eight men, five rubbers, one weekend…

Bulging biceps, tag teams, marathon sessions, tattoos, bears, Eastern Europeans, Brazilians…

Yes, my friends, it must be Davis Cup!

World Group 2008 – Semifinal
Argentina v Russia, 3 – 2
Tarpischev’s doubles trick couldn’t shake off del Potro.

Spain v USA, 4 – 1
America’s rich Davis Cup history gets blown to bits when a tie is contested on clay. Against Spain.

World Group, Play-offs 2008
Chile v Australia, 3 – 2
Gonzo distracted the Aussies with his chest.

Great Britain v Austria, 2-3
For British newbie Bogdanovic, playing in front of the home crowd at AELTC caused some performance anxiety against Peya.

Switzerland v Belgium, 4 – 1
The dream team of R-Fed and S-Waw cleaned up.

Croatia v Brazil, 4 – 1
Save for a clutch doubles match by Melo and Sa, Croatia takes all the matches.

Israel v Peru, 4 – 1
Harel Levy, Andy Ram, Noam Okun, and the Smurf-esque Dudi Sela all did the home crowd proud.

Netherlands v South Korea, 3 – 2
Hyung-Taik Lee swept his singles matches, but it wasn’t enough.

Romania v India, 4 – 1
As expected, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi win their doubles match.

Slovak Republic v Serbia, 1 – 4
Novak Djokovic kept his clothes on.

fashion focus: elena denimentieva

Yonex decided to flex its design muscle by using “denim” — printed on a moisture-wicking synthetic — for its fall ’08 collection, which debuted in time for the fashion-forward U.S. Open. They even opted for orange thread as contrast stitching, giving the pieces a more authentic and rugged look.

Elena Dementieva played in the separates at the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, where she lost to Katarina Srebotnik in the quarters. Notice the knot on th front lefft tank strap.

And this Russian wore the halter version during her semifinal run in New York. (She’s had a pretty good summer, following her semi @ Wimbledon with a gold medal from Beijing and the semi in NYC.)

More: See her kit from Beijing and the Yonex men’s denim line after the cut…

trophy watch: while the men are away, the russian women take names

The Russian men might be bamboozling their opponents down in Argentina, but the women mean serious business. Dinara Safina has beaten Svetlana Kuznetsova in all their 2008 meetings, including the 2008 final of the Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. The score: 6-1, 6-3.

In doubles, Nadia Petrova teamed with Vania King to win over Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur 6-1, 6-4.

Across the Sea of Japan, Vera Zvonareva took down local Peng Shuai 6-7 (4), 6-0, 6-2 at the Guangzhou Open. This is Vera’s second title, after taking Prague earlier this year.

(photos by Getty Images)

flashback: tennis masters cup, 2004 (houston)

I was looking for old tennis photos online, and I ran into these pictures taken of the nine guys (including the alternate) who descended upon Houston for the Tennis Masters Cup in 2004.

The Argentines: Guillermo Canas and Gaston Gaudio

The boys: Andy Roddick and Guillermo Coria

The daddies (DILFs?): Lleyton Hewitt and Tim Henman

The ILFs: Marat Safin and Carlos Moya

and Roger Federer

Roger beat Lleyton in straight sets — 6-3, 6-2 — to take his 11th title of 2004 and his second consecutive year-end title.

(photos by Getty Images)

davis cup: i, too, would settle for a pompadour…

Who needs a custom Davis Cup kit when you’ve got an amazing pompadour like Fernando Verdasco?

Unfortunately, his solid red adidas Compeition Crew looked bland next to the rest of Team Espana’s uniforms.

Meanwhile, Joma and Feliciano Lopez continue their wonderful partnership with his Davis Cup getup. (See the detail on the back of his polo, and his shoes.) Nadal is wearing the same vibrant Nike kit that he wore in Beijing, save for a switch to a red headband (instead of yellow). David Ferrer is in Lotto (pic).

Scoreline: After Nadal beat Sam Querrey (Sam took the first set) and Ferrer took out Andy Roddick in five sets, the Spanish duo fell to Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6. This gives the Americans a chance to get back into the tie with reverse singles tomorrow. (See the details here. First up: Rafa will play Andy!)

(photo by Getty Images)

davis cup: does janko have a new nickname?

Like all the other players sponsored by Fila, TSF mascot Janko Tipsarevic gets a custom pair of Alfas for his matches.

When I zoomed in to see what they’d embroidered on his shoe (usually the player’s first name, or a nickname), I couldn’t quite figure it out. It doesn’t read “Janko”, does it? Looks like there are too many letters…

If this is a new nickname for him, then Fila should tell us what it is!

Buy: Fila Alfas, $95, fila.com.

(photo by Getty Images)

davis cup: the boys in red win for serbia

All four guys on the Serbian Davis Cup team — Nole, Nenad Zimonjic, Viktor Troicki, and Janko Tipsarevic — did their part to win their World Group playoff tie against Slovakia this weekend. (And everyone managed to keep their clothes on, unlike last year’s peep show!)

Djokovic wore a red adidas polo while taking out Dominik Hrbaty 6-2, 6-4, 6-3.

And blue-spectacled Janko, in Fila, had to work for his five-setter against Lukas Lacko. The score: 6-7 (3), 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 8-6. That win must feel good, especially in light of how Janko’s ankle has sidelined him in some late summer tournaments.

For the clincher, Zimonjic (Nike) and Troicki (Diadora) beat Filip Polasek and Michal Mertinak in four tough sets: 7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5).

More Janko pics: Just because we can never get enough…

davis cup: don’t let kolya’s pink scarf fool you — the russians play dirty

The Russian doubles pair of Dmitry Tursunov and Igor Kunitsyn hacked their way into a 6-2, 6-1, 6-7(9), 3-6, 8-6 win over Guillermo Canas and David Nalbandian using some unusual tactics:

For the first two sets, Tursunov and Kunitsyn bamboozled their opponents with very little pace. In fact at times it was almost as if they were playing pat ball. With Kunitsyn staying back after most of his serves, and eschewing the chance to come to the net even when it presented itself, the visitors were playing almost a badminton formation of front-court back-court, Tursunov looking for the interceptions, Kunitsyn rallying from the baseline and covering when Cañas and Nalbandián tried to wrongfoot Tursunov. It was fascinating, if unusual.

And Tursunov said that it was Shamil Tarpischev‘s plan all along to make David stay on the court as long as possible, thus making fatigue a factor during tomorrow’s reverse singles. (audio)

Nikolay Davydenko next to wife, Irina, snug as a bug in a pink scarf.

Sunday: The Argentines are up 2-1 going into Sunday, and the sched posted on the DC website lists Kolya playing David (though Dmitry might sub…) and del Potro against Andreev.

(photos by Getty Images)

davis cup: dudi sela isn’t feeling blue

Dudi Sela must feel good doing his part for Israel by winning a singles rubber against Peruvia team captain Ivan Miranda 6-2, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.

Like how only Diadora can (see: Kuerten, Guga), Sela put on blue socks and blue shoes to take full advantage of the Israeli flag palette. He pulled it off.

The gold contrast detail on his front shorts pockets are blah, but excusable. They can’t all be winners, right?

More: See the rest of his ensemble, including practice tees and warmup suits, after the cut…