Argentina sealed a surprisingly straightforward 3-0 win over Serbia in the Davis Cup quarter-finals, and will visit Belgium in September.
– By Nicolás Sagrera and Caroline Paquin
As the great Jane Austen wrote: It is a truth universally acknowledged that… Argentina is accustomed to suffer in Davis Cup. Consequently, seeing the Argentines closing their quarter-final tie against Serbia, this Saturday, on the indoor clay of the Tecnópolis, was an unexpectedly straightforward triumph.
For Carlos Berlocq and Leonardo Mayer won in a commanding fashion, demolishing the Serbian duo of Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic 6-2, 6-4, 6-1.
“It was a perfect match. We were very clear-minded, Leo and I”, said Berlocq after the match. “We showed our potential. I feel very comfortable playing with him. He gives me a lot of security. As I said on court, I looked him in the eyes and felt that he was doing good, that he was trusting me and this calmed me very much. I think that what was essential to have the performance we did and the key to sustaining this level was to go one point at a time.”
As for Mayer, he was only relieved that his matches have been much faster than his record-breaking victory against João Souza in March: “The main thing for me was not to play this time the way I did against Brazil so that people wouldn’t get a bit bored. [Laughs]”
However, a little on-court moment generated a lot of talk: Nenad Zimonjic doing an underarm serve in the third point of what became the last game of the match (at 38 seconds of the video):
In press, the Serbian laconically gave this explanation for his gesture: “Why did I do an underarm serve? Because I saw Michael Chang do it once and it seemed like a good time to try it.”
For the Argentine captain, however, it was not seen that way. “I think that Nenad was two points away from losing like a gentleman, to bear and accept how dominant we were on the court and he couldn’t”, said Daniel Orsanic. “He couldn’t act like a gentleman. I think it was disrespectful and that it was a demonstration of being a sore loser.”
More united than ever
If suffering to win is a common fact for Argentina, the internal fights were also very common. From the disagreements between Guillermo Vilas and José Luis Clerc, who finally buried the hatchet, to the whole “war of the clans” between David Nalbandian and Juan Martín del Potro, and between del Potro and the former management of the Asociación Argentina de Tenis (AAT), the examples abound.
However, everyone has now put all those episodes firmly behind them and left their egos at the door. And it seems strange, after all those years of internal fights, to see the Argentinian team so united, especially in a sport as individual and egotistical as tennis.
And what better proof was there than to see everyone, from the players to “the ones in the shadow” (the technical staff, hitting partners, physios, etc.), all present on the stage for the press conference of the winners, as they did last March and, before that, everyone doing a lap of honour with that big Argentine flag on which is written “Un equipo, un país, un sueño” (a team, a country, a dream), same as they also did after the victory against Brazil!
Times are a changing in Argentina, and the last few months are there to show it.
The Serbians criticise the organisation
For their part, the visitors had a lot to say about the organisation of the tie.
“Congratulations to the Argentine team but the organisation was the worst I’ve seen in my ten years as captain”, said Bogdan Obradovic, who complained about the temperature of the locker rooms, the transport being late picking them up on Saturday morning, the quality of the food, etc.
Nenad Zimonjic agreed with his captain: “The crowd was disrespectful with the camera flashes”, said the doubles specialist. “And I agree, it was the worst organisation, and I’ve been playing Davis Cup since 1995.”
Questioned about it, Daniel Orsanic showed his surprise at the critics from the Serbians: “I know how dedicated the people from the AAT are and how much they want everything to come out well”, declared the Argentinian captain. “The moment the Serbians arrived, they criticised everything: the stadium, the facilities, … This is something very personal. I don’t know what they were expecting. From our end, we are very thankful to the orgnisation. They treated us fantastically. And the intention is to treat the visiting team the same way they treat us.”
Orsanic continued: “As they said: they lost the match on the court. Maybe it’s their way of thinking, maybe they were expecting more, I don’t know. And it surprises me, too, that they would criticise so much. I think that in this moment, the best is to accept defeat. There hasn’t been any serious problem. If transport was late to pick them up once, I’m really sorry and I’m sure it wasn’t done on purpose.”
Protagonists without playing
The best players of each team, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martín del Potro, became, in spite of themselves, protagonists of the tie, the former by his absence (he rightfully opted to rest after his Wimbledon triumph), and the latter with his constant presence in the team’s entourage.
By his presence, the Tower of Tandil shows that as soon as he is physically ready, he will take part in the competition once more.