Outdated German anthem lyrics cause furore at Fed Cup tie
The wider implications and sensitivity around the readmission of the Springboks to international competition, simply didn’t feature in his frame of mind.
Now the Americans have put their foot in it. The US squared up to Germany in a Fed Cup tie on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Normally national anthems are not played at tennis matches but in the case of Davis Cup ties for men and Fed Cup ties for women, there is always an opening ceremony at which the national anthems are played.
A male soloist at the match sang the German anthem and started with the verse that contains the lines “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles, uber alles in der Welt”, which translates as “Germany, Germany, above all, above all in the world”.
Although the words were written long before the Nazis came to power in Germany, they became closely identified with Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich in the period before and during the Second World War.
The offending verse, which traditionally began the anthem, is now considered obsolete.
The third verse of the 19th century Deutschlandlied, the words of which were written in 1841, is the only one performed in modern-day Germany and is officially classed as the national anthem.
German player Andrea Petkovic, who was born in Bosnia, said after her match that she considered walking off the court as the anthem was sung.
“I thought it was the epitome of ignorance, and I’ve never felt more disrespected in my whole life, let alone in Fed Cup,” she said. “It was the worst experience that has ever happened to me – horrifying and shocking.”
She added, according to Bild: “This is the year 2017 – that something like this happens in America… it can’t happen. It’s embarrassing and speaks of ignorance.”
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) sent out an official apology to the German Tennis Federation. “We extend our sincerest apologies to the German Fed Cup team and all of its fans for the performance of an outdated national anthem prior to today’s Fed Cup competition.
“In no way did we mean any disrespect. This mistake will not occur again and the correct anthem will be performed for the remainder of this first-round tie.”
Petkovic’s opponent in the match was Alison Riske, who was also apologetic. “As it was happening, obviously, we have no idea,” Riske said.
“But news got around to us and it’s extremely unfortunate. We have nothing but respect for the German team and obviously that will not happen again.”
Things got no better for Germany on the court as Petkovic, a 12-time Fed Cup singles winner, lost to Riske 7-6 (12-10) 6-2 and the US women took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five tie when Julia Georges, who was in tears after the anthem error, retired on Sunday with a knee injury in a rain-disrupted match with CoCo Vandeweghe leading 6-3 3-1.
Georges was injured when she slipped on a rain-slicked baseline on the last point played on Saturday.
Petkovic was up again on Sunday with the tie on the line, taking on shock Australian Open semi-finalist Vandeweghe.
Petkovic broke Vandeweghe in three of her first four service games to take the first set 6-3, and was up 4-2 in the second when the American took a medical timeout for heat illness.
From there it was all Vandeweghe as she won the next 10 games to win the match 3-6 6-4 6-0 and put the United States into a semi-final tie in April with defending champions the Czech Republic, who beat Spain 3-2.
Petkovic, irked by an extended break allotted to Vandeweghe at the end of the second set, couldn’t regain her focus. She finished with 11 double faults, including two in the final game of the match.
Petkovic was then left to stand and watch as Vandeweghe celebrated with her teammates before belatedly shaking hands with her foe.