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Alter Schwede!

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In German “Alter Schwede” can mean two things: one, you are actually talking about an old Swedish man, two, you want to express positive disbelief or respectful surprise- sort of a secular “OMG” or an adult “wow, dude”. Both meanings serve quite well to describe my first live Davis Cup tie.

The Swedes were taking on the US team in the lovely city of Göteborg and one couldn’t help but wonder, if the hosts even have the slightest chance. History aside (the US lost the 3 previous ties played in the Scandinavium), the answer seemed to be clear: no. On the one side, there were the number 5 and 7 player in the world and the world’s number one doubles team. On the other side, three Swedish veterans in their 30s teamed up with the long-time injured Joachim Johansson. On top of that, their captain, Mats Wilander, didn’t choose clay, as most (all?) teams do when hosting the US, but fast carpet. I said it before in the DC thread, but I happily say it again: huge credit for counting on their own strengths, rather than the other team’s weaknesses.

I am not Swedish, but I’ve been a guest in this country for the last 4 weeks and stay for another 5 months, so my loyalty went to the underdog of the tie. Now, cheering for the underdog can be a strange thing: On the one hand, you KNOW, they are going to lose and can prepare yourself for it. You can appreciate the little things (a break, not a beatdown, etc) and can be generous in defeat: well, my guy tried, the other was better -as expected. That was exactly how I felt watching the first match of the tie, Roddick vs. Joachim “Pim-Pim” Johansson.

Pim-Pim hasn’t played since he had to retire in his first round match of the Australian Open. Nevertheless, he played well, great serving, some nice winners from the baseline, but also a lot of errors. However, the match wasn’t as close as the scores might suggest. Roddick was absolutly unbreakable.He didn’t even surrender one point on serve during the tiebreaks. He didn’t commit any unforced errors on important points. But there is more to the match than the figures. Watching Roddick, his body language, his behaviour on court, it was pretty clear that he is smply not going to lose. He seemed very focused and calm. As usual, he was ready to go before the umpire said “time”, but he wasn’t as hectic as I thought he was when he played Federer at the USO. His intensity was amazing. The crowd never really got into the match -there were too few rallyes in the match for it to be called outstanding. Roddick’s performance however deserved every praise. 1:0 USA.

Cheering for the underdog gets tricky, when you start having hope. Hope gets you out of your comfort zone. It makes you get really involved. All the sudden, you think: wow, this could actually happen. For me, that moment came when I watched the second match of the tie: Thomas Johanssson vs. James Blake. The match provides two story, and I start with the postive one: Tojo played an outstanding match. Appart from the third set, he was almost untouchable on serve. He was beating Blake on serve, on the net and even from the baseline.Blake was really getting annoyed, which is pretty much the second story. Having seen only few of Blake’s matches, I don’t know if this negative attitude is typical for him or not, for me, it was unexpected. His body langague was horrible, almost from the very first point on. I am certainly not an expert, but it was litterally visible that he was going to lose. Now playing a DC match away is not easy. Some calls were really close, too. But I would expect a top-10 player to be able to handle such a situation and Blake clearly wasn’t. He cursed, complained and even hit a high ball in the direction of some –admittedly loud- Swedish fans. One time, after a changeover, he was showing some energy, running to the baseline to get ready to receive, bouncing up and down. Me and my friends were getting worried, even before the play continued. Blake broke Tojo in that game and eventually won the third set. But after a couple of errors in the end of the third and beginning of the fourth set, his negative attitude was back.We started to relax again- and to hope. Sweden-USA, one all.

Unfortunatly, I couldn’t watch the doubles. But after all I heard, the Bryans delivered the perfect match. Even my Swedish friends became fans of the twins during the match.USA one point up, 2:1, Still, a little hope.

I spent the next morning weighting the Swede’s chances. Tojo said he was the player best suited for this surface. He is playing at home. He wants revanche for his humiliating defeat to Roddick at the USO. A good first set, and maybe Roddick starts feeling the pressure and can’t hold his great level of serve. Well, Tojo didn’t even play. So much for my calculations. All the hope that was left now, came from a missunderstanding. I didn’t know Tojo was sick until after the match, so before I simply thought that Mats liked Bjorkman’s chances to beat Roddick better than Tojo’s. He is the expert, so “heja Jonas, kom igen!!”.

The first set was devistating, but we were not ready to completly give up hope yet. It even got reassured in the second, at 2 all. 2 breakpoints for Sweden! Jonas was pumped, the crowd as loud as never before this weekend- and Andy hit big serves. I could copy paste everything I said about his attitude in his first match. His service games were closer than against Pim-Pim, but focus and insensity were once again outstanding. The only sign by which you could tell he did feel the pressure was his relief after matchpoint. Jonas tried everything he could, but was outplayed by the best player of the tie. USA-Sweden 3:1.

There is not much to say about the last match. It would take me propably longer to look up the English words than it took Blake to win the match. I was disappointed by Mats Wilander’s choice to play Aspelin, not Pim-Pim. It might be a nice gesture to let him play a DC singles match, but honestly, we didn’t pay to see such a predictably onesided match. If one team sticks to his single player in the dead rubber, the other should too. Of course, the result doesn’t matter, but the fans would have appreciated a competetive match and who knows, maybe even a point for Sweden. I guess, it is nice for James though to have delivered one point of the final score.He seemed to be enjoying himself out there and hit some great passing shots. 4:1, USA.

Hope opens the door for disappointment.Once you start hoping, you are not satisfied with the little things anymore, you want it all. So yes, I was disappointed by the result, however not all by the experience of my first Davis Cup tie. It is great to see a tennis match where fans really get involved. Still, I would say that the Swedish crowd remained fair and paid due applause to the winners. The American fans were very nice and even let me take some pics with them (see avatar.) I could even take a picture of Thomas Blake, which was my personal off-court highlight. In the end, I think the Swedes gave themselves the best possible chance. They took the risks of the fast surface and gave it all they had. But, alter Schwede, the US team was simply too good.

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Updated 01-05-2008 at 08:58 AM by tinamarie



  1. GVGirl's Avatar
    Great post! Thanks for your picture with my NetHead pals!
  2. mmmm8's Avatar
    Great post indeed, Tina!

    Love the black hair
  3. oohsalmon's Avatar
    This is truly awesome, Tina! I really like reports from matches
  4. tinamarie's Avatar
    Thank you all very much! I am happy you enjoyed reading my blog.
    @GVGirl: You know the American fans in the picture? wow, it is such a small world I thought their "heads" were very funny, but had no idea it was the sign of a particular fan group. "NetHead"... nice.
  5. GVGirl's Avatar
    I do know most of the "Netheads" in the picture. For more details They are a fun bunch.
  6. sblanc's Avatar
    Thanks for that Tina. Excellent reporting.
  7. jjnow's Avatar
    Awesome report, Tina! You're a natural blogger!