It’s been a week since the United States Open electrified the tennis world with its fascinating unpredictability and rejuvenated fan base. However, unknown to many, Top Flight Tennis has been protracted in New York City as the Davis Cup has returned to the quiet and unusual West Side Tennis Club.
Less than 200 lucky fans, all members of the venerable club, were scattered on Saturday at the 14,000-seat Forest Hills Stadium, almost 100 years ago in Queens, to draw the first Davis Cup at the venue since 1959. I witnessed it.
But no US team was found anywhere.
Instead, South Africa hosted Venezuela — two teams looking for a home. They found it and hid in the lush Forest Hills district, once home to the National Championships (later the US Open), until the event moved up three miles to Flushing in 1978. rice field.
Ten days ago, Lloyd Harris was playing in front of 20,000 fans at the US Open. Saturday was totally different. Yes, there was a dignified situation in the Davis Cup. At the opening ceremony, players were introduced, flags and national anthems of both countries, and team uniforms were held.
But especially in South America, the noisy and noisy atmosphere that could be associated with many Davis Cup relationships was clearly lacking, at least in the opening match.
“This is a very unique situation that connects South Africa with Venezuela in New York,” Harris said. “But it’s pretty cool. It worked for me because I’ve been here all the time. It wasn’t too hard to move 4 blocks.”
If two countries on different continents seemed to disagree with the idea of drawing the Davis Cup at the home of American tennis ancestors, so did Harris’ first court encounter. He had no problem sending Venezuela’s second-placed player Brandon Perez 6-0, 6-0 in the first match of the two-day event (play will resume on Sunday).
Perez is ranked 1,596 in the world and plays at the University of Nebraska. He knew a few weeks ago that he would play Harris in the Davis Cup. Like many tennis fans, he saw Harris burn throughout the summer season and won big wins in runs, including defeating Rafael Nadal in Washington, before reaching the final eight in flushing. ..
Harris then moved from the InterContinental Hotel on the eastern side of Manhattan (one of the major player hotels of the US Open) to the western hotel where the South African team is headquartered, after losing to finalist Alexander Zverev. He has been recovering, practicing and sightseeing with his girlfriend for the past 10 days. They rented a bike across the Brooklyn Bridge and pedaled from downtown to Central Park.
Originally from Cape Town, Harris is long enough to feel like a local and has been in New York for a month.
“I learned that you need to move fast and drink a lot of coffee,” he said. “And watch out for cyclists passing you at 200 km / h. I’ve already been run over by cyclists about 10 times.”
Under normal circumstances, Harris may have returned to South Africa shortly after the US Open. However, South Africa has a high coronavirus infection rate, making travel restrictions difficult for travelers and round-trip residents. (New Zealand played against South Korea at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, so another tie was worn on Friday and Saturday in the neutral soil of the United States).
Venezuela, on the other hand, has not been allowed to host Davis Cup games since 2016, when the International Tennis Federation declared it unsafe to travel due to political and financial conditions.
“I’m still waiting for the opportunity to play at home in front of my friends and the whole family,” Perez said. “Until then, I have my parents and girlfriend here.”
South Africa’s Philip Henning beat Venezuela’s Ricardo Rodríguez 6-4, 6-4 in Saturday’s second singles match. A small audience came back to life on a sunny, refreshing day, and at least one supporter from South Africa felt right. At home.
“You had a perfect South African day,” said Gavin Crookes, president of Tennis South Africa.
Venezuela was set to become the nominal host, which allowed South Africa to take over and brought the West Side Tennis Club into play. Jason Weir-Smith, a former college and professional player from Johannesburg, is the club’s tennis director. Tennis South Africa contacted him and the club was eager to host it.
“The last Davis Cup event was held 60 years ago,” said Weir Smith. “It was important for us to return to the map.”
It was also the first Davis Cup match in New York since 1981 when the United States played flushing with Ivan Lendl and Czechoslovakia with John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
According to Weir-Smith, the costs of permits, insurance and staff were exorbitant for Tennis South Africa, which would have paid for the host country, so tickets for this event were not open to the public. bottom. Instead, only 200 club members were able to enter the venue. This is more than sometimes at hand at Challenger events and college games.
The draw is taking place in July on a blue hard court specially refurbished for the Davis Cup draw.
Westside Club President Monica Jain was one of the spectators on hand on Saturday. She watched from a metal bench after playing tennis on one of the club’s many lawns, clay, and hard courts.
“It’s very exciting for us to be able to host this event here,” Jane said. “We believe we can do more in the future by being close to the US Open.”
The Westside Tennis Club, home to the iconic Tudor Clubhouse, hosted the US Championship from 1915 to 1977 and is a great sporting world such as Bill Tilden, Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Artea Gibson, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert. I met the players. Win the title.
When the game was dominated by the international elite, it represents a different era of professional tennis. But this weekend, it acted as a temporary landing point for some of the temporary homeless tennis players.
“We want to play in front of people, but unfortunately we haven’t had the chance in the last few years,” Rodriguez said. “On the other hand, playing in such a historic venue is very special to me. I feel the history and wonderful moments that happened here. I’m proud to be just a part of the new history. I think. “