Eugene Scott

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Lived up to the hype!

Sports Illustrated’s Jon Wertheim previewed the Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer Wimbledon final by suggesting that it was the most anticipated championship final in the history of our sport.  High praise indeed, but when does the competition outdistance the hype in this day and age?  Practically never is when.

Sunday’s match was simply astonishing.  Two absolute giants of our great game did battle for nearly five hours on the world’s most important court.  As John McEnroe of NBC Sports likened it to his 1980 final against Bjorn Borg, he acknowledged that there were, truly, no losers in this match.  No less an authority than Bud Collins called it the “best Wimbledon final ever.”

When McEnroe interviewed Roger Federer as he walked off the court, it was incredibly poignant.  They now share a bond, as both lost epic “Greatest Match of All Time” encounters on Wimbledon’s centre court.  Federer started to lose his composure and McEnroe offered a hug.  It would have been appropriate for Mac to have consoled Federer by telling him that more people have patted him on the back for his efforts in losing the 1980 final then for his three wins at the Big W.

A few weeks ago, Bill Simmons, a writer for ESPN Magazine, took some snarky shots at the sport of tennis.  In fact, his article- which was, by the way, abruptly removed from ESPN.com- was based on the premise that if he was offered the promise of the greatest match ever in the Wimbledon final, then he would still not choose to watch it.  I admire Simmons, and as a die-hard Boston sports fan, I always appreciate his (warped) perspective.  After reading his article, I actually felt defensive for a little while.  I thought: What the hell is he talking about!?!?  Thankfully, I am confident that if Simmons tuned into “Breakfast at Wimbledon” for Rafa and Roger, then his perspective would be considerably different.

Simmons offered some idiotic “solutions” to what ails our sport.  I presume that these were written in jest, because they were pretty lazy ideas.  In giving “The Sports Guy” more benefit of doubt, he has purposely written reverse jinx pieces before (such as, the Celtics cannot win this year) that have proved to be good luck for his hometown teams.  Maybe that was his true intention.  If so, then we all owe him a big Thank You.

Venus Williams did not lose a set in singles or doubles during the 2008 Championships.

Serena did not look happy (big surprise!) after losing in the final.  Expect her to dominate at Flushing Meadows in a few weeks.

Congratulations to Canada’s Daniel Nestor for re-gaining the world’s #1 ranking in doubles and completing the career grand slam in doubles.  Not bad for a 35 year old!

Farewell to Jonas Bjorkman.  Saturday marked his final Wimbledon appearance in The Championships.  Of course, guys are already “queuing up” to play in the senior invitational doubles with him next year.

The Bryan Brothers faced off against one another in the mixed doubles final.  Reportedly, they evenly split all of their prize money and endorsements.  I am guessing that would have been a pretty relaxed final round encounter.  Bob and Sammy Stosur straight-setted Mike and Katarina Srebotnik over on Court One while Federer and Nadal were playing their fifth set on Centre Court.

A few final thoughts on The Championships…

Thank heavens that there will be a retractable roof on the Centre Court beginning next year.  The delayed start to the gentlemen’s singles final, and the two subsequent rain delays, would have been avoidable.  This adversely affects several million world-wide fans.  In the end, the sport loses when viewers tune out.  I wish that Wimbledon had made- and then acted on- this decision thirty years ago, but it is a sign of progress.

One example of where there has been NO PROGRESS is the middle Sunday of The Championships, the tournament’s traditional “day of rest.”  Like millions of tennis fanatics all over the world, an ideal Sunday for me is a good breakfast, hit some balls and maybe even play a few sets, and then watch tennis for the rest of the day.  The AELTC sacrifices tens of millions of pounds (double that figure in US dollars!) in sponsorship revenue and international TV licensing fees by refusing play on that prime weekend slot.  By 2008 standards, it is outrageous, arrogant, and archaic.  It is also hypocritical, because the men’s final has been played on a Sunday for a quarter century.  They were lucky that the weather was uncharacteristically pleasant during the first week of the tournament.  Relying on luck each year is foolish though.

The Russian women made another huge splash, with 6 of the final 16 players hailing from Russia.  There were 17 Russian ladies in main draw of the singles.  That is impressive.  It is not unprecedented, however, and- in fact- pales in comparison to some years where the Americans reigned supreme.  In 1984, 64(!!!!) of the 128 singles players were American men.  The Yanks had the champion, the runner-up, two semi-finalists, four quarterfinalists, and 11 who reached the round of 16.  As American Frank Sinatra used to sing… it was a very good year.

Does everybody still think that Roger Federer will annihilate Pete Sampras’ all-time records?  It says here that he might get to 14 majors, but this is not a mortal lock.  The sport has changed before his very eyes.  He will need some luck (a Nadal injury, or a Novak Djokovic disappearance in the autumn) to finish as the year-end #1.  The expectation that this would be Federer’s fifth straight year at the top is fading, and he would still be one year shy of what Pete Sampras accomplished.

In Pete Sampras’ new book A Champion’s Mind, he lists (in no particular order) himself, Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, and Ivan Lendl as the top-five players of the Open era.  After his Wimbledon victory, I would place Rafael Nadal among John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and (probably) Mats Wilander in the next tier (with apologies to Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, John Newcombe, Gustavo Kuerten, and Jim Courier).

Speaking of Pistol Pete, it took him a little while to “solve” grass court tennis.  In fact, a surprising number (17) of different players registered wins over the once-and-still GOAT.  Our Editor in Chief, Manfred Wenas, has a little swag for the first reader to submit the complete list of players that owned a piece of Sampras’ scalp on grass.

World Team Tennis began its 33rd professional season in the US over the weekend.  Go to www.wtt.com for information about players, upcoming matches, standings, etc.  It is a great opportunity to watch past, present, and future Wimbledon champions.  It is also the only competition in tennis that prioritizes doubles and team-play over singles.

Venus and Serena Williams are shattering the myth that good doubles teams would beat great singles players who pair up together.  They won their 7th major doubles title together, and it would be safe to assume that they do not practice the nuances of doubles too frequently.

At the beginning of Rafael Nadal’s ascent up the rankings, I asked Wayne Bryan (whose sons Bob and Mike were ranked #1 in the world at the time) who would win a match between his boys and Federer-Nadal.  He hedged his bets, but thought that his boys would pull through.  He did suggest, however, that if Federer were to play with Lleyton Hewitt, who had more doubles success at that stage, then he thinks the result would be reversed.  So, I will pose these questions to our readers, who would win the follow mythical doubles matches?

1)      Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer vs. Bob and Mike Bryan

2)      Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi vs. Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde

3)      Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg vs. Ken Flach and Robert Seguso

4)      John McEnroe and Peter Fleming vs. John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl (yes, you read that correctly)

5)      Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors vs. Bob Lutz and Stan Smith

Tennis Week in Newport is always one of my favorite times of the year.  This year’s class of inductees is highlighted by Michael Chang, and supported by contributors Mark McCormack and Eugene Scott.  Visit www.TennisFame.com for a wealth of information about these new- and, in fact, all- hall of famers.

When Gene Scott died suddenly in 2006, it was an awful loss for our sport.  It also, naturally, affected hundreds (more like thousands, actually) of people personally.  I had developed a great fondness for Gene Scott and treasured the time I got to spend with him.  I believed that- for some unknown reason- he had taken a liking to me, and wished to help me along in my career.  During the outpouring of grief, his dear friends at Tennis Week created a Web site (www.EugeneLScott.com) where people were urged to offer their tributes to the great man.  Reading some of these tributes, a few years after his passing, left me feeling as sad as the day he died.  Back then I wrote:

Gene Scott was like the North Star. Speaking with him or reading his column… he’d always bring you to your senses. Nobody else had his vantage point, and he knew it. That never kept him from sharing though, and his generosity was unparalleled. His departure has already left a terrible void. Goddamn that he is gone. Lucky that he touched so many while he was around.

I wish that Gene Scott had been enshrined into the International Tennis Hall of Fame a decade ago.  His induction speech would have been brilliant.  Hall of Famer John McEnroe will offer his testimonial and introduce Gene’s wife, Polly, who will accept on his behalf this weekend.

Who else should be inducted into the Hall of Fame?  I offer a dozen candidates who I believe ought to be bronzed:

1)      Donald Dell.

2)      Monica Seles.

3)      Andre Agassi.

4)      Gustavo Kuerten.

5)      Jennifer Capriati.

6)      Martina Hingis.

7)      Nick Bollettieri.

8)      Dennis Van Der Meer.

9)      Michael Stich.

10)  Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

11)  Justine Henin.

12)  Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde.

Of course I will be in America’s Resort City (Newport, Rhode Island) this week to watch the best little tournament in the world and then enjoying the induction ceremony of the latest inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  If you are a fan of this great sport, you MUST make a pilgrimage to Newport.

While at the Newport Casino, I will spend a lot of time rehashing points and moments and drama from the “greatest tennis match ever played” with old and new tennis friends.  Congratulations Rafa!  Congratulations Roger!

Note by the Editor-in-Chief: The little swag for the first reader to submit the complete list of players that owned a piece of Sampras’ scalp on grass only goes for those who use the comment system down below on TennisGrandstand.com. Other submissions will not count.

Mondays with Bob Greene – Rafael Nadal Wins 4th Consecutive Barcelona Title

STARS

Rafael Nadal won his fourth straight Barcelona, Spain, title, the Open Sabadell Atlanatico, defeating David Ferrer 6-1, 4-6, 6-1

Fernando Gonzalez beat Simone Bolelli 7-6 (4) 6-7 (4) 6-3 to win the BMW Open in Munich, Germany

Vera Zvonareva won the ECM Prague Open, beating Victoria Azarenka 7-6 (2) 6-2 in Prague, Czech Republic

Gisela Dulko beat Anabel Medina Garrigues 7-6 (2) 7-6 (5) to win the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Fez, Morocco

John McEnroe won the Champions Cup Boston, beating Aaron Krickstein 5-7 6-3 10-5 (Tiebreak) in Boston, Massachusetts

Viktoria Kutuzova beat Maret Ani 6-1 7-5 in Cagnes-Sur-Mer, France, to win a $100,000 ITF women’s tournament.

Tamarine Tanasugarn beat Kimiko Date-Krumm 4-6 7-5 6-2 to win an ITF women’s tournament in Gifu, Japan.

SAYINGS

“When I did make mistakes, in the second set, David was unstoppable, but I kept very focused throughout and I am very happy to be the first man to win four years in a row.” – Rafael Nadal, after winning his fourth consecutive Barcelona Open.

“I think I played a good match, but what can you do? That’s Rafa.” – David Ferrer, following his 6-1 4-6 6-1 loss to fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal for the Barcelona title.

“It’s a great relief for me.” – Vera Zvonareva, who won the ECM Prague Open, her first in 2008 after finishing second in three other finals this year.

“If someone had told me beforehand that I could reach the semifinals, I would have jumped at it.” – Younes El Aynaoui, who, at age 36, reached the semifinals of the BMW Open in Munich, Germany, before being edged by eventual champion Fernando Gonzalez 3-6 6-4 6-3.

“I felt I was regaining the feeling of playing tennis every day.” – Kimiko Date-Krumm, who ended a 12-year retirement by reaching the singles title match, which she lost, and winning the doubles in an ITF women’s tournament in Gifu, Japan.

“I took my opportunities and went for my shots. That probably made the difference today.” – Gisela Dulko, after winning the title in Fes, Morocco.

“A 13-day schedule, we feel, is about the right amount of time to get value of matches. … We see no need for change in 2008.” – Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, explaining why there will be no play at Wimbledon on the middle Sunday this year.

“I’m thrilled with this. This is exactly right: an international city, different cultures.” – WTT co-founder Billie Jean King on the Washington Kapitals joining World TeamTennis and playing its matches in the center of the city.

“My shoulder is not up to it. I have been having pain with it again and again.” – Tommy Haas, after pulling out of this BMW Open in Munich, Germany, with a persistent shoulder injury.

STREAKING ALONG

Rafael Nadal is on a roll. Nadal defeated fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-1 4-6 6-1 to become the first man to win the Barcelona Open four straight years. Nadal has now won his last two tournaments and increased his clay-court winning streak to 20 consecutive matches. The lefthander is 117-3 on clay since the start of the 2005 season and has won 103 of his last 104 matches on the surface.

STREAK SNAPPED

Fernando Gonzalez of Chile won his second tournament of the year, edging Italy’s Simone Bolelli 7-6 (4) 6-7 (4) 6-3 for the BMW Open title in Munich, Germany. This year was the first time in 19 years that no German player reached the quarterfinals.

SURFACING AGAIN

When Kimiko Date-Krumm decided to end a 12-year retirement, she felt she should start at the bottom. Gaining a wild card into qualifying of a $50,000 ITF event in Giru, Japan, Date, once ranked as high as number four in the world, won six straight matches before falling in the final to Tamarine Tanasugarn 4-6 7-5 6-2. Date didn’t come away empty-handed, however. She teamed with Kurumi Nara to win the doubles.

SAYS BETTING IS OK

A French court says it’s OK to bet on matches at Roland Garros. The court ruled that betting companies like bwin did not violate the rights of the French Tennis Federation by offering bets on Roland Garros matches. The federation had filed a lawsuit, saying online betting stained the reputation of the clay court championship, especially in the wake of Internet gambling scandals. But the European Gaming & Betting Association said the court had concluded “these operations had behaved in a prudent and diligent matter.” It is not known if the French federation will take further legal action against the betting companies.

SHOOTING FROM THE LIP

Maria Sharapova is upset because the WTA Tour demands that she participate in a publicity shoot on the eve of the Italian Open. According to Sharapova, the women’s tour wants several top players, including the Australian Open champion, to take part in a four-hour commercial shoot for WTA Tour marketing materials. If she refuses to participate in the photo shoot, Sharapova could be fined $300,000, Sharapova said. A WTA Tour spokesperson said: “Players have many obligations both on and off the court, and what is being asked of players in Rome is in the rules.”

SACRED SUNDAY

The middle Sunday will remain sancrosant at Wimbledon – at least for now. While admitting there are strong arguments in favor of making “People’s Sunday” a permanent fixutre, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club says it felt no need for change this year. The wettest Wimbledon in 25 years played havoc with the schedule last year, and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, among others, criticized the club for not scheduling play on the middle Sunday.

SPOT IN PARIS

Wayne Odesnik has a spot in this year’s French Open after winning a wild card in Boca Raton, Florida, by defeating Jesse Levine 6-2 7-5. The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) and French Tennis Federation have a reciprocal agreement in which wild card entries into the main draw at the 2008 French Open and the 2008 U.S. Open are exchanged.

STACKING POUNDS

Roger Federer isn’t really looking at the money, but if he should win his sixth straight Wimbledon title in July he will take 750,000 pounds ($1.49 million) to the bank. That’s an increase of 7.1 percent over what he collected last year as singles champion. The women’s winner will receive the same amount as Wimbledon continues its equal prize money payout. The total prize money will rise by 4.7 percent, to 11,812,000 pounds. The doubles champions will each earn more than one million pounds for the first time, with the winning pairs receiving 230,000 pounds.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS

Anastasia Myskina, who won Roland Garros in 2004, gave birth to a son, Zhenya, on April 28 in Moscow. Myskina missed most of last year with a left foot injury before announcing she was pregnant. She has not said whether she will return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. The righthander was the first Russian to win a Grand Slam title and the first to break into the Top 10 in the rankings, reaching as high as number two in the world.

SOCIAL EVENT

Billie Jean King and the Class of 2008 – Michael Chang, Mark McCormack and Eugene Scott – will be honored at the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s Legends Ball, which will be held in New York City on September 5, the last Friday of the U.S. Open. More than a dozen Hall of Famers and other tennis dignitaries will be on hand when the third annual Eugene L. Scott Award will be presented to Billie Jean King. The award honors an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world.

SPANISH BATTLE

Ten cities are bidding for the right to stage the Davis Cup semifinal September 19-21 when Spain takes on the defending champion United States. The cities are: Barcelona, Benidom, Gijon, Jerez de la Frontera, Madrid, Malaga, Marbella, Murcia, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Santander. A decision is expected on May 9. The highest attendance for a Davis Cup tie was set in Seville, Spain, in 2004 when an average of 27,200 watched Spain win the fabled Cup by defeating the United States in the final 3-2

SERENA TO D.C.

Serena Williams is off to Washington this year to play World TeamTennis. While the eight-time Grand Slam singles champion is scheduled to play four of the Washington Kastles’ 14 regular-season matches, she will join the team for only one contest in Washington – that coming on July 8 against the Boston Lobsters. Also on the Kapitals’ roster are Justin Gimelstob, Mashona Washington, Scott Oudsema and Sacha Jones.

STARS ON PARADE

How trendy are tennis players? Well, Tommy Robredo, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Nicolas Almagro, Fernando Verdasco and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez have been featured in an eight-page magazine spread titled “Spanish Tennis Is Trendy.” The magazine is a weekly supplement of Diario AS, a daily sports newspaper in Spain.

SHOULDER STOPPER

Not only did Tommy Haas pull out of the BMW Open in Hamburg, Germany, with a persistent shoulder injury, he says he may not be able to play at Roland Garros later this month. Haas, once ranked as high as number two in the world, has suffered first-round losses in four of the seven tournaments he has played this year. In only one event, an ATP Masters in Indian Wells, California, did Haas reach the quarterfinals, losing to Roger Federer. He retired in his first-round match at Monte Carlo to Olivier Rochus while trailing 6-1 3-0.

SHARAPOVA OUT

Maria Sharapova and Daniela Hantuchova have withdrawn from this week’s Germany Open. The Australian Open champion, Sharapova has not played since losing to Serena Williams in the quarterfinals of the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 19. She has not revealed her injury. Hantuchova, ranked number ten in the world, withdrew because of a stress fracture in her right foot.

SUCCESS STILL DENIED

Jelena Dokic is having a hard time getting her career restarted. Once ranked as high as number five in the world, Dokic was a first-round loser at the Grand Prix de SAR La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Fez, Morocco, falling to Greta Arn of Hungary 6-4 6-2. Dokic successfully qualified for the main draw at Fez, just as she had at Hobart, Australia, in January. At Hobart, Dokic trailed Italy’s Flavia Pennetta 5-0 in the second round when she retired.

SHARED PERFORMANES

Barcelona: Bob and Mike Bryan beat Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski 6-3 6-2

Munich: Rainer Schuettler and Michael Berrer beat Scott Lipsky and David Martin 7-5 3-6 10-8

Prague: Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka beat Jill Craybus and Michaella Krajicek 1-6 6-3 10-6

Fes: Sorana Cirstea and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova beat Alisa Kleybanova and Ekaterina Makarova 6-2 6-2

Cagnes-Sur-Mer: Monica Niculescu and Renata Voracova beat Julie Coin and Marie-Eve Pelletier 6-7 (2) 6-1 10-5

Gifu: Kimiko Date-Krumm and Kurumi Nara beat Melanie South and Nicole Thyssen 6-1 6-7 (8) 10-7

SITES TO SURF

Rome: www.internazionalibnlditalia.it

Berlin: www.german-open.org

Hamburg: www.dtb-tennis.de/AmRothenbaum/

Outback Champions: www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com

BlackRock Champions: www.blackrocktourofchampions.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

ATP

$2,270,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

WTA TOUR

$1,340,000 Qatar Telecom German Open, Berlin, Germany, clay

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions, Rome, Italy, clay

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP

$2,270,000 Hamburg Masters, Hamburg, Germany, clay

WTA Tour

$1,340,000 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, Rome, Italy, clay

SENIORS

BlackRock Tour of Champions Hamburg, Germany, clay

Legends Ball to honor BJK and Michael Chang

More Than a Dozen Hall of Famers Expected to Attend 28th Annual Gala

NEW YORK, NY – The premier social event of the tennis season, the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s “Legends Ball” returns to Cipriani 42nd Street, in New York City on Friday, September 5th at 6:30 pm -– the last Friday of the US Open. This special night of celebration honor Billie Jean King, the Class of 2008 — Michael Chang, Mark McCormack, and Eugene Scott — and a host of tennis luminaries.

The event, held annually since 1980, brings the tennis world together to celebrate the history of the game and honor some of the sport’s great contributors all while raising money for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. A legendary line-up of tennis greats will also be in attendance, including more than a dozen Hall of Famers, tennis dignitaries, the event’s Player Co-Chair Jim Courier, plus Co-Chairs, Phil de Picciotto, President of Octagon Athletes & Personalities, and Peter Palandjian, Chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation and a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame board.

“Last year, we injected a new look, feel and energy into this event that has been a part of the tennis scene for more than 25 years,” said Mark Stenning, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. “Attendees can once again expect to mingle with tennis royalty, honor the greats of the game, bid on unique memorabilia and experiences in our silent and live auction and enjoy the electric atmosphere and great food that Cipriani is famous for.”

A highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the third annual Eugene L. Scott Award to Billie Jean King. The award honors an individual who embodies Scott’s commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, and who has had a significant impact on the tennis world. Scott founded Tennis Week magazine and wrote the most widely read and well-respected column about the sport, “Vantage Point.” Andre Agassi was honored last year while John McEnroe received the inaugural award in 2006.

More info: For tickets, call 212-843-1740 or e-mail legendsball@hgnyc.com.

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