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Friday, September 14, 2012

Best chance of Davis Cup, but...

The cover of the book Mary Terán de Weiss by tennis historian Roberto Andersen.
By Eric Weil / Sportsworld

Rivals strong and Del Potro's wrist risk

Davis Cup captain Martín Jaite said that the semifinal tie against the strong Czech Republic team, starting today at Parque Roca, was complicated even before David Nalbandian’s injury withdrawal. Now, with local number one Juan Martín del Potro's wrist problem, it becomes even more complicated.

A specialist ordered Del Potro to rest for 15 days after his elimination in the US Open quarterfinals last week, but being keen to play — and to keep in well with the fans — he left his decision until the last moment and is taking a risk after already having played 66 matches this year. Of course, if he had rested and not played in the US Open, he would have been alright now, but perhaps that was asking too much of him ... although Nalbandian, always a keen Davis Cup player, did rest to get fit which, unfortunately, did not work out.

This year, Argentina has its best chance ever of winning the trophy for the first time, playing all their ties at home on the Parque Roca clay where they have never lost. Also, top-rated Rafael Nadal is unlikely to be able to play in a possible final against Spain while, if it were the United States, they would not feel at home on clay. But in the way stands world number six Tomas Berdych who has just knocked out number one Roger Federal in the US Open and Radek Stepanek — between them have often played all five cup matches — who reached the doubles final.

Argentina will not lack support. The 14,000 tickets were sold out three months ago (but 500 more appeared at the last moment?). Many of these people are not tennis fans and just want to see Argentina win and Del Potro play, which he hardly ever does in Argentina. The tickets, of course, were sold at a time when the final makeup of the team was not known.

MARY TERAN DE WEISS. The Parque Roca stadium is actually named Mary Terán de Weiss after the leading tennis star of the last century who was the first Argentine to continuously play in tournaments abroad and who reached the top 10.

There was a strong opinion against this, but mainly for political reasons. Mary was a Peronist while many members of the tennis "family" were not. Some believe she used her powers as adviser to the municipal sports department to sometimes harm opponents. Yet they should read the interesting book, simply called Mary Teran de Weiss (Ediciones Fabro) by tennis historian Roberto Andersen, a former contributor to the Herald who was close to her.

Andersen traces her life closely from her birth in 1918 to her suicide in 1984, but while going back and forth in time, includes bits of history of the game and a number of interesting stories such as when a masculine player dressed up as a woman to play Mary in an exhibition match for which the announced important rival had not turned up or when in the amateur era another local player said that as he was not paid, he would not turn up for a final if spectators had to pay. All tickets had been sold and he did not turn up.

Mary, who won over 100 international tournaments, playing around 1100 matches, may have angered many people, but did save the Belgrano Athletic and the Buenos Aires LTC from closure ordered by the municipality. She and her husband, Heraldo Weiss, were close friends of Perón and Evita and the book describes how later Perón offered Mary marriage (which she politely turned down), while earlier a sheik also wanted to buy her from her husband for his harem.

Other Argentine leading women athletes are also featured in its 125 pages.

LINE JUDGES. Statistics at the Wimbledon Championships this year, showed that line judges made mistakes three times out of 10, this being proved by the Hawk-Eye. It was also shown that men challenge line decisions more often than women, the ratio being 2.2 times per set to 1.8. The maximum number of challenges allowed per set is three. Warning! Hawks-Eye has so far not been used in Argentina in tournaments or the Davis Cup.

Often sitting high up in the press stand where one has perhaps a better view of the lines than a line judge, I often seemed to think balls were out when given as in, or vice-versa. John McEnroe was a chief protester with his outbursts at judges in the 1980's, shouting "you can't be serious", but if the Hawks-Eye had been invented then, his life and that of judges might have been more tranquil ... and he may have been right in protesting on many occasions.

BLUE CLAY. This year's major controversy was caused at the Madrid Masters where clay courts were painted blue. It was the idea of former Romanian player Ion Tiriac who was later coach and manager of Guillermo Vilas and other leading stars. He said that blue is seen 27% better on TV and the player also sees the ball better — both doubtful claims. Most players did not like it, complained it was slippery (Tiriac said it might have been painted too much) and some said they would not come to play again on a blue court. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) then decided not to use blue courts again, although would allow Tiriac to make further trials in tournaments outside the international circuit where he also wants to try out different coloured balls.

In last month's Olympic Games, field hockey also used blue artificial fields with similar arguments that it would be better for TV watching — which today seems to worry the international Hockey Federation (FIH) more than the game itself. Again, some players complained and others (yours truly included) found no difference when watching on TV.

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