Well, it wouldn't be Davis Cup, if there weren't complaints about the surface from the away team.
- It's too dry.
- It's too wet.
- The balls are heavy.
- There is a downhill slope at one end of the court.
- It's too fast/slow.
Flu, surface tension riles team before cup clash
AUSTRALIAN captain John Fitzgerald has condemned as unplayable the makeshift court surface being prepared for this week's crucial Davis Cup tie with Serbia and said the match referee may have to intervene.
Led by Lleyton Hewitt, the unfancied Australians had their first practice session inside Belgrade's enormous Beogradska Arena — and it was anything but pretty.
Hewitt and Fitzgerald were dismayed at the diabolical state of the drop-in claycourt to be used for the world group play-off, starting on Friday.
Moist underfoot and easily scuffed up, the court resembled a grassless backyard cricket pitch as the bounce of the balls continually befuddled Hewitt and teammates Paul Hanley, Chris Guccione and Peter Luczak.
At one point, Hewitt cried "Oh my God" as he was stopped in his tracks when a section of the baseline caved in. He stood hands on hips and shaking his head as a courtside repairman rushed to hammer the line back down.
When the practice match resumed and Luczak asked the score, Hewitt replied wryly: "Three craters to one."
But Fitzgerald, already suffering from the flu, did not see the funny side. "As it is now, it's not playable," he said. "It's got a bit of improving to do. I don't know how quickly they can improve it."
The court was laid only last week and Fitzgerald was hopeful it would dry out in the coming days. If it didn't, Fitzgerald warned "it's up to the referee", Englishman Mike Morrisey, to solve the issue.
"I think it will improve … it would be highly unlikely that they would end up with a product that's not good enough to play on," Fitzgerald said. "But it's got to be good enough."
The disgruntled visitors have been given the option of practising on another indoor claycourt nearby, but Fitzgerald said that wouldn't do.
"All we want to do is get somewhere where we can hit, but you want to play on the match court because then you play in the atmosphere," he said.
Encountering a problematic playing surface on their first official day of practice together was the last thing the Australians needed with Fitzgerald, coach Darren Cahill and hitting partner Alun Jones all sick. Cahill and Jones were unable to attend training due to illness.
The Serbs, to be led by world No. 3 and recent US Open runner-up Novak Djokovic, firmed as favourites when No. 2 singles player Janko Tipsarevic — who had been in doubt with a torn rib muscle — declared he would be fit.
"You talk to the locals here and they think it's a foregone conclusion. But we don't mind that," Fitzgerald said. "We're happy to be … the underdogs."
Australia would be relegated to the Asia-Oceania qualifying zone for the first time in a decade if it lost and Serbia would be promoted to the world group for the first time as an independent nation.