TENAFLY, N.J. — PlaySight Interactive today announced the launch of a new “SmartCourt Live” system that provides unlimited smart live streaming and recording of practice and match video on any tennis court. The program features unique features such as:
• HD quality video with embedded audio
• Unlimited viewers no need to buy data packages
• Store and watch recorded practice and matches
• Online live stream has a three hour DVR capability for the viewers to be able to go back in time
• Changeable and automatic adjustable resolutions to fit the viewer’s bandwidth
• Online control room to turn the streaming on and off anytime, anywhere
• Video player can be embedded easily on a website
• Embedded scoreboard on the live streaming video for live scoring
• Indoor and outdoor compatible
The “SmartCourt Live” offering is also applicable to other sports and has recently been implemented for squash and basketball.
PlaySight is also in the midst of a rapid expansion, installing “SmartCourts” at tennis clubs, tennis academies and private tennis courts around the world. The technology is currently being used in such facilities as Roland Garros in Paris, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in California, the Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago, the Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) in College Park, Maryland, the Bonita Bay club in Naples, Florida, and the Bay Club in San Francisco, Calif., among others. College tennis programs currently using PlaySight technology include the University of Georgia, Harvard, Princeton, Cal-Berkeley and Virginia Tech among others.
PlaySight’s SmartCourt technology is rapidly changing the way tennis is enjoyed and coached. The affordable and proprietary technology provides players with professional real time (and post session) match statistics, analytics, line-calling and video. The system uses six HD cameras and automatically classifies and tags all the events that take place during a session without the need for court-side operators or wearable sensors. Players can watch selected events (e.g. every backhand down the line that went long), with no need to watch the whole video or manually tag it. PlaySight is also able to record 3D tactical game management information including the height of balls over the net, speed of every shot and the depth of balls hit within the court. The SmartCourt is easily operated by players through a courtside kiosk and all video and data can be shared within seconds with coaches, friends and family at remote locations. Players can also track distance covered and calories burned during a match or practice session. Each player’s activity and motion during the entire match/training are automatically recorded, analyzed and uploaded into PlaySight.com – a social network for players/athletes where they can review their performance and share it with their coaches, friends and family. To watch a video that further explains how PlaySight works, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrp9X3K82Ek
World No. 1 and reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic heads a list of impressive group of investors in the technology, also including tennis legend Billie Jean King, renowned performance coach Dr. James Loehr, Pershing Capital Management LLC Founder Bill Ackman, Entrepreneur and Washington Kastles owner Mark Ein, Former ProServ Founder Ray Benton, CourtSense owner Gordon Uehling, III and former Wall Street executive James Kern. For more information on PlaySight, go to www.PlaySight.com
NEW YORK – “On This Day In Tennis History,” the book and mobile app that documents daily anniversaries of historic and unusual events in tennis history, is now available as an electronic Kindle download. The new electronic version – and the mobile app – have been updated with recent tennis happenings into 2014.
The Kindle edition of the compilation is available for $7.99 here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/This-Tennis-History-Day-Day-ebook/dp/B00JQDZ43U/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1402513835 The mobile app is available for $1.99 in both Apple’s AppStore and the Google Play Store at www.TennisHistoryApp.com.
“On This Day In Tennis History” provides fans with a fun and fact-filled calendar-like compilation of historical and unique tennis anniversaries, events and tennis happenings for every day of the year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries in this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, birthdays and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings.
The mobile app is easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details featuring captivating and unique stories of players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras among many others.
Features of the “This Day In Tennis History” app include:
• Easily browse daily anecdotes and facts
• View birthdays for top legends and current players
• Tweet and email options makes sharing a breeze
• Set up daily reminders
• Quickly search the archive by player
• Save your favorite entries
• No internet connection needed
• Entries will be updated periodically
“On This Day In Tennis History” was created by Randy Walker, the former USTA press officer now the managing partner of New Chapter Media (www.NewChapterMedia.com) and developed and designed by Miki Singh, the former ATP Tour press officer and the founder of www.FirstServeApps.com. Most of the content in the app was originally published in Walker’s hard copy book “On This Day In Tennis History” ($19.95, available here on Amazon.com http://m1e.net/c?96279190-.PAh92abybkPc%4018743019-Kel6bOgMLp6Qc published by New Chapter Press.
Said Tennis Hall of Famer and current U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier of the book, “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important—and unusual—moments in the annals of tennis.” Tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of the book “Jimmy Connors Saved My Life,” called the book compilation “an addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way—dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients.”
The app can be found by searching “Tennis History” in the iTunes App Store and Play Store or directly at these two links:
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “Andy Murray, Wimbledon Champion, The Full Extraordinary Story“ by Mark Hodgkinson, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” by Rick Macci with Jim Martz, “Court Confidential: Inside The World Of Tennis” by Neil Harman, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com), “Internet Dating 101: It’s Complicated, But It Doesn’t Have To Be” by Laura Schreffler, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” by Carl Sautter, “Bone Appetit: Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Suzan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin among others.
PlaySight Interactive, an innovative sports technology Company and creators of an affordable, tennis analytic system (the ‘SmartCourt’), today announced the completion of a $3.5 million investment round from high-profile private investors including Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King, Bill Ackman, Mark Ein, Dr. Jim Loehr and others. The new capital will fund a global roll-out of PlaySight’s SmartCourt technology for recreational and elite tennis, as well as research and development on applications in other popular sports beyond tennis. A video explaining the technology can be seen here http://youtu.be/hrp9X3K82Ek
“We are very proud to have such a powerful group of investors who share our vision of bringing elite player technology to the grassroots and club level,” said Chen Shachar, PlaySight CEO. “When we developed this technology we saw an opportunity to create an affordable, easy-to-install, cloud-based system for athletes of all levels to improve their game. In the same way that wearable tech devices and micro-cameras are transforming running and extreme sports, we are certain that SmartCourts will make tennis more engaging and fun. PlaySight combines advanced player analytics technology (PAT) with video-replay and social media to deliver an exceptional experience to the world’s 100 million tennis players. It will change the way we play ball-sports forever.”
“PlaySight has the potential to revolutionize the game of tennis as well as other sports through bringing the same sophisticated analytics available at the highest levels sports at a price point that makes it accessible to clubs and players of all levels around the globe,” said Mark Ein, CEO of growth investment holding company Venturehouse Group. “Through this ‘video-gamification’ of sports, PlaySight will make the game more fun and appealing to new and casual players while providing an incredibly valuable training tool for the more frequent player.”
The investor group announced today includes:
Bill Ackman: Founder of Pershing Capital Management LLC
Novak Djokovic: Six-time Grand Slam champion including US Open, Wimbledon, and Australian Open four times. Held world #1 ranking for 101 weeks and is currently #2
Billie Jean King: Presidential Medal of Freedom Winner, International Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee and winner of 39 Grand Slam titles
Mark Ein: Founder/early investor in five companies that have reached billion dollar valuations; founder/owner of the four-time WTT defending champion Washington Kastles and Board member the International Tennis Hall of Fame;
Dr. James Loehr: Co-founder of the Human Performance Institute and performance coach to Jim Courier and Monica Seles
Ray Benton: Former PROSERV president and current CEO of the Tennis Center at College Park (Md.)
Gordon A. Uehling III: Former ATP ranked tennis player, coach and founder of CourtSense – the first “SmartClub” in the world which all his courts are equipped with “SmartCourts”
James Kern: Veteran Wall Street Executive with over 2 decades of Capital Markets expertise. James will be joining PlaySight’s Board of Directors
Based on concepts originally designed to train fighter pilots, PlaySight‘s SmartCourt is an affordable, proprietary technology that is easily installed at tennis facilities and private courts. The SmartCourt provides players with professional real time (and post session) match statistics, analytics, line-calling and video. SmartCourt’s combined capabilities dramatically enhance the tennis-playing experience and greatly improve training and coaching efficiency.
Using five HD cameras, PlaySight’s SmartCourt automatically classifies and tags all the events that take place during a session without the need for court-side operators or wearable sensors. Players can watch selected events (e.g. every backhand down the line that went long), with no need to watch the whole video or manually tag it. PlaySight is also able to record 3D tactical game management information including the height of balls over the net, speed of every shot and the depth of balls hit within the court. The SmartCourt is easily operated by the players through a courtside kiosk and all video and data can be shared within seconds with coaches, friends and family at remote locations. Players can also track distance covered and calories burned during a match or practice session.
The Company plans to apply their affordable technology to basketball, soccer, hockey, baseball and other fields of sports with the same SmartCourt concept.
Already approved by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for use in amateur tournaments, PlaySight’s SmartCourt technology is already installed at a number of prestige venues including Roland Garros in Paris (home of the French Tennis Federation), CourtSense Tennis Training Center in New Jersey, Queens Club in London, Stefan Edberg’s academy in Sweden, Holland’s Laurense Tennis Academy (the training center for legendary coach Sven Groeneveld) and Ramat Hasharon tennis center in Israel. PlaySight has already installed a total of 35 SmartCourts globally, including 19 in the United States. The Company has recently installed its first collegiate court at The University of Georgia, and is scheduled to install a more than 100 facilities in Florida, California, New York and at other locations around the world later this year.
(June 30, 2013) Current and former WTA world No. 1s gathered together on Sunday in London to celebrate “40 Love” – the 40th anniversary of the WTA, founded by trailblazer Billie Jean King.
The WTA and its leaders have strived to bring equality, recognition and respect to the tour over the years. The organization is now the global leader in women’s professional sport, and proudly counts many pioneering accomplishments, including the successful campaign for equal prize money.
Seventeen of the 21 WTA No. 1s were in attendance, including three of the original nine, displaying elegance and beauty. Can you name each one in the photo below?
Emcees Pam Shriver and Mary Carillo introduced each of the No. 1s in style, referencing the “sassy sour” Maria Sharapova to the ever elegant Monica Seles. Each lady then had the chance with the mic, and afterward, it was time to mingle and celebrate.
The “pink” carpet arrivals were no less stunning.
Teenagers Eugenie Bouchard and Madison Keys were also invited guests, with the WTA calling them “potential future world No. 1s.” Quite an honor.
Watch all the pink carpet interviews with the World No.1s, gala speeches from the legends and much more with a full replay of all the Sunday celebrations. (Begins around the 24 minute mark.)
By Maud Watson
Beating a Dead Horse
Rafael Nadal made headlines this week, and quite frankly, the reasons behind the headlines are getting old. First he announced that he isn’t setting a return date, which had already been established. Until it seriously looks likely he’ll miss the Australian Open, it’s a topic that doesn’t need attention until 2013. The second reason was for Nadal’s incessant complaining about the number of hard court tournaments on the calendar. Nobody denies that hard courts are more taxing on the body, but he seems to be the only player with a major gripe about the surface. If anything, Nadal’s remarks came across as self-serving. A number of players call the hard courts their best and favorite surface, and many of those past and present players have enjoyed fruitful careers with few to no injuries. Furthermore, the Spaniard didn’t seem to complain about the general slowing of the surfaces, which has allowed for more extended rallies, which in turn has arguably contributed to his physical woes. But most disappointing of all is Nadal’s blindness, or perhaps unwillingness, to recognize his own role in contributing to his physical breakdown. Yes, a genetic problem has been partially to blame, but pundits have said for years that his grinding style would catch up with him. Now it appears it may be time to pay the piper. If that now means adjusting his schedule to pick up a few more clay court events – something he sounds almost bitter about – then so be it. We all want to see a healthy Nadal competing at the highest level year round, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of tailoring the calendar to suit one player’s needs.
Off the Mark
Coming on the heels of the 39th anniversary of the famous “Battle of the Sexes,” Billie Jean King was asked about the topic of equal prize money, which became a hot-button issue in 2012. “The guys can’t stand it,” she said in reference to the subject. She cited how dominant groups have historically struggled to share with non-dominant groups, and she expressed her disappointment in Federer’s lack of open support for equal pay to help overcome this barrier, particularly given the number of influential females in his life. She also called out players who have openly opposed equal prize money, like Simon and Tipsarevic, suggesting that they think of their possible future daughters. She stressed that, “It’s not about the money – it’s about the message.” But what exactly is the message? That the WTA players deserve the same pay as the ATP players just because they’re both professional athletes playing many of the same tournaments? There should be more to it than that. BJK may have refuted the “best-of-five vs. best-of-three” argument, but she didn’t address other points raised by opponents of equal pay – namely that the men consistently do a better job packing the stands, which in turn leads to higher ticket sales and more lucrative television deals. The ATP also doesn’t suffer from the shrieking epidemic that has turned some fans away from the game. Furthermore, until recently, the WTA has struggled to find consistency at the top, and the last couple of years, some of their biggest draws have been inconsistent performers at best, and part-time competitors at worst. Essentially, the men are currently offering a better product. What would BJK do if the shoe were on the other foot? Would she be so quick to say the men deserved equal prize money if it were the WTA offering the better deal? The WTA is moving closer to creating a comparable product, but with all due respect to BJK, until that product is established those who oppose equal prize money have a solid argument.
Current No. 1 Victoria Azarenka may have had to withdraw from Tokyo citing dizziness potentially brought on by chronic fatigue, but with her run to the quarters, she’s moved ever closer to clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking. The Belarusian presently doesn’t know for certain the source of the dizziness, but she’ll be looking to be rested and ready to go in Beijing. As if she needed added incentive, Serena Williams has announced her withdrawal from the upcoming mandatory event in China due to a bad bout of the flu. Despite a history of playing very little in the fall throughout her career, many thought the younger Williams would look to make a push this autumn in an effort to finish the year atop the rankings. If Azarenka can get herself healthy and put together a run to the final next week, however, it will be mathematically impossible for the American to overtake her young rival. It’s a big ask for Azarenka, but it’s certainly added a bit more intrigue to the conclusion of 2012.
Always on the Defense
Danish superstar Caroline Wozniacki ended her long title drought with a win last week in Korea. She absolutely thumped Kaia Kanepi with just the lost of one game in the title match. Despite the win, however, reporters instead chose to take digs at the former No. 1, suggesting that her ranking of No. 11 was a disappointment. It’s natural that questions would have been asked when she initially fell out of the top spot, but at this stage, enough is enough. Wozniacki can’t be blamed for reaching the apex of the women’s game just because she proved the most capable player of showing up week in and week out. And while 2012 has been rough on her as far as where the majors were concerned, she’s shown a willingness to try retooling her game. She’s still young enough to do that, and it’s too early to pass judgment. So for now, let her enjoy the win in Korea, the quarterfinal showing in Tokyo, and wait and see what 2013 holds before we write her off as another Jankovic or Safina.
Suddenly Jo-Willie Tsonga’s surprising loss at the US Open isn’t looking so bad. 23-year-old Martin Klizan, who knocked the Frenchman out of the year’s final major, has following up his success by claiming his first ATP title with his victory in St. Petersburg over Fabio Fognini in straight sets. Seven months ago, the Slovak was ranked 121, but with his win in Russia, he stands at a career high ranking of 33. Keep an eye on this fast-rising Slovak. He’s one spot away from being guaranteed a seed at a major, and he could cause some problems for some of the game’s best if his upset of Tsonga is any indication.
By Ashley Babich
PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — Before the Philadelphia Freedom took on the Kansas City Explorers at their home base at Villanova University, the creator of World TeamTennis, Billie Jean King, sang the praises of the organization, the fans, and the dedicated players. King cited the success of World TeamTennis to “keeping the economics under control” and finding support from the people who surround her. “I’m very fortunate with the team of people I have working with us.”
Speaking about the importance of team tennis, King highlighted the need for children’s tennis to operate from a team framework.
“For over 50 years now, my mantra has been, when they sign up for tennis, put them on a team. Get rid of the word ‘lesson.’ Kids don’t like that word. They’ll learn lessons in life from it, but they don’t need that word. Here’s what most kids do today, they play lacrosse or baseball or football; it’s a team sport usually. They practice two times a week and have a game. And what do they say about tennis? ‘Oh, I have a tennis lesson once a week.’ If a child is putting in 8 hours a week on one sport and then an hour on tennis, which sport do you think they’re going to choose after a year or two? I want them to practice two or three times a week and then I want them to have a game or a match. So they look forward to it every week. I don’t care what the skill level is, it’s fun!”
The WTT match on Monday night promoted marquee players Mike and Bob Bryan playing for the Kansas City Explorers. When asked to discuss the Bryan Brothers’ dedication to WTT, especially during an Olympic year, King had many positive things to say.
“It means a lot to us. Our format is totally built for them because they’re so great in doubles, and doubles is 60% of our scoring effort. They’re fantastic. They play their butts off.”
King also celebrated the recent Wimbledon Mixed Doubles title won by Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond: “Do I love it?! My little team tennis players? I love it.”
King ended the conference with a conversation about how special Elton John’s song “Philadelphia Freedom” is to her.
“We have the best signature song in all of sports, which no one ever writes about … He used to sit on the bench, when I played for the Philadelphia Freedoms, yelling, ‘c’mon!’ He was a maniac!”
King recalled that she was on her way to a concert with Elton John when he offered to write a song about her, and she candidly described her reaction: “I’m thinking, ‘are you kidding, yeah right, what are you smoking?’”
“He said, ‘let’s name it Philadelphia Freedom after the team,’ and I said, ‘Great! That would be a great gift to the people of Philadelphia.’”
King laughed as she described a favorite part of the song: “He told me the part [in the refrain] that goes, ‘Phi-la-delphia,’ that’s you getting ticked off at the umpires. And I said, ‘I love it!’”
The Philadelphia Freedoms went on to beat the Kansas City Explorers 20-16 in Monday night’s match, with strong playing from the other twins involved that evening, Kristyna and Karolina Pliskova, playing for the Philadelphia Freedom. “Tonight is twin night,” as King put it.
Before exiting the press room, King went over to Carmine, who was quietly stringing racquets for the team in the corner of the room, and thanked him for executing his crucial job for WTT King asked him to take a picture with her, and he happily obliged. She’s a dynamic one, that Billie Jean King.
By Maud Watson
For the first time in 14 attempts, Fernando Verdasco defeated his compatriot Rafael Nadal, handing Nadal one of his earliest defeats in a clay court tournament. Some credit has to be given to Verdasco. He played some good ball, especially in the opening set, and unlike in their previous encounters, he didn’t throw in the towel when it appeared nearly all hope was lost. But this match was mostly about Nadal, and this was one of his ugliest losses. The fact that Nadal appeared out of sorts and off his game wasn’t surprising. He was one of the most vocal critics of the change to blue clay, even before the tournament got underway, so the fact that he at times appeared unsure should not have come as a shock. He should be more self-assured next week in Rome when the familiar red dirt is under the soles of his shoes. But the fact that he blew a double break lead in the third – against a guy that he owned – is troubling, no matter what the surface. With the exception of Monte Carlo and Barcelona, he’s developed a habit of struggling to close out matches in recent memory, and this time he paid for it. As superstitious as he is, a loss like this is apt to creep into his mind down the road. The way Nadal handled himself after the match also left something be desired. It’s understandable if he wants to boycott the event next year, and he’s not the only one to suggest he’d do so, with Djokovic also hinting at such an action (though it would be nice if both guys would give organizers a chance to fix the slippery court problem). But Nadal’s arguments for boycotting lacked tact and came off as sour grapes. He’ll need a good run in Rome to feel confident for Paris, or else what he did in Monte Carlo and Barcelona will be for naught.
We’re more than well under way in Madrid, but the talk about the blue courts has hardly decreased. Players’ and fan’s reactions continue to be all over the map, with some liking it, some indifferent, and others making it well known that it doesn’t have their seal of approval. Personally, I’m loving the blue. From a spectator’s point of view, the ball is easier to see, and the blue clay hasn’t denied fans the opportunity to watch some highly competitive battles. The only general complaint – a complaint that Tiriac thankfully recognized as legit – is that the courts are too slippery. How much of this problem stems from the dye used, the structure under the clay, and the courts not yet fully settled remains to be seen, but it is a problem that organizers and tournament officials, including former No. 1 Carlos Moya, claim can be fixed and arguably should not impact Madrid being contested on blue clay in 2013. Besides, we saw some pretty nasty injuries on Monte Carlo’s main show court, proving that no clay court is perfect. In short, Madrid’s choice to go blue is not a failed experiment, and organizers should be given the opportunity to correct issues before any final court color decisions are made for the future.
Lost in all the chatter about the blue clay was the fact that Aga Radwanska has quietly moved up a spot in the rankings to the number three player in the world. And don’t be deceived by the apparently large gap between the Pole and the two rivals ahead of her. Radwanska has little to defend and much to gain in the coming weeks, which cannot be said for Azarenka or Sharapova. If she continues her run of fine form, she’ll be knocking at the door for number two, and perhaps even number one. There’s still work to be done for Aga, but in many ways, her potential continued ascendency up the rankings could be great for the women’s game. Sharapova has done well to fight back to form and up the rankings, and the improvements Azarenka has made to become a Grand Slam champion and reach No. 1 are both remarkable achievements. But it would be refreshing to have a crafty player at the top – and as an added bonus, one who’s quiet!
When last Tsonga was making tennis headlines, it was due to his comments of what he perceived to be biased officiating in his three-set loss to Nadal in the Miami quarterfinals. Many jumped on him for that, but he’s quickly turned around any damage to his reputation with the sportsmanship he exhibited in his straight-set win over Ryan Harrison this week in Madrid. In the second set tiebreak, Tsonga chased after a drop shot that the chair umpire thought he had reached in once bounce in order to the win the point. But Tsonga knew the ball had bounced twice, and despite the fact that it might have eventually led to losing the tiebreak and a third set, he admitted to the double bounce and gave the point to Harrison. Such an act, especially in a tiebreak, is a rarity, and it’s great to see this kind of sportsmanship.
Ms. King Goes to Washington
Billie Jean King continues to be a crusader, this time going to the marble halls of Washington DC in order to ask the government to assist the USTA in its efforts to reach more communities. The USTA has done good work, refurbishing over 25,000 courts in public parks and schools over the last seven years, and anything that will help grow the sport should be encouraged. How much help the government may prove to be is a complete unknown, however. After all, as the old joke goes, “If ‘pro’ is the opposite of ‘con,’ then isn’t the opposite of progress Congress?”
There have been plenty of opinions voiced lately by players, media and fans alike about how the men’s ATP tour calendar needs to change and what can be done to alleviate the tension felt between players, tournaments, and sponsors. And now we can add two more players’ thoughts to the mix: legend Pete Sampras and current Davis Cup captain Jim Courier.
The most recent verbal outpouring on the topic resurfaced at the U.S. Open where players such as Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal expressed concern over scheduling woes and even threatened to strike. There have been talks of a possible players’ union to address their issues, but will any party ever be fully happy with a deal? It’s an endless argument that has only brought minimal change in the past and on a time scale that moves very slowly. It has taken several years to finally move the ATP World Tour Finals to two weeks earlier in the calendar (starting with next year), but is that really enough to quiet the conflict?
Ideas such as decreasing the number of mandatory events for players, introducing a second off-season after Wimbledon, and players simply needing to be better managers of their own tournament scheduling have all emerged as an attempt to solve this problem. But what do past players who have fought these same battles in their time believe? I had a chance to chat with Pete Sampras and Jim Courier last Friday during the Washington, D.C. stop of the Champions Series and got their opinions on the matter.
Romana Cvitkovic: “Recently, a few players have vocalized their desire to form a players’ union. What is your take on the situation and do you think it could change the sport?”
Pete Sampras: “I don’t know if it will change the sport. I think if the players want to get things done, they all have to get in the same room, the top ten guys, they all agree upon one thing, and they walk out of that room with a definite decision, that’s the only way things will get done. Everyone is complaining about the schedule. In Davis Cup, even when I was playing and before, [the scheduling] didn’t work, we complained about it, but nothing really got done. If the top ten guys agreed upon one thing, like on the schedule of the U.S. Open with the Saturday semifinals and Sunday finals, they could change that if they wanted to. The top guys have so much power, they have all the power. It’s a name-driven sport. If Nadal, Murray, Djokovic and Federer don’t play something, or threaten to do something, it will get done, trust me. I know these promoters, they want [these players’] names [in their tournaments].”
In reference to the same question, Courier commented on how players have an influence on the development of the sport, especially with the forthcoming appointment of a new CEO for the ATP men’s tour.
Jim Courier: “I think we’re in for an interesting time period in the next few months because the players’ association, which I was a member of, changed into a union between the tournaments and the players. So ‘union’ is maybe not the right word, ‘association’ may not be the proper word here for the players to form, to have more of a unified voice, because right now they are in a joint venture with the tournaments. So they are in a 50/50 partnership as opposed to having full representation. And there’s a new CEO that is going to be announced at some stage here in the coming months, for the ATP, and [the players] can influence his mandate. Because they are the ones who are hiring him; he is working for them. But if [the players] want to make some impact, now is the time. And we’ll see. But let’s be clear, that everyone in this sport, since Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe and Stan Smith fought for Open tennis, we’ve all been overpaid, grossly overpaid, for what we do. So let’s be clear that this not a pity party, but I don’t think that player representation is necessarily a bad thing.”
Courier elaborated with an interesting transition to today’s game, the heavy physicality of the sport, and how we should preserve our players.
Jim Courier: “But there are probably some things that could create longevity for the players which would benefit everyone. I played Jimmy Connors last night and there is so much appreciation and love for Jimmy. Jimmy lasted so long on the ATP circuit. And there’s Andre [Agassi] – he lasted so long, played until he was 35. If you could extend the careers of Serena [Williams], and you could extend Roger [Federer], and you can extend Rafa [Nadal], these brand names, it would help the sport. Tennis doesn’t have the Capitals, the Redskins. Those don’t exist in tennis. You don’t have people who were born an Andre Agassi fan, and their kids will be Agassi fans and their grandkids. You don’t have that legacy; you have to build it every time with players. So, the longer you can have those players be in the sport, the healthier and the better it is for the sport. That’s really where the focus needs to be. It’s not about the immediacy of ‘we want this’ or ‘we want that because we need immediate gain.’ In my view, it’s the long view of how do we make the sport better for the players and therefore better for the fans and for everyone that surrounds the sport. And the off-season is a no-brainer, it needs to happen, but we’ve been saying that for thirty years and it hasn’t happened.”
Courier concluded by remarking on today’s players having “arguably more” respect for the game than his generation of players, particularly with the current struggles.
Jim Courier: “If you look at players on the men’s side and their sense of responsibility for the sport, I think we’re seeing [this respect] right now, with what they’ve been discussing with players getting a little more representation … When you look at Andy Roddick and these other players standing up, understanding that they’re lucky and wanting to protect the sport, and also protect themselves at the same time. I think we’re in a golden era of tennis.”
(For my USA Today piece on the Champions Series, please go here.)
First Lady Michelle Obama applauded the United States Tennis Association (USTA) for engaging millions of children in tennis, introducing tennis into thousands of elementary schools throughout the country, and building more than 2000 right-sized courts that provide a place for young people to play tennis. The USTA’s efforts were part of its partnership with both the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative to encourage more children to become active and lead healthier lifestyles. The USTA exceeded its commitment.
Mrs. Obama was in New York to participate in a USTA 10 and Under Tennis Clinic at the US Open. She was joined by several current and former tennis champions including Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, John McEnroe, James Blake, MaliVai Washington and Katrina Adams, as she thanked children from the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program for participating in her Let’s Move! initiative.
“I have been trying to get to the US Open my entire life. I am so incredibly excited to finally be at my first US Open, but I am equally excited and proud to be standing in partnership with the USTA and all they have done for hundreds of thousands of kids across this country. You are an example of what we can do when we put our minds to it,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “I am again grateful to the USTA. The courts you build, these kids sized courts, are just amazing. They will break that barrier; they will make tennis accessible to kids… I am so proud of the USTA.”
Earlier this year, the USTA partnered with the “Let’s Move!” campaign, which helps more kids to get moving, lead healthy lifestyles, and earn their own Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA). The PALA award recognizes kids who stay active for 60 minutes per day, five days a week for six out of eight weeks. Kids are encouraged to play tennis during their program hours and are reminded to stay active at home or in school. PALA’s national goal is to get one million youngsters to take this challenge. To date, the USTA is responsible for providing over 226,634 kids who have participated in and completed PALA through its National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network, Jr. Team Tennis (JTT) League, Community Tennis Associations (CTA), Schools Tennis, Tennis in the Parks, and Wheelchair Tennis programs.
By Lindsay Gibbs
The New York Sportimes will kick off their 2011 World Team Tennis season this week as they take on the Boston Lobsters on Tuesday night (in Boston) and make their home debut on Wednesday (July 6th) at Sportime Stadium on Randall’s Island in New York City at 7:00 PM. Martina Hingis, the former world No. 1 and five-time major champion, will play for the Sportimes as they take on a Boston Lobsters team featuring former U.S. Davis Cupper Jan-Michael Gambill.
World Team Tennis is an innovative co-ed sports league that was co-founded by Billie Jean King. The competitive team atmosphere, multi-colored courts, mixture of stars, and integration of singles and doubles provides a fresh and energized take on the conventional tennis format.
The New York Sportimes have been competing in World Team Tennis since 2000. They are currently defending their 2010 Eastern Conference Championship and hope to win their second World Team Tennis Title this year to match the one they earned in 2005. The Sportimes 2011 team includes Martina Hingis, John McEnroe, Robert Kendrick, Katie O’Brien, Jesse Witten, and Abigail Spears and is coached by Fritz Buehning.
The Sportimes will play five matches at Randall’s Island (July 6, 11, 14, 15, 20), and two home matches in Albany at the SEFCU Stadium (July 18 and 19). Many legends of the game will compete this year as World Team Tennis celebrates its 36th season, “A Season of Number Ones.” On July 14th at Sportime Stadium, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors will renew their heated rivalry when Connors’ Philadelphia Freedoms come to town. On July 20th Serena Williams and Martina Hingis will face off when the Washington Kastles come to Randall’s Island.
Ticket information and a full schedule for the highly anticipated New York Sportimes season can be found at www.NYSportimes.com You can also find out more information on the other nine World Team Tennis Teams and sixty-three matches happening around the country this summer at WTT.com.