By Maximiliano Boso in Buenos Aires
From being an unofficial world No. 4 to becoming the official translator of this weekend’s Davis Cup by BNP tie between Argentina and Germany, former player Norma Baylon enjoys life close to tennis.
From a Saxon background – Baylon had an Austrian father and a German mother – she grew up in Argentina speaking German as her mother tongue. Due to this particular family situation, she only learned Spanish when she started playing with native Argentinean kids.
As a tennis player, Baylon was considered among the Top 5 in 1966, a time when there was no official rankings, but experts determined where she stood against other players. Just as Enrique Morea was the top Argentinean male player until the advent of Guillermo Vilas, the talented Baylon was the country’s top women star until the arrival of Gabriela Sabatini.
After a long and successful career, Baylon continued in the world of tennis as a coach. Since 1990, she works as a wheelchair representative in Argentina for the ITF, as well as for the Argentine Association of Tennis as a supervisor for Seniors tournaments and translator.
“I enjoy very much being around tennis,” Baylon said. “I have been through five hip surgeries, so I can’t stay on court, but I don’t miss those days. I am very happy with my job as a supervisor as well as an English and German translator. I am grateful to life and I hope to be able to keep doing this for many more years.”
The little warrior from Aix-en-Provence
By Clive White in Rouen
No one could argue with the appointment of the popular former player, Arnaud Clement, as France’s new Davis Cup captain. Clement symbolises France’s commitment to the Davis Cup in the same way that his predecessor Guy Forget did. He also has that same affinity with the players that Forget had, only a little bit more so since he retired as a player just seven months ago.
If anyone can lead France to Davis Cup glory again it’s Clement. As one of the few men in the world who have beaten all four of the world’s current greats – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray – he speaks from a position of strength that is without equal among today’s Davis Cup captains.
The last time he stepped onto a Davis Cup court was to help give France a 2-1 lead in the 2010 final against Serbia, which the French - sadly for them - surrendered.
If anyone deserves to bathe in the elixir of Davis Cup glory it’s Clement since he was overlooked for the final in 2001 when France last carried off the title, in Australia, which by coincidence also happened to be the year -and the country - in which Clement reached his only grand slam singles final.
He lost the Australian final in straight sets to Andre Agassi, which was unusual for a man who developed a reputation for becoming embroiled in wars of attrition. Agassi, in actuality, was another great player who also knew what it was like to lose to the indefatigable little warrior from Aix-en-Provence.
Clement’s new career starts in earnest this weekend against Israel in Rouen, where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake. If it ends in glory in December, there could be moves to turn Clement into a saint, too.
Tennis town once again
By Daniella Matar in Turin
The city of Turin is entrenched in sporting history.
It boasts two of Italy's top football clubs, has noted teams in other sports including basketball and volleyball, and is the finishing point for cycling’s annual Milan-Turin Classic.
Moreover, Turin was also the host city for the 2006 Winter Olympics.
However, it hasn't been a focus point for tennis fans for 40 years, since the last Davis Cup tie was held in the city in 1973. That was a special moment for current Italian Davis Cup captain, Corrado Barazzutti, who burst onto the scene with a stellar performance during that tie.
Italy was without several star players after they backed Nikola Pilic in the 1973 Wimbledon boycott. Pilic was suspended by the Yugoslavian Federation after it alleged he had refused to represent them in a Davis Cup tie against New Zealand.
In protest, 81 tennis players pulled out of Wimbledon, including Italian stars Adriano Panatta and Paolo Bertolucci, who were suspended by the federation and thus unable to play in the Davis Cup tie.
Italy turned to a young Barazzutti, who had made his debut in the competition three years earlier. And the 20-year-old didn't disappoint, thrilling the fans as he won both his singles rubbers to lead Italy to a 3-2 victory over Spain.
Barazzutti went on to form Italy's strongest team ever, along with Panatta, Bertolucci and Tonino Zugarelli, winning the Davis Cup in 1976 and finishing runners-up in 1977, 1979 and 1980.
By Sandra Harwitt in Jacksonville
Davis Cup homecoming
The Davis Cup official dinner for the USA versus Brazil first round tie turned out to be a fabulous homecoming for former American Davis Cup stars who live in Florida.
Three players - Brian Gottfried, Todd Martin and MaliVai Washington actually live in the Jacksonville area (in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach) - and Frank Froehling is from Stuart, around four hours away.
Froehling, accompanied to the dinner by his son and daughter-in-law, played in three ties from 1963 and had a 3-3 overall record in Davis Cup.
Gottfried, who was accompanied by his wife, Windy, played in seven ties and had a 7-7 overall record in Davis Cup. He was on the winning 1978 USA team that beat Great Britain in the final.
Martin, accompanied by his wife, Amy, had a 16-14 overall record in Davis Cup in 18 ties played. He was on the winning American team that went to Moscow to play Russia in the 1995 final.
Washington had a 3-2 overall record in three ties played from 1993. In fact, Washington played along with current USA captain Jim Courier on the American team that beat Brazil 4-1 in the first round in February 1997. A knee injury he sustained during that first round victory eventually ended Washington’s career.
Gottfried, Martin and Washington made sure to make the entire rounds to chat with everyone on the American squad and the Brazilian team during the dinner.
All four plan on being out during the weekend and Gottfried even came to the draw on Thursday.
Canada embracing tennis
By Jeff Paterson in Vancouver
With Milos Raonic rapidly rising the ranks of professional tennis, it should come as no surprise that interest in the sport is surging in Canada. And proof of that came the moment the country won the right to host this opening round of the Davis Cup World Group tie against powerhouse Spain.
As many as 10 cities from coast-to-coast expressed interest in playing host to the tie and, in the end, three very competitive finalists emerged: Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver.
While Calgary and Winnipeg both submitted outstanding bids, ultimately Tennis Canada elected to return to the country’s west coast for a second straight year. To bolster its chances, the Vancouver bid promised to increase the seating capacity at the Thunderbird Winter Sports Centre, a three year old multi-purpose facility on the campus of the University of British Columbia built as the primary site for women’s ice hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympic games.
When Canada played host to France in the opening round of last year’s Davis Cup, the venue drew rave reviews from players and organizers. However, in an effort to put their bid ahead of the others this time around, facility managers promised Tennis Canada they could add 1,400 temporary seats to boost capacity for tennis to 6,400 spectators.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done creating a bigger, better tennis environment for this year’s matches. The hope is that those additional spectators, and the increased atmosphere they create, will boost the home court advantage Canada will need to pull off the first round upset over a Spanish team lacking Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.