In 1985, Wimbledon bore witness to one of the most unpredictable and exciting runs to a championship when 17-year-old Boris Becker romped his way to an historic title at the All England Club. Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame journalist and tennis personality, profiles Becker’s run to his first of three Wimbledon titles in this excerpt from his book “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” below.
Attention, please. Or, in the native tongue of Boris Becker, Achtung! Not only did a new champion appear on the tennis scene in 1985, he also ushered in a new era. In a year that sparkled with fresh faces, the brightest and most engaging belonged to a 17-year-old son of a West German architect, a teenager either too cool or too naive to know he had no business playing with grown men.
At Wimbledon, a tournament that prizes tradition above all else, Becker challenged the past and won. Never had anyone so young claimed a men’s title at The Lawn Tennis Championships. Never had an unseeded player been fitted for a singles crown. Never had a German male ascended to the throne of tennis. Becker changed all of the above in the span of three hours, 18 minutes on one sunlit, summer afternoon.
The youngster, who had won only one previous event on the men’s tour (three weeks earlier at Queen’s Club in London, over Johan Kriek), climaxed a breathtaking rise to prominence by wearing down eighth-seeded Kevin Curren, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, in the Wimbledon final. By the end of the season, he had made a spectacular jump in the rankings from No. 65 to No. 6 and became the symbol of change sweeping over the sport.
Belly-flopping Boris, who threw himself at balls with teenage abandon, injured his left ankle in the fourth round against Tim Mayotte and wanted to quit after the fourth set. His manager, Ion Tiriac, dissuaded him. Becker probably should have been defaulted because of the overly long delay in being treated. He resumed thanks only to the sporting forbearance of Mayotte. It was soon obvious that this was a charmed fortnight for the husky redhead. Three of his first six matches were suspended and held over for another day, a circumstance that would unnerve even veteran players.
Not Becker. He responded to every challenge like a man, yet still reacted with the infectious enthusiasm of a boy. In the final, before a capacity crowd that included assorted princes and princesses, the 6-foot-3 man-child answered Curren’s serve with a bludgeon of his own— 21 aces to Kevin’s 19. He also out-volleyed and out-steadied his 27-year-old opponent from the baseline.
“I should have had the advantage,” Curren said. “Being older, being to the semi-finals , being on Centre Court. Maybe he was too young to know about all that stuff.”
Or at least too young to rattle. Becker became such a sensation in the early stages of the tournament with his reckless dives—”Usually, he comes off the court with blood on him,” observed Tiriac—that the bookmaking chain, Ladbrokes, installed him as a 7-4 favorite after the quarterfinals.
His popularity with the fans was not echoed in the British press, which did not let anyone forget he was a German. Even the respectable broadsheets relentlessly used war analogies in describing the player. In The Times, the respected Rex Bellamy duly noted that scheduled television programming in Becker’s homeland was interrupted to carry his quarterfinal victory over Leconte and added, “How odd it was that Germany should have such a personal interest in a court on which, in 1940, they dropped a bomb.”
It’s true a bomb did land on the roof of Centre Court in October 1940, destroying 1,200 seats. And no German was permitted to enter the tournament for four years after it was resumed in 1946. (Germans had been banned for nine years after WWI.) Ironically, Becker’s shining moment occurred on July 7, the birth date of Baron Gottfried von Cramm. For more than half of the century, the Baron was regarded as one of the finest players never to have won Wimbledon.
Rod Laver documented his 1969 Grand Slam season – and his life story – with Hall of Fame tennis journalist Bud Collins in the book “The Education of a Tennis Player” (for sale here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257626/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_tiFEvb1MG9Y13 In the book, Laver also imparts his wisdom on how amateurs can achieve more success in tennis. In this book excerpt, Laver discusses “Killer Instinct.”
When I was a kid, and beginning to play well, a little better than the ordinary, I first experienced the enjoyment of playing to a crowd. It was a good feeling to have my strokes admired, and I was in no hurry to get off the court. As a result I let too many opponents off the hook. I found out that you have to play with the intention of making it a short day, of doing the job quickly and thoroughly.
I don’t mean rush it. Anything but that. But when you have the opportunity you strike then, and you realize that no lead is as big as it looks. If your opponent is serving at 1-4, you feel pretty good: three games ahead. But that’s only one service break, and you want to keep the pressure on, or you’re going to be in trouble. It’s no time to experiment with new shots or to show off for the “sheilas” in the crowd.
I’ve heard it said that you’re either born with the killer instinct or you’re not. I don’t agree with that. I feel I had to develop that killer outlook which, to me, means making the shot called for to win the point and resisting certain temptations. You don’t try to blast a ball 200 mph crosscourt into a corner when you have an easy sitter and your opponent is way out of position. If a soft, unimpressive-looking dink is called for, you hit it and make the point.
The good chances don’t come that frequently, and the killer knocks them off surely when presented with them. The killer doesn’t let up or ease off when he gets a good lead. This can be learned. Make sure of the easy shots—concentrate extra hard on those. Everybody has problems with difficult shots, but the killer gets his edge because he is meticulous with the setups.
Don’t compose eulogies to yourself when you get ahead. Concentrate on staying there. When Charlie Hollis, my coach, decided that I wasn’t homicidal enough, he sent me out with the intent of winning every match 6-0, 6-0. That seems grim for the usual player, but Charlie’s theme was good and clear: run scared and don’t let anybody up.
With much of the Wimbledon hype surrounding Amelie Mauresmo’s coaching role with Andy Murray, we look back at the playing career of the Frenchwoman, courtesy of tennis historian Bud Collins. The following is the bio of Mauresmo from his famous book “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” set for an updated re-release later this year.
The only French woman to win Wimbledon other than Suzanne Lenglen (1919–23, 25) and the fifth woman of her nation to win a major, Amelie won two majors in 2006—the Australian over Justin Henin (BEL), 6-1, 2-0, ret. and Wimbledon over Henin, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded, she lost the 1999 Australian final to Martina Hingis (SUI), 6-2, 6-3, defeating No. 1 Lindsay Davenport (USA), 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals. A superb athlete, well-rounded attacking game, she played Federation Cup 11 years, 1998-99, 2001–09 played 21 ties, posting a 30-9 singles, 2-2 doubles record. She led France to the Cup in 2003, winning two singles in 4-1 final-round win over U.S., including the decisive point, 6-2, 6-1, over Meghann Shaughnessy. In the 2005 Fed Cup final, lost to Russia 3-2, she lost the decisive doubles match with Mary Pierce to Elena Dementieva-Dinara Safina, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3. A member of the French Olympic team in 2000, 2004, she won Olympic silver in women’s singles in 2004, losing to Justine Henin-Hardenne. She was a member of the world’s Top 10 for seven years—No. 10, 1999; No. 9, 2001; No, 6, 2002; No. 4, 2003; No. 2, 2004; No. 3, 2005-06 (briefly No. 1, 2004). She was a quarterfinalist at the Australian Open three times (2002, 04-05), the French Open twice (2003-04) and the US Open four times (2001, 03-04-05). She was a semifinalist at Wimbledon twice (2004-05) and the U.S. Open twice (2002, 06). She was born in St. Germains en Laye, France on July 5, 1979. A right-hander, 5 ft. 9, 152 lbs, she turned pro in 1993 and was the world junior champ in 1996. She won 25 singles titles and three doubles pro titles and $15,022,476 in prize money. She announced her retirement at the end of the 2009 season.
MAJOR TITLES (2)—Australian singles, 2006; Wimbledon singles, 2006.
Rick Macci has been dubbed “the coach of prodigies” by Hall of Fame journalist and personality Bud Collins. His reputation as such started when he worked with a pre-teen Jennifer Capriati in the 1980s, but it was burnished when he worked with Venus and Serena Williams when the future legends were only 9 and 10 years old.
In his new book “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, available here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1937559254/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_vfRvtb1P14M50T4C ), Macci describes his incredible first ever meeting with Richard Williams and his first on-court experience with Venus and Serena. The first part of the chapter “Venus and Serena Williams” from the book is excerpted here below:
I was at the Easter Bowl in 1991 in Florida one afternoon and watching kids from the academy compete and someone mentioned to me that there was a girl out in California who had a lot of potential and had just been in the New York Times. I knew every kid in the country and I had never heard of this girl named Venus Williams. And they said, “Yeah, she’s in the New York Times and there is a lot of potential.”
One thing led to another and an agent from Advantage International said, “Mr. Williams is going to give you a call because they are eventually looking to move from California to Florida to come to a tennis academy.” I said, “OK, give me a call.” A couple weekends passed and Richard Williams ended up giving me a call, probably one of the most bizarre and interesting conversations I ever had in my life. We started talking and he explained to me where they’re at, and so on and so forth, and he wanted to know if I wanted to come out to Compton and take a look at his girls. The only thing I knew about Compton was that it was kind of a rough neighborhood back in the day. He said, “The only thing I can guarantee you is I won’t let you get shot!!”
I thought I’ve got to meet this guy! I said, “Hey, it’s May, it’s kind of slow. I’ll come out for a weekend.”
I was very curious because if someone was that good, from what other people said, I know what good would be. I didn’t have anything to do that weekend, so I booked a ticket and flew out to Compton and got into LAX, got a cab to the hotel in Compton. That night Richard and Oracene and Venus and Serena came over and it was interesting because Venus sat on one knee of her dad and Serena sat on his other knee and we had this two-hour conversation. Richard was asking me all kinds of questions. He actually was very insightful because he knew a lot of things that I was surprised about. He knew who I taught and what I’ve done and which kids have won national tournaments, how many times I’ve been coach of the year. He did some homework, so he kind of had the pulse on my career.
The night ended and he said, “I’ll pick you up at 6:30 in the morning and we’ll go to Compton Hills Country Club and that’s where we’re going to practice.” He picked me up at 6:30 in the morning in an old Beetle bus, kind of wobbling side to side. I got in there in the passenger side and there was a spring sticking out of the seat and I was afraid I would harpoon myself and be permanently injured. So I watched how I sat, for sure. Venus and Serena were in the back of it and there must have been three months’ worth of McDonalds and Burger King wrappers in there, and many Coke cans and bottles, tennis balls all over. I asked, “Do you guys sleep in here?” He said, “Sometimes if I have to. Depends on the wife!”
We pulled up to the park and I thought we were going to a country club. He said, “No, this is the Compton Hills Country Club. I named it that.” I thought this guy was crazy. And I was right. Crazy like a fox! More on that later. It was a park that had two courts and it was about 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and there were about 20 guys playing
basketball and there were another 15 people at least passed out on the grass. There was broken glass and beer bottles everywhere. This was definitely different than the luxurious Grenelefe Golf & Tennis Resort, where I was director of tennis. So it was really a culture shock to see the situation.
When Richard and Venus and Serena got out of the car everybody acknowledged Richard. They called him King Richard. They acknowledged the girls. They stopped playing basketball and parted like the Red Sea and we walked through the basketball courts to get to the tennis courts. They were very respectful of the girls, probably because of the publicity. We go onto the tennis courts and they’re kind of like the courts I grew up on. They were broken, chipped up and broken glass was all over the court. The courts didn’t need resurfacing, they needed to be blown up.
I remember Richard had a shopping cart attached to the net post and it had about 20 feet of chain around it. He got the balls from the car and it took him about 20 minutes to get the chain off the basket that was attached around the post so nobody would steal it. He filled up the basket with balls, and they were all dead balls. But I brought a case of new balls because I thought maybe they might not have the best balls.
After we got organized and had all the balls in there, Venus and Serena kind of jogged around the court. One thing I noticed right off the bat: Venus ran kind of different. She was very long, very tall and had strides like a gazelle. I said, “Ah, that’s interesting.” I was thinking she should run track and not pursue tennis. This isn’t very common for tennis, someone who is spindly. She was like a praying mantis. There was a lot of length there in her stride. Serena was very stocky and compact as a 9-year-old.
I started feeding them balls. One blueprint in seeing a lot of kids is that I see greatness technically at a young age. I coached Jennifer Capriati for three years and biomechanically Jennifer was not only one of the best ever in those areas of the game, she was one of best ball strikers ever. So now I’m seeing these girls from Compton and they had beads in their hair and they were swinging at the balls and their arms and legs and hair were flying everywhere. There were elbows going right and legs going back, there was improvising all over. So cosmetically I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, “This is a train wreck! This is all hype and I cannot believe I’m in Compton, California, ruining my weekend.” I didn’t think they were really that good. I had seen all the kids and had just come from the Easter Bowl and I’d had many kids win every national at that time.
I thought Venus and Serena looked like decent athletes but technically they were all over the map just because they were improvising. You could tell they just didn’t have quality instruction. After about an hour we started doing competitive things where Venus would do something against Serena even though Venus was much better at the time. Richard said, “I prefer that they not play against each other.” So I said, “OK” and had one of them come and play with me. So we started competing and right then and there their stock rose immediately. My whole perception — and this is a good lesson for any parent or coach — you don’t judge a book by its cover. I looked cosmetically and I saw what I wanted to see. And I come from a vast background of information and I passed judgment that I thought they were limited. Now when they start competing I saw the preparation get a little quicker, I saw the footwork get a little faster, I saw consistency raise a little higher. I thought, “OK, they went from just maybe average kids their age to they could be some of the better prospects in the country.” At least now their stock was at a point where I thought they’re good, there’s some potential here. Athletically they were unique for sure.
But technically they were still a train wreck. Just a lot of things were really way off. They hadn’t had world-class instruction. But the way they competed, and they didn’t want to lose the point, to me their stock rose even more. To me that’s always the X factor, the way someone competes. Venus and Serena had a deep down burning desire to fight and compete at this age. It was unique. Unreal hunger.
Then Venus asked Richard if she could go to the bathroom. There was a lot of hugging and kissing going on. There were a great close knit, loving family. So Venus decided to go to the bathroom. She went out the gate and the first 10 feet she walked on her hands. And the next 10 feet she went into backward cartwheels.
Now I’m seeing this girl and I’m thinking, “How tall are these girls going to be?” He says, “They’re both going to be over 6 feet, strong and powerful.” And I said, “Let me tell you something. I think you have the next female Michael Jordan on your hands.” And he put his arm around me and he said, “No brother man, I’ve got the next two.” At 10 and 9 years old.
“MACCI MAGIC,” available where books are sold, including here on Amazon.com: http://m1e.net/c?150001094-X99l/7XH5chA2%4063364085-8b8oWs74ZG6qQ is the entertaining and inspirational manual and memoir that helps pave the way to great achievement not only in tennis, but in business and in life. Macci, known as the coach of tennis phenoms, including five world No. 1 players – Venus and Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova – shares his secrets to success both on and off the tennis court through anecdotes and more than 100 of his famous “Macci-ism” sayings that exemplify his teaching philosophy and illustrate the core role and power of positive thinking in the molding of a champion.
The book was written with Jim Martz, the former Miami Herald tennis writer, author and current Florida Tennis magazine publisher. Former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick contributed the foreword to the book while another teen phenom student of Macci’s, Tommy Ho, wrote a preface to the book.
Among those endorsing the book are ESPN basketball commentator and tennis fan Dick Vitale who says of Macci, “He will share his secrets for becoming a better all-around person and tennis player and gives you all the tools you will need to assist you in THE GAME OF LIFE!”
Said Mo Vaughn, three-time Major League Baseball All-Star, former American League MVP, “Rick Macci is the best coach I’ve seen. He can coach any sport on any level in any era. That’s due to his ability to communicate directly with his athletes on a level that they clearly understand the technique and what it takes both physically and mentally to be successful. Ultimately the best thing about Rick Macci is that no matter your age, ability or goals being with him on a consistent basis will teach you life lessons that you can take with you regardless of what you do. Rick Macci can make any person better just by his coaching style. My daughter Grace is lucky to have Rick Macci in her life.”
Said Vince Carter, NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist of Macci, “As a professional athlete, I have been around many coaches. Rick’s dedication and commitment to turning kids into great tennis players is paramount. The confidence and technique he continues to instill in my daughter amazes me. Rick Macci’s ability to cultivate a player is a testimony of his dynamic coaching skills.”
Said popular tennis coach and personality Wayne Bryan, father of all-time great doubles team Bob & Mike Bryan, “Rick Macci has long been at the very top of the mountain as a tennis coach. Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Jenny Capriati are on his laundry list of Grand Slam champs and all-time greats that he has worked with, but he has coached so, so many other pros and Division I college players through the years. He is a coaches’ coach. He is passionate, motivational, dedicated to the game and players, super hard working from dawn to dusk and into the night when the court lights come on, very bright, knows the game inside and out, still learning, and still striving. He is engaging, fun and funny. His new book is loaded with great stuff and stories are such a great way to entertain and educate and inspire — and no one can tell a story or give a lesson better than Rick. You will enjoy this book and be a better person for having read it.”
Macci is a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Master Professional, and seven-time USPTA coach of the year. He founded he Rick Macci Tennis Academy and has been inducted into the Florida USPTA Hall of Fame. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (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, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com) among others.
By Thomas Swick
My last day at the Sony Ericsson I walked onto the grounds with a feeling of familiarity, not just because I’d been there the previous three days but because for years as a spectator I always came on the first Saturday. All the courts are busy, with matches and practices, the up-and-coming are hitting it out with the quickly fading, and the hard core fans and the fresh air fiends are joined by people who still have 9-5 jobs.
Wandering the outside courts I passed two young women in red-white-and-blue caps with the words “Dominican Republic” written on the front and small feathers and ribbons in orange and red attached to the side. “For Nadal,” Carlota said when I asked about the attachments. Evening things up a bit on Court 9, Zvonareva’s hitting partner wore a T-shirt with a big RF on the front.
“Good morning,” a large man pushing a garbage container greeted the contingent watching the practice. “Gonna be pretty hot. Make sure you have something to drink.”
I went for something to eat – a beef burrito – and sat at a round table in the food court with a lanky man in T-shirt and shorts. Looking closer, I saw that his shirt read: “Land of the Free: AMERICA,” and that he wore a lanyard and that his name was Pavel.
“I am in charge of all the tents,” he said. They had started putting them up on Feb. 2, he told me; it would take them three weeks to get them all down. He worked golf tournaments as well as tennis, but didn’t like the former, as the tents were too spread out. He told me he got to the center at 8 every morning and stayed till the last match was over. “One tent we had to change the carpet,” he said. “We were here all night. We didn’t sleep.”
I wished him the best, and told him I was off to see Federer.
“He’s playing one of my countrymen,” Pavel said. “Radek Stepanek.”
Sitting in the press area I was joined by Harvey Fialkov, a former colleague from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. I told him that the most noteworthy aspect of the match so far was the fact that Federer’s shirt – an almost military green – had no collar.
Soon, Bud Collins and his wife Anita sat down next to us.
“I don’t like Federer’s shirt,” Anita said. “It’s not elegant. It’s a really drab outfit.”
Her husband was dressed in a peach shirt and checkerboard pants, some of the squares in solid colors and some patterned with dots.
Federer’s game borrowed nothing from his clothing.
“He’s so beautiful to watch,” said Anita.
“You don’t hear him running,” said Harvey. “He’s like a stealth tennis player.”
I wanted him to lose a set, so I could watch him longer. But he finished with Stepanek in an hour and fifteen minutes.
At what I figured would be my last press conference, I asked my first question.
“Your outfit today was a bit different,” I said, watching with a feeling of unreality those famous eyes suddenly focus on me. “Your shirt didn’t have a collar. Is that a new look?”
Federer said he liked to mix things up, and hoped that the fans would like it. I didn’t tell him the consensus in the press box.
To another question, he expressed a little frustration with the system of press conferences, saying that a different format might be more satisfying for both players and journalists. One reporter asked him for an example, and he suggested “roundtables perhaps.”
It was one of the more intriguing ideas I heard at the tournament. Federer was different in the press conferences than in his on-court, post-match interviews. In those he has an endearing, boyish quality – smiling easily, making jokes, enjoying the attention. Even his voice takes on a softer, more playful tone. In press conferences he appears older, guarded, a bit weary of it all. But then most of the players do. Celebrities show their good sides to fans more readily than to critics.
After Andy Roddick’s loss to Pablo Cuevas – a small pocket of Uruguayans erupting in the upper deck – I headed over to Court 2 wondering why Roddick doesn’t wear a wrist band. Since all the men ask for the towel now after nearly every point, wearing a wrist band seems the least they can do.
On the Two Court Andrea Petkovic won in straight sets, did her little dance, and then charmed everyone by cheerfully signing and posing, posing and signing, until finally saying, with amused insistence: “Now I HAVE to go!” You got the feeling she’d be superb at roundtables.
The first evening match – Nadal vs. Nishikori – was played to a packed house. Tennis must be the only sport in which the stadium goes from a boisterous roar to a reverent hush in a matter of seconds. And, when someone like Nadal is playing, it does this every few minutes. It is like a Russian folk song, rising and falling between elation and melancholy. Perhaps this is why so many of the people who play it have names ending in “ova.”
I left the Wozniacki-Hantuchova match early, but before departing the grounds I took a sentimental stroll around the outside courts. The lanes that, a few hours earlier, had been bright and crowded were now dark and empty. All the sneaker-scuffed surfaces were silent. The day’s vast number of smacked balls had dwindled down to a few, inside the stadium, where a handful of stalwarts waited till the last of them rolled unnoticed to a stop.
By Thomas Swick
For my first match of the day Friday – Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Barbara Zahlavova Strycova – I found a shady spot in the top row of Court 1. Two young women in hats, Louise and Helen, told me that they’d come from Salisbury, England. Soon a middle-aged woman in a pink hat jointed us; Gillian was also English, from Milton Keynes. What were the odds? Then Gillian helped explain it: “It’s a lovely time of year to leave England.” O, to not be in England now that March is there.
I asked them what they thought of Andy Murray.
“I’m very disappointed in him,” said Gillian.
“He moans too much,” said Louise. “He’s a sulker.”
I told her of the British woman I’d seen the day before who had asked to see the trainer.
“Moaner,” said Louise.
“What is it with you Brits?” I asked.
Soon I said goodbye to the ladies (hope they didn’t sulk) and went over to the other side to see who had unfurled the Polish flag. It was a couple from Vancouver, formerly of Wroclaw.
On my way out – Radwanska looked to be in control – one of the volunteers asked me how I was handling the heat. He was from Colorado, and told of using a snow blower to clear the court so he could play tennis.
“Your club has a snow blower?” I asked.
“One of the guys does. They play when it’s 35 degrees out. I don’t. I wait till it gets up to 40, 45.”
I wandered over to the stadium and watched the Soderling-Dodig match from the press area. After losing the third game of the third set, Soderling slammed his racket to the ground, eliciting a roar from the crowd that carried a mix of censure and approval, outrage and delight. Finally the cool retriever of balls hit at stupendous velocity did something that everyone in the audience could relate to.
Bud Collins came out and sat two seats away from me. He was dressed in a purple shirt and pants with stripes in red, yellow, orange and purple. “Two holds from glory,” he said as Dodig readied to serve. At break point in his next service game, after he had lost the previous one, Collins said: “This is the point of his life.” It was like watching a baseball game next to Vin Scully.
“The male players have discovered towels,” Collins commented rather critically.
He asked me if I knew if they used different balls for the women than for the men. The man who wrote the book on tennis, literally, was asking me a tennis question. “Somebody asked me that yesterday and I said I’d find out for him.” I told him I didn’t have a clue.
Then he said that he had been talking to Billie Jean King not too long ago and she had told him that there are too many players, that the tournaments should be just the top 16, because they’re the only ones people want to see.
“I don’t necessarily agree with that,” I said.
“Well,” he said, “you’ve been out in the boonies. That’s good.”
For lunch I went out to the main food court and ate a pulled pork sandwich with a family from Chicago. The older son was an early teen and a big Nadal fan. I said I was going to a press conference with Nadal at 4:30 and asked the boy if he had a question for him.
“Yea. Ask him what shampoo he uses. His hair is always very silky.”
His little brother said: “Ask him if he prefers a hat or a bandana.”
Their mother said: “I’d ask him if he has trouble buying suits because of his asymmetrical arms.”
The father noted that Rod Laver’s left arm was always noticeably bigger than his right, but it had been the forearm that bulged; today with players it’s the biceps. “It shows how the game has changed,” he said.
I didn’t ask Nadal anything, but the reporter who’d asked Federer what he loved about tennis was back with the same question. (Perhaps he’s working on a book. Or a tweet.)
“I love the competition,” Nadal answered almost immediately. He later said that he’s happy with Facebook and doesn’t have any plans to join Twitter.
Outside again and seeking shade, I chatted to a tour supervisor who had started as a chair umpire. After about five minutes I realized that I had found the right man.
“Do the women play with different balls than the men?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said. “The men use extra duty, the women regular duty.”
At Court 10 a small group stood watching Nadia Petrova and her doubles partner Liezel Huber hit with their coaches. A man leaning against the fence wore a T-shirt with a hand-written message on the back: “HARVARD LAW PROFESSOR ELIZABETH WARREN I LIKE AND RESPECT YOU SO MUCH. I HOPE 1 DAY YOU BECOME PRESIDENT. YOU’RE HONEST, PASSIONATE, COMPASSIONATE AND PRACTICAL.”
When the man turned around, I saw that the front of the shirt had writing as well: “MY 2011 WISH: ME AND ALISON RISKE PLAYING TENNIS. ALISON RISKE ♥.
It’s not often that you see the names Elizabeth Warren and Alison Riske together, let alone on a T-shirt.
A woman stood nearby with her young daughter, who held a midsize tennis ball.
“What autographs did you get?” I asked her.
“Old school today,” the mother said. “Jim Courier. Ivan Lendl.”
“In the players’ lounge,” she said, then pointed to the red-headed man playing with Petrova. “He’s my nephew.”
Walking past the main stage I found a little carnival: a small band of Brazilian musicians and four samba dancers creating their own heat.
Before the evening match, about 40 players appeared on court, all dressed identically in red T-shirts emblazed with the Japanese flag. Then they spread out through the stands, collecting money for relief in sliced open melon-sized tennis balls. Unfortunately, because of Miamians disdain for punctuality, over half the seats were empty. The tournament organizers should have taken a cue from the Catholic Church, and had the offertory in the middle of the second set.
As the holiday season fast approaches, New Chapter Press recommends the newly-updated memoir of Australian tennis legend Rod Laver — “The Education of a Tennis Player” – as an ideal gift for tennis fans around the world.
Written with Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins, “The Education of a Tennis Player” is Laver’s first-hand account of his famous 1969 Grand Slam season, capped off by his win over fellow Australian Tony Roche in the final of the U.S. Open. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their game. He also shares some of the strategies that helped him to unparalleled success on the tennis court.
Originally published in 1971, “The Education of a Tennis Player” ($19.95, www.NewChapterMedia.com) was updated by Laver and Collins with new content including his recovery from a near-fatal stroke in 1998 and helping Australia once again win the Davis Cup in 1973. The memoir features descriptions of Laver’s most suspenseful matches and memorable portraits of his biggest rivals Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Tony Roche and Pancho Gonzalez.
“I am delighted that “The Education of a Tennis Player” is back in circulation and available for a new generation of tennis fans,” said Laver of his newly updated memoir. “Winning the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969 seems just like yesterday and this book brings back a lot of memories of the great matches and exciting times. I hope people enjoy reading my story.”
Laver captured 11 major singles titles during his career, including Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969. After joining Don Budge as the only man to win a Grand Slam by sweeping all four majors in 1962, Laver turned professional where he, along with fellow pros Hoad, Rosewall and Gonzalez, were banned from playing the “amateur-only” major tournaments. When the “Open Era” of tennis began in 1968, Laver netted another five major singles titles, including his Grand Slam sweep of all four in 1969. Laver won nearly 200 singles titles during his career and was inducted into the International Tennis of Fame in 1981.
Collins, himself a 1994 inductee in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, first met Laver in 1956 at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston during the U.S. National Doubles Championships. Thirteen years later, the two collaborated on the book that was only to be published if Laver won the Grand Slam. Collins is best known for his colorful television commentary – and his colorful wardrobe – as well as his columns in the Boston Globe.
“Rod Laver is one of the greatest treasures we have in tennis and “The Education of a Tennis Player” is one of our sports most important literary works,” said Collins. “Rod was always so humble and gracious, but he could play tennis like a hurricane. He was as a great a champion as we have ever had in tennis and one of the all-time nicest guys.”
New Chapter Press is also the publisher of the newly updated second edition of “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Roger Federer Story: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli, “Acing Depression” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “The Lennon Prophecy” by Joe Niezgoda, “Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Susan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin, “People’s Choice Cancun – Travel Survey Guidebook” by Eric Rabinowitz and “Weekend Warriors: The Men of Professional Lacrosse” by Jack McDermott, among others. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.NewChapterMedia.com.
Richard Bloomfield is on the verge of making tennis history.
Ranked No. 552 in the world, Bloomfield is two matches away from becoming the lowest ranked player to ever win an ATP World Tour event. The 27-year-old from Norwich is ranked two spots worse than Lleyton Hewitt, who was ranked No. 550 when he won the singles title in Adelaide, Australia in 1998 as a 16-year-old, as documented in the book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com)
Bloomfield reached his first career ATP World Tour semifinal with a 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win Friday over heralded 18-year-old American Ryan Harrison. He will play Mardy Fish of the United States, ranked No. 76, in the semifinals. The other semifinal features Olivier Rochus of Belgium, ranked No. 65, against Brian Dabul of Argentina, ranked No. 105.
Entering this week, Bloomfield had won only one career ATP World Tour level match – a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 first-round win at Wimbledon in 2006 over Carlos Berlocq of Argentina – a victory that attracted world-wide attention due to the suspicious betting patterns during the match. Due to irregular betting patterns, suspicious amounts of money was bet on Bloomfield, alleging that perhaps Berlocq could have been injured or was paid to “tank” the match to allow for profiteering among gamblers. Coincidentally, Bloomfield’s first-round win here in Newport over Christophe Rochus also attracted similar unwanted gambling attention.
Online gambling exchange Betfair told The Associated Press on Friday that Bloomfield’s 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Rochus Tuesday attracted an unusual $1.5 million in wagers and was the subject of dramatic price movement.
Bloomfield was rated even money against his Rochus, ranked No. 160. In the hours before the match, the odds on Bloomfield winning were shortened to 1-4. After he won the first set, the odds shorted to 1-8.
“If people are willing to risk 4 pounds to win one, that is indicative of a substantial gamble,” Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin said to the Associated Press.
Notification of the irregular betting pattern was reported to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), an independent body created by the sport’s governing bodies to lead the fight against corruption.
It is standard procedure for the betting industry to share irregular activity on its markets with the TIU.
“It is not operational policy of the TIU to make any comment about an investigation that it may or may not be involved in,” TIU spokesman Mark Harrison told the AP
Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY (www.TennisHistoryBook.com).
Much props to GQ for sending Gordon Von Steiner to wander the hallowed grounds of the AELTC during the Wimbledon fortnight. While the resulting slideshow didn’t showcase the fashion as much as TSF’d like, we see this as a step in the right direction. Next year, try to snap a pic of Bud Collins‘ fancy pants, mmk?
(image by Gordon Von Steiner for GQ)
This was re-posted with permission from TSFTennis.com.