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06 April 2013

Blog: Idaho’s Adopted Tennis Son


Photo: Susan MullaneMats Wilander (SWE)

By Sandra Harwitt in Boise

To the best of anyone’s knowledge there has been no tennis player of note who was born - or who grew up in - Idaho.

But that in no way means that there isn’t a famous tennis player living among the people of the Gem State, so-called because every kind of gem starting with diamonds have been found here.

And in terms of tennis speak, the tennis gem in their midst is former Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander. He was in the Taco Bell Arena on Friday watching all the action from the front row.

The Swede, who helped his country to three Davis Cup titles in the 1980s and has also served as Sweden’s Davis Cup captain, lives in the Sun Valley Ski resort area, which is just over two hours away from Boise.

Wilander moved from Connecticut to Idaho years ago when the third of his four children, Erik, was diagnosed with a mild form of epidermolysis bullosa - a disease that causes the skin to blister.

The cool and dry air in Idaho is considered a benefit to someone with the disease. Wilander and his wife, Sonya, a former South African model, raise a great deal of money to help research the disease.

Mixing it up in Canada

By Jeff Paterson in Vancouver

It’s not just the fans in Vancouver who have embraced Canada’s team ahead of this weekend’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal against Italy. The Canadian players have been welcomed into the local sporting community here by two of the city’s professional sports organizations.

All week at the end of practice sessions, the Canadian Davis Cup crew was joined on court at the Thunderbird Sports Centre to take part in friendly, yet competitive, games of soccer-tennis with members of Major League Soccer’s Vancouver Whitecaps kicking the soccer ball back and forth across the net.

The soccer squad’s training pitch is adjacent to the Davis Cup venue and the team’s locker room is housed in the building being used for this weekend’s competition.

So as the players from the two sports crossed paths they decided to combine forces for a little post-practice fun. And Thursday night, in an example of truly Canadian team bonding, the Davis Cup team spent the eve of competition taking in the National Hockey League game between the hometown Vancouver Canucks and the visiting Edmonton Oilers.

The tennis players decked out in their red and white training gear were given a rousing ovation when shown on the rink’s giant video screen during a stoppage in play.

While soccer and hockey provided some fun and a welcome distraction during the week, Canada's focus is now squarely on tennis as the country looks to advance to the Davis Cup semi-finals for the first time.

Football-tennis fusion at Argentina's Davis Cup ties

By Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires

Argentina’s colorful fans with their soccer-style chants created a rowdy atmosphere at the Parque Roca on Friday for the opening singles in Argentina’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas quarterfinal against France.

Davis Cup crowds at home and abroad have become used to the support that follows Argentina urging them on to feats often above their standing as individual players, taking their chants from those heard at football stadiums around the country week in, week out.

Among the better known is “Vamos, Vamos Argentina, Vamos, vamos a ganar, esta barra quilombera no te deja, no te deja de alentar (doesn’t stop urging you on)” first heard in the wider world during the 1978 World Cup.

Barra quilombera loosely translates as rowdy gang, which is exactly what the group at the centre of the chants must look and sound like to rival teams.

“El que no salta es un inglés” (he/she who doesn’t jump is English) is the most popular version, for reasons of bitter football rivalry, of a chant sung while jumping up and down on the spot that can be adapted to any rival team, so on Friday it was “El que no salta es un francés”.

More “musical” and a song which contrasts with the monotone chants generally heard from other fan groups - like “Les Bleus” supporters gathered in a stand on the opposite side of the stadium on Friday.

First heard abroad at football grounds during the France ‘98 World Cup, the song, which fans often accompany swirling  handkerchiefs above their heads, sways to the words:

“Olé, olé, olá, cada dia te quiero más (each day I love you more), Argentina, es un sentimiento (feeling), que no va a parar (that won’t stop).”

Picking potatoesIdaho potato dolls

By Sandra Harwitt in Boise

Before the Serbian Davis Cup team even arrived in Boise, Idaho, for the quarterfinal tie against Team USA they had been well-schooled as to what the state is famous for: potatoes.

An Idaho potato is a russet - a brown outside with a white, starchy inside. It is the grandaddy of all potatoes produced in the United States, compliments of the rich volcanic soil around the Snake River Valley.

Novak Djokovic was already waiting to taste Idaho potatoes in Idaho once he was told at the Indian Wells tournament that that was what Idaho wall all about. Serbian captain Bogdan Obradovic was asked at the draw ceremony what he believes will be the biggest challenge for his team this weekend and he deadpanned: “Potato.”

Potatoes are so much a part of the culture here that there’s an entire souvenir shop in Boise called “Taters” and sells all things Idaho and potato related.

There’s t-shirts, magnets, potato peelers, gift baskets, potato pancake mixes, lotions made of potato starch and little cuddly toys known as Spuddy Buddy Beanie.

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