Delegation Tries Tennis Diplomacy


They walked tall, they stood proud and they painted their red, white and blue flags on their cheeks.

And they wore orange.

Forty college students from the Netherlands had the most visible presence at the first Davis Cup in Orange County in 20 years.

They made the Palisades Tennis Club their second home Friday, cheering for their countrymen as though they were cheering a soccer team. They wore orange wigs, red ties over orange T-shirts, jackets bought for 50 cents from a second-hand store, and inflatable clogs on their heads--not unlike plastic cheese wedges worn by fans of a particular Super Bowl champion.


They drowned out U.S. cheers and posed for photos with the curious.

“I think they’re impressive,” spectator Mel Jurado of Anaheim said. “They have the outfits and they’re helping their team. When you have that kind of support, especially in a foreign country, it helps the players. They’re out to win.”

And to have fun. The 40 fans, part of a 100-member delegation, are sponsored by the Netherlands’ Royal Tennis Assn., which pays half the bill for the trip. The students, who must be either fraternity or sorority members and members of a select tennis club, are chosen by their tennis clubs.

The delegation’s presence began in Mexico in 1989, when a few vacationing students received plenty of attention at a Davis Cup match. The Netherlands won, and the Royal Tennis Assn. liked their presence so much, they made them a staple of Dutch Davis Cup action.

Now much larger, this group began its weeklong stay on Tuesday. Wednesday, they attended a party with the Dutch consul general, U.S. Tennis Assn. board members, and the Dutch players.

This is Davis Cup No. 4 for Maarten DeHaan.

“For three days,” he said, “it is our mission in life to show people how to cheer.”


Officials warned fans to arrive early Friday because of limited parking at the Palisades Tennis Club, and those who didn’t were diverted to lots farther away. Much farther away.

Thirty minutes before the first match, there were four cars in a free dirt lot at the corner of Irvine Terrace and Pacific Coast Highway. An hour later, there were 40. And all would need to spend the $5 they saved on parking for the car wash.


“They ought to have a shuttle,” Bob Filep of Palos Verdes Estates said. “This is a PR fiasco. It looks like this thing is totally uncoordinated.”

Sgt. John Klein of the Newport Beach Police Department said he expected things to run more smoothly over the weekend.

“This was expected to be the busy day because of commuter traffic,” he said.

Traffic trying to turn from Jamboree on to Backbay Drive finally let up about 30 minutes after the Andre Agassi-Sjeng Schalken match began.

Riki Kucheck of Corona del Mar, a computer science teacher at Orange Coast College whose class ended at 10:45 a.m., had a friend drop her off.

“They’re expecting 5,000 people and there are 20 [parking] spots,” she said. “My dad came here at 8:30 and had breakfast. We planned ahead.”

Newport Beach’s Mary Buckingham, who arrived an hour late with her 8-year-old son, Charlie, had some noteworthy information: “It’s a $4 cab ride from the dirt lot.”



The ball boys and girls were admonished to hurry up a couple of times by the umpire during the first match. Of the 18 boys and girls who participated, 10 weren’t trained until Friday morning.

Maurica Katz of Los Angeles who, with her husband, Steven, are the ball coordinators, said they were notified at the last minute by the Southern California Tennis Assn., which thought the International Tennis Federation would be training the children.

The Katzes train the ball boys and girls for the L.A. Open.

“The training sessions are 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and they usually work the qualifying rounds for experience,” Steven Katz said. “A couple of times they were slow to get the ball.”

Said Maurica Katz: “Some of these kids don’t even play tennis. These kids have done an outstanding job for not getting any practice.”

One of the ball girls was Kim Rogers, 15, a Corona del Mar High student. She said there were only “one or two” times when she didn’t do things the way she would have liked. She blamed it on nerves and inexperience.

“I wasn’t rolling the balls fast enough,” she said. “I thought I had it down in the middle of the first set.”