Cyril Suk

Bucharest, Romania: Beware of Dracula!

Mark Keil, senior tennis coach at Westboro Tennis and Swim Club outside of Boston, chats about the tour event in Bucharest, along with lovely Ljubijana, Slovenia.

Bucharest is a fascinating city full of history and folklore.  I partnered in 1995 with the infamous Jeff Tarango.  Jeff grew up in Palos Verdes, California and had a great junior career.  He stared at Stanford, and then went onto a pro career where he probably is most famous for his performance at Wimbledon on year.

While playing an early round match against Germany’s Alexander Mronz, Tarango got fed up with Bruno Rebeuh, the French umpire.  After being exasperated over too many bad line call’s, Jeff stormed off the court in a rage, and was defaulted.  Upon exiting the court, Mr. Rebeuh was slapped by Jeff’s wife at the time, Benedicte, a French woman.  His antic’s even made NBC’s nightly Tom Brokaw newscast.  Jeff was a true character; a maniac on the court but very giving off of it.  We beat Marc-Kevin Goellner of Germany and Piet Norval of South Africa in the first round.  Norval won a silver medal in doubles at the Barcelona Olympic’s with Wayne Ferreira.  He had a tragic car accident while hunting in South Africa, but has recovered fully and now coaches in his homeland.

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We then beat the Dutch contingent of Tom Kempers and Menno Oosting.  Menno unfortunately passed away in a car accident driving from France back to Holland a few year’s later.  I regret not going to his memorial service the player’s held in London a few weeks later.  At the time, Bucharest was a million dollar event, where the doubles winner’s would split a cool $100,000.

In the semis, we were up against Byron Talbot and Libor Pimek and it was nerve wracking.  After we broke at 5-4 in the third set, Tarango sat down on the changeover and then went on a ten minute bathroom break.  He did this to make me relax and pretend like I was just starting out the match, and wanted to simulate the first game of the match. I proceeded to serve four first serves and we won the match!  In between matches, I went down to the train station and encountered all of the Romanian orphans who lived under the station. It was an eye opening experience, and made me realize how lucky I was to be living in the US.

Nicolai Ceausescu was once the dictator, and I wanted to check out the tunnel maze’s he constructed underneath his parliament buildings. In the finals, Jeff and I defeated Cyril Suk and Daniel Vacek for the title.  It was a great week.

Also on tap this week, is the challenger event in Ljubijana, Slovenia.  It is a scenic town, and one should visit this place.  I teamed up with the Kiwi James Greenhalgh.  We took out Massimo Ardinghi of Italy Nebojsa Djordjevic of Yugoslavia in a tie breaker in the third.  We lost to the current tour player’s from the Czech Republic Petr Pala and Pavel Vizner.  Vizner was a Grizzly Adam’s TV show character  lookalike, who used the same racket as me for a long time.

Hope everyone enjoyed the US  Open, now to the dessert menu of the tennis season!

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The Journeyman: Open Season

Mark Keil, scribes this week on the final major of the year: the US Open.

It really has been great writing about my past tournament experiences. This nourishes my ego immensely and thank you for staying tuned.

In 1991, I played with Francisco Montana of Miami. Francisco was an All-American out of the University of Georgia. An All American is a player who play’s collegiate tennis and qualifies as one of the 64 best player’s in Division I university tennis in the year-end season individual championships. There are probably around 175 school’s that play Division I. If the player is seeded in singles, or gets to the round of 16 in the event, he get’s a plaque proclaiming his status.  If a player get’s to the quarterfinals in the 32-team doubles event, he also becomes a member of the team. Francisco was a stellar junior player, and once beat Jim Courier 6-0, 6-0 in the Orange Bowl.  He had more hitches in his serve than a Nebraska trailer park. We lost to Steve DeVries, the All-American out of Cal-Berkeley and the current Bryan brother’s coach David MacPherson.

The next time I competed at the Open I played with Stefan Kruger and we beat Danie Visser of South Africa and Laurie Warder of Australia 6-4,7-6.  Visser was a crafty lefty, who had tremendous success in doubles.  His partner Laurie was a scratch golfer.  Staying at the Open is always fun. I would always try and stay where Patrick Rafter was staying, usually the Hotel Elysse.  It was great to hang out in the lobby’s Monkey Bar and check out the female’s trolling.

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In 1994, I played with Rikard Bergh, nicknamed “the Liar” for always telling fibs.  He was cool, in that the year we played together I signed up with a partner, but he called me and told me we were not high enough to get in. He said if I played with him, we could squeak in.  So we got in, and beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov and David Rikl, Wade McGuire and Jeff Tarango and got a chance to play for a quarterfinal spot.  We faced Tom Nijssen and Cyril Suk.  In the third set we got hooked by the umpire Steve Ulrich, on a deep lab that landed out for us to go up a break in the third.  Ulrich is by far the worst chair umpire ever.  We lost 7-6, 4-6, 3-6. 

In 1995,  I played with Peter Nyborg and we lost to the NCAA doubles champions from Ole Miss Ali Hamadeh and Mahesh Bhupathi  6-7, 3-6.  In those days, the collegiate champion in singles and doubles would get a wild card into the main draw.  Now, only if American’s win the event, do they receive one, and I don’t think that applies to the doubles anymore.  The next year I played with Matt Lucena, the two-time college doubles champion with two different partners. We beat Brett Hansen-Dent and T.J. Middleton 6-4, 6-4.  Hansen-Dent got to the finals of the NCAA’s in singles once for the Trojans of USC.  We beat another SC boy Brian MacPhie and his partner Michael Tebbutt the next round.  They both had wicked lefty serves.  We lost to Sebastien Lareau and Alex O’Brien after that. O’Brien won the singles, doubles, and team title for Stanford in 1992. 

In 1998, Doug Flach and I lost to Macphie and Patrick McEnroe 6-7, 4-6.  Papa Mac was watching, and I felt like I was in a rerun episode of Johnny Mac playing Bill Scanlon and I was the ballboy.  In my final match at the US Open, I teamed up with Luis Lobo of Argentina. At that time, he was at the end of his career, and was coaching Marcelo Rios as well as playing doubles on the tour.  We defeated Garcia-Roditi and lost to Lareau and O’Brien again.

Enjoy the tennis on TV, or if you have the gumption, head to the Open and watch it live!

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Wimbledon Qualifying – Memories of Years Past

Mark Keil, former professional tennis player and now tennis coach writes on his experiences playing the qualies of Wimby.  Wimbledon qualifying is played at the Bank of England, Roehampton.  It’s about a twelve minute drive to the site of the hallowed grounds of Wimbledon.  The courts are cricket fields with tennis lines drawn on them. There’s nothing really special about the place at all. There is prize money in the qualifying, so it is  beneficial to play.  Usually the first 104 ranked male and female players are accepted straight into the main draw if Wimbledon. Then the next 128 or so best players on the ATP/WTA computer ranking lists play for the 16 open main draw spots.

I played Wimbledon qualifying a few times, and it was not that big of a deal. You are so far removed from thinking that if you win three singles matches, you will be in the greatest tournament on earth. One year, in the first round I played the 1985 US Open junior champion Tim Triguero, and won 8-6 in the third set. “I thought we played a breaker in the third, so when I realized we had to play it out, it screwed me up a bit,” recalled Tim on that occasion in ’91. I also played Bryan Shelton, a former All American out of Georgia Tech and class act. He won two grass court titles in Newport and one year, beat former Wimbledon champion Michael Stich at the All England Club in 1994. I barely beat him, and it was one of my best singles wins come to think of it now. Another year, I lost to Todd Woodbridge in qualifying 6-4 in the third. Todd would go on to win a record nine Wimbledon doubles titles and get to the semis of singles once. In the final round of qualifying, the men play three-out-of-five sets. I qualified one year by beating Cyril Suk of the Czech Republic. The second and only time I qualified I played Fabio Silberberg of Brazil in the final round. I warmed up for the match with Elena Bovina, the tall Russian player. That put me in good spirits heading into the match!

The weather had been so bad that week that we were forced to play only two out of three sets. I lost the first set, and it started to rain.  We got postponed until the next day. That night, Pat Cash’s annual Wimbledon Hard Rock Party was going on. I went, thinking I had no chance to win. I met another nameless, faceless many that evening. The next day, I came out and won 6-4 in the third set. I was very happy, and excited to get in.

Until the main draw begins next week, have a cold one on me.

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