefecture, but, in this land of convenience, the nearest shop is miles away. The nearest major city is Kobe, 30 km away. It’s not the easiest place to get to -- there’s no public transport so you need a car -- if anyone finds a way out there without having a car let me know how you did it!
But once you get there it is well worth the trip and not only for the tennis. The Bourbon Bean is probably the only thatched tennis arena in the world. Half of the outside walls are covered in grass to blend in with the natural environment of the Hyogo countryside. The 2,500-seat centre court is below the entrance level – the entrance floor is decorated with yellow “tennis balls” – and there are four courts on each side of the stadium court, making a total of nine. All are contained in a massive single-roof dome with three massive rooftop windows. It really is a spectacular venue and no surprise that it has won architectural awards. It is one of only two ITF-approved courts in Japan.
But, as a reminder, if you’re going in winter … dress up – it’s reckoned to be one of the coldest indoor tennis venues in the world (in winter, anyway).
Tennis above ice
By Lee Goodall in Ostrava
Wander into the venue for this weekend’s Czech Republic-Italy tie most days of the year and you would find ice rather than an indoor tennis court. Ostrava’s 7,500-capacity CEZ Arena is home to Czech ice hockey outfit Vítkovice Steel, currently occupying sixth place in the country’s Czech Extraliga.
The process of converting the arena into a tennis venue began exactly one week before the tie was due to begin, explained Martin Gross, Chief of Production for Ceska Sportovni, the company that promotes the tie locally.
“The evening before there was an ice hockey match, and on Friday morning there was a final celebration of the Youth Olympic Games,” he said. “We started at 4pm on Friday and the court was ready on Monday morning. The Czech team checked the surface on Sunday afternoon.
“The ice is still here. We lay a special covering on top that insulates the ice and regulates the temperature. On top of that are two wooden layers and on those the surface of the court is painted.”
The final layer is constructed using 1,200 plywood plates that are joined together and painted three times to form an indoor hard court.
“We painted the first layer in our storage unit and then brought the wooden plates [to Ostrava], put them in place and applied the next two coats of paint here in the arena,” Gross added.
Once the tie is finished, the de-rigging process is much quicker. After the fans have gone home, Gross plans for his team to work through Sunday night so the arena is cleared by 8am Monday morning.
“The plates are then cleaned, go into storage and can be used again.”
By Clive White in Wiener Neustadt
The tie at Wiener Neustadt raised a thorny old issue with regards to the behaviour of journalists covering international sporting events. The rule of thumb is that journalists are always suppose to be neutral, but is that always possible?
Some of the Russian journalists here were dressed more like fans than journalists with tracksuit tops and baseball caps in their team’s rather vivid red and white colours.
It does pose the question whether journalists can be impartial – or at least be seen to be impartial – when they are dressed in such manner. During Russia’s doubles victory on day two there was much cheering and fist-pumping going on, although to be fair it was done mainly in the privacy of the press room.
Some people in sport like to see journalists wearing their heart on their sleeves and certainly it does show that they care when sometimes the opposite is the fear.
Journalists wouldn’t be human if deep down – or perhaps maybe not so deep - they didn’t want their own nation to do well, but it is usually considered imperative that they are seen in public to be impartial, otherwise their words count for little.
It would be interesting to know what the readers of daviscup.com think.
Younger than he looks?
By Chris Bowers in Fribourg
Jim Courier blooded 19-year-old Ryan Harrison in a dead rubber in Fribourg, giving the native of Shreeveport his first Davis Cup by BNP Paribas match after being a team member two years ago without getting on court. Afterwards Harrison was asked about playing under Courier's team ethic, and gave a long and eloquent answer. It so impressed Courier, that the captain quipped 'Check out his birth certificate!'
Harrison has that odd combination of choirboy looks with a deep voice. But the eloquence and good manners certainly go well beyond the years of a young man who won't be 20 until the first week of May.