Some final thoughts from Newport, Rhode Island and the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships… It was a treat to see “The Magician”, Fabrice Santoro, defend a title for the first time in his long career. The Frenchman did not lose a set all week at the Hall of Fame Championships. He served well, moved exceptionally well, and treated fans to his usual assortment of quirky, disguised shots.
The grass courts at the Newport Casino played like grass courts from yesteryear. In fact, they played like the courts at the All England Club prior to 2002. After years of complaints that Pete Sampras was boring and the big-serving efforts of Goran Ivanisevic during his improbable run to the title in 2001, the AEC committee changed the texture of the grass (by importing four tons of quicksand) to make sure that longer rallies were more likely. Be careful what you wish for… most matches at Wimbledon 2008 looked like they were being played on medium-paced hard courts. Newly-inducted Hall of Famer Michael Chang spoke of the obvious changes in playability of the Wimby grass. Had the courts been as slow during Chang’s prime as they are these days, then he would have surely contended for a title at the Big W.
If there were more old-style grass courts or lightning-fast indoor courts on the ATP Tour, then Prakash Amritraj would be ranked higher than No. 204 in the world. He volleys decisively and moves aggressively in the forecourt, and these skills are becoming increasingly rare in professional tennis. Vijay Amritraj was a beacon of fair play and sportsmanship throughout his playing career. It was a little surprising to observe his constant and blatant (illegal) coaching during his son Prakash’s semifinal and final round matches.
John Isner took his first ATP Tour doubles title with Mardy Fish. It was great to see these American players working so hard on their fitness on the practice courts after they both lost their first matches in singles. It will be another grinding hard court season this summer, and that fitness work will pay dividends.
Monica Seles ought to be inducted into the Hall of Fame next July. She should surely be joined by her former coach, Nick Bollettieri. The ageless Bollettieri was in Newport last weekend supporting the sport, and has been the most successful coach in the Open era. Michael Stich should also receive serious consideration for the roll of honor.
Lastly, for the thousands of tennis enthusiasts who are eager to feel what it is like to play on natural grass, visit http://www.tennisfame.com/ithof.aspx?pgID=895.
Photos by Catherine O’Neal