Ion Tiriac

What a Difference a Year Makes: Madrid in Blue vs. Madrid in Red

After the outcry caused by the audacious rhapsody in blue last year, the ATP essentially twisted the arm of the Madrid tournament into returning to its red roots.  But did the traditional surface really make a difference in the results of either the men’s or the women’s draw?  An analysis could use multiple angles, of which this article chooses just two.  First, it looks at the upsets of seeds by unseeded players in the first two rounds of Madrid over the last two years, the first on blue clay and the second on red clay.  Second, it looks at who ultimately reached the semifinals in both draws over those years.  This comparison between 2012 and 2013 aims to explore whether the change in surface correlates to significant differences in result patterns.

Of course, any single year can produce a skewed sample, so one could argue that singling out the current edition of Madrid does not fairly represent the overall trends of the event’s history on red clay.  That history remains quite young, however, for this year marks only its fourth on the surface.  And the blue-clay experiment lasted only a single year, so it seems appropriate to compare equal sample sizes highlighted by a comparable group of elite players.

 

Let’s start with the upsets angle, and with the WTA.  (Numbers refer to seeds.)

2012:

Lucie Hradecka d. 3 Petra Kvitova

Sorana Cirstea d. 7 Marion Bartoli

Petra Cetkovska d. 10 Vera Zvonareva

Varvara Lepchenko d. 11 Francesca Schiavone

Roberta Vinci d. 14 Dominika Cibulkova

Carla Suarez Navarro d. 15 Jelena Jankovic

Ekaterina Makarova d. 16 Maria Kirilenko

Almost half of the seeds (seven of sixteen) lost in the first or second round, a high number for an event of this quality.  On the other hand, five of the seven came from the 9-16 bracket, and Cirstea knocking off Bartoli on clay does not come as a huge surprise.  The latter has struggled regularly on the surface outside that single Roland Garros semifinal run in 2011, while the former earned her best result of any major with a quarterfinal there in 2009.  Another result that jumps out from this group, the Hradecka-Kvitova match, seems less startling in retrospect with the wild oscillations in Kvitova’s form over the last two years.  Kvitova also has made a habit of faltering against lower-ranked countrywomen, but this match still should raise an eyebrow because she was the defending champion in Madrid and fell to a heavy server, not a clay specialist.

Of the 9-16 upsets, Lepchenko defeating Schiavone surprises the most, and in fact the American ultimately reached the quarterfinals at this event.  That said, Madrid has witnessed other such unexpected results on red clay before, for which one need look no further than Aravane Rezai’s title in 2010.  Lepchenko also went back to work on the Italian battalions here this year, as you’ll see below.  Like Schiavone, Jankovic floundered through much of last season, so one should not read too much into her loss to rising clay talent Suarez Navarro.  Russians Zvonareva and Kirilenko usually have not enjoyed their clay seasons, and Vinci’s victory over Cibulkova looks merely like one clay specialist ousting another.  On the other hand, hindsight may dilute the magnitude of this upset, now that the Italian has risen above the Slovak in the rankings a year later. 

2013:

Ekaterina Makarova d. 3 Victoria Azarenka

Laura Robson d. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska

Madison Keys d. 5 Li Na

Daniela Hantuchova d. 8 Petra Kvitova

Carla Suarez Navarro d. 9 Sam Stosur

Yaroslava Shvedova d. 10 Caroline Wozniacki

Svetlana Kuznetsova d. 11 Nadia Petrova

Varvara Lepchenko d. 12 Roberta Vinci

Sabine Lisicki d. 15 Dominika Cibulkova

What comes around goes around for Vinci, it seems, an upset-maker in 2012 and the victim of an upset in 2012.  Kvitova also has found the Magic Box a house of horrors since winning the title here two years ago, her first career loss to Hantuchova this year adding some context to the Hradecka debacle last year.  And there’s just no curbing Lepchenko’s appetite for Italian cuisine in Madrid, while Cibulkova doesn’t seem to enjoy her time here in any color.  The heavy-hitting Lisicki’s upset of her in two tiebreaks suggests the impact of the Madrid altitude on amplifying serves, relevant no matter the surface.

Taking stock of the larger view, the carnage this week was staggering and becomes even more staggering considering the relative consistency that has developed at the top of the WTA over the last eighteen months or so.  Granted, Azarenka just returned from an injury absence and never plays her best on clay, nor does Radwanska.  But one would have expected the latter to win more than four games from a raw Laura Robson, even amid her recent slump, and Makarova did not topple Azarenka based on her superior clay-court expertise.  Madison Keys shares Robson’s and Makarova’s preference for faster surfaces, so her first-round rout of Li Na may have registered the greatest shock of all.  Just two years removed from her Roland Garros title, Li has continued to shine on clay with marquee finals in Rome last year and Stuttgart this year.  Any of those three upsets, though, came as a greater surprise than any of those in 2012.

The remaining upsets of top-10 players, those over Stosur and Wozniacki, spoke more to the recent struggles of both women and came at the hands of two players accomplished on clay.  They don’t add much to the overall picture.

The VerdictBoth years featured plenty of upsets, nearly half of the seeds falling in 2012 and over half of the seeds falling in 2013.  Three of the top ten fell last year and a ghastly six of the top ten this year in an even larger implosion.  Since most of the top women prefer somewhat faster surfaces to red clay anyway, that difference might actually demonstrate a point that the blue clay’s detractors cited:  the blue played more like other blue courts (e.g., hard courts) than like other clay courts.  Even so, seeing the best in the game play their best may matter more than any other goal, and last year offered more in that regard than this year did.

Let’s next see how the men fared in the upset category.

2012:

Marin Cilic d. 8 John Isner

Jurgen Melzer d. 13 Feliciano Lopez

Not much to see here, just two upsets before the final sixteen and both of men whom one would expect to exit early on clay.  In fact, these results counter perceptions of the blue clay as a much faster surface than the red, which the tournament’s later rounds would encourage.  Losses by Isner and Lopez, players built around explosive serves and short points, surprised much less than the upsets in the WTA draw in the same year.  I found the dearth of upsets by non-seeds in the ATP draw quite surprising, in retrospect, for it seemed amid the general tumult at the time that many more fell in the early rounds.

 2013:

Grigor Dimitrov d. 1 Novak Djokovic

Daniel Gimeno-Traver d. 8 Richard Gasquet

Juan Monaco d. 9 Janko Tipsarevic

Pablo Andujar d. 10 Marin Cilic

Mikhail Youzhny d. 11 Nicolas Almagro

Fernando Verdasco d. 12 Milos Raonic

In contrast to the previous year, the 2013 draw harvested a plentiful crop of upsets, including three members of the top ten.  The name looming above the list, of course, belongs to one of the two superstars who criticized the blue clay so vociferously.  We never will know how much a lingering ankle injury or the consequent lack of practice contributed to Djokovic’s opening-round loss.  Note, however, that he brought the injury and minimal practice to Monte Carlo two weeks before—and, surviving two early three-setters, ultimately won the title from Nadal.  While his slips, stumbles, and mishits on blue clay showed his discomfort with that surface, Djokovic slipped, stumbled, and mishit plenty of balls across three ragged hours of tennis.  Those parallels supported what some have observed over the last few years:  Madrid’s problems come not from the surface’s color but from its hasty, uneven preparation.

The second-most surprising result in my view came from Youzhny’s victory over Almagro, in which a seeded clay specialist near the top 10 fell to a rapidly fading fast-court specialist twenty slots below him.  That’s exactly the type of result that one might have expected on the blue clay, so its occurrence on the red reminds us that these counterintuitive results can happen there too.  Gasquet’s early loss also stands out (to a lesser extent) because of his past successes on clay and overall consistency in 2012-13.  All the same, Gimeno-Traver became the seventh player outside the top 30 to defeat the Frenchman since the US Open, showing that Gasquet remains more vulnerable to upsets than most of the top ten.

The upsets of Tipsarevic, Cilic, and Raonic registered little surprise because all three fell to players with much greater aptitude on clay.  By conquering the latter two, Andujar and Verdasco showed that the altitude perhaps does not offer massive servers as much of an advantage as some had thought.  Despite his top-ten ranking, Tipsarevic has lost to virtually every opponent imaginable this year as his dismal form has dogged him across all surfaces.

The Verdict:  In both quantity and quality, the Madrid men’s draw produced more notable upsets early in the week this year than last year, as did the women’s draw.  However you choose to interpret that difference, it certainly does not suggest that the traditional surface caused a return to normalcy—but quite the opposite.  Nevertheless, some more subtle thinkers might argue that rankings, and thus seedings, reflect a player’s performance on faster surfaces disproportionately compared with performance on clay.  Since the ATP still has plenty of clay specialists who make their living on the surface, the lack of upsets in 2012 ironically may suggest that the blue clay played more like a hard court, as many complained, since the seedings based predominantly on hard-court results dictated outcomes.  Food for thought…

Now let’s switch to the other angle of comparison and compare who reached the semifinals of Madrid in 2012 and 2013, ladies first.

2012:

1 Victoria Azarenka (d. 8 Li Na)

4 Agnieszka Radwanska (d. Varvara Lepchenko)

Lucie Hradecka (d. 5 Samantha Stosur)

9 Serena Williams (d. 2 Maria Sharapova)

To state the obvious, the top half played exactly according to form.  In fact, the only top-eight seed who did not reach the quarterfinals in that half was the aforementioned Bartoli, usually expected to underperform on any sort of clay.  Despite her ninth seed, Serena should be favored over Sharapova on any surface and merely extended her dominance in that rivalry.  Few would have been surprised to see her eliminate the higher-ranked Caroline Wozniacki in a three-setter a round before.  Having lost to Wozniacki in Miami earlier that spring, Serena was not going to let the Dane down her twice.

The only odd name in this lineup does pop the eyeballs a bit, even after we became acquainted with her in the upsets section.  Hradecka delivered the biggest shock there, and she built upon that run with another upset of the then-healthy and somewhat dangerous Stosur in two tense tiebreaks.  The serve-a-thon semifinal in which she battled Serena certainly departed from expectations for a clay match.  On the other hand, a single unseeded semifinalist has burst through the bracket into an otherwise studded lineup at many WTA tournaments over the past few years.  It’s unexpected but no more astonishing than Rezai two years before.

2013:

1 Serena Williams (d. Anabel Medina Garrigues)

8 Sara Errani (d. Ekaterina Makarova)

16 Ana Ivanovic (d. 6 Angelique Kerber)

2 Maria Sharapova (d. Kaia Kanepi)

This lineup makes considerably more sense for a clay tournament than what we saw at the same stage in 2012.  All four of these WTA semifinalists have reached Roland Garros finals, three of them winning the title, so their talents on the surface rise beyond doubt.  The only constant between the two years, Serena, has not shone in Paris for several years but still has accomplished far more there than fellow 2012 semifinalists Azarenka, Radwanska, and Hradecka.  And the narrowness of her victory over Medina Garrigues captured the ability of an unheralded clay specialist to challenge someone of far greater talent here.  The only quarterfinal upset, Ivanovic over Kerber, plays into the theme of surface expertise with a woman whose greatest exploits have come on clay toppling a higher-ranked woman who has built her career on hard courts.

The Verdict:  While the 2012 semifinalists comprised arguably a more accomplished group overall, the 2013 semifinalists more accurately align with expectations for clay.  The transition back to the red thus coincided with arguably more desirable results later in the week after the implosions earlier in the week.  What was lost at the beginning may have been gained at the end.

And now for the ATP comparison. 

2012:

7 Janko Tipsarevic (d. 1 Novak Djokovic)

3 Roger Federer (d. 5 David Ferrer)

10 Juan Martin Del Potro (d. 16 Alexander Dolgopolov)

6 Tomas Berdych (d. 15 Fernando Verdasco)

Let’s just go ahead and acknowledge the massive Mallorcan elephant in the room.  Barring injury or its aftereffects, Rafael Nadal never will fail to reach the quarterfinals of a Masters 1000 tournament on clay during his prime without raising questions about the tournament.  It felt especially awkward because Madrid is the most important Spanish tournament, the place where Nadal should have the opportunity to bask in the adulation of his compatriots.  A petulant side less attractive than his usual sportsmanlike self emerged there last year, but one could understand his frustration at the opportunity denied him.

One could make an almost equally compelling argument that Djokovic should reach the semifinals at every clay Masters 1000 event that he enters, again subject to injury and related matters (see this year’s case above).  Or, at least, he should not lose in that situation to Janko Tipsarevic, nobody’s idea of a clay specialist and someone characteristically content to play second fiddle to Nole.  While I hesitate to ever question someone who won a six-hour major final for lack of effort, I felt strongly that Djokovic held back his best in that quarterfinal.  As with Nadal, that attitude did not reflect especially well on him.  As with Nadal, it tarnished the tournament nonetheless.

 

Federer’s eventual victory offered Madrid the best possible resolution under the circumstances, and its top brass must have felt fortunate that he dodged the opening-round bullet of Milos Raonic in a third-set tiebreak.  Without Federer, the weekend designed as the tournament’s climax would have descended into chaos.  Quality players with plenty of accomplishments, Del Potro and Berdych illustrated all too clearly how much faster the blue clay appeared to play than its red cousin.  Their semifinal cost the tournament more of whatever credibility still clung to it, decided as it was by a style of tennis more common on hard courts than clay.  So was the final between Federer and Berdych, despite its entertaining twists and turns.

2013:

15 Stanislas Wawrinka (d. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga)

6 Tomas Berdych (d. 3 Andy Murray)

5 Rafael Nadal (d. 4 David Ferrer)

Pablo Andujar (d. 14 Kei Nishikori)

Just looking at the seedings of the survivors, the end of the tournament appears as chaotic as the beginning.  The lower-ranked man won every quarterfinal, and none of the top four seeds reached the semifinals, unusual for a Masters 1000 tournament.  But a closer inspection reveals that each of these results fits with our expectations of how the distinctiveness of red clay affects results.  In all four quarterfinals, the man with superior expertise on the surface prevailed, just as in the 2013 women’s draw.  Granted, Rafa came within two points of defeat against a compatriot whom he long has throttled on this surface, recalling the stunning ambush by Verdasco last year.  Fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar also had struggled to win any matches at all over the last several months, so his sudden semifinal appearance with upsets over two seeded opponents astonishes.

The two non-Spanish semifinalists possess strong credentials on this surface with Wawrinka once coming within a set of the Rome title and Berdych within a set of the Roland Garros final.  Berdych is the only man who reached the Madrid semifinals in both of these years, an intriguing comment on how well his game adapts to various surfaces—or perhaps a comment on how much the altitude assists it.  A slow-court player, Wawrinka showed how the more physical, grinding attributes of a clay specialist’s game can prevail over a mercurial shot-maker like Tsonga.  Last year, that result may well be reversed.

The Verdict:  As with the women’s draw, the men’s draw crystallized late in the week this year into a more characteristic set of semifinalists than what we saw on the blue clay.  Nadal’s appearance in the semifinals backed up his arguments last year about that surface’s flaws, and Wawrinka makes a more credible surprise semifinalist on a slow court than Tipsarevic did.  While the route to this stage earlier in the week was less than ideal, and certainly more volatile than in 2012, the marquee rounds have unfolded along more familiar lines.

***

Two patterns thus emerge from comparisons between the Madrid men’s and women’s draws of the last two years.  The red clay produced more upsets in the first two rounds, and in general upsets of greater significance.  By the semifinals, though, the rubble had settled into a form more recognizable for this season than what the blue clay produced.

As the years unfold, we will observe whether those trends continue, or whether the altitude at this tournament continues to create chaos.  Another possible contributing factor, unrelated to the surface color, will improve in 2014 when the clay becomes permanent in Madrid rather than laid down shortly before the tournament each year.  The slipperiness that has troubled an array of stars during its brief history as a spring event should dwindle after that change, pleasing players and fans alike.

 

 

 

 

ATP Plotlines to Ponder: Clay Season Edition

Having concluded the first hard-court season, the ATP moves on to spend the spring on clay in cities like Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, and Paris.  Take a look at some of the key narratives that might set the tone during this action-packed span.

1.      Can anyone stop Nadal? 

This question has dominated the ATP clay season every season since 2006, and only twice (2009 and 2011) has anyone made significant incursions into Rafa’s fortresses.  In the wake of his extended injury absence, Nadal recaptured his familiar form sooner than anyone would have imagined.  Having won the first Masters 1000 tournament of his comeback on a hard court, defeating three top-eight opponents en route, he has positioned himself ideally to repeat last year’s perfect record on his beloved red clay.  While he may annihilate fewer opponents than he once did, Indian Wells showed that his competitive ferocity and the aura that it creates had returned.  Doubters will note that Nadal’s No. 5 ranking may require him to defeat all three of his leading rivals to win these tournaments, starting with possible quarterfinal tilts against Novak Djokovic or Roger Federer.  As long as he stays healthy, though, an earlier marquee matchup than usual seems more their problem than his.

2.      Will Djokovic complete the career Grand Slam?

Less stunning than the “Nole Slam” attempted last year, this accomplishment still would lift the Serb into a lofty elite.  As a similar question once did with Federer, this question essentially equates to whether Djokovic can defeat Nadal at Roland Garros.  (Granted, the Swiss might nudge our attention toward a 2011 semifinal there.)  After he solved Rafa on red clay at Madrid and Rome two years ago, Djokovic surrendered that momentum by losing all three finals that they played at this time last year.  The Masters 1000 tournaments will prove crucial for him in rebuilding the foundation of confidence that he built in 2011, and in reminding Rafa of the problems that this matchup poses for him on any surface.  Djokovic’s current ankle injury appears less severe than initially feared, but his spring form has not impressed.  It’s an even bet whether he is overdue to erupt or at the outset of a longer lull.

3.      Will Ferrer become a spoiler, or more?

Surpassing his compatriot Nadal in the ATP rankings earlier this year, Ferrer cracked the top four for the first time.  He has reached semifinals at three of the last four majors and has recorded almost as many titles since the start of 2012 as in the rest of his career combined.  Among them was his first Masters 1000 title, which many expected to embolden a man who has finished runner-up in Monte Carlo and Rome.  Ferrer lost to Nadal on both of those occasions, and in the Roland Garros semifinal last year, a trend that continued when Rafa routed him in Acapulco recently.  The epitome of a classic clay specialist, he may bring momentum from coming within a point of winning Miami.  Or that disappointment may have deepened his crippling lack of belief against the Big Four.  He will miss Monte Carlo but should return for Barcelona a week later.

4.      Can Del Potro extend his surge?

Since his return from wrist surgery in 2010, the former US Open champion had struggled to regain his confidence against the ATP elite.  Glimmers of hope amid his futility began to emerge late last year with two victories over Federer, though, and the Tower of Tandil soared back to vintage heights when he won consecutive three-setters from Andy Murray and Djokovic at Indian Wells.  Del Potro even led Nadal by a set and a break in the final, stringing together his best week ever at a Masters 1000 tournament.  While he plays his best tennis on hard courts, he came within a set of the Roland Garros final in 2009 and has captured clay titles before.  The Argentine seems the most plausible dark horse among those ranked outside the top five, partly because he moves more smoothly on this surface than most men of his height.

5.      How will the new-look, old-look Madrid tournament unfold?

Barely had Ion Tiriac shifted his playground in the Magic Box from the indoor season to the clay season than he altered it again.  The blue clay attracted a torrent of controversy as it appeared to reward fast-court players like finalists Federer and Berdych over those who more commonly excel on clay.  But, even before that surface change, the red clay in Madrid had produced some unusual results together with spellbinding epics like the Nadal-Djokovic semifinal in 2009.  One recalls oddities like Federer’s swing-and-miss on match point two years ago, while the altitude created conditions from those of any other clay tournament.  When Madrid bows to convention, then, the question remains whether other factors will create a distinctly different set of outcomes from those in Monte Carlo, Rome, and Roland Garros.  Stay tuned for an article from me on this topic midway through the tournament.

6.      What can we expect from the Frenchmen?

Much ink has spilled on the inability of home hopes to win Roland Garros since Yannick Noah astonished the world three decades ago.  That possibility remains minute at best, but it seems worth noting that Frenchmen have acquitted themselves creditably at their own major in the last several years.  While Gael Monfils reached the semifinals in 2008 and the quarterfinals in 2011, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga held four match points against Djokovic in a quarterfinal last year.  France brings two top-ten men to Roland Garros in 2013, Tsonga and the resurgent Richard Gasquet.  Uneasy on home soil before, Gasquet has recorded some of his most notable victories on clay, including two upsets over Federer.  The storylines of who rises to the occasion and who does not should enliven the first week, and the preceding tournaments might offer some hints about which of these streaky men will strike a torrid vein of form.

***

Of course, plenty of other storylines will unfold over the next several weeks on the European clay.  Feel free to share your thoughts of what you will look forward to watching there.

40 Years Ago In Tennis – Bud Collins Summarizes The Epic Year

The second year of Open tennis was one of continued progress but lingering confusion on the political front—and towering on-court performances by Margaret Smith Court and most notably Rod Laver, who netted an unprecedented second Grand Slam.

There were 30 open tournaments around the world and prize money escalated to about $1.3 million. Laver was the leading money winner with $124,000, followed by Tony Roche ($75,045), Tom Okker ($65,451), Roy Emerson ($62,629) and John Newcombe ($52,610).

The Davis Cup and other international team competitions continued to be governed by reactionaries, however, and admitted only players under the jurisdiction of their national associations. This left “contract pros”—who were paid guarantees and obligated by contract to adhere to the schedule set by independent promoters—on the outs, while players who accepted prize money but remained under the aegis of their national associations were allowed to play. At the end of the year, a proposal to end this silly double standard and include the contract pros was rejected by the Davis Cup nations in a 21-19 vote.

The “registered player” concept, borne of compromise a year earlier, persisted until finally being abolished by a newly-elected and more forward-looking International Lawn Tennis Federation Committee of Management in July. Still, the public found it difficult to understand who was and who was not a pro. In the United States, those who took prize money but remained under the authority of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association were officially called “players.”

Under the leadership of Captain Donald Dell, the members of the U.S. Davis Cup team preferred to call themselves “independent pros,” making it clear that they were competing for prize money. The USLTA leadership would have preferred to keep the U.S. tournament circuit amateur, paying expenses only, except for five open events given ILTF sanction (Philadelphia Indoor, Madison Square Garden, the U.S. Open, Pacific Southwest, Howard Hughes Invitational in Las Vegas). This would have kept down spiraling overhead costs, a threat to the exclusive clubs, which resisted sponsorship but did not want to lose their traditional events.

Dell and the Davis Cup team refused to play in tournaments that offered expenses and guarantees instead of prize money, however, and thus effectively forced a full prize-money circuit into being in the United States.

Dell led the way by organizing the $25,000 Washington Star International in his hometown. It was a prototype tournament in many ways, commercially sponsored and played in a public park for over-the-table prize money rather than under-thetable appearance fees. Other tournaments followed suit, and a new and successful U.S. Summer Circuit began to emerge. In all, 15 U.S. tournaments offered $440,000 in prize money, with the $137,000 U.S. Open again the world’s richest event. In 1968, there had been only two prize-money open tournaments in the U.S., the $100,000 U.S. Open and the $30,000 Pacific Southwest.

A few peculiar hybrid events—half-amateur, half professional—-remained. The most obviously unnecessary was the $25,000 National Singles and Doubles at Longwood Cricket Club, which welcomed amateurs and independent pros but excluded the contract pros. Stan Smith beat Bob Lutz 9-7, 6-3, 6-0, and Court prevailed over Virginia Wade 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, for the singles titles, but the grandly named tournament was essentially meaningless, except to those cashing checks, and vanished from the scene the next year in a natural sorting-out process.

A U.S. Amateur Championships also was played on clay in Rochester, the telecast of which was interrupted by a sexist act that wouldn’t even be contemplated today. Linda Tuero of Metairie, La., and Gwyneth Thomas of Cleveland, hyper-patient, unrepentant baseliners, were contesting the women’s final with endless rallies, one point lasting 10-1/2 minutes and 326 strokes.

It was too much for referee Ernie Oberlaender. After two hours, 20 minutes, and with no end in sight, he yanked them. He moved them to a court away from the cameras and installed the men’s finalists for a match shorter in time, longer in games, won by

Butch Seewagen of New York over Zan Guerry of Lookout Mountain, Tenn., 9-7, 6-8, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“What else could I do,” the referee was apologetic. “Two fine players, but they got locked into patballing, and neither would give. The crowd and the TV people were getting restless.” Linda and Gwyneth actually seemed relieved.

“I’m glad they got us off TV,” said Tuero, eventually the victor, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. “I wouldn’t have watched it 10 minutes myself.”

If the labels put on tournaments and players boggled the public mind, there was no doubt as to who the world’s No. 1 players were: Australians Laver and Court.

Laver repeated his 1962 Grand Slam by sweeping the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. titles the first year all four were open. Laver also won the South African Open over Okker, 6-3, 10-8, 6-3, and finished the season with a 106-16 record and winning 18 of 32 tournaments. He didn’t lose a match from the start of Wimbledon in June until the second round of the Pacific Southwest Open in late September, when Ray Moore ended the winning streak at 31 matches, 7-5, 3-6, 6-2. During that stretch, Laver won seven tournaments, including his fourth Wimbledon (where he had not lost since the 1960 final), his second Forest Hills and his fifth U.S. Pro Championship. By the time he got to Los Angeles, Rod just wanted to get 45 minutes farther south to his adopted home of Corona Del Mar, Calif, where his wife, Mary, had just given birth to his son, Rick Rodney.

The most difficult match for Laver of the 26 that constituted the Slam came early, in the semifinals of the Australian. He beat Roche, 7-5, 22-20, 9-11, 1-6, 6-3, enduring more than four hours in the sweltering, 105-degree heat of a Brisbane afternoon. Both players got groggy in the brutal sun, even though they employed an old Aussie trick of putting wet cabbage leaves in their hats to help stay cool. It was so close that it could easily have gone either way, and a controversial line call helped Laver grasp the final set. Having survived, Laver beat Andres Gimeno in the final, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. Rod had survived an Aussie gauntlet: Emerson in the fourth round, 6-2, 6-4, 3-6, 9-7, Stolle in the quarters, 6-4, 18-16, 6-4, and Roche. Gimeno traveled a less hazardous route, defeating Butch Buchholz 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 and Ray Ruffels 6-2, 11-9, 6-2.

At the French Open, another Aussie, Dick Crealy, took the first two sets from Laver in a second-rounder, 3-6, 7-9, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, but
the red-haired “Rocket” accelerated, stopping the increasingly dangerous Stan Smith in the fourth round, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, Gimeno in the quarters, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 and Okker in the semis, 4-6, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4. Ultimately he played one of his best clay-court matches to
beat defender Ken Rosewall in the final, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, after “Muscles” had knocked off Roche, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

An unheralded Indian named Premjit Lall similarly captured the first two sets in the second round at Wimbledon, but Laver awoke to dispose of him, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, 6-0. Stan Smith then took Laver to five sets, 6-4, 6-2, 7-9, 3-6, 6-3, in the fourth round. In the
quarters, Cliff Drysdale wasn’t the impediment he’d been a year before at the U.S. Open, going down, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. To finish, Rod burst from ambushes to raise the heat and tone down Arthur Ashe in the semis, 2-6, 6-2, 9-7, 6-0, then Newcombe, who had eliminated Roche, 3-6, 6-1, 14-12, 6-4. Despite Newcombe’s thoughtful game plan of using lobs and changes of pace instead of the straightforward power for which he was known, Laver prevailed, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Then, to complete the Slam, it was on to the U.S. Open. But first, the U.S. Pro at Longwood in Boston where Laver, winning for the fifth time, reprised over Newcombe, 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1. “How could he do that the week after Wimbledon?” marveled Ashe.

But that was Laver in ‘69, virtually invincible to any physical and mental obstacles.

The climax came at Forest Hills, where Philip Morris and its tennis-minded chairman of the board, Joe Cullman, had infused heavy promotional dollars into the U.S. Open. He brought flamboyant South African promoter Owen Williams in from Johannesburg to run a jazzed-up show and foster corporate patronage.

They drew record crowds until the weather turned surly. Rain inundated the already soft and uneven lawns, played havoc with the schedule and pushed the tournament days past its scheduled conclusion.

Despite the trying conditions and the imminent birth of his son on the West Coast, Laver remained intent. He was taken to five sets only by persistent Dennis Ralston, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round. After that, Laver disposed of ever-prickly Emerson, 4-6, 8-6, 13-11, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, and defender Ashe, 8-6, 6-3, 14-12 in the semifinals. Arthur had brushed aside Rosewall, 8-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. Roche, in a wowser, denied his mate Newcombe a place in the final, defeating his doubles partner 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 8-6 in the semifinals.

Then they waited through two days of rain as either the Grand Slam or a grand slap hovered. Laver, an old hand at the old ways with the feet, donned spikes in the second set. He became a sure-soled bog runner in climbing over Roche, 7-9, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2, on a gloomy Tuesday before a gathering of only 3,708 fans who sat through rain delays of 90 and 30 minutes. The weather certainly dampened the occasion, but it was appropriate that Roche—clearly No. 2 in the world, and regarded as Laver’s heir apparent until a series of left arm injuries started to plague him the next year—provided the final hurdle. The ruggedly muscular Roche was the only player with a winning record over Laver (5-3) for the year.

Laver uncharacteristically leaped the net in the Fred Perry style of the 1930s—”I don’t know why I did that!—and shed a few tears as USLTA President Alastair Martin presented him the champion’s trophy and check for $16,000, saying, “You’re the greatest in the world … perhaps the greatest we’ve ever seen.”

“I never really think of myself in those terms, but I feel honored that people see fit to say such things about me,” said Laver shyly. “Tennis-wise, this year was much tougher than ‘62. At the time the best players—Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Pancho Gonzalez— were not in the amateur ranks. I didn’t find out who were the best until I turned pro and had my brains beaten out for six months at the start of 1963.”

Now, in the open era, there was no question who was best.

Margaret Smith Court, who had returned to action following a brief retirement (the first of several in her long career), was almost as monopolistic as Laver. She lost only five matches the entire season, winning 19 of 24 tournaments and 98 of 103 matches. She won the Australian over Billie Jean King, 6-4, 6-1, after trailing Kerry Melville, 3-5 in the last set in the semifinal, running four games to 3-6, 6-2, 7-5. In the French, Court won the last four rounds by beating Rhodesia’s Pat Pretorius Walkden, 6-4, 6-0; Melville, 9-7, 6-1; defending champ Nancy Richey, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 and finally Ann Haydon Jones, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3—all splendid claycourt players.

Court’s dream of a Grand Slam ended at Wimbledon, however, where Jones beat her in the semifinals, 10-12, 6-3, 6-2. To the unbridled joy of her British countrymen, the left-handed, 30-year-old Ann Haydon Jones (Mrs. Philip ‘Pip’ Jones) won her first Wimbledon title after 14 years of trying, squashing King’s bid for a fourth consecutive crown, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Billie Jean was shaken by the noisy partisanship of the customarily proper British gallery and what she thought were some dubious line calls, but the British hailed the popular Jones as a conquering heroine.

Injury kept the top-seeded Jones out of the U.S. Open, won by second-seeded Court on a loss of no sets. In fact, she lost more than two games in a set only twice in six matches, in beating fellow Aussie Karen Krantzcke in the quarterfinals, 6-0, 9-7, and fifth-seeded defender Wade in the semifinals, 7-5, 6-0. Richey, seeded sixth—eschewing her usual baseline game for net-rushing tactics quite foreign to her—helped Margaret out. She eliminated third-seeded King in the quarters, 6-4, 8-6, but found herself passed repeatedly in the final by some of Court’s finest groundstroking, 6-2, 6-2.

But if Laver and Court clearly reigned supreme, there were other notable heroes, heroines and achievements in 1969. Phenomenally
Pancho Gonzalez, at 41, mowed down in succession four Hall of Famers-to-be—Newcombe, 6-1, 6-2, Rosewall, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, Smith, 8-6, 7-9, 6-4, and Ashe, 6-0, 6-2, 6-4—to win the $50,000 Howard Hughes Open at Las Vegas, and the $12,500 first prize, second only to the U.S. Open. Gonzalez also won the Pacific Southwest Open over Cliff Richey, 6-0, 7-5, and had a 2-0 record over Smith, who was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for the first time. Gonzalez was the top U.S. money-winner with $46,288, and might have returned to the No. 1 spot he occupied in 1948 and 1949 if the USLTA had included contract pros in its rankings.

Gonzalez’ most dramatic performance, however, came at Wimbledon, where he beat Charlie Pasarell in the opening round in the longest match in the history of the oldest and most prestigious of championships. It consumed five hours, 12 minutes and 112 games over two days. Gonzalez lost a marathon first set and virtually threw the second, complaining bitterly that it was too dark to continue play. He was whistled and hooted by the normally genteel Centre Court crowd, but won back all his detractors the next day with a gallant display. Pasarell played well, but Gonzalez was magnificent. In the fifth set, he staved off seven match points, twice serving out of 0-40 holes, and won, 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9. Gonzalez lasted until the fourth round, when his protégé, Ashe, beat him, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Stan Smith won eight tournaments, including the U.S. Indoor over Egyptian lefty Ismail El Shafei, 6-3, 6-8, 6-4, 6-4, to replace Ashe atop the U.S. rankings. Ashe, bothered by a nagging elbow injury and numerous non-tennis distractions following his big year in 1968, won only two tournaments but had an 83-24 match record and more wins than any other American.

The United States defeated long-shot Romania, 5-0, in the Davis Cup Challenge Round on a fast asphalt court at Cleveland, painted and polished to make it even slicker, to the home team’s benefit. Ashe defeated Ilie Nastase in the opening singles, 6-2, 15-13, 7-5, and Smith escaped the hulking and wily Ion Tiriac, 6-8, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, in the pivotal doubles, Smith and Lutz closed out the Romanians, 8-6, 6-1, 11-9. President Richard M. Nixon, a bowler and golfer who secretly despised tennis, hosted both final-round teams at a White House reception. This was a nice gesture, but the Chief Executive caused a few awkward stares when, as a memento of the occasion, he presented each player with a golf ball. Perhaps these were left over, some speculated, from the golf-happy Eisenhower administration. “I’m a Republican, but I’ll never vote for him again,” grumbled Richey. “Why he do this?” said a puzzled Tiriac. “No golf courses in Romania.”

Tiny Romania, with the lion-hearted Tiriac and the immensely talented Nastase its only players of international standard, was proud to have gotten past Egypt, Spain, the Soviet Union, India and Great Britain. Australia failed to reach the final for the first time since 1937—beaten in its first series by Mexico, 3-2, the first opening- round loss ever for Captain Harry Hopman, and for the Aussies since falling to Italy in 1928. Rafael Osuna, Mexico’s popular tennis hero, defeated Bill Bowrey in the decisive fifth match, 6-2, 3-6, 8-6, 6-3, and was hailed triumphantly by his countrymen. This was the engaging Osuna’s last hurrah, however. He died tragically shortly thereafter, at age 30, when a private plane carrying him on a business trip crashed into the mountains outside of Monterrey.

In another significant development, the Davis Cup nations voted South Africa and Rhodesia out of the competition for 1970 and 1971 because demonstrations against their racial policies, and the refusal of some nations to play them made their presence in the draw disruptive.

Nancy Richey was upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Clay Court Championships by Gail Sherriff Chanfreau, 6-3, 6-4, ending her tournament record female winning streak at 33 straight matches over seven years. She was trying to become only the second player to win seven consecutive U.S. titles, matching the feat of Richard Sears in the first seven U.S. Men’s Championships (1881—87). Chanfreau won that title over Linda Tuero, 6-2, 6-2.

Yugoslav Zeljko Franulovic won the other over Ashe, 8-6, 6-3, 6-4. Clark Graebner, uniting with Bill Bowrey in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory
over Aussies Crealy and Allan Stone, had his fifth U.S. Clay doubles title, passing Bill Talbert’s record set in 1946.

Richey, who retained the No. 1 U.S. women’s ranking teamed with Julie Heldman and Jane “Peaches” Bartkowicz to regain the Federation Cup at Athens and the Wightman Cup at Cleveland. Richey was undefeated in singles (4-0) and Heldman lost only to Court as the U.S. defeated Bulgaria, Italy, Netherlands (each 3-0) and Australia, 2-1, for the world team championship. Heldman, a clever player who nicknamed herself “Junkball Julie,” set the tone of the 5-2 Wightman Cup victory by upsetting Wade in the opening match, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6, and also beat Winnie Shaw, 6-3, 6-4. Richey topped Shaw, 8-6, 6-2, and Bartkowicz stopped Christine Truman Janes, 8-6, 6-0.

Ranked No. 2 nationally with eight titles in 20 tournaments and a 67-13 match record, 24-year-old Heldman also became the first American woman to win the Italian Championships since Althea Gibson in 1956, beating three outstanding clay courters— Lesley Turner Bowrey (wife of Bill), 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, Jones, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, and Kerry Melville, 7-5, 6-3.

One of the most remarkable and crowd-pleasing victories of the year was that of Darlene Hard and Francoise Durr in the U.S. Open doubles. They were a “pickup” team; Hard, by then a 33-year-old teaching pro, had entered as a lark. Out of tournament condition, she was an embarrassment in losing the first eight games of the final, but seemed suddenly to remember the skills and instincts that had made her the world’s premier doubles player, winner of five previous U.S. women’s titles. As the crowd loudly cheered their revival, Hard and Durr stunned heavily favored Court and Wade, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Forest Hills had begun with a match of record duration. F. D. Robbins defeated Dick Dell, younger brother of Donald, 22-20, 9-7, 6-8, 8-10, 6-4, the longest in number of singles games—100— in the history of the U.S. Championships. When the tournament ran three days over, the men’s doubles finished in a disgraceful shambles, Rosewall and Fred Stolle beating Ralston and Pasarell,

2-6, 7-5, 13-11, 6-3, before a few hundred spectators on a soggy Wednesday. Pasarell-Ralston got defaults from Wimbledon champs Newcombe and Roche in the quarters and Australian Open winners Laver and Emerson in the semis, who were off to other pursuits. Newcombe-Roche were urged to leave waterlogged New York by their employers, WCT, in order to meet other commitments, a decision that rankled the ILTF in its increasingly uneasy dealings with the new pro promoters. After all, it was unseemly for the No. 1 team to walk out on a major. They had repeated at Wimbledon, over Tom Okker-Marty Riessen, 7-5, 11-9, 6-3, and won three other tournaments, including the French (over Emerson and Laver, 4-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4).

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

Robbie Koenig: The Blog From Madrid

Apologies first of all for missing my post on Thursday, but the commentating has been full-on this week in Madrid!!! Two matches after 8pm is such bad scheduling, no one stays to watch the second match, irrespective of who’s playing! Its crazy to start a match at 10:30/11pm at night, a few players were pissed off this week playing at that time, and i totally understand!!

Anyway…how about Saturday – ridiculous quality tennis!!! I’ve been talking a fair bit about Andy Murray, and he proved he’s the real deal – sick athlete and great tactition! He served as good as I’ve ever seen, and he’s gonna take the title Sunday cause Gilles Simon has got to be outta gas…..?
What a Hercleun effort yesterday from the Frenchman, to beat Rafa Nadal in that fashion in his own backyard. He deserves a serious amount of respect!!! I tell you the stadium was rocking, we could hardly hear ourselves in the booth, and both Jason (Goodall- co commentator) and myself rate that as one of the best matches we’ve ever called.

Novak Djokovic seems to have lost his edge a bit, some of the boys tell me he’s been partying pretty hard and enjoying himself….Fair enough, he’s had a great year and is entitled to enjoy his success! As long as it doesn’t affect his game too much, he’s young, he’ll learn.

There was a big a party last night with all the “Hugo Boss” ball-girls and hostesses (a lot are local models), but I was just too tired to make a guest appearance, but I’m sure it was fun. Tiriac (Ion Tiriac- tournament owner, the guy with the big moustache) only does things to the max. He’s a genius businessman!

Gotta run and go prep for the finals, If Simon pulls this one off, it will be the eighth wonder!!!

On This Day In Tennis History

It was 35 years ago Saturday that perhaps the most famous single tennis match in the history of the sport was held in Houston, Texas when Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs in the famed “Battle of the Sexes.” The following are events that happened this week in tennis history as documented in my soon-to-be-released book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com).

September 20

1973 – In perhaps the most socially significant event in the history of tennis and sports history, 29-year-old Billie Jean King defeats 55-year-old Bobby Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 in 2 hours, 4minutes to win the “Battle of the Sexes” played at the Houston Astrodome in Houston, Texas. The match is played in a circus-like atmosphere in front of a world record crowd of 30,492 fans and millions in front of televisions around the world. “She was too good,” says Riggs, the 1939 Wimbledon champion, following the match. “She played too well. She was playing well within herself and I couldn’t get the most out of my game. It was over too quickly.” Writes Neil Amdur of the New York Times, “King struck a proud blow for herself and women around the world.”

1988 – The sport of tennis returns to official status as an Olympic sport for the first time since 1924 as the tennis competition opens at the Seoul Games. Wimbledon champion Stefan Edberg, the winner of the gold medal in men’s singles at the 1984 demonstration in Los Angeles, plays the first match on stadium court, defeating Austria’s Horst Skoff 7-6, 6-2, 6-3. Says Edberg of tennis being part of the Olympics, “I don’t really know whether we should be here in tennis, but it is worth giving it a chance. It needs some time. In the 1920s, there weren’t that many countries competing in the Olympics. Now, here, all the top players aren’t competing so that hurts it a little bit. Plus, we have all the Grand Slam events we play in, and those are the most important right now to us. But this is only played every four years, so there’s nothing wrong with trying it.”

1977 – Ilie Nastase is upset in the round of the Grand Prix tournament in Paris by Frenchman Georges Goven, who uses a double-strung “spaghetti” racquet to post the 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory. The spaghetti-strung racquet provides added speed and lift to shots. “That’s the first time I’ve played against someone using one of those things,” says Nastase of the spaghetti-strung racquet.

2000 – Just one week after being crowned U.S. Open champion, No. 1 seeded Marat Safin of Russia, bows out in the first round of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, losing to Fabrice Santoro of France 1-6, 6-1, 6-4. Safin takes the court barely 24 hours after arriving in Sydney from Uzbekistan, where Safin won the President’s Cup in Tashkent.

1969 – Stan Smith and Bob Lutz give the United States an insurmountable 3-0 lead over Romania, clinching the Davis Cup title, defeating Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac 8-6, 6-1, 11-9 in Cleveland, Ohio.

1997 – Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge defeat Pete Sampras and Todd Martin 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4 to cut the U.S. lead over Australia to 2-1 in the Davis Cup semifinals in Washington, D.C. Sampras is so angry at the loss that he refuses to attend the post-match press conference, causing the International Tennis Federation to fine the U.S. team $1,000. “I really didn’t have anything to say. I really didn’t,” Sampras says the next day. “I was getting a rubdown, and the key thing was to recover, because I played back-to-back matches. It was more important to get ready for an early match, an 11 o’clock match. It is early for me.”

September 21

1997 – World No. 1 Pete Sampras defeats reigning U.S. Open champion and No. 3-ranked Patrick Rafter 6-7 (8), 6-1, 6-1, 6-4 to clinch the 4-1 victory for the United States over Australia in the Davis Cup semifinal in Washington, D.C. Says Sampras of the satisfying win over the man who took the U.S. Open title he held since 1995, “I couldn’t play any better. I did everything that I could do very well. I served and returned well. If I can play at that level and that intensity, I feel like I am going to be pretty tough to beat.” Sampras never faces a break point on the afternoon and gives up only 18 points on his serve over four sets. Says Rafter, “Pete served too well today. I played Pete a lot of times before and I’ve always had at least one chance to break him. But today I couldn’t read his serve and just didn’t pick the ball up. He was too good for me on the day.” After Sampras and Michael Chang win opening day singles matches over Mark Philippoussis and Rafter, respectively, Australia cuts the U.S. lead to 2-1 in the doubles contest, defeating Sampras and Todd Martin 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2, 6-4. Sampras is so angry at the doubles loss that he refuses to attend the post-match press conference, causing the International Tennis Federation to fine the U.S. team $1,000. “I really didn’t have anything to say. I really didn’t,” Sampras says after his win over Rafter of skipping his media session after the doubles loss the previous day. “I was getting a rubdown, and the key thing was to recover, because I played back-to-back matches. It was more important to get ready for an early match, an 11 o’clock match. It is early for me.”

2000 – Venus Williams defeats Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand 6-2, 6-3 in the second round of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and then pairs with younger sister Serena in the pair’s Olympic doubles debut, defeating Canada’s Vanessa Webb and Sonya Jeyaseelan 6-3, 6-1 in the first round. In between matches, Venus meets with Janette Howard, the wife of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and trades pins with The Right Honorable Hage Geingob, the Prime Minister of the African nation of Namibia.

2003 – Agustin Calleri of Argentina, substituting for teammate Mariano Zabaleta, connects on an incredible 109 winners in just three sets in beating reigning French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-4, 7-5, 6-1 to level Argentina even with Spain in the Davis Cup semifinal in Malaga, Spain. Carlos Moya beats Gaston Gaudio in the fifth and decisive rubber of the tie 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to elevate Spain to the final.

1988 – Called a “David-and-Goliath tennis match” by Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times, 19-year-old Clement N’Goran of the Ivory Coast, ranked No. 827 in the world, falls to Britain’s Andrew Castle, ranked No. 142, 6-7, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6, 7-5 in the first round of the Olympic tennis competition.