Mark Keil, director/producer of the tennis documentary that depicts life on the tour in the late 90’s, tells us about the tour event that is being played out in Beijing, China. The stop this week takes us to the home of chicken chow mein, where the player’s travel back to the far east.
This spectacle is a great place in that the tourist attractions for the player’s are endless. In 1997, I teamed up with TJ Middleton of Dallas. It’s quite a way’s to go play an event, but the tour provides free hotel rooms for main draw player’s at each event. The only major expense is the airfare; the tournament usually has a gratis meal plan for at least two eats a day. The singles main draw competitors receive a room for the entire week. The doubles players each get their own accomodations up until the night they lose. When that happens, the player’s usually then bunk up and share a room with another guy until they leave to go onto the next tourney. Even at the future and challenger level do the male’s receive a free hotel stay.
The entry level tournaments to the tour are similar to the mini tours in golf, and the minor league baseball system in the states. This housing system help’s out immensely with the player’s being able to make a living. They then can pocket most of their prize money without having too many expenditures. I got a chance to visit the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. The huge mural of the late leader of China, Chairman Mao, is an awesome sight to see. The event is now played at the ‘08 Olympic tennis venue. First round, Middleton and I played Byron Black and Jonathan Stark. Bryon won the NCAA doubles championships with Eric Amend for the University of Southern California. He was a stalwart Davis Cup player for his native Zimbabwe for many years. His sister Cara Black, is currently the No. 1-ranked individual doubles player in the world, and shares that position with her partner Leizel Huber. Stark is from Medford, Oregon, and played at Stanford along with competing for his country in Davis Cup doubles. He now lives in Seattle. He actually was the most normal person that ever played tennis at Stanford. Most of the other Cardinal were very peculiar. In the second round, we beat the unusually superstitious Dane Kenneth Carlsen and America’s David Wheaton. David grew up in Minneapolis, was a Wimbledon singles semifinalist, and played for the US in our sport’s version of the Ryder Cup. He was a good hockey player, and now has a radio show and wrote a book titled “The University of Destruction.” It theorizes that US college’s are warping are youth’s mind’s. We played well and won 7-5, 6-7, 6-2.
In the semifinals, Middleton and I lost to India’s current Davis Cup partnership Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. Mahesh was an All American out of Ole Miss, and used the scholarship he received there to improve his game immensely. He now also own’s a major production company in India and manages athlete’s and personalities. Paes is still one of the most successful doubles player’s on the tour, having just won the US Open mixed title and reaching the men’s doubles finals’ as well. TJ and I had great time there, cruising around the city and having a few Tsing Tsau’s in the evening’s. We practiced hard though, and made around $7,500 each that week. The odyssey continue’s and until next week, check out all of the result’s in the small print at the back of your local sport’s page.
Mark Keil, senior tennis coach at Westboro Tennis and Swim Club outside of Boston, chats about the tour event in Bucharest, along with lovely Ljubijana, Slovenia.
Bucharest is a fascinating city full of history and folklore. I partnered in 1995 with the infamous Jeff Tarango. Jeff grew up in Palos Verdes, California and had a great junior career. He stared at Stanford, and then went onto a pro career where he probably is most famous for his performance at Wimbledon on year.
While playing an early round match against Germany’s Alexander Mronz, Tarango got fed up with Bruno Rebeuh, the French umpire. After being exasperated over too many bad line call’s, Jeff stormed off the court in a rage, and was defaulted. Upon exiting the court, Mr. Rebeuh was slapped by Jeff’s wife at the time, Benedicte, a French woman. His antic’s even made NBC’s nightly Tom Brokaw newscast. Jeff was a true character; a maniac on the court but very giving off of it. We beat Marc-Kevin Goellner of Germany and Piet Norval of South Africa in the first round. Norval won a silver medal in doubles at the Barcelona Olympic’s with Wayne Ferreira. He had a tragic car accident while hunting in South Africa, but has recovered fully and now coaches in his homeland.
We then beat the Dutch contingent of Tom Kempers and Menno Oosting. Menno unfortunately passed away in a car accident driving from France back to Holland a few year’s later. I regret not going to his memorial service the player’s held in London a few weeks later. At the time, Bucharest was a million dollar event, where the doubles winner’s would split a cool $100,000.
In the semis, we were up against Byron Talbot and Libor Pimek and it was nerve wracking. After we broke at 5-4 in the third set, Tarango sat down on the changeover and then went on a ten minute bathroom break. He did this to make me relax and pretend like I was just starting out the match, and wanted to simulate the first game of the match. I proceeded to serve four first serves and we won the match! In between matches, I went down to the train station and encountered all of the Romanian orphans who lived under the station. It was an eye opening experience, and made me realize how lucky I was to be living in the US.
Nicolai Ceausescu was once the dictator, and I wanted to check out the tunnel maze’s he constructed underneath his parliament buildings. In the finals, Jeff and I defeated Cyril Suk and Daniel Vacek for the title. It was a great week.
Also on tap this week, is the challenger event in Ljubijana, Slovenia. It is a scenic town, and one should visit this place. I teamed up with the Kiwi James Greenhalgh. We took out Massimo Ardinghi of Italy Nebojsa Djordjevic of Yugoslavia in a tie breaker in the third. We lost to the current tour player’s from the Czech Republic Petr Pala and Pavel Vizner. Vizner was a Grizzly Adam’s TV show character lookalike, who used the same racket as me for a long time.
Hope everyone enjoyed the US Open, now to the dessert menu of the tennis season!
Mark Keil, scribes this week on the final major of the year: the US Open.
It really has been great writing about my past tournament experiences. This nourishes my ego immensely and thank you for staying tuned.
In 1991, I played with Francisco Montana of Miami. Francisco was an All-American out of the University of Georgia. An All American is a player who play’s collegiate tennis and qualifies as one of the 64 best player’s in Division I university tennis in the year-end season individual championships. There are probably around 175 school’s that play Division I. If the player is seeded in singles, or gets to the round of 16 in the event, he get’s a plaque proclaiming his status. If a player get’s to the quarterfinals in the 32-team doubles event, he also becomes a member of the team. Francisco was a stellar junior player, and once beat Jim Courier 6-0, 6-0 in the Orange Bowl. He had more hitches in his serve than a Nebraska trailer park. We lost to Steve DeVries, the All-American out of Cal-Berkeley and the current Bryan brother’s coach David MacPherson.
The next time I competed at the Open I played with Stefan Kruger and we beat Danie Visser of South Africa and Laurie Warder of Australia 6-4,7-6. Visser was a crafty lefty, who had tremendous success in doubles. His partner Laurie was a scratch golfer. Staying at the Open is always fun. I would always try and stay where Patrick Rafter was staying, usually the Hotel Elysse. It was great to hang out in the lobby’s Monkey Bar and check out the female’s trolling.
In 1994, I played with Rikard Bergh, nicknamed “the Liar” for always telling fibs. He was cool, in that the year we played together I signed up with a partner, but he called me and told me we were not high enough to get in. He said if I played with him, we could squeak in. So we got in, and beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov and David Rikl, Wade McGuire and Jeff Tarango and got a chance to play for a quarterfinal spot. We faced Tom Nijssen and Cyril Suk. In the third set we got hooked by the umpire Steve Ulrich, on a deep lab that landed out for us to go up a break in the third. Ulrich is by far the worst chair umpire ever. We lost 7-6, 4-6, 3-6.
In 1995, I played with Peter Nyborg and we lost to the NCAA doubles champions from Ole Miss Ali Hamadeh and Mahesh Bhupathi 6-7, 3-6. In those days, the collegiate champion in singles and doubles would get a wild card into the main draw. Now, only if American’s win the event, do they receive one, and I don’t think that applies to the doubles anymore. The next year I played with Matt Lucena, the two-time college doubles champion with two different partners. We beat Brett Hansen-Dent and T.J. Middleton 6-4, 6-4. Hansen-Dent got to the finals of the NCAA’s in singles once for the Trojans of USC. We beat another SC boy Brian MacPhie and his partner Michael Tebbutt the next round. They both had wicked lefty serves. We lost to Sebastien Lareau and Alex O’Brien after that. O’Brien won the singles, doubles, and team title for Stanford in 1992.
In 1998, Doug Flach and I lost to Macphie and Patrick McEnroe 6-7, 4-6. Papa Mac was watching, and I felt like I was in a rerun episode of Johnny Mac playing Bill Scanlon and I was the ballboy. In my final match at the US Open, I teamed up with Luis Lobo of Argentina. At that time, he was at the end of his career, and was coaching Marcelo Rios as well as playing doubles on the tour. We defeated Garcia-Roditi and lost to Lareau and O’Brien again.
Enjoy the tennis on TV, or if you have the gumption, head to the Open and watch it live!
Tennis coach Mark Keil takes at look the ATP event held in New Haven, Conn., each year. After losing early in Washington DC, I would head back to Tampa to train for a few days before heading up to the event held at Yale University.
I sometimes would hit with Jennifer Capriati in Florida, and she would hit the ball so deep. Since I was accustomed to mostly playing doubles, I would play her baseline games to eleven and she would give me a run for my money. She was a goofy girl, in a good way, and really didn’t like to practice, but we all didn’t really. She was always talking about her boyfriend at the time, Xavier Malisse, and how crazy he was.
The campus at Yale where the tourney is played (then known as the Volvo International, now the Pilot Penn) is like an oasis in the middle of east Los Angeles. This is where Sidney Wood, the 1931 Wimbledon champion would hone his game. You might still be able to catch him cruising the grounds.
One year I played with Adam Malik, the All-American out of Kentucky who was from Malaysia. We played Marius Barnard and Brent Haygarth from South Africa. Marius liked to bounce the ball a lot before he served. Adam would blink constantly when talking to you. Brent was a stellar player out of Texas A&M, who dates former tour player Tara Snyder. We played a tight match and came up short 7-6, 4-6, 4-6.
In 1998, I played with T.J. Middleton, a team member of the NCAA champion Georgia Bulldog’s in 1987. We would always have a good time, and hung out together that week at Toad’s Place. Unfortunately, we went down to the tough German doubles team of Marc-Kevin Goellner and David Prinosil. They would get to the finals of the French Open together, losing to the wild Jensen brothers. Marc patented wearing a baseball cap turned backwards, inspiring the craze you see now in tennis. The summer tennis season was coming to a close, and the last big dance was upon us.
Mark Keil commentates on his experience playing this past week’s ATP event in Washington D.C. Playing D.C. is one of the final straws on the road to the US Open. The heat is bearable only due to the fact that the final Grand Slam tournament of the year is soon approaching. I played with the All-American out of Ole Miss Dave Randall in 1992. We lost to Charles Beckman and Brod Dyke in the first round. Beckman was a Louisville product, who had a stellar collegiate career at Texas . His shots were deceiving in that he grunted so loud while making contact with the ball, but its velocity was so soft that it made you swing at the ball early. His partner from Adelaide was a wily lefty veteran. My buddy T.J. Middleton had a few contacts at the White House during the Clinton administration, and we went there and had a hit on the White House tennis court. We received a nice tour of the cabinet meeting room, and it was a hair-raising experience.
I met a future brief girlfriend there, Stacey Certner. She was one of the best looking Jewish girls I ever dated. She would visit me at my home base in Tampa , and I really liked her, but, she dumped me. I think it was because of the tale a former player from Albuquerque ‘s encounter he had on a flight. David Livingston met a female in the first class section of a domestic flight. She saw his tennis racquet bag, and asked him if he was a pro. He said yes, indeed he was, and she asked him his ranking. At the time he was ranked about No. 285 in the world, but rising steadily. He decided to fib a bit, and told her he was ranked 68. She quickly replied, “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll get better,” and she quickly went back to reading Vogue, ignoring him the whole flight. I believe Stacey bailed on me because I wasn’t that highly ranked, or because I sent her a whole package of pictures of myself, and then she never called me again.
The next year I played with the best doubles player I have ever played with: Christo Van Rensburg. He was a great doubles tactician, and had a great chip backhand lob return. We beat the team of Axel Finnberg(Ger)/Marcus Zoecke(FRG), and the American duo Mike Briggs/Brett Garnett. Briggs was an unbelievable break dancer, who came out of the great tennis program at UC Irvine. Mr. Garnett was a calm southerner until provoked, with a hellacious kick serve. We lost to Patrick McEnroe and Richey Reneberg 6-2, 6-3.
My final year of playing there in 1999, I teamed up with Notre Dame’s finest tennis player ever David DiLucia. He was voted athlete of the year there, even over the All American football player Raghib Ismail. We lost early in the week to Mikael Hill and Scott Humphries. This event in the nation’s capital is a great introduction to the world’s biggest sporting event.
Take care, and hit ’em deep.
Mark Keil, the new head men’s and women’s tennis coach at Newbury College, Brookline, Mass, writes this week on one of the best event’s of the year, and an out of the way tourney in beautiful Spain.
The ATP event in Los Angeles is a much needed bonus on the road to the Open. The tournament is played in Westwood, and the tournament hotel is like being in a movie. I played singles qualifying there a few times, and went down in a thriller to Michael Joyce of Bel Air, California. He got to the fourth round of Wimbledon one year, and is currently the coach/hitting partner of Russia’s Maria Sharapova. I also played doubles qualies with Craig Johnson, a double-fisted forehand and backhand player and All-American out of Pepperdine. We lost in the final round, and would have gotten in but I think Craig was cruising the beach at the time, and I couldn’t find him. In between matches, I would have a cup of coffee at Starbuck’s on Beverly Glen and I met Renee Zellweger once. She said her brother was a tennis player, and it was a heart pounding moment. I also would hang out with a high school friend of mine, Shelley McCrory. She was a vice president of NBC Comedy, and it felt cool to eat with someone in the business. In doubles, I qualifed in 2000 with the Arizona State University standout Jeff Williams. We beat the doubles Olympian for Great Britain Kyle Spencer and the All-American out of Clemson Mitch Sprengelmeyer 7-6, 6-4. In the next round, we lost to Paul Kilderry, a humorous fellow from Australia. He was Patrick Rafter’s cohort, and had a sweet backhand. His partner, Sandon Stolle, who played high school tennis in Miami and attended TCU, was a tall, deep baritoned voice rail thin Aussie man (and the son of Hall of Famer Fred Stolle).
Before the match, I attended a barbecue at Dustin Hoffman’s Brentwood home with former player Derrick Rostagno. We lost 4-6,4-6. After the match, I crashed a party at the Playboy Mansion and made a fool of myself. I spotted Pamela Anderson and Denise Richards, but they didn’t see me. All in all, it was a very manic week.
The event played in Segovia, Spain is on hard court’s that had dimples on them. The match’s were played when the sun was setting, and it was a high altitude affair. The venue had marquee tent’s set up around the stadium court, with attractive Spanish women dressed in their summer white’s handing out free sample’s of stuff. In this challenger event, I beat Nuno Marques of Portugal and lost to Jose-Antonio Fernandez of Chile 3-6, 6-7. I had a good time there, but the restaurant’s opened so late and it was tough to sleep after eating.
I hope everyone is hitting the courts, and getting ready for the Olympics!
Mark Keil, tennis teaching instructor at the Westboro Tennis and Swim Club, MA writes on two exciting events going on in the states this summer. The tour stop in Cincinnati, is now a big Master Series event. The winner in singles and doubles gets a free membership for life in the ATP Tour. I think it is is the hottest tour event all year, and can sap all of your energy. I teamed up with Peter Nyborg of Sweden in 1995. We beat Arnaud Boetsch of France, a former Davis Cup player. He partnered the current player Vince Spadea of Boca Raton, Fla. We played great and won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the next round we drew Jared Palmer, the NCAA singles and doubles champion out of Stanford. His dad was the curator of the Palmer Academy, a tennis school in Tampa that produced many junior champion’s. Jared had the best technique, he played like Richard Avedon was taking his picture on every stroke. He was a Davis Cup doubles team member, and also reached top 40 in the world in the ATP singles rankings. His wingman that week was Richey Reneberg, the most unheralded American player ever. This guy played solid every time he stepped on the court. He was the king of eating room service, and hardly ventured out of his room. He played Davis Cup doubles for the United States, and played in a few dead rubbers in singles also.
He did play a few practical jokes on player’s with his mate Scott Davis. They use to travel with the “winger,” a sling shot for firing water balloons from hotel balconys. One year at Queen’s, John McEnroe was practicing on an outside court, and these two dudes fired balloons from the clubhouse and kept hitting a metal shack next to his court, making him even more paranoid than he already is. We lost 7-5, 6-3.
At this time of year I played World Team Tennis for the Idaho Sneakers. Boise is a nice town, and Patrick McEnroe picked me to play doubles with him. The South African Michael Robertson was our coach, and I could have given a better effort. He ended up being my coach for awhile, and I learned how to think more on the court. Katie Schlukebir, Debbie Graham, Gigi Fernandez, and Wesley Whitehouse rounded out our team. We would always have early morning flights to the next city to play, and it was an exhausting but fun experience. Patrick would travel with a medicine ball, and it was tough putting it up in the carry on bins on the plane. Gigi was a multiple major doubles champion along with two Olympic gold medals, and had scary volleys. Debbie had a bigger serve than me, and had an unbelievable playing record at Stanford. Katie was a very sweet girl, who relished on the gossip of our season. Whitehouse won the Wimbledon junior singles title, and had a lot of angst that it didn’t carry over to the pros. We finished 3-11, mainly due to my unprofessionalism. All in all, being a part of the team was enjoyable and I picked up a lot information on how to be a better tennis player. The road to the US Open continues, and what a ride it is.
The week after a Slam, there are many tournaments on the calendar and they all offer exciting opportunities to have fun. The second week of Wimbledon in 1991, I headed north to play singles in a challenger in Bristol, England. I played the former NCAA doubles champion out of USC and Davis Cupper from Zimbabwe Byron Black, and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The grass was ok, and the people were very friendly. I went down in the second round to Steve DeVries, the pigeon-toed Northern Californian doubles specialist 6-4, 6-2. In doubles, I played with the San Diegoan Scott Patridge and we went out to Nduka Odizor – “The Duke of Odizor” – of Nigeria and his partner Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands. Michiel is a bright tall Dutchman, who was hard to get a lob over.
One of the tour stops after Wimbledon is the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I, also on grass. I played doubles with Patrick Bauer one year, and I remember after losing to Maurice Ruah and the Bahamian Roger Smith, I headed to the locker room where I had a few Miller Lite’s. They were the sponsor of the tourney, and they were not less filling. One year, I played doubles with the Miami Hurricane and great guy Michael Russell, who famously had match point on eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten one year at Roland Garros. We lost a tight match to the Finn Liukko and the Dutchman Wessels 6-4, 7-6 .
Gstaad is tourney held in the Swiss Alps just after Wimbledon. Fans can flock to the event and get a glimpse of Swiss cows – similar to the one Roger Federer famously was given after winning Wimbledon in 2003. Players can parasail off of the mountains, go river rafting, and it is where I proposed to my ex-wife (may that marriage rest in peace!) I played doubles one year with my brother-in-law Tobias Hildebrand. We were the last team to get in, and unfortunately I embarrassed the whole family by getting defaulted in our match for saying – “(expletive that rhymes with duck) You!” to the umpire. The umpire couldn’t believe what I just said, and asked again what I said to him. “F*** You” was my response again. All the emotion of trying to win a match a family member obviously got to me. I was defaulted immediately and fined. I had a great run there in doubles in 1996 with the gregarious South African player who knows everybody Gary Muller. He was a true friend, looking out for me and securing deals for team tennis for me in Germany. We would play together on the Bundesliga team of Weiden, where we reached the final losing to the Paul Haarhuis-led team from Halle. In Gstaad, we beat Pimek/Talbot, and Mohr/Strambini before losing to the Czech duo of Novak/Vizner in two breakers.
Another delightful event is held each year in Palermo, Italy. I arrived there and went on my morning run, and really took in the city. The place can become a sort of Alcatraz if one is not careful. The pool at the courts was always full, and the Spaniards who usually dominated the tournament would frolic around the edge. One time, a Spanish coach was climbing up the high dive, and slipped at the top rung and came sliding down. Luckily, he didn’t get hurt, but it was the event of the day. I played with 2001 Wimbledon doubles champion Donald Johnson, and we beat the brother’s Haygarth – Brent and Kirk. We went down to the Olympic silver medalist from 1996 Neil Broad and Greg Van Emburgh 6-4, 6-4.
Last, but for sure not least, the Swedish Open played on the western coast of Sverige (Sweden) is a wonderful event to watch. In 1997, I teamed up with Fernando Meligeni of Brazil and we took out Andersson and Timfjord of Sweden before getting crushed by Haygarth and Van Emburgh. The place was never asleep, people carousing 24 hours a day, cruising around town and getting ice creams on hot days. Pepe’s Bodega sponsored a volleyball tournament, and I felt like Karch Karaly for a moment. My wife pulled me out of the place by my hair, much to my chagrin. I played there at the end of my career with Martin Rodriguez of Argentina. He didn’t speak much English, so it was like being on the best date of your life. We had a tough three-setter with the kids from up the road, Simon and Johan. They won and another week ended with a loss – as most do for players on the ATP Tour. I’m living in the past, hoping for a bright future…
Qualifying at Wimbledon is a great experience and I remember walking through those pearly gates in the early 1990’s. The two times I played singles there I drew Nick Brown and Mark Petchey, both of England.
Nick beat me in straights and went onto upset Goran Ivanisevic in the next round. I would have loved to have played a top player, but I drew the local boys each time. I was suppose to play Mark on the first Monday, and it rained all week and I didn’t play until Friday. Petchey was used to it but it was severe torture for me. It would be like having to choose to either marry Maria Sharapova or Helena Christensen.
The seeded players at Wimbledon get a special locker room, while the other participants would be regulated to the second one close to the road. You could open up the window and peer out and watch all the people come in. I remember Derrick Rostagno, the cool southern Californian who was seeded, choose to keep his belongings with the plebians rather than the seeded players locker room.
I remember that my wife accompanied me to Wimbledon often. The Austrian player Horst Skoff (who recently passed away) used to always hit on her, so I thought if he liked her, she couldn’t be that bad. She was becoming a dentist in Stockholm, and it was nice to have her come along with me to these events. I played mixed doubles with Lori McNeil and we got to play Grant Connell and a young Lindsay Davenport on Centre Court. We got waxed, and I was again a nervous dude.
I played doubles with Dave Randall, and we had some tough matches. I never got past the round of sixteens in doubles at a major. It irks me in that it is always good to say you got to the “quarters” of a slam. Playing at Wimbledon always reminded me of my upbringing in Albuquerque, where Mike Velesquez would beat me in the state high school finals my junior and senior year. He wore shades once when he beat me before wearing shades was in style.
Overall, there is nothing like competing at The Championships, and one must go and check it out.