“I keep seeing these posters saying ‘Grass is Greener on the Indian side’. Well, I am colourblind so I can’t see that.”
One quip from Mikael Torpegaard was enough to sum up Denmark’s approach to the surface-rankings-home advantage discourse around their Davis Cup tie against India.
In the absence of world No.88 Holger Rune, Torpegaard is expected to spearhead the Danish challenge at the Delhi Gymkhana Club. The 27-year-old will take on Yuki Bhambri in the second singles rubber on Friday. Torpegaard and Bhambri are ranked 305 and 590 in the world respectively. But rankings in Davis Cup can be deceptive, as witnessed in India’s defeats to Finland and Croatia in the last two ties.
“I really like the idea of embracing the underdog role and getting the opportunity to play a little more freely. It’s not often you get to take your chances on a surface you don’t know,” he said.
The bit about color blindness, however, was more than a punchline.
“I actually can’t see which side the grass is greener,” Torpegaard laughs. “I am actually colourblind and it can be troublesome on the court if it’s very bright yellow, green or red behind the ball. Then the colours kind of blend together.”
Colourblind, sure. Tone-deaf? Certainly not.
Following in the great Scandinavian tradition, Torpegaard is a heavy metal aficionado. The fluorescent yellow ‘Flying V’ guitar, frequently spotted in his Instagram feed, is “his darling”. He’s already got eyes for a James Hetfield-style ‘Explorer’ in neon pink next. Recently, however, he has swapped the electric axe for an acoustic guitar for a “passion project”.
Along with Tennys Sandgren — the tennis player from Tennessee — Torpegaard is part of a two-man band called ‘Another Round’. It was during the first Covid-induced lockdown that Torpegaard headed to Nashville, the home of country music, to practise tennis with Sandgren. Off the court, he jammed, sang and recorded song covers with the American, an expert drummer with strong country music sensibilities. The duo got to writing and in late January, they put out a six-song original EP called ‘Dystopian Melancholy’.
We’ve been working on this for almost 2 years. Just torp and I putting our hearts into these 6 songs. We are calling it doom acoustic. Listen, enjoy and let us know what you think. https://t.co/tktOZaafZD pic.twitter.com/wQGWU6cJQt
— Tennys Sandgren (@TennysSandgren) January 27, 2022
“We shared an interest in old school country music, the more acoustic genre which I love playing. Towards the end of the offseason we were like, ‘wouldn’t it be fun if we had something to put our name on’. So we spent two weeks and put something together that people actually have been enjoying,” says Torpegaard. “I’ve had a band previously, in a little bit of a different genre. A little heavier genre.”
The “heavier genre” is what Torpegaard describes as ‘melodious death metal’. His original band is called ‘Mardröm’ (Swedish for nightmare). Last year, they released their debut album called ‘Drawn to Delirium’.
“It’s a really good feeling because one thing about metal that I enjoy is the energy. There’s a mood for it, when you want to get going,” says Torpegaard. “The other aspect is the acoustic stuff. The EP with Tennys, makes you feel differently when you want to wind down. That was what we were trying to hit with this record and had so much fun doing it. And we’re already working on a new full album too.”
View this post on Instagram
According to Torpegaard, the songs — soothing vocals against moody fingerpicking — also draw from their tennis careers.
“A lot of them are very dystopian minded. They’re very heavy, some of them are talking about some things we’re going through on the court, off-the-court stuff that’s happening to us. Tough times are the best inspiration.”
Tennis players have been actors, politicians, even musicians; French Open winner-turned-Afro-reggae singer Yannick Noah is touring Belgium currently. There hasn’t been a bonafide heavy metal rockstar-tennis player hybrid yet. Torpegaard, however, isn’t the first Dane to try and ride those two longships.
Lars Ulrich, drummer and co-founder of the genre-defining band ‘Metallica’, comes from a tennis family. Father Torben and grandfather Einer represented Denmark in a combined 176 Davis Cup matches and reached later stages at Wimbledon. Lars, too, began on the same note, before an ego-shattering move to California.
“In Denmark, I was ranked high enough to be one of the best tennis players in the country, but there’s only five million people there,” the nine-time Grammy-award winner told Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones. “When we came to Newport Beach… I wasn’t one of the best 10 tennis players in the street that I lived on! I jumped headfirst back into Iron Maiden, Saxon and Motorhead.”
Torpegaard cites Lars Ulrich as “an idol” and beams when discussing the howling guitars and thumping bass of ‘Volbeat’ and ‘Dissection’. Towering at 6’4, with a long blond mane, he would fit right into those bands.
On Friday, however, he takes centre stage with a racquet. He can serve big, but the tall frame could be a disadvantage on the zippy grass courts, where the ball seems to be keeping fast and low. And while injury-ravaged Bhambri is returning to Davis Cup action after five years, the man from Delhi is familiar with the conditions and spent the better part of Thursday’s practice session sharpening his volleys.
Whether Torpegaard faces the music or hits the right note, expect some heavy metal tennis on Friday.
“I like to dial it up to 11, both on the tennis court and in the music. It’s one of my ultimate goals to break through in both places,” he says. “How cool could it just be to have a top 100 tennis player who, by the way, is also just a rockstar?”