Sunday 11am, September 15, 2013
Canada 2, Serbia 1
The Dream is Alive
It’s a beautiful fall morning in gloomy Belgrade. Euphoria is in the air. We have a real opportunity on the last day of the Davis Cup semi-finals against the heavy favorite team from Serbia led by the #1 player in the world Novak Djokovic. Today Canada will have a chance to win the tie and ascend to the Finals until the last point is played. What an opportunity to live this improbable experience. What a full day it will be. I have been fortunate to witness many exceptional tennis experiences in my life but this one will rate as one of the greatest ones ever. Can you imagine, we are leading 2-1 on Sunday morning after unbelievable twin wins of 10-8 in the fifth set?
The first match between Vasek and Novak was predictable. Playing the first match ever in Davis Cup semi-final history for your country, in the opponent’s den versus the #1 player in the world would be a daunting experience for a seasoned veteran player. Vasek, the 23 year old on the heels of his ascension in the world’s top 40 started strong, but once he let Novak get ahead, you could sense his indecision on how to play Novak on the red clay. That indecision turned into frustration and Vasek was pushed aside in three relatively quick sets.
Many positives for Vasek from this match: Vasek who is the only player to have to play three matches in this tie, had the opportunity to deal with the pressure he will face in his next two matches, had the opportunity to upgrade his game and certainly did not waste the energy he will require in a possible deciding fifth match against Tipsarevic.
Milos’s match was something else. First we saw a much improved Milos, feeling more and more comfortable with his more aggressive and creative game style since his change to Ivan Ljubicic [who was not present at the tie] as his coach. He played courageously and specifically served and volleyed on important second serves on some very prominent points. The closeness of this match can only be explained by the extraordinary effort of the mercurial Tipsarevic who you can feel would sacrifice it all for his country. The final break of the match was the result of Milos’s investment in a more progressive game style where he followed an approach to the net with a biting backhand slice.
Day 2 was in my mind the most notable match in the history of Canadian tennis. A win gave us a real chance in this tie. I happened to run into Daniel at breakfast where we had a short chat. Having spent a lot of time with Daniel in his early career, I mentioned how wonderful for him to have this opportunity after 20 years of commitment to his country. It was obvious that Daniel relished this opportunity and was ready for it. He played a superb match especially serving in the last set. Watching him vary his locations, spins and speeds reminded me of a great aging baseball pitcher capable to controlling the situation with his decision making rather than his shot making. Vasek gained in confidence as the match progressed and became a force once his percentage of first serves improved drastically. This was the perfect win to prepare him for today.
Finally, what I will remember after a lifetime of tennis, is the joy and smile on Daniel’s face when he hit the winning volley to close out the match. That smile was one of the most beautiful demonstrations of pure joy that I have seen from Daniel.
Now one point at a time, Go Canada!
PS: The cheering section for Canada is AMAZING. Thanks to all of them and thank you Michael [Downey] for having the foresight to bring them.