With the opening 2010 tournaments being held on American soil, the spotlight shines on one of the world’s most successful tennis playing nations.
For many years, Americans have dominated the sport. From the days of Bill Tilden to the modern era of Pete Sampras, Americans are never far from your thoughts when it comes to one of the world’s favorite sports.
So many great stories accompany the nation’s participation in tennis. From the crusading careers of Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe to Bill Talbert redefining medical thinking on diabetes. From Dick Williams’ terrifying ordeal aboard the Titanic to Andre Agassi’s many battles with personal problems compounded by his recent revelations of crystal meth use. McEnroe, Connors, Courier, they all delighted crowds with their contrasting personalities.
America reads like a grand soap opera of tennis. Its many great champions have left imprints of grandeur and finesse on the minds of those who have seen them play.
As a Brit looking at the role of honors, it makes one quite envious. Yes we have had fine champions too. But not many have come since Fred Perry in the 1930s. It kind of makes you feel like the less-successful younger brother vying for daddy’s love.
Another fine column from Melina Harris touched upon the issue when looking at the rise of Melanie Oudin and John Isner in the men’s and women’s games but, when looking at recent Grand Slams, where will America’s next great champion come from?
Pete Sampras did not compete following his triumph at the 2002 US Open and his official retirement announcement came just before the 2003 showpiece which makes Andy Roddick the sole American Slam winner since the great Pete. Since then, the domination of R-Fed and Rafa Nadal has given American tennis fans food for thought, although Roddick has made a further four finals.
Federer mimics some of the great American Champions in his mastery of opponents. Who better to break Sampras’ impressive Slam total and memories switch back to the “changing of the guard” at the fourth round of the Wimbledon Championships in 2001 when Federer overcame Sampras in five sets. Who knew what would happen next?
The sport has undergone a similar change. Former Eastern Block territories are beginning to taste success and stars from nations previously unheard of in tennis echelons are emerging left, right and centre.
America has noticed the changes in Davis Cup play. Having won more titles (32) than any other nation, they have only lifted the title once (2007) in fifteen years and made the final on only two other occasions (1997, 2004).
Top ranked player Roddick is No. 7 in the latest ATP World Rankings while John Isner (25) and Sam Querrey (31) also hold Top 50 rankings.
James Blake (55), Michael Russell (68), Mardy Fish (71), Taylor Dent (78), Rajeev Ram (82) and Robby Ginepri (100) make it nine players in the Top 100 – an enviable total.
But since Sampras’ retirement in 2003, they have only amassed a total of 35 ATP Tour titles between them and 19 of those were picked up by Roddick. However, the terrible injuries suffered by the likes of Dent and Blake cannot be ignored.
The end of year Championships have also proved quite fruitful. Blake was a losing finalist to Federer in Shanghai in 2006 while Roddick has regularly participated and performed well.
Querrey and Isner are relatively new kids on the block and the USA holds high hopes for the boys. Well-liked on and off the court, they have gained fans worldwide with their playing styles and beaming smiles. Isner reached the fourth round of the 2009 US Open and was seeded at the 2010 Australian Open following the late withdrawal of Gilles Simon. He eventually lost to finalist Andy Murray in round four and his performances were duly noted by the world’s press.
Querrey is another with a growing reputation and his string of finals in the summer of 2009 certainly showed his potential while many know him as much for his rowdy loyal support as for his skills with a racket.
This column is not an attack on American tennis but a debate starter about where the next great Champion could come from. Do Isner or Querrey have what it takes to play their way in to the long and proud history of this great nation?
As an overseas observer I have long been wowed by the long list of great American players and having spent the summer working for the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, I have learnt a great deal about the proud history of the sport there.
After Sampras’ induction in 2007 and Roddick’s Grand Slam performances guaranteeing him entry (he also has time to win more let’s not forget) who of the current crop has what it takes to gain their place alongside their illustrious predecessors?
The future looks bright and the hope is America’s relative barren spell may be ended soon. With 2010 Davis Cup play on the horizon, and Querrey and Isner now leading the team, it could be a chance to shine on a truly global stage for the tallest combination to ever pair up in singles for the USA.
Women’s singles: Kim Clijsters beat Caroline Wozniacki 7-5 6-3
Men’s doubles: Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles 3-6 6-3 6-2
Women’s doubles: Serena Williams and Venus Williams beat Cara Black and Liezel Huber 6-2 6-2
Mixed doubles: Carly Gullickson and Travis Parrott beat Cara Black and Leander Paes 6-2 6-4
Boys’ singles: Bernard Tomic beat Chase Buchanan 6-1 6-3
Girls’ singles: Heather Watson beat Yana Buchina 6-4 6-1
Boys’ doubles: Cheng Peng Hsieh and Marton Fucsovics beat Julien Obry and Adrien Puget 7-6 (5) 5-7 10-1 (match tiebreak)
Girls’ doubles: Valeria Solovieva and Maryna Zanevska beat Elena Bogdan and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 1-6 6-3 10-7 (match tiebreak)
Men’s wheelchair singles: Shingo Kunieda beat Maikel Scheffers 6-0 6-0
Men’s wheelchair doubles: Stephane Houdet and Stefan Olsson beat Maikel Scheffers and Ronald Vink 6-4 4-6 6-4
Women’s wheelchair singles: Esther Vergeer beat Korie Homan 6-0 6-0
Women’s wheelchair doubles: Esther Vergeer and Korie Homan beat Daniela DiToro and Florence Gravellier 6-2 6-2
Alberto Martin beat Carlos Berlocq 6-3 6-3 to win the AON Open Challenger in Genoa, Italy
“When I would have a dream, it was to win the US Open, and the other one is to be like Roger. One is done.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after beating Roger Federer and winning the US Open men’s singles.
“Five was great, four was great, too. Six would have been a dream, too. Can’t have them all. I’ve had an amazing summer and a great run. I’m not too disappointed just because I thought I played another wonderful tournament.” – Roger Federer, after losing the US Open men’s singles final to Juan Martin del Potro.
“I can’t believe this happened. Because it still seems so surreal that in my third tournament back I won my second Grand Slam. Because it wasn’t in the plan. I just wanted to come here and get a feel for it all over again, play a Grand Slam so to start the next year I didn’t have to go through all the new experiences over.” – Kim Clijsters, who won her second straight US Open women’s title four years after her first title.
“I think that I’ll learn that it pays to always play your best and always be your best and always act your best no matter what. And I think that I’m young and I feel like in life everyone has to have experience that they take and that they learn from, and I think that’s great that I have an opportunity to still b e physically fit to go several more years and learn from the past.” – Serena Williams, after losing her semifinal to Kim Clijsters after receiving a point penalty on match point.
“I cannot really tell that I was playing bad. She was playing good.” – Kateryna Bondarenko, after losing to Yanina Wickmayer.
“Today, I could’ve been better in pretty much every part of my game, whether it was mental, forehand, backhand, return.” – Andy Murray, after losing his fourth-round match to Marin Cilic.
“I lost it myself because I made so many unforced errors. So many unforced errors, you can’t win against anybody. No chance.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after committing 69 unforced errors in her three-set loss to Caroline Wozniacki.
“I was thinking, every point, do the same, try to put the ball in the court. When you fight that way to the final point, you have many chances, and that’s what happened today.” – Juan Martin del Potro, after his quarterfinal win.
“I think the biggest weapon can be mental toughness. It doesn’t have to be a stroke or a shot or anything like that. If you’re mentally tough out there, then you can beat anyone.” – Melanie Oudin, after beating Maria Sharapova to advance to the fourth round.
STARTING NEW ERA
By winning the US Open, Juan Martin del Potro became only the third player to beat both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the same tournament. He also became the first player this year to defeat the world’s top three players, having also beat Andy Murray in Madrid, Spain. Del Potro is the first South American to be in the US Open final since fellow Argentine Guillermo Vilas won in 1977, and the first South African to be in a Grand Slam final since Fernando Gonzalez of Chile lost to Federer in the 2007 Australian Open.
SO SWEET, SO WRONG
After he ran onto the court to kiss Rafael Nadal, a New York City man, Noam U. Aorta, was arrested and charged with trespassing. Aorta jumped out of the stands after Nadal beat Gael Monfils in a fourth-round match. “For me it wasn’t a problem. The guy was really nice,” Nadal said. “He said, ‘I love you,’ and he kissed me.” District Attorney Richard Brown called it “particularly disturbing” since Aorta made physical contact with Nadal, noting that Monica Seles was stabbed in 1993 by a spectator who jumped out of the stands in Hamburg, Germany.
SAFINA STILL ON TOP
Serena Williams lost the chance to move back into the number one spot on the women’s tennis tour. The American could have replaced Dinara Safina on the top of the rankings if she had successfully defended her US Open title. Instead, she lost to eventual champion Kim Clijsters in the semifinals and, consequently, will remain in the number two spot.
The US Open was the third tournament back for US Open champion Kim Clijsters since she ended her two-year retirement. And you need to play three tournaments to get a Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking. In this week’s rankings, Clijsters is number 19 in the world.
The world’s top doubles team, Cara Black and Liezel Huber, are the first to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. It will be the third trip the final Championships for Black and Huber, having clinched the title in the last two years. The top four doubles teams will compete for the title. Two players have already qualified for the eight-player singles competition, Dinara Safina and Serena Williams.
STANDING FOR ELECTION
Doubles players will get a chance to shine in the 2010 International Tennis Hall of Fame ITHF) balloting. The ITHF announced the names of the 12 nominees for possible induction into the Newport, Rhode Island, shrine next year, including Beatrizs “Gigi” Fernandez, Natasha Zvereva, Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde and Anders Jarryd. On the ballot in the Master Player category are Owen Davidson, Peter Fleming and Bob Lutz, while the Contributor category has four nominees: wheelchair tennis pioneer Brad Parks, coach Nick Bollettieri, Lawn Tennis Association chairman Derek Hardwick and Japan’s Eichi Kawatei. Voting for the 2010 ballot will take place over the next several months with an announcement of the induction class scheduled for January. The Class of 2010 induction ceremony will be held July 10 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport.
Ai Sugiyama is ready to say sayonara. The Japanese veteran says she will probably retire at the end of this year, concluding her 17-year career. She once was ranked as high as number eight in the world. “I am normally the type that can picture what the near future holds, but to be honest at this moment in time, I can’t see myself competing next season,” Sugiyama told Kyodo news. She won six WTA Tour singles titles and doubles championships at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. She lost in the Australian Open final this year.
When Kim Clijsters won the US Open, she became the first mother to win a Grand Slam tournament singles title since Australian Evonne Goolagong Cawley captured Wimbledon in 1980. But Clijsters wasn’t the only mother competing at America’s premier tennis event. Sybille Bammer of Austria lost in the first round to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, while Rossana de los Rios of Paraguay fell to 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli in her first-round match. After the birth of her baby, Bammer climbed as high as number 19 in the world and won at Prague, Czech Republic, earlier this year. De los Rios has won six ITF singles titles since giving birth to her daughter in 1997.
Sloane Stephens was looking forward to the US Open junior girls tournament, where she was seeded fourth. But just before junior play got underway, Stephens’ father, former NFL running back John Stephens, died in a car accident. The 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, took a day off to fly to her father’s funeral in Louisiana, then returned to win her second-round match. But she lost her next outing to Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 4-6 6-1 6-0. “I was trying to focus and do things I should have done, but mentally I wasn’t there,” she said. The youngster had reconnected with her father three years ago and she had met him only a handful of times, but the two had developed a relationship over the telephone.
Venus and Serena Williams won their 10th Grand Slam tournament women’s doubles title, beating the top-seeded team of Cara Black and Liezel Huber. The sisters have never lost in a Grand Slam tournament once they’ve reached the final. “Hopefully that’s a record that won’t end yet,” Serena said. It is their first US Open doubles crown since 1999, and the sisters are now halfway to the record set by Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver.
As far as fans were concerned, Melanie Oudin didn’t outstay her welcome at the US Open. That’s not true about her New York City hotel room. The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, was one of the biggest surprises of this year’s final Grand Slam event, reaching the quarterfinals before being eliminated. But she outstayed her hotel reservation at the Marriott in Manhattan, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Her management company quickly got her a room at the Intercontinental Hotel. Oudin, who was not seeded, was not expected to play in the second week of the US Open. So the room she shared with her mother was apparently reserved for someone else. “Obviously we will not be sending any of our players back to that hotel (the Marriott),” Oudin’s agent, BEST Tennis president John Tobias, told the Journal.
He won the first US Open in 1968 and the main stadium at America’s premier tennis tournament is named for him. But it wasn’t until this year that Arthur Ashe was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions, which honors the greatest singles champions in the history of the 128 years of the US Championships/US Open. Ashe joined prior inductees Don Budge, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Althea Gibson, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King, Jack Kramer, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, Bill Tilden and Helen Wills. An international panel of journalists selects the inductees annually. Former President Bill Clinton participated in Ashe’s induction ceremonies.
SET FOR DOHA
US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva are the latest to qualify for the season-ending Sony Ericsson Championships, which will be held October 27-November 1 in Doha, Qatar. The world’s top eight singles players and top four doubles teams will compete for the Sony Ericsson Championships title and a share of the record Championships prize money of USD $4.45 million.
STAYING IN TOUCH
Fans attending the US Open sent a record number of emails and text, picture and video messages from in and around Arthur Ashe Stadium the first week of the tournament. “US Open fans are letting their fingers do the talking this year as increasing numbers of Verizon Wireless customers use Smartphones and PDAs to stay in touch with their homes and offices,” said Michele White, executive director-network for company’s New York Metro Region. “The number of data connections established by Verizon Wireless customers in and around the tennis center during the busiest hours of the event last week was 80 percent higher than last year while voice traffic was down.”
Despite the gloomy global economy, the women’s tennis circuit is doing just fine, thank you. Stacey Allaster, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, said they have lost just one title sponsor in 2009 and have added two new tournaments in 2010. “The bottom line is we want to be a credible product, consistently delivering to fans and sponsors, and in 2009 our athletes have done that,” Allaster said. Of the tour’s 51 title sponsors, only one has dropped out, and that is “an incredible success story for women’s tennis,” she said. Tournaments have been added in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia, while the Los Angeles event has moved to San Diego.
Three teenagers have been convicted in Malmo, Sweden, for rioting outside a Davis Cup tie between Israel and Sweden in March. The three Swedish males, aged 17 to 19, were sentenced to community service for juveniles. Two of them were also ordered to pay USD $19,020 for sabotaging a police vehicle. The three were among 10 people arrested after protesting Israel’s offensive in Gaza. The court had previously sentenced two others to 9 and 15 months in prison. No spectators were allowed to watch the matches after Malmo officials said they could not guarantee security. The International Tennis Association (ITF) fined the Swedish tennis federation USD $5,000 for that decision and banned Malmo from staging Davis Cup matches for five years.
SAY IT AIN’T SO
A media report that he and his wife are living in fear amid crime and poverty in the Bahamas has brought an angry response from Lleyton Hewitt. The 2001 US Open champion told a newspaper that the report in an Australian magazine was “absolute rubbish.” Hewitt said he and his family have had “fantastic experiences” in the nine months they have lived in a gated community on New Providence island. “For us it’s a fantastic place to raise a young family.”
SAYS YOU, SAYS ME
You knew it had to happen. Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe took turns imitating each other during an impromptu US Open moment. Following his victory over Radek Stepanek, Djokovic called McEnroe down from his television booth, then mimicked the mannerisms and serving style of the four-time US Open champion. He tossed his racquet onto the court and screamed at an imaginary umpire. Once McEnroe arrived on court, he unbuttoned his white shirt, rolled up his sleeves and, using a borrowed racquet, bounced the ball repeatedly, imitating Djokovic’s pre-serve habits. Two years ago, Djokovic delighted the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd by impersonating Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova, among others. “What I’ve done in 2007 with those impersonations and tonight playing with Johnny Mac, I think that’s what the crowd wants, especially in these hours,” Djokovic said. “I think these night matches are very special.”
Her exciting run to US Open quarterfinals kept Melanie Oudin in New York City doing what she wants to do. She doesn’t do the ordinary high school things, like going to the junior prom or homecoming, or even hanging out with friends at the mall. “She doesn’t do any of that kind of stuff, and she’s OK with it,” said Katherine Oudin, Melanie’s mother. “I know she misses the normal life a little, but she does not regret it at all. Zero. She’s totally OK with it because she knows this is what she’s wanted her entire life.”
SOCKING IT AWAY
Each of the singles champions here at the US Open will take home USD $1.6 million, a nice tidy sum in any language. Going into the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, Roger Federer has earned USD $36 million over the past 12 months. His three Grand Slam wins – 2008 US Open, French Open and Wimbledon – and other tournament play netted him USD $8 million. And when he won his first-round match at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this year, he became the first player to surpass USD $50 million in career earnings on the court. The 28-year-old Federer has 10-year endorsement deals with Nike, Rolex, Wilson and Swiss coffee machine maker Jura. His Nike contract extension that he signed in 2008 is worth more than USD $10 million annually. Maria Sharapova is close to Federer in off-court earnings. The Russian earned USD $22.5 million over the past year despite missing most of the season with a shoulder injury.
The US Tennis Association (USTA) has been sued by a New York City documentary filmmaker who claims the ruling tennis body discriminates against wheelchair players by refusing to sell broadcast licensing rights to their matches. Brooklyn, New York, filmmaker Alan Rich is a lawyer who is representing himself and seven handicapped players. He has been filming a documentary about the players called “Fire in the Belly.” Rich contends that because the major networks covering the tournament – CBS, ESPN and Tennis Channel – do not cover wheelchair events, he should be given the rights. USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said his organization limits filming of matches to the three television companies that have contracts with them. He said that two years ago, Tennis Channel aired the wheelchair finals competition live and produced a half-hour highlights show of the tournament.
Jeremy Chardy will play Davis Cup for France against the Netherlands. Chardy replaces Gilles Simon, who has a knee injury. France plays the Netherlands for a spot in next year’s World Group. The French team also includes Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and doubles specialist Michael Llordra. Chardy originally had been selected as an alternative. That role now goes to Julien Benneteau.
Sixteen writers were honored at the US Open by the US Tennis Writers Association in the 10th annual USTWA Writing Contest. William Weinbaum and John Barr of ESPN.com won first place in Hard News/Enterprise for their story about the controversial match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello. Other first-place winners were: Bruce Jenkins, San Francisco Chronicle, Column/Commentary; Cindy Shmerler, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Pro); Stephen Tignor, TENNIS Magazine, Feature Story (Non-Pro); Filip Bondy, New York Daily News, Game Story (Pro); and Paul Fein, TennisOne.com, Service Story.
The USTWA announced the election of its board of directors at its annual meeting at the US Open: Cindy Cantrell, Tennis Life; Paul Fein, freelance writer; Ann LoPrinzi, The Times of Trenton (New Jersey); Richard Kent, freelance writer; Jim Martz, Florida Tennis; and Art Spander, The (San Francisco) Examiner. Fein, Kent and Spander are new to the board. The officers will be determined by the board.
Genoa: Daniele Bracciali and Alessandro Motti beat Amir Hadad and Harel Levy 6-4 6-2
SITES TO SURF
Davis Cup: www.DavisCup.com
Saint Malo: www.opengdfsuez-bretagne.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$150,000 Pekao Open, Szczecin, Poland, clay
$220,000 Bell Challenge, Quebec City, Canada, hard
$220,000 Guangzhou International Women’s Open, Guangzhou, China, hard
World Group Semifinals
Croatia vs. Czech Republic at Porec, Croatia
Spain vs. Israel at Murcia, Spain
World Group Playoffs
Chile vs. Austria at Rancagua, Chile; Belgium vs. Ukraine at Charleroi, Belgium; Brazil vs. Ecuador at Porto Alegre, Brazil; Netherlands vs. France at Maastricht, Netherlands; South Africa vs. India at Johannesburg, South Africa; Serbia vs. Uzbekistan at Belgrade, Serbia; Sweden vs. Romania at Helsingborg, Sweden; Italy vs. Switzerland at Genova, Italy
Group I Playoff: Peru vs. Uruguay at Lima, Peru
Group II Final: Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Group I Playoff: China vs. Thailand at Jiaxing, China
Group II 3rd Round: Philippines vs. New Zealand at Manila, Philippines
Group I Playoffs: Slovak Republic vs. FYR Macedonia at Bratislava, Slovak Republic; Great Britain vs. Poland at Liverpool, Great Britain
Group II 3rd Round: Latvia vs. Slovenia at Jurmala, Latvia; Finland vs. Cyprus at Salo, Finland
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$650,000 BCR Open Romania, Bucharest, Romana, clay
$650,000 Open de Moselle, Metz, France, hard
$220,000 Hansol Korea Open, Seoul, Korea, hard
$220,000 Tashkent Open, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hard
$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Bretagne, Saint Malo, France, clay
Trophee Jean-Luc Lagardere, Paris, France, clay
Roger Federer is looking to join Bill Tilden as the only player to win six straight U.S. men’s singles titles when he plays Juan Martin del Potro in the 2009 US Open final Monday. Tilden won his six straight men’s singles titles from 1920 to 1926 – and he earned a seventh title again in 1929 in a final that was played 80 years ago exactly to the day of Federer’s match with del Potro.
In that match in 1929, Tilden, 36, won his seventh – and final – U.S. men’s singles crown, defeating fellow “oldie” 35-year-old Francis Hunter 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the championship tilt. Tilden’s seventh title tied him with Richard Sears and Bill Larned for the record of most U.S. men’s singles titles. At age 36, Tilden became the oldest U.S. singles champion since Larned won his last two titles in 1910 and 1911 at ages 37 and 38. Wrote Allison Danzig of the New York Times, “The match went to five sets, with Tilden trailing 2 to 1, but there was never any question as to the ultimate reckoning and the final two chapters found the once invincible monarch of the courts electrifying the gallery as of yore with a withering onslaught of drives and service aces that brooked no opposition.” Bud Collins, In his book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, calls the 1929 U.S. men’s final “The Geezer’s Gala” as the combined age of both finalists – 71 years – ranks second only to the 1908 Wimbledon final played between Arthur Gore, 40 and Herbert Roper Barrett, 34.
Collins, in his book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS tome, summarizes the career of Tilden below in his book excerpt.
United States (1893–1953)
Hall of Fame—1959
If a player’s value is measured by the dominance and influence he exercises over a sport, then William Tatem “Big Bill” Tilden II could be considered the greatest player in the history of tennis.
From 1920 through 1926, he dominated the game as has no player before or since. During those years he was invincible in the United States, won Wimbledon three of the six times he competed there, and captured 13 successive singles matches in the Davis Cup challenge round against the best players from Australia, France and Japan.
With the Bills, Tilden and Johnston, at the core, the U.S. seized the Davis Cup from Australasia in 1920, and kept it a record seven years. But by 1927, the Bills were no longer impervious, and France took over, 3-2, on the last day, in Philadelphia—Rene Lacoste beating Big Bill, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, and Henri Cochet flooring Little Bill, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
As an amateur (1912-30), Tilden won 138 of 192 tournaments, lost 28 finals and had a 907-62 match record—a phenomenal .936 average. His last major triumph, the Wimbledon singles of 1930, gave him a total of 10 majors, standing as the male high until topped by Roy Emerson (12) in 1967. Bill missed another by two match points he held against René Lacoste in the 1927 French final. He won the U.S. mixed with Mary K. Browne in 1913-14, but had been beaten in the first round of the 1912 singles at Newport by fellow Philadelphian Wallace Johnson (whom he would defeat in the 1921 final). He didn’t feel sure enough of his garne to try again until 1916, in New York. He was 23, a first-round loser to a kid named Harold Throckmorton. Ignominious, tardy starts in an illustrious career that would contain seven U.S. titles and 69 match victories (a record 42 straight between 1920 and 1926).
By 1918, a war-riddled year, he got to the final, to be blown away by a bullet-serving Lindley Murray, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5. But he’d be back: seven more finals in a row. In 1918, Big Bill’s electrifying rivalry with Little Bill Johnston began—six U.S. finals in seven years, more than any other two men skirmished for a major. After losing to Little Bill in 1919, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, Tilden, disgusted with his puny defensive backhand, hid out all winter at the indoor court of a friend, J.D.E. Jones, in Providence, retooling. He emerged with a brand new, fearsome, multifaceted backhand and complete game, and was ready to conquer the world. He did not lose to Little Bill again in a U.S. final, and held an 11-6 edge in their rivalry. His concentration could be awesome, as during a two-tournament stretch in 1925 when he won 57 straight games at Glen Cove, N.Y., and Providence. Trailing Alfred Chapin, one of few to hold a win over him, 3-4 in the final, he ran it out, 6-4, 6-0, 6-0. Staying in tune on the next stop, he won three straight 6-0, 6-0 matches, then 6-0, 6-1. Another 6-1 set made it 75 of 77 games.
When he first won Wimbledon in 1920, over defender Gerald Patterson 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, he was 27 years old, an advanced age for a champion. But he had a long and influential career, and at the age of 52 in 1945, he was still able to push the 27-year-old Bobby Riggs to the limit in a professional match.
Tilden, a right-hander, born Feb. 10, 1893, in Philadelphia, had the ideal tennis build, 6-foot-2, 155 pounds, with thin shanks and big shoulders. He had speed and nimbleness, coordination and perfect balance. He also had marked endurance, despite smoking cigarettes incessantly when not playing. In stroke equipment, he had the weapons to launch an overpowering assault and the resources to defend and confound through a variety of spins and pace when the opponent was impervious to sheer power. Surface didn’t matter. He won the U.S. Clay Court singles seven times: 1918 and 1922–27.
Nobody had a more devastating serve than Tilden’s cannonball, or a more challenging second serve than his kicking American twist. No player had a stronger combination of forehand and backhand drives, supplemented by a forehand chop and backhand slice. Tilden’s mixture of shots was a revelation in his first appearance at Wimbledon. Patterson found his backcourt untenable and was passed over and over when he went to the net behind his powerful serve.
The backcourt was where Tilden played tennis. He was no advocate of the “big game”—the big serve and rush for the net for the instant volley coup. He relished playing tennis as a game of chess, matching wits as well as physical powers. The drop shot, at which he was particularly adroit, and the lob were among his disconcerting weapons.
His knowledge and mastery of spin has hardly ever been exceeded, as evidenced not only on the court but also in his Match Play and the Spin of the Ball—a classic written more than half a century ago. Yes, Tilden was a writer, too, but he longed to be an actor above anything else. Unsuccessful in his efforts to the point of sinking most of his family wealth, his tennis earnings and his writing royalties into the theater, he was happiest when playing on the heartstrings of a tennis gallery.
Intelligent and opinionated, he was a man of strong likes and dislikes. He had highly successful friends, both men and women, who were devoted to him, and there were others who disliked him and considered him arrogant and inconsiderate of officials and ball boys who served at his matches. He was constandy wrangling with officers and committeemen of the USTA on Davis Cup policy and enforcement of the amateur rule, and in 1928, he was on the front pages of the American press when he was removed as captain and star player of the Davis Cup team, charged with violating the amateur rule with his press accounts of the Wimbledon Championships, in which he was competing. So angry were the French over the loss of the star member of the cast for the Davis Cup challenge round—the first ever held on French soil—that the American ambassador, Myron T. Herrick interceded for the sake of good relations between the countries, and Tilden was restored to the team.
When Tilden, in the opening match, beat René Lacoste, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, the French gallery suffered agony and cursed themselves for insisting that “Teel-den” be restored to the team. It all ended happily for them, however as the French won the other four matches and kept the Davis Cup. On Tilden’s return home, he was brought up on the charges of violating the rule at Wimbledon. He was found guilty and was suspended from playing in the U.S. Championships that year.
Eligible for the U.S. title again in 1929, after the lifting of his suspension, he won it for the seventh time, defeating his doubles partner, Frank Hunter, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. In 1930, he won Wimbledon for the third time, at the age of 37, over countryman Wilmer Allison, 6-3, 9-7, 6-4. After the U.S. Championships, in which he was beaten in the semis by champion John Doeg, he notified the USTA of his intention to make a series of motion pictures for profit, thus disqualifying himself for further play as an amateur. He was in the world’s Top 10 from 1919 through 1930, No. 1 a record six times (1920-25)—equalled by Pete Sampras in 1998—and in the U.S. Top 10 for 12 straight years from 1918, No. 1 a record 10 times, 1920–29.
In 1931, he entered upon a professional playing career, joining one-time partner Vinnie Richards, Germans Hans Nusslein and Roman Najuch, and Czech Karel Kozeluh. Tilden’s name revived pro tennis, which had languished since its inception in 1926 when Suzanne Lenglen went on tour. His joining the pros paved the way for Ellsworth Vines, Fred Perry and Don Budge to leave the amateur ranks and play for big prize money. Tilden won his pro debut against Kozeluh, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, before 13,000 fans in Madison Square Garden.
Joining promoter Bill O’Brien, Tilden toured the country in 1932 and 1933, but the Depression was on and new blood was needed. Vines furnished it. Tilden and O’Brien signed him on, and in 1934 Tilden defeated Vines in the younger man’s pro debut, 8-6, 6-3, 6-2, before a turnaway crowd of 16,200 at Madison Square Garden. That year, Tilden and Vines went on the first of the great tennis tours, won by Vines, 47-26.
The tours grew in the 1930s and 1940s, and Tilden remained an attraction even though he was approaching the age of 50. For years he traveled across the country, driving by day and sometimes all night and then going on a court a few hours after arriving. At times, when he was managing his tour, he had to help set the stage for the matches.
Tragically, his activity and fortunes dwindled after his conviction on a morals charge (a time less understanding of homosexuality), and imprisonment in 1947, and again in 1949 for parole violation (both terms less than a year). He died of a heart attack under pitiful circumstances, alone and with few resources, on June 5, 1953, in Los Angeles. His bag was packed for a trip to Cleveland to play in the U.S. Pro Championships when perhaps the greatest tennis player of them all was found dead in his room.
MAJOR TITLES (21)—Wimbledon singles. 1920, 1921, 1930; U.S. singles, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1929; Wimbledon doubles, 1927; U.S. doubles, 1918, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1927; French mixed, 1930; U.S. mixed 1913, 1914, 1922, 1923. OTHER U.S.TITLES (19)—Indoor singles, 1920; Indoor doubles, 1919, 1920, with Vinnie Richards; 1926, with Frank Anderson; 1929, with Frank Hunter; Indoor mixed, 1921, 1922, with Molla Mallory; 1924, with Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman; Clay Court singles, 1918, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927; Pro singles. 1931, 1935; Pro doubles, 1932, with Bruce Barnes; 1945, with Vinnie Richards. DAVIS CUP—1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 25-5 singles, 9-2 doubles. SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—French (14-3), Wimbledon (30-3). U.S. (69-7).
NEW YORK – Defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams are in the second round of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. So is Kim Clijsters, who is playing in the year’s final Grand Slam tournament for the first time since winning the women’s singles in 2005.
Also advancing to the second round on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center was Marsel Ilhan, who on Monday became the first Turkish player in the Open Era to play a Grand Slam tournament men’s singles match.
Where Federer, Williams and Clijsters took care of their first-round opponents in straight sets, Ilhan needed five sets to overcome Christophe Rochus of Belgium 3-6 6-3 3-6 7-5 7-5. Rochus served for the match at 5-4 in the fourth set and had a 5-3 lead in the fifth. Each time the 22-year-old Ilhan went on a tear, winning four straight games.
It doesn’t get any easier for the 6-foot-3 (190m) Ilhan. His second-round opponent will be American John Isner, who ousted 28th-seeded Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-1 7-6 (14) 7-6 (5) on Monday. That winner will more than likely face fifth-seeded Andy Roddick in the third round.
Federer began his march toward becoming the first man since Bill Tilden in 1925 to win six straight US championship titles, and just the fourth man in history to win the same Grand Slam title for six successive years. Richard Sears and William Renshaw also did it, but the Challenge Round was in existence when they played, meaning they only had to win one match to defend their titles.
Devin Britton, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) champion from the University of Mississippi, was the latest blip on Federer’s march into history, falling 6-1 6-3 7-3 before a huge crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
“I was just a little nervous,” the 18-year-old said, referring to not only his opponent but also the 23,700-seat arena, the largest tennis stadium in the world. “It’s just 100 times bigger than anything I’ve ever played in front of. It was a little overwhelming.”
Britton, runner-up in the US Open Junior Boys last year, barely had a chance to catch his breath in the opening set, which was over in 18 minutes. But once he settled down, he showed flashes of the game that made him only the fourth freshman to win the NCAA men’s singles as he twice broke Federer’s serve.
That, however, only awakened the Swiss superstar.
“He had some very good spells, and I had to make sure from my side that I stayed with him and come back, because I was down a break in the second and in the third,” Federer said. “So it was good to still get through in three sets.”
The top-seeded player makes history almost every time he steps onto the court. His first-round victory made Federer the first player to earn USD $50 million in prize money. He also is attempting to win both Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year for the fifth time; no other man in the Open era has achieved it more than twice.
If Federer wins America’s premier tennis event, it would be the third time in his career that he has won three consecutive majors and the fourth time that he has won three majors in a calendar year. If he is playing on the final day of this two-week tournament, it would mean he had become the first man in history to reach all four Grand Slam finals in the same year on three separate occasions, following 2006 and 2007.
“I think this is stuff you can talk about when my career is over,” Federer said.
Serena Williams needed a set to get her game in sync. Then it was an easy 6-4 6-1 win over fellow American Alexa Glatch. The tournament’s second-seed is seeking her third Grand Slam tournament title of 2009, having won the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Surprisingly, those are her only championships this year.
“The girl I played today,” Williams said. “She’s American and she’s actually a really good player. She can be really good.”
It was the fourth US Open for Glatch, but her first appearance as a direct entrant. She didn’t fold against her heavily favored foe, matching her game for game through most of the 32-minute first set. The second set took only two minutes less time to play, but there was no doubt about the outcome.
Clijsters made her first New York appearance since winning the title four years ago. Since then she retired, got married, gave birth to a daughter and unretired. Against Viktoriya Kutuzova, it looked as if Clijsters had never gone away.
The former world number one player pounded out a 6-1 6-1 victory to open this year’s Championships.
“Obviously the girl made a lot of mistakes today, but I really felt like I was able to do what I had to do and work on the things that weren’t going as well in Cincinnati and Toronto,” Clijsters said. “Now it’s a matter of trying to go keep this going.”
In other early men’s matches Monday, eighth-seeded Nikolay Davydenko beat Germany’s Dieter Kindlmann 6-3 6-4 7-5; 12th-seeded Robin Soderling stopped Spain’s Albert Montanes 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-4; and 14th-seeded Tommy Robredo eliminated American Donald Young 6-4 3-6 6-2 6-3.
Among the women winners Monday were eighth-seeded Victoria Azarenka, 6-1 6-1 over Romania’s Alexandra Dulgheru; 10th-seeded Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-0 over Romania’s Edina Gallovits; 12th-seeded Agnieszska Radwanska, 6-1 6-2 over Austria’s Patricia Mayr; 14th-seeded Marion Bartoli, 6-1 6-0 over Paraguay’s Rossana De Los Rios; and 15th-seeded Samantha Stosur, 6-4 4-6 6-4 over Japan’s Ai Sugiyama.
Roger Federer is no doubt the King of the US Open. He will be seeking his sixth straight men’s singles title in 2009, equaling the effort by Bill Tilden, who won six straight titles from 1920-1925. The all-time tournament record for consecutive men’s singles titles came when Richard Sears won the first seven U.S. titles, but Sears only had to win one match – the challenge round – to win the last six of his titles.
Roger’s reign in Flushing began in 2004, highlighted by an incredible five-set win over Andre Agassi in the quarterfinals and a decisive “double bagel” over Lleyton Hewitt in the final. Swiss journalist and author Rene Stauffer summarizes Roger’s first US Open title in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFederer Book.com), excerpted below.
Federer had little trouble advancing into the quarterfinals, where he faced Agassi, now age 34. After a European summer highlighted by physical problems and unexpected defeats, Agassi found his groove on the American hard courts, defeating both Roddick and Hewitt to win the title in Cincinnati—his first title in over a year. Agassi’s confidence was high.
In one of the US Open’s celebrated night matches, Federer and Agassi battled on Wednesday evening, September 8, and Federer immediately found his rhythm. He was leading 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 when it began raining and play was postponed. The match resumed the following afternoon and the players were greeted with gale force winds—as part of the weather front that swept through New York as a leftover from Hurricane Frances that battered Florida earlier in the week. Federer described the wind swirls as being the worst conditions that he ever played under. “Just five years ago I would have gone nuts playing in such a wind,” he said.
The wind forced Federer to change tactics. He no longer tried to go for winners and display his usual aggressive style, but concentrated on getting the ball and his serves over the net and simply into play—which in the windy conditions was itself a challenge. “I played just like at practice and that was the right recipe,” he said. A 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win over Agassi put him into the semifinals of the US Open for the first time, where he would face an old acquaintance, Tim Henman. The 30-year-old Brit won six of his eight career matches with his Swiss rival, but Federer was a different player than many of the previous matches, with more self-confidence and stamina. As in March in Indian Wells, Federer encountered little resistance with Henman, winning 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 to advance into the championship match at the US Open for the first time.
Awaiting him in the final was another of his past nemeses, Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champion. The Australian skipped the Olympic Games, but won the two ATP tournaments played concurrently to the Olympics in Washington, D.C. and in Long Island. Entering his match with Federer, he won his last 16 matches and did not surrender a set in his six-match run to the final.
It only took 17 minutes for Federer to hand Hewitt his first lost set of the tournament, losing only five points in a near perfect execution of tennis. When Hewitt won his first game of the match after Federer led 6-0, 2-0, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation. Federer continued to be the much stronger player, until a lapse of concentration and a run of errors and missed serves allowed Hewitt to win four straight games after trailing 2-5 in the second set.
“If he had managed to win the second set, it would have turned out to be an entirely different match,” Federer said. “I forced myself to keep positive. I said to myself that I only got this break because I was playing against the wind and I was serving with old balls. When I changed sides, everything actually did go easier.”
Federer held serve at 5-6 to force the tiebreak and won that 7-3. The two-set lead broke Hewitt’s resistance and Federer plowed through the final set 6-0 to win his first US Open championship.
“First I was surprised that Lleyton was no longer getting to the ball,” Federer said of his moment of victory. “Then I was suddenly lying on my back, looking into the sky at the lights of the stadium. I thought, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ Once again I was close to tears.”
Roger Federer’s victory at the 2004 US Open provided new content for the record books of tennis. Statisticians and historians of the game quickly discovered that he was only the second man in the “Open Era” of professional tennis (since 1968) to win a Grand Slam final with two 6-0 sets. The other was the Argentinean Guillermo Vilas, who dominated American Brian Gottfried 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 at Roland Garros in 1977. The last time a player won a final at the U.S. Championships with two 6-0 sets came back in 1884 in only the fourth edition of the U.S. national championship and in the days of tennis infancy.
In the United States, 6-0 sets are referred to as “bagels” with a “double bagel” being considered the bitterest variety when a match is lost 6-0, 6-0. In German-speaking countries, these whitewashes are called a “bicycle.” Although, Lleyton Hewitt was able to force a second-set tie-break against Federer in the US Open final, he was not spared the shame of the “double bagel” or “the bicycle.” The Australian Associated Press (AAP) exaggerated that Hewitt’s loss was “the greatest humiliation in the history of Grand Slam finals.” One reporter in the post-match press conference even had the audacity to ask Hewitt if it was difficult to swallow a “double bagel.”
More importantly in historical significance was that Federer, with his victories at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, became only the fourth man in the Open Era of tennis to win at least three of the four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year. Mats Wilander from Sweden was the last man to manage such a feat in 1988, as did Rod Laver, who won all four Grand Slams in 1969, and Jimmy Connors, who won the Australian, Wimbledon and the US Open in 1974. Don Budge was the first player to win all four major titles in the same year—the Grand Slam—in 1938. The term “Grand Slam” was first coined when American tennis writer Allison Danzig suggested in 1938 that Budge scored a Grand Slam of victories—like a winning bridge player—at the four most prestigious championships of the year.
Laver, a left-hander given the nickname the “Rockhampton Rocket,” even managed to win the Grand Slam twice—once in 1962 as an amateur and again in 1969 as a professional. In Laver’s time, however, this accomplishment had a different value and was less significant than today as three of the four Grand Slam events were played on grass courts, unlike the four different surfaces of today’s game.
In women’s tennis, three players have won the Grand Slam—the American Maureen Connolly (1953), the Australian Margaret Smith Court (1970), as well as Steffi Graf (1988). The German, who married Andre Agassi after her tennis career, also won at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988 giving her the distinction of winning what is called the “Golden Slam.” Martina Hingis, like Federer, won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in 1997, narrowly missing the Grand Slam, with her surprising loss to Iva Majoli in the French final preventing her from joining this elite club.
In New York, Federer once again proved his ability to amplify his performance in the final stages of the tournament. He became the first professional player to win all of his first four Grand Slam tournament finals. It was almost equally amazing that in this feat, he lost only one set in his eight matches in the semifinals and finals. In the meantime, Federer’s US Open final marked the 11th straight victory in a tournament final. For Federer, a tournament final proved to be his greatest motivation. His attitude was simple—what’s the use of all the effort and match victories if you ultimately lose in the final? Winners stay, losers go.
The coup at Flushing Meadows transformed him into a sports star on Broadway. The American media celebrated him lavishly and some journalists even asked the question at such a pre-mature stage if he would be the man who would break Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles.
Federer remained grounded and modest in the hour of his greatest achievement in the United States. “I honestly never expected to win the US Open,” he said. “Until a year ago, I always had problems in the United States. The Americans always play with more confidence in their home tournaments than anywhere else. Conditions are difficult with the high heat and humidity.”
But he admitted something else; “I had a strange feeling before the final because everybody was talking about how long it had been since anybody had won his first four Grand Slam finals. I knew that I only had this one chance to do this.” Some were already talking that Federer was in a position to achieve the Grand Slam, but he didn’t allow these musings of grandeur to mislead him. “I would be really happy if I were to win one of the four Grand Slams next year,” he said the day after his US Open triumph during an extended interview session with a select group of journalists. “I know that I have to work hard for each match and for each title. It’s crazy what’s happening to me now. It’s out of this world.”
Federer’s US Open title generously extended his points lead on the No. 1 ranking. His margin between him at No. 1 and Roddick, his next challenger at No. 2, was extended from 1390 points to 2990 points—the equivalent of three Grand Slam titles. It would be impossible for any player to overtake him before the end of the year, even if Federer lost every match for the rest of the year. In the last four years, the year-end Tennis Masters Cup was the final determining tournament to decide the year-end No. 1 player. However, 2004 was not a normal year and thanks to the US Open, the year-end No. 1 was already in the books.
The Monday after the US Open brought Federer to the realization that the clocks tick differently in the American media world. He was chauffeured in a stretch limousine from one television station to another—7:45 am at ESPN’s show “Cold Pizza,” then at 8:30 am to the “CBS Early Show” and then at 9:30 am at “Live with Regis and Kelly,” followed by a photo shoot in Times Square, and a meeting with a select group of print journalists at the Hard Rock Café. At 2:30 pm, he was a guest on John McEnroe’s television talk show, and finally he appeared on the “Charlie Rose Show.” He had to prove his dexterity at ping-pong at two of his television appearances. Many things are possible in the United States, but setting up a tennis court in a television studio is not one of them.
Ten years ago this week, Patrick Rafter was on top of the world. On July 26, 1999 the Aussie hunk and two-time U.S. Open champion reached the career pinnacle by earning the No. 1 ranking on the ATP computer. Rafter’s reign, however, last only one week and he never again attained the top spot in the computer rankings, marking the shortest ever reign as a world’s top ranked player. The following text describes Rafter’s No. 1 ascent and other events that happened in tennis history this week as excerpted from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTOR Y ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).
1999 – Patrick Rafter of Australia begins his one – and only – week as the world’s No. 1 ranked player, replacing Andre Agassi in the top spot on the ATP computer. Rafter’s curious one-week reign as the No. 1 ranked player is the briefest stint in the top spot of any man or woman. Carlos Moya of Spain ranks No. 1 for only two weeks in March of 1999, while Evonne Goolagong ranks as the No. 1 woman on the WTA Tour for a two-week period in April of 1976 (although not uncovered and announced by the WTA Tour until December of 2007).
1987 – The United States is relegated to zonal competition for the first time in Davis Cup history as Boris Becker defeats Tim Mayotte 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-2 in the fifth and decisive match as West Germany defeats the United States 3-2 in the Davis Cup qualifying round in Hartford, Conn. The Becker-Mayotte match is called by John Feinstein of the Washington Post as, “the match of their lives,” as Mayotte, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., a 25 miles from the Hartford Civic Center, plays inspired tennis in front of furiously vocal crowd. Says Becker after the epic match, “It was the most difficult match of my life. The circumstances made it hard, the crowd cheering every time I missed a serve made it hard and him playing for two sets like I have never seen him play in his life, it was all very tough. I just had to stay calm — stay calm, be patient and not go mad. If I go mad, I lose the match.” Writes Feinstein, “For Mayotte, this was sweet agony. He miraculously came from two sets down to force a fifth set. He was playing in an emotional daze, carried by the fans, by his teammates, by the circumstances.”
1969 – Nancy Richey is upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Clay Court Championships by Gail Sherriff Chanfreau, 6-3, 6-4 – ending her tournament record winning streak at 33 straight matches over seven years. Chanfreau goes on to win the title, beating Linda Tuero, 6-2, 6-2 in the final.
1986 – Martina Navratilova returns to her native Czechoslovakia and her hometown of Prague in triumph as a member of the U.S. Federation Cup team, clinching the U.S. 3-0 final-round victory over the Czechs with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Hana Mandlikova. “We all did it for Martina,” says Chris Evert Lloyd, whose 7-5, 7-6 victory over Helena Sukova began the U.S. sweep of Czechoslovakia in the final series. “We dedicate this Federation Cup to her.” Says Navratilova of the crowd support she received all week that results in a tearful closing ceremony for the Wimbledon champion and her U.S. teammates. “I wanted to tell them how special it was for me to be here. It exceeded my wildest expectations.”
1946 – In the final of the first French Championship since the conclusion of World War II, Frenchmen Marcel Bernard dramatically defeats fellow left-hander Jaroslav Drobny of Czechoslovakia 3-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in the men’s singles final. The French have to wait another 37 years before they celebrate another native men’s singles champion when Yannick Noah wins the men’s singles title in 1983. It will be another 59 years before another all left-handed men’s singles final is played at Roland Garros when Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta in the 2005 final. In the women’s singles final, Margaret Osbourne defeats fellow American Pauline Betz 1-6, 8-6, 7-5.
1991 – Andrei Chesnokov wins the Canadian Open in Montreal, defeating Petr Korda 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final and promises a high-spirited celebration. Says Chesnokov, “I’m going to New York, I’m going to go to Tower Records, have dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and, of course, I’m going to get drunk.”
1990 – Michael Chang defeats Jay Berger 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the final of the Canadian Open men’s singles final in Toronto. The 24th-ranked Chang’s $155,000 winner’s check puts him in the million-dollar club for career prize money. “It feels good,” says the 18-year-old Chang of his financial achievement. “I think my first priority as far as tennis is concerned is not making money. My priority is to be the best in the world – the best I can be.”
1974 – Jimmy Connors becomes the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the first time in his career at the age of 21, replacing John Newcombe.
2001 – Andre Agassi defeats Pete Sampras 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the Mercedes Benz Cup in Los Angeles, Agassi’s 17th consecutive match victory on hard courts. Identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan of Camarillo, Calif., win their third ATP doubles title in six weeks, defeating Jan-Michael Gambill and Andy Roddick 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).
1928 – France successfully defends its Davis Cup title against the United States as Henri Cochet defeats Bill Tilden 9-7, 8-6, 6-4 clinching the 4-1 victory for France at newly-dedicated Stade Roland Garros in Paris, which is constructed to host the Davis Cup matches. Writes P.J. Philip of the New York Times, “On the central court of the Roland Garros Stadium at Auteuil, that Napoleon of tennis, Big Bill Tilden, met his Waterloo today. In three straight sets, Henri Cochet swept him off the field, holding the Davis Cup for France and writing finis to the world championship career of the most brilliant tennis player of the past decade. It was Waterloo alright.” Tilden’s career was not entirely finished following the loss. He was kicked off the Davis Cup team prior to this famous series for his “professional” writing from tennis events, which U.S. Lawn Tennis Association officials said violated his amateur status. However, due to the huge demand to see Tilden play against the four French “Musketeers” at the newly-constructed Roland Garros Stadium, the French government and French Tennis Federation pressured the USLTA to re-instate Tilden to the team to appease the ticket-buying public. Tilden is, instead, suspended from the U.S. Championships later in the summer, but continues to play high-level amateur tennis through 1930.
1996 – Andre Agassi stages a stunning comeback to advance into the medal round at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, coming back from a 3-5 third-set deficit to defeat Wayne Ferreira of South Africa 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinal of men’s singles. Ferreira is upset with Agassi’s behavior and profane language that results in Agassi receiving a point penalty in the first game of the second set. Says Ferreira, “I honestly believe he should be kicked off the court for the things he was saying. They were pretty rude and actually the worst I’ve ever heard anybody say. I’m surprised the umpires took it so lightly. If I was sitting in the chair, I probably would have done something different.” Retorts Agassi, “It was about the only way he was going to beat me.” Also advancing into the medal round in men’s singles are Leander Paes of India, who defeats Renzo Furlan of Italy 6-1, 7-5, Sergi Bruguera of Spain, who defeats Mal Washington of the United States 7-6 (8), 4-6, 7-5 and Fernando Meligeni of Brazil, who defeats Russia’s Andrei Olhovskiy 7-5, 6-3
1932 – In what Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins calls “The Great Cup Robbery,” France defeats the United States in the Davis Cup Challenge Round for the fifth time in six years as Jean Borotra clinches the Davis Cup for France, erasing a two-sets-to-love deficit, a 3-5 fifth-set deficit and four match points to defeat Wilmer Allison 1-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5. Allison holds three match points while leading 5-3 in the fifth set – 40-15 and then with an advantage – but has his serve broken. In the next game, Allison holds another match point on Borotra’s serve. After missing his first serve, Borotra hits a second serve that by all accounts is out – but not called by the linesman. Allison, who did not make a play on the serve, runs to the net to shake hands with Borotra, but stands in disbelief at the non-call. Allison wins only one point in the remainder of the match to lose 7-5 in the fifth set, giving France it’s third point of the series, clinching the Cup.
2005 – Andre Agassi wins his 60th and what ultimately becomes his final ATP singles title, defeating 22-year-old Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 7-5 in 1 hour, 28 minutes to win the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles. The title is also the fourth tournament victory at the Los Angeles event for Agassi, who also wins on the campus at UCLA in 1998, 2001 and 2002. “It’s been a dream week for me for sure,” says the 35-year-old Agassi. “I couldn’t have expected to come in here and find my comfort level so early on in the tournament and get better with each match. It’s a great sign.”
Stephen Holland, the best-selling sports artist in the world today, has created a new Roger Federer painting. The Roger Federer piece (pictured here) retails for $4,750 and is signed by Roger himself (the signature is guaranteed). If you are interested in this painting, contact us by clicking here. The price is a national price, so if you were to call around to other galleries that offer Stephen Holland artwork, this would be the price you would hear them quote. The artist is sanctioned by all the major sports leagues. This is the only fine art edition signed by Roger himself.
In his book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($34.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com), Hall of Fame tennis journalist and personality profiles the player that many call the greatest player of all time. Writes Collins, “As Lord of the Swings, Roger Federer took over No. 1 in 2004, from Andy Roddick, and, in 2008, is entering his fifth season on that pinnacle. Performing in a smooth, seemingly effortless, style, a right-hander using one-handed backhand, he occupies No. 1 with rare grace and competitive verve, always in the right place to deliver the right shot from his peerless all-court arsenal of angles, spins, volleys, pinpoint serves. Is there a weakness, a flaw? Doubtful. Perhaps only one man has found it: that would be No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain, whose high-rolling topspin and speed afoot has stymied Federer on Parisian clay three straight years – semifinals in 2005, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3; finals in 2006, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), and finals in 2007, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Other than his obsession, the French Open, Roger has been mistreating his colleagues regularly at the major occasions. While he has starved his Grand Slam hunger in Paris, the rest of the route has been his more than anybody before him: three major triples (Australian, Wimbledon, U.S.), 2004, 06, 07. Merely eight men in history have tripled: Rod Laver (AUS) twice with Grand Slams in 1962 and 1969; Don Budge (USA) with the original Grand Slam, 1938; Jack Crawford (AUS), 1933; Fred Perry (GBR), 1934, Tony Trabert (USA), 1955; Lew Hoad (AUS), 1956; Ashley Cooper (AUS), 1958; Roy Emerson (AUS), 1964; Mats Wilander (SWE), 1988. But nobody but Roger thrice. After a 2005 French semifinal loss to Nadal, he made it to 10 successive major finals, winning eight. Colossal. Big Bill Tilden (USA) reached 11 straight major finals, winning eight between 1918 and 1927, but there were gaps in his appearances. Federer’s triple triples amount to nine of his 12 singles majors as of May of 2008, two behind record holder, Pete Sampras, who concedes that his mark is very much in danger.”
In the Tuesday, March 24 edition of “Tennis History Tuesday” we note a significant day in tennis history for Jim Courier. As excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com), today marks the 18th anniversary of Courier winning the biggest title of his young career back in 1991 at then branded Lipton Championships (now the Sony Ericssson Open). Nine-years later in 2000, Courier wins his final match on the ATP, taking out 18-year-old David Nalbandian in the first round of the then-branded Ericsson Open (also the current day Sony Ericsson Open.) The full book excerpt is below.
1991 – No. 18-ranked Jim Courier wins the biggest title of his career to date, defeating David Wheaton 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla. “I feel like I can compete with anybody out there,” says Courier following the win, which vaults him into the top 10 for the first time in his career at No. 9.
2000 – Jim Courier wins what eventually becomes his final match on the ATP Tour, defeating 18-year-old David Nalbandian of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the first round of the Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Fla. “This is the golden twilight for a certain period of American tennis, but hopefully the dawning of a new era,” says the 29-year-old Courier following the win over Nalbandian, playing his first ATP Tour level match. “What are you going to do? I’ve been on the tour and this is my 13th year. Pete [Sampras] and [Michael] Chang the same. And Andre [Agassi] has been around even longer. People can’t expect us to be around forever. Hopefully we’ll be around competitively a few more years, but it’s the enjoy-it-while-you-can time of our careers. You start to get limited physically once you get into your 30s.” The next day, Courier plays what is his final professional singles match, losing to world No. 7-ranked Thomas Enqvist of Sweden 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-4.
1927 – In a match described by The New York Times as “spectacular and bitterly contested,” George Lott, the No. 9 ranked American, upsets U.S. No. 1 Bill Tilden 6-3, 0-6, 7-5, 6-3 to win the Halifax Tennis Championships in Ormand Beach, Fla. Writes the Times, “Lott stuck stubbornly to his method of going after every return. Long rallies were frequent with Lott winning better than his share. Many of the game went to deuce. The large gallery was on the side of the 20-year-old ninth ranking player.”
1990 – Sixteen-year-old Monica Seles wins the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., – her second career singles title – defeating Judith Wiesner of Austria 6-1, 6-2 in the final.
1998 – Seventeen-year-old Martina Hingis saves two match points and comes back from a 3-5, 15-40 third-set deficit to defeat 16-year-old Serena Williams 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (4) in the quarterfinals of the Lipton Championships.
2005 – In a battle of the shortest and tallest players on the ATP Tour, five-foot-four inch Olivier Rochus of Belgium defeats six-foot-ten Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the NASDAQ-100 Open in Key Biscayne, Fla.
2006 – American Meghann Shaughnessy, who loses her first five matches of 2006, breaks out of her funk at the NASDAQ-100 in Miami, upsetting No. 3 seed Justine Henin-Hardenne 7-5, 6-4 in the second-round. “This one is very special because I’ve been struggling lately and haven’t been playing my best tennis,” says Shaughnessy, who doesn’t face a break point in the match. “So to go out and play a match like that against Justine, it means a lot to me.”
Today, February 10, is a hallmark day in American tennis as it marks the birthday of one of the country’s greatest champions – “Big” Bill Tilden – who was born 116 years ago today. Today also marks the anniversary of Jim Courier taking over the No. 1 world ranking on the ATP computer back in 1992. Courier became the first American man to rank No. 1 since John McEnroe in 1985 and ushered in an era of American dominance in the top spot with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi also holding down the ranking in subsequent years. Courier, McEnroe and Sampras are still on the courts competing and will be action later this week at the Outback Champions Series this weekend in Boston. The following is the excerpt from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, www.tennishistorybook.com) that outlines all that happened on this day, February 10, in tennis history.
1893 – Six-foot-two “Big” Bill Tilden, regarded as one of the greatest players to ever pick up a tennis racquet, is born in Philadelphia, Pa. Tilden dominates the tennis world in the 1920s winning 20 major titles – 10 in singles including three Wimbledon titles and seven U.S. singles titles. Tilden anchors the winning U.S. Davis Cup teams from 1920 to 1926. Writes Bud Collins in The Bud Collins History of Tennis of Tilden, “If a player’s value is measured by the dominance and influence he exercises over a sport, then William Tatem “Big Bill” Tilden II could be considered the greatest player in the history of tennis.”
1992 – Jim Courier becomes the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the first time in his career, unseating Stefan Edberg from the top ranking and becoming the first American to hold the position since John McEnroe last holds the ranking on Sept. 8, 1985. Courier holds the ranking for a total of 58 weeks during his career.
2008 – Jill Craybas of the United States nearly pulls off one of the greatest final-round comebacks in the history of the WTA Tour at the Pattaya Open in Thailand. The thirty-three-year-old Craybas, the 1996 NCAA singles champion for the University of Florida, fights back from a 1-5 third-set deficit against Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska to win five game in a row, then holds match point at 6-5 in the third set, before losing the final by a 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (4) margin. “She came back and was fighting to the last point, I could have finished the match twice, but I didn’t,” says the eighteen-year-old Radwanska, who upset defending champion Maria Sharapova at the U.S. Open five months earlier. “I was nervous and everything put me off. It was a very strange match, but the most important thing is I won the match.”
2001 – Justin Gimelstob earns a dubious Davis Cup distinction when he and Jan-Michael Gambill are defeated by Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Lorenzo Manta 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 as the United States goes down 2-1 to the Swiss after the second day of play in the Davis Cup first round in Basel, Switzerland. The loss, which ultimately becomes his Davis Cup finale, drops Gimelstob’s Davis Cup record to 0-3, tying him with Robert Wrenn and Melville Long for the worst-ever record for a U.S. Davis Cup player. Wrenn loses two singles and a doubles match in the 1903 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Britain for his 0-3 record, while Long turns the same trick in the 1909 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Australasia. Gimelstob also loses in doubles with Todd Martin in the 1998 Davis Cup semifinal against Italy and, also in that tie, loses a dead-rubber singles match to Gianluca Pozzi.
Today, January 6, 2009, provides us with another edition of “Tennis History Tuesday” where TennisGrandstand.com gives readers another exclusive excerpt from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY. (New Chapter Press, $19.95, www.tennishistorybook.com). With the ATP Tour in Doha and Chennai this week, it is interesting to remember Ivan Ljubicic winning “the golden falcon” and Rafael Nadal losing in not-so-memorable fashion.
1992 – Twenty-year-old Stefano Pescosolido of Italy is defaulted from his final round qualifying match at the New South Wales Open in Sydney, Australia, when, after being aced by his opponent, Johan Anderson of Australia, he slams his racquet to the ground in disgust and drop kicks the racquet into the stands, striking a 22-year-old woman in the face. The woman is taken to the hospital where she receives stitches over her right eye. Pescosolido is also fined $1,500.
2007 – Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia wins “the golden falcon” – the championship trophy of the Doha Open in Qatar – when he defeats Andy Murray of Scotland 6-4, 6-4 in the men’s singles final for his seventh career ATP tournament title Says Ljubicic, “This trophy is one of the most beautiful we have in tennis – the golden falcon. I wanted it so bad. Andy was a very good opponent. He fought hard and didn’t miss many balls, but I was patient. I knew I had to be aggressive but not too aggressive. Against someone like Andy you need to find the perfect balance, because if you go to the net too much, he will pass you. And if you stay at the baseline, he’s too solid. So the combination was the key today.”
2008 – World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has nothing left in the tank in a 57-minute, 6-0, 6-1 loss to Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the final of the Chennai Open in India. The previous night, Nadal defeats fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya 6-7 (3), 7-6 (8), 7-6 (1) in 3 hours, 54 minutes – saving four match points in the second-set tie-break – in the longest three-set match on the ATP Tour in 15 years.”Rafa was not Rafa,” says Youzhny of Nadal winning only one game against him in the final. “I did not win today, it was Rafa who lost. I did not expect it to be so easy. I was lucky as he just couldn’t move and couldn’t play.” Says a classy Nadal, “Maybe I was a bit tired after the long semifinal, but I lost the final because Mikhail played very well.”
2007 – Dinara Safina of Russia, the younger sister of U.S. and Australian Open champion Marat Safin, wins her fifth career WTA title, defeating Martina Hingis 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the final of the Australian women’s hard court championships on the Gold Coast. Says Hingis of Safina, “Today she was just too good and everyone should watch her because she’s gonna be maybe even better than her brother. Marat is such a genius. He can play unbelievable tennis. She (Safina) definitely doesn’t have as much touch but she has more will and desire.”
2008 – In the final edition of the Australian Hardcourt Championships at the famed Memorial Drive tennis courts in Adelaide, Australia, Michael Llodra of France defeats Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 6-3, 6-4 to win his second career ATP singles title. Llodra was the last directly accepted player into the 32-player field and only received entry into the event when countryman Richard Gasquet pulls out of the tournament due to a knee injury. Memorial Drive had hosted the highest-level of professional tennis since 1922 when Wimbledon champion Gerald Patterson first won at the site in 1922 at the South Australian Championships. In 2007, Tennis Australia announces it is moving the event to Brisbane.
1992 – John McEnroe is selected to the U.S. Davis Cup team for a record 12th time as he, Rick Leach, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are named to the U.S. team that will face Argentina in the first round in Hawaii. McEnroe is previously tied for the U.S. lead of team selections with Bill Tilden and Stan Smith.
2007 – Jelena Jankovic of Serbia wins the first WTA Tour singles title of the 2007 season, defeating Russia’s Vera Zvonareva 7-6 (11-9), 5-7, 6-3 in the final of the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand.
1936 – Hall of Famer member Darlene Hard, winner of 21 major titles including the French in 1960 and the U.S. Championships in 1960 and 1961, is born in Los Angeles. Hard, also a two-time Wimbledon finalist, was a member of victorious U.S. Fed Cup team in the inaugural year of the competition in 1963, teaming with Billie Jean King and Carole Graebner.