The ‘Davis Cup Catapult’
Verdasco almost doing the unthinkable at Melbourne ’09 …. Djoković breaking the Federer-Nadal stronghold and becoming the world’s best in ’11 …. Murray’s career defining ’16 season, the common denominator? A starring role in the previous year’s DC victory.
Multiple times we’ve seen how big performances in their national colours can have a springboard effect on players, a catalyst for improved form on the main tour. Let’s have a look at who’s in the running for the 2016 Davis Cup crown, and catapult:
The Talismans (yes that’s the plural) Del Potro & Čilić – separated at birth?
As successful DC teams always seem to, both this year’s finalists have towering leading figures as their top player. Good mates off the court, how they could only have dreamt of facing each other in a DC final back in their Orange Bowl days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTkVrlksDus
The similarities are plentiful: born 5 days apart, both 6ft 6” with comparable power games, gentle giants off the court, but capable of truly monstrous tennis on it. Not too long ago experts were predicting the giant yet athletic frames of the Del Potro/Čilić mould would go on and dominate the sport. Djoković & Murray made a mockery of that theory with their agility, balance and durability proving the more successful attributes. However, could we see the dawn of a new age for aggressive styles in 2017? Both Del Potro & Čilić have shown they can hit through anyone on the biggest occasions (1 USO crown each), and Wawrinka has really drafted the blueprint on how to punch through Djoković’s seemingly impregnable defence. With a vacuum appearing at the very top of the game, could a DC victory springboard Juan or Marin into top 3 territory? Fitness and consistency will be the respective telling aspects.
Del Potro is the anomaly to the ‘choking Argentinian’ hypothesis. ‘Mental giant with giant balls’ is perhaps a more apt description. With a solid 8 months of continuous tennis, including a recent title in Stockholm (without conceding a set), Orsanic will be confident his star man is going to show up. As mentioned, he certainly has something to prove in DC however. Questioned commitment, involved in 2 failed finals; heroic in defeat in ’11, but blamed for prioritising the tour above his country after gassing out vs Lopez in ‘08. As they did when he shocked everyone by withdrawing from the deciding 5th vs GB, the nationalists back home will be sharpening their knives if he doesn’t perform as they expect.
The DC final couldn’t be timed any better for Čilić who’s in the form of his life. Perhaps he’s benefited from ‘The Davis Cup Catapult’ already once this season? After harrowing back to back 5 set losses both from a 2 set lead, firstly against Federer (having 3 match points) in the quarters of Wimbledon, then in the crucial first US tie vs Sock, one couldn’t blame Marin if he went missing for a while. Instead, displaying ‘giant balls’ himself, he insisted on playing the doubles with Dodig. A turning point. Huge wins over the Bryans and then Isner followed, rescuing the tie and since then he’s been flying. A maiden masters title, a 500, wins over Djoković, Murray and bogeyman Nishikori (twice), Čilić now finds himself ranked 6th in the world.
Del Potro has a commanding 8-2 lead in their h2h, but the odds won’t reflect that on Sunday considering Čilić’s recent form. Importantly, as solid as Del Potro & Mayer looked vs the Murrays, we have to predict Croatia has the edge in the doubles following 2 astounding wins for Čilić and doubles expert Dodig.