Belgium’s proud Serbian fan
by Stuart Fraser in Charleroi
The past weekend in Charleroi is one which will live long in the memory for driver Dragan Lazendic.
Born in Belgium in 1976 to Serbian parents and having lived in Brussels all his life, this weekend's Davis Cup tie between Belgium and Serbia offered him a chance to take some time off from his day job maintaining ATM cash machines. Instead of keeping the flow of money going, this week he spent his time transporting Novak Djokovic and the rest of the Serbian team between the hotel and Spiroudome.
There was no question that for Lazendic it was a dream come true.
“I have had the honour to drive all the Serbian tennis players,” said Lazendic, who is very proud of his roots. “All times the players are with me they ask to play Serbian music in the car. The players feel very good, they are relaxed and feel as if they are in Serbia. I put on the music and the party begins. They are very good guys.”
Lazendic, who reached a decent level playing in Belgian national competitions, already knows Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic after traveling to his academy in Belgrade last year to receive his coaching license from the Serbian Federation.
And now this weekend has given him the opportunity to get to know Djokovic. The world No. 1 has been happy to sign autographs for Lazendic’s family and even gave him one of his training tops.
The proudest moment came when Lazendic’s four-year-old nephew Novak got the chance to meet the man he was named after. “I asked Djokovic if it was possible for my family to come and take some pictures with him and he said it was no problem,” Lazendic said. “It’s a great moment for me and my family.
“Now the little Novak has met the great Novak, when we ask my nephew what his last name is, he says Djokovic, not Lazendic.”
Kazakhstan Crazy for Tennis
by Richard van Poortvliet in Astana
It’s a busy time for the Kazakh Tennis Federation. Not only are they hosting their first ever Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first round tie, which has seen record attendance levels, there will be plenty more tennis to come over the next few weeks.
Despite the federation being formed in 1957, when Kazakhstan was still part of the Soviet Union, the sport is still relatively new in this central Asian nation. However, it is a sport they are taking seriously. A brand new tennis centre has been built in Astana, which Ronnie Leitgeb, the Austrian Tennis Federation president, said, “I would love to have such a facility in our country”.
Although the city of Astana, which is the second coldest capital city in the world, after Ulan Bator, just in case you are interested, is under a blanket of snow, there are ten indoor courts that players around the country can use. When the weather warms up, there are a further eight courts outside. For a nation, which doesn’t have much of a tennis tradition, these facilities are the envy of the world.
This centre is certainly not a white elephant as the courts are in constant use, by both the country’s elite and up-and-coming players. When the Davis Cup tie finishes on Sunday, there will be no rest for the local organising committee. On Monday the city will host the Fed Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceana Zone 1 and Zone 2 groups, which basically means 18 teams from as far away as Vietnam and New Zealand will battle it out to try and get promoted.
With 126 matches to be played in the space of six days, it certainly isn’t easy logistically, but the organisational committee led by Adil Burlibayev have worked tirelessly to make sure the event runs smoothly. His job is made even harder as the Davis Cup has been played on clay, while the women’s competition will be played on hard courts.
It’s an exciting time for the Kazakh Tennis Federation, to host two major tournaments and if that wasn’t enough for the local tennis fans, they will have the Kazakh tennis championships to look forward to, as soon as the Fed Cup finishes. It’s a good time to be a tennis fan in Kazakhstan.
A long wait
by Richard Fleming in Geneva
Saturday started like any other day.
Shower, shave, dressed, breakfast, check emails, transport to the Palexpo Arena, and settle in for the second day of Davis Cup tennis. The Czech team was switched. They would be much stronger, and more evenly matched with their Swiss opponents.
Four shared sets, and then in to the deciding fifth. With courtside commitments seconds after the winning shot was played, I watched the eighth game of the fifth set from my seat, before wandering round to take up position with my cameraman.
We weren’t alone. As well as Davis Cup TV there was RTS (Swiss TV) and – of course – Czech television.
Berdych and Rosol went 5-4 ahead, and we were poised for a possible break in game 10 and victory to the Czechs. There would be cheers, hearty handshakes, maybe even a pat on the back but we would be on court, passing the losers making their exit, and interviewing the victors.
Wawrinka and Chiudinelli held serve, so cameras down, but just a slight delay in the conclusion of this match … or so we thought.
Over the next three hours, my cameraman must have picked up his kit a dozen times, readying himself, only to down tools as service games were held.
We waited, and waited … and waited.
It lasted – as we now know – for seven hours and one minute. It was the second longest tennis match ever.
And, in years to come, when someone asks me what I was doing on February 2nd, 2013, I’ll tell them, ‘I was at the Davis Cup tie in Geneva involving Switzerland and the Czech Republic, just watching … and waiting, like everyone else – and it was a privilege.’
Icing in Rouen
by Clive White in Rouen
As popular as the Davis Cup has been in Rouen, it wasn’t the only show in town this weekend. Vying for the affections of the Rouennais was the French Cup for synchronized ice skating.
Connoisseurs of the sport liken it in importance to Roland Garros and 42 teams from around the world were here in the capital city of Normandy looking to qualify for next year’s World Championships in Boston, Mass. – and still the Kindarena, where the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas tie was held, managed to sell out on all three days.
There was also a flash mob one thousand strong on the Rouen town hall square giving the French Cup lift-off. It has been quite a common sight and sound to see twenty or so young girl skaters, all meticulously made up, pulling their little suitcases behind them, rattling over the cobbled streets of the old town, as they made their way back and forth to the Patinoire Ile Lacroix stadium.
Of course, the real sporting passion of Rouen is a sport not a million miles removed from the relatively new one of synchronized ice skating – ice hockey. The Rouen Hockey Élite 76 team, which is based at the Ile Lacroix venue, just happens to be one of the best ice hockey teams in the whole of France.
Since winning the French league for the first time in 1990, just eight years after it was founded, the club – who are better known as the Dragons of Rouen - has won the title on no fewer than 11 further occasions. Not even France’s hugely successful Davis Cup teams can match that.
Future Davis Cup stars in the house
by Sandra Harwitt in Jacksonville
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) saw the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas first round home tie against Brazil as an ideal opportunity to host a number of the country’s young hopefuls at a USTA Player Development Davis Cup Camp.
Eight junior boys’ drove up from the USTA’s Boca Raton training center -- it’s a five-hour drive -- to take part in the camp held in conjunction with the Davis Cup.
Among the boys’ taking part in the adventure is Stefan Kozlov, at 14 the youngest boy ranked in the Top 70 of the ITF World Junior Rankings at No. 66. Kozlov was on the US Junior Davis Cup 16-and-under team that placed third in Barcelona, Spain, last September.
“Mostly we’re here to support the Davis Cup team and watch,” said Kozlov, who also went to the last home tie where the US lost to Spain in Austin, Texas in July 2011. “We’re having fun.”
The team was watching the matches on Sunday and then hitting the road heading south back to Boca.