On the Volley - Dissing the Davis Cup, putting the "I" in tennis

7th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

Dissing the Davis Cup, putting the "I" in tennis

7 February 2008

MADRID - After coming out in force at the Australian Open last month, the Spanish Armada, its heavy artillery spent, has decided to retreat to higher ground to recoup forces and lick wounds this week at the expense of tennis' pre-eminent team tournament, the Davis Cup.

That's right, Spain tomorrow will begin battling newbies to the Cup, Peru, in its capital city without its heavy hitters, world number two Rafael Nadal and world number five David Ferrer. Nadal, who, arrived from Melbourne wounded mentally and perhaps physically after having been thrashed by French surprise Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the Australian Open semifinals, claimed last week that he felt "unsuitable" for competition. "It's better that those who are prepared go," he said, sheepishly leaning on the 10-hour time Australian difference as an excuse.

Ferrer, who had planned to travel to Peru to lead the team captained by Emilio Sánchez Vicario, developed a last-minute injury, opening up a seat on the plane for Feliciano López, ranked 37 in the world. Joining López, Tommy Robredo, Fernando Verdasco, and Nicolás Almagro have been enlisted to try to pick up the pieces that the country's two top five players, along with 15-rank Juan Carlos Ferrero, decided weren't worth their efforts this round, even if Peru's top player Luis Horna is ranked a paltry 120th. (Nadal was quick to remind everyone that this is his first voluntary absence and that he might join again in April.)

The question that remains to be answered is why are so many tennis players incapable of even feigning interest in competing as a team? When you think about it, the Davis Cup should be to tennis what a World Cup or European Championship is to soccer - one country's best taking on another's in highly-charged nationalistic battles. The reality is far from the truth. Tennis' best, Roger Federer, has unabashedly made it a habit to not attend the Davis Cup opening rounds, and will again be absent when Switzerland takes on Poland. Andy Murray has also decided to leave Britain hanging above Argentina's open jowls this year. Nadal's absence represents strike three for a third country's top racket this round.

Perhaps expecting a player to compete for national pride instead of personal rankings is too much to ask in a sport that cultivates individualism from such an early age, often forcing children move home and country in search of a better tennis academy or coach.

In any case, one could argue that Federer's unabashed apathy to the team concept is more noble than Nadal's excuse that, two weeks later, he is still recovering from jet-lag. Nobility aside, what is clear is that while there is no "I" in team, there is definitely an "I" in tennis.

[Copyright EL PAÍS / KELLY RAMUNDO 2008]

Subject: Spanish news

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