For most professional tennis players, each season is filled with the individual pursuits of winning tournament titles and prize money. But as VOA's Jim Stevenson reports, a handful of players often find their most satisfying moments by playing for no money while representing their nations on the tennis courts.
Each year, the Davis Cup tournament is played to determine the best men's national team. Countries competing often have at least one highly ranked player on the court. Four singles matches and one doubles match make up each best-of-five series known as a "tie."
This year, the United States team has two top-10 players - number three Andy Roddick and ninth-ranked James Blake. Brothers Mike and Bob Bryan are the top ranked doubles tandem in the world.
For Blake, Davis Cup tennis has a special feeling.
"This team feels like a family. We do everything together. And when we win, we have a great time celebrating together. When we lose, we have a quiet dinner and we talk about it [the loss]. And we talk about getting them [beating them] next time," he said.
Andy Roddick likes the fact that both the players and fans are enjoying the sport with some extra meaning.
"I think it brings out a new level of passion from the fans. They are not rooting for a guy. You can get behind the flag [support your country]. And I think the players feed off of that as well," he said. "It is probably no small part to the rest of my team. They are some of my best friends. And so I know I am playing for them too."
For James Blake, the Davis Cup tournament is providing a new opportunity he has not experienced before in competitive tennis.
"It is a great thing because I have the feeling of competing as a team. And I have never reached the pinnacle of any team accomplishment," said Blake. "I was thinking about it just a few months ago about the fact I never won an NCAA [college] championship as a team. I never won a high school championship as a team. I never won inter-sectionals, I never won any of that stuff. So, now to have the chance to do it at the top level would mean the world to me."
Blake and his teammates need to get past Sweden in the upcoming semifinals (in September) to have a chance to win the title in December. The United States holds a record 31 Davis Cup titles, but none since 1995.
The Davis Cup began in 1900 as a competition between the United States and the British Isles. It now includes 120 nations.