Three more weeks before the final of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. The only trophy missing in King Roger’s cabinet. If he can't make it, he can take some comfort in reading this Top of champions who have never been able to touch the silver bowl.

Opposed to France in the final, the Swiss team of Davis Cup by BNP Paribas will soon try to win the prestigious event for the first time in its history. It would also be an excellent opportunity for king Roger Federer to add the final great line still missing to his prize list and leave the list of tennis champions who have never lifted the famous silver bowl.

 

Jimmy Connors, not enough team effort

 

Winner of eight Grand Slam titles, Jimmy Connors thought of tennis as an individual sport, period. Not enough of a team player to consider the Davis Cup BNP Paribas at its fair value, "Jimbo" was always trying to find excuses to avoid coming to strengthen the US team, preferring to go on a few days holiday or participating in some lucrative exhibition tournaments instead. He accepted once in 1984, to lose in final against the Swede Mats Wilander. He would never do it again.

 

Ellsworth Vines, the temptation of professionalism...

 

In the early 1930s, Ellsworth Vines was the rising star of tennis. A slender young man, winner of the 1932 edition of Wimbledon with an almost sickening ease, at just 20 years old! That year, the American tennis association was counting on him to end the French hegemony in Davis Cup, but Vines lost in final against Borotra on the surface he mastered the least: clay. The following year, exhausted by the stress and pressure that surrounded the event, he broke down in semi-final against the Brits, even fainting during his lost match against Bunny Austin. In the process, he accepted the proposal of his elder Bill Tilden to go pro, thereby putting an end to his dreams of Davis Cup, then reserved to amateurs only.

 

Ilie Nastase, if the yanks weren’t there…

 

Three finals played, three finals lost! These are the sad results of Nastase in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. Worse, the three defeats were against the same American opponent. In 1969, 1971 and 1972, each time, the Yanks triumphed over the evil Romanian duo Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac. A crazy team, able to try of every kind of provocation to break down the opponent. And very often they did break down. Except the unshakeable Stan Smith.

 

Jack Crawford, Fred Perry on his way

 

Australia and the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, it's a love story that has been going on for over 100 years and which allowed the greatest champions of the island to expand their prize lists. Among the few unfortunate in the event, we remember Jack Crawford, one of the world's best pre-war tennis. In 1936, him and Adrian Quist thought that their time had come with victories against the United States and Germany, but Britain eventually won in final, thanks to a fifth game won by Fred Perry (34 victories in 38 Davis Cup matches!) against Crawford. He missed his chance. When Australia won the silver bowl again in 1939, Quist was then associated to John Bromwich.

 

Guillermo Vilas, and yet he insisted!

 

The Argentine worked hard to help his country win the silver bowl, without ever managing to do so. A total of 14 years of loyal service for many disappointments. Once, however, he thought to have reached the Grail. During the final played against the American team in 1981, he played a match of anthology with his friend José Luis Clerc, lost 11-9 in the fifth set after five hours of play. The dream was gone... In four finals played, Argentina has never won any.

 

Manolo Santana, the losing side of Spain

 

Since 2000, the year of its first victory, Spain is the country that has won the event the most with 5 successes. But before that this victorious Spain, there was the losing Spain, with two defeats in final in 1965 and 1967. Each time with Manolo Santana and each time against Newcombe and Emerson's Australia. In 1967, however, Santana was making quite a duo with Manuel Orantes, but the two jokers were swept away in the final on Brisbane's grass. Damn the grass!

 

Nicola Pietrangeli, records for nothing

 

Who played the most matches in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas? It's Pietrangeli with 146 matches between 1954 and 1968. The record for the most victories? Pietrangeli again, 78 victories in singles, 42 in doubles. The record of victories with the same partner? Still Pietrangeli, with 34 successes with his Italian compatriot Orlando Sirola. And all this for no title whatsoever and only two finals in 1960 and 1961. Sad.

 

Yannick Noah, before Saga Africa

 

France has long waited for the successors of the famous Musketeers, six times winners of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas between 1927 and 1932. In 1982, the team led by Noah and Leconte made it to the final to lose at home against the Americans. But Noah, who loved the event, was appointed team captain for the 1991 edition, while he had not completely left the professional tour. With the Americans as opponents again, he decided to trust Forget and Leconte, for a historic victory. A title celebrated with his first hit single, Saga Africa, which foreshadowed his new career.

 

 

Patrick Rafter, annoying injuries

 

World number one for a short while in 1999, Rafter got injured and couldn't participate in Australia's victory against France in the final (3-2). The following year, the Kangaroos made it to the final again but lost against Spain, with Rafter forced to withdraw during his singles match against Ferrero. He thought that he could finally lift the trophy in 2001, winning his first singles in final against Grosjean, but he got injured again and had to withdraw for the fifth decisive match, leaving Wayne Arthurs to be defeated by Nicolas Escude. Patrick had a curse, a real one.

 

 

Gustavo Kuerten, too lonely

 

The amazing Brazilian would have loved to make his country shine in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas... Unfortunately he was too lonely to win this title. Supported at home by a public at the limits of regularity, the Brazilian team managed to pass a few rounds and reach the World Group, but failed to go really far. His best result was in 2000, with two home victories against France and Slovakia, before falling in the semi-finals in Australia. That year, "Guga" had for partners Fernando Meligeni and Jaime Oncins...

 

By Régis Delanoë