World Group action starts in


01 February 2013

Blog: Blake the Broadcaster


James Blake (USA)

by Sandra Harwitt in Jacksonville

In 2007, James Blake was on the court for the USA in all four ties en route to the United States winning their record 32nd Davis Cup trophy. During that year he went 5-2 including winning both of his singles matches during the USA’s 4-1 victory over Russia in the final.

Fast forward six years and this weekend when the USA faces Brazil in the Davis Cup first round tie, fans won’t find James Blake on the court. They will find him on the sidelines, specifically in the TV booth for the Tennis Channel. It will be his maiden voyage working on TV.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Blake, of trying out announcing. “It’s going to be so much fun to see how I do and whether it’s something I might pursue later as well.”

So how did Blake get hired for this first time TV assignment.

“(Justin) Gimelstob asked me a couple of weeks ago if I would  fill in for him this weekend because he needed to be elsewhere,” Blake said. “He was just asking around for people who could fill in and I said I’d be happy to help. It’s a good chance to do it with guys I know well and a feeling I know well, playing at home in Davis Cup.

“We’ll see how I do.”

So ahead of the first rubber on Friday, which would pit Sam Querrey against Thomaz Belucci, Blake said he wasn’t feeling too much anxiety about the new task ahead.

“I’m not as nervous as these guys are,” said Blake, pointing towards John Isner and Sam Querrey having a last practice session. “It’s very different feeling (than playing). I’m not as nervous as I remembered being in the locker room right before match time. It’s a fun to be a part of it.

“Actually, it’s weird because I’m not sure if I belong in the players’ lounge with these guys or in the locker room with these guys but they keep inviting me in. And I’ll keep coming as long as they still view me as one of their own.”

For Blake fans, the 32-year-old is still in the trenches playing and will next play at tournaments in Dallas, San Jose, Memphis and Delray.


Lobbying with Ljuby

by Daniella Matar in Turin

Among the spectators at Turin's Palavela is someone who knows a thing or two about tennis and specifically the Davis Cup.

Ivan Ljubicic was part of the unfancied Croatia team which became the first unseeded nation to win the competition in 2005, when it beat Slovak Republic. In that final, Ljubicic beat Karol Kucera in straight sets in the opening rubber and also won the doubles, before losing to Dominik Hrbaty in five sets.

En route to the final, Croatia beat the United States with Ljubicic posting huge upsets  over two former world No. 1s: Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick. And if his singles wins were not impressive enough, Ljubicic teamed with Mario Ancic to upset Bob and Mike Bryan in the doubles.

Ljubicic holds the record for most ties played, most total victories and most singles victories for his nation in Davis Cup competition, with a record of 36-19 in 22 ties between 1998 and 2010.

However, it was a long road for Ljubicic to becoming "Master of the Davis Cup" as one newspaper put it after Croatia's astonishing victory.

At the age of 13, Ljubicic had to flee war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina along with his mother and younger brother, leaving his father behind. The family were reunited and lived in Croatia for a year before Ljubicic moved to Italy for three years with seven other talented refugee tennis players.

"It wasn't easy during all those years in my childhood." Ljubicic said. "I guess it'll have effect on me for the rest of my live. I didn't have many choices when deciding what I wanted to do in life. My refugee experience had taught me that you simply have to carry on."


A Bridge Apart

by Clive White in Rouen

Rouen, where France is receiving Israel in a Davis Cup World Group first round tie this weekend, has been notorious for its traffic problems down the years. But they seemed to be over the worst of them when they built the futuristic-looking Pont Gustave-Flaubert, a vertical lift bridge named after the famous 19th century novelist, at a cost of 60-million euros just over four years ago.

Suddenly, for the first time in many years, Rouennais could move freely around their city and actually reach appointments on time. Then, last October, an oil tanker crossing another important bridge over the River Seine here -- the Pont Mathilde -- crashed and caught fire. It took eighty firemen to bring the blaze under control but not before it had permanently damaged the structure.

The result is that the bridge – which carried 20,000 cars a day – had to be closed and has remained closed ever since, meaning that the traffic chaos has returned to this beautiful historical capital city of Normandy once more with a vengeance. The Pont Mathilde was the main motorway link from Calais and Dieppe to the South of France.

The city, which boasts many fine half-timbered buildings, has had more than its fair share of fires down the years – never mind the one that saw poor Joan of Arc burnt at the stake in 1431. In 1200 another major fire destroyed part of the old Romanesque cathedral.

Needless to say, the journey to the Kindarena, where the Davis Cup tie is being staged, takes an eternity from whichever direction you are coming. No one, therefore, should be too surprised if they see the French and Israeli teams, with racquets over their shoulders, hot-footing it alongside the Seine this weekend.


Sneakers, not skates, on Burrows mind

by Jeff Paterson in Vancouver

In Canada, hockey is king. And in Vancouver, site of this weekend’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie between Canada and Spain, many of the sports headlines are  focussed on Friday night’s National Hockey League game between the Vancouver Canucks and their arch-rivals the Chicago Blackhawks.

But in the Vancouver Canucks locker room, at least one member of the hockey team  has Davis Cup on his mind. Canucks forward Alex Burrows, an avid tennis player  when his hockey season is finished, was lamenting the fact his schedule wouldn’t permit him to attend the Friday singles matches. He was particularly disappointed that he would not able to see Milos Raonic open the tie against Albert Ramos. Like many in his country, Burrows considers himself a big fan of the power-serving Raonic and was hoping to see one of his matches in person.

Burrows and the Canucks will travel for a road game on Sunday, so attending the reverse singles isn’t an option either. However, the popular hockey player has every intention of attending Saturday’s doubles matches.

Last year when Canada hosted France in the opening round of Davis Cup play in Vancouver, Burrows was a special guest of Tennis Canada and was invited into the Canadian team room. He says he’s become friends with a number of Canada’s top tennis players and hopes to be on hand Saturday to lend his support.


The last standing ovation for Chela

by Maximiliano Boso in Buenos Aires

As usual in Davis Cup ties in Argentina, the National Association honours a former player for his contribution to the sport. This time, Juan Ignacio Chela was invited to step onto the court to receive a plate and an action picture of himself from the hands of Arturo Grimaldi (president of the Argentine Association of Tennis and the South American Tennis Confederation) and Kris Dent (Executive Director of Professional Tennis of the ITF).

“It is great for me to receive this recognition,” said Chela, who received a standing ovation from the crowd. “Tennis has been a huge part of my life for a long time. You have been unbelievable through the years, always very supportive, so I thank you all for being so nice to me and for making so many moments of my career very special.”

Born in Ciudad Evita, in the Province of Buenos Aires (not the Capital city), Chela won six singles titles and three in doubles, reaching his best ranking at No. 15 in 2004. He played in Davis Cup for the first time in 2000 and throughout his career collected 10 singles victories two doubles wins in 14 ties played.

In this sense, Chela admitted Davis Cup will always provide a special memory: “I played the 2006 Davis Cup final in Russia. I lost against (Nikolay) Davydenko, but playing there for my country is the memory I have in my career, as well as having been part –as the 5th player- of the team that played the final against Spain, in Seville, in 2011. I won’t ever forget those memories and I keep them in a warm place of my heart.”

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