Davis Cup: The First Swiss Win

 The Swiss love him — there are flags at all his matches and he supports his hometown tournament — but Federer is a truly global superstar. He’s the hometown favorite wherever he is, from Wimbledon to Paris to Shanghai to Indian Wells to Tokyo. He’ll remain that way. But today he’s as much a Swiss hero as ever. Chris Chase, USA Today

Federer and Wawrinka close it out for Switzerland

By Roger Childs

Lille FedererRoger Federer made history for his small country by beating France’s Richard Gasquet on Sunday. With that victory Switzerland won the Davis Cup for the first time. But he couldn’t have done it without Stan Wawrinka.

The world number four beat Jo Wilfred  Tsonga on Friday and combined with Federer the next day to win the crucial doubles. The final of this annual competition for male tennis supremacy was played in Lille, on a specially laid clay court in front of record daily crowds.

One of the great sporting competitions

Back in 1900 the Harvard University tennis team played Britain for the Davis Cup. One of the American players, Dwight F Davis, organised the format and bought the trophy for $1,000. The competition was gradually expanded to include other countries and New Zealand’s greatest ever player, Anthony Wilding, was in the winning Australasia team four times prior to World War One.

After World War Two, the winner was either Australia or the United States for the next 28 years! However, in recent times with a shift in the centre of gravity for men’s tennis, European countries have dominated and have won every competition except one, since 2003.

The world’s greatest ever player, Roger Federer, was keen to add a Davis Cup win to his amazing record. Unfortunately for many years Switzerland did not have any other players in the top 50 rankings.

WawrinkaEnter Stanislas (Stan) Wawrinka. Stan played in grand slams from 2005 but was early round cannon fodder until 2013. He had the odd win over top ranked players and was described in 1908 by Andrew Longmore in The Times as a strange player, clearly talented but short of match fitness and as clumsy on court as Federer is graceful.

However Wawrinka worked on his game and his style, and the breakthrough came in the 2013 US Open when he made the semi final. Then in Melbourne, in January this year, he won the Australian Open. Federer now had a Swiss partner to mount a strong challenge for the one trophy that had eluded him in his illustrious career.

Tremendous excitement in Lille

The French Tennis Federation took a gamble in scheduling the Davis Cup final away from Roland Garros in Paris. The Lille football ground – Stade Pierre-Mauroy – was chosen and transformed to take the expected big crowds from within France and neighbouring Switzerland.

And the crowds did pour in, with their red or blue clothing, scarfs, painted faces, placards, flags and cow bells: over 27,000 every day, creating new attendance records for tennis.

The winners would be whoever could take three of a possible five matches.

Day One: Wawrinka gave a brilliant performance in the first singles against Tsonga. He served powerfully and hit 61 winners in the 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 demolition of the Frenchman. Federer had been forced to pull out of the Barclays ATP Tour Finals the previous week with a back spasm, but was declared fit to play the second singles. However, he didn’t look comfortable and the energetic and enthusiastic Montfils blasted him off the court 6-1, 6-4. 6-3. One all, with three matches to play.

Lille doublesDay Two: Could Federer come right in the doubles? He hadn’t played many doubles matches with Wawrinka and the pairing would need to quickly establish the necessary understanding and communication to win the crucial third rubber. However there were no other Swiss players anywhere near their standard to even consider.

The French probably made a bad choice in picking Benneteau and Gasquet to play the Swiss stars. Tsonga and Montfils have much higher singles rankings and the French media were convinced that Tsonga at least would be in the French pairing.

It is now academic, as the Swiss pair played brilliantly to thrash the French 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. The home team had a chance to take a 5-3 lead in the second set, but were unable to convert any of their five break point opportunities. Federer and Wawrinka never lost a service game and volleyed superbly. 2-1 Switzerland.

Day Three: There were 27,448 excited fans, a new record for a tennis match, to watch the last game. Federer was back to his superb best in beating Gasquet 6-4, 6-2. 6-2. (Gasquet had replaced the injured Tsonga.)

The Swiss maestro dropped only four points on serve in the first set and took Gasquet serve in the first and seventh games of the second set. Then two further breaks of serve in the final set saw Federer cruise home.

History is made

Lille Swiss teamI’ve been playing in this competition for 15 years now. At the end of the day I wanted it more for the guys and for Severin (team captain) and Stan, the staff and everybody involved.  This is one for the boys, for the players and the team. Of course, I’m a percentage of this, but we are all together. Roger Federer, after his win over Gasquet.

The Swiss champion was his usual modest self in summing up the achievement and it could not have been done without Wawrinka, who was in top form in his singles win and the doubles.

However the world media has been quick to acknowledge the significance of the Davis Cup victory for the greatest player of all time.

USA Today sports writer, Chris Chase, summed it up:

“This is not for me,” Federer told the on-court reporter after the match. “This is for them.” No, Roger; it’s for you.”