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Retirements Plague the US Open Men’s Draw

by Kevin Craig

@Kcraig_Tennis

 

The first round of the 2015 US Open has produced some history. An Open Era record 10 retirements occurred in the first round, including big names like Gael Monfils, Alex Dolgopolov, Marcos Baghdatis, and Ernests Gulbis. Seeing a player get hurt is never a good thing, especially at this tournament as it is what many players have worked for all year long.
Florian Mayer and Radek Stepanek were two of the players forced to retire on the first day of play, which may not come as a surprise to many due to their histories with injuries as Mayer and Stepanek have been forced to miss a lot of time from the tour in recent months. Each player made it through three sets, but was forced to pull the plug in the fourth set of their respective matches, giving Martin Klizan and Marsel Ilhan victories through to the second round.

Retirements that were more of a surprise on Day 1 came from Yen-Hsun Lu, Pablo Andujar, Dolgopolov, and Monfils. Lu was unable to get anything going in his match as he retired down two sets to love and 3-0 in the third set. Andujar and Dolgopolov each retired after the end of sets, while Monfils called it quits two points away from dropping a set. Andujar’s match was level at two sets all, while Dolgopolov and, essentially, Monfils were down two sets to one.

Day 2 saw more of the same as Alex Nedovyesov, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Gullbis, and Baghdatis each were unable to make it through their matches. Kokkinakis had battled Richard Gasquet at a very high level of play for the majority of four sets, but succumbed to cramps at the end of the fourth. Unable to move or hit serves effectively, the Australian was forced to retire after going down a break in the fifth set. Gulbis and Nedovyesov both retired in the third sets of their matches, with Gulbis’ match even at one set all and Nedovyesov down two sets to love. Baghdatis was only three games from losing when he ended his match.

With nine retirements, nine five-set matches, and a few seeds being upset highlighting the first round of the US Open on the men’s side, surely there will be many more unexpected events occurring throughout the rest of the tournament.

Bright Lights – Serena Seeking The Slam

The new roof structure couldn’t keep the biggest star from shining into Arthur Ashe Stadium last night, as Serena Williams launched her final leg of pursuing tennis’ first Grand Slam in nearly three decades. She made the first step look easy, dispatching an injured Vitalia Diatchenko 6-0, 2-0, ret. The win is her 29th straight in Grand Slam singles draws, dating back to the first round of the 2014 US Open.

Photo: Chris Nicholson, www.PhotographingTennis.com

US Open Seeds Bite The Dust In Serena’s Half of the Draw

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

The US Open has only been going on for a day and many top players have already packed their bags.

Ana Ivanovic, Karolina Pliskova, Carla Suarez Navarro, Jelena Jankovic, Sloane Stephens, and Svetlana Kuznetsova all bit the dust on Day 1 in New York, massively opening up the top half of the draw for Serena Williams, who now will not have to face a Top 10 player if she reached the final.

Ivanovic was coming off a good summer in which she made the quarterfinals in Toronto and Cincinnati, each time losing to the player that would go on to win the championship. After only a second round showing at last year’s US Open, she surely was disappointed to get one of the toughest draws of the tournament, Dominika Cibulkova. Cibulkova, the 2014 Australian Open finalist, took the first set, but Ivanovic fought back and forced a deciding third set. The fight was not enough for the Serb, however, as Cibulkova held on and took the match 6-3 in the final set.

Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic also had a good summer, winning the US Open Series with a finals appearance in Stanford and a quarterfinal in New Haven. She would’ve been hoping to back up her third round appearance at last year’s US Open and prove her No. 8 seed this year, but she was completely outplayed by American qualifier Anna Tatishvili, who easily won 6-2 6-1. Pliskova’s 57% first serve percentage and only winning 40% of all her service points led to her bowing out in the first round.

The No. 10 seed Carla Suarez Navarro may be viewed as less of an upset as she had been on a six-match losing streak and had not won a match on a hard court since her run to the final in Miami, however she should’ve been favored over Denisa Allertova, ranked No. 76 in the world, who hadn’t played a match on a hard court since April. It appeared as though Allertova was the high-ranked veteran, as she was able to break serve four times and hold Suarez Navarro to only 40% points won on second serve, allowing her to garner the 6-1, 7-6(5) win.

Jelena Jankovic joined her fellow Serbian Ivanovic in exiting the US Open after only one match, losing to French wild card Oceane Dodin, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3. What looked like a comfortable victory quickly changed in the second set, as Dodin, 18 years old, broke late in the set and carried that momentum into the third. Dodin has been in good form, making the final of an ITF event only a couple weeks ago, but Jankovic will be massively disappointed with the result.

Sloane Stephens’ loss to Coco Vandeweghe is not much of an upset as both young Americans look to have bright careers ahead of them. While Stephens had been in good form, going 17-6 in her last 23 matches, she came up against the huge serve of Vandeweghe, who fired her way into the second round with a 6-4, 6-3 win. Though Vandeweghe didn’t face a single break point in this match, expect more great battles from these two in the years to come.

Young Kristina Mladenovic, more known for her doubles prowess, upended the two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-3, 7-5 on the opening day. The No. 30 seed had her powerful game stunted by the Frenchwoman, as she was broken five times.

While these six seeded women going out in the first round is a delight to see for Serena Williams, the draw may still be just as tough as it was to begin with. Though Serena won’t have to face any Top 10 players until the final, players like Madison Keys, Aga Radwanska, sister Venus Williams, and Belinda Bencic are still alive in the top half, while Vandeweghe may also be able to pose a threat to Serena and her shot at the calendar slam. Vandeweghe’s big serve and powerful groundstrokes could be dangerous for Serena if they meet in the third round.

Seven Matches To Remember From 2014 U.S. Open

By Randy Walker

@TennisPublisher

 

The 2014 U.S. Open will best be remembered for Serena Williams winning her 18th major title – tying fellow American legends Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert on the all-time list – and for Marin Cilic’s surprise victory, beating another long-shot finalist Kei Nishikori in the final. However, there were other standout matches that defined the event, as outlined below and as seen in the updated mobile app “This Day In Tennis” available at www.TennisHistoryApp.com

 

August 26, 2014 – Cici Bellis, 15, becomes the youngest player to win a match at the U.S. Open since 1996, upsetting No. 12 seed and Australian Open finalist Dominka Cibulkova 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the first round of the U.S. Open. “Believing was the No. 1 thing that I had to do today,” says Bellis, the winner of the USTA National Girls’ 18 Championships. “That’s what my coach told me before the match also: Just go out there and believe that you can win.” Bellis becomes the youngest player to win at the U.S. Open since Anna Kournikova reached the fourth round at age 15 in 1996.

September 2, 2014 – Kei Nishikori defeats Milos Raonic 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 7-5, 6-4 in four hours, 19 minutes in a fourth-round match at the U.S. Open that ends at 2:26 am, tying the tournament’s record for the latest finish. Nishikori and Raonic’s finish at the exact time as the 2012 match when Philipp Kohlschreiber defeated John Isner and the 1993 match when Mats Wilander defeated Mikael Pernfors. When asked by reporters if he was impressed by the late finish record, Raonic responds, “Not in the slightest bit.”

September 4, 2014 – Roger Federer saves two match points and rallies to beat Gael Monfils 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 in a dramatic U.S. Open quarterfinal that concludes just before midnight. Monfils leads 5-4 in the fourth set and holds two match points before Federer fights back to win in a comfortable fifth set, coming back from 0-2 down for the ninth time in his career. “I feel lucky to be able to do a press conference as the winner instead of the loser,” Federer tells reporters. “But I’m also proud that I fought and stayed with him. The problem was that I was just one point from the end.”

September 5, 2014 – Bob and Mike Bryan win their 100th career doubles title defeating Marcel Granoller and Marc Lopez 6-3, 6-4 for their fifth U.S. Open final. “It’s always sweet winning a Grand Slam,” Mike Bryan says after the final. “This just adds some extra whip cream and cherries and nuts on top.”

September 6, 2014 – In one of the most shocking semifinals in U.S. Open history, both the No. 1 and No. 2 men’s seeds are upset as No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic is defeated by No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 and No. 2 seed Roger Federer is defeated by No. 14 Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

September 7, 2014 – Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open for a sixth time and for a third year in a row defeating Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-3 in the final. At age 32, Williams becomes the oldest woman to win the U.S. Open in the Open Era and also earns her 18th major singles title, tying her for fourth place all time with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who congratulate her on court during the post-match ceremonies and present her with a Tiffany bracelet.

September 8, 2014 – Marin Cilic of Croatia, seeded No. 14, becomes one of the most unexpected U.S. Open champions in history, winning his first major title with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win over Kei Nishikori. Nishikori, who upset world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals, becomes the first man from Asia to play in a Grand Slam final.

Roger Federer’s Win Over Novak Djokovic In Cincinnati Boosts US Open Chances

Roger Federer spelled out revenge for his Wimbledon final loss in July to world number one Novak Djokovic, as he stormed to a 7-6 (7-1) 6-3 straight sets win in the Cincinnati Masters Final on Sunday.

Federer’s path to the final involved a semi-final victory over British number one, and new world number two, Andy Murray, whilst Djokovic defeated Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov in his semi, in a two sets to one win.

Federer, who claimed his seventh Cincinnati Masters title and 87th tour-level title, claimed the ever-tight battle every time the two take to the court has heated up even more in recent times.

“We really get the best out of each other,” he said.

“We have improved a lot playing against each other over the years. It’s very special for me. I will try my best to come back for many years to come.”

The win means the 34-year-old Swiss will go into the US Open, which officially begins on August 31st, as the No. 2 seed.

The win was never going to be straightforward against one of the greatest tennis players in history – Djokovic, but Federer held serve to take the match in just one hour and thirty minutes.

Not only that, but the win also has gives Federer the edge in the twos career head-to-head tally at 21-20 to the Swiss, whilst also denying Djokovic the chance to seal all nine ATP Master titles too.

The tournament was seen as a good warm-up for players before the US Open begins on Monday.

Punters will be eager to get the best free bets offers before the tournament starts and Bookmakers.co.uk will be a popular destination for those people – with the site offering all the latest and greatest bookies offers from each and every large bookmaker. Not only that, but they also offer high quality betting previews and it will be more than worth your while to check their US Open preview when it is released.

The big tournament favourite despite his loss in Cincinnati is Djokovic, with 5/4 odds on him. Murray is fancied next with 7/2 widely offered for his successes, whilst Federer will have to settle for pre-tournament odds of 5/1.

Whilst on the Women’s side of things, Serena Williams continues her dominance on the world stage, as she will enter the tournament with odds as short 10/11 for her success. Victoria Azarenka is deemed her closest rival for the title, and can be found at 8/1.

 

Donald Trump’s Foray Into Tennis Management Profiled In “MACCI MAGIC” Book by Tennis Coach Rick Macci

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Donald Trump, the magnet for media and political attention since he announced his run for President of the United States, is featured in the book “MACCI MAGIC: Extracting Greatness From Yourself and Others,” the inspirational book by renowned tennis coach Rick Macci.

“Macci Magic,” available where ever books are sold, including here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Macci-Magic-Extracting-Greatness-Yourself/dp/1937559254/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1387141455&sr=8-1 is the entertaining and inspirational manual and memoir that helps pave the way to great achievement not only in tennis, but in business and in life. Macci, known as the coach of tennis phenoms, including five world No. 1 players – Venus and Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova – shares his secrets to success both on and off the tennis court through anecdotes and more than 100 of his famous “Macci-ism” sayings that exemplify his teaching philosophy and illustrate the core role and power of positive thinking in the molding of a champion.

Trump, the billionaire businessman, entered into a business relationship with Macci to help manage and market tennis talent, including a talented teenager named Monique Viele. Macci provides entertaining behind-the-scenes stories and anecdotes about the relationship and what “The Donald” said and did.

The book was written with Jim Martz, the former Miami Herald tennis writer, author and current Florida Tennis magazine publisher. Former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick contributed the foreword to the book while another teen phenom student of Macci’s, Tommy Ho, wrote a preface to the book.

Among those endorsing the book are ESPN basketball commentator and tennis fan Dick Vitale who says of Macci, “He will share his secrets for becoming a better all-around person and tennis player and gives you all the tools you will need to assist you in THE GAME OF LIFE!”

Said Mo Vaughn, 3-time Major League Baseball All-Star, former American League MVP, “Rick Macci is the best coach I’ve seen. He can coach any sport on any level in any era. That’s due to his ability to communicate directly with his athletes on a level that they clearly understand the technique and what it takes both physically and mentally to be successful. Ultimately the best thing about Rick Macci is that no matter your age, ability or goals being with him on a consistent basis will teach you life lessons that you can take with you regardless of what you do. Rick Macci can make any person better
just by his coaching style. My daughter Grace is lucky to have Rick Macci in her life.”

Said Vince Carter, NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist of Macci, “As a professional athlete, I have been around many coaches. Rick’s dedication and commitment to turning kids into great tennis players is paramount. The confidence and technique he continues to instill in my daughter amazes me. Rick Macci’s ability to cultivate a player is a testimony of his dynamic coaching skills.”

Said popular tennis coach and personality Wayne Bryan, father of all-time great doubles team Bob & Mike Bryan, “Rick Macci has long been at the very top of the mountain as a tennis coach. Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Jenny Capriati are on his laundry list of Grand Slam champs and all-time greats that he has worked with, but he has coached so, so many other pros and Division I college players through the years. He is a coaches’ coach. He is passionate, motivational, dedicated to the game and players, super hard working from dawn to dusk and into the night when the court lights come on, very bright, knows the game inside and out, still learning, and still striving. He is engaging, fun and funny. His new book is loaded with great stuff and stories are such a great way to entertain and educate and inspire — and no one can tell a story or give a lesson better than Rick. You will enjoy this book and be a better person for having read it.”

Macci is a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Master Professional, and seven-time USPTA coach of the year. He founded he Rick Macci Tennis Academy, and has been inducted into the Florida USPTA Hall of Fame. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com) among others.

Something Called The Grand Slam – Book Excerpt From “The Education of a Tennis Player”

Rod Laver is one of five players to win the Grand Slam of tennis – sweeping all four majors in one calendar year. He is the only one to achieve this amazing feat on two occasions – in 1962 and in 1969. Laver discusses the Grand Slam in this except from his book “The Education of a Tennis Player” (available here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257626/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_3LuMvb169NNH6) written with Bud Collins.

Grand Slam varies in meaning in the games of bridge, baseball, golf, and tennis. A sweep of the tricks, or a home run with the bases loaded, is unusual but not rare. The bridge table and the ball diamond offer the possibility daily.

In golf and tennis, a series of triumphs within a calendar year make up a Slam. Golf ’s has been singular, celebrated only in 1930 when Bobby Jones, the phenomenal Georgian, won the amateur and open championships in both Britain and the United States. I can’t imagine there’ll ever be another just like that one, since only an amateur is eligible to enter all four tournaments, and the amateur who can compete evenly with pros in golf and tennis no longer exists. Today golf’s Grand Slam is considered the winning of both the U.S. and British Opens plus the Masters and the PGA. No one has ever done it.

The Slam in tennis is also an obstacle course of four national championships to be won in one year, though farther flung in time and location: the Australian in January, the French in June, the British in July, and the U.S. in September. I like to think the tennis Slam is the hardest of all because you have to get your game up to top level four times over an eight-month stretch, and of course you’re playing other tournaments in between, too. Much travel and changing conditions are involved. In 1969, I started in the tropical summer heat of Brisbane and wound up in the autumn rain of New York.

I’m not sure when I first heard the term Grand Slam, but it was Don Budge—the original Slammer—who cleared up the meaning for me. Don explained that the only countries to win the Davis Cup—Australia, the U.S., France, and Britain—became known as the Big Four, the world’s tennis powers, and when Budge was the first to sweep the Big Four titles in 1938—the year I was born—his feat was called the Grand Slam.

Five years earlier, an Australian, Jack Crawford, came very close. Jack won the Australian, French, and Wimbledon (British). The official name is The Lawn Tennis Championships, period, (but everybody calls this event Wimbledon.) At Forest Hills for the U.S. Championship, Crawford led Fred Perry two sets to one, and it appeared that he would have a Slam. Crawford hadn’t set out specifically to win all four, as did Budge in 1938, and numerous others including myself later. He just won the first three, and that had never happened before. But there was little, if any, ballyhoo about a Grand Slam preceding his bid to complete it.

In his column in The New York Times, John Kieran did write: “If Crawford wins, that would be something like scoring a grand slam on the courts, doubled and vulnerable.” And when Crawford fell short, Allison Danzig reported in paragraph three of his account in the Times that “Crawford’s quest of the Grand Slam was frustrated.” With his 2-1 lead in sets Crawford may have looked the winner, but he was through, exhausted. He was having trouble with his asthma, and even occasional slugs of brandy taken during the fourth and fifth sets couldn’t turn him back on. Jack won one more game, and Perry won the match, 6-3, 11-13, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1.

The next year Perry, the dashing Englishman, took three of the major titles, but he was cut off early, losing in the fourth round of the French. But he won the French in 1935 and became the first to win all four major titles, though not within a calendar year. Budge not only made the first Slam, he says he invented it. “I take certain whimsical pride in creating it [the Slam],” he wrote in his autobiography. “Crawford almost won something that didn’t exist. There was only passing notice at the time that I had won all four titles, but with time and publicity the stature of the Grand Slam grew. The expression became popular and it was what I came to be best known for.

“In 1938 I had set my goal to win these four titles, but only my good friend and doubles partner, Gene Mako, was aware of it,” Budge wrote. “The fact that there was no such acknowledged entity as the Grand Slam made it somewhat easier for me because I wasn’t bothered by the cumulative pressure of the press and fans that Laver and Lew Hoad [in 1956] had forced on them. But the pressure from within was no less intense for me than for them.”

The Times’ “passing notice,” as Budge calls it, was just that after he beat Mako in the Forest Hills final. “Feat Sets a Precedent” was the fourth deck in the headline, and well down in his story Danzig noted: “… a grand slam that invites comparison with the accomplishment of Bobby Jones in golf.”

Budge relates that his biggest goal had been attained in 1937 when he led the United States to its first Davis Cup success in ten years. He was clearly the master of the amateur world, and he wanted another goal to keep his interest high in 1938 before he helped in the defense of the Cup and then turned pro. He set out to make a Slam, an original contribution to sporting lore, and a target for those who followed. Thanks to his pioneering, the Slam received plenty of ballyhoo thereafter, and was uppermost when I made the rounds.

In Budge’s time, obviously, few non-Australians made the twenty-one-day haul Down Under to play in our championship. The boat trip was forbidding and expensive. In 1938, only Budge, Mako, and three or four Australians even played all four Major tournaments. By my day the jets opened up the world to everyone and squeezed it together, making it relatively easy for a squad of tourists to hit all the major stops. The same tough crowd was everywhere—there was no avoiding them.

In Budge’s Grand Slam, six of his 24 victories were over men ranked along with him in the world’s top ten. In mine of 1969, I won 26 matches, 12 of them against others in the top ten. I also won the South African championship, the British Indoor, the U.S. Pro, and 11 other tournaments, a total of 18 titles in 33 tournaments. The pace had accelerated. We were playing every month of the year, probably too much for our own good. But the money was there, and we went after it. Tennis wasn’t a year-round occupation in the Budge era. It is now. I think it’s more demanding, flitting between time zones, and there’s more pressure with so much money being pumped into the game. But I like it this way, the money and the constant movement.

When I make comparisons between today and the more leisurely Budge period, I’m certainly not trying to make my triumphs sound any grander than his, just pointing up differences. At the end of 1969, a
panel of the most respected tennis writers drew up an all-time ranking. It was headed by Bill Tilden. Second was Budge, followed by me. I don’t think anybody can really say who was the greatest, but I am happy to accept that ranking. Moreover, I considered Don a friend, and I’ll always be grateful to him for the way he treated me in 1962 when I was on the verge of my first Grand Slam.

Another man might have been resentful of my claiming a piece of the property that had been his alone for twenty-four years. Not Don. He had been through the tension, and knew what it could be like. He
helped me relax by spiriting me away for a day in the country before Forest Hills began that year. We drove to the Grossinger’s resort in the Catskills where I could take it easy. Nobody asking questions, no phones ringing. We even played a couple of nonchalant sets. He was great.In Don’s year, he was unquestionably the best player in the world, though an amateur. I couldn’t very well consider myself the best when I won the amateur Grand Slam in 1962 so long as such splendid pros as Pancho Gonzalez, Ken Rosewall, and Lew Hoad were at large. Plus Butch Buchholz, Alex Olmedo, Andres Gimeno, Barry MacKay, and Mal Anderson. I was excited and tremendously pleased at making the Grand Slam in 1962. The collection of titles raised my asking price when I turned pro a few months later—but I knew I wasn’t the best. Probably Rosewall was then. Knowing that took something out of my satisfaction at dominating amateur tennis. I had my Grand Slam; now I wanted a shot at Rosewall, Gonzalez, and the others. To get it I had to drop into limbo with them on the pro circuit and give up any thought of ever repeating the Grand Slam.

It was either glory or money in those days prior to open tennis. You took your choice: glory (and, of course, enough money to get by on) with the amateurs; or very good money and anonymity with the pros. It was time for me to make the good money, and to satisfy my competitive urge against the blokes I knew were the strongest. But no more Slams . . . I thought then.

I’d heard about Budge’s Grand Slam, and Californian Maureen Connolly’s, too. Until Aussie Margaret Smith Court did it in 1970, and German Steffi Graf in 1988, Maureen had won the only women’s Slam in 1953. My first year away from Australia, 1956, I was a witness to a nearthing.Lew Hoad was the world’s No. 1 amateur then, one of my early heroes, and I was able to watch almost all of his matches as he took the Australian, French, Wimbledon, and came into the final at Forest Hills. One match away, but across the net was Kenny Rosewall. I sat there marveling at Rosewall, along with the rest of the crowd, as he destroyed Lew’s bid, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. I never stopped marveling at him. Thirteen years later, he was still around trying to break up my second Grand Slam. He had his shot at me in the final of the French, but I played the clay court match of my life and avoided the treatment he gave Lew.

But in 1956, it was exciting enough just to be at Forest Hills and follow Lew’s progress. I was eighteen, awed, and unknown. A few aficionados recognized my name because I’d won the U.S. junior title a month before, but I could wander around getting the feel of the place completely unnoticed.

I was out of that tournament fast. Ham Richardson, then the No. 1 American, was my first-round opponent, and by virtue of the company I was keeping I played for the first time in the Forest Hills Stadium. Ham got me out of there before you could say one-two-three: 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. My Queensland mate, Roy Emerson, got to the quarters, and I was glad for him. It was fun for a young Australian to watch as his countrymen dominated the championship of their great rival, America, with Hoad, Rosewall, and Neale Fraser surrounding a solitary Yank, Vic Seixas, in the semis. I didn’t mind the passive role of spectator at the final. I figured I’d be there in one of the starring roles one day, but the thought of a Grand Slam for Laver didn’t occur to me until four years later.

In 1960, I won the Australian title for the first time, and since that’s the only way you can begin a Grand Slam, I wondered: Why not me? After beating Neale Fraser—coming from two sets down—I had that feeling that it was going to be a big Laver year. Hadn’t I been Wimbledon finalist to Alex Olmedo in 1959? So why couldn’t I make a GrandSlam?

Manolo Santana, the gifted Spaniard, showed me why. He and that slow clay in Paris abruptly brought me back to the real world. Parisian clay may look harmless, but it’s quicksand for us outsiders from Australia and America, a trap that clogs our power and swallows us. Europeans are like kids snapping up peanut butter sandwiches when they operate on the home ground against big hitters. My visions of a Grand Slam were almost blacked out in the first round of the French by a Pole named Andrzej Licis, who pushed me all over for five sets. Weird luck was the only way I beat him—with a no-hope shot made up on the run, a backhand topspin lob at match point that floated over his head, plunked on the baseline and left the ball stained with a big white chalkspot. I had never heard of Licis before, and seldom after, but that afternoon I thought he was one of the greatest players in the world. I doubt he felt the same respect for me.

I wasn’t thinking Grand Slam anymore, just wondering how much longer I could last. Not another round. Santana, who really was one of the best, and plays a clay court as artistically as Isaac Stern plays the violin, put me out with little trouble.

I had to learn to play on clay, to firm up my patience and prepare my way to the net better. The Grand Slam was three-quarters grass [today hard courts replace lawns in Australia and the U.S.], and I wasn’t worried about myself there. The other quarter, the French, is something else, more challenging than the others, more difficult to win, more satisfying from the standpoint of having survived a terrific test.

There isn’t as much pressure, perhaps, because it’s early in the season and the prestige isn’t as great as Wimbledon or Forest Hills. But in Paris you know you’ve been in a fight. You come off the court exhausted, looking battle-stained, your clothes and body smudged with red clay. I promised myself that in 1961 it would be different for me in Paris. It was to the extent that I got to the semifinals before running into Santana, who was the top seed. And I gave him a better match. After four sets we were even—in the score anyway, two sets each, and I’d had a fine chance to win in four, leading 4-1. But I was through, and Manolo wrapped me in a lovely web of shotmaking, 6-0 in the fifth. I believe that’s the only time it’s happened to me since I’ve been a world-class player. It happened so fast it was almost painless.

In the second set Manolo sprained his left ankle. He took off his shoe and hobbled around, testing, to see if he could go on. I followed him to commiserate, but not to step on his bare foot as I should have. I missed my chance. Still, it didn’t seem to matter when I had that 4-1 lead in the fourth set. Then Manolo exploded. He was sure of his ankle again, and he rang up eleven straight games and the match. I never got close until we shook hands.

Five weeks later, I won Wimbledon and was considered No. 1 in the world. Was that a nice thing to do to your leader, Manolo—blitz me in Paris with all those people watching?

A Look Back At Boris Becker’s Historic First Wimbledon Title

In 1985, Wimbledon bore witness to one of the most unpredictable and exciting runs to a championship when 17-year-old Boris Becker romped his way to an historic title at the All England Club. Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame journalist and tennis personality, profiles Becker’s run to his first of three Wimbledon titles in this excerpt from his book “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” below.

Attention, please. Or, in the native tongue of Boris Becker, Achtung! Not only did a new champion appear on the tennis scene in 1985, he also ushered in a new era. In a year that sparkled with fresh faces, the brightest and most engaging belonged to a 17-year-old son of a West German architect, a teenager either too cool or too naive to know he had no business playing with grown men.
At Wimbledon, a tournament that prizes tradition above all else, Becker challenged the past and won. Never had anyone so young claimed a men’s title at The Lawn Tennis Championships. Never had an unseeded player been fitted for a singles crown. Never had a German male ascended to the throne of tennis. Becker changed all of the above in the span of three hours, 18 minutes on one sunlit, summer afternoon.
The youngster, who had won only one previous event on the men’s tour (three weeks earlier at Queen’s Club in London, over Johan Kriek), climaxed a breathtaking rise to prominence by wearing down eighth-seeded Kevin Curren, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, in the Wimbledon final. By the end of the season, he had made a spectacular jump in the rankings from No. 65 to No. 6 and became the symbol of change sweeping over the sport.
Belly-flopping Boris, who threw himself at balls with teenage abandon, injured his left ankle in the fourth round against Tim Mayotte and wanted to quit after the fourth set. His manager, Ion Tiriac, dissuaded him. Becker probably should have been defaulted because of the overly long delay in being treated. He resumed thanks only to the sporting forbearance of Mayotte. It was soon obvious that this was a charmed fortnight for the husky redhead. Three of his first six matches were suspended and held over for another day, a circumstance that would unnerve even veteran players.
Not Becker. He responded to every challenge like a man, yet still reacted with the infectious enthusiasm of a boy. In the final, before a capacity crowd that included assorted princes and princesses, the 6-foot-3 man-child answered Curren’s serve with a bludgeon of his own— 21 aces to Kevin’s 19. He also out-volleyed and out-steadied his 27-year-old opponent from the baseline.
“I should have had the advantage,” Curren said. “Being older, being to the semi-finals [1983], being on Centre Court. Maybe he was too young to know about all that stuff.”
Or at least too young to rattle. Becker became such a sensation in the early stages of the tournament with his reckless dives—”Usually, he comes off the court with blood on him,” observed Tiriac—that the bookmaking chain, Ladbrokes, installed him as a 7-4 favorite after the quarterfinals.
His popularity with the fans was not echoed in the British press, which did not let anyone forget he was a German. Even the respectable broadsheets relentlessly used war analogies in describing the player. In The Times, the respected Rex Bellamy duly noted that scheduled television programming in Becker’s homeland was interrupted to carry his quarterfinal victory over Leconte and added, “How odd it was that Germany should have such a personal interest in a court on which, in 1940, they dropped a bomb.”
It’s true a bomb did land on the roof of Centre Court in October 1940, destroying 1,200 seats. And no German was permitted to enter the tournament for four years after it was resumed in 1946. (Germans had been banned for nine years after WWI.) Ironically, Becker’s shining moment occurred on July 7, the birth date of Baron Gottfried von Cramm. For more than half of the century, the Baron was regarded as one of the finest players never to have won Wimbledon.

Thirty Years Ago At Wimbledon….Anne White’s Fashion Statement

It was 30 years ago in 1985 when Wimbledon experienced perhaps its most controversial moment of fashion. On the cold day of June 27, 1985, Anne White decided to wear a more functional all white body suit outfit provided by her clothing endorser Pony in her match with Pam Shriver, but the outfit was later deemed to be a “wardrobe malfunction” by the strict Wimbledon officials. The excerpt from the “This Day In Tennis History” mobile app and book by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com) documenting the famous fashion incident can be found below.

June 27, 1985 – Anne White turns heads at The All-England Club when she sports a white body stocking in her first-round match against Pam Shriver at Wimbledon. White wears all-body leotard-like outfit to keep her warm during the chilly day in London and splits sets with the No. 5 seeded Shriver before play is suspended due to rain. Wimbledon referee Alan Mills later calls the outfit not appropriate tennis attire and forbids her from wearing it again in the tournament. White returns the next day, without her all-white body suit and dressed in a traditional white tennis skirt and blouse, but loses the third set and the match 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3. Says White the following day, “I’m a little aggravated I couldn’t wear it today. But it’s their tournament and I don’t want to do anything to upset them or hurt their feelings. I mean, I don’t want people spilling their strawberries and cream because of me.”

The 10 Greatest Wimbledon Matches of All Time

With Wimbledon upon us, it’s fun to get nostalgic looking back at the greatest matches of all time from the greatest tournament in tennis. In his book “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” (for sale here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257936/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_J0GGvb1GB6WV8) author Steve Flink describes the greatest tennis matches of not just Wimbledon, but in the history of the sport, and ranks the matches in order of their significance. The following is the Flink’s rankings of the greatest Wimbledon matches of all time as they appear in his book. Here is the list, in order, of the greatest tennis matches in Wimbledon history, with their respective “all-time” ranking on the left.

1. (No. 1 All-Time) Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-7 (9), 9-7, final, Wimbledon, grass, 2008

2. (No. 2 All-Time) Bjorn Borg d. John McEnroe 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18) 8-6, final, Wimbledon grass, 1980

3. (No. 8 All-Time) Pancho Gonzales d. Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9, first round, grass, Wimbledon, 1969

4. (No. 10 All-Time) Henri Cochet d. Bill Tilden 2-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3, semifinal, Wimbledon, grass, 1927

5. (No. 12 All-Time) Margaret Court d. Billie Jean King 14-12, 11-9, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1970

6. (No. 18 All-Time) Helen Wills Moody d. Helen Jacobs 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1935

7. (No. 25 All-Time) Maria Bueno d. Margaret Smith 6-4, 7-9, 6-3, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1964

8. (No. 27 All-Time) Stan Smith d. Ilie Nastase 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1972

9. (No. 28 All-Time) Roger Federer d. Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14, final, Wimbledon, grass, 2009

10. (No. 29 All-Time) Maureen Connolly d. Doris Hart 8-6, 7-5, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1953