If not for the persuasive talents of Ivo Heuberger there would not have been a reuniting of Switzerland’s former Davis Cup teammates Heuberger, Michel Kratochvil and Yves Allegro to compete in the ITF Seniors World Team Championships Italia Cup for Men’s 35-and-over players this week.
But apparently Heuberger, 38, is a hard guy to say no to according to his friends. Heuberger, who lives much of the year in Miami Beach, had heard the World Seniors event was coming to South Florida. So he picked up the phone and started to campaign for his buddies — Kratochvil, 35, and Allegro, 35 — to join him in action.
Although Kratochvil, who reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 35 in his pro tour days, and Allegro, who won two of his three career doubles titles with good friend Roger Federer, believed their competitive days ended when they retired from the ATP Tour, they agreed to come together for Switzerland one more time.
“That’s exactly how it went,” said Allegro, indicating that Heuberger pushed the cause. “Micha and I, we kind of didn’t want to play this event. We always say we’ll never play anymore tournaments except the Swiss league, maybe. But he talked us into it and it’s actually fun. For us, it’s more the fun to be together more than the fun of competing, although when you’re on the court you want to win.”
On Thursday, the third-seeded Swiss contingent had to battle a tenacious sixth-seeded German squad to come away with a 2-1 quarterfinal victory and a berth in the Italia Cup semifinals.
Of course, when Heuberger came up with his scheme to play he didn’t know six months later that all three of them would be dealing with injuries.
“We thought we'd get together with the friends from before and I live close by in Miami Beach so it’s not so far, so it’s a nice week with the friends,” Heuberger said. “We have some injuries but we’ll see if we can get through this week.”
Allegro, who is hindered by a hip injury, lost the first match 64 62 to Marc Leimbach. Heuberger, dealing with a back problem, put forth a 60 63 win over Daniel Dolbea in the second singles match. And in the doubles decider, Heuberger and Kratochvil rallied from a one-set deficit to win the match 36 64 62.
Kratochvil retired from the tour with a serious knee problem that eight surgeries couldn’t repair. He has no cartilage between the bones in his knee, and at only 35-years-old, he isn’t wanting to go for an artificial knee quite yet.
“I had to retire my career because of my knee so normally tennis is not that good for me,” Kratochvil said. “But I figured one more time, okay? It’s my first year I qualify for seniors and I had a couple of guys call me and I said no. But then Ivo called me and said, ‘C’mon, the old Davis Cup team with Yves together — a get together with the boys — and I figured, ‘Okay, it’s worth it.'
Played in the pristine Boca Grove community, where many of the residents appear to have a passion for tennis, the competitive nature of the Switzerland-Germany quarterfinal drew quite a nice-sized crowd. It didn’t hurt that one court away the Portuguese and Turkish teams were also embroiled in a tight and entertaining match.
Nowadays, the three suave Swiss players have moved on to life after pro tennis.
Heuberger has a company in Switzerland and one of the things he does is supply the Swiss Federation with the Swiss Davis Cup team clothing. He also runs a Swiss tennis league.
“I’m in both places, but my wife Marta is from here and we have a baby daughter, Mia. She’s one,” Heuberger said.
Kratochvil has an academy back in Bern where he coaches.
“I have my own academy when I teach juniors that play at the ITF level so I hit some balls every day, but I don’t play,” said Kratochvil, who was accompanied to Florida by his wife and six-month-old son, Ben.
Allegro, still a bachelor, works for the Swiss Tennis Federation the last two-and-a-half years and is in charge of training for the 14-and-under boys’ and girls’ contingent.
“I’m not missing the competition at all that much and I don’t really feel like I want to compete that much,” Allegro said.
And when they walked off court on Thursday they knew that they had at least one more day of getting to play together.