Dramatic victory over the French: A great German Davis Cup evening

In Hamburg, the DTB team delivered one of the most spectacular Davis Cup encounters in a long time.

Dramatic victory over the French: A great German Davis Cup evening

In Hamburg, the DTB team delivered one of the most spectacular Davis Cup encounters in a long time. Actually, the format no longer provides for such emotional international battles. At the end of a long day there is excitement, but there is also anger. Because atmosphere is expensive.

As a long Davis Cup day nears its dramatic end late Wednesday night, superstar Alexander Zverev buries his head in his arms while Oscar Otte and Jan-Lennard Struff stood behind him on the chairs and shouted "Germany, Germany" towards the pitch roar. Attempts to encourage the audience to do more work fail. Where else is this supposed to lead? The people in the mighty Rothenbaum Stadium in Hamburg are already completely electrified by one of the most dramatic Davis Cup games in recent years. And Kevin Krawietz laughs.

Everyone deals differently with the emotional stress of a sporty roller coaster ride at the beginning of the third hour of a double thriller about the winning second point between France and Germany. It was 1: 1 after Jan-Lennard Struff defeated Benjamin Bonzi 6: 4, 2: 6, 7: 5 in 2:14 minutes and Oscar Otte then went down against Adrian Mannarino.

Krawietz, together with his partner Tim Pütz, had caught up a break in the third set against the French duo Nicolas Mahut and Arthur Rinderknech in the third set, the German duo later had three breakballs in a row against them and, driven by the frenetic Hamburg audience, worked their way in the tiebreak of the third set. The showdown under the floodlights, long after it had gotten cold in the Hanseatic city. Point by point, Pütz and Krawietz only worked their way back into the match, every rally ended in either euphoria or anger. On the field and especially in the stands.

In the German box, the prevented German superstar Alexander Zverev suffered much more from his own helplessness than from his aching foot, behind them a small French fan block and a drumming German crowd fought their own duel. And the longer the match went on, the more every spectator became a party. part of the match. It became something personal. "Oh, how is that beautiful" chants as part of a tennis day, drums, a partisan home crowd and loud guests celebrating their own people - Davis Cup atmosphere. The match ball was lost in the jubilation: 6:2, 4:6, 7:6 it was said in the end, Pütz and Krawietz had won. Germany had won, for the first time since 1938 a DTB selection defeated France again. Pütz stated: "We stuck with it, had good support here in the stadium - the best atmosphere I've ever played in" and Krawietz said simply: "In the end the atmosphere was unbelievable." It was Davis Cup as it used to be.

In the past, when Davis Cup matches spanned three days, it was not uncommon for them to be matters of national interest. Two singles on Friday, doubles on Saturday and two more singles on Sunday - that was the formula by which the competition had worked for many decades. Numerous encounters have burned themselves into the collective memory of German sport over the years: in 1987, when 19-year-old Boris Becker defeated the great John McEnroe in Hartford after just under seven hours. 4:6, 15:13, 8:10, 6:2, 6:2 it said at the end. Germany led 2-0, at the end of a historic weekend there was a 3-2 victory for the German team, which Becker ensured, of course with a reasonably close five-set win against Mayotte, "in the hardest match of my life", including a two-set -Lead and breakballs against each other in the decisive fifth round.

Unforgotten are the encounters against Austria in the Wiener Stadthalle, when there was more than just healthy rivalry in the air. Davis Cup, that used to mean using the home advantage against the guests and for your own benefit: the choice of surface, the superiority in the stands, provocations, small disruptive fires close to the edge of fair play. "It was a crazy match with many ups and downs. For me, the biggest thing is to win for Germany and get a 1-0 lead here," said the 32-year-old Struff after his marathon victory at the start. "Maybe it was the home advantage that decided here today." Davis Cup, that used to be important because the audience was part of the whole, instead of just an astonished observer.

In 2018, this idea seemed to have been disposed of forever on the high heap of sporting memories: The ITF, the world association, mistress of the Davis Cup, agreed to a reform proposal by a billionaire investment company led by soccer world champion Gerard Piqué, the 118-year-old concept of the To radically change the World Team Championship: from 2019, instead of several rounds spread over the year, there should only be one week-long final tournament in November, in which 18 teams will play for the Davis Cup trophy. Home advantage only for one team, the fans back in the role of amazed admirers. Numerous top players turned away from the competition, above all Germany's top player Alexander Zverev. He announced that he no longer wanted to play for Germany in this format.

In the meantime, the mode has been slightly adjusted, before the final round an additional intermediate round was drafted in four cities - in addition to Hamburg, these days are Bologna, Glasgow and Valencia. "As it is now, we're moving in the right direction again," said Germany's captain Michael Kohlmann before the start of the week, which should end with qualifying for the final round in Malaga in November. The idea of ​​home and away games and the group phase has made the most important competition for national teams more attractive again.

Under these circumstances, Alexander Zverev really wanted to be there again, and the later Olympic champion played for Germany again in the qualifying round in March in Rio de Janeiro against Brazil. "I've always loved the Davis Cup, I always wanted to play it," he said in "Tennis Magazine". "I thought that if we do a little bit of top players against the new format, the organizers will understand that the old format was better and maybe go back to it." Now he has the feeling "that they have now taken exactly the right steps and that the competition is developing positively."

Zverev himself, who had announced in the Davis Cup home week program that it would be "very special" for him, "definitely a home game for us, something completely different than playing at home on the ATP Tour", had to go two days before cancel the first German serve. Instead of leading his team on the field, he works from the outside. Quieter than its peers but with a big presence.

But one thing that has been missing from the week in Hamburg so far is that it would be Davis Cup like it used to be: spectators. Too many spectators are missing. Against France, the imposing stadium was at best a third full. Jan-Lennard Struff was not surprised by this: he was asked after his match whether he had been shocked by the empty seats when he entered the stadium. "No," replied the 32-year-old, "I was shocked when I saw the ticket prices. That was absolutely understandable, that probably not that many fans will come because it's just brutally expensive, and I think that's a shame. " The games without German participation take place almost to the exclusion of the public.

In Hamburg, tickets for the intermediate round games with German participation cost at least 70 euros. According to the organizers, tickets at the Glasgow and Bologna locations were available for the equivalent of less than 20 euros. In Valencia tickets were available from 25 euros. Real Davis Cup atmosphere is priceless for the home team, but also for too many fans at the moment. On Friday the DTB team meets outsiders Belgium in Hamburg.

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