Chile to host Davis Cup tie despite disaster
Originally published on: 04/03/10 14:12
Chile’s Davis Cup tie with Israel will go ahead this weekend despite the devastation caused by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked the South American country.
Though the nation has put its football on the back burner, canceling upcoming friendlies against Costa Rica and North Korea, the International Tennis Federation has announced that Chile’s home Davis Cup tie will simply be pushed back a day and will begin on Saturday instead.
The move allows Israel their allotted four days of practice in the host nation, but has drawn a mixed response from the Chilean team who are struggling to put tennis at the forefront of their minds.
“On the one hand, it’s uncomfortable to have to concentrate on playing when you know there are people suffering,” said Fernando Gonzalez, who – after heavy disruption to the nation’s transport links – endured four flights and rides in a taxi and a van to return to his home city of Santiago after competing in Acapulco, Mexico last week.
“On the other, I believe that if we manage to beat Israel we will be bringing a little bit of happiness to all the people who have suffered so much in recent days,” he added.
The quake was felt from Chile’s capital Santiago through to the South, with Concepcion – the nearest major city to the epicenter – worst affected.
But Chile’s world group tie with Israel will take place in the northern town of Coquimbo, which has been undamaged by the quake and acts as a somewhat eerie paradox to the devastation felt in the southern portion of the country.
“It is hard to put yourself in place of the people who have lost relatives, or are having a rough time, but I think Chile is a wonderful country,” said world No.92 Nicolas Massu, who will play his country’s second singles rubber.
“It does not seem easy to focus on the match, but at the same time we will do our part to give our country a morale boost by winning this tie.”
Massu had initially favoured postponement, saying “my head is not in tennis”, but both competing nations have been praised by ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti after they agreed to go ahead with the tie this weekend.
“I would like to thank both teams for their willingness to play under these difficult circumstances,” he said.
“I would also like to praise the hard work by the many people who have made staging this tie possible.”
Chile’s first Davis Cup encounter of 2010 promises to be an emotional occasion inside the 6,500-capacity Enjoy Tennis Center in Coquimbo, with Jorge Aguilar and Paul Capdeville joining Massu and Gonzalez in proudly leading their disaster-ravaged country.
After worldwide concern and support, 29-year-old Gonzalez is determined to fight for a victory that he hopes can bring a fleeting glimpse of happiness to his nation.
“I am saddened for what we are living as a country, but I am hopeful because we are a supportive, strong country,” said the world No.10.
“We will play to try to win to create some happiness for our country, for our people, in these difficult times.”