Controversy in the NZ vs Pakistan 2004 Davis Cup relegation play-off
Romanos wrote in the NZ Listener:
"Mark Nielsen amazed tennis followers by slamming his Davis Cup team-mate Simon Rea after New Zealand were humbled by Pakistan in Islamabad. The loss means New Zealand is now relegated to the Asia-Oceania zone group two section, along with Iran and Lebanon."
[What followed, I think quite definitely deserves the title of "Internal Wrangling", (a term most regularly used to describe the machinations of a touring Pakistan Cricket squad) as William Ward, a non-playing member of the squad in Pakistan, told everyone in hearing distance he thought he should have played the final rubber. ]
Romanos continues :
"In tennis terms, that's as low as you can go.Nielsen won both his singles, but Rea lost his and the pair lost the doubles in quick time. Nielsen seemed to feel that because in the reverse singles he won a long five-setter, while Rea lost his last match, also in five sets, he had the right to criticise Rea."He's played enough tennis matches at this sort of level to know what's required," said Nielsen. "New Zealand tennis has been looking for a No 2 to support me for a few years now and they just haven't found one."
This from a bloke who is ranked 583rd in the world. You'd think he was Roger Federer having to carry a nation on his shoulders.The problem isn't that New Zealand lacks a good No 2. It's that New Zealand lacks any good international male tennis players. I watched Nielsen flop in a crucial Davis Cup match against India in Wellington in 2002[Paes d. Nielsen 6 4 6 3 4 6 2 6 6 1] and didn't notice him blaming himself for costing New Zealand the tie."
It was certainly a shock to hear Nielsen rubbish Rea! So in a way, Romanos' harsh criticism of Nielsen may be justified. We like to hear this kind of considered opinion, but just not very often.
However, I’d just like to point out the nature of the opponent when Nielsen “flopped”. It was against a player who holds a 71-30 Davis cup record. A man who has 31 ATP doubles titles (3 Slams) and 1 singles title, and over 150 ATP level singles games under his belt.
How can a game in which Nielsen cam back from 2 sets down to even the match at 2-2 and force a fifth be labeled a flop? Who isn’t to say that Paes didn’t outplay Nielsen in the fifth, having regained his composure?
Rea’s loss to Khan, Aqeel (PAK ) 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3 3-6 2-6 in the Davis Cup deciding rubber looks the worse of the two, when you think that Rea was in the driving seat at 2 sets to one up. Especially so, if you consider that Khan has no titles- singles or doubles, and only a handful of ATP level matches (15).
Here is a nice piece of coverage about the Nielsen Paes match :
"The rain break lasted three hours and when the players returned to court the match was dramatically transformed with Nielsen taking four of the next five games to win the set 6-4 ... With his confidence rising by the minute Nielsen raced through the fourth set in 25 minutes, at one point winning nine successive points, winning 6-2 and levelling the match ... At that point the experienced Paes called a toilet break, changed his shirt, collected his thoughts and returned to win the fifth and deciding set 6-1, though it was much closer than the scoreline suggests. A disappointed Nielsen had no doubts that a call for a toilet break by Paes, who was rushing after being calm and methodical in the first two sets, was a tactical ploy that worked for the Indian. "I don't think he needed a toilet break. He was trying to interrupt my rhythm," Nielsen said ... "He (Paes) is a tremendous player. He has probably got the fastest hands in the world after Pat Rafter." ... Paes' first comment after his third win in three days was that New Zealanders should be proud of the way Nielsen played ... "It was closer than the scoreline suggests. He blew me off the court in that fourth set," Paes said