Jay Berger

Jay Berger – The Man With The Back-Scratch Serve

The following is a chapter excerpt on Jay Berger from Sandy Harwitt’s book “The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players of All Time” (for sale here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/193755936X/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_RIZZyb1KGTC5C

It sounds very cliched to say, but nonetheless is very true: Trying to catch up with Jay Berger is like trying to hit a moving target.

Jay is here, there and everywhere, which is not that surprising considering that since 2008 he’s served as the USTA Head of Men’s Tennis. Trying to develop talent is no easy or part-time responsibility. It was never that Berger wasn’t amenable to chat about himself, his life in tennis, and his relationship to Judiasm. It’s just he’s one guy trying to be in a multitude of places at the same time. Just watching him traverse a Grand Slam tournament with American players — pros and juniors alike — on courts peppered around the grounds is dizzying to the observer.

Finally, during a relatively mundane work week at the USTA’s Boca Raton training facility, Jay phoned, first offering apologies for being so hard to pin down, and then with the good news that he had some time to talk – right then and there.

“You’re in a car,” the question was posed, but not needed since the background noise betrayed Berger’s whereabouts. He laughed, “Yes.” The response: “Perfect, you’re a captive audience then.” Jay patiently waited as the tape system was turned on and then spent some quality time telling his story.

Jay was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, but relocated with his family to South Florida where Jay grew up and initially facilitated his own interest in tennis.

“I started playing tennis on my seventh birthday,” said Berger, the son of a dentist. “I got $10 from my grandmother and I went out to Walmart and bought an Emerson racket. I started by hitting balls in the street with my dad.”

Berger quickly upgraded from the road in front of his house to a tennis court, playing at Center Court, a club in Sunrise, Fla., where standout doubles star Robert Seguso also played. A half year into owning that Emerson racket and Jay was taking a once-a-week tennis lesson and by eight he was starting to play 10-and-under tournaments.

“I was dropped off at the courts at eight in the morning and picked up at five o’clock,” said Berger, thinking about how he developed as a youngster. “I would just try to find people to play with. I’d just hang out at the courts at the club all day. I’d play with anyone I could find.”

Back in Berger’s time, there were so many quality juniors in South Florida alone that a player had all the competition they needed to improve while living a more traditional childhood. Part of Jay’s normal childhood routine was attending Hebrew School and being Bar Mitzvah’ed.

Of growing up, Berger said, “Judiasm was definitely part of my life and who I was.”

He remembered that his dad donated money to the Israel Tennis Center. Nowadays, however, Berger says, “Not so much,” when asked if he’s active within the Jewish community. His wife, Nadia, isn’t Jewish and they haven’t raised their four children in the religion.

“There was definitely a sense of who the other players were who were Jewish and I think there probably still is,” Berger admitted. “You know, when I see (Israeli tennis player) Dudi Sela I think he knows who I am and I know who he is — there’s definitely some recognition.”

From the time Berger was 12-years-old to throughout his pro career his main coach was Jorge Paris. But he also was fortunate enough from his mid-teens to pick the brains of tour players Brian Gottfried and Harold Solomon. Solomon would frequently hit with Berger, but it was Gottfried who would become a vital mentor and coach. Besides for Berger, Gottfried worked at the same time with Aaron Krickstein, Jimmy Arias and Greg Holmes.

“I was lucky at 16 to start training with Brian Gottfried,” Berger said. “Brian was a huge influence in my life, my pro career. I couldn’t have a better transition to the pros than with someone like Brian, who was such a consummate professional. In a different way, Harold was also an influence.”

In 1985, Berger made quite a splash in the juniors, winning the USTA Boys’ 18s Clay Court and USTA Boys’ 18s Hardcourt titles. The latter, more commonly known as Kalamazoo, comes with a special prize to the victor every year – a wildcard into the upcoming U.S. Open. Still an amateur, the No. 730th-ranked Berger, who had only ever played one pro tournament prior to the U.S. Open — losing a first-round match in Boston that summer — made great value of that U.S. Open wildcard. He journeyed to the fourth round, where he fell in four sets to Yannick Noah. To reach that fourth round, however, Berger upset Brian Teacher, the 1980 Australian Open champion, in a four-setter in the third round. The big joke about Berger at that U.S. Open was that this unknown junior and his family had to keep checking back into the swank St. Moritz Hotel on Central Park South every time he’d win his match. No other Kalamazoo champion has fared better as Berger did at that U.S. Open in the Open Era.

In today’s world, Berger would’ve probably taken that fourth-round appearance as a sign he was ready for the real world: the pros. But in those days, juniors went on to college and that’s exactly what Berger did. He enrolled at Clemson University, where he spent two years and received All-American honors before joining the pro tour.

During his career, Berger won three titles (Buenos Aires in 1986, Sao Paulo in 1988 and Charleston in 1989). He ended the 1989 season with a year-end best ranking of No. 10, enjoying a career-high ranking of No. 7 in April of 1990. His best results at the Grand Slams was reaching two quarterfinals — at the 1989 French and U.S. Opens. He also represented the United States in Davis Cup, winning both singles matches he played.

“For me, the highlight was playing Davis Cup, without a doubt,” Berger said. “That’s something I always dreamed of being part of and is one of my greatest memories. Obviously, making it to the Top 10 was something I’m not sure I ever thought I’d be able to do. Getting to the quarterfinals of a couple of Grand Slams would be some of my highlights. And getting to the semifinals at the Lipton (Key Biscayne) at home in front of friends and family was exciting.”

During his career, Berger claimed a number of victories against top players, including Mats Wilander, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and Boris Becker. In fact, when he upset Becker 6-1, 6-1 in the Indian Wells third round, en route to the semifinals, it would turn out to be the worst defeat Becker would suffer during his stellar career.

“Really, when I look back on my career I think the thing that is nice is that I did everything I could to be the best player I could become,” Berger said. “I was known by my peers to be a great competitor, somebody who was pretty fierce on the court. You know, it’s great to be able to look back and have no regrets in the way I went about my tennis and I think that’s what it’s all about.”

Berger would be the first to admit that although he was a top 10 guy his American compatriots, such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, kept him from being a major focal point in the game. However, there is one notable, quirky style to his game that many fans remember clearly. Berger had a unique service motion where he did away with the normal backswing motion of a serve. When he got in position to serve, his starting point was with the racket located behind his back — almost as if he was using it as a back scratcher.

“My serve developed — the first time I ever used it I was 16-years-old and I was playing the 16-and-unders at Kalamazoo,” Berger said. “I was going to graduate high school a little bit ahead so that was the year that college coaches were going to be looking to recruit me because I was going to graduate at 17. In my first round match I pulled a muscle very badly — my chest muscles — and the only way I could’ve continued the tournament was to continue serving in a half motion. I served some of the best tennis I ever served.

“That was the first time I ever used that serve,” Berger continued. “When I went to college my first year I was having a lot of shoulder issues and I also wasn’t serving that great – it was probably the weakest part of my game. So I just decided to try the serve again and it just worked better for me so I stuck with it and never went back.”

Upon his retirement, Berger went into coaching and spent some time as a coach at the University of Miami. In 2003, he joined the USTA national coaching staff, working to help current players and assist in identifying talent for the future. Berger believed his path after playing the pros was to pursue coaching as it would fulfill his desire to give back to the game he loved.

“I find it extremely satisfying at times, sometimes not as satisfying, but overall I really enjoy what I do,” Berger said. “I do love learning about tennis. I enjoy trying to become as good as I can as a coach. I don’t feel like I go to work every day. I feel like I get to follow my passion.”

“The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players Of All Time” is a guide to the best and most influential Jewish tennis players in the history of the sport and includes features and biographies of the greatest players, stories of both break-out success and anti-Semitism. Beginning with the Italian Baron Umberto de Morpurgo in the 1920s, the book features stories such as the best German player who was prevented from playing by the Nazis, the player who competed on both the men’s and women’s tour, the only fully Jewish player to rank No. 1 in the world, and the player who was denied entry into a country to play a Women’s Tennis Association tournament—in the 21st century. This history also discusses the ways in which Jewish individuals have been instrumental behind the scenes, playing key roles in the growth of tennis into one of the world’s most popular sports. Among the 37 players featured are Dick Savitt, Brian Teacher, Ilana Kloss, Aaron Krickstein, Brad Gilbert, Julie Heldman, Amos Mansdorf, Anna Smashnova, Justin Gimelstob, Angela Buxton and Brian Gottfried. The book retails for $19.95 and is available where books are sold, including here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/193755936X/ref=cm_sw_r_pi_dp_vl8rub1RK7P00

“Tennis does have its ‘Game, Set and Matzo’ element and I am thrilled to present them in ‘The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players of All Time,’” said Harwitt. “Each player’s personal saga will touch all tennis fans, Jewish or not, because their stories are instrumental to the history of the game. The experience writing this book was an exciting and rewarding adventure in discovering many fascinating stories.”

Harold Solomon, who is also profiled in the book, contributed the foreword to the book. “You don’t need to be Jewish to appreciate the story of any of these Jewish tennis players,” wrote Solomon. “You just have to be someone who has a curious side and likes to learn about people and how they ended up being who they are and doing what they did.”

Gottfried, the 1977 French Open singles finalist, said of Harwitt, “Who better to write a story about the lives of Jewish tennis players than someone who has ‘been there and done that.’ Sandy has been a fixture on the ATP and WTA Tour for many decades as a very knowledgeable and respected tennis journalist. My family and I have enjoyed getting to know her over the years and being included in her book has been an honor and a privilege.”

Peter Bodo of Tennis.com said, “Sandy Harwitt is a deeply experienced and well-traveled writer, which brings to this book a special stamp of authority. It isn’t just a good book about Jewish tennis players – it’s a good tennis book, period.”

U.S. Davis Cup captain and former world No. 1 Jim Courier said, “Sandy has lived and breathed the sport for years. Her detail and insight into these players personal and professional lives is both remarkable and inspiring.”

Tennis writer and historian Joel Drucker said, “Dozens of Jewish men and women have made a distinctive mark on tennis. Longstanding tennis writer Sandra Harwitt has dug deep to bring these compelling stories to life – fascinating backstories and remarkable journeys both inside and outside the lines.”

Television commentator and former player Mary Carillo said, “Sandy Harwitt is the ideal writer to bring you the lives of the people in this book. She is a true tennis “lifer” and her love and knowledge of the game has produced one remarkable story after another, about tennis players you knew, or wish you knew.”

Harwitt, a freelance sportswriter who specializes in tennis, has covered more than 70 Grand Slam tournaments for media outlets such as the Associated Press, ESPN.com, ESPNW.com, the Miami Herald, the New York Times, and Tennis magazine. She is a member of the International Tennis Writers’ Association and the Association for Women in Sports Media. She lives in Boca Raton, Florida.

Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” by Rick Macci with Jim Martz, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), “The Days of Roger Federer” by Randy Walker, “Andy Murray, Wimbledon Champion: The Full Extraordinary Story” by Mark Hodgkinson, “The Secrets of Spanish Tennis” by Chris Lewit, “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “Court Confidential: Inside The World Of Tennis” by Neil Harman, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com), “Internet Dating 101: It’s Complicated, But It Doesn’t Have To Be” by Laura Schreffler, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” by Carl Sautter, “Bone Appetit: Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Suzan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin among others.

Ryan Harrison on Decision and Effects of Recent Coaching Switch to USTA

DSC_93230001Ryan HarrisonWASHINGTON, D.C. — With his run to the semifinals of Atlanta last week, and his straight set win over veteran Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the Citi Open on Tuesday, American Ryan Harrison seems to already be benefitting from a recent coaching switch on his team.

The 21-year-old Louisiana native served up three straight aces in his second service game alone and continued dominating, breaking the Aussie three times to book a second round match up against Juan Martin del Potro.

“It was a good win,” said Harrison. “I felt good out there. I played a really good first set. And then when (Hewitt) fought hard to break me back, I was still able to stay ahead and stay on serve and finally get that break there at 5-all.”

After training at the Austin Tennis Academy, Harrison partnered up full-time with one of it’s lead coaches, Tres Davis, last Fall as the American was looking to take his game to the next level.

The partnership itself seemed to work out for the two who call each other “close friends,” but the results didn’t quite translate onto the court as Harrison most recently fell outside of the top 130.

“Tres and I are close friends,” Harrison spoke candidly to Tennis Grandstand. “He’s been involved, and we still communicate about tennis. But it got to a situation where we had to reevaluate after the first six months of the year. Ultimately, he wants what’s best for my career, just like I want what’s best for my career.”

After deciding to part ways, Harrison brought the head of men’s tennis for the USTA, Jay Berger, back into the coaching team, as well as former world No. 4 Brad Gilbert. The choice was made to train out of the USTA center in Boca Raton, FL where the “competitive crop of guys they have down there was going to be the best situation for me,” commented Harrison.

“Jay and I have always had an extremely close relationship, and been very proactive and involved in my tennis every since I met him really,” he continued. “I had a really good training week down there after I lost in Newport, and played well last week (in Atlanta). And Brad being involved is nothing but beneficial. He’s obviously got an extremely talented mind. I’ve had some advice from him and it’s been nothing but good.”

Given that his recent good form occurred just after his coaching switch, it’s not unreasonable to suggest the two might be correlated.

“You never really know what is going to happen,” said Harrison. “I also was down 1-2 break point in the third set of the first round of Atlanta – those are just moments that could change here and there … (But) I believe that the work I put in that week-and-a-half down in Boca certainly helped out in my Atlanta run and getting a good win here today.”

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

Bill Mountford: Olympic Tennis – Citius, Altius, Fortius!

The Olympics event has gotten increasingly compelling.

The Russian women have their 3rd, 4th, and 6th ranked players in the semi-final round (Safina, Dementieva, and Zvonareva respectively).  This is unprecedented since the Olympics were reinstated in 1988.

In a nod to the International Tennis Federation (ITF), who did the seeding for the doubles, it seems as though some of the best “singles” players in the world are poised to be decorated in doubles gold.  This is in stark contrast to Rennae Stubbs’ comments. The affable Aussie offered a self-serving criticism of the seeding policy (before losing to doubles “specialists” from Spain), suggesting that it is incorrect to factor in singles rankings when seeding for the doubles event.

Roger Federer has continued his quest for gold… but in the doubles.  With partner Stan Wawrinka, also ranked top 10 in the world in singles, redemption should come at the hands of surprise Swedes Tommy Johansson and Simon Aspelin during the gold medal round.  I will continue to presume that if Roger Federer actually played doubles frequently (and the same can be said for the Williams sisters in women’s tennis) that he would be atop the world ranking. This is reminiscent of Barcelona, when two great singles players (Boris Becker and Michael Stich) ran the tables to take the gold.

The top-seeded Bryan brothers take on Michael Llodra and Arnie Clement for the bronze.  The French team beat the Bryans in Davis Cup earlier this year and in the 2007 Wimbledon final.

James Blake lost a heartbreaker to Chilean Fernando Gonzalez in the semi-final.  The match was marred by an incredulous moment.  The first point of the 19th game in the third set was decided when Blake rifled a passing shot point-blank that evidently clicked off Gonzalez’ racquet before sailing long.  Replays confirmed this.  Unfortunately, the umpire did not see or hear this.  In an act of dubious sportsmanship, the Chilean offered nothing.  Commentator Jimmy Arias, who might well be the best in the business, called it exactly what it was: Cheating.

This has been gum-chewing time for US coaches Rodney Harmon and Jay Berger.  Like tennis coaches are wont to do, Harmon and Berger have looked presciently calm on the sidelines, but their stomachs surely have been churning.

In the second men’s semi, the relentless Rafael Nadal managed to overcome Novak Djokovic.  Theirs is fast becoming the best rivalry in tennis, as Djokovic has the movement and groundstroke artillery to compete favorably against Nadal.  The final point of the match came when Rafa chased down some bombs and lofted a short lob that was sure to be smashed away.  Unfortunately nerves came into play or Djokovic simply took his eyes off the ball, but he missed the simple overhead smash.  His tearful reaction while walking off the court confirmed just how meaningful this Olympic opportunity was for him.

I have been among the naysayers about Olympic tennis, but could not have been proved more wrong.  The painful, inconsolable reactions from losing players, and the sheer tension at the end of close matches, have told a clear story.  The players love this event, and are desperate for success.  Citius, Altius, Fortius indeed!