In the third part of our Eurovision meets Tennis series, TTI is once again joined by New York Times contributor and ESC expert Ben Rothenberg. It’s the last edition of our crossover-trilogy (after Semifinal 1 and Semifinal 2) and this time we’re looking at some of the countries taking part in the Grand Final in Vienna. Which tennis personality could a Eurovision winner — right down the line? Find out in the final edition of “Viewing Tennis In Eurovision.”
Draw 02: France
France has certainly been one of the most eclectic countries in the ESC family and their entries have been as diverse as their tennis players. From classic chansons (Patricia Kaas in 2009), World Cup party anthems in 2010 to Opera in Corse (Amaury Vassily in 2011), the French have entered the whole smorgasbord in recent years and who better to uphold the tradition than the WTA’s living vine and gif on two legs – Alizé Cornet.
Tested in and relishing team competitions such a Hopman Cup, the enigmatic Frenchwoman will spice up the Eurovision stage with the full spectrum of human #émotions. Performing “Vamos (signifie Allez)”, a ballad that will turn into an uptempo stomper in the final minute, Cornet will try to capture the imagination of Europe, with a particular focus on the Italian televote. What could possibly go wrong?
Draw 05: United Kingdom
The British public has a fascinating relationship with Eurovision. To paint in broad strokes, the average Brit has followed the contest closely for decades, but insists s/he’s somehow above it, and so is the UK, and that people only watches ironically somehow. Why? Because the music is no campy trash, that’s why, and the UK only loses because the voting is political. But does the UK send good songs, you’ll ask? No, they’ll quickly admit. But still, the contest is inherently against them, and they’ll get upset when some crap like this comes in last.
It’s all a big defense mechanism from a country afraid to fully put itself out there, afraid to be hurt, afraid to break that stiff upper lip into a whole-hearted, meaningful smile. That’s all a sort of defense mechanism that dooms a country to failure, and it’s the same thing that (partially) explained the failure of British tennis for generations.
Until, of course, Andy Murray came along, with a can-do spirit that eventually lifted a nation. With his perseverance, ability to work with women, love for doing calisthenics in blue-grey clothing, and ability to sit down and stand up repeatedly in front of millions, he could easily be slotted in as the male singer in the 1983 effort Sweet Dreams!
The battles may have been lost, but Andy Murray is definitely winning the war, you guys.
Draw 07: Lithuania
Great things were expected of Ricardas Berankis, who was a junior No. 1 in 2007 after winning the junior U.S. Open and Orange Bowl. But Lithuania should have known, from their 2006 Eurovision effort, that predicting great success doesn’t always work out as well as possible.
Together, the men of LT United and Ricardas could make all sorts of bold claims and have wild fun. Just make sure they don’t have a good view of the scoreboard. (Though, in all honesty, LT United was unbelievably epic and came in a totally respectable sixth and is perhaps the best Eurovision entry ever).
Draw 10: Sweden
Sweden is one of the powerhouses of the ESC, winning a total of five times in its history. Sweden’s reign at the top of Eurovision began over 40 years ago, with a little group called ABBA. They were far away from telling a little story about a “Dancing Queen,” in 1974, but “Waterloo” became their first No. 1 hit in several countries, hit the Top 10 in the United States, and was called the best-ever Eurovision song by Dr Harry Witchel, physiologist and music expert at the University of Bristol.
After ABBA, Sweden won exactly a decade later with “Diggi-Loo Diggi-Ley” from Herreys, and also claimed a victory with Carola’s “Fångad av en stormvind” (1991), and Charlotte Nilsson’s “Take Me to Your Heaven” (1999). After a drought of victories by the Swedes’ lofty standards, they went back up (up, up, up) with Loreen’s “Euphoria” in 2012.
In tennis, who better to represent Sweden’s storied history in the Eurovision Song Contest than the people who have so often represented them in Grand Slam finals of late — umps. That’s right, I’m talking about the dynamic trio of Mohamed Layhani, Louise Engzell and Lars Graff. I’m thinking a Lady Antebellum-inspired country rock trio (in matching khakis and polos, obviously) would be an ideal fit here, but in reverse. Layhani would obviously be the lead singer, because, well, Layhani, while Engzell and Graff take the backup role on the piano and guitar, respectively.
Call me, guys.
Draw 12: Australia
The most important country in the final this year isn’t anyone in the Big Five, but it’s our friend from Down Under. Being a longtime Eurovision fan has its perks, and Australia — despite literally being on the other side of the world — is getting its shot at Eurovision glory. Honestly, it wouldn’t even be surprising if they snatched the trophy from under everyone’s noses. They have universal appeal, and this means countries won’t give them low points for historical or political reasons.
(Poor United Kingdom!)
Think of it this way, Australia is the UK’s hip, cool younger brother that everyone loves, but they haven’t really interacted with him yet so there’s still a chance he might be an irritating know-it-all. This is make-or-break for Australia’s reputation, and the country must put on the best show ever. They need to show Europe that Australia isn’t just kangaroos, koalas, and Steve Irwin.
Fortunately for Australia, they are bringing is ABSOLUTE FIRE. Guy Sebastian, who looks like an Aussie Sam Smith, sings a Bruno Mars-esque banger with “Tonight Again.” It’s “Uptown Funk” likeness is great considering the immense popularity of the song, and in my opinion, a guaranteed top 10 finish. It’s also one of the most viewed Eurovision songs on YouTube with over three million plays, so it must be one of the most anticipated of the night. Australia is smack dab in the middle for the final, so they have the chance to separate themselves from the others, and bring Eurovision to Sydney for 2016.
At first, I was going to pick Sam Stosur as the logical choice for Tennisvision — a Grand Slam champ, and currently Australia’s most popular female tennis player. However, then I had an epiphany. Australia, Eurovision rookies, should be represented by someone who’s young and a rookie, in a sense. That person would be none other than Nick “KING” Kyrgios.
He’s young, hot-headed, and immensely talented. He would grab up the young people’s demographic before you can say “Kokkinakis.”
I also have high hopes for his performance. Considering his music taste, he would be sure to pump us up with a rap. Would fellow Australian rapper Iggy Azalea feature in his song?
We can only hope not.
Draw 14: Austria
It would seem obvious to pick Conchita Wurst, last year’s triumphant winner, who is the reason the contest is in Vienna this year.
But Conchita, star that she is, needs no help whatsoever. She is a singular talent, and the first person ever to actually be undisputedly voted “Queen of Europe.” Let’s find two people who need help, then. Like Daniel “Crazy Dani” Koellerer, who DEFINITELY needs help.
Koellerer was banned for life for match-fixing some time back, so he has plenty of time to work with a potentially kindred spirit who also DEFINITELY needs help: Austria’s 2003 Eurovision representative Alf Poier!
Mix barn animals and Crazy Dani, and you’re bound to have a Eurovision classic! Or several felonies. Either way, worth trying!
Draw 17: Germany
Germany is home to one of my favorite winners of the last five years. In 2010, the bouncy Lena left on the porch light for Europe with “Satellite,” winning the contest by nearly 100 points. Lena returned a year later with “Taken by a Stranger,” which wasn’t the runaway success Germany might have hoped it would be at home — languishing in 10th place.
But the land of beer and pretzels had to think they had a real winner when world-renowned “Queen of the Dance Athem” Cascada represented them in 2013. Hardly deviating from her usual fare, she co-wrote “Glorious,” which bore striking similarities in theme and rhythm to 2012 winner Loreen and her smash hit, “Euphoria.” The blonde bombshell brushed off accusations of plagiarism, appearing on stage looking like a would-be bride at a bachelorette party karaoke night. Cascada and “Glorious” promptly evacuated the final standings after the Grand Final, placing a pitiful 21st.
On the WTA Tour, the German team has no dearth of big-hitting blondes (and brunettes), and surely the one most likely to pump out an undeniable dance track would be former Wimbledon finalist, Sabine Lisicki. Known to fans as “Boom Boom,” Lisicki plays a game to match her name, and can be quite exciting to watch when she’s playing well. I could easily see Lisicki adapting her Boom Boom persona to a heart-pounding athem, one certainly needed in a year of bombastic ballads.
Draw 21: Spain
Since 1999, Spain has been one of the “Big Five,” also known as the five countries who automatically advance to the final because
they paid their wa ahem, are the biggest financial contributors to the European Broadcasting Union. Spain promptly thanked the Eurovision gods for their charity that year….when Lydia finished dead last.
SHE EARNED ONE POINT.
Spain’s success hasn’t been better in recent years, either. In the past decade of the ESC (2004-2015), they failed to reach the Top 10 eight times, which is pretty unfortunate when you consider they get a bye every year. Pastora Soler and Ruth Lorenzo, however, each finished 10th in 2012 and 2014 — the equivalent of winning Moscow to secure your place in the year-end Top 10. Or something.
Spain’s history of futility in the ESC is matched only by one thing in tennis — the Caja Magica, making it the ideal place to host this contest. Despite being funded heavily by resident Romanian rich-man and former player Ion Tiriac, the Madrid Open at the “Caja Tragica” is often plagued by poor attendance, and the metallic structure of it is certainly an eyesore.
All hope is not lost for the “Magic Box,” however, when it comes to Tennisvision™. Considering #TennisTwitter’s love of Eurovision, and well, tennis, this might be its one chance for it to get itself a sell-out. With Rafael Nadal, Feliciano Lopez, David Ferrer, Nicolad Almagro and Fernando Verdasco joining forces under the moniker of super-boyband “Armada” — managed by Uncle Toni — success is all but guaranteed.
Well, we can only hope.
Draw 24: Azerbaijan
Ever since joining the Eurovision family, no country has been as
desperate eager to host the country as the country between the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea. 2008 aside, Azerbaijan has relied largely on Swedish songwriters to provide them with polished, radio-friendly pop tracks and in 2011 Ell and Nikki won when the competition was held in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Considering Azerbaijan has been to Eurovision what Kazakhstan has been to tennis, buying
votes songs from other countries over the course of the past 6 years, it would be fitting for the country to enlist help from a foreign player and who would fit the brief better than Russian-Kazakh Yulia Putintseva. The 20 year old’s highly demonstrative and emotional nature would be perfect paired with a soaring ballad along the lines of 2008 Melodifestivalen runner-up “Empty Room” – a fitting swan song to the final edition of the Baku Tournament. Truly forever an empty room.
Draw 27: Italy
Italy was one of only seven countries that competed at the very first Eurovision Song Contest, and was a staple of the ESC until 1997. After a 14-year absence, Italy returned to in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2011 — and promptly finished second. #liketheyneverleft
In what should come as a surprise to no one, three of Italy’s five songs since returning to the contest have centered around a common thread: Amore.
When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie and all that.
Therefore, no tennis-themed ESC would be complete without the sport’s greatest (and most Italian) power couple, Flavia Pennetta and Fabio Fognini.
After Emma finished 21st last year with the song “La mia città,” Italy returns to its romantic roots with Il Volo’s “Grand Amore” for 2015 — and they are a big favorite to win it all. Italy’s two other “love” songs placed in the Top 10, and if Pennetta and Fognini were to join forces, well, they’d show that the power of love is truly unbeatable on the ESC stage.
Have a fun Eurovision evening! Which tennis players would you send to represent their countries? Sound off in the comments!