Helen Wills Moody

TENNIS PEOPLE: WHO WILL BE NO. 1 AFTER ROLAND GARROS?

* The 2010 French Open gives us a mouth-watering three-way battle for the coveted No. 1 slot in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. Current incumbent Roger Federer, previous holder Rafa Nadal and potential first-timer Novak Djokovic are all in the mix dependent on results over the next two weeks. Here’s how it will work. If R-Fed makes the semis he remains No. 1. Anything less coupled with Nadal lifting his favourite Slam and Nadal charges back to the top. Djokovic must lift the trophy and hope Federer falls before the quarterfinals. Keep your eyes peeled on those three tennis fans.

* The Williams sisters are aiming for another record this fortnight at Roland Garros. Having returned to the top two spots in the singles rankings if they lift the doubles title they will become only the sixth and seventh players ever to hold both the top two singles and doubles rankings behind Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Kim Clijsters. However, they can also lose in the first round here in Paris and take the top two spots, as long as neither Liezel Huber or Cara Black reach the semifinals with their respective partners following their recent split.

* The records continue to topple at Roland Garros. Justine Henin’s first round victory over Tsvetana Pironkova was her 22nd straight victory at the Slam where she has also now won a record 37 sets in a row for the Open Era. She is now three behind Helen Wills Moody’s all-time record of 40. Henin’s French Open record now stands at 36-4, an incredible 90% winning record.

*Venus Williams has said she still harbors dreams of a first French Open crown despite being on the eve of her 30th birthday. The world No. 2 is aiming, along with her compatriots, to end a seven-year barren spell on the clay courts for Americans since her sister Serena lifted the singles trophy in 2002. “It goes without saying, I believe I can win,” said Venus in an interview on the USTA website. “The U.S. has played well here formerly. The last few years haven’t been as great for us, but if anything, for me, my whole motivation is to do better. Hopefully the rest of the Americans feel the same way as I do.” She also spoke of her dream of one day sitting on top of the world again. If she manages to wrestle it back off of Serena she would be the oldest incumbent of the No.1 slot since Martina Navratilova in 1987. “It feels good to be moving up the ranks. Obviously, when you get to No. 2 of course the next dream is 1. That’s definitely on my radar. Everybody wants to be No. 1, especially me, because I’m closer than most of the other players on the tour,” she joked. “So it means a lot because day in, day out, all the hours that I put in…when you get to the top of the rankings is definitely a pat on the back, like this is all worth it. I want to put the work in to be able to get there.”

* British No. 2 Alex Bogdanovic has been handed a Davis Cup lifeline by new Great Britain captain Leon Smith. Former skipper John Lloyd axed Bogdanovic after his continual failure to win rubbers but Smith refused to write him off. “He’s our number two, and our number two by quite a distance, so he has to be in the reckoning,” Smith told BBC Sport. “If there were four or five players ahead of him, it would be different. Alex is one of the guys that has to be in the mix.” Smith has also refused to give up hope of Andy Murray ending his Davis Cup exile to help Britain in their crucial Europe/Africa Zone Group II playoff against Turkey in July. “Any country would want Andy to play – [but] if he doesn’t, I totally respect that,” he said on a visit to the French Open. “He makes a big difference to the team, but we’ve got other players who can come in that are capable of doing the job.”

*American qualifier Michael Yani’s marathon first round defeat to Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko must have felt like a never-ending story. Starting Sunday night, bad light forced play to continue on Monday morning and after four hours and 56 minutes Yani finally went down 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 10-12. The match consisted of 71 games, equalling a tournament record since tiebreakers were introduced in 1973. “Ridiculous,” is how Yani described it.

* Ernests Gulbis faces a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon after an MRI scan revealed he has torn his hamstring. It will force him out of Queens and may make him miss both the European slams, reports The Globe and Mail. It would be a shame as he was expected to perform well at both after a fantastic clay season in 2010.

* Sam Querrey has been highly critical of his attitude towards tennis following his four-set defeat to countryman Robby Ginepri in the first round at Roland Garros. “I started thinking about leaving and pulling out of the doubles and how much I wanted to go home, how much I wasn’t enjoying myself,” he said. “When I lost that second set tiebreaker and got broken in the first game, I was done. I wanted to be off the court. I’ve not been a professional…on and off for the last few months. I don’t want to face the opponent and myself.” It mirrors the problems Andy Murray admitted he had during his slump shortly after losing the Aussie Open final to Federer.

*1999 French Open Champion Andre Agassi has highlighted Rafa Nadal as an “undeniable favourite” to triumph once more in Roland Garros in an interview with Fox Sports. “Rafa’s forehand is nasty,” said Agassi. “On clay I would have had to play on the edge against him and play lights out and that’s not the way to play tennis. It’s about calculated risk and he’s going to make you take some crazy chances because the alternative is to get moved around court like you are on a string.” It is an interesting and vibrant interview in which Agassi gives us the lowdown on all the main contenders for the second Slam of the year. Check it out over at the Fox Sports website.

*Bulgarian screecher Victoria Azarenka has been fined $4,000 by the French Open after she failed to attend a press conference following her shock 1-6, 2-6 defeat to Gisela Dulko on Sunday. The 10th seed had reached the quaterfinals of her previous three Slams including the French last year.

*The Americans are determined to show that they are no pushovers on clay. Following the announcement by the USTA that clay courts are to be installed at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center for the first time top Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner have decided to blog all about their 2010 French Open experience for Tennis.com. Follow all their Paris adventures here.

*Serena Williams’ temperament is under question once more after a reported comment made to Jelena Jankovic following their recent Rome semifinal. Williams held her hand up whilst receiving serve while 5-3 up in the third set and the umpire ordered a replay of the point, angering Jankovic. Jankovic went on to win and as the players shook hands at the net Serena whispered something in to the Serb’s ears which sounded like “Don’t think I would do that…I’m not Justine,” although microphones may be inconclusive. If true, it would appear to be a swipe at Justine Henin following a similar incident during hers and Williams’ 2003 French Open semifinal where Henin raised her hand as Williams served which the umpire did not see. He denied Williams another first serve and she accused Henin of “lying and fabricating” as she did not admit her action to the umpire at the time. When questioned about the comment in a pre-French Open interview Serena said: “”I don’t even remember that. I just remember I had a match point, and, oh, I should have won that match. I was really disappointed… Jankovic is a really good clay court player, so I felt like…I can’t take anything negative out of that. I was just really like, ‘Ah, I was really oh so close.’”

*Former British tennis great Tim Henman has thrown his weight behind Andy Murray’s bid to win Wimbledon back for the British public. “I really think Wimbledon could be Murray’s,” said Henman. “He played great last year getting through to his first semi and I think he was very disappointed to lose to Roddick. I think Murray’s matured again, he’s improved, his game is better, he’s got 12 months more experience and I think he’s got every chance of winning.”

*Former French Open finalist Guillermo Coria has admitted that thoughts of a comeback have crossed his mind. “I’m 28 and yes, it’s true I’ve asked myself that question,” he said in a recent interview. “I’ve had a good time and now, when I see a tournament on television, I’m nostalgic. I’m not training really but I’m on the court everyday because I’m training my little brother and some Argentine hopefuls.” He retired in April last year.

*Dinara Safina is bidding to end her recent slump by parting ways with coach Zeljko Krajan, whom she often credits for her meteoric rise to the world No. 1 slot in April 2009. According to Russia’s Sport Express she will be working with Gaston Etlis during Roland Garros.

*Aussie Jelena Dokic has also parted ways with her coach, Serbian Borna Bikic. After going down 2-6, 2-6 to Lucie Safarova in the first round at Roland Garros she merely said: “I’m alone.” According to the press in Serbia, Dokic is still dating Bikic’s brother Tin.

*British No. 3 Katie O’Brien was beaming from ear to ear after making the cut for the main draw of the French Open for the first time this year. In an interview with BBC Sport she said: “I’ve been injury-free all year so in that respect I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been stranded in South Africa [due to the volcanic ash cloud decimating British flight zones] so my clay preparations were disrupted a bit but…I feel good.” “I think the French Open is really nice, has its own unique atmosphere,” she continued. “I like the vibe about the place and I like the clay. I like to ground out long points and use my fitness to ground opponents down. I think my game suits quite well to clay.” Unfortunately her run came to an end in round one as she fought well against American veteran Jill Craybas before going down 0-6, 6-4, 2-6 in just over two hours.

*The USTA website is receiving blogs from a host of American stars throughout Roland Garros on their experiences at the Slam. Andre Agassi, Melanie Oudin and Mardy Fish are the names putting pen to paper so far and all offer different insights in to the behind the scenes action in Paris. Check the USTA website daily to see who’s next.

* This week’s ATP World Rankings (24/05/2010) have seen Russian Nikolay Davydenko climb in to the world’s top 5 despite not having played since fracturing his wrist at Indian Wells. He climbs above Argentine Juan Martin del Potro who has been out for even longer. Richard Gasquet’s victory at Nice last week sees him jump 23 places in to the top 50 at No. 45 ahead of his home Slam in Paris.

* In the Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings (24/05) there is little significant movement in the top 50 after recent tournaments. Below that, Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria has leapt 19 places from No. 100 to No. 81 following some recent exciting displays. Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic has dropped from 71 to No. 87. Mariana Duque Marino of Columbia enters the top 100 at No. 97.

On This Day In Tennis History Is Latest Book Release From New Chapter Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. – New Chapter Press has announced the publication of its latest book – On This Day In Tennis History -a calendar-like compilation of historical and unique anniversaries, events and happenings from the world of tennis through the yearswritten by Randy Walker, the sports marketing and media specialist, tennis historian and former U.S. Tennis Association press officer.

On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, 528 pages), is a fun and fact-filled, this compilation offers anniversaries, summaries, and anecdotes of events from the world of tennis for every day in the calendar year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings. Easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details, the book is the perfect companion for tennis and general sports fans alike and is an excellent gift idea for the holiday season. The book features fascinating and unique stories of players such as John McEnroe, Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova among many others. On This Day In Tennis History is available for purchase via on-line book retailers and in bookstores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. More information on the book can be found at www.tennishistorybook.com

Said Hall of Famer Jim Courier of the book, “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important-and unusual-moments in the annals of tennis. Randy Walker is an excellent narrator of tennis history and has done an incredible job of researching and compiling this entertaining volume.” Said tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, “An addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way-dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients. As a tennis writer, I will always keep this book at the head of my table.” Said Bill Mountford, former Director of Tennis of the USTA National Tennis Center, “On This Day In Tennis History is an easy and unique way to absorb the greatest-and most quirky-moments in tennis history. It’s best read a page a day!”

Walker is a writer, tennis historian and freelance publicist and sports marketer. A 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Marketing and Communications Division, he served as the press officer for the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2005 and for the U.S. Olympic tennis teams in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He also served as the long-time editor of the U.S. Open Record Book during his tenure at the USTA from 1993 to 2005.

More information on the book can be found at www.tennistomes.com as well as on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1627089030&ref=name and on myspace at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=428100548

People mentioned in the book include, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Goran Ivanisevic, Andre Agassi, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Anna Kounikova, Jennifer Capriati, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Martina Hingis, Gustavo Kuerten, Svetlana Kuznetsova, James Blake, Wilmer Allison, Mal Anderson, Arthur Ashe, Juliette Atkinson, Henry “Bunny” Austin, Tracy Austin, Boris Becker, Kark Behr, Pauline Betz, Bjorn Borg, Jean Borotra, John Bromwich, Norman Brookes, Louise Brough, Jacques Brugnon, Butch Buchholz, Don Budge, Maria Bueno, Rosie Casals, Michael Chang, Philippe Chatrier, Dodo Cheney, Henri Cochet, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Ashley Cooper, Margaret Court, Jack Crawford, Allison Danzig, Dwight Davis, Lottie Dod, John Doeg, Laurence Doherty, Reggie Doherty, Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers, Jaroslav Drobny, Margaret duPont, Francoise Durr, James Dwight, Stefan Edberg, Roy Emerson, Chis Evert, Bob Falkenburg, Neale Fraser, Shirley Fry, Althea Gibson, Pancho Gonzalez, Evonne Goolagong, Arthur Gore, Steffi Graf, Bitsy Grant, Darlene Hard, Doris Hart, Anne Jones, Gladys Heldman, Slew Hester, Bob Hewitt, Lew Hoad, Harry Hopman, Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, Joe Hunt, Frank Hunter, Helen Jacobs, Bill Johnston, Perry Jones, Bob Kelleher, Billie Jean King, Jan Kodes, Karel Kozeluh, Jack Kramer, Rene Lacoste, Bill Larned, Art Larsen, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Suzanne Lenglen, George Lott, Gene Mako, Molla Mallory, Hana Mandlikova, Alice Marble, Dan Maskell, Simone Mathieu, Mark McCormack, John McEnroe, Ken McGregor, Kitty Godfree, Chuck McKinley, Maurice McLoughlin, Frew McMillian, Don McNeill, Elisabeth Moore, Angela Mortimer, Gardnar Mulloy, Ilie Nastase, Martina Navratilova, John Newcombe, Yannick Noah, Jana Novotna, Betty Nuthall, Alex Olmedo, Rafael Osuna, Frank Parker, Gerald Patterson, Budge Patty, Fred Perry, Nicola Pietrangeli, Adrian Quist, Patrick Rafter, Dennis Ralson, Vinnie Richards, Nancy Richey, Cliff Richey, Bobby Riggs, Tony Roche, Mervyn Rose, Ken Rosewall, Elizbeth Ryan, Gabriela Sabatini, Pete Sampras, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Manuel Santana, Dick Savitt, Ted Schroeder, Gene Scott, Richard Sears, Frank Sedgman, Pancho Segura, Vic Seixas, Frank Shields, Pam Shriver, Stan Smith, Fred Stolle, Bill Talbert, Bill Tilden, Tony Trabert, Lesley Turner, Jimmy Van Alen, John Van Ryn, Guillermo Vilas, Ellsworth Vines, Brian Gottfried, Virginia Wade, Holcombe Ward, Watson Washburn, Mal Whitman, Mats Wilander, Tony Wilding, Helen Wills Moody, Sidney Wood, Robert Wrenn, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Todd Woodbridge, Marat Safin, Leslie Allen, Sue Barker, Jonas Bjorkman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Donald Dell, Albert Costa, Mark Cox, Owen Davidson, Pat Cash, Mary Carillo, John Isner, Roscoe Tanner, Vijay Amritraj, Mark Woodforde, Tim Henman, Richard Krajicek, Conchita Martinez, Mary Joe Fernandez, Cliff Drysdale, Mark Edmondson, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Zina Garrson, Roland Garros, Wojtek Fibak, Tom Gullikson, Andres Gimeno, Vitas Gerulaitis, Fernando Gonzalez, Tim Henman, Goran Ivanisevic, Andrea Jaeger, Ivo Karlovic, Richard Krajicek, Petr Korda, Luke Jensen, Murphy Jensen, Rick Leach, Iva Majoil, Barry MacKay, Ivan Ljubicic, Cecil Mamiit, David Caldwell, Alex Metreveli, Nicolas Massu, Todd Martin, Gene Mayer, Thomas Muster, Tom Okker, Charlie Pasarell, Mary Pierce, Whitney Reed, Leander Paes, Renee Richards, Helen Sukova, Michael Stich, Betty Stove, Ion Tiriac, Brian Teacher, Wendy Turnbull,  Richards, Fabrice Santoro, Ai Sugiyama, Patrick McEnroe, Camille Pin, Phil Dent, Jelena Dokic, Mark Edmondson, Gael Monfils, Xavier Malisse, Dinara Safina, Barry Lorge, Stefano Pescosolido, Fabrice Santoro, Roscoe Tanner, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Roger Smith, Erik van Dillen, Gene Mayer, Tamara Pasek, Stefan Koubek, Jie Zheng, Gisela Dulko, Kristian Pless, Chuck McKinley, Marty Riessen, Brad Gilbert, Tim Mayotte, Andrea Petkovic, Klara Koukalova, Bobby Reynolds, Dominik Hrbaty, Andreas Seppi, Christopher Clarey, Casey Dellacqua, Anders Jarryd, Janko Tipsarevic, Nadia Petrova, Christian Bergstrom, Ramesh Krishnan, Emily Sanchez, Marcos Baghdatis, Mark Philippousssis, Wally Masur, Paul McNamee, Daniela Hantuchova, Gerry Armstrong, Younes El Aynaoui, Thomas Johansson, Pat Cash, Lisa Raymond, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Chanda Rubin, Tony Roche, Alex O’Brien, Petr Korda, Karol Kucera, Amelie Mauresmo, Juan Gisbert, Pablo Cuevas, Jim Pugh, Rick Leach, Julien Boutter, Larry Stefanki, Chris Woodruff, Jill Craybas, Sania Mirza, Mike Leach, Maggie Maleeva, Guillermo Canas, Guillermo Coria, Donald Young, Dick Stockton, Johan Kriek, Milan Srejber, Zina Garrison, Slyvia Hanika, Karin Knapp, Laura Granville, Kei Nishikori, Scott Davis, Paul Goldstein, Alberto Martin, Nicolas Kiefer, Joachim Johansson, Jonathan Stark, Jakob Hlasek, Jeff Tarango, Amanda Coetzer, Andres Gomez, Richey Reneberg, Francisco Clavet, Radek Stepanek, Miloslav Mecir, Jose-Luis Clerc, Colin Dibley, Mikael Pernfors, Martin Mulligan,  Robbie Weiss,  Hugo Chapacu, Victor Pecci, Charlie Bricker, Greg Rusedski, Robin Finn, Kimiko Date, David Nalbandian, Goran Ivanisevic, Mikhail Youzhny, Nicole Pratt, Bryanne Stewart, Novak Djokovic, Rennae Stubbs, Corina Morariu, Marc Rosset, Kenneth Carlsen, Kimiko Date, Ryan Harrison, Richard Gasquet, Jimmy Arias, Jim Leohr, Felix Mantilla, Cedric Pioline, Annabel Croft, Brooke Shields, Jaime Yzaga, Slobodan Zivojinovic, Alberto Mancini, Peter McNamara, Andrei Chesnokov, Fabrice Santoro, Bud Collins, Mardy Fish, Sebastien Grosjean, Donald Dell, Petr Kuczak, Magnus Norman, Hicham Arazi, Nduka Odizor, Lori McNeil, Horst Skoff, Karolina Sprem, Ros Fairbank, Linda Siegel, Chris Lewis, Kevin Curren, Thierry Tulasne, Guy Forget, Fred Tupper, Jaime Fillol, Belus Prajoux, Ricardo Cano, Georges Goven, Ray Moore, Charlie Pasarell, Paul Annacone, Tomas Smid, Dmitry Tursunov, Elena Dementieva, Arnaud DiPasquale, Carl Uwe Steeb, Bill Scanlon, Jose Higueras, Jay Berger, Jana Novotna, Bill Dwyre, Lisa Dillman, Sean Sorensen, Paul McNamee, Jiri Novak, Benjamin Becker, Ion Tiriac, Neil Amdur, Tim Gullikson, Jan-Michael Gambill, Taylor Dent, Bryan Shelton, Vijay Amritraj, Martin Verkerk, Brian Gottfried, Carlos Moya, Jacco Eltingh, Adriano Panatta, John Feinstein, Aaron Krickstein, Wilhelm Bungert, Derrick Rostagno, Torben Ulrich, Daniel Nestor, Ray Ruffels, Cliff Drysdale, James Reilly, Andy Murray, Leander Paes, Alicia Molik, Barry MacKay among others.

New Chapter Press is also the publisher of The Bud Colins History of Tennis by Bud Collins, The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection by Rene Stauffer and Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli and the soon to be released title The Lennon Prophecy by Joe Niezgoda. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.newchapterpressmedia.com

Twenty-Years Ago? A Golden Slam For Steffi

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