DAVIS CUP FINAL 1987

by

Richard Evans

Sweden re-claimed the Davis Cup, which they had lost in Australia the previous year, when India was defeated 5-0 in Gothenburg in a final that was not so much a massacre as a celebration. Vijay Amritraj's team, every member of which having been born and bred in Madras, were the least likely finalists since Britain had bucked the odds and made similar progress before falling to the United States in Palm Springs. If anything, India's road to the final had followed an even more improbable path, and when Sweden elected to lay another clay court in the vast Scandinavium stadium, just as they had for the final against the Americans in 1984, Vijay knew that his team's Christmas quest would become just so much tinsel and holly with which to decorate another Swedish triumph.

So although disappointed that they didn't make a better match of it, India were simply happy to be there, and the 12,000 Swedes who packed the stadium for the first two days were equally happy that Santa Claus had no nasty surprises beneath his beard. What the final lacked in competitive edge, it made up for in a spirit of friendship and good sportsmanship that was not only in keeping with the festive season but which went some way to eradicating the unhappy memories of America's boorish behaviour there three years before.

For the record, Mats Wilander defeated Ramesh Krishnan in straight sets in the opening singles, and then Anders Jarryd continued his career-long domination over India's captain by beating Amritraj, also in straight sets. This was not the draw India had been hoping for, nor was Jarryd's appearance in place of the injured Stefan Edberg a welcome sight for the visitors. "Frankly we felt that Ramesh would have a better chance against Edberg on clay and, at the very least, we were hoping that he would not have to play Wilander first off", admitted Amritraj. "But I suppose it was too much to hope that our fairy-tale year would have a proper ending."

The doubles were more competitive with Vijay, joined by his older brother Anand, playing excellently in the first couple of sets and winning the second, before Wilander and his partner Joakim Nystrom improved the power and accuracy of their dipping service returns and completely dominated the remainder of the match. Strangely, the previous time a pair of brothers had appeared in a Davis Cup final had been in 1978 when John and David Lloyd had played singles and doubles respectively in the 1-4 loss to the Americans in the California desert. Siblings must improve the odds for rank outsiders.

In winning a set the Indians had at least done as well as that powerful U.S. team in 1984, for Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe also lost their live singles in straight sets and McEnroe and Peter Fleming, suffering their first Davis Cup defeat, could manage only one set in the doubles.

The fact that the Americans had fared just as badly in Gothenburg was significant, because it highlighted the fact that Sweden would have crushed all but two or three nations in the world on their own clay court. One would have had to have given Czechoslovakia a chance, and possibly France, but the next country that comes to mind is Spain, and they couldn't even beat the Swedes on a wet clay court in Barcelona in the semi-final. So, after a hiccup in Melbourne, Sweden's domination of the world's premier team competition was restored. The 1986 final had caught Hans Olsson's team in a rare moment of disarray. Wilander had opted out because of his marriage, Edberg was jaded after a tough year, and most of the team looked as if they would rather have been at home for Christmas. This time they were and, as if to make up for his earlier absence, it had been Wilander who had done most to ensure that they would be.

Winning every live singles he played (and he played singles in all four ties) Mats, the world no.3, was the lynch pin of a squad that was represented by a typically wide assortment of players during the year. Mikael Pernfors had the unhappy experience of kicking off the 1987 campaign by losing to Italy's Paolo Cane in the opening rubber in Prato - that turned out to be Sweden's only live singles reverse in the whole competition - and by the time Olsson took the squad to the Roman arena in Frejus for the quarter-final against France, Kent Carlsson was fit to replace Pernfors and unleash his extraordinary style with devastating effect on both Thierry Tulasne and Henri Leconte. But the demands he puts on his body with that excessive topspin strokeplay takes its toll on Carlsson, and he was injured again when the Swedes went to Barcelona.

No matter. Olsson merely called up the second ranked player in the world and, ignoring the fact that many experts in Sweden were sceptical of Edberg's solidity as a Davis Cup player, especially on clay, asked Stefan to play singles only while giving Jarryd Wilander as a doubles partner. Edberg brushed aside the younger Sanchez brother, Javier, who was making a nervous Davis Cup d├ębut, and then, after Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez had kept Spain in the tie by winning the doubles, proved all his critics wrong by serving and volleying his way to a tremendously impressive straight-sets victory over the older Sanchez in the fourth rubber.

All that only proved that the odd injury is of little concern to a team as strong as Sweden have at their disposal now, and indeed for the foreseeable future.This was their fifth consecutive appearance in the final, and their third victory in that period.

(World of Tennis 1988)