Davis Cup: Fan Girl Goes to Latvia
Courtney Jade, Special to TennisEastCoast.com
I landed in Latvia a couple of days ahead of the Davis Cup tie with Ukraine.
If you ever find yourself in Riga, the capital of this Baltic nation sandwiched between Estonia and Lithuania, you owe it to yourself to walk through Old Town. Old Town is very beautiful and there are plenty of little shops and places to eat well. I’d recommend Lido.
Prices in Latvia are generally pretty cheap, so it’s not a bad place to visit if you are on a budget. A lot of young people speak English, so I rarely had trouble communicating with the locals. However, many of the local bus drivers do not speak English. Transportation is easy to find. If you don’t feel like walking, you can easily hop on a bus or trolley. Taxis are also around but will obviously cost more, and some of the drivers like to up the price on you.
The Davis Cup tie between Latvia and Ukraine was held inside the Olympic Center in Liepaja. Liepaja is located four hours from Riga, accessible only by bus and rail. Once I arrived in Liepaja, I settled into the Europa City Amrita Hotel. The rooms of the hotel were smaller than what you’d find in the States, but were very clean and cozy. The hotel was a five-minute walk to the Olympic Center.
When you walk into the Olympic Center, they have a little shop on the right that sells name brand athletic clothes and accessories. On the left sits the very popular little cafeteria dining area. You dine in cramped quarters, so don’t be surprised to sit down at a table next to your favorite tennis player!
Tennis isn’t a popular sport in Latvia. It is easily overshadowed by sports like hockey and basketball. However, it has gained popularity with the rise of Ernests Gulbis. Gulbis was the first in his country to break through the top 100. The hockey team in Latvia, Dinamo Riga, is known for having some of the best crowd support in the KHL. Luckily for us, some of the hockey fan club was in the stands for Gulbis’ first match against Sergi Bubka. The fan club brought flags, drums, and their enthusiastic leader to pump up the crowd and support their country! Latvian hockey stars Rodrigo Lavins and Grits Anktipans were also in attendance.
Want to cheer in Latvian? Yell “Sarauj!” (Sa-Row) which means “Let’s go!”
This year Latvia gained a new captain, Karlis Lejnieks. Lejnieks, 24, retired from competitive tennis due to persistent knee problems and turned to coaching. I spoke to him about the new Davis Cup role.
” As I heard, they had disagreements with the previous captain and I am a good friend and practicing a lot with Ernests, and he is team leader in general. He asked me if I’d be interested. I said sure, of course! It’s a great opportunity to do more in Latvian tennis.”
Aside from Davis Cup Captain, Lejnieks is also coaching Israel’s Shahar Peer.
Unfortunately for Lejnieks and Team Latvia, the Ukrainian team came out on top at the end of the weekend. Gulbis was able to win both his singles matches, but the doubles loss with Andis Juska proved to be too damaging.
I had a fun week in Latvia. If you get the chance to explore this small country, take it!