Saturday, July 16, 2005

Sulking Coria, Uncouth Hewitt

The very character of Davis Cup tennis means it is not entirely unusual to witness some pretty tense rubbers. After all, it is THE preeminent team event; in fact the only one that matters, with a tradition that has managed to survive even in this era of ultra-professionalism. But there are occasions when passions manage to get the better of not only parochial crowds but the players themselves, almost reducing them to silly caricatures. Lleyton Hewitt against Guillermo Coria on Friday at Sydney was one such. Now, both these 'gentlemen' have some history of indulging in gamesmanship and Hewitt in particular, often treads dangerously close to gross unsportsmanlike conduct on court. I'm all for some characters in tennis - God knows it needs some - but shouting 'C'mon' when your opponent commits an unforced error is stretching it too far. It may be acceptable in certain sports, but certainly not in tennis. Even when their bad behaviour reached its zenith, I don't think McEnroe or Connors or Nastase did anything remotely similar. Hewitt should thank his stars his outburst at the US Open some years ago directed at James Blake and a black linesman did not attract severe penalty. He got off extremely lightly again yesterday when he vulgarly told off Coria. He may be forgiven by the adoring Fanatics, but he shouldn't push it. On his part, Coria launched into an attack on the surface and for once, I found myself on the same side as Hewitt when he described the Argentinean as a sore loser. Davis Cup surfaces are always tailored to suit the home crowds and sometimes they may not quite match ATP tournament standards. That should hardly be an excuse. Coria should have asked himself certain questions after watching Nalbandian and Puerta complete a fine victory against the ill-matched pair of Hewitt and Arthurs. To his credit, Coria wasn't sulking on the sidelines for once. - NK


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