From racket to reporting
By Stuart Fraser in Charleroi
Belgium’s Filip Dewulf may have retired from tennis in 2001, but 12 years later he got to experience another proud moment when he stood in front of the crowd at the Spiroudome de Charleroi today alongside Oliver Rochus to receive the Davis Cup Commitment Award.
Dewulf, who played 21 ties from 1991 to 2001, is here this weekend to cover Belgium vs Serbia in his post-career life as a journalist for Het Laatste Nieuws, the biggest Flemish newspaper. Taking to the court for the presentation, with world No.1 Novak Djokovic watching on, is a moment the 40-year-old will long remember.
“It is nice to be recognised,” said Dewulf, who reached a career-high ranking of No.39 in 1997. “Especially because I always loved playing Davis Cup - it was one of my favourite competitions. For ten years I always played for my country and I loved doing that.”
Dewulf’s most notable career moment was reaching the semi-finals of the 1997 French Open as a qualifier, but Davis Cup also provided him with countless memories: Playing his first tie away to Australia, winning away in Israel and taking on Boris Becker and Michael Stich in Germany.
Playing an away semi-final tie in France in 1999 -- Dewulf lost a tight five-set match to Cedric Pioline -- was also right up there. “The semifinal for Belgium was an historic event and it was great to be a part of that team,’ Dewulf said.
While many former players follow a route into broadcasting, there are few who write for newspapers as a correspondent. Sitting in the press box does not quite provide the same adrenaline rush as playing on the court, but Dewulf still conjures up some of the old feelings.
“I know how it feels so I get some adrenaline pumping sometimes, especially in Davis Cup,” he said. “So when Belgium do well I get to live it again a little.”
The other Swiss chocolates
By Richard Fleming in Geneva
Roger Federer is clearly Switzerland’s most famous tennis player. No question.
Indeed, he’ll go down as one of the sport’s greats. His legend will linger long after he and his trademark bandana have left court for the final time.
For tennis fans, his is a name we’ll all remember.
But what of the others? In particular, those who have represented their nation in the Davis Cup.
Well, it seems Swiss tennis has stumbled upon a noble solution. They are recognising each and every one of the 59 players who have featured in this great competition.
From the likes of Guy Sautter, Maurice Ferrier, Charles Aeschlimann and Charles Martin – who played in the first Davis Cup contest, against Czechoslovakia in 1923 – to the current crop of Wawrinka, Laaksonen, Chiudinelli and Co, facing the Czech Republic in 2013.
Each surviving player will receive a Hugo Boss blazer, with a number on which corresponds to their position in that aforementioned list of 59.
Four players at the official pre-match dinner became the first to be presented with their new attire, among them Rene Buser, a doubles specialist, who featured for Switzerland between 1946-57. He’s number 13 on the all-time list.
Another, Heinz Grimm, told me: “It’s a nice touch. It shows we’ve not been forgotten.”
Grimm played from 1960-61, which finds him at number 23 on the list. He was a playing captain in 1961, before becoming non-playing captain from 1962-74.
Swiss Tennis drew inspiration from organisers of the Australian Open, where former champions are recognised in a similar fashion.
A French flavor in Florida
By Sandra Harwitt in Jacksonville
For many years the city of Jacksonville was known as the insurance capital of the southeast. But a number of insurance companies pulled up stakes and moved out a while back.
But that doesn’t mean that Jacksonville doesn’t have other claims to fame.
Most notably, Jacksonville is known as the premier place where the French staked a claim in the Americas in the 16th Century.
The French explorer Jean Ribault arrived to set up what was meant to be a commercial enterprise, but also turned into a refuge for French Huguenots looking to escape prejudiced back in France. The French settled on the banks of what is now the St. John’s River in an area known as La Caroline.
Sightseers can visit Fort Caroline, the site of the first conflict between Europeans over land in what now encompasses the continental United States, if they come to Jacksonville. They will find that a flag adorned with fleur de lis still flies over Fort Caroline, but they won’t find too many French speaking folks so bring your English language skills if you visit.