By Ed Pearson in Halmstad
At the official dinner ahead of the World Group quarterfinal tie between Sweden and Serbia much was said that warranted applause, not least the superlatives that were spoken about new world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
But it was a member of the Swedish team who drew the biggest response from the crowd gathered at the beautiful Black Eagle House in Halmstad, Sweden, when he revealed he would be retiring from tennis the following week.
Simon Aspelin, a doubles specialist and Davis Cup stalwart for Sweden for the last decade, is bringing his career to an end at the Swedish Open in Bastad, which starts on Monday.
But he’s not ruling out a return to the game should his team pull off a surprise victory against defending champions Serbia.
“I spoke to Thomas Enqvist and he said that you have to promise me that if we win this weekend that you have to play the semifinals and, of course, Davis Cup for the rest of the year if we make it through to the final,” Aspelin explained. “I’m looking forward to retiring at the Swedish Open next week, but if we win this tie that will be awesome.”
Aspelin has some great memories from a professional tennis career that spanned 13-and-a-half years. Davis Cup is right up there with his 2007 US Open doubles title, and his silver medal in men’s doubles from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
“I have had the privilege of playing Davis Cup for Sweden for nearly 10 years,” Aspelin said. “It’s the best thing you can do as a tennis player. For me, when I look back at my career I will remember the good Grand Slam results, playing the Olympics and playing Davis Cup with all the different atmospheres you get from playing around the world.”
Sweden will be hoping to give Aspelin the perfect send-off with victory in tomorrow’s doubles rubber.
He’s nothing but a hot dog
By Craig Gabriel in Austin, Texas
Andy Roddick’s always had a bit of a prankster streak. It’s quite common for him to play practical jokes on friends – and tennis peers – on the world tour, or even to make himself the butt of jokes.
The World Group quarterfinal between USA and Spain is being played this weekend in Roddick’s hometown of Austin, Texas. So the American Davis Cup star took the opportunity to host a bbq for teammates at his brand new home, which backs on to Lake Travers. Bob Bryan described Roddick and wife, actress-model Brooklyn Decker’s new digs in this way: “Andy built a castle.”
During the party, Roddick decided to hold an impromptu Texas-version of a Coney Island hot dog eating contest. His motivation: To have the three hitting partners – Steve Johnson, Evan King and Bradley Klahn – go head-to-head as an initiation ritual to the team. The winner was whoever consumed the most number of hot dogs within a time limit.
The three rookies, who have all come through the American collegiate ranks, have been pretty competitive on the court during practice sessions. But they really brought out their competitive spirit, which all in attendance said was quite amusing, when they were stuffing down the hot dogs.
In the end, it was Johnson who came away the winner, gobbling up five hot dogs in 2 minutes 30 seconds. He put his win down to coming to the table with a strong game plan: He soaked the hot dog roll in water to make for an easier swallow. My opinion: GROSS!
Johnson’s efforts delivered financial reward: He collected the winner-take-all prize of $500.
United in grief
By Chris Bowers in Stuttgart
France and Germany may be opposing each other in Stuttgart this weekend, but they are united in grief as both nations had unsuccessful candidate cities in the bidding process to host the 2018 winter Olympics.
At the official dinner on Wednesday night, German Tennis Association president Georg von Waldenfels said, 'I'd like to welcome the ITF's vice-president Juan Margets, who is representing the president Francesco Ricci Bitti. Unfortunately, Francesco cannot be with us because he's in Durban. I don't know whether he voted for Annecy or Munich, but as neither won, we will have (to) drown our sorrows together.”
FYI: And the winning host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics is Pyeongchong, South Korea, which won the bid in overwhelming style. South Korea had 63 votes to 25 for Munich and seven for Annecy.
Pictured: Georg van Waldenfels (left), Jean Gachassin (centre) and Juan Margets (right)
Tennis, boogie-woogie style
By Craig Gabriel in Austin, Texas
In what could rival any Davis Cup draw ceremony, the USTA promoted a concert at the new theater, ‘Austin City Limits’, with the award winning country rock band Asleep at the Wheel.
After the concert finished the audience was jumping, everyone was most definitely wide awake. The half hour show was filled with energy, fun and was highly entertaining. The band sang songs like “Route 66”, “Miles and Miles of Texas” etc. People were doing the jive and it was incredibly enjoyable.
The USTA sold tickets to the public for the show, which included the privilege of watching the draw ceremony. The funds raised went to the Joplin City Tornado Appeal. There were about 1,000 people in attendance and they paid $5 each, adding up to a $5,000 donation.