Gary Muller

Nostalgic Streams of Consciousness

Mark Keil, tennis teaching pro out of Massachusetts enlightens tennis people about some tournaments around the globe.  The Canadian Open, which alternates each year between Toronto and Montreal , is a cool glass of ice tea on the road to the US Open.  The men’s event this year in Toronto is played outside of the city a bit, on a college campus.  I played one year with Gary Muller of South Africa and we played against Kelly Jones and Chris Woodruff of the United States. “The Mull” was a long-haired guy by way of Beverly Hills, where he used to live with the actress Ann Turkel and the late Richard Harris. He was the symbol of Hollywood on the tour, organizing great parties at most of the Slams. He would have a great one in Australia and the tour authorities finally had to put a crack down on them. He showed up with Juliette Binoche at Wimbledon. “Bones” Jones (due to his great tennis bedside manner) was a former All American out of Pepperdine and two-time NCAA doubles champion with two different partners. He eventually became No. 1 in the world, and married another former player Tami Whitlinger. Chris “Country” Woodruff is a good ol boy out of Knoxville and NCAA singles champion for the University of Tennessee. He was a firerce competitor, and would try and fool you with his naivete. We lost 6-7, 6-7. In ’93 in Montreal, I played with Stefan Kruger of South African. He played on a NCAA runner-up team under the tutelage of Dennis Ralston at SMU. He either played unbelievable or horrendous. We lost to England’s Jeremy Bates and Chris Wilkinson very handily. I do not remember that match ever happening. I do remember Martin Laurendeau always throwing a bi-annual function at one of the fine strip establishments in the city. All the players would go.

The tour stop in San Marino is a hot and humid adventure on the east coast of Italy. I lost first round with the South African by way of Dallas Bryon Talbot. The current player Dusan Vemic and Tomas Cibulec beat us in three sets.  In ’94, I played with Libor Pimek, the angular Czech who would do the splits in the eye formation parallel to the net and knock off the return. If things were getting tight, he would tell his partner before serving, “I just try to get it in the box.”  He was a former top 25 singles player, and played every week. We defeated the muscular Karim Alami of Morocco and Diego Nargiso (ITA) in the first round. Narg was a dead ringer for a Nicolas Cage look a like. We went down to the Olympic silver singles medalist for Spain Jordi Arrese and Renzo Furlan, who was born in Conegliano Venetia (Italia.)

The event in Posnan is a short train ride away from Warsaw .I was seeded No. 1 one year with Cibulec, a quiet lad. We lost to the wild card team of Dabrowski and Gawlowski, not related. I did a lot of two on one training to get ready for the US Open due to our early exit.

Have a great week and hit the courts!

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Saying “#*!& You!” To A Chair Umpire And Other Summer Tennis Tales

The week after a Slam, there are many tournaments on the calendar and they all offer exciting opportunities to have fun.  The second week of Wimbledon in 1991, I headed north to play singles in a challenger in Bristol, England. I played the former NCAA doubles champion out of USC and Davis Cupper from Zimbabwe Byron Black, and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The grass was ok, and the people were very friendly.  I went down in the second round to Steve DeVries, the pigeon-toed Northern Californian doubles specialist 6-4, 6-2. In doubles, I played with the San Diegoan Scott Patridge and we went out to Nduka Odizor – “The Duke of Odizor” – of Nigeria and his partner Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands. Michiel is a bright tall Dutchman, who was hard to get a lob over.

One of the tour stops after Wimbledon is the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I, also on grass. I played doubles with Patrick Bauer one year, and I remember after losing to Maurice Ruah and the Bahamian Roger Smith, I headed to the locker room where I had a few Miller Lite’s.  They were the sponsor of the tourney, and they were not less filling. One year, I played doubles with the Miami Hurricane and great guy Michael Russell, who famously had match point on eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten one year at Roland Garros. We lost a tight match to the Finn Liukko and the Dutchman Wessels 6-4, 7-6 .

Gstaad is tourney held in the Swiss Alps just after Wimbledon. Fans can flock to the event and get a glimpse of Swiss cows – similar to the one Roger Federer famously was given after winning Wimbledon in 2003. Players can parasail off of the mountains, go river rafting, and it is where I proposed to my ex-wife (may that marriage rest in peace!) I played doubles one year with my brother-in-law Tobias Hildebrand. We were the last team to get in, and unfortunately I embarrassed the whole family by getting defaulted in our match for saying – “(expletive that rhymes with duck) You!” to the umpire. The umpire couldn’t believe what I just said, and asked again what I said to him. “F*** You” was my response again.  All the emotion of trying to win a match a family member obviously got to me.  I was defaulted immediately and fined. I had a great run there in doubles in 1996 with the gregarious South African player who knows everybody Gary Muller.  He was a true friend, looking out for me and securing deals for team tennis for me in Germany.  We would play together on the Bundesliga team of Weiden, where we reached the final losing to the Paul Haarhuis-led team from Halle. In Gstaad, we beat Pimek/Talbot, and Mohr/Strambini before losing to  the Czech duo of Novak/Vizner in two breakers.

Another delightful event is held each year in Palermo, Italy.  I arrived there and went on my morning run, and really took in the city.  The place can become a sort of Alcatraz if one is not careful.  The pool at the courts was always full, and the Spaniards who usually dominated the tournament would frolic around the edge.  One time, a Spanish coach was climbing up the high dive, and slipped at the top rung and came sliding down.  Luckily, he didn’t get hurt, but it was the event of the day.  I played with 2001 Wimbledon doubles champion Donald Johnson, and we beat the brother’s Haygarth – Brent and Kirk. We went down to the Olympic silver medalist from 1996 Neil Broad and Greg Van Emburgh 6-4, 6-4.

Last, but for sure not least, the Swedish Open played on the western coast of Sverige (Sweden) is a wonderful event to watch. In 1997, I teamed up with Fernando Meligeni of Brazil and we took out Andersson and Timfjord of Sweden before getting crushed by Haygarth and Van Emburgh. The place was never asleep, people carousing 24 hours a day, cruising around town and getting ice creams on hot days.  Pepe’s Bodega sponsored a volleyball tournament, and I felt like Karch Karaly for a moment. My wife pulled me out of the place by my hair, much to my chagrin.  I played there at the end of my career with Martin Rodriguez of Argentina. He didn’t speak much English, so it was like being on the best date of your life. We had a tough three-setter with the kids from up the road, Simon and Johan. They won and another week ended with a loss – as most do for players on the ATP Tour. I’m living in the past, hoping for a bright future…