Davis Cup Finland vs. South Africa
11-13 April, 2008
Here’s a report of my Davis Cup weekend in Helsinki. I also took some pics but my camera is not that good for photographing indoors without a flash. So most of the pics were very messy. Some of adequate ones you can find from here:
Friday 11 April
I arrived to the Tali Tennis Centre just before the start of the first match. I decided to go sit on the seats behind the South African team although there the seats were not that comfortable than on the other side of the court. The first match featured Kevin Anderson and Juho Paukku. Kevin has had some impressive results lately so I was looking forward to see him play. And he did play well, although this was the first time he was playing in Davis Cup. Juho was nervous in the first set and couldn’t hold his serve. And Kevin was serving very efficiently. The rest of the SA team (captain John-Laffnie de Jager, Jeff Coetzee, Wesley Moodie, Rik de Voest and two other guys) were supporting Kevin loudly. The stands were full (over thousand spectators) but the support for Juho was not that enthusiastic. Before coming to the tie I had thought that I would just enjoy the matches and not support either team over the other. That didn’t happen… I was supporting much more South Africa, not loudly, but clapping for points they won. I didn’t want to look too unpatriotic, so I didn’t shout anything aloud to the players. ;-) After Kevin took the first set easily, Juho started to play better. Not enough to beat Kevin but at least the last two sets were more competitive and nicer to watch. I think Kevin faced only two break points during the whole match. I can very easily see that Kevin can soon reach at least top 50 ranking. He serves well and despite his height (2.0 m) he moves well on the court.
Kevin Anderson (RSA) def. Juho Paukku (FIN) 6-0, 6-4, 7-6(5)
In the second match there was again a clear difference between the players in their level of play. Jarkko Nieminen has finally recovered from the virus infection he had two months ago and he was clearly better than Rik de Voest. The spectators were now supporting Jarkko loudly. Rik didn’t play badly, it was just that Jarkko played better than him. The SA team supported Rik (as did I), but in the end I was glad that Jarkko won. Now we’ll have at least one live rubber on Sunday.
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) def. Rik de Voest (RSA) 6-4, 6-3, 7-5
After the second match the SA team remained by the court so I went to ask some autographs. I first got one from Kevin Anderson and congratulated him from the nice win. He seems like a nice boy, maybe a bit shy. Then I asked an autograph from Jeff Coetzee. I also wished Jeff good luck for the doubles and said that I'm looking forward that match. He was very very nice and said that if I'd clap for them during doubles he would hit a nice shot for me. I of course told him that I would support them. I didn’t ask for more autographs because the other players were busy with interviews with the media. I’ll have time to ask those tomorrow or Sunday.
Saturday 12 April
Today I went to sit closer to the court so that Jeff can see that I’m supporting them. :-) The stands were not full for the doubles, mainly because it was beautiful spring day outside and lots of people wanted to enjoy the sunny weather. The Finnish team of Jarkko Nieminen and Henri Kontinen started the match well. Henri is only 17 years old but he has some promise. He’s not afraid to take chances with his shots. I guess Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie were a bit surprised about that and the Finnish team took the first set when they managed to break Jeff once. I was not worried about the South Africans. I knew that they would hold or improve their level while I assumed that at least Henri can’t play on that level for long. And that’s exactly what happened. After the first set Henri couldn’t hold his serve at all and also Jarkko was more in trouble. So in the end, a good win for Jeff and Wesley in four sets. I enjoyed the match. There were some superb rallies. Wesley was serving well and Jeff did hit some awesome shots, like one between his legs when he chased a lob. After the match I went to stand next to the SA team because I wanted an autograph from Wesley. But he had to do an interview for TV first. So surprisingly Jeff came to me and gave one of his (used) shirts to me. I was so surprised! I couldn't have expected anything like that. But now I have a team South Africa shirt. :-) And I did get the autograph from Wesley and congratulated him for the win. He seemed like a very nice guy, too. I’m now a fan of both of them, especially Jeff. ;-)
Jeff Coetzee & Wesley Moodie (RSA) def. Henri Kontinen & Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
Sunday 13 April
I went to sit on the same place I was yesterday. The first match was between Jarkko Nieminen and Kevin Anderson. I had a feeling that it could be a long match. They both started well, maybe in the first set Kevin wasn’t serving as well as in his first match. But they had some nice rallies. In the end Jarkko won the first set. The second set started even and both played well. When Jarkko was serving at 3-4, the chair umpire overruled a long ball. Jarkko got very angry for that because it gave Kevin a break point. He even yelled some not so nice words to the umpire. There were throughout the match some bad calls from the young line umpires, and I can understand that it’s frustrating to the players. Anyway, Kevin won the break point and served convincingly to take the second set. After that incident Jarkko was not playing well at all in the third set. He seemed slow and frustrated. It could be also because he hasn’t been able to practice well after the virus infection. So the third set went easily to Kevin. In the fourth set Jarkko played a bit better but so did Kevin, who served very well. Kevin hadn’t showed any emotions during the match but when he finally won the fourth set and clinched the tie for South Africa, he jumped in the air hands high and had the biggest smile on his face. :-) The whole SA team had supported him throughout the match and came on court to congratulate him. The match had been quite long (over 2.5 hours) so I had to take a walk before the final match to stretch my legs. Thus, I didn’t have a chance to say anything to the SA players, they were too busy talking to each other and I didn’t want to interrupt them.
Kevin Anderson (RSA) def. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3
The fifth rubber featured Henri Kontinen and Rik de Voest. The SA team clearly had had confidence in Kevin in the previous match because they all stayed sitting courtside throughout the match. So Rik hadn’t warmed up at all before his match and there was only a 20 minutes break between the matches. On the other hand, Henri had nothing to lose and he started very well, just like in doubles yesterday. In the first set Rik hit lots of unforced errors, no doubt because he had been sitting almost three hours still before the match. So, the first set went to Henri. There had been full stands in the first match, but only maybe half of them stayed to watch this. In the second set Rik started to find his shots again and Henri couldn’t continue his high level from the first set. Both of the players were very relaxed throughout the match, so it was nice to watch, although they didn’t play that good tennis. Rik was joking with the other SA players during changeovers. In the end Rik won the second and third sets and gave South Africa a 4-1 win over Finland. Jeff and Wesley had already left during the match (I guess they had a plane to catch) so I didn’t have a chance to congratulate them. But I did congratulate Rik for his win and got his autograph. He seemed like a nice guy, as well, smiling a lot and supported his team-mates enthusiastically whole weekend. In the end I had a very nice time at the Davis Cup tie. I hope that in the future I can see the South African team in action again. :-)
Rik de Voest (RSA) def Henri Kontinen (FIN) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3