Davis Cup Quarter Final – Serbia July 15th – 17th
By Carole Green
About ninety BATS members made their way to Serbia for the Davis Cup Quarter Final. Pre ordered tickets to the event were being collected from the Palace Hotel on the Thursday evening and a group of us then went on to the Question Mark Kafana (the oldest in Belgrade) for a traditional Serbian meal. We sat outside, in a delightful courtyard, a local band was gently playing, we were being served good food, good wine – the perfect start to a nice weekend.
The tennis was to begin at 4pm on the Friday afternoon (because Beldgrade is usually hot at this time of the year) – what we were not expecting however, was such awful weather.
We had been supplied with the regulation supporter t-shirts and we must have looked a formidable sight, filling up our side of the terraces alongside the Barmy Army. Old friends got together again and new friendships were made.
There was not too much of an opening ceremony and the tennis got underway to several rain delays. We very quickly discovered that our ‘seats’ were actually concrete steps – not the most comfortable and they soon became awash with the rain. Kyle Edmund was playing the first match against Janko Tipsarevic and he had won the first set 6-3 when the first rain delay stopped play. Tipsarevic clearly was not happy with the weather and could not settle down. The second set got underway but then the heavens really opened. Many of us got so wet that we gave up and made our way back to our respective accommodations. It was quite disappointing to find out afterward – that despite the weather – play resumed without us. Kyle won the rubber 6-3, 6-4, 6-0.
Needless to say the Barmy Army and a few other diehards stayed until the bitter end but a shame that the guys had to play in such wet conditions and in front of so few fans.
I should mention also, that Andy Murray, despite not playing, was there with us, every step of the way, through rain and sunshine, supporting the team.
The Saturday tennis began earlier than planned with the second singles rubber, which should have taken place the night before. James Ward took on Dusan Lajovic but despite valiant efforts he lost 1-6, 3-6, 2-6. The tie was one point each.
Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot then played their doubles against Nenad Zimonjic and Filip Krajinovic. Some really good doubles play with Team GB coming out on top 6-1, 6-7(2). 6-3, 6-4.
The Barmy Army were in fine form – their big drum had been returned to them – after being confiscated at the gates the day before. At this point I should mention that the Serb people – who have the number one player in the world in Novak, did not appear to be too interested in tennis. Their side of the terraces were nearly empty but those who were there were absolutely mesmerised by the GB fans and their support. I can still see the faces of the security guys around the arena – looking on incredulously at our typical fan behaviour. I think they were expecting football type fan behaviour and instead were met with a chanting, swaying and very friendly sea of blue.
The Sunday tennis started in grand style – with a visit to our side of the terraces by the Duchess of Gloucester, the British Ambassador and the President of the LTA. They had come along to express appreciation for our support. They spent quite some time with us – but eventually retreated to their comfy seats in the VIP area. GB supporters nevertheless.
Today the Serbian terraces were much more supported – maybe because it was a Sunday. Kyle was to start the first match – playing Dusan Lajovic. He played so very well – won the first two sets 6-3, 6-4. The third set was tight but he came out the victor at 7-6 (tiebreak). GB 3 Serbia 1. Job done. So overcome was he, that the final winning point saw him dropping to the ground – sprawled out with delight.
A token three setter then took place between James Ward and Janko Tipsarevic with Janko wining 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. At one set all – the third set was close and it so very nearly went James’s way.
The nicest part of this last rubber was the crowd support. The GB fans were chanting for Janko just as much as they were chanting for James. Even the court raker had a chant dedicated to him.
The atmosphere was unbelievable – such camaraderie between both sets of fans. The Serbian fans had learnt our chants by now – well they had been drummed into them for the past three days and I am sure they will recite them again and again, when they next attend tennis matches.
Apart from the tennis, we also had time to explore many parts of Belgrade. Free walking tours were on offer – they prove to be most informative and interesting, an open top bus covered many areas of both the Old and New Belgrade. The icing on the cake had to be the day tour, organised by Mary Pope, to take in the East of Serbia following the River Danube. It was a full day of touring – ancient fortress, archaeological site, high points of the Danube, coffee stops and a healthy, organic meal served from a viewpoint over the Danube. So many diverse interests crammed into one day.
Well the tie is over and the groundsmen might well, by now, have recovered from their efforts over the past weekend. So much sand pushing and shovelling, raking, stamping of divots and pushing the rolling machine over and over again.
Last by certainly not least our thanks must go to Mary for all her patience and perseverance – organising our tickets and keeping us informed with what was happening
As for me, the tie has been played and Team GB won – roll on the semi-final.