A Truly Memorable Davis Cup Experience-Southern Style!

September 23, 2010 11:52 AM
Lucy Garvin chats with Gabriel Sanchez.
Eddie Gonzalez, Ryan Harrison, John Isner.
Gordon Smith, Roy Barth, Patrick McEnroe, Lucy Garvin, Eddie Gonzalez.
Mardy Fish displays a fist pump.
Jennifer Gonzalez enjoys a Colombian party.
USTA Southern Vice President Eddie Gonzalez traveled to Bogota, Colombia for the U.S. vs. Colombia Davis Cup tie September 17-19. His first-person report tells the exciting and successful story of Atlanta Tennis Championships titlist Mardy Fish and his Southern teammates John Isner and Ryan Harrison. Gonzalez is a former top-ranked junior tennis player from Rome, Ga. who went on to play at NC State University as 4-yr letterman. Eddie is an active adult tennis player as well as a tennis parent with 2 children (Gabriela age 11, Tres age 9) who now play USTA junior events.
 
 
Having been a junior, Division I college, and a top ranked National Adult tennis player, I want to share with you a recent tennis experience that I will never forget.
 
Along with my wife, Jennifer, I decided to attend the Team USA vs Colombia Davis Cup tie in Bogota, Colombia, Sept 17-19. This was due in large part to having family in Bogota and getting to experience Davis Cup in a foreign country. This tennis trip turned out to be such a memorable experience for several reasons, number one being the fact that less than 10 people from the USA were there to cheer on our team on foreign soil!
 
Another factor is that this was the last Davis Cup tie for Team USA Captain Patrick McEnroe after 10 yrs of service. I later learned his was the longest tenure of any Davis Cup captain in Team USA history. Having both John Isner and Ryan Harrison on the team was also special since both players grew up in the USTA Southern Section. They are not only great professional players but also great people off the court, something I came to realize during the trip to Colombia. Finally, having Mardy Fish on the team was another high point since he won the inaugural Atlanta Tennis Championships in July with wins over both Andy Roddick & John Isner. He showed his new fitness levels by overcoming the extreme July heat in Atlanta!
 
In sports, we have all heard about home team advantage. Davis Cup takes that to a whole new level. As the host country, Colombia decided to play the tie in Bogota, a city of over 8 million people at an altitude of 8,200 feet (over 1.5 miles above sea level) making it extremely hard to breathe and very for non-residents to get lightheaded. Additionally, Colombia elected to play the match in a bull fighting ring and use Tretorn pressure-less balls; all of these elements make for a truly home field advantage!
 
On our first evening, Jennifer and I were invited by the USTA to attend the Davis Cup team dinner. This was a great start to the Davis Cup tie, as both countries share gifts with each other and each team captain shares stories of their teams. This dinner proved to be a very patriotic event and also demonstrated how tennis is a worldwide sport, as well as the importance of the Davis Cup to countries of all sizes and global locations! The Colombia team was very friendly and even posed for photos with Jennifer and me.
 
After meeting their #1 player, Alejandro Falla, who led Roger Federer 2 sets to none at Wimbledon this year, he posed for a photo w/ me shaking hands lefty style since we are both left handed! I also secured a photo with both John Isner & Ryan Harrison since we all have that "Southern" connection.
 
Friday, Sept. 17
Once the matches started on Friday, our USTA seats were courtside so that all 8 of the USTA attendees could support Team USA & cheer them on against the 8k screaming Colombia fans! First up was Mardy Fish vs Alejandro Falla, with our player winning 6-4 in the 5th set. The match lasted almost 4 hours & showed to me how mentally tough & physically fit Mardy is, as he overcame the home field advantage as well as a world-class opponent. Unfortunately, Sam Querrey was not up to the task in the 2nd match, letting the elements affect his game, losing handily to Santiago Giraldo. To give Giraldo credit, in my opinion, he played like a top 20 player in the world showing extreme confidence & using the crowd to his advantage. What was most bizarre about this match is that after Giraldo won, the stadium court was covered by the fans throwing their seat cushions to show their delight & passion in the Colombian victory, something I have never seen before at a tennis match!
 
Saturday, Sept. 18
On Saturday, the team of Mardy Fish & John Isner won in 4 sets in doubles to give Team USA a 2-1 margin. It was a beautiful day & made even more special with the Team USA win that included Southern’s own John Isner as a part of it! My observation is that Americans play more doubles than the Colombians in both juniors & on the pro tour, thus our team looked much stronger.
 
Jennifer & I had dinner that night at another unique experience at a restaurant called Andre’s DC with family members who live in Bogota. What made this dinner experience unique is that we learned our weekend in Bogota was also their version of our Valentine’s Day called Amor y Amistad, thus lots of people out to dinner. Andre’s DC restaurant is a 5-story building with tables & a dance area on each floor! As the night progressed, there are less tables for dinner & more room for dancing! What I was told, the dancing goes late into the night or early morning!

Sunday, Sept. 19
For the reverse singles on Sunday, there was a higher sense of Colombian patriotism & a capacity crowd for the 1st match that pitted Fish vs Giraldo. With the Giraldo win on Friday over Querrey, the crowd & Giraldo both showed their confidence. Turns out this match became an instant classic due to its ebb & flow & emotions that ran the full spectrum. Going to a 5th set, Giraldo finally secured a break at 5-5 to go up 6-5 w/ a chance to serve out the match. In the blink of an eye, Fish broke back, held serve & then broke again to win the match 8-6 in the 5th! Not only did Fish show his ability to overcome the home field advantage once again as he did on Friday, he also showed his "blood" & guts literally since he fell on the court & drew blood on both his hand & knee!
 
This epic performance by Fish proved to me how important Davis Cup is to Fish & the players as evidenced by the on-court team celebration. Not sure I could have survived a final match of Isner vs Falla after the emotional roller-coaster of the Fish win, & glad we did not have to play the match. (Captain McEnroe decided to have Isner play in place of Querrey due to the concern of Querrey’s play on Friday.)
 
The final moment Jennifer & I will not forget was being able to partake in the team celebration back at their official hotel later Sunday evening. The USTA group in attendance gave a warm toast to the team & it was once again so nice to see how personable the team members are & their passion for the team.
 
We were also able to pose for photos with Captain Patrick McEnroe as well as USTA officials with "Southern" roots that included President Lucy Garvin, Davis Cup Committee Chair Roy Barth, & USTA Executive Director, Gordon Smith. So, as I look back on this Davis Cup trip to Bogota, Colombia with Team USA, I have to say this is one of the most memorable experiences I have had in tennis due to so many unique moments over the course of the trip culminating with the Team USA win!!!
 
 

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