The Czech Republic has never won the Davis Cup as an independent nation, but in 1980 four men from Czechoslovakia became heroes in their homeland by defeating Italy 4-1 at the Sportovni Hall in Prague.
Thirty-two years later and just hours before the Czech Republic went head-to-head with Spain in the 100th Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Final, the quartet were reunited to reflect upon former glory.
“Winning the Davis Cup is special,” said Ivan Lendl. “I have good memories – it’s one of the highlights of my career, winning together with the boys.”
And the foursome certainly appeared in high spirits at a press conference at the O2 Arena in Prague as they joked with friendly faces in the crowd in both Czech and English.
Tomas Smid, who together with Lendl won all three ‘live’ points in the 1980 Final, recalled how he had been sick with stomach cramps the night before and somehow came back from two sets down to defeat Adriano Panatta in the opening rubber.
He also explained how Davis Cup had afforded him the opportunity to travel to places he would never otherwise go: “I remember when we played in Paraguay, the linesmen were from Paraguay and when they didn’t know what to do they gave a foot fault! And when we played in India we came to Calcutta and there were no courts and there was only grass and within four days these guys built up the court from the bamboos.”
His team-mate, Jan Kodes, praised the format of the competition and said the loss to Sweden in the 1975 lasted long in his memory.
“I think the format of Davis Cup is good,” said Kodes. “Because it’s very important for national associations otherwise they would never see the players play at home.”
The fourth member of the victorious Czechoslovakian team is perhaps the least well-known outside of his own country. Nonetheless Pavel Slozil was still passionate about the competition, explaining: “I only say that any win for your country [in] those days was very important because only a few people could really travel to the western world. It was very important to be on a tennis team, a Davis Cup team, a Fed Cup team, to be able to travel to the west.
“Every match, there was a lot of pressure for us to win. We felt it. When we got through, we felt really, really good about it.”
And now the question is will the class of 2012 have an equally positive feeling?