November 23, 2014

Net Non-Neutrality

Historically the Swiss have not taken sides in most world conflicts. But this year on the tennis courts the entire country was out to make a statement -- not only do they have some of the best individual soldiers in the world, but their whole team is capable of winning the war.

It had been a while since Switzerland and France have had a ton of success at Davis Cup -- though the latter got to the final in 2010, they haven't come away with the trophy since 2001. And the former, who've largely been left out of the World Group enitrely, had only made the last round once, losing pretty handily to the U.S. way back in 1992. But with two players in the top five, the long-time also-ran finally breaking through on the big stage, and the even-longer time Head of State storming back to the top of the game, the Swiss came to this weekend's championship tie on a mission.

In what started out as a predictably close showdown, Stan Wawrinka opened against an always-tough Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a man whose career has been remarkably similar to his own. The Australian Open champ slightly lagged in their head-to-head, but was just coming off his second semifinal run in London, reclaiming the momentum he'd had to start the year. For the first time in the pair's head-to-head, a decider wasn't needed to determine the winner -- Wawrinka lost serve just once in the two-and-a-half, four-set match and gave his country the early lead.

But in a rematch of one of the most exciting matches of the year, France's Gael Monfils was able to pull his homeland even -- against Roger Federer, taking the court again after pulling out of the year-end final a week ago, this time he didn't let a two-set lead slide from his grasp. The world #19 scored just his third win over the great Fed in a surprisingly quick, decidedly one-sided second rubber, giving the French a lot of hope going into the weekend.

Unfortunately for them, though, the Swiss turned the tables back in their favor on Saturday and never looked back. The 2008 Olympic Gold Medal team of Federer and Wawrinka subbed in for the doubles rubber against Richard Gasquet and London semifinalist Julien Benneteau and chugged through a tight three sets to retake the lead. Roger took the court again on Sunday, seemingly no longer affected at all by his back problems, and this time demolished Gasquet and clinched the win for the Swiss, putting their names in one of the only record books they hadn't occupied before.

For the stars on the Swiss team -- who delivered not just this weekend, but at ties all year long -- it was a historic victory that appropriately capped off an amazing season for not just individual players, but for each of then together. And with their momentum going so strong for so long, you can bet they'll be back in the new year, firing on all cylinders again.

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