Josh Goodall

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.