John Newcombe

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Arthur Ashe: A Remembrance of Things Past

The largest tennis stadium in the world is named after him. The last major of the year is decided on his surface. Nothing could be more appropriate than to commend the efforts of a man, who not only changed the game, but changed the way we see things. One book does it better than the rest.

Mr. Ashe was low key, mild mannered, a shy man you could say, but his game and presence stood tall, brash, and personified individualism like none other. In Mike Towle’s book, I Remember Arthur Ashe: Memories of a True Tennis Pioneer and Champion of Social Causes by the People Who Knew Him by Cumberland House, we get a candid glance into the life of someone who hardly showed any emotions on the court, carried himself with the utmost class and dignity, and seemed impervious to the spotlight. Unlike most biographies, which typically consist of a laborious bulk of exposition and pastoral beginnings, Towle’s book is a narrative not of his own, but of the people that knew Arthur Ashe well, and some not so well, but relay an experience they had encountering the great tennis legend revealing a more human side of Ashe, one that has never been unveiled before.

The structure of the book is linear following Ashe’s career from its auspicious beginnings to the tragic end of losing a bout with AIDS, all told through personal friends and colleagues alike, and even at times the very subject himself. My favorite passage from the book, one that I think reveals his human side the most, is when Ashe recalls a match he had against tennis great John Newcombe in Sydney where he lost due to some good old fashioned day dreaming. ‘I remember I won the first set,’ Ashe recalls, ‘Then all of a sudden I started thinking about this stewardess, Bella, I had met. She was Miss Trinidad of 1962. I just kept seeing her – this gorgeous face, this beautiful creature – and the next thing I know the match is over and Newcombe won.’

This book is more than a book about a tennis player. It’s a book about being human, and few stories mirror Arthur Ashe’s journey. Here’s to you Arthur, and to you too Mr. Towle for a great idea.

John Newcombe Tennis Ranch named USTA Training Center: This Week in Tennis Business

James Blake

From the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch to James Blake to Petr Korda to the ATP LA Tennis Open – these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week…

· The USTA announced that the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas, has been named a USTA Certified Regional Training Center. “We feel honored to partner with the USTA,” said Jeremy Fieldsend of the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch.

· Beginning at the US Open in August, James Blake will wear the Fila Thomas Reynolds line, which is named after his late father. The new clothing line will be featured in stores starting this week.

· 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda acted as his daughter Jessica’s caddie last week during her quarterfinal run at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in St. Louis.

· Tournament Director Bob Kramer told Reuters that the recently completed LA Tennis Open must find a title sponsor in the next couple years in order to continue the event, after not being profitable this year. “If we aren’t able to figure this out or if the economy doesn’t turn around, I think we will probably have two more bites at the apple to right the ship,” said Kramer.

· W Sports Marketing is struggling to secure a sponsor for the Grand Slam of Asheville, which features an August 28 exhibition between Andre Agassi and Marat Safin. Despite an estimated 4,500 expected to attend the event, W Sports Marketing’s Brian Woods insists, “It’s obviously tough to sell sponsorship in this environment.” As reported by Darren Rovell on CNBC.com, Woods is offering that a company does not have to pay the $75,000 title sponsorship until the DOW Industrial Average hits 10,000.

· The ATP Tour event in Chennai, India, will stay at its present location for at least two more years, after securing a sponsorship deal with telecom company Aircel.

· The International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, will offer free tennis lessons during their United States Professional Tennis Association Day on Friday, August 21, from Noon-4pm held during the $150,000 Hall of Fame Champions Cup, the fifth event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series.

· Venus Williams re-launched her website, www.venuswilliams.com.

· The editors of Tennis Magazine agree that Roger Federer is the “Greatest Player of All-Time” in the upcoming September issue.

· Top junior and Nick Bollettieri student Filip Krajinovic has signed an endorsement deal with Wilson.

· Bob and Mike Bryan recently joined forces with respected musician and songwriter David Baron to form The Bryan Brothers Band featuring David Baron. The duo will perform three new songs during Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day at the US Open on August 29.

· SportsBusiness Journal reported that last week a settlement hearing took place between the USTA and former U.S. Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison

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

Rod Laver

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).

One Week On Top – 10 Years Ago This Week

Patrick Rafter

Ten years ago this week, Patrick Rafter was on top of the world. On July 26, 1999 the Aussie hunk and two-time U.S. Open champion reached the career pinnacle by earning the No. 1 ranking on the ATP computer. Rafter’s reign, however, last only one week and he never again attained the top spot in the computer rankings, marking the shortest ever reign as a world’s top ranked player. The following text describes Rafter’s No. 1 ascent and other events that happened in tennis history this week as excerpted from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTOR Y ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).

July 26

1999 – Patrick Rafter of Australia begins his one – and only – week as the world’s No. 1 ranked player, replacing Andre Agassi in the top spot on the ATP computer. Rafter’s curious one-week reign as the No. 1 ranked player is the briefest stint in the top spot of any man or woman. Carlos Moya of Spain ranks No. 1 for only two weeks in March of 1999, while Evonne Goolagong ranks as  the No. 1 woman on the WTA Tour for a two-week period in April of 1976 (although not uncovered and announced by the WTA Tour until December of 2007).

1987 – The United States is relegated to zonal competition for the first time in Davis Cup history as Boris Becker defeats Tim Mayotte 6-2, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-2 in the fifth and decisive match as West Germany defeats the United States 3-2 in the Davis Cup qualifying round in Hartford, Conn. The Becker-Mayotte match is called by John Feinstein of the Washington Post as, “the match of their lives,” as Mayotte, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., a 25 miles from the Hartford Civic Center, plays inspired tennis in front of furiously vocal crowd. Says Becker after the epic match, “It was the most difficult match of my life. The circumstances made it hard, the crowd cheering every time I missed a serve made it hard and him playing for two sets like I have never seen him play in his life, it was all very tough. I just had to stay calm — stay calm, be patient and not go mad. If I go mad, I lose the match.” Writes Feinstein, “For Mayotte, this was sweet agony. He miraculously came from two sets down to force a fifth set. He was playing in an emotional daze, carried by the fans, by his teammates, by the circumstances.”

1969 – Nancy Richey is upset in the semifinals of the U.S. Clay Court Championships by Gail Sherriff Chanfreau, 6-3, 6-4 – ending her tournament record winning streak at 33 straight matches over seven years. Chanfreau goes on to win the title, beating Linda Tuero, 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

July 27

1986 – Martina Navratilova returns to her native Czechoslovakia and her hometown of Prague in triumph as a member of the U.S. Federation Cup team, clinching the U.S. 3-0 final-round victory over the Czechs with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Hana Mandlikova. “We all did it for Martina,” says Chris Evert Lloyd, whose 7-5, 7-6 victory over Helena Sukova began the U.S. sweep of Czechoslovakia in the final series. “We dedicate this Federation Cup to her.” Says Navratilova of the crowd support she received all week that results in a tearful closing ceremony for the Wimbledon champion and her U.S. teammates. “I wanted to tell them how special it was for me to be here. It exceeded my wildest expectations.”

1946 – In the final of the first French Championship since the conclusion of World War II, Frenchmen Marcel Bernard dramatically defeats fellow left-hander Jaroslav Drobny of Czechoslovakia 3-6, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 in the men’s singles final. The French have to wait another 37 years before they celebrate another native men’s singles champion when Yannick Noah wins the men’s singles title in 1983. It will be another 59 years before another all left-handed men’s singles final is played at Roland Garros when Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta in the 2005 final. In the women’s singles final, Margaret Osbourne defeats fellow American Pauline Betz 1-6, 8-6, 7-5.

July 28

1991 – Andrei Chesnokov wins the Canadian Open in Montreal, defeating Petr Korda 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final and promises a high-spirited celebration. Says Chesnokov, “I’m going to New York, I’m going to go to Tower Records, have dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant and, of course, I’m going to get drunk.”

July 29

1990 – Michael Chang defeats Jay Berger 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 in the final of the Canadian Open men’s singles final in Toronto. The 24th-ranked Chang’s $155,000 winner’s check puts him in the million-dollar club for career prize money. “It feels good,” says the 18-year-old Chang of his financial achievement. “I think my first priority as far as tennis is concerned is not making money. My priority is to be the best in the world – the best I can be.”

1974 – Jimmy Connors becomes the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the first time in his career at the age of 21, replacing John Newcombe.

2001 – Andre Agassi defeats Pete Sampras 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the Mercedes Benz Cup in Los Angeles, Agassi’s 17th consecutive match victory on hard courts. Identical twins Bob and Mike Bryan of Camarillo, Calif., win their third ATP doubles title in six weeks, defeating Jan-Michael Gambill and Andy Roddick 7-5, 7-6 (8-6).

July 30

1928 – France successfully defends its Davis Cup title against the United States as Henri Cochet defeats Bill Tilden 9-7, 8-6, 6-4 clinching the 4-1 victory for France at newly-dedicated Stade Roland Garros in Paris, which is constructed to host the Davis Cup matches. Writes P.J. Philip of the New York Times, “On the central court of the Roland Garros Stadium at Auteuil, that Napoleon of tennis, Big Bill Tilden, met his Waterloo today. In three straight sets, Henri Cochet swept him off the field, holding the Davis Cup for France and writing finis to the world championship career of the most brilliant tennis player of the past decade. It was Waterloo alright.” Tilden’s career was not entirely finished following the loss. He was kicked off the Davis Cup team prior to this famous series for his “professional” writing from tennis events, which U.S. Lawn Tennis Association officials said violated his amateur status. However, due to the huge demand to see Tilden play against the four French “Musketeers” at the newly-constructed Roland Garros Stadium, the French government and French Tennis Federation pressured the USLTA to re-instate Tilden to the team to appease the ticket-buying public. Tilden is, instead, suspended from the U.S. Championships later in the summer, but continues to play high-level amateur tennis through 1930.

1996 – Andre Agassi stages a stunning comeback to advance into the medal round at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, coming back from a 3-5 third-set deficit to defeat Wayne Ferreira of South Africa 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinal of men’s singles. Ferreira is upset with Agassi’s behavior and profane language that results in Agassi receiving a point penalty in the first game of the second set. Says Ferreira, “I honestly believe he should be kicked off the court for the things he was saying. They were pretty rude and actually the worst I’ve ever heard anybody say. I’m surprised the umpires took it so lightly. If I was sitting in the chair, I probably would have done something different.” Retorts Agassi, “It was about the only way he was going to beat me.” Also advancing into the medal round in men’s singles are Leander Paes of India, who defeats Renzo Furlan of Italy 6-1, 7-5, Sergi Bruguera of Spain, who defeats Mal Washington of the United States 7-6 (8), 4-6, 7-5 and Fernando Meligeni of Brazil, who defeats Russia’s Andrei Olhovskiy 7-5, 6-3

July 31

1932 – In what Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins calls “The Great Cup Robbery,” France defeats the United States in the Davis Cup Challenge Round for the fifth time in six years as Jean Borotra clinches the Davis Cup for France, erasing a two-sets-to-love deficit, a 3-5 fifth-set deficit and four match points to defeat Wilmer Allison 1-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, 7-5.  Allison holds three match points while leading 5-3 in the fifth set – 40-15 and then with an advantage – but has his serve broken. In the next game, Allison holds another match point on Borotra’s serve. After missing his first serve, Borotra hits a second serve that by all accounts is out – but not called by the linesman. Allison, who did not make a play on the serve, runs to the net to shake hands with Borotra, but stands in disbelief at the non-call. Allison wins only one point in the remainder of the match to lose 7-5 in the fifth set, giving France it’s third point of the series, clinching the Cup.

2005 – Andre Agassi wins his 60th and what ultimately becomes his final ATP singles title, defeating 22-year-old Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-4, 7-5 in 1 hour, 28 minutes to win the Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles. The title is also the fourth tournament victory at the Los Angeles event for Agassi, who also wins on the campus at UCLA in 1998, 2001 and 2002. “It’s been a dream week for me for sure,” says the 35-year-old Agassi. “I couldn’t have expected to come in here and find my comfort level so early on in the tournament and get better with each match. It’s a great sign.”

40 Years Ago Today – A Wimbledon Classic

Pancho Gonzalez

It was 40 years ago today, June 25, that one of the greatest matches in the history of Wimbledon – and in tennis – was concluded on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Forty-one-year-old Pancho Gonzales finished off his 5 hour, 12 minute victory over Charlie Pasarell, coming back from two-sets-to-love down and saving seven match points. That match – as well as other Wimbledon Classics – are documented below in the June 25 excerpt from ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com).

1969 – Forty-one-year-old Pancho Gonzales finishes off his classic, darkness-delayed five-set win over Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 in 5 hours, 12 minutes – the longest match played at Wimbledon at the time. Gonzales, 20 years removed from when he won his last major at age 21 at Forest Hills, trails Pasarell two-sets to love when the match was suspended the night before due to darkness after 2 hours, 20 minutes of play. Gonzales sweeps all three sets on its resumption to move into the second round, but heroically fights off seven match points in the fifth set – at 4-5, 0-40, at 5-6, 0-40 and at 7-8, ad-out. Writes Fred Tupper of the New York Times of the match’s conclusion, “It was a question of raw courage now. How long could Pancho go on? He was leaning on his racquet between exchanges, flicking globules of sweat off his brow. At 9-9, Pasarell played a bad game. He double-faulted, hit a volley wide, a lob over the baseline and another volley just out. Gonzalez served for the match. A serve, a smash to deep court and a backhand volley that creased the sideline put him at match point. In sepulchral silence, Gonzalez toed the tape to serve. Then Pasarell lobbed out. Gonzalez had taken 11 points in a row. He had clawed his way back and won.” In 1989, in a second-round match played over three days, Greg Holmes beats fellow American Todd Witsken 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 14-12 in 5 hours, 28 minutes.

1953 – In the what the New York Times calls “one of the finest matches seen here since the war,” No. 4 seed Jaroslav Drobny defeats 1950 champion Budge Patty 8-6, 16-18, 3-6, 8-6, 12-10 in four-and-a-half hours in the third round of Wimbledon. The match, concluded in fading light on Centre Court, is the longest match played at Wimbledon at the time – eclipsed by the Pancho Gonzalez-Charlie Pasarell match in 5:12 in 1969. Patty has six match points in the match – three in the fourth set and three more in the fifth set – but is unable to convert.

1973 – The 1973 editions of The Championships at Wimbledon begins, but not with 82 of the top men’s players who boycott the event in support of Yugoslav player Nikki Pilic, who is suspended by the International Lawn Tennis Federation for not participating in Davis Cup for his country. The boycott is led by the new men’s player union, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and includes such notable players as defending champion Stan Smith, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall and Arthur Ashe. Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and Britain’s Roger Taylor are among the notable players who refuse to boycott the tournament. Jan Kodes of Czechoslvakia, the No. 2 seed, goes on to win the tournament, defeating Alex Metreveli of the Soviet Union in the men’s final.

1979 – Wimbledon’s famous “Graveyard Court” – Court No. 2 – claims two high profile first round victims as 1975 Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe, in what ultimately becomes his final match at the All- England Club, is defeated by No. 139 ranked Australian Chris Kachel 6-4, 7-6, 6-3, while No. 4 seed Vitas Gerulaitis is defeated by fellow American Pat DuPre 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3.

2001 – For the second time in three years, Martina Hingis exits in the first round of Wimbledon as the No. 1 seed. Hingis, 20, loses on Court No. 1 to No. 83-ranked Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour, 7 minutes. Two years earlier, in 1999, the top-seeded Hingis is also bounced in the first round by qualifier Jelena Dokic. Says Hingis, the 1997 Wimbledon champion, after her loss to Ruano Pascual, “It seems like I do really well here or I lose in the first round here.”

2005 – Jill Craybas, the No. 85-ranked player in the world, performs a shocking upset of two-time champion Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the third round of Wimbledon. “Horrible,” Williams mutters in a post-match press conference when asked how she was feeling. “I guess I had a lot of rust. I just didn’t play well today. I mean, the other days I kind of played through it and got better in the second and third sets. Today, I just didn’t do anything right.” The match was originally scheduled for Centre Court, but due to weather delays, the match is moved to Court No. 2, the “Graveyard Court” where champions such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras have all lost. At one point during the match, Williams misses a backhand and exclaims, “What am I doing out here?!”

2002  – One year removed from his stunning round of 16 upset of seven-time champion Pete Sampras No. 7 seed Roger Federer is bounced in the opening round of Wimbledon by 18-year-old Croat Mario Ancic by a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 margin. Says the No. 154-ranked Ancic, “I came first time to play Centre, Wimbledon, they put me on Centre Court for my first time. I qualified, nothing to lose, I was just confidence. I knew I could play. I believe in myself and just go out there and try to do my best. Just I didn’t care who did I play. Doesn’t matter…I knew him (Federer) from TV. I knew already how is he playing. I don’t know that he knew how I was playing, but that was my advantage. And yeah, I didn’t have any tactics, just I was enjoying.” Following the loss, Federer goes on to win his next 40 matches at Wimbledon – including five straight titles – before losing in the 2008 final to Rafael Nadal of Spain.

1996 – “Hen-mania” begins at Wimbledon as 21-year-old Tim Henman wins his first big match at the All England Club, coming back from a two-sets-to-love deficit – and saving two match points – to upset No. 5 seed and reigning French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 4-6, 7-5 in the first round in what Jennifer Frey of the Washington Post calls “a cliffhanger that enraptured the winner’s countrymen in the Centre Court seats.” Henman goes on to reach the quarterfinals, where he is defeated by American Todd Martin 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-4, but remains a threat to win the title of much of the next decade, thrilling British fans in the excitement of the possibility of a home-grown player becoming the first player to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon since Fred Perry won his last of three titles in 1936.

1988 – Thirty-five-year old Jimmy Connors fights back after trailing two-sets-to-love to defeat fellow American Derrick Rostagno 7-5, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in 4 hours, 2 minutes in the third round of Wimbledon. Says Rostagno of Connors, “He comes up with things you haven’t seen before. Tennis is an art and he’s an artist. It was thrilling, a pleasure to play against.” Says Connors, “My game has always been to stay in until I die.”

2001 – In his third appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon, Roger Federer finally wins his first match in the men’s singles competition, defeating Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.

Mondays With Bob Greene: For me Roger is the greatest player ever who played the tennis game

Caroline Wozniacki wins Eastbourne

STARS

Caroline Wozniacki beat Virginie Razzano 7-6 (5) 7-5 to win the AEGON International women’s singles in Eastbourne, Great Britain

Dmitry Tursunov beat Frank Dancovic 6-3 7-6 (5) to win the AEGON International men’s singles in Eastbourne

Tamarine Tanasugarn beat Yanina Wickmayer 6-3 7-5 to successfully defend her Ordina Open women’s crown in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

Benjamin Becker beat Raemon Sluiter 7-5 6-3 to win the Ordina Open men’s singles in ‘s-Hertogenbosch

SAYING

“When I start a tournament like Wimbledon, it is to try to win, and my feeling right now is I’m not ready to play to win.” – Rafael Nadal, withdrawing from Wimbledon and becoming only the fourth man in the Open Era to not defend his Wimbledon singles title.

“I love playing here.” – Tamarine Tanasugarn, after winning her second straight Ordina Open singles title at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands.

“That loss exhausted me mentally. I am still trying to recover.” – Novak Djokovic, on his three-set, four-hour loss to Rafael Nadal in Madrid, Spain, in mid-May.

“No girl likes to be compared to another. Ultimately, what we have in common is that we play tennis. I feel flattered that people like the way I look, but it doesn’t help you win points.” – Ana Ivanovic, who is constantly being compared to Maria Sharapova and Anna Kournikova.

“For me Roger is the greatest player ever who played the tennis game. It’s always good to see him play and win and we are going to see so much more of Federer in the future, he is going to win more grand slam tournaments.” – Bjorn Borg, picking Federer to win Wimbledon this year.

“The body of work is phenomenal and now he has got that French Open and I think he can just go on and sip Margaritas for the rest of his life.” – Martina Navratilova, on Roger Federer winning in Paris.

“I can play on grass. I just need time.” – Jelena Jankovic, after losing a first-round match at Eastbourne.

“It’s my first title on grass so that means a lot to me. I wish I could have closed it off a little bit earlier but it doesn’t matter how I won, so that is the main thing and I am happy.” – Caroline Wozniacki, after winning at Eastbourne.

“I am definitely going to try to come out, unless I am going to be on crutches. Even then I will try to come out.” – Dmitry Tursunov, on whether his ankle injury will prevent him from playing Wimbledon.

“On this surface, everything is opposite. For me, it’s too much to change in three days.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, losing her first match on grass after winning the French Open, a clay court tournament.

“It’s been a very surprising week for us because before this tournament we had only won four matches in our whole career on grass. So we’ve managed to double that this week.” – Marcin Matkowski, after teaming with Mariusz Fyrstenberg to win the men’s doubles at Eastbourne.

“We managed to beat the number one seeds and French Open champions in the first round, and then we played better and better as the week progressed.” – Mariusz Fyrstenberg.

“It’s Ralph Lauren, it has a bit of a tuxedo feel but it’s flattering. I’m having a good time with it.” – Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, about the outfit she wore to a pre-Wimbledon player party.

STAYING HOME

Because of his aching knees, Rafael Nadal became just the fourth player in the Open Era to not defend his Wimbledon singles title. Nadal announced his withdrawal after playing two exhibition matches on grass. He lost both, the first to Lleyton Hewitt, the second to Stanislas Wawrinka. “I didn’t feel terrible, but not close to my best,” the Spaniard said. “I’m just not 100 percent. I’m better than I was a couple of weeks ago, but I just don’t feel ready.” Nadal joins John Newcombe (1972), Stan Smith (1973) and Goran Ivanisevic (2002) as the only players who did not defend their Wimbledon titles in the Open Era; in 1973, Smith joined a player’s boycott against the tennis establishment. Nadal has complained about his knees since a fourth-round loss to Robin Soderling at the French Open on May 31 ended his streak of four consecutive championships at Roland Garros. “It’s not chronic,” Nadal said of his knee problems. “I can recover, for sure.”

Frenchman Gael Monfils pulled out of Wimbledon because of a wrist injury. A week earlier, he had pulled out of his scheduled match against Steve Darcis at Queen’s Club.

Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus has withdrawn from Wimbledon due to a knee injury. An Australian Open finalist in 2006, Baghdatis was carried off the court on a stretcher for the second time in nine months after injuring his knee during a match at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. He also was carried off the court on a stretcher last fall at the Open de Moselle in Metz, France, when he hurt his back.


SPOT ON TOP OPEN?

Roger Federer could reclaim the number one ranking by winning his sixth Wimbledon title. The Swiss star held the top spot in the rankings for a record 237 consecutive weeks until Rafael Nadal pushed him down to number two last August. Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon because of his injured knees. But anything short of a sixth Wimbledon title won’t be enough for Federer, who could actually be passed in the rankings by Andy Murray. If he became the first Brit to win the men’s singles since Fred Perry in 1936, Murray would move up to number two in the rankings behind Nadal, but no higher.

SICK CALL

Ivan Ljubicic fell heavily in his match at the Eastbourne International, injuring his ankle. Racing to the net to reach a delicate shot by his opponent, Fabrice Santoro, Ljubicic skidded on the grass, fell and cried out while clutching his left ankle. Santoro dropped his racquet and ran to the court-side freezer to get bags of ice, which he then applied to Ljubicic’s ankle while officials summoned the trainer. Ljubicic had won the first set 6-3 but was 2-4 down when he fell.

Marion Bartoli is still in the Wimbledon women’s singles despite suffering a leg injury in the semifinals at the AEGON International tournament in Eastbourne. Bartoli had lost the first set to Virginie Razzano when she asked for a trainer. Her thigh was treated and strapped, but, after losing the first game of the second set to love, she retired from the match.

SLUITER HISTORY

Although he lost the title match, Raemon Sluiter made history by becoming the lowest-ranked player to reach an ATP World Tour final. Ranked number 866 in the world, Sluiter gained entry into the grass-court tournament in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, via a wild card. It was the fourth final for the Dutchman in his career, all coming on his home soil. And when he fell to Germany’s Benjamin Becker 7-5 6-3, Sluiter still was left seeking his first ATP World Tour title. Becker was only the second qualifier to reach a final this season and the first qualifier to win the Ordina Open.

SAFINA SLAYER

There’s something about Tamarine Tanasugarn when she plays the Ordina Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. Just ask top-ranked Dinara Safina. Tanasugarn upset Safina for the second straight year at the grass-court warm-up to Wimbledon. A year ago the veteran Thai player beat Safina in the final. This year, the 32-year-old Tanasugarn stopped Safina in the semis 7-5 7-5 before beating 19-year-old Yanina Wickmayer 6-3 7-5 to retain her championship.

SPORTS RADIO

Aces, a one-hour radio show dedicated to tennis, has begun broadcasting in Toronto, Canada, and on the Internet just in time for Wimbledon. Listeners in t4he Toronto area can tune into FAN 590 AM on the radio, while tennis fans around the world can listen online at www.fan590.com. Rogie Lajoie and Olympic tennis broadcaster Michael Cvitkovic will host Aces, which began by interviewing 10-time Grand Slam tournament singles champion Serena Williams, Sony Ericsson WTA Tour president Stacey Allaster and Toronto Globe and Mail tennis columnist Tom Tebbutt. Aces is currently scheduled for broadcast August 6 and 13.

STARS SHINE IN LONDON

The Ralph Lauren presents the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Pre-Wimbledon Player Party brought out the stars, and not just the tennis variety. Among the players in attendance at the Kensington Roof Gardens were Venus and Serena Williams, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Vera Zvonareva, Ana Ivanovic, Anne Keothavong, Jelena Jankovic, Victoria Azarenka, Dominika Cibulkova, Alize Cornet, Anna Chakvetadze, Alisa Kleybanova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Sabine Lisicki and Gisela Dulko. Besides the host, Sir Richard Branson, other celebrities in attendance included Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child fame, as well as Branson’s son, Sam Branson. There was even a royal presence, with Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, attending with her two daughters, the Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

SWINGING AWAY

Three former champions, including two-time defending king Fabrice Santoro, will compete in this year’s Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. Also in the field will be Robby Ginepri, the 2003 winner, and 2002 champion Taylor Dent. The ATP World Tour event is the only professional grass-court tournament played in the United States and begins the day after the Wimbledon men’s final.

SENIOR CHAMPIONS

Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier and Michael Chang, three former champions of the LA Tennis Open, will play in featured legends matches at the 83rd annual Los Angeles tournament that begins July 27. Edberg won a gold medal during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics on the same UCLA courts that now stage the LA Tennis Open. He also won the tournament in 1990. Chang captured titles in 1996 and 2000, while Courier won in 1997.

SLUR

Brydan Klein of Australia has been fined USD $13,920 and suspended by Tennis Australia for using a racial slur against his South African opponent, Raven Klaasan, during their qualifying match at the AEGON International in Eastbourne, Great Britain. The ATP tour said in a statement that the 19-year-old Klein has been given the maximum penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and added that it is carrying out a fuller investigation which could result in an additional penalty for aggravated behavior. Tennis Australia said it has suspended Klein from the Australian Institute of Sport Pro Tour Program and could impose further sanctions after an investigation. Klein, the 2007 Australian Open junior champion, called Klaasan a “kaffir” and spat in the direction of Klaasan’s coach and another South African player. Use of the term “kaffir” is illegal in South Africa and is regarded as a gross racial insult, especially to black South Africans. Klassen is one of South Africa’s few black players and has represented his country in Davis Cup. Klein beat Klassen 6-7 (2) 7-6 (3) 7-6 (4) before losing in the second round of the main draw to Janko Tipsarevic.

SWITCH

Bjorn Borg won five consecutive Wimbledons. Now he’s trying to pick the men’s singles champion at Wimbledon for the second straight year. A year ago, Borg picked Rafael Nadal to win the grass-court major, which the Spaniard did. This year, Borg is picking Roger Federer. And he did it before Nadal withdrew from the tournament. “Coming into Wimbledon I think he is relieved in a way that he won Paris, because that was one of his main ambitions, goals to try and win Paris,” said Borg. “So coming into Wimbledon he feels very confident, he has equaled (Pete) Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slams.”

SEEKING HEAVIER PENALTY

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is considering an appeal from India, which is seeking a heavier penalty against Australia for forfeiting last month’s Davis Cup competition. The ITF said the appeal from the All India Tennis Association (AITA) will be discussed at a board meeting on July 15. Australia was fined USD $10,000 after refusing to travel to Chennai, India, for the zonal tie for safety reasons, but the ITF’s Davis Cup Committee decided not to ban Australia from the 2010 competition. India also wants the ITF to rule that the next two ties between the two nations should be played in India. Security for sports teams in the sub-continent had been questioned after the Sri Lanka cricket team’s bus was ambushed in Lahore, Pakistan, in March. That followed militant attacks in Mumbai, India, last November that killed 166 people.

SITTING PRETTY

The global credit crunch hasn’t affected Wimbledon. The 2,500 Centre Court debentures that were offered last month were snapped up at USD $43,830 each. Each debenture holder will receive one Centre Court ticket for every day of the two-week long Championships from 2011 through 2015. “We were heavily over-subscribed,” said All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie. “We were very pleasantly delighted with the response. With a new roof over Centre Court, play is guaranteed there regardless of the weather.

START ANEW

It is a tournament Amelie Mauresmo would just as soon forget. The former Wimbledon champion squandered five set points in each tiebreak as she lost a quarterfinal match to Ekaterina Makarova 7-6 (8) 7-6 (13) at the Eastbourne International. “It was a very cruel match,” said Mauresmo, who received a warning from the umpire when she vented her frustration by hitting a ball high over a line of trees and into the street. “This one wasn’t for me, I guess.”

SET FOR WIMBLEDON

Could it be that Andy Murray is hoping his clothes will help him duplicate Fred Perry’s success at Wimbledon? Murray will play in a retro outfit at this year’s grass court Grand Slam tournament. The new clothes were designed specifically for Wimbledon by clothing maker Fred Perry. The company said the clothes were inspired by the shirts that Perry designed for clients and friends such as John F. Kennedy and Billie Jean King. Perry, who died in 1995, was the last Briton to win at Wimbledon, capturing three consecutive titles in 1934-36 and completing a career Grand Slam by winning the French Open in 1935. A week ago, Murray became the first Briton to win the grass-court tournament at Queen’s Club since Bunny Austin in 1938.

SURFACE CLAY

It is no surprise that Italy has decided to play November’s Fed Cup final against the United States on clay courts in Reggio Calabria, a city on the southern tip of Italy’s boot-shaped outline. The outdoor event will be held at the Rocco Polimeni club on November 7-8. Even on clay, the Americans are favorites since both Venus and Serena Williams said they hope to play in the final after missing the previous rounds.

SKIPPING DAVIS CUP

When Russia takes on Israel in a Davis Cup quarterfinal next month, Russia’s top player, Nikolay Davydenko, will be missing. Russian team captain Shamil Tarpishchev said he had allowed Davydenko to skip Russia’s first two ties in this year’s competition. The top-ranked Russians will still have Marat Safin, Igor Andreev, Dmitry Tursunov and Mikhail Youzhny for the July 10-12 encounter in Tel Aviv, Israel.

SUCKER-PUNCHED

A 20-year-old UCLA tennis player was in a coma after being punched following a country music concert in Dallas, Texas, USA. Jeffrey Fleming was attending a Rascal Flatts concert with friends when a man hit him. Fleming’s family says he was sucker-punched as he was about to catch a taxi after the concert. The blow knocked Fleming to the ground where his head hit the concrete pavement. The attacker and others ran away.

SOONERS COACH

The new men’s tennis coach at the University of Oklahoma is Andy Roddick’s brother. John Roddick was hired to take over the Sooners team that had been coached for the past 22 years by John Lockwood. Athletic director Joe Castiglione says Roddick has the ability to recruit top players and a reputation for being able to develop them. For the past seven years he has been operating a performance boarding academy for tennis players in Austin, Texas. John also helped coach his brother Andy, who is still ranked in the top 10 in the world.

SPONSOR

The 83rd annual LA Tennis Open in Los Angeles, California, USA, has a new sponsor. The Farmers Insurance Group of Companies has reached an agreement with the Southern California Tennis Association to become the presenting sponsor of the ATP World Tour 250 and Olympus US Open Series men’s event. French Open semifinalist Fernando Gonzalez leads a group of early entrants to the 28-player field. Also entering the tournament are Tommy Hass, Radek Stapanek, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey. In addition, a special exhibition match will pit Pete Sampras against Safin in a rematch of the 2000 US Open won by the Russian.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

Eastbourne (women): Akgul Amanmuradova and Ai Sugiyama beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 6-4 6-3

Eastbourne (men): Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski beat Travis Parrott and Filip Polasek 6-4 6-4

s-Hertogenbosch (men): Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman beat Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer 7-6 (3) 6-7 (8) 10-5 (match tiebreak)

s-Hertogenbosch (women): Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta beat Michaella Krajicek and Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 5-7 13-11 (match tiebreak)

SITES TO SURF

Wimbledon: www.wimbledon.org

Cuneo: www.countrycuneo.com

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP and WTA

The Championships (first week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

The Championships (second week), Wimbledon, Great Britain, grass

WTA

$100,000 Cuneo ITF Tournament, Cuneo, Italy, clay

Roger Federer’s Clay Court Skills and the “Career Grand Slam”

Federer’s Clay Court Skills and the “Career Grand Slam”

If Roger Federer is able to win the 2009 French Open, he will complete a “Career Grand Slam” as well as tie Pete Sampras for the all-time men’s record for most major singles titles with 14. Rene Stauffer, the Swiss tennis writer and author of the book The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection (www.rogerfederbook.com, New Chapter Press, $24.95), discussed the “Career Grand Slam” as well as Roger’s clay court skills in the best-selling book, as excerpted below.

Roger Federer lost out on his first opportunity to win a Grand Slam tournament in 2005 after losing to Marat Safin in the semifinals of the Australian Open. The French Open, however, offered him another opportunity for a career milestone-a milestone that only a very select few have achieved-the “Career Grand Slam.” The term stands for winning all four major titles over a tennis career-a feat only achieved by five men in the history of the sport. Rod Laver and Don Budge are the only men who have won a “real” or calendar-year Grand Slam-winning all four major titles in the same year. Budge won the first Grand Slam in 1938, while Laver won a Grand Slam in 1962 as an amateur and then again in 1969 as a professional. Fred Perry of Great Britain clinched his career Grand Slam at the 1935 French Championships, while Roy Emerson of Australia completed his career quartette at Wimbledon in 1964 at age 27. Andre Agassi joined Laver as the only professional players to win a career Grand Slam when he won the French Open in 1999.

For Agassi, as well as for many other great players in the history of the game, the French Open or “Roland Garros” proved to be the toughest nut to crack. It took him 11 attempts and three trips to the championship match until he finally won in Paris. Even in his lucky third appearance in the singles final in 1999, he decisively lost the first two sets to the unseeded Ukrainian Andrei Medvedev before rallying for the five-set victory at age 29-seven years after winning his first Grand Slam tournament title.

Clay court tennis is in some regards a different form of tennis as it requires different footwork-a “sliding-into-the-ball” approach. The clay surface slows the velocity of the ball enough to give players on the defensive just a little more time to save a passed shot that on a faster surface would otherwise be a winner. Changes in temperature as well as variations in humidity levels provide for constantly changing playing conditions. Warm weather dries out clay courts and makes them play faster and favors the more aggressive players than when it is cold and moist, when the courts play much slower and favor the more defensive-minded players.

These extraordinary-and unpredictable-conditions explain why the French Open seems to always have the most unlikely champions of all four of the Grand Slam tournaments. The clay courts and the conditions create an environment where a larger pool of players become potential champions of the event as opposed to Wimbledon or the US Open. Some of the greatest serve-and-volley and aggressive-style players have routinely left Paris defeated. Yannick Noah’s ability to play an aggressive style of play and defeat the defensive clay court style of Mats Wilander in the 1983 French final still seems like a minor miracle.

More than half of the 23 players who were ranked No. 1 in the world rankings entering 2007 do not have a French Open title on their resume. This includes Boris Becker, who reached the semifinals three times, Pete Sampras, who only reached the semifinals on one occasion in 13 attempts, John McEnroe, who lost a painful final to Ivan Lendl in 1984 after a two-sets-to-love lead, and Stefan Edberg, who led Michael Chang two sets to one in the 1989 final before losing. Jimmy Connors, who was either denied entry or did not enter the tournament for many years, is also part of the group of all-time greats without a French title. Other notables on the list include John Newcombe, Arthur Ashe, Patrick Rafter, Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt. Although Federer’s professional career began with 11 straight defeats on clay courts, he never allowed himself to become discouraged. In France, where he experienced the least amount of success of the Grand Slam tournaments, Federer constantly made reference to the fact that he grew up on clay courts and that this was “his surface” too. He had after all won three titles on clay at the German Open in Hamburg and proved repeatedly in Davis Cup play that he could compete with anybody on clay courts. However, to date, he was unable to even advance as far as the semifinals at Roland Garros.

Federer may have arrived in Paris with a season’s record of 41-2 but he expressed caution before his seventh French Open. “The first rounds here are always treacherous,” he said in a modest tone that was sometimes missing from previous years. “I’m not thinking about winning this tournament.” He arrived in Paris directly from Portugal and had the privilege of being able to practice every day on the Centre Court at Roland Garros-the Philippe Chatrier Court-where he suffered many of his most devastating losses as a professional. Federer’s excellent pre-event preparation and the tutoring from the now 60-year-old Tony Roche paid off. He won the first five matches of the tournament without dropping a set to reach the semifinals for the first time in his career. “It’s almost going a bit too quickly for me,” he said of his relatively easy jaunt to the semifinals.

However, waiting for Federer in the semifinals was none other than Nadal-whom he faced for the first time on a clay court. The young Spaniard was full of self-confidence and entered the match with a 22-match win streak. Due to a rain delay, as well the five-set match between Argentinean Mariano Puerta and Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the other men’s semifinal, Federer and Nadal did not take the court until 6:20 pm local time in Paris. Federer struggled from the start and was troubled-particularly off the forehand-by Nadal’s extreme topspin. After losing four of the first five games, Federer surrendered the first set 6-3-his first lost set of the tournament-as he had his serve broken an incredible four times. He managed to win the second set 6-4, but remained unusually nervous and committed nearly twice as many mistakes as Nadal in the third set. Nadal led 4-2, before Federer broke back to square the set. After Nadal held in the ninth game of the third set, he clinched the third set-and a two-sets-to-one lead-with a cross-court running forehand winner. Darkness started to fall in Paris and Federer was irritated. He seemed to be in a rush and requested the match be suspended due to darkness. The chair umpire did not allow it. Federer was flustered and Nadal took control of the match as he broke Federer’s serve in the eighth game to take a 5-3 lead and closed out the 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory one game later. “I started the match off badly and ended it badly,” Federer summarized. “I played well in between but all in all, that was not enough.”

Like at the Australian Open when Federer was defeated by Safin in the wee hours of the morning of Safin’s 25th birthday, Federer was again a birthday victim at a Grand Slam event. This Friday-June 3rd-was the 19th birthday of Nadal-and like Safin-he would go on to win the tournament. In an exciting final between two left-handed players, Nadal defeated Puerta, who, as it turned out months later, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was suspended from professional tennis.

The more time Federer pondered the loss to Nadal, the more positives he drew from it. He proved to himself and others that he had what it takes to win the French Open, despite what he thought was his worst performance in the later stages of a Grand Slam tournament. He was convinced that this loss to Nadal would be a learning experience. He now believed he could win the French Open and achieve the rare career Grand Slam. Another positive to temper his mood was the fact that the French public took a liking to him and rallied behind him during his matches, most notably against Nadal. “It was fantastic how they supported me,” he said. “It was almost like a victory for me because it’s not easy to win the crowd in Paris.”

Since Federer’s semifinal showing was a vast improvement from his third-round loss the year before, his grip on the No. 1 ranking rose to a record 6,980 points-giving him almost twice as many points as the No. 2-ranked Hewitt. Federer nonetheless maneuvered himself into a startling situation. He only lost three matches during the year but he stood empty-handed in Grand Slam titles. If he were to fail at Wimbledon as well, the only opportunity for a title remaining would be the always unpredictable US Open. His statementfrom the previous fall that he would be satisfied in 2005 with just one Grand Slam title suddenly took on new importance.

Brits Play Historic Match, Big Day For McEnroes

Tennis history was made – well, sort of – last week when British players Chris Eaton and James Ward played in the longest recorded match of all time. Eaton and Ward battled for 6 hours, 43 minutes in a play-off challenge match set up by the Lawn Tennis Association and British Davis Cup captain John Lloyd to determine who would represent Great Britain against Ukraine in this week’s Davis Cup Euro-African Zone Group One match. Eaton, ranked No. 390 in the world, won the epic match 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 2-6, 21-19 indoors at the LTA’s Roehampton headquarters. Since the match is not an officially “sanctioned” match, one cannot really classify this as the longest of all time.

The Eaton-Ward match lasted 10 minutes longer than Fabrice Santoro’s 6 hour, 33 minute win over fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement in the first round of the 2004 French Open. The official time of the Eaton-Ward match was confirmed by Michael Morrissey of the Lawn Tennis Association. Morrissey, in an email to me, reported that the match began at 10:47 am and finished at 5:30 pm. Eaton was actually not named to the initial four-man British team (Andy Murray, Ross Hutchins, Josh Goodall and Ward getting the nod), but will travel to Glasgow with the team and could be added to the team since Murray pulled out of the series due to a virus. The 21-year-old Eaton made his debut at Wimbledon last year by advancing through qualifying and then beating Serbia’s Boris Pashanski in the first round, earning him headlines around Britain.

Meanwhile in New York, nearly a foot of snow fell Monday as the BNP Paribas Showdown tennis exhibition at Madison Square Garden featuring Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic took place. The snowy conditions harkened back memories of another snowy night in Manhattan with big time tennis being held at The Garden, when on December 26, 1947, Jack Kramer and Bobby Riggs entertained 15,114 fans who braved a blizzard in 1947 to watch Kramer in his pro debut. The following is the excerpt from my book “On This Day In Tennis History” ($19.95, www.tennishistorybook.com) that details that 1947 event.

December 26, 1947 – Jack Kramer makes his pro debut at Madison Square Garden against Bobby Riggs as a blizzard hits New York. With taxis, buses, commuter trains and private cars stalled and subways limping, 15,114 fans come to the arena on Eighth Avenue and 50th street. Riggs spoils the debut of Kramer, winning 6-2, 10-8, 4-6, 6-4. Writes Lincoln Werden of the New York Times, “The former amateur king pin piled up error after error throughout and indications that he lacked complete poise and control brought an occasional reassuring cry from the fans ‘Come On Jackie.’”

Today, March 3, is a big day for the McEnroe family as the following additional excerpt from “On This Day In Tennis History” details;

March 3

1991 – Brothers John and Patrick McEnroe play in the singles final of the Volvo Championships in Chicago, with No. 19th-ranked John defeating younger brother and No. 51-ranked Patrick 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 to win his 77th and what would be his final ATP singles title. Says the 32-year-old John following the match, “I have incredibly mixed emotions right now…every emotion you can imagine was there, from worrying how he’s doing, to worrying that he might beat you.” The final was the third ATP men’s singles final involving brothers. Gene Mayer beat Sandy Mayer at Stockholm in 1981 and Emilio Sanchez beat Javier Sanchez at Madrid in 1987.

1980 – John McEnroe becomes the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the first time, unseating Bjorn Borg. In all, McEnroe ranks No. 1 in the world in singles for a total of 170 weeks during his career.

2007 – Roger Federer wins his 41st straight match, tying Bjorn Borg for the fourth-longest streak in the history of men’s tennis, defeating Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-4, 6-3 to win the Dubai Open for a fourth time. “It’s nice to be playing against the history books,” Federer says after the match. “I never thought I would ever do such a thing.”

1993 – Taking a 23-minute commute via private jet from his home in Las Vegas to Indian Wells, Calif., Andre Agassi is defeated in the second round of the Newsweek Champion Cup by reigning Olympic champion Marc Rosset 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

1992 – Michael Chang comes back from 1-5 down in the third set to defeat Martin Jaite of Argentina 0-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3) in the first round of the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif.

2007 – Belgium’s Justine Henin defeats Russia’s Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-2 to win the Qatar Open in Doha. Henin’s win completes a “Gulf Double” – also winning the title in the Persian Gulf city of Dubai the week earlier. Says Kuznetsova on losing her 14th match in 15 meetings with Henin, “Maybe I have a mental block when I play Justine. She is just too tough mentally and I need to learn this from her.”

2008 – World No. 1 Roger Federer is dismissed in the first round of the Dubai Open in the United Arab Emirates, losing to Great Britain’s Andy Murray 6-7 (6), 6-3, 6-4. Murray, who beat Federer in the first round of Cincinnati in 2006, moves to a 2-1 record in three career meetings with the world No. 1. Murray does not face a break point during the match.

1935 – Mal Anderson, one of the most underrated Australian tennis championships who won the 1957 U.S. men’s singles title as an unseeded player, is born in Burnside, Australia. Anderson was also an Australian and U.S. singles finalist in 1958 and helped Australia win the Davis Cup in 1957. After turning professional in 1959, Anderson re-emerged on the top of the tennis scene after in advent of the Open era and reached the Australian singles final again in 1972. A year later, at age 38, he won the Australian doubles and joined forces with Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe to bring the Davis Cup back to Australia.

Roger Federer and The Rocket

With Rod Laver in attendance, Roger Federer advanced into his 18th career major singles final Thursday defeating Andy Roddick 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals of the Australian Open, played in the arena that bears the Australian tennis legend’s name. The 2009 season marks the 40th anniversary of Laver winning his unprecedented second “Grand Slam” sweep of all four major titles – and Federer is seeking his own notch in tennis history – a win in Sunday’s Australian Open final giving him a 14th career major singles title – tying him with Pete Sampras for the all-time lead for men’s singles major titles.

Federer and Laver have a special kinship as documented by Rene Stauffer in his book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.rogerfedererbook.com). The following exclusive book excerpt discusses Federer and Laver’s emotional moment at the 2006 Australian Open.

Rod Laver is such a modest person that people tend to overlook him. Even the organizers of the Australian Open didn’t come up with and implement the idea of re-naming their Centre Court the Rod Laver Arena until 2000-twelve years after the opening of the facility.

Laver is still the only man to win the Grand Slam twice-in 1962 as an amateur and again in 1969 in the Open Era open to amateurs and professionals. The short, red-haired left-hander is considered by fellow tennis players to be a epitome of a tennis legend. However, when asked how Roger Federer compares to him, in typical modest fashion, Laver said, “I would be honored just to be compared with Roger. Roger could become the greatest tennis player of all time.”

The “Rockhampton Rocket” went even further in an interview before the Australian Open in 2006 when he stated, “I firmly believe that Roger is capable of winning the Grand Slam this season. He is such a wonderful player and has such unbelievable talent…Of all the players who I have seen since winning the Grand Slam, he is probably the only one that has the talent to do it.”

To Laver and most followers of the sport, winning the Grand Slam in the modern day game carries much more value than it did in Laver’s time. “The demands are much greater now than back when I was playing,” Laver said. “The opponents are stronger and quicker and the racquets allow balls to be hit with incredible power. We just had wood racquets. There are also so many more young talented players on the tour now that have no fear of the top players.” While Laver’s comments where well-intended, they did, however, have a boomerang effect of Federer. They increased the already heavy pressure weighing upon him as the 2006 season began.

As was the case at the Tennis Masters Cup in China, injuries affected the first Grand Slam tournament of the year in Melbourne. Defending champion Marat Safin was not in the field. Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi also were not fully recovered from their injuries to make the trip “Down Under.” Federer, by contrast, recovered from his torn ligaments even if the right foot was still somewhat stiff and he wore a support bandage as a precaution. With Safin, Nadal and Agassi out of the field, Federer was more clearly favored than any player if the bookies’ odds were any indication. Whoever bet on Federer to win the event would only receive 1-5 odds.

Federer rolled through his first three matches with the form of the overwhelming favorite-surrendering only 22 games in three straight-set victories. But he ran into difficulties in the round of 16 against a difficult opponent-Tommy Haas-who beat him previously in the same round at the Australian Open in 2002 and who beat him in the semifinals of the Olympics-also in Australia. After winning the first two sets decisively, Federer lost the third set and soon found himself in a five-set struggle. Federer, however, came through in the clutch to win 6-4, 6-0, 3-6, 4-6, 6-2-his first five-set win at the Australian Open. In the quarterfinals, Federer again encountered more difficulties than usual against Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko. He fought off five set points in the third set-that would have had him trail two-sets-to-one-before registering the 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (5) victory. Nicolas Kiefer offered some initial stiff resistance in the semifinals, but after two sets of drama, Federer advanced into the Australian Open final for a second time with a 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 win.

In his six matches en route to the final, Federer lost four sets-more than previously surrendered while reaching a Grand Slam final. The man from Basel, however, was still the overwhelming favorite to win the title when he faced unseeded upstart Marcos Baghdatis-a 200-1 outsider to win the title. The 20-year-old bearded maverick from the island of Cyprus was the major story of the tournament-defeating Andy Roddick, Ivan Ljubicic and David Nalbandian in succession to become an unlikely Grand Slam finalist. Cyprus, a small island nation off the Greek and Turkish coast in the Mediterranean with no tennis history whatsoever, was suddenly stricken with tennis fever as busnesses closed and children skipped school to watch his matches. Baghdatis was unseeded, ranked No. 54 in the world and had never won an ATP tournament in his career at the time. To boot, he held an 0-3 record against Federer and Federer had never lost a Grand Slam final-let alone to an unseeded player.

The Melbourne Age newspaper carried the headline “The Wizard And The Apprentice” before the final, but as the match began, the question was which was which. Baghdatis, supported throughout the fortnight by the many Greeks in Melbourne who created a soccer-stadium atmosphere with chants, cheers and flag-waving, continued to play boldly, aggressively and on the offensive-as he had the entire tournament-while Federer struggled, particu­larly off the forehand side. Federer lost the first set 7-5 and saved two break points to prevent a double-service-break 0-3 deficit in the second set. After he held serve, Federer then broke the Cypriot’s serve in the next game to square the set at 2-2. After the two players exchanged service holds, a stroke of good luck benefited Federer late in the set as an overruled call on set point gave Federer the second set 7-5. The momentum immediately turned in Federer’s favor and the challenge to his supremacy ended. Federer’s 5-7, 7-5, 6-0, 6-2 victory secured him his seventh Grand Slam title-tying him with such legends as Richard Sears and William Renshaw-heroes of the 1880s-as well as John McEnroe, John Newcombe, Mats Wilander and two of four French Musketeers, Rene Lacoste and Henri Cochet.

Federer showed no exuberance as the award ceremony began, but when Rod Laver bestowed the Norman Brookes Trophy upon him, he was overcome with emotions. “I don’t know what to say,” he said at the start of his victory speech, before he fell silent. He barely managed to congratulate Baghdatis and thank his entourage and sponsors. When he mentioned Laver and that the title meant a great deal to him, his voice cracked, just like at his first Wimbledon victory, and he could no longer hold back his tears.

“I was terribly nervous,” Federer told Swiss television commentator Heinz Günthardt after he left the court. “It was an immense burden to be so clearly favored against a newcomer.” With seven Grand Slam titles, Federer began to compete not only against his contemporaries on the other side of the net, but against the ghosts of tennis history, including Pete Sampras and Rod Laver, who was standing next to him on this day.

On This Day In Tennis History

Since the tennis world is silent this week, TennisGrandstand.com will fulfill your tennis fix with an excerpt from the new tennis book “ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY.” The book, which makes an excellent holiday gift, is written by tennis historian and sports marketing guru Randy Walker, the former USTA publicity specialist. Here’s some of what happened from November 27 to November 30. For more information on the book, go to www.tennishistorybook.com.

November 27

1973 – Arthur Ashe becomes the first black player to win a title in the apartheid nation of South Africa, winning the doubles title in the South African Open with Tom Okker, defeating Lew Hoad and Bob Maud 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 in the final. After initially being denied a visa based on his anti-apartheid views, Ashe is permitted to play in the event by the South African government. Ashe requests to tournament officials that the bleacher seating not be segregated during the tournament, but his wishes are not granted. Says Ashe to local reporters, “You can’t integrate the place in one full sweep. It is important to recognize the progress that has been made.” Ashe loses the singles final the day before to Jimmy Connors 6-4, 7-6 (3), 6-3. Chris Evert wins the women’s singles title, defeating Evonne Goolagong 6-3, 6-3.

1982 – John McEnroe clinches his fourth career Davis Cup title for the United States as he and Peter Fleming defeat Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte 6-3, 6-4, 9-7 to give the U.S. an insurmountable 3-0 lead over France in the Davis Cup final in Grenoble, France. McEnroe is also on victorious U.S. teams in 1978, 1979 and 1981 – winning the clinching singles point in the fourth rubber in 1978 against Britain and in 1981 against Argentina. Says McEnroe of his title-winning performances, “Each one is different and each one’s nice in its own way. This was one of the best, if not the best, because we beat their team in front of a large crowd and played well, and I played on my worst surface and won the matches. Argentina, when we beat them last year in Cincinnati, was probably the most exciting final I was involved in. This and Argentina were definitely the two biggest.”

November 28

1999 – Pete Sampras wins the year-end ATP Tour Championships for a fifth time, defeating world No. 1 Andre Agassi 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 in the championship match in Hannover, Germany. Agassi had defeated Sampras 6-2, 6-2 in round-robin play earlier in the tournament. Writes British journalist Stephen Bierley, “It was perhaps fitting, given that this was the last major singles tournament of the millennium, that the best player of modern times won it so emphatically.”

1985 – Wimbledon champion and No. 4 seeded Boris Becker loses to Dutchmen and No. 188th ranked Michael Schapers 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6),6-4, 6-3 in the second round of the Australian Open. “I surprised myself at how badly I can play,” says Becker of the grass court loss.

1998 – One day after clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking for a record sixth consecutive year, Pete Sampras is un-gloriously dumped in the semifinals of the ATP Tour World Championships by Alex Corretja of Spain, who defeats the world No. 1 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) after saving three match points. Fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya also advances into the championship match, defeating Tim Henman of Great Britain 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Says Sampras, who hits 50 unforced errors in the loss,  “It’s a tough way to end it. I had mixed emotions, coming so close to winning, being in the final. But the achievement of doing it six years in a row, and the fans giving me a nice ovation, it was a very good feeling. But it wasn’t the way I wanted to end the year.”

2001 – Thirty-year-old Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic begins his six-month service in the Croatian Army. Says Ivanisevic, “Now that I’m in the army, you can all sleep peacefully…I have to do basic drill, but after that they will probably send me to catch (Arab terrorist Osama) bin Laden.”

November 29

1991 – Pete Sampras makes an inauspicious Davis Cup debut, losing to Henri Leconte 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 in the Davis Cup Final in Lyon, France. The 28-year-old Leconte, the former top 10 player ranked No. 159 in the world and recovering from back surgery that threatened his career, plays perhaps the most inspirational tennis match of his career. Says Leconte, “It’s the greatest day of my life, the win of my career. I’ve proved I’m still around.” Says French captain Yannick Noah “He played like I dreamed he would.” Says Sampras, ranked No. 6 in the world of his baptismal Davis Cup appearance, “It’s certainly a different experience.” Andre Agassi’s earlier 6-7, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Guy Forget makes the score 1-1 after the first day of play.

1998 – Alex Corretja rallies from a two-sets-to-love deficit to win the biggest title of his career, defeating fellow Spaniard Carlos Moya 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 7-5 in four hours to win the year-end ATP Tour World Championship in Hannover, Germany. Corretja, who lost to Moya in the French Open final earlier in the year, says he used Ivan Lendl’s two-set-to-love comeback win over John McEnroe in the 1984 French Open final as inspiration for his comeback. Says Corretja, “At that time Lendl was my idol. Today I was thinking, ‘Come on, try to do like your idol’ … try to find some energy from somewhere and try to think about your tennis and try to push him to see if he is going to be able to finish in straight sets. Even when I was two sets down, I was still thinking that I could win this match. That’s why I think I won.” Says Moya, “Two sets up, maybe I relaxed a bit. I thought the match was not over. It’s never over when you play against Alex. But I had a really big advantage. I had many chances to beat him, but they went and he started to play better. It’s a big disappointment.”

November 30

1973 -Rod Laver and John Newcombe each win five-set struggles to give Australia a commanding 2-0 lead over the United States, the five-time defending Davis Cup champions, in the Davis Cup Final in Cleveland, Ohio. Twenty-nine-year-old Newcombe beats Stan Smith 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the opening rubber, while 35-year-old Laver defeats 27-year-old Tom Gorman 8-10, 8-6, 6-8, 6-3, 6-1. The loss is Smith’s first-ever defeat in five previous Davis Cup Final appearances and only his second singles loss in 17 previous Davis Cup singles matches in all. Says Smith, “I played tougher matches under tougher conditions, but it’s the best I’ve seen Newk play.” Newcombe, the reigning U.S. Open champion, calls the win, “the toughest five-set match I have won in the last five years.” Laver, playing in his second Davis Cup series in his return to the competition for the first time since 1962, needs 3 hours, 22 minutes to outlast Gorman.

1990 – Andre Agassi wins a dramatic five-set match over Richard Fromberg, while Michael Chang is steady in a straight-set dismissal of Darren Cahill as the United States takes a 2-0 lead over Australian in the Davis Cup Final at the Florida Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, Fla.  Agassi, the world No. 4 and a French Open finalist earlier in the year, struggles on the indoor red clay court against Fromberg, playing in his first career Davis Cup match, but barrels through to win 4-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Chang, the 1989 French Open champion, has little difficultly with Cahill, a serve and volleyer, winning 6-2, 7-6 (4), 6-0.

2003 – Mark Philippoussis wins perhaps the most courageous and most heroic match of his career, as he clinches Australia’s 28th Davis Cup title, defeating Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-3, 1-6, 2-6, 6-0 to give Australia the 3-1 victory over Spain on a grass court at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. Philippoussis, playing in his hometown, fights through a torn pectoral muscle that inflicts him with sharp pain with every serve and groundstroke he hits. But spurred on by a screaming crowd of 14,000 supporters, Philippoussis, the losing finalist to Roger Federer earlier in the year at Wimbledon, plays the match as if his life were on the line. “The crowd was incredible,” says Philippoussis after the match. “This is what Davis Cup is all about. There is no way I could have got through without them. It gets you up and numbs the pain because they are so loud.”  Eleanor Preston writing for The Guardian writes that Philippoussis “veered between triumph and disaster before fighting back nerves, fatigue and pain from an injured pectoral muscle to win.”

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