Portland sports fans were ready for some good news last weekend.
The University of Oregon football team flamed out in spectacular fashion, finishing the season with its third straight loss—to rival Oregon State. The Beavers' reward for their dramatic Civil War win: a worse bowl game than the Ducks, even though both teams have the same record. UCLA eliminated the University of Portland in women's soccer. And a young Trail Blazers team continued its early-season freefall before finally winning a game Monday night.
Meanwhile, more than 12,000 victory-starved fans sold out Memorial Coliseum three days running for…tennis?
The Coliseum hosted the 2007 Davis Cup finals, a yearly international competition whose final round had not been in this country since 1992—and hadn't been played in Portland since a U.S. semifinal victory over Australia in 1984.
The U.S. team, consisting of superstars Andy Roddick and James Blake, and the dominating doubles team of twins Bob and Mike Bryan, demolished its Russian opponents four matches to one, ending a 12-year Davis Cup victory drought for the United States and sending the Coliseum into an ecstatic, patriotic Cold War fit reminiscent of the U.S. hockey team upset of the Russians at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Here's how we scored the weekend tennis bacchanal, based on the level of yellow-ball-induced insanity that gripped the Coliseum each day. Five rackets means a Grand Slam moment. One means the feeling you'd get watching Pete Sampras nap.
I made it to my seat just in time to see Roddick take the court for the weekend's first singles match against Russia's Dmitry Tursunov, the world's 34th-ranked player. As Roddick walked out, chants of "USA! USA!" erupted from the crowd, which went into pandemonium when Roddick started pumping his fist in the air along with the chant (think Billy Idol during "White Wedding").
It was clear this was not going to be a normal weekend of staid tennis in left-of-center Portland. Fans from both countries waved flags and chanted. A pep band played. Kazoos and other noisemakers buzzed at every opportunity. And cheerleaders and jugglers took to the court during breaks in action. Chaos.
Roddick quickly beat Tursunov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. And Blake followed that with what he called the biggest win of his career, over feisty Russian Mikhail Youzhny in four sets. The U.S. was one win from victory in the best-of-five format.
Watching the Bryan twins was as bizarre a spectacle as pro tennis offers. The twin brothers (Mike is right-handed, Bob is a lefty) never stop bouncing around the court, chattering to each other, giving each other high-fives and, when the moment was right, chest bumping. That's right. Their three-set win over Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev featured no less than four chest bumps, each one different in its approach and timing, from the "Milli Vanilli" to the "secret side bump."
After Bob clinched the cup by slamming a volley winner on the final point, the U.S. team stormed the court, culminating in a kind of group chest bump. Fireworks went off in the Coliseum. Red, white and blue streamers rained down. Madness.
When the U.S. team reappeared about an hour later for a press conference, it was clear the party had started. The whole team was soaking wet, the media center downstairs instantly smelled of old beer, much like a frat house game room, and the team was drinking something out of little yellow cups. Roddick and Blake kept whispering and giggling to each other while others spoke. Someone brought them two freshly filled cups toward the end of the press conference. "We're all feeling great right now," said Bob Bryan. "We're going to take it out hard."
Although the Cup had been clinched the day before, there were still two meaningless matches (who knew they were called "dead rubbers"?) that someone from the U.S. team was going to have to shake themselves from victory-celebration stupor and play.
Reports circulated that the U.S. team had partied late into the night at McFadden's in Old Town, so the prospect of playing tennis can't have been exciting for anyone on the team. I arrived to find out Bob Bryan, who hadn't played a professional singles tournament in years, was heroically taking the place of Roddick, who, according to a report from a friend sitting courtside, "did not look good."
Bryan lost in straight sets, and then after the match called the dead rubbers "the worst thing in sports."
Roddick owes Bob Bryan one. And we owe Davis Cup tennis a round of thanks.
Many of the details in this story were culled from wweek.com's Davis Cup liveblog. To read our full rundown and see highlights, go to wweek.com/wwire/?cat_id=31.