April 14, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Uncle Toni, among others, not on board with Spanish Davis Cup appointment

The Spanish Tennis Federation will hold its press conference about naming Gala León Garcia as the new Davis Cup captain, Tuesday in Sevilla. It should be, um, animated.

It’s always wise to make announcements that will make people talk on a weekend, so the dust can settle for a couple of days before people start digging into it.

But Rafa’s favorite uncle, Toni, has already weighed in. He has, not shockingly, taken a rather macho stand. Uncle Toni covers all the politically-incorrect bases, although his point about León Garcia having no contact with the players is a valid one – if somewhat obscured by the rest of his remarks. Whether he speaks for his nephew is impossible to say.

(Toni Nadal spoke on IB3 TV, a station in Mallorca. His words were Tweeted by Mallorcan journalist David J. Nadal – no relation – who covers his namesake like a blanket).

In a nutshell:

*Nephew Rafa has had no previous contact with León Garcia. This is a person who has not been closely connected with mens’ tennis. He’s very and truly surprised.

*He can’t imagine that a woman could ever be a coach in football (soccer).  It’s true that men have been Fed Cup captains, but for him it’s rare.

*It’s hard to think it’s a good idea. There were people like (Juan Carlos) Ferrero, and many others, who were ready to do the job.

And, the winner:

*Apparently much goes on inside the locker room and there can be a … lack of coverage (really?) and thus it’s not proper that a woman be in there.

 

Seriously, Tío Toni, what’s up? Are you upset they didn’t beg you to take the job? What a boob (pardon the pun). Here’s a more complete report on what he said. It’s not sooooooooo awful, and he probably sold it well. But the main thing was that he said the choice of captain would have no impact on whether Nadal plays Davis Cup or not.

Former Spanish player Tomas Carbonell weighed in with this:

Translation: “Defending the equality of women is everyone’s duty. To use it for your own benefit is an obscenity.”

A bit cryptic, but interesting.

Is the Spanish federation using this as an opportunity to shake things up in a major way, to send a message to its players about their obligations to federation and country? It wouldn’t be shocking. Seven of the top 12 ranked players in Spain declined to play against Argentina.

According to this piece, the players heard the news via the media and had no say in the nomination, and the news was greeted with some ridicule, and some laughter.

Other adjectives used: stupefied, and bewildered.

León Garcia was appointed as sports director for the Spanish federation, replacing Albert Costa, last July. She reportedly said at the time that she had not heard from the country’s top male players, including Nadal and David Ferrer.

She was named Davis Cup captain at an “emergency” meeting on Sunday in Madrid, where people like former Milos Raonic/Filip Peliwo coach Galo Blanco and Juan Carlos Ferrero were put out as candidates, but not offered the job.

Several players, according to the above story, contacted Carlos Moya at the 11th hour in an attempt to get him to change his mind.

Plaza reported that the Spanish federation head said on Marca radio Monday that León Garcia would assume the duties, as the federation “opens the debate on what they want in the future.” And that there was no guarantee she would be sitting on the bench against Russia (in July).

Sounds like a strong vote of support. And, er, mission already accomplished there. Oh, and Russia still needs to beat Denmark in its first tie in March.

Meanwhile, Blanco’s Twitter reaction:

CostaTweet

Carlos Costa is Nadal’s manager. He joked that the media make a mistake – they meant to type “Galo”, not “Gala.”

Nice.

There are four previous women known to have been Davis Cup captains – none, it’s safe to say, for nations even within five leagues of Spain, a perennial Davis Cup powerhouse:

Tamara Semikina: Moldova (1995-2001, the first six years the country competed in Davis Cup; they were in lowly Group III in the zonals. The president of the Moldovan Tennis Federation is currently a woman)

Francesca Guardigli: San Marino, in Europe/Africa’s Group IV from 2002-2004.

Farah Dayoub: Syria in 2009 – Group III.

Maria-Elena Gittens: Panama, for one weekend in the Americas Group IV in 2011. By the time Panama competed again a year later, she was gone.

Will León Garcia make it to that post-July zonal tie to actually sit on the bench on court? It would be shocking.

So the Spanish suits got what it appears they were after. Sadly, it took appointing a woman to a traditionally male job to do it. You can only hope their intentions were more honourable than that but if they weren’t, it’s unfortunate that León Garcia either didn’t realize what they were doing or, worse, knew it but went along with it.

Yesterday, Costa was Tweeting he didn’t believe what he read on the Internet until he saw something official from the federation, and joked with a Spanish coach about that León Garcia’s real mandate actually was. We can only imagine what he said that wasn’t on Twitter.

That player was Roberto Carretero, a former player and now coach. His first Tweet was to congratulate León Garcia on her appointment. His second Tweet was that he thought it was going to be difficult, that the situation would probably be corrected and, if not, well, good luck to her.

Carretero shared his thoughts here, among them that the captain’s job is to steer the ship but these days, the players are their own captains. And that it’s not really a question of whether León Garcia, whom he says he knows well, can do the job but the way the decisionsare being made. He also says that everyone thought Moyá was the perfect captain: charismatic, former No. 1, respected by all, a friend to the players … and look how that turned out.

So there’s a relative voice of reason, amid all the craziness.

Meanwhile, while all this machismo might not cause a ripple in Spain, the players involved might be well-served to zip it for now. And if Nadal is smart, he’ll put out something disassociating himself from Uncle Toni’s remarks.

So far today, this is “his” only Tweet (in two languages):

NadalTweet

Marcel Granollers is aggravated with his cellphone.

GranollersTweet

This is, as they say, an ongoing story. Surely much more to come.

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