Davis Cup Returns to a Scene of Its Glorious, Grassy History in Australia

By Clarey, Christopher | International New York Times, February 29, 2016 | Go to article overview

Davis Cup Returns to a Scene of Its Glorious, Grassy History in Australia


Clarey, Christopher, International New York Times


The site of memorable Davis Cup finals and a former home of the Australian Open, will host a match between Australia and the United States.

It will be the United States versus Australia in the first round of Davis Cup this week at Kooyong Stadium.

Nostalgia will be obligatory, even if the brash young Australian star Nick Kyrgios does not yet seem much like the nostalgic type.

Jim Courier, the United States' Davis Cup captain, said: "I think the guys will feel the ghosts. I'll push a few buttons with our guys and see what registers. But I don't think, when you walk into Kooyong, you can avoid the history; don't think you can ignore it. It's a big part of why we're there."

Kooyong's horseshoe-shaped tennis temple, completed in 1927, was at the heart of the sport for decades: the site of memorable Davis Cup finals when clean-cut Americans and Australians ruled the game. Its grass courts were also home to the Australian Open from 1972 to 1987.

But grass-court tennis, Davis Cup and the Aussie-American tennis rivalry are not what they used to be, and the Open decamped in 1988, abandoning the eastern suburbs for downtown Melbourne, where it has grown exponentially, marketed itself globally and built three stadiums with retractable roofs.

The atmospheric club it left behind seems quaint and cramped by comparison: wedged between the old train line and the newer freeway, rather like an elegant historic home that has been encroached upon by modern developments. It is tough to visualize Kooyong as a Grand Slam showcase, even though it might well have remained so if its club members in the early 1980s had shown more enthusiasm for retaining the privilege.

"Look, there was a need for a new venue," Chris Brown, chief executive of the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club, said last month. "Melbourne Park is just a fabulous center, and the facilities and services there are sensational.

"To have created that out here, remote to the city, wouldn't have been as good as where it is now. And the fact of it is, by the Open moving there, it has returned this club to being an absolutely top- notch tennis club that serves the needs of a large number of members. In that sense, you have to say it was a win-win."

The remodeled Kooyong facility has more than 8,000 members, a squash facility, an indoor pool and a well-equipped gymnasium, whose picture windows provide a sweeping view of 26 grass courts, which remain the club's main attraction -- even if there are also 22 clay courts to provide a reliable playing surface through the chillier, rainier winter months.

"The grass courts are unbelievable -- the best in the world, in my view, outside Wimbledon," said Paul McNamee, a former Australian star and the Australian Open tournament director who grew up playing at Kooyong. …

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