Magill: Current Davis Cup team has familiar feel
The city of Seville in southwestern Spain is the bull-fighting capital of the world and equally famous for its flamenco dancing. However, this Friday, Saturday and Sunday it will be the site of the United States-Spain Davis Cup finals that will be watched by millions of fans on ESPN.
It is of special interest to the many Athenians who well remember four key members of the American cast: Captain Patrick McEnroe, who represented Stanford in four NCAA tournaments in Athens (1985-88); Andy Roddick, the singles ace of the US team who often visited Athens to watch his older brother John star for Georgia in 1995-98; and the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike, who led Stanford to the NCAA Triple Crown in 1998 and are now the world's doubles champions.
I'd love to be in Seville myself, and actually received an invitation Monday morning to be the guest of Randy Walker, Georgia tennis letterman in 1988-89, who now is media director of the United States Tennis Association.
Randy, a native of New Canaan, Conn., was recommended to me by Bob Troup, a Georgia classmate and Marine Corps buddy. Randy graduated with a journalism degree and was sports editor of The Red and Black during his college days here.
In his phone conversation, Randy described the extensive preparations the Spanish have made:
"They have built a red clay tennis court in the end zone of the city's soccer stadium which seats 70,000. There will be temporary bleachers on the sides of the court that will seat 26,000. All seats have been sold and the largest crowd ever to witness a sanctioned tennis match will be on hand. The TV contract requires that there be a roof over the court in order for the match to be played on time, rain or shine. And, the Spanish have spent $1 million erecting a roof. They also built two practice courts at the other end zone of the stadium."
Randy said he's been so busy he hasn't had time to get a haircut. I told him he ought to find Figaro, the most famous hair dresser in the world, featured in the opera "The Barber of Seville."
The United States would be favored to win if the match were played on any surface other than slow red clay. The Spanish are led by two of the greatest clay court players of recent years, Carlos Moya and Juan Carlos Ferrero, both former No. 1 players and former French Open champions on clay. They also have perhaps the world's best young doubles player in Rafael Nadal.
The Bryans, who have won the French Open doubles in 2003 and recently captured the ATP world doubles title for the second straight year, will be favored to win the doubles point. But Roddick and Mardy Fish (incidentally, a good friend of former Georgia player Bo Hodge) will be the underdogs against Moya and Ferrero in the four singles matches on clay.
So, it's going to be tough for the U.S. to get the necessary three points.
Although the U.S. has won more Davis Cup titles than any other country (31 to runner-up Australia's 29), it has been nine long years since its name was engraved on the sterling silver cup former Harvard NCAA champion Dwight Davis donated 104 years ago.
Incidentally, former collegians have played a part in all U.S. Davis Cup matches, either as a player or captain, or both.
The last time the U.S. won the Davis Cup was in 1995 on indoor clay courts in Moscow. The U.S. defeated Russia 3-2. Todd Martin (Northwestern) and Pete Sampras won the doubles and the captain was Tom Gullickson (Southern Illinois-Edwardsville). Both Martin and Gullikson played in the NCAAs in Athens.
Randy, I certainly appreciate your invitation to be with you in Seville, but I'm behind schedule in writing a history of intercollegiate tennis in the U.S., to be published early next year (hopefully).
However, I'll certainly be watching the play on TV and listening to Cliff Drysdale (who broadcast the 1984 NCAA finals in Athens) and Mal Washington (Michigan), who won the ITA All-America singles in Athens in the fall of 1988.