Latest News

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.

 

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

The Difficulty of Turning the Corner from Juniors to the Pro Tour

by Jordana Klein

At the age of four, most children are more concerned with when their next visit to the toy store will be or, nowadays, when their parents will let them use the Ipad. Four years old seems quite young to make the decision about whether or not to continue with pre-school and kindergarden or take the route of becoming a professional tennis player. How can you know your child’s ability or coordination at four years old? Many parents around the world have to make the commitment about whether or not to pursue the professional tour dream for their child and even sacrifice some of the most valuable and cherished years of their child’s life.

Players such as Tammy Hendler know this route minute by minute, day in and day out, as they have lived through this journey. Unfortunately for Hendler, her journey ended, like so many other thousands of players, after her success in junior tournaments.

“I barely understood the rules and scoring of tennis when I stopped going to school in Georgia and began training full time, every day, with my dad and other coaches in the area,” Hendler said. “I worked for over a decade all the way to the top, but I fell short of the pro tour.”

Hender is not ashamed or embarrassed about her career, as she was ranked No. 2 in the world in juniors and made it to the qualifiers and even some main draw rounds of major tournaments. Hender’s career-high was her semifinal appearance in the Wimbledon juniors in 2008. She also made the quarterfinals of the 2008 US Open junior singles, represented Belgium in the Fed Cup, and won four ITF singles titles and three ITF doubles titles.

Unfortunately, these results were not enough to propel her into the top of the professional tour, and her career ended after several injuries, including those of the shoulder and elbow. After training in Bradenton, Florida with IMG Academy, Hendler reached a career high of No. 182 on tour in 2012 and earned a record of 122-93 in singles and 46-40 in doubles.

Hendler’s story is not unique, as many players attempt the professional tour after succeeding in the juniors and do not make it to the top. There can only be one Roger Federer, one Maria Sharapova, one Serena Williams. But there are dozens of Hendlers. The road to the top of the tour is incredibly tough, gruesome, time-consuming and difficult, but many players still travel the world every week to compete in as many tournaments as possible in hopes of slowly but surely increasing their ranking.

Even though one may think Hendler’s success in juniors should allow her to qualify automatically for the Grand Slams and other WTA events, she found out that there are hundreds of other players trying to make their way into the top 50 at the exact same time.

“I do not regret one second of my time in the junior and professional world of tennis,” Hendler said. “I met the most incredible people and visited the most amazing places, and I know I would have never had those opportunities had I not chosen this path when I was four years old.”

Rod Laver: Develop A Killer Instinct

Rod Laver documented his 1969 Grand Slam season – and his life story – with Hall of Fame tennis journalist Bud Collins in the book “The Education of a Tennis Player” (for sale here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257626/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_tiFEvb1MG9Y13 In the book, Laver also imparts his wisdom on how amateurs can achieve more success in tennis. In this book excerpt, Laver discusses “Killer Instinct.”

When I was a kid, and beginning to play well, a little better than the ordinary, I first experienced the enjoyment of playing to a crowd. It was a good feeling to have my strokes admired, and I was in no hurry to get off the court. As a result I let too many opponents off the hook. I found out that you have to play with the intention of making it a short day, of doing the job quickly and thoroughly.

I don’t mean rush it. Anything but that. But when you have the opportunity you strike then, and you realize that no lead is as big as it looks. If your opponent is serving at 1-4, you feel pretty good: three games ahead. But that’s only one service break, and you want to keep the pressure on, or you’re going to be in trouble. It’s no time to experiment with new shots or to show off for the “sheilas” in the crowd.

I’ve heard it said that you’re either born with the killer instinct or you’re not. I don’t agree with that. I feel I had to develop that killer outlook which, to me, means making the shot called for to win the point and resisting certain temptations. You don’t try to blast a ball 200 mph crosscourt into a corner when you have an easy sitter and your opponent is way out of position. If a soft, unimpressive-looking dink is called for, you hit it and make the point.

The good chances don’t come that frequently, and the killer knocks them off surely when presented with them. The killer doesn’t let up or ease off when he gets a good lead. This can be learned. Make sure of the easy shots—concentrate extra hard on those. Everybody has problems with difficult shots, but the killer gets his edge because he is meticulous with the setups.

Don’t compose eulogies to yourself when you get ahead. Concentrate on staying there. When Charlie Hollis, my coach, decided that I wasn’t homicidal enough, he sent me out with the intent of winning every match 6-0, 6-0. That seems grim for the usual player, but Charlie’s theme was good and clear: run scared and don’t let anybody up.

Tommy Robredo Always Fights To The End

By Andrew Eichenholz

When Andy Murray walked to the net after a hard fought victory in a final set tiebreak in Valencia late last year, he looked to embrace his opponent, who jokingly or not, flipped him the bird.

Murray had just Tommy Robredoed Tommy Robredo.

Now, it may seem impossible for a person to create a verb with his or her own name, but with his long track record of fighting until the end, Robredo has proven time and time again that he exemplifies that very thing better than anybody else.

So, when Murray looked to congratulate Robredo on a good match, which their clash was, one of the best of the season in fact, the Spaniard was not very happy. Not only did he lose a tough match, but he got beat at his own game, the game of survival.

Robredo’s Grand Slams on his least favorite surface, hard court, in 2014, show why the gritty right-hander has earned his reputation of being a fighter.

In his first Grand Slam match of the season at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Robredo played the always-dangerous Lukas Rosol. Although Rosol is somebody who many would expect Robredo to beat, down two sets to one makes things look a lot different.

It takes enough energy to play down under with the fatigue caused by the rigors of the Australian summer heat, but to hang tough in the fourth set, clinging to his life in the match until a tiebreak would be impressive enough. Not only did Robredo emerge from that vital tiebreak in an even match, but he toughed out the Czech 8-6 in the fifth.

Typical Robredo, never convincing, always there until the end.

Fast forward to Wimbledon, on yet another surface that is not conducive to the heavy topspin, high-net clearance game of Robredo. On the other side of the net, the powerful Jerzy Janowicz, whose serve and groundstrokes skip right through the Wimbledon grass.

Even after not getting off to a good start to his season, or their third round encounter, Janowicz fought back, and started playing tennis reminiscent of his standout 2013 season. From two sets down, Janowicz pushed one of the toughest players on tour around, evening affairs with all of the momentum in his corner.

That is exactly where Robredo wanted him. Down and nearly out, Robredo once again showed that he is most dangerous when backed into a corner. Although he would lose next round to Roger Federer, Robredo showed his character to stay the course and defeat Janowicz.

Robredo may have thought that nobody had seen the script before, so he pressed the rewind button when he arrived to Flushing Meadows for the United States Open. It was time to show the world who he is again, this time on the biggest stage of them all, Arthur Ashe Stadium.

As the crowd looking down from the seats of the largest stadium in the sport of tennis gasped in awe, Robredo was in trouble. The fans were witnessing the birth of a future star in Australian Nick Kyrgios during a third round match. The big-hitter was pushing one of the fleetest afoot of the ATP World Tour around for more than a set, making it seem like Robredo would be on the next flight out of John F. Kennedy Airport.

Slowly but surely, point by point, Robredo maintained his composure, and let Kyrgios start to miss. The first sign of Kyrgios’ dropping confidence was all it took, seemingly giving Robredo a hook to latch onto, never letting go, as he would pull away for a four set win.

By the way, Robredo was down two sets to love against Italian Simone Bolelli in the second round.

Although Robredo may never be a true Grand Slam contender, or a player who fans get to see be at the top of the world in the rankings, one thing is for certain.

Nobody wants to be stuck with Robredo in his or her section of the draw. And, while many opponents will go away and give up when they get down, that is when Robredo is most dangerous.

As he showed after his loss to Murray in Valencia, nobody hangs in there better, and he wants the world to know it.

To read more about the attitudes and teaching methods of Spanish tennis, order the book “The Secrets of Spanish Tennis” by Chris Lewit available here: http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Spanish-Tennis-Chris-Lewit/dp/1937559491

Former Tennis Standout Discusses Two Deadly Diseases – Skin Cancer and Depression

By Cliff Richey

The following is written by Cliff Richey, a former U.S. No. 1 tennis player, who was a semifinalist at the 1970 French Open and the 1970 and 1972 U.S. Open, who was also a member of the winning U.S. Davis Cup teams in 1969 and 1970. Richey is author of the book “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” available here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257669/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_iLEBvb1W4RNYX

When I was younger the scariest thing in my life was facing Arthur Ashe’s serve! Trust me, that was scary. But it doesn’t compare to two potentially lethal diseases I’ve been in treatment for. Nineteen years ago my skin doctor diagnosed me as clinically depressed and three weeks ago my current skin Doctor gave me the news that I had Melanoma. It is ironic that a skin doctor diagnosed these two different diseases. And as different as they seem to be these two diseases have a lot in common. For one thing in my case the two sick parts of my body are only about twelve inches apart–my right shoulder and my brain! Both diseases at their most basic level are human cells gone awry. Why does that happen? The best researchers of both diseases say there are two main reasons. The first is genetic predisposition inherited from your forebearers in other words. The second reason is stress. For your skin, stress can be the sun, tanning lamps or too much radiation. For your brain, stress can be the negative circumstances life throws to all of us–job loss, divorce, addictions, illness. So a predisposition combined with stress can produce both of these diseases. The good news is both are treatable and curable. I am in good treatment for clinical depression and my recovery has been very good. I had the melanoma leasion removed and thankfully it was caught very early and in spite of eleven stitches i am told it is 100% curable.

Now the bad news. Both diseases left untreated can kill you. Only 30% of our population who need treatment for depression receive it and 20% commit suicide. Of those who get proper treatment 85% gain good recovery. Melanoma has a high mortality rate unless caught early.

I am going to switch gears here for just a bit and get on my soap box. But lets create a more warm and fuzzy setting. I’m on my easy chair and you’re on my couch and here is what i want to tell you. We ain’t doin’ all this stuff the right way. Yes both of these diseases kill but only one of them has a higher mortality rate that has nothing to do with the disease! Stigma! Stigma of mental illness is killing many people. Obviously no one person is at fault. But our community can do better. My brain is only 12 inches from my right shoulder and guess what? the DNA is the same in both places. Look i’m a pro athlete. I know that there is a lot of male maucho tied in with even whispering the words mental illness. Pros are comfortable asking for help in order to win on the playing field. We had head coaches, trainers, dieticians and team doctors. We see asking for help as a maucho strength. Wanna win? Get good advice! In my tennis career i had great coaches and others who helped me in areas i needed help with. I felt more confident and performed better when i got that help. I played 1500 pro matches in 500 events all over the world. I wanted to know all about each opponent i played. I had a game plan every time. I wanted to win.

I truly looked at clinical depression and melanoma as opponents i want to beat. I reached out for help with experts that know both of these deadly foes. As a pro athlete i looked to my doctors much the same as i did the coaches in my career. Of course there is just a slight difference one helps you win a tennis match the other can save your life. Mental illness or Melanoma can kill if we don’t ask for help. My serve can be improved (and it needed help!) but hey the worse that can happen if i don’t ask for help is that I lose a tennis match!

So pal, my preaching if over. Ask for help when you need it. As we say in the locker room “Don’t be a dumb ass.” Stigma is an opponent too. Let us all reach out. We will beat stigma and remember — never, ever, ever give up!