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07 April 2012

Blog: From ghost town to happening hub


Photo: Paul ZimmerSpanish Fans at Marina d'Or

By Emily Bevan in Marina d’Or

One of the great things about Davis Cup is the way it allows National Associations to showcase tennis in different towns and cities across their country. It is often not the most historical or most well-known cities that take centre stage come Davis Cup weekends.

Take Marina d’Or for example, I’m sure many Spaniards could not have pinpointed this little coastal resort on a map before this weekend. But thanks to the RFET choosing it to host the quarterfinal tie against Austria many more people are wiser as to its location.

The resort was built just outside the town of Oropesa del Mar in the early 1980s and over the past 20 years Marina d’Or has become a popular holiday destination for the natives. It really comes alive in the summer season; the difference between when we arrived on Wednesday and when the Spaniards started to flock here on Maundy Thursday was unbelievable – a desolate town with barely a seagull in sight was soon transformed into a thriving hub of activity.

Marina d’Or is an hour’s drive north of Valencia and close to Benicassim, the town famed for its summer music festival. It boasts bright lights, sparkling blue seas and mascots to greet you at breakfast. That’s right Marina d’Or is definitely a place for families. Not only are there mascots, there are clowns in the hotel reception, a Marina d’Or theme tune, avenues bedecked in illuminated arches, the largest water spa in Europe and a red-and-gold train to guide you around the sights and sounds of this previously largely unknown getaway.

Janko Tipsarevic (SRB)Tipsarevic tipping rankings

By Clive White in Prague

It's just as well that Janko Tipsarevic is a grounded individual otherwise he could be in danger of believing everything that's written and spoken about him.

According to Slobodan Živojinović, the president of the Serbian Tennis Federation, he was even being spoken of as a future world No. 1 at home following his rise to an all-time high of No. 8 in last Monday's world rankings.

No doubt in an effort to keep things in perspective, Živojinović, speaking at the official dinner before the Czech Republic v Serbia quarterfinal in Prague on Wednesday night, preferred to view Tipsarevic as a possible future top five player, which will not be an easy accomplishment.

However, Tipsarevic certainly showed his mettle in holding off three match points to beat Radek Stepanek in the second singles rubber at the O2 Arena in Prague on Friday.

The media, as is its wont, has tended to get a bit carried away with Tipsarevic the man. Largely due to the tattooed quote from the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky that he has on one arm - "Beauty will save the world" - he is viewed in some quarters as a deep thinker, much to the amusement of those who know him well.

Amongst friends he is simply regarded as a very personable, articulate young man - and, of course, a very fine tennis player. Shall we just leave it at that.

Argentine fansA crowd of loyalists

By Maximiliano Boso in Buenos Aires

The Argentine crowd has a certain reputation. They are noisy. They are wild. They’re sometimes difficult to manage. Basically, they put the opponents under pressure and push ahead their own players. They could be really hard to handle if it meant winning a crucial match. But is that the whole truth? Let’s get inside their world.

Argentina seems to have always been a polarized country. In some ways, it is a matter of idiosyncrasy. For instance, in this country there are two major soccer teams –Boca Juniors and River Plate, the last one now in the 2nd Division, and two traditional political parties –Justicialist Party and Radical Civic Union.

Even more interesting is the fact that polarization can happen inside a team. Just as Argentina has two idolized tennis players, David Nalbandian and Juan Martin del Potro, they also have their own little group of people that lead the rest of the crowd with songs during their matches.

It is not a matter of competing; in fact, they complement each other, taking the lead depending on what player is on the court.

How wild could they become? Well, Diego Maradona, the Argentine football icon and a huge fan of tennis, once drove Swede Robin Soderling mad at Parque Roca, unfortunately even being extremely rude to him.

But there was a turning point in the 2008 final in Mar del Plata. During the fourth rubber, Spaniard Fernando Verdasco had to deal with the whole stadium singing in a deafening way: ‘Verdasco tiene miedo’, translated to ‘Verdasco is frightened’. However, in that difficult scenario, Verdasco found his cool and gave Spain the decisive third point over Jose Acasuso.

After that, the Argentine crowd has not pushed things to the limits, but still keeps its colorful and noisy ways.


By Sandra Harwitt in Roquebrune Cap Martin

The team atmosphere in Davis Cup is supposed to be during practice, during the matches and during the tennis after-hours.

It’s the same with the Fed Cup and Fed Cup Team USA tends to play games after dinner - Charades and Pictionary to be precise.

When the Americans were asked on Saturday what they’ve been doing in the evening to pass the time, U.S. captain Jim Courier asked, “What do they play, Mahjong?” When told what they play, Courier said, “Charades, I can promise you that won’t happen on our team.”

So what have the Americans been up to?

“Yeah, we're watching the Masters,” said Mike Bryan, of the major PGA tournament going on back in the states. “We didn't play any cards this week.  Sometimes we play a lot of cards.  We haven't had a lot of time.  We have been practicing morning and night, massage and eating, so...I'm sure if we win tomorrow, play a little cards, huh?  Keep the tradition.”

That was about the point when Courier revealed some of the squad’s games are taking place out of the hotel.

“There has been some casino action,” said Courier, smiling. “I can neither confirm or deny that.”

Bob Bryan confirmed with a “Yeah,” and then Mike spilled the beans by adding, “John’s (Isner) been cleaning up.”

I guess will have to check out what “cleaning up” is all about with Isner on Sunday.

It’s Billy Elliot in Prague

By Clive White in Prague

Not sure if he’s a tennis fan or not, but Jamie Bell was spotted beneath a hoodie having breakfast - when he didn’t have his head inside his netbook - at the Serbian team’s hotel in Prague on Friday.

Needless to say the star of the film Billy Elliot went unnoticed by all save for the eagle eyes of

Apparently, Bell is in Czech Republic’s capital making what the publicity blurb describes as “a snowpocalyptic thriller” called Snow Piercer with newly crowned Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt.

The set designers must have had their work cut out on Wednesday when with the temperature in the mid-twenties the old city was more in danger of frying than freezing over.

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FRA Flag France v USA USA Flag 6 Apr 2012 - 8 Apr 2012 View details

CZE Flag Czech Republic v Serbia SRB Flag 6 Apr 2012 - 8 Apr 2012 View details

ARG Flag Argentina v Croatia CRO Flag 6 Apr 2012 - 8 Apr 2012 View details

  • More photos

    • Spanish Fans at Marina d'OrBreakfast in Marina d'Or, Spain

    Sandra Harwitt

    Sandra, an American sportswriter for longer than she's willing to admit, has travelled the world to cover tennis for major publications, such as, The Miami Herald and Associated Press. Her biggest problem of late is managing to pack worldwide purchases into suitcases and still meet the airline weight restrictions.





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