Gigi Fernandez

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French Davis Cup Celebrations, New ITHF inductees and Serena to Miss WTT Season

*French Davis Cup captain Guy Forget was full of praise for his players following their shock win over Spain in the Davis Cup quaterfinals last weekend. Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau defeated Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez in the doubles rubber to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead in the tie. The win is the country’s first victory over Spain since 1923. “It’s magical,” he told France 3 television. “They pulled for each other. I hope it’s just the start of a long story for that squad. They were just great and I hope they will play with the same faith in September.” You can see the full interview and Davis Cup roundup at the BBC Tennis website.

*The 2010 Induction Ceremony took place at the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum during the finals weekend of the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships and inductees Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, the notorious ‘Woodies,’ have been speaking of their delight at the honour of entering the prestigious Hall of Fame. “This is an amazing day for the Woodies,” said Woodforde, during the rain-swept ceremony. “I don’t know if any of us said we’re just going to be doubles players. We just excelled on the doubles court a little more than we did on the singles. As much as we would have loved to win more in the singles titles, we did in doubles.” The pair amassed an incredible 11 major doubles Championships and 61 doubles titles in all, a record only equaled by the Bryan brothers recently, with a lifetime record of 508-137. “I think we won our fourth tournament we played together,” added Woodbridge. “It was close on average to every fourth tournament we won the next 10 years. That’s pretty good business. I figured if I could team up with Mark we’d do well together. We did better than well, we did bloody great.”

*On the women’s side of the game, the legendary doubles team of Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva were also inducted this weekend. They won 14 doubles Grand Slams together and ended up the year’s best team on four occasions (1993-95, 1997). “I don’t think as an athlete you ever make that a goal, it just sort of happens,” beamed Fernandez. “It’s a proud moment for me and my family and it’s also a proud moment for 4 million Puerto Ricans that are proud to have Puerto Rico represented in the Tennis Hall of Fame.”

*There is little movement in the Top 50 this week in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings but Mardy Fish’s first grass tournament win in Newport has seen him leap 30 places to No. 49 in the world. Recent good performances for The Czech Jan Hajek (11 places, No. 83), Argentine Brian Dabul (14, No. 91) and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain (16, No. 94) have seen them all rise considerably. Britain’s Richard Bloomfield jumped 260 spots to No. 292 in the world following his Newport finals appearance.

*In the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings Venus Williams reclaims the No. 3 slot from Caroline Wozniacki while Arevane Rezai enters the Top 20 following her win in Bastad last week. Spain’s Arantxa Parra Santonja jumps from No. 52 to No. 46 and Simona Halep (Romania, No. 96) and Pauline Parmentier (France, No. 97) enter the Top 100.

*Serena Williams is set to miss the entire World Team Tennis season with a foot injury, reports the Washington Post. She was meant to team up with sister Venus for the Washington Kastles this year but the injury has put paid to those plans. “I’m very disappointed that I won’t be able to play in the WTT matches this season,” Williams said in an official statement. “It is always such a fun experience and I love interacting with the fans in the cities that I don’t often have the opportunity to play in during the rest of the year.”

*Briton Richard Bloomfield is the latest pro to blast the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) following his incredible run to the semifinals of last week’s Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, RI. The 27-year-old has jumped 260 places to 292 in the world and was quick to criticise Britain’s governing body for their lack of support afterwards. “I think it needs a real shake-up,” he said before revealing the only contact he’d had from the LTA following his run was from current Davis Cup captain Leon Smith. “I got a text off Leon and that was about it. Leon is Davis Cup captain so he’s obliged to do stuff like that.” He also went on to slam the current funding policy from the LTA: “They keep on changing it,” he said. “Just have a good solid system where everybody knows if you win this tournament you get a certain amount, if you don’t then you don’t get anything. Then you know where you stand, whereas at the moment it’s a little bit up and down what you get.”

*British Davis Cup captain Leon Smith praised the spirit of his young team after their 5-0 whitewash of Turkey saved them from relegation to the bottom tier of Davis Cup play. He was also quick to reinforce the point that world No. 4 Andy Murray was welcome to return to Davis Cup play whenever he so wishes. “When he wants to come back of course we’ll love that because he’s one of the world’s best players and any team would love to have Andy Murray in it,” he said. “We’re all friends with [him], we’ve all got close relationships with him, and that positivity is something that we enjoy.”

*Czech female star Iveta Benesova spoke of her relief following her first win in two months in her home tournament the ECM Prague Open this week. The No. 68 in the world was not long ago her country’s leading lady but since winning her second WTA title at Fes in May she has won only two matches. “I am happy to win like this,” said Benesova. “It wasn’t a simple match, I really had to fight. I know I have talent but I need to work harder. I want to be ranked in the 20s again.” You can see how the rest of the Czech hopefuls got on at the WTA site.

*French newspaper L’Equipe is reporting that Richard Gasquet will return from his current back/rib injury at Gstaad in two weeks’ time.

*Sweden may continue their trend of bringing former stars out of retirement for Davis Cup play if current injuries and losses of form continue. This time Thomas Johansson is the former player talking of a cameo. “It’s tempting, but I don’t know if my body can go five sets,” he said. “[But I am] training hard.”

*Spaniard Rafa Nadal was left in floods of tears following his country’s victory over The Netherlands in Sunday’s FIFA World Cup Final and even led the celebrations alongside the Spanish team and the Spanish Royal Family on the team’s return to Madrid. Nadal had been at the match in South Africa and in the changing room after the game even took his trademark “bite” out of the golden trophy. “I cried like a baby,” he told Spanish newspaper Marca. “We have to celebrate for a whole year, because this is unbelievable. It is very difficult to repeat this.”

WILL SAFINA’S BACK FORCE HER TO HANG IT UP? THE FRIDAY FIVE

Dinara Safina

By Maud Watson

The Back Saga Continues – Once again, Dinara Safina’s back has forced her to withdraw from a tournament. This time, it is the prestigious BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. Safina has stated that her back is still causing her too much pain to even consider competing next week in California, and is now setting her sights on the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Safina is missing a golden opportunity to compete at Indian Wells, given that the field is already weakened by the absence of the Williams sisters, and it is dicey she’ll be able to compete in Miami. If Safina is forced to continually miss these large events, she may find herself hanging her racquet up much sooner than expected, which would be a loss for women’s tennis.

The Show Will Go On – Despite the devastating earthquake that hit Chile this past weekend, the Davis Cup tie between host nation Chile and Israel will still be contested this coming weekend, just a day later than planned as players and officials were understandably delayed in making the trip to the South American country. Israel is a nation that has obviously seen more than its share of turmoil over the past decades, but I must admit that I have my fingers crossed that the Chilean team is able to bring a bit a joy to their home country as sport can so often do for troubled nations.

Headed to the Hall – This past Monday, it was announced that the Woodies (Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde), Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, Owen Davidson, Brad Parks, and Derek Hardwick will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame later this summer. It’s nice to see some of the greatest doubles teams in history get some recognition, as well as Brad Parks, who will be the first wheelchair tennis player enshrined at Newport.  Fernandez, Davidson, and Parks were on hand at Madison Square Garden Monday evening for the Billie Jean King Cup, where they were officially recognized and congratulated for their impending enshrinement.  And in case you missed it, Venus Williams also defeated Kim Clijsters in three tight sets to take the exhibition title.

More Hip Woes – The latest player to fall victim to hip surgery is Germany’s Tommy Haas.  Germany’s Bild reported that Haas could be out for as many as six months as he recovers from recent surgery to his right hip. At least Haas should be able to retain a protected ranking for when he does return, but one has to feel for him given that he enjoyed a resurgence in his career the latter half of 2009. Perhaps that resurgence will be what ultimately pushes him to bounce back from this latest setback.

Victory at Last – After being touted as one of the game’s next great talents before falling into an early slump, Ernests Gulbis finally won his maiden title this past week at Delray Beach.  Gulbis took out big man Dr. Ivo Karlovic 6-2, 6-3 to become the first Latvian to notch up a tournament win on the ATP World Tour.  The question will be if this victory is merely a flash in the pan or the sign of bigger and better things to come for the player with so much talent but who has thus far proved to be nothing more than a massive underachiever.

Mary Joe Fernandez leads Team King to 21-17 win over Team Cash at US Open Champions Invitational

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 10, 2009 — Mary Joe Fernandez is used to juggling a number of tasks at once. Mom. TV announcer. U.S. Fed Cup captain. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that in between her television commitments on Thursday, she was able to squeeze in leading Team King to a 21-17 victory over Team Cash at the US Open Champions Invitational at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Fernandez won her singles and doubles matches to help Team King outduel Team Cash and even their team record to 1-1 after losing their opening match to Team Lendl on Wednesday. Fernandez is one of the former Grand Slam champions and finalists who are competing in the event which uses the co-ed team World TeamTennis format.

In the opening set of mixed doubles, it was Gigi Fernandez and Stan Smith who raced to a 5-3 mixed doubles victory over a pair of former US Open champions, Hana Mandlikova and Ilie Nastase.

Fernandez put Team King solidly in the lead after the second event, topping 1997 French Open singles champion Iva Majoli, 5-2. Fernandez said the win wasn’t as easy as the score might indicate. “This is harder than being in the booth with John and Patrick”, she quipped, referring to her full-time television work on ESPN with the brothers McEnroe at the US Open.

Todd Martin, the 1999 US Open runner-up, wasted no time putting Team Cash back into contention with a dominating 5-1 win over Luke Jensen in men’s singles. Jensen opened the set confidently, serving both left-handed and right-handed to win the first game. Martin then took control, running the former French Open doubles champ all over the court with precise shot-making – highlighted by a drop shot winner from the baseline — before closing out the 5-1 win to bring Team Cash within one game, 11-10.

Fernandez and Fernandez (no relation) added to their team’s tally with a 5-3 win over Majoli and Mandlikova in women’s doubles. The duo, who paired up to win gold medals in doubles at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, gave Team King a three-game lead heading into men’s doubles.

Coach Pat Cash tried to mix it up a bit in the final event, substituting himself for Nastase at 1-1 in men’s doubles. WTT CEO/Commissioner Ilana Kloss, filling in for team coach Billie Jean King, matched Cash’s move by sending in doubles great Rick Leach to replace Smith. Martin entertained the crowd by serving at his opponent Luke Jensen who was at the net and not in the receivers’ position. Jensen played along and dramatically dropped to the court, a nod to the well-documented World TeamTennis dustup this summer involving Robert Kendrick and John McEnroe of the New York Sportimes and Leander Paes of the Washington Kastles. Unlike the WTT Pro League incident, no fines were handed out and play resumed. Team King looked to be rolling to an easy win until Team Cash held off a match point at 4-2 and then tied the set at 4-4. Jensen and Leach held on for the 5-4 win, giving Team King an overall 21-17 victory.

Team King finishes the tournament with a 1-1 record. The 2009 US Open Champions Invitational concludes on Saturday, Sept. 12, with the final round of competition. Team Cash (0-1) takes on Team Lendl (1-0) at 11 a.m. on Court No. 4.

US OPEN CHAMPIONS INVITATIONAL RESULTS –

Team King def. Team Cash 21-17

TEAM KING: Mary Joe Fernandez, Gigi Fernandez, Stan Smith, Rick Leach and Luke Jensen.

Coach: Ilana Kloss (filling in for Billie Jean King)

TEAM CASH: Iva Majoli, Hana Mandlikova, Ilie Nastase and Todd Martin.

Coach: Pat Cash

RESULTS:

Mixed Doubles: Gigi Fernandez/Stan Smith (Team King) def. Hana Mandlikova/Ilie Nastase (Team Cash) 5-3

Women’s Singles: Mary Joe Fernandez (Team King) def. Iva Majoli (Team Cash) 5-2

Men’s Singles: Todd Martin (Team Cash) def. Luke Jensen (Team King) 5-1

Women’s Doubles: Gigi Fernandez/Mary Joe Fernandez (Team King) def. Iva Majoli/Hana Mandlikova (Team Cash) 5-3

Men’s Doubles: Luke Jensen/Rick Leach (Team King) def. Todd Martin/Pat Cash (Team Cash) 5-4

SCHEDULE FOR SATURDAY, SEPT. 12

11 am – Court 4 (subject to change)

Team Cash (0-1) vs. Team Lendl (1-0)

TEAM LENDL: Tracy Austin, Conchita Martinez, Guillermo Vilas and Jimmy Arias.

Coach: Ivan Lendl

TEAM CASH: Iva Majoli, Hana Mandlikova, Ilie Nastase and Todd Martin.

Coach: Pat Cash

Check www.USOpen.org for more details on the US Open Champions Invitational.

Team Lendl Tops Team King 24-16 In First Day Of US Open Champions Invitational

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 9, 2009 – Team Lendl defeated Team King 24-16 in Overtime to win the first match of the US Open Champions Invitational today at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  The event, which uses the World TeamTennis format for the first time in US Open history, features a lineup of Grand Slam champions and finalists competing on co-ed teams.

Team Lendl, coached by three-time US Open champion Ivan Lendl, jumped to an early lead as Jimmy Arias downed Luke Jensen in singles, 5-3.  Arias then paired up with Guillermo Vilas to boost their overall advantage to 10-5 with a 5-2 doubles win over Jensen and Stan Smith.

Team King’s tandem of Mary Joe Fernandez and Gigi Fernandez may have won two Olympic gold medals in doubles together, but they were outgunned this afternoon by two-time US Open champion Tracy Austin and Conchita Martinez, 5-2, in women’s doubles.

Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon singles champion, held on for 5-4 win over Mary Joe Fernandez in women’s singles to give Team Lendl a 9-point advantage heading into the final event.

Team King, coached by WTT co-founder Billie Jean King, rallied in mixed doubles when Smith and Gigi Fernandez topped Austin and Vilas 5-3 to send the match into Overtime.  The match was highlighted by back-to-back aces from Tracy Austin against Stan Smith.  Austin and Vilas held on to win the first game of Overtime and end the match with a 24-16 team victory.

The Champions Invitational continues on Thursday on Court 4 at 4 p.m. with Team King taking on Team Cash, coached by Pat Cash.  Team Lendl returns on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 11 a.m. to face Team Cash in the final match of the Champions Invitational.

The three teams, which have a combined total of 33 seasons of World TeamTennis experience, play two matches each between Sept. 9-12.  Each match consists of one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles.  The event will use the traditional WTT format, which includes cumulative scoring, sets to five games, no-ad scoring, playing let serves, Overtime and Supertiebreakers.

TEAM KING: Mary Joe Fernandez, Gigi Fernandez, Stan Smith and Luke Jensen.

Coach:  Billie Jean King

TEAM LENDL: Tracy Austin, Conchita Martinez, Guillermo Vilas and Jimmy Arias.

Coach:  Ivan Lendl

US OPEN CHAMPIONS INVITATIONAL RESULTS – Sept. 9, 2009

Team Lendl def. Team King  24-16 (OT)

Men’s Singles: Jimmy Arias (Team Lendl) def. Luke Jensen (Team King) 5-3

Men’s Doubles: Jimmy Arias/Guillermo Vilas (Team Lendl) def. Luke Jensen/Stan Smith (Team King) 5-2

Women’s Doubles: Tracy Austin/Conchita Martinez (Team Lendl) def. Gigi Fernandez/Mary Joe Fernandez (Team King) 5-2

Women’s Singles: Conchita Martinez (Team Lendl) def. Mary Joe Fernandez (Team King) 5-4

Mixed Doubles: Stan Smith/Gigi Fernandez (Team King) def. Guillermo Vilas/Tracy Austin 5-3

OVERTIME: Guillermo Vilas/Tracy Austin (Team Lendl) def. Stan Smith/Gigi Fernandez (Team King) 1-0

SCHEDULE FOR THURSDAY, SEPT. 10

4 pm – Court  4 (subject to change)

Team Cash vs. Team King

TEAM KING: Mary Joe Fernandez, Gigi Fernandez, Stan Smith and Luke Jensen.

Coach:  Billie Jean King

TEAM CASH: Iva Majoli, Hana Mandlikova, Ilie Nastase and Todd Martin.

Coach: Pat Cash

Check www.USOpen.org for more details on the US Open Champions Invitational.

Match Times (time/court subject to change – refer to official US Open schedule):

Thursday, Sept. 10 –       4 pm:  Court 4 – Team Cash vs. Team King

Saturday, Sept. 12 –        11 am:  Court 4 – Team Cash vs. Team Lendl

Obama’s Billie Jean King Gaffe

Barack Obama

By TennisGrandstand.com Staff

President Obama gaffed at Wednesday’s Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony honoring 16 global citizens, including tennis legend Billie Jean King. In describing King’s illustrious playing career, Obama talked of King’s “12 Grand Slam titles, 101 doubles titles and 67 singles titles.” King’s total number of “major” titles actually stand at 39, including a record 20 at Wimbledon. In defense of Obama, King won 12 singles titles at Grand Slam tournaments, but King was well known if not best known for dominating all events at the majors, including winning “triple crowns” (singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles in the same year) at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973 and the U.S. Championships in 1967. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, King also won an additional 37 singles titles in the “amateur” era of tennis (pre-1968).

In a video after the ceremony shown on the MSNBC television show “Morning Joe,” King joked that Obama got her stats wrong but said with class that it was “adorable.” Joked MSNBC commentator Mike Barnicle of Obama undercutting King’s credentials, “It’s the first time he has come under the numbers.” The video of Obama’s remarks and Billie Jean’s reaction can be seen here -

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King’s bio from THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS is excerpted here….

Billie Jean King

United States (1943—)

Hall of Fame—1987

The fireman’s daughter, Billie Jean Moffitt King, began blaz­ing through the tennis world in 1960 when she first appeared in the U.S. women’s rankings at No. 4. She was 17. For more than four decades she has continued as a glowing force in the game—the all-time Wimbledon champion, frequently the foremost player, a crusader in building the female professional game (enhanc­ing the game as a whole), remaining relevant to sport today, an inspiration to millions. The Flushing Meadows home of the U.S. Open was named the USTA / Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006.

Born Nov. 22, 1943, in Long Beach, Calif:, Billie Jean, a 5-foot-4 1/2, 130-pound right-hander, was named for her father, Bill Moffitt, a Long Beach fireman and an enthusiastic athlete, though not a tennis player. Her brother, Randy Moffitt, became a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. She developed on the public courts of Long Beach and first gained international recognition in 1961 by joining 18-year-old Karen Hantze for a surprising triumph in the Wimbledon women’s doubles over Aussies Margaret Smith (Court) and Jan Lehane, 6-3, 6-4. Unseeded, they were the young­est team to win it. That was the first of 20 Wimbledon champi­onships, making King the record winner at the most prestigious tourney, sharing it since 2003 when her friend Martina Navratil­ova caught up. Centre Court was her magic garden from the first time she saw it in 1961.

In 1979, she got the 20th at her 19th Wimbledon, the dou­bles, in the company of Navratilova (over Betty Stove and Wendy Turnbull, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2). She won her last major, the U.S. doubles, in 1980, beside Martina, over Pam Shriver and Stove. Elizabeth Ryan’s 19 Wimbledon titles (between 1914 and 1934) were all in doubles and mixed doubles. King won six sin­gles, 10 doubles, and four mixed between 1961 and 1979, and in 1979 lengthened another Wimbledon record by appearing in her 27th final, the doubles. Ryan was in 24 finals. Of all the men and women to compete at Wimbledon only Navratilova played more matches (279) than King’s 265, of which B.J. was 95-15 in singles, 74-12 in doubles, 55-14 in mixed. She won 12 singles titles at major championships (one Australian, one French, six Wim­bledon and four U.S.)

In her initial singles major final, Wimbledon in 1966, she beat three-time champ Maria Bueno of Brazil, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, She followed up by beating Ann Jones of Britain in 1967,6-3, 6-4 and Judy Tegart (Dalton) of Australia, 9-7, 7-5, in the first “Open” Wimbledon in 1968. In 1967, she took her first U.S. singles over Jones, but the most rousing of the four was 1974, a pyrotechnical performance from two assault-minded dolls, over Evonne Goolagong of Austra­lia, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5. Probably her most memorable Wimbledon match was a loss, the record 46-game 1970 final to Court 14-12, 11-9. Nei­ther let up in attacking, even though both were playing hurt.

Billie Jean’s has been a career of firsts. In 1968, she was the first woman of the Open era to sign a pro contract to tour in a female tournament group, with Rosie Casals, Francoise Durr and Jones, the women’s auxiliary of the NTL (National Tennis League), which also included six men. (A few women before King had turned pro to make head-to-head barnstorming tours, notably Suzanne Lenglen in 1926.)

In 1971, B.J. was the first woman athlete over the 100-grand hurdle, winning $117,000. During that memorable season, she played 31 tournaments in singles, winning 17, and 26 in doubles, winning a record 21. She had a match mark of 112-13 in singles, a record number of wins, and 80-5 in doubles. Overall, it added up to 38 titles on 192 match wins, both records. Imagine how many millions such a campaign would be worth today.

In 1973, Billie Jean engaged in the widely ballyhooed “Battle of the Sexes,” defeating 55-year-old ex-Wimbledon champ Bobby Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, a nationally-televised lallapalooza that cap­tured the nation’s fancy and drew a record tennis crowd, 30,472, to Houston’s Astrodome.

In 1974, she became the first woman to coach a profes­sional team containing men when she served as player-coach of the Philadelphia Freedoms of World Team Tennis, a league she and her husband, Larry King, helped establish. As a tribute to her, Elton John composed and recorded Philadelphia Freedom. Traded to the New York Apples, she led that team to WTT titles in 1976-77 as a player.

Ten years after Riggs, BJK was to establish a geriatric mark herself, winning Birmingham (England) over Alycia Moulton, 6-0, 7-5. At 39 years, five months, she was the oldest woman to take a pro singles title.An aggressive, emotional player, Billie Jean specialized in serve-and-volley tactics, aided by quickness and a highly com­petitive nature. She overcame several knee operations to con­tinue as a winner into her 40th year. As a big-match player, she was unsurpassed, excelling in team situations when she repre­sented the U.S. In nine years on the Federation Cup team, she helped the U.S. gain the final each time, and take seven Cups by winning 51 of her 55 singles and doubles. In the Wightman Cup against Britain, she played on only one losing side in 10 years, winning 21 of her 26 singles and doubles.

Outspoken on behalf of women’s rights, in and out of sports—tennis in particular—she was possibly the most influ­ential figure in popularizing professional tennis in the United States. She worked tirelessly to promote the Virginia Slims tour during the early 1970s when the women realized they must sepa­rate from the men to achieve recognition and significant prize money on their own. With the financial backing of Virginia Slims, the organizational acumen of Gladys Heldman and the sales­manship and winning verve of King, the women pros built an extremely profitable circuit.

Only two women, Margaret Smith Court (62) and Navratilova (59) won more majors than King’s 39 in singles, doubles and mixed. In regard to U.S. titles on all surfaces (grass, clay, hard court, indoor), King is second at 31 behind Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman’s 34. But Billie Jean is the only woman to win on all four, equaling Tony Trabert, and Art Larsen, the only men to do so. King and Casals were the only doubles team to win U.S. titles on all four surfaces. She won seven of her major doubles with Casals, her most frequent and successful partner.

Between 1963 and 1980, Billie Jean was in the world’s Top 10 18 times, including five times as No. 1(1966-67-68, 71, 74) and four times as No. 2 (1970, 73, 75, 77). She held her last world ranking, No. 13, at age 40 in 1983.

She greatly aided Owen Davidson of Australia in making his mixed doubles Grand Slam in 1967 with two partners. King and Davidson won the French, Wimbledon and U.S. after he took the Australian with Lesley Turner. She scored three major triples, winning the singles, doubles and mixed at Wimbledon in 1967 and 1973, and at the U.S. in 1967, and won the longest singles set played by a woman (36 games) in a 1963 Wightman Cup win over Christine Truman, 6-4, 19-17.

Billie Jean’s major swan song occurred at 39 in 1983 at Wim­bledon, a semifinal finish (her fourteenth), losing to 18-year-old Andrea Jaeger, 6-1, 6-1. Seven years later she played a cameo role in the Boca Raton, Fla., tourney, winning a doubles match with 13-year-old pro rookie Jennifer Capriati.

In a career encompassing the amateur and Open eras, she won 67 pro and 37 amateur career singles titles, 101 pro doubles. She reached 38 other pro singles finals and had 677-149 singles W-L record as a pro. Her prize money: $1,966,487. Divorce ended her marriage. A founder and ex-president of the WTA, she remains active in World Team Tennis as an officer, formerly commissioner. She returned to her USTA roots in 1995 as captain of the Federation Cup team, having been player-cap­tain in 1965 (a loss) and 1976 (a win). She guided the U.S. team to three Cups (1996, 1999, and 2000). As U.S. women’s Olympic coach, she mentored Lindsay Davenport, Gigi Fernandez and Mary Joe Fernandez to gold medals in 1996, as well as Venus and Serena Williams to golds, and Monica Seles to a bronze in 2000.

MAJOR TITLES (39)—Australian singles, 1968; French singles, 1972; Wimbledon singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1972, 1973, 1975; U.S. singles, 1967, 1971, 1972, 1974; French doubles, 1972; Wimbledon doubles, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1979; U.S. Doubles, 1964, 1967, 1974, 1977, 1980; Australian mixed, 1968; French mixed, 1967, 1970; Wimbledon mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1974; US. Mixed, 1967, 1971, 1973, 1976. OTHER U.S.TITLES (18)—Indoor singles, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1971, 1974; Clay Court singles, 1971; Hard Court singles, 1966; Indoor dou­bles, 1966, 1968, 1971, 1975, with Casals; 1979, with Navratilova; 1983. with Sharon Walsh; Clay Court doubles, 1960, with Darlene Hard; 1971, with Dalton; Hard Court doubles, 1966 with Casals; Indoor mixed, 1966, 1967, with Paul Sullivan (USA) FED­ERATION CUP–1963-64-65-66-67,76-77-78-79,25-4 singles, 27-0 doubles: WIGHT­MAN CUP—1961-62-63-64-65-66-67, 70, 77-78, 14-2 singles, 7-3 doubles SINGLES RECORD IN THE MAJORS—Australian (17-4), French (21-6), Wimbledon (95-15), U.S. (58-14).

Mark Keil – Tales from Cincinnati and Boise

Mark Keil, tennis teaching instructor at the Westboro Tennis and Swim Club, MA writes on two exciting events going on in the states this summer.  The tour stop in Cincinnati, is now a big Master Series event.  The winner in singles and doubles gets a free membership for life in the ATP Tour.  I think it is is the hottest tour event all year, and can sap all of your energy.  I teamed up with Peter Nyborg of Sweden in 1995.  We beat Arnaud Boetsch of France, a former Davis Cup player. He partnered the current player Vince Spadea of Boca Raton, Fla.  We played great and won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. In the next round we drew Jared Palmer, the NCAA singles and doubles champion out of Stanford.  His dad was the curator of the Palmer Academy, a tennis school in Tampa that produced many junior champion’s. Jared had the best technique, he played like Richard Avedon was taking his picture on every stroke.  He was a Davis Cup doubles team member, and also reached top 40 in the world in the ATP singles rankings.  His wingman that week was Richey Reneberg, the most unheralded American player ever. This guy played solid every time he stepped on the court. He was the king of eating room service, and hardly ventured out of his room. He played Davis Cup doubles for the United States, and played in a few dead rubbers in singles also.

He did play a few practical jokes on player’s with his mate Scott Davis. They use to travel with the “winger,” a sling shot for firing water balloons from hotel balconys. One year at Queen’s, John McEnroe was practicing on an outside court, and these two dudes fired balloons from the clubhouse and kept hitting a metal shack next to his court, making him even more paranoid than he already is. We lost 7-5, 6-3.

At this time of year I played World Team Tennis for the Idaho Sneakers. Boise is a nice town, and Patrick McEnroe picked me to play doubles with him. The South African Michael Robertson was our coach, and I could have given a better effort.  He ended up being my coach for awhile, and I learned how to think more on the court.  Katie Schlukebir, Debbie Graham, Gigi Fernandez, and Wesley Whitehouse rounded out our team.  We would always have early morning flights to the next city to play, and it was an exhausting but fun experience. Patrick would travel with a medicine ball, and it was tough putting it up in the carry on bins on the plane. Gigi was a multiple major doubles champion along with two Olympic gold medals, and had scary volleys. Debbie had a bigger serve than me, and had an unbelievable playing record at Stanford.  Katie was a very sweet girl, who relished on the gossip of our season.  Whitehouse won the Wimbledon junior singles title, and had a lot of angst that it didn’t carry over to the pros. We finished 3-11, mainly due to my unprofessionalism.  All in all, being a part of the team was enjoyable and I picked up a lot information on how to be a better tennis player.  The road to the US Open continues, and what a ride it is.

Twenty-Years Ago? A Golden Slam For Steffi

Steffi Graff

Can you believe it was 20 years ago when Steffi Graf swept all four major tournaments to win the last “Grand Slam?” Not only was it a “Grand Slam” but a “Golden Slam” as Graf went on to win Olympic gold in women’s singles at the Seoul Games. Bud Collins, the world famous tennis historian, writer, commentator and fashion icon, shares with us an excerpt on Graf’s 1988 year below from his upcoming book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, which right now is being sold for an incredible pre-sale price of 39 Percent off on the on-line retailer Amazon. Go to www.newchapterpressmedia.com for more information and to link to Amazon to take advantage of the great savings.

Steffi Graff

Steffi Graf added the Grand Slam to her resume in 1988, sweeping the championships of Australia, France, Wimbledon and the United States. And Don Budge, the first person to win all four of the world’s major tournaments in one season, witnessed each of her conquests. While the West German prodigy expressed mostly relief, the courtly American seemed enormously pleased with Graf’s Slam-clinching, U.S. Open victory over Gabriela Sabatini.

In welcoming Graf to the most exclusive club in tennis, Budge, who’d accomplished his Grand Slam 50 years earlier, whispered into her ear during the award ceremonies at Flushing Meadows. “He said he knew it all the way,” she recalled later. “He said he thinks I’m going to do it a couple more times.”

Graf would not achieve a second Grand Slam (of the five persons who have claimed the four major titles within a calendar year, only Rod Laver did so twice) but that in no way diminished what she accomplished in 1988. She lost but two sets in her triumphant march, the first to Martina Navratilova in the Wimbledon final and the second to Sabatini. Budge said he expected Graf to capture the Slam after watching her in Australia. At the Wimbledon Ball, he told her, “Steffi, when you win the Grand Slam, I hope they let me present the trophy.”

The U.S. Tennis Association was too conscious of tradition to allow such a radical departure, but Budge was included in the ceremony on the golden anniversary of his achievement. He held one handle of the silver jug while Gordon Jorgensen, the USTA president, held the other. They were surrounded by the Stars and Stripes, the Union Jack, the Tricolor and the Southern Cross.

Clearly, the sport’s dominant player in 1988 was a teen-aged female who followed in the Grand Slam steps of Maureen Connolly (1953) and Margaret Smith Court (1970). In fact, Graf took a few steps beyond by adding the Olympic title to her collection—call it a Golden Slam.
“There’s nothing quite as special as winning a gold medal for your country,” she said after her September triumph on a hard court in Seoul, South Korea.

For the first time since 1924, tennis was returned to the Olympics as a medal sport. The acceptance of tennis as a full-fledged medal sport marked a breakthrough—or official breakdown of amateurism—hardly noticed at the time. The ITF got permission from the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to approve the best players available for the Games if nominated by their countries. That meant out-and-out pros. It changed the complexion of the next Games in 1992 at Barcelona, where the U.S. NBA “Dream Team” took basketball gold, and numerous other declared pros took part. Tennis had led the way, for better or worse.

A slam of sorts was registered in men’s competition as well. But this was national and not individual. As the result of Mats Wilander’s victories at the Australian, French and U.S. championships and Stefan Edberg’s ascendancy at Wimbledon, each of the major events was captured by a Swede. There hadn’t been a male sweep by citizens of one country since Laver ran the table in 1969.

In a season that would stand forth regardless of Graf’s transcendent performance, Wilander also bumped Ivan Lendl from the top spot on the computer. Lendl, slipping from the No. 1 position for the first time in 156 weeks, reached only one Big Four final, at Flushing Meadows. He also surrendered his Masters title, which he had held for three years, to Boris Becker.

Graf, the 6-3, 6-3 golden victor over Sabatini, was the first Olympic women’s singles champion since Helen Wills in 1924. Steffi, lost but three matches all year. Sabatini triumphed twice, beating Graf, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, for the first time after 11 consecutive losses to win Boca Raton in March, and in a semifinal at Amelia Island one month later, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 in a tournament won by Navratilova, 6-0, 6-2. Shriver applied the final blemish to Graf’s record, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), in the semifinals of the Virginia Slims Championship, which the 18-year-old Sabatini won for her fourth title of the season, beating Shriver 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

Graf zipped through the Australian without the loss of a set but she was pressed in the final by Evert, playing in her 34th and last major final of her career. But for tennis the match was an unprecedented, schizophrenic, outdoor-indoor title bout made possible by the new stadium’s sliding roof. It was, according to Evert, “the weirdest [final] I ever played.”

Rain suspended the match with Graf ahead, 2-1 in the first. Officials decided to close the roof and, after a 91-minute delay, the outdoor tournament resumed indoors. Graf adapted better to the change, racing to a 6-1, 5-1 lead before Evert steadied herself. She won four of the next five games and came within two points of squaring the match before the German prevailed, 6-1, 7-6 (7-3).

Navratilova won five consecutive tournaments and 29 matches in the U.S. before she was again stopped by Evert at Houston in their 77th meeting, 6-0, 6-4. But Navratilova would win their last three matches—a Wimbledon semifinal, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, and finals in Filderstadt, Germany, 6-2, 6-3 and Chicago, 6-2. 6-2—raising her record in the enduring, 80-match rivalry to a concluded 43-37. Their global warfare, concussive but caring, began in Ohio in 1973 and ceased 15 years later in Chicago, touching down in several countries along the way.

Any semblance of competition at the French vanished when third-seeded Evert was dismissed in the third round by future champ, 16-year-old Arantxa Sanchez of Spain, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), and second-seeded Navratilova was surprised by 13th-seeded Zvereva in the round of 16, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5). Zvereva then upset sixth-seeded Sukova, 6-2, 6-3. Next the coltish 17-year-old from Minsk outlasted unseeded Australian Nicole Provis in two hours, six minutes, 6-3, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5 to land in her only major final.

Graf, who had beaten Sabatini in the semifinals, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), was brutally efficient against her star-struck opponent. Her 6-0, 6-0, romp lasted only 32 minutes, the most exciting feature of which was an hour rain delay. There hadn’t been such a one-sided major tournament championship match since 1911 when Dorothea Chambers rang up two goose eggs over Dora Boothby in an all-English Wimbledon final. Navratilova added another major, keeping the doubles with Shriver, 6-2, 7-5, over Kohde-Kilsch and Sukova.

It was Wimbledon, of course, that loomed as the biggest obstacle to a Steffi Slam. Wimbledon was the seat of Navratilova’s power. “Wimbledon is the last thing she’s holding onto, the last thing she dominates in women’s tennis,” Shriver said. The naturalized American was in position to surpass the record for most singles championships at the All England Club and she prepared in her usual fashion, winning at Eastbourne against Zvereva, 6-2, 6-2. But Navratilova was less than commanding once the tournament got underway. She struggled both in the quarterfinals and semifinals, edging Ros Fairbank, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, and Evert, 6-1, 4-6, 7-5. Indeed, after holding out through three match points in their 78th meeting, Evert picked Graf to win.

Graf appeared jumpy in the first set, serving below her standard and committing a bundle of unforced errors. Navratilova had raced to a 7-5, 2-0 lead and appeared well on her way to another glorious moment. Then Graf broke Navratilova’s second service of the second set. Remarkably, the defending champion would not hold service again in the match. Graf allowed Navratilova only one more game and the only delay in a 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 triumph was caused by rain after four games of the third set.

“I hit good volleys,” Navratilova reasoned. “I hit good balls that other people wouldn’t get to, and then she hits winners. I didn’t succumb to pressure today. I succumbed to a better player … I still played pretty damn well, but she was hitting winners all over the place.” Steffi had stolen seemingly sure Navratilova points with her legs.

And so ended one phase of Martina’s pursuit of Helen Wills Moody, who won a record 50 consecutive matches while capturing eight Wimbledon singles title. Graf snipped Martina’s match streak at 47, but the loser would get that ninth title two years down the road.

Graf was only one title away from an achievement that had eluded Navratilova in her prime. She even teamed with Sabatini to win the Wimbledon doubles championship, defeating the Soviet pairing of Zvereva and Larisa Savchenko, 6-3, 1-6, 12-10. The Soviets stopped defending champs Navratilova and Shriver in the third round, 7-6, 6-2.

Fittingly, the only genuine competition Graf faced at the U.S. Open was contemporary in nature. Having failed to derail her at Wimbledon, Navratilova lost any opportunity at Flushing Meadows when she was ousted in an exciting quarterfinal by Garrison, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5, her first win over Martina in 22 starts. Evert, recently married to former Olympic skier Andy Mill, earned a chance to thwart the Grand Slam but had to withdraw on the day of the semis with a stomach virus that left her so weak she could barely get out of bed.

That left Sabatini, Graf’s doubles partner and the person responsible for the “2” in Graf’s 61-2 record at that point. Sabatini defeated Garrison in their semi, 6-4, 7-5, and became the first Argentine to qualify for a major women’s final. In the end, although Sabatini did extend “Fraulein Forehand” to a third set, Graf added the U.S. title to her necklace of jewels with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory.

After the victory, Graf seemed more relieved than thrilled. She didn’t jump for joy or kneel in supplication. Graf merely jogged to the stands to embrace her family and she barely smiled during the award ceremony. “Now I’ve done it,” she said. “There’s no more pressure.”

Steffi didn’t have much time to savor the moment.

The Olympic tournament was scheduled to begin in a week. Naturally, Graf was seeded No. 1. Naturally, she won. In the final, she again bested Sabatini, this time by the definitive score of 6-3, 6-3.

1988 THE MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIPS

Australian Open

Men’s Singles Final: Mats Wilander (SWE) def. Pat Cash (AUS), 6-3, 6-7 (3), 3-6, 6-1, 8-6

Women’s Singles Final: Steffi Graf (GER) def. Chris Evert (USA), 6-1, 7-6 (3)

Men’s Doubles Final: Rick Leach and Jim Pugh (USA) def. Jeremy Bates (GBR) and Peter Lundgren (SWE), 6-3, 6-2, 6-3

Women’s Doubles Final: Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver (USA) def. Chris Evert (USA) and Wendy Turnbull (AUS), 6-0, 7-5

Mixed Doubles Final: Jana Novotna (CZE) and Jim Pugh (USA) def. Martina Navratilova and Tim Gullikson (USA), 5-7, 6-2, 6-4

French Open

Men’s Singles Final: Mats Wilander (SWE) def. Henri Leconte (FRA), 7-5, 6-2, 6-1

Women’s Singles Final: Steffi Graf (GER) def. Natalia Zvereva (USSR), 6-0, 6-0

Men’s Doubles Final: Andres Gomez (ECU) and Emilio Sanchez (ESP) def. John Fitzgerald (AUS) and Anders Jarryd (SWE), 6-3, 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-3

Women’s Doubles Final: Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver (USA) def. Claudia Kohde-Kilsch (GER) and Helena Sukova (CZE), 6-2, 7-5

Mixed Doubles Final: Lori McNeil (USA) and Jorge Lozano (MEX) def. Brenda Schultz and Michael Schapers (NED), 7-5, 6-2
Wimbledon

Men’s Singles Final: Stefan Edberg (SWE) def. Boris Becker (GER), 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-2

Women’s Singles Final: Steffi Graf (GER) def. Martina Navratilova (USA), 5-7, 6-2, 6-1

Men’s Doubles Final: Ken Flach and Robert Seguso (USA) def. John Fitzgerald (AUS) and Anders Jarryd (SWE), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3)

Women’s Doubles Final: Steffi Graf (GER) and Gabriela Sabatini (ARG), Larisa Savachenko and Natalia Zvereva (USSR), 6-3, 1-6, 12-10

Mixed Doubles Final: Zina Garrison and Sherwood Stewart (USA) def. Gretchen Rush Magers and Kelly Jones (USA), 6-1, 7-6 (3)
U.S. Open

Men’s Singles Final: Mats Wilander (SWE) def. Ivan Lendl (CZE), 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4

Women’s Singles Final: Steffi Graf (GER) def. Gabriela Sabatini (ARG), 6-3, 3-6, 6-1

Men’s Doubles Final: Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez (ESP) def. Rick Leach and Jim Pugh (USA), walkover

Women’s Doubles Final: Gigi Fernandez and Robin White (USA) def. Patty Fendick (USA) and Jill Hetherington (CAN), 6-4, 6-1

Mixed Doubles Final: Jana Novotna (CZE) and Jim Pugh (USA) def. Elizabeth Sayers Smylie (AUS) and Patrick McEnroe (USA), 7-5, 6-3

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