The contrast is stark at the Emirates Stadium in Glasgow. From the stands, five thousand frenzied British tennis fans cheered fondly for leader Cameron Norrie. With a point win, the world number eight, who is still in the semi-finals at Wimbledon this summer, is clearly reaching out to the blue-clad crowd.
On the other side of the net, Botic van de Zandschulp looks like an icy rabbit in his white shirt. It’s as if he’s getting nothing – or not caring – from all the frantic emotions around him. On the slow, hard court of the multifunctional sports complex, which rubs against the court of Celtic Football Club, the introverted tennis player outplays his British opponent with powerful kicks, devastating forehands and delicate shots (6-4, 6-2).
Calm and cold are stronger than excitement and turmoil. Not long after, the world No. 35, from Veenendaal, will brazenly say he played almost the perfect match. This is the fourth time in his career that the best tennis player in the Netherlands has beaten the top 10 players. It is by far the most impressive victory for that quartet.
Van de Zandschulp’s stunning win over Nouri symbolizes the Netherlands’ strong performance in the Davis Cup group stage. With victories over the top-ranked teams of Kazakhstan, Great Britain and the United States, coach Paul Harhuis’ side unexpectedly advance to victory in the group in the final week of the prestigious country tournament, in Malaga at the end of November.
This is the first time since 2005 that the Netherlands is among the top eight tennis nations. This scenario seemed unthinkable a little over a year ago. Not a single Dutch player was in the top 100, which is a magic limit in tennis. In fact, the mid-twenties, who were mainly playing their games out of sight, are no longer taken into account.
In Glasgow, ‘New Generation’ shows that recent progress in Dutch men’s tennis is still in full swing. With 26-year-old Van de Zandschulp and Tallon groenpoor, two players are in the top 50. Tim van Reethoven, one year younger than him, also made big progress last summer with a surprise ATP title in Rosmalen and a place in the fourth round. at Wimbledon.
“It’s not that we now suddenly belong in the top eight tennis nations in the world, but that the faith among the boys has grown tremendously in the last year,” says Harhees, who had experience with Wesley’s husband as a coach in Glasgow Kulhoff (recently reaching the US Championship finals). United Open) and Mathieu Middelkoop. “It is no coincidence that everyone is now doing well and has risen in the world rankings.”
Former doubles specialist Jaco Elling (with Harhuis multiple Grand Slam winner) changed the policy of the Tennis Association five years ago. For a long time, tennis players were supported until the age of 21. Then they had to dig it themselves. But with Elling’s arrival as head coach, it wasn’t age, but the potential becoming groundbreaking. “We’ve seen the qualities of these guys, but we’ve also noticed that male players are entering the top 100 at an increasingly later age,” Harhes said.
At the National Tennis Center in Amstelveen, the best tennis players in the Netherlands have been pushing each other to a higher level for a number of years. Van de Zandschulp also knows his teammates for an unexpected spot in the quarter-finals at the US Open a year ago. In training, other players sometimes take a group from the Botic. Suddenly they, too, began to believe that more was possible.
The Greek track has won competition after competition, while Van de Zandscholp has put in a solid performance this year at Roland Garros (third round) and Wimbledon (fourth round). Most attractive to the imagination was the unexpected success of Van Reethoven, who did not play as the third solo player in Glasgow. He made a savage tennis as the 205th in the world within a few months towards the top 100 players. As a newcomer who wasn’t afraid of anything or anyone, top ten players Felix Auger-Aliassime and Daniil Medvedev defeated The Rosmalen Turf Tournament.
In Glasgow, it is as if that bravado and open-mindedness have covered the Dutch team like a protective mantle. Although the simple Van de Zandschulp will never have the outspoken personality of a super talent like Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, he does look like a different person on the track than he did at the US Open a few weeks ago.
With his shoulders down and his eyes misunderstood, Van de Zandschulp in New York looked like a grumpy kid who didn’t get his way more than a tennis player having a good time. In the second round, Frenchman Corentin Moutier mentally shocked. A frequent problem with him.
“I’m tired of tennis,” Van de Zandschulp says of his five-week tour across America. I’m not new in my head anymore, so I got frustrated pretty quickly. Every mistake or missed ball becomes a very big thing in my head. Suddenly he looked like a weak tennis player who could lose to anyone.
But after not touching a racket for a week, the updated version of Van de Zandschulp shows its potential in the Davis Cup. Within five days, as captain, he took care of three players in the top 50: Kazak Alexander Bublik (44), Britain’s Nori (8) and American Taylor Fritz (12). They have no answer to his almost impeccable game.
Gone is the angry attitude. Instead, Van de Zandschulp teases orange fans (about fifty people) after a gentle point against Fritz with arm gestures, as if a closed oyster is gently opening. “I really felt like playing and I enjoyed being on the court. It was different last year.
“If he gets to his level, his level will be very high and he can undoubtedly reach the top ten,” says Fritz, after the Dutchman pushed him aside in two sets (4-6, 6-7). “But in tennis, it’s also about how many times you get to that level and what the minimum is if you play less than once.”
In the wake of Van de Zandschulp, the Greek track (ATP-48) also won two of his three singles matches, including 19th-placed American Tommy Ball. “The only way to get better is to play more games like this and get into these situations. You can’t mimic the pressure at important points in a training session.
After his closing press conference on Saturday evening, Harhoes stayed in the press room to speak with a number of reporters. In his enthusiasm, the coach says he enjoyed the strong match of American players Fritz and Paul against Holland from the side. “I actually wanted to tell Botic and Tallon to take a closer look at the footworks and return methods. At the same time I realized that they simply beat them.
According to Haarhuis, it says all about the development that the Dutch have gone through in the last period. “Don’t forget that Botic and Tallon have only been playing at their highest level for a year and Tim until only a few months. Even though they are in their mid-twenties, they are still true rookies on the ATP tour.
Also in Glasgow ‘experience’ and ‘confidence’ are the keywords. “I probably played a lot of matches in my first year. In the new season, I mainly want to look at my tournament schedule, to be more energetic and positive on the track, says Van de Zandschulp.
It’s hard to predict whether that will lead to a place in the top ten list, according to Harhuis. “But I am convinced that Botic, Tallon and Tim will improve their rankings higher in the world rankings when they have ten to fifteen major tournaments to their name.”
They are reflections of the future, while on Saturday at the Emirates Circuit, the present is the most important. The giant tennis hall, which can seat nine thousand visitors, is already largely empty when the Dutch Davis Cup team is allowed to celebrate by the orange fans. “We’re going to Malaga,” they sound in unison, as a fitting end to a number of great tennis days in Glasgow.
“Professional reader. Award-winning gamer. Zombie buff. Social media junkie. Bacon maven. Web scholar.”