By Randy Walker
Vasil Kirkov, the 17-year-old who reached the semifinals as a lucky loser in the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships USTA Futures event earlier this year in Vero Beach, Florida, competed in the qualifying rounds of the 2016 U.S. Open at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center.
Kirkov, however, suffered an early exit, falling 6-2, 7-5 in the first scheduled match of the competition to No. 242-ranked Yannik Reuter of Belgium.
Kirkov, ranked No. 1146, played the match on Court No. 5 – the shadow of the new Arthur Ashe Stadium retractable roof – in front of an audience of about 200 people that included U.S. Olympic men’s tennis coach Jay Berger, former US Davis Cup Captain Tom Gullikson and Hallof Famer – and Vero Beach resident – Ivan Lendl, who works with Kirkov as part of his advisory role with the USTA Player Development program.
Kirkov was awarded a wild card entry into the U.S. Open qualifying tournament by the U.S. Tennis Association after, not only his strong result in Vero Beach, that saw his ATP ranking rise almost 1000 spots, but by reaching the final of the USTA National Boy’s 18 Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he lost to another Vero Beach Futures alumnus Michael Mmoh.
Kirkov is expected to compete in the U.S. Open junior championships in two weeks.
Kriegler Brink, Ivan Lendl’s left-handed sparring partner in Vero Beach, Florida, is moving on from teaching tennis to pursue a job in finance and being honored at the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships during its Pro-Am and Kick-Off Cocktail Party Monday, April 25 at The Boulevard Tennis Club in Vero Beach.
Brink, the assistant tennis pro at Quail Valley Club, recently announced that he will be moving to Dallas, Texas this month where he will pursue a job in finance, real estate or insurance. A popular participant at the annual USTA Vero Beach Futures event since 2011, Brink will not participate this year in the tournament, now called The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships, but will play in the pro-am event as a “going away” party to help raise funds for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation.
Kriegler was known as the left-handed sparring partner for Hall of Fame tennis legend and Vero Beach resident Ivan Lendl, who frequently trained with the left-handed Kriegler in anticipation of matches with his left-handed rival John McEnroe in senior tennis events around the country, most notably their match at Madison Square Garden in 2011. Brink was a former No. 1 singles and doubles junior in South Africa and a standout player for Texas Christian University, where he finished his four-year career not losing a singles match in dual-match play his junior and senior years. He worked as an assistant pro at The Moorings Yacht & Tennis Club in Vero Beach from 2010 to 2012 before moving to work at Quail Valley. He played in the USTA Vero Beach Futures five times, with his best result coming in 2011 when he reached the singles semifinals in memorable fashion, defeating current world No. 149 Dennis Novikov in the first round and current and former top 300-ranked player Daniel Kosakowski in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual champion and Mexican Davis Cup team member Daniel Garza in the semifinals.
Brink listed his 2012 exhibition match with Lendl in Vero Beach as one of the best favorite memories in Vero Beach, writing in an email, “When Ivan Lendl was coaching Andy Murray, a couple days after they won Wimbledon together, I came up with the idea to ask my good friend Ivan if he will play an exhibition at Quail free of charge, to raise money for my permanent residency. I ran it through the leaders at Quail and they thought it was a great idea! I called Ivan up to congratulate him on helping Andy win Wimbledon and asked him, he was happy to help any way he can! It was a member only event and the tickets were not cheap but when the members found out that the money is going to help me get my Green Card, if I remember correctly the tickets sold out within 2 days and had a big waitlist. It was the most fun night because it is always fun to hit tennis balls with Ivan.”
Pro-Am slots, where patrons can play doubles with Kriegler and ATP-ranked tennis pros from around t world competing in the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships, are for sale for $150 per person (90 percent tax deductible). Entrants will get two hours of doubles tennis – playing with a rotation of competing pros – and will include cocktails and heavy appetizers. Entrants will also receive two tickets for any main draw session of the tournament (April 26-May 1) and a gift bag. The 90 percent tax deductible fee for non-players who just want to attend, watch and enjoy cocktails, appetizers and fun – and say good-bye and good luck to Kriegler – is $80 per person, and also includes one ticket for the main draw of the tournament. A 18-and-under kids ticket for the night will also be available for $40. To reserve a spot, email Randy Walker at [email protected]
“Kriegler has been a big part of the tennis community here for the last six years and our pro-am event will be like a going-away party for him to help raise funds for our Foundation, which is a very thoughtful gesture,” said Tom Fish, tournament director for the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships. “Kriegler is a tremendous young man with a bright future in the corporate world. Some company is going to be very lucky when they hire him. We will miss him in Vero Beach.”
Starting in 2016, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation is the new operator of the $10,000 “Futures” tennis tournament in Vero Beach, one of the longest-running and best attended events on the U.S. Tennis Association Pro Circuit. The tournament, now called The Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships, benefits the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation, the non-profit tennis foundation benefiting children, named for Vero Beach native son Mardy Fish, a former top 10 tennis star, U.S. Davis Cup hero and silver medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games. The event was managed for 20 years by Vero Beach tennis teaching professional Mike Rahaley, who made the annual Vero Beach stop one of the crown jewels on the USTA Pro Circuit. The 2016 tournament will be held April 22 through May 1 at The Boulevard Tennis Club.
Founded in 2007, the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation (www.MardyFishFoundation.com and @MardyFishFound on Twitter) currently supports over 2,100 children in 15 elementary schools and six middle schools in Indian River County, Florida by providing after-school exercise, nutritional and enrichment programs in a safe environment to prepare them for healthy, productive and successful lives. The Foundation introduced the “Six Healthy Habits” in 2012 which are Get Sleep; Drink Water; Exercise Daily, Eat Healthy; Brush and Floss; Make Friends.” Mardy Fish recently completed his ATP professional tennis career at the 2015 U.S. Open, highlighted by a career-high ranking of No. 7, six ATP singles titles, eight ATP doubles titles and an Olympic silver medal in singles at the 2004 Olympics. He reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and was a mainstay on the U.S. Davis Cup team from 2002 to 2012.
Some of the past competitors in Vero Beach have gone on to succeed at the highest levels of professional tennis, winning major singles and doubles titles, Olympic medals and Davis Cup championships and earning No. 1 world rankings. Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion who attained the world No. 1 ranking and helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 2007 competed in Vero Beach in 1999. Thomas Johansson of Sweden, who reached the second round of the Vero Beach Futures in 1995, won the Australian Open seven years later in 2002. Nicolas Massu, the 1998 singles runner-up in Vero Beach, won the singles and doubles gold medals at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, beating Fish in the gold medal singles match. Kyle Edmund, the 2013 champion in Vero Beach, helped Great Britain to the Davis Cup title in 2015. Other notable former competitors in Vero Beach include former world No. 2 Magnus Norman, former world No. 4 Tim Henman, 2016 Australian Open semifinalist Milos Raonic among others. Former Vero Beach competitors have combined to win 19 titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Grand Slam tournaments. Six former Vero Beach players have gone on to play Davis Cup for the United States – Roddick, Fish, Taylor Dent, Jared Palmer, Donald Young and Ryan Harrison.
Tickets for the qualifying rounds of the Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships from April 22 – April 25 will cost $10, while tickets for the main draw of singles and doubles from April 26 – May 1 will be $20. Season tickets that include both the qualifying and main draw events cost $100. Advance tickets can be purchased at www.VeroBeachTennisTickets.com. Admission for children 18 and under is free. Fans can follow news and developments on the tournament on Facebook and on Twitter at @VeroFutures and by going to the website www.TennisVeroBeach.com
Sponsors and supporters of the 2016 Mardy Fish Children’s Foundation Tennis Championships are as follows
Grand Slam Sponsors
Laser Spine Institute
George E. Warren Corp.
Indian River Medical Center
Syde Hurdus Foundation
John’s Island Real Estate
Coastal Van Lines Storage
Indian River Press Journal / TCPalm.com
Dr. Larry Landsman
Dr. John Sarbak
White Orchid Day Spa
Michael & Kathleen Pierce
Rosato Plastic Surgery Center
Kay C. Betancourt, DMD
Jeff & Rosanne Susi
Sam & Susie Bell
Sue Powell Rentals
Peter Bernholz Family
Don & Linda Proctor
The Whole Person Project, Inc.
Ocean Drive Plastic Surgery
Ocean Drive Elite Physiques
Barker Air Conditioning
Bill & Laurie Stewart
Steve McCloud / Wells Fargo Home Mortgage
Coggin BMW of Ft. Pierce / Mercedes of Ft. Pierce
Twig Swim & Sportswear Shop
Supporting Sponsors and Patrons
The Moorings Yacht & Country Club
New Leaf Designs
A Pampered Life / Disney Spa
Carpe Antiperspirant Hand Lotion
Calvetti & Company
Roy & Tish Wissel
Tennis Resort at the ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney
Quail Valley Club
Sebastian Roadhouse Restaurant
Maison Beach Gifts
Center for Advanced Eye Care
Diamond Resorts International
Rock City Gardens
Quail Valley Club
Tina Simone Company
Kevin Healy, M.S., D.S.
Chiropractic Nutrition and Wellness
Treasure Coast Sports Commission
Fresh off helping Andy Murray get back to form after back surgery at the Australian Open, Ivan Lendl is getting his own game in shape. The 54-year-old winner of eight major singles titles is set to play five events on the PowerShares Series champions tennis circuit starting February 5 in Kansas City, Missouri. The following is the transcript of the telephone news conference Lendl conducted Wednesday to promote his appearances on the 12-city circuit for champion tennis players over the age of 30.
RANDY WALKER: Thank you all for joining us today for our PowerShares Series tennis conference call with Ivan Lendl. The PowerShares Series kicks off its 2014 season next Wednesday, February 5, in Kansas City, and will visit 12 cities in all through March. Good tickets and terrific meet and greet and play-with-the-pros on-court opportunities are still available, and you can get more information on that at www.PowerSharesSeries.com
We want to thank Ivan for joining us today. He’s fresh off his trip to Australia, where he was working with Andy Murray. Ivan’s playing career is highlighted by three US Open titles, three French Open titles, and two Australian Open titles. He reached 19 major singles finals in his career. Roger Federer is the only man to play in more major singles finals, and Rafael Nadal just tied him with his result in Australia. Ivan also won 94 singles titles in his ATP career, which is 17 more than Federer and 33 more than Nadal.
Ivan will be playing in PowerShares Series events in Kansas City on February 5, Oklahoma City on February 6, Indianapolis on February 14, Nashville, Tennessee, on March 12, and Charlotte, North Carolina, on March 13.
In Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Indianapolis, Ivan is scheduled to face his old rival John McEnroe in the semifinals, and with that I’ll ask Ivan to kick off the call here, talk a little bit about his rivalry with John. You guys have been jabbing at each other for 35 years now, and you’re going to be playing with him in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and he’s going to be your Valentine’s Day date on February 14th in Indianapolis.
IVAN LENDL: Yeah, we have played quite a few times starting in juniors. I think the first time we played was in Brazil in 1977. So it’s quite a long time we have played, and played a lot of matches, so that should be fun.
Q. I wanted to ask a general question if I could just about your life. You come from Czechoslovakia, had your fabulous on court career and a really great success in business and now in coaching. Aside from your family, what’s the best part of being Ivan Lendl these days?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I haven’t really thought about it much. I think staying busy and having something to do, something I like to do is always good, whether it is being in tennis and working with Andy or playing some, or playing some golf tournaments in the summer. All of that is fun.
Q. And obviously we have this trend now with great legends, great veterans working with different players. Some have worked, some have clicked, certainly you and Andy, others not to be mentioned are less so. What do you think the key is in the coach and pupil relationship on the ATP Tour?
IVAN LENDL: I think the key, especially with the older guys who have played successfully, is that, number one, what can that player or that coach offer to a practical player, and also chemistry.
Q. And what’s been the key to your chemistry with Andy? Do you think in some ways you guys are quite similar?
IVAN LENDL: Well, we had the unfortunate part we shared that both of us lost a few majors before we won the first one, and we understood each other with that quite well. I could understand how he was feeling, how frustrating it is, and so on and so on. Also I think sense of humor, and enjoyment of sports.
Q. People view you as a pretty serious character, but talk to us about your sense of humor off court.
IVAN LENDL: I would hate to ruin my reputation.
Q. I had the pleasure of talking with your daughters last year for the Southeastern Conference golf tournament
IVAN LENDL: Which one did you talk to?
Q. Daniella well, the one was at Alabama, the one was at Florida.
IVAN LENDL: Okay.
Q. Talk to me a little bit about your play of tennis and your play of golf. I get the sense that one is business and one is a pleasure/love. Am I overstating it too much?
IVAN LENDL: Well, it depends how you look at it. I enjoy both, obviously. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it.
Q. I get the sense, though, that and obviously you are deeply into tennis, but golf looks to be a real deep relationship that you’ve got with that particular sport, something that you’ve really taken hold of and really held onto.
IVAN LENDL: Well, I enjoy competing, and once I stopped playing tennis, because of my back I didn’t play for quite a while, I had really nowhere to compete, and golf filled that part of my life very well, obviously on a much lower level than when I played tennis, but I still do enjoy playing the senior state opens and tournaments and so on.
Q. Do you see either of your daughters being able to make a run in golf like you made in tennis?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I think it’s really up to them how much they want to do that or whether they want to do it at all.
Q. Could you maybe discuss whether you feel like through the years McEnroe was you had a lot of great rivalries, whether that was your number one rival, and maybe just talk about how your relationship with him has maybe changed now that you’re playing him in a different type setting.
IVAN LENDL: Well, I don’t know if he was my number one rival. We have played, I believe, somewhere in the mid 30s, something like that, and I have played a lot of matches with Connors. I have played quite a few matches with Wilander, Edberg and Becker, as well. I think at one time, obviously, we were number one rivals, and then I think it started shifting sort of mid ’80s to other guys, and Connors was there at the same time as McEnroe, maybe a bit longer because after ’85 he took some time off, didn’t play as much as before. I would say I had a lot of rivalries with those guys.
Q. Has your relationship sort of changed with him now that you’re playing in a different setting?
IVAN LENDL: Well, it’s obviously much less competitive than it has been when we played in the US Open finals, but I think both of us still want to play well and have fun with it.
Q. And just talk about this tournament coming to Indianapolis, the first stop since the tour here, and I know that you
IVAN LENDL: Are you from Kansas City?
Q. No, from Indianapolis.
IVAN LENDL: Okay.
Q. And obviously I know you came here when it was clay and had a great match with Becker when it was still clay and then back when it was hard courts. Talk about your memories of playing there in Indianapolis.
IVAN LENDL: The first time I came in the summer to the United States, Indianapolis was one of the places, and I could not believe how hot and humid it was. It was quite a shock. I didn’t expect that. Obviously I didn’t know much about it, otherwise I would have expected that. It was extremely hot. It was extremely difficult to play in those conditions, and I was very proud when I was able to overcome it and win there.
RANDY WALKER: Ivan and John played 36 times in their career on the ATP Tour. Ivan led the series 21-15. Only Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal played more times in the open era history of the ATP Tour. Novak and Rafael have played 39 times to Ivan and John’s 36 times. The No. 3 rivalry of all time in men’s tennis in the open era was Ivan and Jimmy Connors. They played 35 times, and Ivan led the series there 22-13. And then in PowerShares Series history, John leads the series over Ivan 2-1.
Q. A lot of people say this is a little similar to the Champions Tour, or the PGA Senior Tour. What’s the fun in this? You’re not as competitive as the old days, but you obviously still want to win this match. What’s it like for a crowd to witness one of these?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I don’t know, I’ve never been in the crowd, but I can tell you what it feels like as the players. It’s always fun to see the guys. It’s fun to interact with people more. It’s a bit lighter side of the players, but yet, as you said, it’s still competitive that the guys want to play well.
Q. And along those lines, just the atmosphere. It’s a different setting, but it sounds like it’s something that’s really picking up steam and a lot of people are having fun with it and it’s gaining more and more momentum. How do you see this moving forward the next five years or so?
IVAN LENDL: Well, wherever we have played, it’s usually very well received, and I have played in Europe, I have played in Asia, I have played in Australia, I have played obviously in the United States and Canada. It’s very well received and people seem to enjoy it very much. As far as where it’s going to go in the next five years, I don’t know. I’m not involved in the business part of it.
RANDY WALKER: You’re also playing in events in Nashville and Charlotte, and those matches are going to be the exact semifinal rematches of the Super Saturday at the US Open September 8, 1984, when you beat Pat Cash in a fifth set tiebreaker and John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors in a five-set semifinal. If you could talk a little bit about that day; you hit a pretty good forehand topspin lob down match point against Cash in the fifth set. Talk a little bit about that match and that day and rekindling your match with Pat in Nashville and Charlotte.
IVAN LENDL: Yeah, it was an extremely difficult day, obviously, when you play five sets and you have finals of the US Open coming up the next day. But I think it’s a special day in tennis. That Super Saturday was special for many, many years. They went away from it either last year or a couple years ago. But I always have nice memories of that, and I’m looking forward to recreating it as long as I don’t have to play five sets.
RANDY WALKER: It’s one set semifinals and one set finals on the PowerShares Series.
IVAN LENDL: We can start in the tiebreaker then.
Q. We are from New York, and we always see John, always practicing, and he takes tennis very seriously. He has fun, but he’s still competitive. How do you train for this PowerShares Series?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I do some conditioning. I try to do something every day for conditioning, whether it is biking or rollerblading or do some weights and so on. I play tennis about three times a week.
Q. Also something a little bit about Andy Murray because we spoke to Andy today, and he’s going to be here in New York in Madison Square Garden. He said that you had great things to say about New York. Do you remember when you played here at Madison Square Garden?
IVAN LENDL: I always enjoyed it. I enjoyed playing at Flushing Meadows, I enjoyed playing at Forest Hills, and I absolutely loved playing at Madison Square Garden. All three places at that time, I had a home in Greenwich, Connecticut, so I could stay home, which was always a big advantage, at least in my mind, that you stay home and have home cooking and stay in your own bed. I think the results showed how much I enjoyed it because when you feel comfortable somewhere, you usually play pretty well.
Q. And also, again, about Andy, coming back from back surgery, he had a pretty good run at the Australian Open. Were you guys somehow surprised how well he played? Unfortunately he lost to Roger, but what’s your assessment on that?
IVAN LENDL: I think it was sort of realistic what he achieved at the Australian Open. I think he was very close to doing better. I wish he had done better because that match was the beginning of the fourth set; anything could have happened after he served match point and Rocha was serving for the match, if Andy got ahead in the fourth I think he had an excellent chance of winning, but unfortunately he got behind.
Q. And with respect to you again, you have been a great champion, have so many fans around the world and such a pleasure that you’re going to join the PowerShares Series. How do you feel because it’s more relaxed in a way, but at the same time it’s competitive. I’m sure there’s still the love for the game out there for you, right?
IVAN LENDL: Yeah, I enjoy playing, and I enjoy going to places I have never been to, and I never played in Oklahoma City, so I’m looking forward to that one.
Q. My question regards your last couple of years traveling with Andy, participating in Grand Slams and other tournaments. In addition to you imparting your wisdom and expertise to a young player like Andy, what have you gleaned from him and his play and his training, his mental challenges, if you will? I know you’ve helped him with that regard and helped him of course win Wimbledon last year. But what have you learned from him and perhaps some of the other players like Rafa and Djokovic, Roger, et cetera? What have you picked up over the last couple years that you’ve been exposed to these top global players on a regular basis?
IVAN LENDL: Well, you learn how much the game has changed, how much more complete players they are than the players in the past. You see how everybody trains and how they prepare. But most of the time you just not that you learn, but you confirm your beliefs in how things are done and what’s the best way to go about preparation and competition.
Q. Sticking with the Australian Open for just a quick second, it was a great final between Rafa and Stan. Anything that you saw that either led you to believe or surprised you in that final, especially with Stan playing so strongly that first set?
IVAN LENDL: I didn’t see the final. I was in the air from Melbourne to Los Angeles, and I learned the result when I landed in Los Angeles, and I still didn’t have time to watch it.
Q. You and Connors, great rivalry, and I know after you retired from playing on the regular tour, both you and Jimmy, it seemed like you both picked up golf. From what I can tell you’re a little more fervent about it than he may be, but have you ever considered getting on the course and reconstructing a rivalry on the course, or maybe you’ve done that and we don’t know about it?
IVAN LENDL: No, I haven’t played with Jimmy. I wasn’t even aware that he plays much. It can always be done.
Q. The Wimbledon final was incredible, and obviously
IVAN LENDL: You’re talking about 2013?
Q. Yeah, and all the pressure on Andy, obviously, and the last game to close it out. Sitting up there in the friends’ box, when he closed it out, what went through your mind?
IVAN LENDL: I was very pleased for him. I knew how much pressure Andy went through in 2012 playing Roger, and I was also aware of how much pressure there was in 2013, how much he wanted to win, how hard he worked for it, and what obstacles he had to overcome, so I was extremely pleased for him.
Q. And also at Wimbledon, Jack Nicklaus was there, and he said that tennis was tougher mentally than golf. Could you talk and just compare the mental requirements, mental toughness of the two different sports?
IVAN LENDL: Well, I think they’re both mentally tough. I think in both sports you rely on yourself and you don’t have teammates to pick up your slack where if you mess up something or if it’s not your best day, that somebody else steps up. You really get all the credit, but you also get all the blame if you want to call it that way. I think the main difference between tennis and golf is that in golf if you have a bad half hour or 45 minutes, you’re out of the tournament. In tennis you can have a bad 45 minutes and be sitting a break down and you can still win in four sets. In that part, you would have to say that maybe tennis is a little bit easier mentally because you can have little lapses and get over it, but it’s definitely tougher physically.
Q. In terms of John back in the old days, he was pretty a lot of rough edges, came at you pretty strong. Did he piss you off? What was your take on John?
IVAN LENDL: Oh, I think I could handle it all right.
Q. But did you have anger towards him, or did you view it as it was pretty much just part of
IVAN LENDL: I think if you play with anger, you don’t play with a clear mind. I think you have to play with a clear mind.
Q. And finally, if I could just ask you to just talk about pretty much the incredible history of Czech tennis. So many outstanding players and now back to back Davis Cups, but some problems recently in terms of winning Slams. Could you talk about the heritage of Czech tennis and on court the beauty of the Czech game?
IVAN LENDL: Yeah, I think I have a quiz question for you then at the end if you want to talk about Czech
Q. Wait a second, all right.
IVAN LENDL: But it’s a great question. You will enjoy it. I think the history is there for a long time. You can go I’m not a historian, but you can go all the way to the Second World War and afterwards, and there is great history, men’s and women’s. And now in the team competitions, two Davis Cups in a row, before that two Fed Cups in a row, I believe, and Berdych is very close and Kvitova has won Wimbledon. It’s great, great history and present of Czech tennis. The question I have for you: Who is the only person to be a world ice hockey champion and a Wimbledon champion?
Q. That’s a good question. I know Ellsworth Vines won ping pong and tennis.
IVAN LENDL: I didn’t know he won ping pong.
Q. I know you were part owner of the Hartford team.
IVAN LENDL: Not true, but I was on the board, yes.
RANDY WALKER: I think I might know the answer to that. Drobny?
IVAN LENDL: Correct.
RANDY WALKER: What do I get?
IVAN LENDL: Another question. Who is the only person with an African passport to win a Grand Slam?
RANDY WALKER: Drobny. I am the publisher of the Bud Collins History of Tennis.
IVAN LENDL: That would be why.
Q. I was wondering how you get along with the players on this series, if you get a chance to hang out away from the court and if you play pranks on each other or if you have any interesting stories.
IVAN LENDL: We do. We do clinics together. We do meet and greets together. We travel together. We get along very well.
RANDY WALKER: We want to thank Ivan for joining us today, and we will see him starting on February 5 in Kansas City.
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By Thaddeus McCarthy
As we are in the (short) off-season, I thought now would be a perfect time to look at some historical aspects of our great game. Rather than discussing my opinions on the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) debate (which is a boring and tedious one), I will instead talk about the GROAT (Greatest Record of All Time) debate. Whether it is Roger Federer’s 17 Grand Slams, or Rafael Nadal’s 81-match clay-court win streak, we certainly have an array of options. The records I will compare will be only men, as it is too difficult to compare both sexes. I also don’t want to get into a debate on the relative importance of the two.
Two factors are most important here; the first is the difficulty of acquiring the record, and the second is how important the record is too the game’s history in general. The difficulty of acquiring the record can be looked at by the closeness of the results, the quality of the opponents, and the next person in the category. How important the record is can be looked at by how widely known is, and is revered by players and historians.
I would like to start off by talking about a record that unfortunately never was, Federer’s 19 consecutive Grand Slam finals. The match which broke this streak was the 2008 Aussie Open semifinal versus Novak Djokovic, which coincidentally your writer watched from the stands. I remember thinking that Fed was not his normal self. He did in fact have mononucleosis, which did slow him down. But let’s for now go back to fantasy and believe that Federer won this match, in which case I believe we certainly would have had the greatest record in tennis, and arguably in sports. Why? Well there were many close matches throughout, such as Janko Tipsaravic at Aussie 08, won 10-8 in the 5th. The opponents Federer had to face in this time (2005-2010) before the final were very good; such as a young Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, and David Nalbandian. The next person in the consecutive finals category is Rafael Nadal with 5, which is not even close. And it’s standing in the history of tennis and sports would undoubtedly be exemplary. It would be near on five years of constantly finishing in the top two of sports major tournaments… ridiculous.
As it is in reality land, we have Federer’s 23 consecutive semi-final streak to admire. The matches were close and the opponents were still very good. The next person in the category though is Novak Djokovic with 14, which is much closer than five. It is probably the best known record in tennis, and has been talked about as one of the greatest in sports. But is it the greatest? His own 17 Grand Slams stand out as maybe a better known record. Nadals 81-match clay court win streak, or his 7/8 titles at 4 different tournaments (French Open, Monte Carlo, Rome, Barcelona) were both far beyond anything else. Jimmy Connors 109 single titles record will likely never be approached. Guillermo Vilas’s 16 titles in a single season will not be overtaken in the modern age. You could also include Rod Laver’s two calendar year Grand Slams or his 200 total titles in this company.
For Nadal’s two greatest records there is one match which stands out above all others, and that is the 2006 Rome Final, which went over 5 hours. It was the longest match in the Nadal-Federer rivalry. Winning this match enabled Nadal to break Vilas’s record 53 straight clay wins. Jimmy Connors total titles record of 109 is a reasonably known record throughout the tennis public. The next person in the category is Ivan Lendl with 94. Seeing that Fed only won a single title this year to notch up his 77th, we can clearly see how difficult it is. The Vilas record of 16 titles in one season (1977) is practically unbreakable. Especially considering that Federer in his best year of 2006 ‘only’ won 12. Most of those for Vilas were on clay though, so one has to question his all-court mastery. Rod Laver’s calendar Grand Slams, one in the amateur era and one in the professional; will be hard to emulate. It has to be remembered though that these were the transition years when neither (amateur/professional) had all the great players in their respective competitions. One has to think that it would be somewhat easier to accomplish the true Grand Slam then, than from the 70s onwards.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to that which is best known by the general public and appreciated by historians. And unfortunately Vilas’s, Nadal’s and Connors records; while undoubtedly great, are not well known by the general public. The Laver calendar Grand Slams are well known, but the quality of the opposition in those days was spread across two separate competitions. The record which stands out I believe (and I know it may be obvious) is the Federer semi-final streak of 23. The reasons for it are many. It is one of the best known records in tennis and is revered by historians and the public alike, most importantly though it demonstrates consistent excellence over a prolonged period. Among the great records in sports it is arguable where this stands alongside the likes of Tiger Wood’s 142 consecutive cut streak or Wilt Chamberlains 100 point game. Within tennis though, nothing is on par with it. We needn’t live in a fantasy land, because the reality of 23 consecutive top four finishes isn’t half bad.
InsideOut Sports & Entertainment today announced the dates, venues and fields for the 2014 PowerShares Series tennis circuit, highlighted by the debuts of Andy Roddick and James Blake, who will join the 12-city tour and play alongside tennis legends such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
The PowerShares Series will kick off on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 in Kansas City and will conclude March 21 in Surprise, Arizona. Players competing on the 2014 circuit are Roddick, Blake, Sampras, Agassi, McEnroe, Connors, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Todd Martin and Mark Philippoussis. Each event will feature two one-set semifinal matches, followed by a one-set championship match.
An exclusive USTA member pre-sale offering a 15% discount for USTA members begins today. Tickets and unique VIP fan experience packages will go on sale to the general public next Tuesday, October 22. Tickets start at $25 and all ticket and VIP information is available at www.PowerSharesSeries.com.
“We are eagerly anticipating the 2014 PowerShares Series season with an exciting blend of all-time greats from different generations competing in 12 cities across the country,” said Jon Venison, Partner at InsideOut Sports & Entertainment. “We are excited to welcome Andy Roddick and James Blake as they join our eighth year of Champions Series tennis and look forward to seeing them, along with the other legendary players, compete and entertain crowds around the United States this season.”
“I am looking forward to playing on the PowerShares circuit,” said Roddick. “Having a chance to stay connected with tennis and compete on a limited basis through events like these fits perfectly with my life these days.”
“It’s going to be exciting to start a new chapter of my tennis life playing on the PowerShares Series circuit,” said Blake. “Having just retired from the ATP tour, you’d think I have an advantage over some of the guys, but players like Andy, Andre and Pete are so talented and competitive that is going to be a great challenge for me to win some titles. I look forward to the challenge.”
The full 2014 PowerShares Series schedule with field of players are as follows:
Wednesday, February 5, Kansas City, Missouri, Sprint Centre – Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang
Thursday, February 6, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Chesapeake Energy Arena – Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang
Thursday, February 13, Birmingham, Alabama, BJCC – John McEnroe, Andy Roddick, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis
Friday, February 14, Indianapolis, Indiana, Bankers Life Fieldhouse – John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis
Wednesday, February 19, Denver, Colorado, Pepsi Center – Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jim Courier, Mark Philippoussis
Thursday, February 20, Houston, Texas, Toyota Center – Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Andy Roddick, James Blake
Tuesday, February 25, Salt Lake City, Utah, Energy Solutions Arena – Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
Wednesday, February 26, Sacramento, California, Sleep Train Arena – Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
Thursday, February 27, Portland, Oregon, Moda Center – Andre Agassi, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, James Blake
Wednesday, March 12, Nashville, Tennessee, Bridgestone Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander
Thursday, March 13, Charlotte, North Carolina, Time Warner Arena – John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors, Mats Wilander
Friday, March 21, Surprise, Arizona, Surprise Stadium – Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Todd Martin, Michael Chang
(July 7, 2013)History has been made, and the winners of this year’s Wimbledon Championships attended the prestigious Champions Ball at the Intercontinental Park Lane Hotel in London on Sunday evening.
The stunning surprise of the evening was the elegantly beautiful women’s singles winner, Marion Bartoli. Earlier in the day, she promised to don “extremely high heels” and “a short green dress” to the Ball and we weren’t disappointed. She showed up in skyhigh 6 inch Christian Louboutin Daf Booty suede platform boots (which go for a fierce $1,395), and the French women looked every bit the part of a confident and happy champion.
The men’s singles winner and already a member of the All England Club, Andy Murray looked charming in a black tuxedo and radiant smile. He brought along his mum and dad, Judy and Will, girlfriend Kim Sears, as well as his good friend Dani Vallverdu and coach Ivan Lendl.
(All dresses supplied by Having A Ball, who have dressed the Wimbledon champions for years.)
by James A. Crabtree
Arguably the most hated Australian tennis player since a young Lleyton Hewitt, life isn’t easy for Bernard Tomic.
In fact Bernie has almost gone in search of bad press. There was the turning down of Lleyton Hewitt as a practice partner. The allegations he was going to quit Australia at his father’s behest and play for Croatia. In the 2012 Miami Masters he asked the chair umpire to remove his own father. During last years US Open John McEnroe accused Tomic of tanking a loss to Andy Roddick. Following all that he angered the old guard of Australian tennis with apparent refusal to play Davis Cup. And then we have the numerous driving issues, too numerous to mention.
Nevertheless Tomic is also the man with the best chance of restoring Australian tennis fortunes.
It must be tough for him. Most people find young men in their late teens and early twenties irritating to the say the least. Unless you are a fifteen year old girl chances are you also find Justin Bieber and One Direction intolerable.
Another difficulty for Tomic is the daddy dilemma as Bernard is not the person with the biggest ego among his entourage.
What on earth is young Bernie supposed to you?
The youngest Wimbledon quarterfinalist since Boris Becker in 1985 Tomic started 2013 well. He won all three of his singles Hopman Cup matches against none other than Tommy Haas, Novak Djokovic and Andreas Seppi. He then went onto win Sydney. There he beat Marinko Matosevic, Florian Mayer, Jarkko Nieminen, Andreas Seppi (again), and Kevin Anderson for his tenth win in a row and his first career singles title.
Quickly Tomic went from being loathed to loved.
The following week at the Australian Open, Leonardo Mayer and Daniel Brands fell victim. By this time the whole of Australia was in a flutter and Tomic was not only invincible, but was displaying the sort of ego not seen since Clubber Lang.
Then there was the rumoured incident before the big Australian Open 3rd round match. On the practice court where John Tomic is notoriously hot headed Bernie sat after practice, his dad stood behind and berated him incessantly for ten minutes. Eventually Bernie walked off shaking his head. Not the best possible way to get a sense of Zen before a match?
Bernie went on to lose the match, and hasn’t won more than two matches in a row since. Of course his drop in form went unnoticed until dad John reportedly beat up Bernie’s hitting partner Thomas Drouet. Complications have heightened further since Drouet has come forward with other incidences.
What is Bernie supposed to do?
Judy Murray once commented that talent got her son, Andy Murray, within the top 100, but it was hard work and determination that propelled him to the heights he now knows. Compare the 2013 Andy Murray with the 2005 version of himself and we could be looking at a different athlete.
It is obvious that Bernard could administer similar changes.
This poses the question, who would be the perfect person to guide arguably the most naturally talented youngster on tour? Tennis Australia are already trying to help solve the crisis, and undoubtedly all the familiar names will arise such as Tony Roche, Pat Rafter and Scott Draper. Again akin to the LTA Brad Gilbert hiring for Andy Murray perhaps the best coach for the player is not one made by a committee. And besides, Bernie has had more than his fair share of runs with a number of high profile Australian coaches during Davis Cup play already. Perhaps he needs someone with an old school work hard mentality similar to Ivan Lendl or someone who can understand the games intricate details such as Andy Roddick’s old coach Larry Stefanki.
Sacking the only coach you have ever known would be difficult enough, now imagine starting that ordeal with the word ‘Dad’. Bernard obviously needs a new coach, but probably deep down worries about what his father will do without him.
New Students Hail from 11 States, Four Countries
(HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.) – Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy (Ivan Lendl IJTA) – led by the former No.1 player in the world and coach to U.S. Open Champion Andy Murray – announces a spring class from 11 states and four countries.
The new semester for grades 5-12 began Jan. 7 and has students from Bulgaria, New Zealand, Russia and the U.S. Nationwide representation also includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
“Ivan Lendl IJTA offers a flexible but challenging training environment for juniors with an incredible passion for the game,” says Peter Orrell, President and CEO of Junior Sports Corporation, owner/operator of Ivan Lendl IJTA. “The Academy’s curriculum is proven and we set ourselves apart with individualized performance programs for our students, including college placement and mental training services.”
The full-time program at Ivan Lendl IJTA is based on philosophies Lendl followed to become one of the greatest players in tennis history and highlighted by eight Grand Slams. The Academy focuses daily instruction on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation.
Lendl and his staff subscribe to a hands-on approach with juniors, instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation.
Students attend Heritage Academy, a progressive and diverse academic institution for adolescents pursuing extra-curricular passions. The school boasts 100 percent college acceptance rate for all students.
Classes average eight students — with a maximum of 15 — to promote individual attention. Optional English as a Second Language, College Preparatory and Honors courses are also available.
About Junior Sports Corporation
Located on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, JSC owns and operates:
Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy is the world’s only academy to combine training, competition and academics for serious junior golfers. Director of Instruction Hank Haney – coach to winners of every major championship on the PGA TOUR – and his elite staff train junior golfers from more than 25 countries across six continents.
The International Junior Golf Tour hosts 60 tournaments annually and is the only junior golf tour with events every weekend during the September-to-May school year.
Established in May 2011, the Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy produces the finest tennis training and competition for junior students to ultimately reach the college or professional ranks. Ivan Lendl, former World No. 1 player and winner of eight Grand Slam singles titles, serves as Director of Instruction and is dedicated to the development of each junior tennis player.
Heritage Academy provides progressive, diverse academic instruction for students from grades five to 12 who pursue extra-curricular passions, such as golf at Hank Haney IJGA and tennis at Ivan Lendl IJTA.
Hilton Head Island is easily accessible by most major airlines through Hilton Head Island (HHI), Savannah (SAV), Charleston (CHS) and Columbia (CAE) airports.
James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE — Most people when asked whom they would include on their perfect dinner party guest list name Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Julius Ceaser.
With all these predictable types, you need a sportsmen and an entertainer. In Henri Leconte, you have both.
When you walk into the room he is in command, captivating his audience with humorous anecdotes about Becker and Lendl that probably shouldn’t be mentioned.
As a player Henri’s exploits have been very much forgotten, perhaps in many ways overshadowed by his showman ways.
His Davis Cup exploits, when he beat Pete Sampras to help claim victory for France over the United States have been forgotten, including his 9 titles, French Open finals appearance in 1988 and his French Open doubles victory with Yannick Noah in 1984.
Henri was a paradox, a Frenchman who grew up on clay but had a serve and volley game to die for.
“I was sniper. To many opponents, I was very complicated. My best results were all on clay. It is difficult to understand today.”
Henri swirled his coffee and recalled his playing days.
“Beating (Pat) Cash at Wimbledon on grass was huge, I will always remember. Ivan hated to play against me so much I could tell, but I hated to play Fabrice Santoro. I really hated to play against Mats (Wilander). Boris Becker on grass was so difficult,” Henri said with a grin that turned into a laugh, which in turn replaced defeat with victory, “but Boris Becker on clay.”
The former world number 5, now a commentator for the Australian Open on channel 7 and throughout the year on Eurosport admires what Ivan Lendl has done for Andy Murray. As a coach he believes he could serve a player in the same capacity.
“I really think I could help. I had so many stupid experiences with the coaching and doing the wrong thing sometimes that I would know the right things. The matter is finding the right person who has the talent, and the passion as same as me. I could be so accurate for them because I have been there.”
Henri is your typical Frenchman, with a partisan approach to his countrymen that is endearing to say the least. When listening to a broadcast his usual catchphrase to any Jo-Wilfred Tsonga winner is an emphatic “Unbelievable.” Henri talks words of praise about Roger Rasheed, Tsonga’s new coach then speaks devotedly of Gael Monfils:
“I love this guy, he has more talent than he knows what to do with. He can be top ten so easy. He is such a great guy, we have not seen the best of him yet but time goes so fast.”
Henri reflects sincerely before saying with a hint of worry:
“We have so many players in France right now which is so good, but I worry a little bit about four five years from now. There are lots of politics.”
Henri Leconte is a pleasurable person to be around. He is personable, charming and humorous and speaks of his success with sheer modesty. Tennis is very much a part of his life, both personal and professional which is very much evident in his match commentary. With his vibrancy and excitement he really brings an added spark to the game of tennis, and a one on one chat with this man is an absolute treat.
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
Andy Murray is still one of the main topics of discussion on TV and in the newspapers (particularly the British ones!) after his epic battle against defending US Open champion, Novak Djokovic on Monday night, after a grueling five set match that lasted almost 5 hours that boasted exquisite rallies in each of the 5 sets played.
Ivan Lendl, the coach of Murray since January 2012, has admitted that Andy Murray and his ‘Slamless’ situation very much remind him of himself when he was younger and competing on Tour, but the comparisons do not end only there…
Andy Murray has become more known for his tough mentality as he has for his great physicality. Yes, there have been moments on the tennis court where he has admitted that his mind let him down (e.g. most famously during the Wimbledon final this year against Roger Federer where he could have been up 2 sets to 0) but as his tennis has developed, so has his mental toughness and ability to win attitude.
This is also comparable to the attitude displayed on court by Ivan Lendl. He too played in an era alongside tennis greats such as John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg and experienced some crushing defeats at the hands of them, but just as Murray has done, he never gave up and always believed that he could win. Like Lendl, Andy Murray has learnt from his painful losses.
Pressure in their prime
Throughout his career, the Olympic champion has frequently single-handedly shouldered the weight and expectation from the British public to do well, win tournaments, knock out the top 3 three players in the world and win a Grand Slam. Not much to ask of a young player in their early twenties? Now at 25-years-old, Murray seems to be able to deal with that pressure and has finally answered the call and hopes of many after his victory at the US Open.
Ivan Lendl as a coach and player has been a good influence on Murray as he can relate to the pressure and strain which Andy Murray has been under. He too had experienced it at a very young age and having lost to Connors, Borg and Wilander, he admitted that he did not know how to play against the big players in his prime and it was something that he learnt to do.
Fitness vs fatigue
Andy Murray did not have an easy start early on his career, having been criticized heavily for his personality, his mentality, for having a low first serve percentage, he was also targeted about his fitness. He experienced cramping during long matches in his early twenties and he knew that in order to compete at the top level, against the top players of the world, he had to become physically stronger as well as mentally stronger and this was also the case for Ivan Lendl. Like his coach had to when he was younger, Murray has spent hours at the gym and during training he has become increasingly stronger and has trained hard to keep his endurance levels up to sustain his energy levels during long matches – which have paid off extremely in recent years. Murray continues with his same demanding regime on the practice courts and in the gym today.
Fifth time lucky
Ivan Lendl could relate to Andy Murray and his sorrow after yet another Grand Slam final defeat at the hands of Roger Federer at Wimbledon this year, as he too experienced crushing losses and lost four Grand Slam finals before winning in his fifth appearance, à la Andy Murray. After his quartet of heartbreaking defeats, Lendl went on to win another eight Grand Slams and if history really does repeat itself, who knows if and when Andy Murray will lift another major title – or eight?
It took 5 sets for Ivan Lendl to win his first Grand Slam in Roland Garros against John McEnroe and he rallied back from a two set deficit to secure his victory, whereas for Andy Murray at the US Open, he also needed 5 sets to lift his first major but he needed to rally back after losing the third and fourth sets before sealing the championship title in the penultimate set.
The strangest thing of it all is that during their encounter, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic equalized the record for the longest final of all time played at the US Open after their 4-hour and 54 minute battle and they equaled the record of – yes you guessed it – Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander in 1988 which saw Lendl win after 4-hours and 54 minutes too.
Andy Murray has now laid his demons to rest, as his coach had after finally winning that elusive Grand Slam that he was so desperately chasing and yearning for. I just hope that now the talented Scot has got time to enjoy this momentous occasion he relishes it immensely before another dreaded question starts to beckon…. ‘Andy, do you think you can win more majors?’