A victory with personal history

Israel's heroics were viewed with particular interest by the Davis Cup founder's Israeli descendants.

davis cup founders decendants 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
davis cup founders decendants 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel's remarkable Davis Cup triumph this weekend - ousting top-ranked Russia for a place in the semifinals - was viewed with particular interest, either side of Shabbat, at the Bazer family home in the West Bank settlement of Shilo. For mom Daphne is the great-granddaughter of the man who dreamed up the men's team tennis tournament and gave it his name, Dwight Filley Davis. Davis (1879-1945), who later rose to political prominence as the secretary of war under US president Calvin Coolidge, was a top tennis player at Harvard at the end of the 19th century and wanted to organize a match against Britain with three teammates. He set up the contest, purchased a trophy out of his own pocket and made history. The International Lawn Tennis Challenge that he founded, played in and helped win in 1900 was later renamed in his honor. "Everybody knows him just for the Davis Cup," Daphne Bazer told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, "but he actually had a lot of other accomplishments" - including the Coolidge cabinet post and a period as governor-general of the Philippines. "His idea for the Davis Cup was to create a vehicle for international competition and to bring countries together... to foster cooperation and understanding," Bazer said. In that context, what he would have made of the raucous home support at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv this weekend is open to debate. But Bazer said her great-grandfather would emphatically not have approved of Sweden's barring fans from its match against Israel in March - a match Israel won 3-2 to set up its epic quarterfinal success against Russia. The Swedish ban "was not in the spirit" of what Davis established, she said. An outstanding player himself - a beaten singles finalist in the US Championships of 1898, and a three-time US doubles champion - Davis evidently passed the tennis gene down to his descendants. Bazer said she had been playing "since I was five years old" - although not too much in Shilo, where "frankly the court isn't in great shape" and "I'm also pretty busy." She recalled taking tennis lessons every summer with her late father, and got her kids playing as well. Bazer and her husband Joe immigrated from New York in 1991 with two-year-old Moshe, and have had six more kids since. Her father, Davis's grandson, "took the kids out to play tennis when we went to [visit] America." Moshe Bazer is currently in the middle of the hesder army/yeshiva program, and plays what his mother calls recreational tennis. Bazer said her family represented the biggest group of Davis descendants anywhere - so the combination of that personal connection and the Israeli team's stunning performance in this year's tournament was particularly poignant. "It is very exciting," she said. "Israel is such a small country, beating countries this year that usually beat us. It is unique that we have come so far." Bazer acknowledged that she would have liked to be at the Nokia Arena herself to watch the contest - again, Shabbat permitting. "It would have been nice if they'd sent me tickets," she mused. "But I can't really go up there and say, 'I'm Dwight Davis's great-granddaughter, can I get in?'"