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09 February 2012

Blog: A military salute


Photo: Andrei GolovanovMikhail Youzhny (RUS)

By Clive White in Weiner Neustadt

National tennis federations often choose some interesting venues for their pre-tie official dinners and Austria’s was no exception. They received their Russian visitors at the Burg Wiener Neustadt castle which is home to the Theresian Academy, the oldest military academy in the world.

It was founded in 1751 by – as the name suggests – Maria Theresa of Austria, who ordered her first commander of the academy to “Mach’ er mir tüchtiger Officirs und rechtschaffene Männer daraub” – “Make me hard-working officers and honest men.”

Initially it took 11 years to complete the academy course although it was later shortened to three. The thought occurred that if they did that at tennis academies the players would be about ready to retire by the time they passed out.

The Russian team looked comfortable in the surroundings, none more so than their No. 1 Mikhail Youzhny who, of course, always greets victory with a military style salute.

It was probably just as well for the Russians that the dinner takes place before a tie rather than afterwards. If Russia were to win the Austrians might have been tempted to incarcerate its formidable leader, Shamil Tarpishev, in the castle, knowing how highly valued he is back home.

When Richard the Lionheart made the mistake of coming this way on his return from the Crusades in the late 12th century he was captured. It was the money they got from his ransom that paid the freight for the original castle and for building much of the town of Wiener Neustadt.

A new allegiance

By Clive White in Wiener Neustadt 

When you’re up against one of the most knowledgeable captains in Davis Cup history in the Russian, Shamil Tarpishev, and your playing in your own backyard, it’s probably a smart move to load up on experience for your own team.

Consequently, Clemens Trimmel, the new Austrian captain, is more than happy to have a little help from someone else, even if that someone else isn’t Austrian. In this tie against Russia, Trimmel has the advisory services of Joakim Nystrom, a former Swedish Davis Cup champion.

Nystrom was a member of the winning Swedish Davis Cup teams in 1985 and '87, has captained his country’s Fed Cup team, and was the Davis Cup coach under former captain Mats Wilander.

So, you ask, why is Nystrom on board in an advisory capacity with the Austrians this weekend?

Nowadays, Nystrom coaches the Austrian No. 1 Jurgen Melzer. Therefore, he has an obvious interest in seeing Austria do well in this World Group first round tie at the Arena Nova just outside Vienna.

Nystrom was even invited to say a few words during Wednesday night’s official dinner before the tie. He commented that swapping a few days of family life for a few days with the Austrian team made no big difference. “I’ve got five screaming kids at home and five screaming ones here, and a captain who is completely in charge, much like my wife at home,” he joked.

Fortress Nis ready for Davis Cup debut

By Zoran Milosavljevic in Nis

Well known across Serbia for its hospitality and cuisine, southern Serbia’s sports stronghold – Nis - is in uncharted territory when it comes to hosting Davis Cup ties. But, judging by the superbly refurbished Cair Hall, which recently hosted one of the preliminary round groups in the Men’s European Handball Championship, Serbia’s second biggest city is well-equipped for its debut in the world’s premier team tennis competition.

Tickets for the 4,000-seater sold in only a few hours, even though Serbia will be missing world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who took a well-deserved break after his successful exploits in Australia.

Apart from an enthralling atmosphere in the Cair Hall no matter what team sport is taking centre stage in the venue, Nis offers a wide variety of entertainment to its visitors. A picturesque cobbled street in the city centre, Kazandzijsko Sokace, is home to traditional bars and restaurants serving some of the best grilled dishes in the region.

The most notable hallmark in this city of contrasts, where Ottoman-styled houses intersect with socialist-era residential council estates and modern office buildings, is its medieval fortress overlooking the Nisava River. Although not as imposing and attractive as Belgrade’s Kalemegdan fort, the Nis fortress offers a unique tranquility only a stone’s throw from the vibrant city centre bustling with activity.

All those who come to Nis for Serbia’s encounter with Sweden will have plenty to look forward to, as the broad smiles of local folk going out of their way to make every visitor feel at home will be as heart-warming as the weekend’s action in the Cair Hall.

Swiss banking on good spirit

By Chris Bowers in Fribourg

The visit of USA for the Davis Cup tie against Switzerland prompted a visit to the official dinner by Switzerland's vice-president, Ueli Maurer, who thanked the Americans for being sportsmen “because we're currently having trouble with the Americans in other areas,” he said.

Maurer was referring to a stand-off in the banking sector between Switzerland and USA, which has been dominating the world of Swiss finance. But the world of banking is a long way from the consciousness of Mardy Fish, John Isner, Ryan Harrison and Mike Bryan, who sat impassively while Maurer made his speech.

If Maurer was sailing a little close to the wind in his content, his tone was very appeasing. “It's good to have representatives of America here for a sporting event,” he said, “and I wish both teams all the best.”

Tennis readies itself for Freak City

By David Hein in Bamberg

Even though Davis Cup tennis is on the bill this weekend in Bamberg, basketball was still a major topic at the draw for the Germany v Argentina tie in the Franconian town.

The Stechert Arena was only available for the clay court tie because usual residents - Brose Baskets - moved their German basketball cup contest on Wednesday against Artland Dragons to nearby Bayreuth.

Stechert Arena is home to Freak City, which is the nickname for the Brose Baskets fans for their wild support of the two-time reigning German league and cup champions. And the tennis world will get a taste of Freak City as 4,800 spectators will pack the sold-out house on Friday.

“I’m sure we will have an exciting three days of tennis. It will be an intimate atmosphere,” said ITF Board member Geoff Pollard, who then glanced over to Bamberg Lord Mayor Andreas Starke and added: “Thank you for sending your basketball team somewhere else. I’m happy to have won.”

German team captain Patrick Kuhnen knows first-hand why Bamberg is called Freak City. He watched the Brose’s game against Bayern Munich with a packed house of 6,800 fans.

“The fans are great and it’s an unbelievable atmosphere for sports, especially for basketball,” Kuhnen said. “And we’re grateful that the Brose Baskets team made the move to Bayreuth to play their game there. We’re happy to play at this arena. It’s a very special atmosphere and we obviously want to prosper for this atmosphere.”

The location also has a meaning for Germany’s top two singles players - Florian Mayer and Philipp Petzschner - who are Bayreuth natives.

“I just know it’s called Freak City for a reason,” Petzschner said. “The fans are crazy, singing throughout the whole game. I’m looking forward to playing here. I haven’t seen it live, but I’ve seen it on TV a couple of times and it was a great atmosphere and I think it’s a great honour for us to play here.”

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    • Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)Nis fortress

    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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