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May 2004 Article

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Davis Cup's Easter Weekend in Florida
by Joseph E. Hight

Poetry was rampant, both on and off the courts, in Delray Beach, Florida, Easter weekend 2004.

In the stands we heard:

We are yellow
We are blue
We are Sweden
Who are you?

Along with the refrain:


And on the court there was the fluid poetry of Jonas Bjorkman's service motion, the toss - a graceful flow upward, the hand reaching towards the ball, a bend in the knees finishing just when the ball reaches its apogee, and then the upward swoosh of body and racquet towards the ball.

As a counterpoint to one of the prettiest of service motions on the court today we had the swiftness of Andy Roddick's swipe at the ball that produces record-breaking speed.

Add the antics of the bouncing Bryan brothers.

And in the lovely South Florida evenings, all manner of colorful female and male specimens paraded up and down Atlantic Avenue outside the tennis center -- poetry in motion in revealing costume and custom, stopping for refreshment at sidewalk cafes and restaurants.

The Davis Cup tie pitted the United States and Sweden in quarterfinals competition. The American team, captained by Patrick McEnroe, featured Andy Roddick, the number two men's singles player in the world; Mardy Fish, ranked 18th; and identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan, the number one men's doubles team.

I stopped at one café, and was told by the waiter how great it was to have the Bryan Brothers at that very table the night before. Maybe I sat in one of the Bryan's seats. Hope some of that doubles magic wore off on me.

Tennis Hall of Famer, Mats Wilander, is captain of Sweden's Davis Cup team, which relies heavily on Jonas Bjorkman, who was ranked as high as the number four singles player on the ATP tour in 1997. On Friday, the first day of the tie, Bjorkman defeated Fish. In the second singles match of a very long rain interrupted day, the US evened the score with Andy Roddick's win over Thomas Enqvist. The natives told me that having rain in the middle of the day at that time of year was unusual. No matter, the rain delay just added to the festive atmosphere.

The winner of the doubles match the next day would be heavy favorites to win the tie, since they would be up 2-1. Lucky for the Americans they had the Bryans. They continually attacked the weaker member of the Swedish team, Thomas Johansson, at the net. They defeated Bjorkman and Johansson of Sweden in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. At the end of the match, The brothers did their famous chest bump, where they leap at each other face first, and collide in mid air with their puffed up chests.

On Easter Sunday, USA wrapped up the tie when Andy Roddick defeated a less than fresh Jonas Bjorkman in straight sets, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-0, closing the match with an exclamation point, a 152 mph serve, breaking his own previous record of 150 mph.

When asked about the record breaker after the match, Roddick said, "For most of the day I didn't get a chance because my off-speed stuff was a lot more effective than my big serves. But then I felt I'd take a crack at it the last game."

The win gives the Americans the right to face Belarus on September 24-26, in the semi-final round, at a site in the U.S. chosen by the U.S. team.

Early speculation was that the American team considered choosing a site with clay courts, probably in Texas or California, to neutralize the power of the team from Belarus that features fearsome 6' 5", 200 pound Max Mirnyi. But wouldn't that also neutralize Andy's record-breaking serves?

Later reports are that the US team may choose to play at Arthur Ashe stadium in Queens, New York, since most of the players will be there for the US Open that ends on September 12. Of course, we all know that the US Open site is a hard court surface, so a duel between Roddick and Mirnyi should ensue.

From December 3 - 5, the winner of the face off between the U.S. and Belarus will meet the winner of the tie between France and Spain.

The Delray Beach Florida site for the Davis Cup tie was almost perfect, especially for the Americans. Both Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish have residences in nearby Boca Raton, giving the tie a local flavor.

And beautiful sandy beaches were just down the street.

But why did the USTA close off the upper deck of one side of the Delray Tennis Center? All those wasted seats. One USTA media staffer told me it was because they wanted to maintain an intimate setting.

But couldn't all those empty seats have been given to local youth groups so they could see local tennis heroes Andy and Mardy in Davis Cup action?

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