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29 November 2001

Davis Cup Grows By A Third



  • Richard Evans
The Davis Cup, the beautiful silver bowl, designed by an Englishman called Rowland Rhodes for the Boston firm of Shreeve, Crump Low in 1900, remains untouched in size or design but that does not mean the cost of sending the Davis Cup on its travels is not growing year by year. The entire trophy has been enlarged with a third plinth recently added to accommodate the silver plaques on which the names of the winning teams and players are engraved.

The bowl itself can be detached, as it was one Sunday night in Paris in 1934 when Fred Perry, having helped Britain win a famous victory over France at Stade Roland Garros, was encouraged by his defeated opponent, Henri Cochet, to 'borrow' the Cup for the evening so that the pair of them could tour some Montmartre night spots and fill it with champagne. Happily, the International Federation officials never got to hear about the Cup's nocturnal frolics until it was carefully replaced on its plinth - only one in those days - in a suite adjoining the foyer of the Crillon Hotel.

The Cup had enjoyed more sedate social activities in its early years. After Norman Brookes and the New Zealander Anthony Wilding first won the Cup for what was then called Australasia in 1907, it stood gleaming in the candlight of Mabel Brookes' dining room at their splendid home in Melbourne. "I filled it with water and floated peonies in it," Mrs Brookes, later Dame Mabel, recalled. "It looked very pretty."

Australia started to play independently of New Zealand after the First World War but it was not until the Second had been fought that Harry Hopman began a production line of champions who brought the Cup back down-under time and again in the fifties and sixties. Frank Sedgman, Lew Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Ashley Cooper, Neale Fraser, Roy Emerson, Rod Laver, Fred Stolle, John Newcombe and Tony Roche were just some of the names engraved on those silver plaques and, to many tennis people in Australia, it would be unthinkable not to have Patrick Rafter's name there also.

The fact that Rafter missed out on the team's triumph in Nice two years ago, and is now thinking of retiring, has only made the Queenslander's quest more acute. And no one realises it more than Lleyton Hewitt. "It would mean a lot to me to win the Cup for Pat," said Hewitt after practice at Melbourne Park. "He has always been my idol, the person I looked up to most in tennis. He took me under his wing when I was a 15-year-old water boy for that tie against France five years ago and we have been great mates ever since. His name should be there. I just want to make sure it is."

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