Davis Cup - Tramlines: Brits lack Serb-style passion

Mon, 20 Sep 16:16:00 2010

Serbia's stunning run to the Davis Cup final is one of the feel-good tennis stories of the year but it must have the LTA squirming with embarrassment.

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In the year that the British team suffered a humiliating defeat to Lithuania in the nether regions of Euro/African Zone Group II, Serbia, a country with a population of just seven million people and, until recently, no huge tennis tradition to speak of, is on the brink of the biggest team prize in the sport.

And let's not forget that as well as creating Davis Cup finalists, Serbia has already developed two female number one players in recent years in Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic.

As the LTA continues to plough vast sums into tennis in a desperate bid to create champions, Serbia can bask in pride at their heroes who have truly reached the top the hard way.

Suffering from the effects of war, there was no money in the Serbian coffers to be spent on lavish tennis facilities when their current top players were in their formative years.

Their players had to find the game as much by accident as by design with Ivanovic for example first learning how to play the game in an abandoned Olympic-sized swimming pool which had been drained of water.

Another key factor to consider is that Serbia's 'big three' of recent years – Novak Djokovic, Jankovic and Ivanovic - all moved away early in their careers, something that of course Britain's sole real recent success story, Andy Murray, also did.

Djokovic went to Germany when was he was 12, Jankovic went to America, and Ivanovic to Switzerland.

There they encountered some negative stigma in the aftermath of the Balkan wars as Slobodan Milosevic's regime was pilloried by the international community.

Yet such unjust stereotypes helped them to develop a thick skin when it came to playing in international competitions.

As Ivanovic explained in an interview in 2007: "Everyone seemed to think Serbs were bad people and I never felt I was welcome. It was hard for us. At every airport, immigration control always seemed to take longer for us than the other players.

"We had to explain what we were doing going into whatever country. There was so much trouble over visas."

To succeed in an individual sport you need a chip on the shoulder, a hunger and a desire to succeed at all costs - something the Serbian players seem to have and which the vast majority of British players lack.

You could see that overwhelming desire in the Serbian team that played against the Czech Republic in Belgrade at the weekend, and hear it in the impassioned cheers of the fans that came to watch them.

A fervent patriotic pride buzzed around the building that inspired Serbia to victory even when it looked at one stage like they were destined to be defeated.

It help somebody like Janko Tipsarevic elevate his game to a new level; he embraced the pressure and the responsibility of playing for his nation, yet when players representing Britain at Davis Cup level, or even at Wimbledon, have a similar level of pressure slammed down upon them it seems to put them in stifling knots.

So what can LTA learn from Serbia's success? Perhaps very little, because all the money in the world can't buy that hunger, that desire, and that passion exhibited by the Serbs at the weekend.

Serbia scrapped, fought and sweated for their success – in Britain we just expect it to be fed to us with a silver spoon.



Very little movement in the men's rankings due to Davis Cup action, but some readjusted points mean that Andy Roddick is back in the top 10 ahead of David Ferrer. Pablo Cuevas beat Igor Andreev in the final of a challenger in Poland too so he moves up 17 places to 70th while Andreev is back in the top 100 at the still surprisingly low ranking of 99.

In the women's rankings, Jarmila Groth is up 14 places to 41st in the rankings following her first WTA title in Guangzhou. While Tamira Paszek finally lived up to some of the promise she showed early in her career to win in Quebec and move all the way from 151st to 92nd.



Winner: "God I love Davis Cup."… Janko Tipsarevic has a Dostoyevsky quote tattooed on his arm that says "beauty will save the world". Maybe he will get his simple tweet tattooed on his other arm if Serbia beat France in the final.

Runner-up: "Does anyone else think @colin_fleming looks like an uglier version of Colin Farrell?? Pls respond with honest answers as I'm undecided....?" Ross Hutchins with a classic 'neg' (urban directory - a light insult wrapped in the package of a compliment) at his doubles partner.

Wooden Spoon: "Mardy fish 8-6 in the fifth.... all heart and he willed the US team to a win in Columbia" – Andy Roddick's spelling mistake meant he had to tweet again: "yes... colombia..... thank you to all 250,000 who corrected me :)"



Let the Serbs have their Davis Cup, at least Britain has a representative in the greatest tennis competition known to man: A-BOG v A-BOG - Alex Bogdanovic v Alex Bogomolov Jr! (Let's ignore for a minute that Bogdanovic was actually born in Belgrade).

Our A-Bog is currently nursing a back injury but his countryman James Ward did him a favour last week by beating Bogomolov in a challenger in Bangkok so we are giving this week's point to A-Bog (GB).

He owes Mr Ward a drink though.

Standings: A-Bog (US) 14-11 A-Bog (GB)



A number of top French players – (like Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Gilles Simon and Michael Llodra) will look for a home victory in Metz. Look for the likes of Marin Cilic, Ivan Ljubicic and Philipp Kohlschreiber to upset them.

In Bucharest, Victor Hanescu is the home favourite at the clay court event but defending champion Albert Montanes is the favourite with the bookmakers.

Finally, the women are in Seoul where Nadia Petrova is the top seed and Tashkent where Romania's Alexandra Dulgheru takes top billing.


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