France Versus Serbia – Davis Cup Final

Serbia Celebrates Against USA

Belgrade is gearing up for the Davis Cup Tennis finals this weekend. Serbia is hosting France in the finals. I took the  photo above during an earlier round in the Davis Cup, when Serbia defeated the USA here in Belgrade last spring. Since then, they went on to win at Croatia in the quarterfinals this summer, and earlier this fall, came back from behind to beat the Czech Republic.

There is a really good New York Times article this week about the Novak Djokovic family and Serbian tennis. It appears that Serbia is the favorite. They are at home in the friendly hard court confines of the Belgrade Arena. They have the world’s #3 player in Novak Djokovic, who should get 2 wins. It would then take one more win by Serbia to clinch the best of 5 series. If Djokovic falters, then Serbia could be in trouble. Assuming Novak comes through, where will they get the other win? France will be playing with world #12 Gael Monfils, who is one of my favorite players to watch because of his exciting and risky style of play. They are also bringing 30 year old Michael Llodra who is in top form as the world #23 player. He beat Novak last month in Paris at an ATP-100 tourney event. Serbia will counter with either world #30 Victor Troiki, or world #49 Janko Tipsarevic. Janko was the hero against the Czech Republic last round and I hope they use him, despite the lower ranking. The doubles match will be interesting also with Serbian veteran and world double #3 Nenad Zimonjic.

There is a lot of pressure on the Serbs playing at home, but there will also be a lot of support, which could rattle the French. Guy Forget, the Captain of the French team, has been playing up the “we’re going to a hostile scene” and the “Serb fans could get violent” cards in the media. A good strategy to get his players pumped up.

I won’t be able to attend the games this weekend, sadly. Nadia is going on her annual girls shopping and dining trip to Budapest, Hungary and I’ll be alone with the kids. We’ll watch the matches on TV. The Davis Cup web site will also carry live radio broadcast as well as a blog by The London Times reporter, Clive White, who is here in Belgrade to cover the matches. It really inspires me to play more tennis and get my children started in a tennis academy.

I would like to wrap up this post with a prediction. It is tough not knowing what the match ups will be as both teams are keeping their selections private until the day of the games. It would be nice for Serbia to win. The Serbs are much more fanatic and passionate about tennis than the French are and a win for Serbia would mean much to nation. I predict Serbia winning 3 – 2.

The World Cup Comes to Belgrade

With the cup, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

This afternoon we went over to New Belgrade to see the World Cup Soccer trophy. FIFA is sponsoring a tour of the World Cup trophy and soccer “experience” literally around the world. Coca Cola is advertising big time with the tour. The trophy was in a large hall. There was a lot going on that was frightening for the young Kralovecs. Between two bands of African drummers, an electronic soccer carpet, aerobic dancers, etc. the experience was a bit overwhelming for them as you can see by the look on their faces.

Ollie Jumps Right In!

The workers were nice and they let us cut to the front because of the kids. We got our picture, free cokes, and then headed out. Serbia is in the World Cup and the country is excited for June. I can’t wait to watch the games. Thanks to Eric for letting me know it was in town.

USA Stays Alive in Davis Cup Tie

Janko Tipsarevic & Nenad Zimonjic, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

Update: John Isner lost in five sets last night to Novak Djokovic. He made Novak work hard and we have a new favorite player from the USA. Good on ya’ John. Serbia advances to play Croatia

This weekend Serbia is playing the USA in a Davis Cup Tennis round of 16 “tie.” Tie is Davis Cup speak for team match. Nadia and I attended the “rubber” yesterday, which was the middle doubles match of a 5 match series. A Davis Cup tie consists of 4 singles matches and 1 doubles, and the country that wins three, wins the tie.

We really enjoyed yesterday’s game between the Serbs (shown above) Janko Tipsarevic and Nenad Zimonjic and the USA team of 6’9″ John Isner and Bob Bryan. Nenad is the number one ranked doubles player in the world, but he usually plays with Daniel Nestor, a Serb born in Belgrade but Canadian-raised. Instead of Nestor, who can’t play for Serbia because he represented Canada in Olympic and Davis Cup play, Janko played with him. Tipsarevic is currently ranked #36 in the world and is the third ranked Serbian tennis player behind Novak and Victor Troiki. Isner was playing for the US in place of Bob’s twin brother, who contracted food poisoning. (I wonder where he ate?) Isner looked really good and should be playing more doubles tennis. He is suited for doubles with his powerful serve and quick reactions at the net. His mobility is not a factor in doubles and I hope he takes my advice and plays more doubles.

John's brother Patrick gives instructions to his team.

The US duo were clearly the stronger team and won in four sets. This gave the US their first win after losing the two singles matches American Sam Querry takes on Victor Troiki (#35 in the world) if necessary.

Whoever wins this tie will advance to the quarterfinals to take on Croatia in Croatia. A Serbia – Croatia will be a fascinating match and the first time the two nations have met since the breakup of Yugoslavia in the Davis Cup.

The Davis Cup is great and it has created a buzz in Belgrade. They even made a clay court in the Belgrade Arena to give the hosts an advantage. But what is lacking however, is a world buzz for a world championship event. I propose big changes in the event to make it better.

First, I would play the whole tourney in a two week Grand Slam format instead of stretching it over the year. Currently, they play Davis Cup weekends during lulls in the over crowded ATP schedule. It would be like the World Cup of Tennis and the top 8 teams in the world would be invited. You could have a playoff to determine teams if there are several closely rated countries. It could become the fifth Grand Slam on the ATP Tour.

The current Davis Cup is to determined by surface and host. Usually, the home nation wins because it has the crowd behind them and they choose the surface that best suits their players. In my Davis World Cup, I would have the surface selected randomly for each rubber, then the teams would have to find their best on a variety of surfaces. To make it even more interesting, lets select the surface AFTER the players have been selected to play. The four surfaces would be clay, grass, two hard court surfaces, perhaps one indoor and one outdoor.

It think if they select a good time, it would really take off and be a big event. I think the best players would play and there would be more worldwide fan interest.

We had great seats in the US Section

Russia Defeats Serbia in Federation Cup Tennis


Ana Ivanovic vs Svetlana Kuznetsova, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

Saturday we went to the Belgrade Arena to watch the first singles matches of the Federation Cup Tennis Tournament. The Fed Cup is the women’s version of the Davis Cup. Serbia is playing this weekend in the quarterfinals against Russia. We also watched the reverse singles and doubles matches on RTV (Radio Television Serbia) on Sunday. With four singles matches and one doubles match, whichever team wins three, wins the “tie” as they say in tennis jargon. 

Russia defeated Serbia 3 matches to 2. Ana Ivanovic was awful and lost her two singles matches and was the “weak link” in the doubles match she played with Jelena. 

Serbia as you may know, is a power in world tennis because of the big three, Novak Djokovic (#2 ATP ranking), Jelena Jankovic (#8 WTA ranking), and Ana Ivanovic (#23 WTA ranking). Jelena and Ana make a duo that can match up with any pair of women in the world. Russia, is currently in my opinion, the top women’s tennis nation with 6 players in the top 20 and 15 in the top 100. The number two ranked player in the world, Marat Safin’s sister Dinara, was not playing, but we saw world number 4, Svetlana Kuznetova play.

In the first match, Ana Ivanovic (above) lost in straight sets to Kuznetova. She looked horrible in the first set, rallied in the second set to lead 4-2, before collapsing. I thought she looked rushed and off balance most of the match. Both Nadia and I remember watching her a couple of years ago defeating Venus Williams. She showed flashes of that, but mostly showed a very inconsistent effort and lack of intensity. In the second match, Jelena Jankovic played much more aggressively and defeated world #31, Alisa Kleybanova in three sets. Jelena came back on Sunday and won again in three sets, defeating Kuznetova. She never gave up, played with great intensity, and I have a newfound respect for her. I hope she wins a Grand Slam this year and makes a push for #1. Ana looks like she has a long way to go to be back in the top 10. It would be nice to see her dedicate herself to training and the tour this year and get back into the elite of the women. 

Jelena serves in the first set


One of the most noticeable things about yesterday’s matches for any male, was the beauty of the Serbian girls. I enjoyed the tennis and respect the athletic ability of the women, but it is natural to notice things like that. Both Ana and Jelena are slender and carried themselves with a more feminine air than their Russian counterparts. They both play up the “babe” factor on their web sites (Jelena’s web site and Ana’s web site)and when they promote themselves.  I felt they were at a disadvantage against the bigger, stronger, Russian girls yesterday. I think both of them would benefit from strength training. The Russians looked like linemen (North American football reference – these are the players that push against each other to create clear lanes for the faster and smaller running backs) and not what I think of as tennis players. Both girls are listed at over 150 pounds on the tour web site. 

We enjoyed our first indoor tennis tourney


I also think Serbia should develop their women’s sports program significantly. Walking around Belgrade, I see a lot of tall (6 feet and over) women. With the history of success of the men’s basketball, I am surprised that women also haven’t done more. It might be that women don’t regard themselves like American women athletes do. They are more likely to stop competing in sports as adults and girls are not really encouraged and clubs and schools do not have female sports programs. I would like to start a women’s club program like Partizan, to develop women basketball players. Many would earn US university scholarships and they would be a force on the world basketball scene. In the US, law dictates that schools must have equal male and female sports programs. This has definitely helped women in the USA.

(A side note – In the photo of Ana Ivanovic, the gentleman in the background with the white shirt and light blue tie, is former Yugoslavian tennis great, Slobodan Živojinović. He was the first Serbian to be ranked number one in doubles and won the US Open doubles title in 1986.)