From November 25 to 30, 2021, the Davis Cup met for the final round in Innsbruck. Six nations battled it out in two groups of three for a place in the quarterfinals: in Group C France, Great Britain and the Czech Republic, and in Group F Serbia, Germany and Austria. The large Olympic Hall Innsbruck was perfectly branded and ready for some really great tennis.
Top sport at its best
And there the players on the greenset delivered top sport at its best: despite the absence of a dense international atmosphere. Because Austria went into an urgently needed fourth lockdown shortly before the start of the event. In front of well-attended crowds, only the matches in Turin and Madrid took place. Other countries, other customs.
The eternal duel
The draw of the final round wanted the duel Austria against Germany. After the cancellation of the convalescent Dominik Thiem and Alexander Zverev, who was not convinced by the new Davis Cup format, Germany was still the clear favorite. The starting position for our musketeers was therefore all the more difficult without the backing of the fans. Especially since Team Austria, after a narrow but clear defeat in the first match against Serbia, should have clearly put "big brother" Germany in its place.
The Davis Cup bright spot
Austria started brilliantly. The talented, versatile and aggressive Yuri Rodionov was a bright spot. With great strategy, clever tactics and strong nerves in the big points, he left the court as a beaming winner against Dominik Köpfer. At the latest now the hall would have shaken. So there was a hint of a sensation in the air. But unfortunately Dennis Novak against Jan-Lennard Struff and our doubles Oliver Marach, Philipp Oswald against Kevin Krawietz and Tim Pütz could not succeed.
The new Davis Cup format is controversially discussed among players, coaches and fans. In any case, the current mode enhances the doubles, because it is there that the national matches are often decided on a point-to-point basis. And the starting field of the doubles pairings in Innsbruck was par excellence. With the French Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert, the winners of the ATP Finals in Turin came directly from there to Innsbruck. The British doubles shone with the current number three in the world, Joe Salisbury, and his partner Neil Skupski. And the German doubles also had two aces up their sleeves with Kevin Krawietz and Tim Pütz. The so-called underdog team from the Czech Republic also managed to surprise.
The superstar Novak Djokovic
The highlight from a sporting point of view was the presence of perhaps the best tennis player of all time, Novak Djokovic. After an intense season that saw him narrowly miss the Grand and Golden Slam, he led Team Serbia to the quarterfinals and semifinals in Madrid: thanks to untouchable performances in singles. But he also showed incredible things in his performance in the doubles against Germany, which was lost by a razor-thin margin.
What is impressive about Novak Djokovic is his footwork. He floats across the court with ease and is always that famous step faster than his opponents. This allows him to dominate most rallies from an ideal field position. And his effectiveness from the defensive thanks to his inimitable agility is unparalleled anyway. In addition, he masters the art of the return like no other.
Even Jan-Lennard Struff's serve grenades at 220 km/h were no match for that. Speaking of serves, Djokovic continually produced effective first and second serves. They land precisely in the corners, even in pressure situations. You can only sit there and marvel.
After the group stage, it came down to the quarterfinals between England and Germany: always an explosive duel on paper and also on the tennis court. Germany got off to a disastrous start. Peter Gojowczyk had a very bad day and lost against the free playing Briton Daniel Evans.
So Jan-Lennard Struff had to keep Germany in the competition with a win against the world number twelve and reigning Indian Wells Master 1000 triumphant Cameron Norrie. With powerful tennis from the baseline and clever net attacks, Struffi deservedly kept the upper hand.
So it came as it had to come. The doubles decided about the advancement to the quarterfinals. The pairings of Joe Salisbury and Neil Skupski against Kevin Krawietz and Tim Pütz promised a real treat. It followed almost point for point tennis at its best. And how Krawietz/Pütz turned the o:5 in the tiebreak of the second set into a 7:5, I can't understand until today. In any case, they pulled their heads out of the noose with aggressive strokes and coordinated positional play. Afterwards, they will find themselves in the semifinals in Madrid. In front of spectators.
Game, Set and Ski
Novak Djokovic also had something to look forward to off the court. The number 1 in the tennis world received two things from the hosts Tirol Tourist Board and Innsbruck Tourism: a one-week ski vacation with ski passes in the Innsbruck region for him and his family, including a ski day with our Olympic champion Benjamin Raich. In addition, he was delighted to receive a pair of skis custom-made for him with his logo from the Innsbruck-based ski manufacturer Spurart.
Will I see you in 2022?
The Davis Cup 2021 in Innsbruck is history. I am in favor of this event taking place again next year in the sports capital of the Alps: ideally, if possible, with spectators and side events. Because: The fact that Innsbruck can also play tennis and is home to a large fan community remains undisputed.
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Simple syllables and stunning sentences are sensible solutions. I write about moving experiences in the ever changing mountains and valleys from spring through winter.