Eleanor Preston

On This Day In Tennis History

Since the tennis world is silent this week, TennisGrandstand.com will fulfill your tennis fix with an excerpt from the new tennis book “ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY.” The book, which makes an excellent holiday gift, is written by tennis historian and sports marketing guru Randy Walker, the former USTA publicity specialist. Here’s some of what happened from November 27 to November 30. For more information on the book, go to www.tennishistorybook.com.

November 27

1973 – Arthur Ashe becomes the first black player to win a title in the apartheid nation of South Africa, winning the doubles title in the South African Open with Tom Okker, defeating Lew Hoad and Bob Maud 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final. After initially being denied a visa based on his anti-apartheid views, Ashe is permitted to play in the event by the South African government. Ashe requests to tournament officials that the bleacher seating not be segregated during the tournament, but his wishes are not granted. Says Ashe to local reporters, “You can’t integrate the place in one full sweep. It is important to recognize the progress that has been made.” Ashe loses the singles final the day before to Jimmy Connors 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-3. Chris Evert wins the women’s singles title, defeating Evonne Goolagong 6-3, 6-3.

1982 – John McEnroe clinches his fourth career Davis Cup title for the United States as he and Peter Fleming defeat Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte 6-3, 6-4, 9-7 to give the U.S. an insurmountable 3-0 lead over France in the Davis Cup final in Grenoble, France. McEnroe is also on victorious U.S. teams in 1978, 1979 and 1981 – winning the clinching singles point in the fourth rubber in 1978 against Britain and in 1981 against Argentina. Says McEnroe of his title-winning performances, “Each one is different and each one’s nice in its own way. This was one of the best, if not the best, because we beat their team in front of a large crowd and played well, and I played on my worst surface and won the matches. Argentina, when we beat them last year in Cincinnati, was probably the most exciting final I was involved in. This and Argentina were definitely the two biggest.”

November 28

1999 – Pete Sampras wins the year-end ATP Tour Championships for a fifth time, defeating world No. 1 Andre Agassi 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 in the championship match in Hannover, Germany. Agassi had defeated Sampras 6-2, 6-2 in round-robin play earlier in the tournament. Writes British journalist Stephen Bierley, “It was perhaps fitting, given that this was the last major singles tournament of the millennium, that the best player of modern times won it so emphatically.”

1985 – Wimbledon champion and No. 4 seeded Boris Becker loses to Dutchmen and No. 188th ranked Michael Schapers 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6),6-4, 6-3 in the second round of the Australian Open. “I surprised myself at how badly I can play,” says Becker of the grass court loss.

1998 – One day after clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking for a record sixth consecutive year, Pete Sampras is un-gloriously dumped in the semifinals of the ATP Tour World Championships by Alex Corretja of Spain, who defeats the world No. 1 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) after saving three match points. Fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya also advances into the championship match, defeating Tim Henman of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Says Sampras, who hits 50 unforced errors in the loss,  “It’s a tough way to end it. I had mixed emotions, coming so close to winning, being in the final. But the achievement of doing it six years in a row, and the fans giving me a nice ovation, it was a very good feeling. But it wasn’t the way I wanted to end the year.”

2001 – Thirty-year-old Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic begins his six-month service in the Croatian Army. Says Ivanisevic, “Now that I’m in the army, you can all sleep peacefully…I have to do basic drill, but after that they will probably send me to catch (Arab terrorist Osama) bin Laden.”

November 29

1991 – Pete Sampras makes an inauspicious Davis Cup debut, losing to Henri Leconte 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in the Davis Cup Final in Lyon, France. The 28-year-old Leconte, the former top 10 player ranked No. 159 in the world and recovering from back surgery that threatened his career, plays perhaps the most inspirational tennis match of his career. Says Leconte, “It’s the greatest day of my life, the win of my career. I’ve proved I’m still around.” Says French captain Yannick Noah “He played like I dreamed he would.” Says Sampras, ranked No. 6 in the world of his baptismal Davis Cup appearance, “It’s certainly a different experience.” Andre Agassi’s earlier 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Guy Forget makes the score 1-1 after the first day of play.

1998 – Alex Corretja rallies from a two-sets-to-love deficit to win the biggest title of his career, defeating fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-5 in four hours to win the year-end ATP Tour World Championship in Hannover, Germany. Corretja, who lost to Moya in the French Open final earlier in the year, says he used Ivan Lendl’s two-set-to-love comeback win over John McEnroe in the 1984 French Open final as inspiration for his comeback. Says Corretja, “At that time Lendl was my idol. Today I was thinking, ‘Come on, try to do like your idol’ … try to find some energy from somewhere and try to think about your tennis and try to push him to see if he is going to be able to finish in straight sets. Even when I was two sets down, I was still thinking that I could win this match. That’s why I think I won.” Says Moya, “Two sets up, maybe I relaxed a bit. I thought the match was not over. It’s never over when you play against Alex. But I had a really big advantage. I had many chances to beat him, but they went and he started to play better. It’s a big disappointment.”

November 30

1973 -Rod Laver and John Newcombe each win five-set struggles to give Australia a commanding 2-0 lead over the United States, the five-time defending Davis Cup champions, in the Davis Cup Final in Cleveland, Ohio. Twenty-nine-year-old Newcombe beats Stan Smith 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the opening rubber, while 35-year-old Laver defeats 27-year-old Tom Gorman 8-10, 8-6, 6-8, 6-3, 6-1. The loss is Smith’s first-ever defeat in five previous Davis Cup Final appearances and only his second singles loss in 17 previous Davis Cup singles matches in all. Says Smith, “I played tougher matches under tougher conditions, but it’s the best I’ve seen Newk play.” Newcombe, the reigning U.S. Open champion, calls the win, “the toughest five-set match I have won in the last five years.” Laver, playing in his second Davis Cup series in his return to the competition for the first time since 1962, needs 3 hours, 22 minutes to outlast Gorman.

1990 – Andre Agassi wins a dramatic five-set match over Richard Fromberg, while Michael Chang is steady in a straight-set dismissal of Darren Cahill as the United States takes a 2-0 lead over Australian in the Davis Cup Final at the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, Fla.  Agassi, the world No. 4 and a French Open finalist earlier in the year, struggles on the indoor red clay court against Fromberg, playing in his first career Davis Cup match, but barrels through to win 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Chang, the 1989 French Open champion, has little difficultly with Cahill, a serve and volleyer, winning 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-0.

2003 – Mark Philippoussis wins perhaps the most courageous and most heroic match of his career, as he clinches Australia’s 28th Davis Cup title, defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 2-6, 6-0 to give Australia the 3-1 victory over Spain on a grass court at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. Philippoussis, playing in his hometown, fights through a torn pectoral muscle that inflicts him with sharp pain with every serve and groundstroke he hits. But spurred on by a screaming crowd of 14,000 supporters, Philippoussis, the losing finalist to Roger Federer earlier in the year at Wimbledon, plays the match as if his life were on the line. “The crowd was incredible,” says Philippoussis after the match. “This is what Davis Cup is all about. There is no way I could have got through without them. It gets you up and numbs the pain because they are so loud.”  Eleanor Preston writing for The Guardian writes that Philippoussis “veered between triumph and disaster before fighting back nerves, fatigue and pain from an injured pectoral muscle to win.”