by James A. Crabtree
I was talking with a fellow tennis fanatic the other day and the conversation shifted to the best live match we had ever seen. The fellow fanatic in question has rather deep pockets and could recount epics played throughout the world and the great corporate seats they had and blah blah blah. Well, enough about them, they were rather annoying.
I am not going to get snobby and say “You had to physically be there.” That is absurd and unfair to those of us with mortal salaries.
And by no means does this epic matchup have to be a final.
You simply have had to watch the match live, been engrossed in it, unable to draw yourself away from the drama that unfolded in front of your eyes..
Andy Roddick versus Roger Federer, 2009 Wimbledon Final
Tough call here because the Federer versus Nadal epics in 2007 and 2008 were pretty special. But the choice goes to this five setter simply because, like many, I started the match cheering for Roger and finished going for Andy. Fed, at the time, was going for his fifteenth slam which would make him the most successful player in history, and Andy has had to bear witness to every slam in Fed’s career. But on this day Andy Roddick really looked like he could it. He was a set up, then 6-2 in the second set tie break, but Federer levelled it. Roddick lost the third but rebounded in the fourth. The thirty game fifth set, well that’s just part of Wimbledon lore. Do I really need to mention that Federer won it?
Stephen Edberg versus Michael Chang, 1989 Roland Garros Final
This was an absolute heartbreaker, especially if you were a diehard Edberg fan. Anyway, the gentleman Swede was attempting to become one of only a handful of true volleyers to pick up the title. In the fifth set he was a break up and looked like he would serve and volley his way into destiny, on clay. Unfortunately for Edberg fans he was up against a seventeen year upstart who had famously underarmed served in the fourth round against Lendl, the world number one. Michael Chang, with destiny on his side, took the title and secured his place as the youngest ever grand slam winner.
Rafael Nadal versus Novak Djokovic, 2012 Australian Open final
This epic final knocks out of the list the 2009 Verdasco/Nadal semi-final. Although still a very recent memory the relentless fight these two players showed proved why they will be remembered as legends in a match that lasted twice as long as Lord of The Rings. Let’s remember both players were coming off emotional wins, Rafa over Roger and Novak over Andy. The final included some of the most gruelling baseline hitting in recent memory, Nadal falling to his knees in jubilation after winning the fourth set and Djokovic’s infamous Hulk inspired shirt rip after his victory. Most of Melbourne awoke after this match with a very painful tennis hangover.
Boris Becker versus Johan Kriek, 1985 Queen’s Club Championships
Little can be said for the quality of the tennis as I simply don’t remember because I was only five years old at the time, but this was my first ever tennis match. I do remember it being very hot, and standing with my parents in line for the bar behind the biggest and most ginger human in the world.
This list did take a lot of deep thought, with so many games to recollect. The 2012 Aussie Open Marco Baghdatis versus Stan Wawrinka racquet smash bonanza was one of the most intriguing matches I’ve ever seen and now rewritten as a Greek tragedy. Brad Gilbert versus David Wheaton at Wimbledon 1990 was a strategical masterpeice. It is easy to recall the Sampras and Agassi bouts, Henman near misses, Davis Cup upsets including Lleyton’s 2003 two set down comeback against Federer. But the battles royale that take precedence within the memory banks cannot be dislodged.
FLUSHING, N.Y., September 12, 2009 — Team Lendl rallied behind the dominating play of two-time US Open champion Tracy Austin to defeat Team Cash 21-17 in the final day of the US Open Champions Invitational at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. With the win, Team Lendl finished the competition as the only undefeated team, posting a 2-0 record.
With her team trailing by four games after the first three events, Austin teamed with Guillermo Vilas to roll over Hana Mandlikova and Ilie Nastase, 5-2 in mixed doubles. Austin and World TeamTennis CEO/Commissioner Ilana Kloss routed Mandlikova and Iva Majoli 5-0 in women’s doubles to give Team Lendl the match win.
Team Cash, coached by Pat Cash, started the day with an early lead when Majoli edged Conchita Martinez 5-4 in the opening set of women’s singles. The set was evenly matched with every game going to 3-points all, forcing a 9-point tiebreak at 4-4. Majoli won the tiebreak for the 5-4 victory.
Cash and Todd Martin topped Vilas and Jimmy Arias in men’s doubles 5-4 to add to Team Cash’s lead. Cash subbed in the men’s doubles event when Ilie Nastase had not arrived by the start of the set. Nastase showed up a few minutes later and when interviewed by the announcer about the reason for his late arrival, the irrepressible Nastase replied, “I cannot say – there are kids around.”
Nastase continued in classic form on the court as well, partially mooning Austin during mixed doubles and trying to unnerve her with a bit of trash-talking. “This one is for you, Tracy”. Austin was unaffected as she and her Team Lendl doubles partners outgunned her opponents 10-2 over the final two sets.
Team Cash and Team Lendl, along with Team King coached by Billie Jean King, each played two matches over three days of team competition. The event used the World TeamTennis format for the first time in US Open history and featured a lineup of Grand Slam champions and finalists competing on co-ed teams. Team Lendl finished with a 2-0 record, while Team King was 1-1 and Team Cash was 0-2.
Each match consisted of one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Other WTT features included cumulative scoring, sets to five games, no-ad scoring, playing let serves, Overtime and Supertiebreakers.
Final Score: Team Lendl def. Team Cash 21-17
Women’s Singles: Iva Majoli (Team Cash) def. Conchita Martinez (Team Lendl) 5-4 (4)
Men’s Doubles: Todd Martin/Pat Cash (Team Cash) def. Jimmy Arias/Guillermo Vilas (Team Lendl) 5-4 (1)
Men’s Singles: Todd Martin (Team Cash) def. Jimmy Arias (Team Lendl) 5-3
Mixed Doubles: Tracy Austin/Guillermo Vilas (Team Lendl) def. Hana Mandlikova/Ilie Nastase (Team Cash) 5-2
Women’s Doubles: Ilana Kloss/Tracy Austin (Team Lendl) def. Hana Mandlikova/Iva Majoli (Team Cash) 5-0
Check www.USOpen.org for more details on the US Open Champions Invitational.
Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-4 to win the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open men’s singles in Madrid, Spain
Dinara Safina beat Caroline Wozniacki 6-2 6-4 in Madrid, Spain, to win the women’s singles at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open.
Marc Gicquel beat Mathieu Montcourt 3-6 6-1 6-4 to win the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux in Bordeaux, France
“I thought I took all the right decisions today. In the end it was a perfect game for me. (You) stay positive and I did. I got the win I needed badly.” – Roger Federer, after beating Rafael Nadal.
“There are no positives, there is little to analyze. He broke and broke and I went home.” – Rafael Nadal, after losing to Roger Federer.
“I’m very disappointed I can play this well and still not win a match.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
“Since I became No. 1 I’m playing better and better.” – Dinara Safina, after winning the Madrid Open women’s title.
“I don’t want anybody telling me all the time what to do. I want to do my own thing. I’m more relaxed, easy going. I’m not worried too much. If it goes my way, fine. If not, I’ll keep trying.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, who hired Larisa Savchenko as her new coach.
“After a few weeks of training I got the hunger back. I felt really good and wanted the challenge to see if I can still be up there (competing on the tour).” – Kim Clijsters, a former top-ranked player who will return to the WTA Tour in August.
“It’s going to be a challenge but she seems really determined. She has the talent and the tennis. I really think she can do it.” – Steffi Graf, on Kim Clijsters rejoining the WTA Tour.
“It is truly a page that has been turned. It was 20 years of my life. Now life is something different.” – Justine Henin, saying she will not follow Kim Clijsters in returning to the WTA Tour.
“Sometimes it’s hard to fully accept change in some respects. It’s an exciting change, it’s an asset for fans and for players.” – Andre Agassi, about the roof over Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.
“That’s saying something when this is already the best and most famous court in the world, but I’m intrigued to see what level the atmosphere might go to. Given the right scenarios with the right match and players, it could be really something.” – Tim Henman, on the new roof covering Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court.
“The small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question.” – The Court of Arbitration for Sport, announcing the reason that the suspension of Mathieu Montcourt for betting on matches has been reduced from eight to five weeks.
SUCCESS AT LAST
Roger Federer ended his five-match losing streak to his top rival when he shocked Rafael Nadal in the final of the Madrid Open. That stretch included the finals at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Calling his first win over Nadal since the 2007 Masters Tennis Cup “very satisfying,” Federer now trails in their head-to-head meetings 7-13. It was the 16th time the two have played for a title, with Nadal winning 11 times. Only Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe have met in more finals among the men: 20. And it was only the second time that Federer has beaten Nadal on clay. The Swiss star is the only player ranked in the top 10 to have ever beaten Nadal on the surface.
Organizers of the Dubai Tennis Championships have agreed to pay a USD $300,000 fine assessed against the tournament when Israel’s Shahar Peer was not allowed to enter the country. The WTA Tour board rejected Dubai’s appeal of the record fine, which was more than twice as much as the previous highest. The United Arab Emirates refused to grant Peer a visa just before she was due to arrive at the Dubai tournament in February. The WTA Tour also demanded that any Israeli players who qualify for the 2010 tournament must receive visas at least eight weeks before the tournament. “I just say that it’s a shame that Shahar could not compete in the tournament because she has nothing to do with the politics – she’s a tennis player,” said top-ranked Dinara Safina.
Emilie Loit and five other Frenchwomen have been awarded wild cards for direct entry into the main draw at this year’s Roland Garros. The French Open begins on May 24 in Paris. Claire Feuerstein, Kinnie Laisne, Kristina Mladenovic, Irena Pavlovic and Olivia Sanchez will be joined by American Lauren Embree and Australian Olivia Rogowska in receiving wild cards from the French Tennis Federation. Given wild cards into the women’s qualifying draw were Chloe Babet, Simona Halep, Florence Haring, Violette Huck, Karla Mraz, Laura Thorpe, Aurelie Vedy and Stephanie Vongsouthi.
Kim Clijsters made a splash when she helped inaugurate the new roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court. After Clijsters and Tim Henman teamed up to win a mixed doubles challenge against Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi, Clijsters beat Graf 6-4 and earned a standing ovation from the crowd for the quality of tennis. “I had started practicing again, but I was really out of shape and I didn’t want to embarrass myself,” said Clijsters, who has married and had a child since she retired from the sport. “About four weeks into training I felt I would like to compete again on tour. Since then I have been training really hard.”
SEX AND TENNIS
Anna Kournikova wants to get away from her sexy tennis star image – at least somewhat. The Russian, who works for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Cartoon Network, says she is driven to get kids more involved in sports and exercise. Kournikova began her professional tennis career at the age of 14. And while many think of her as the sexy tennis player, she was ranked as high as eighth in the world in singles and won two Grand Slam tournament doubles titles, partnering with Martina Hingis. While she has not played on the WTA Tour since 2003, Kournikova participates in World Team Tennis and occasionally plays exhibitions. And she hasn’t abandoned modeling. “You’ve got to have some kind of income,” Kournikova said.
SPOT FOR GAUDIO
Gaston Gaudio of Argentina will be playing at Roland Garros again. Gaudio, who won the French Open in 2004, was granted a wild card for this year’s tournament. The 30-year-old right-hander last won a tournament at Kitzbuhel, Austria, in 2005. Once ranked fifth in the world, Gaudio has dropped to 395th in the world rankings.
It was a doubleheader at the Madrid Open when both Philipp Kohlschreiber and Nikolay Davydenko pulled out of the tournament. Both players said they had injured their left leg and had to withdraw. Kohlschreiber was facing Rafael Nadal in his next match, while Davydenko was scheduled to face Andy Roddick. Both Nadal and Roddick moved into the quarterfinals with walkovers.
SEE, ME TOO
Roland Garros is playing follow the leader, with officials saying the French Open will have a new center court with a retractable roof in place by 2013 or 2014. Wimbledon will have a retractable roof on its Centre Court for the first time at this year’s tournament. The retractable roof-covered stadium in Paris was supposed to be ready for the 2012 Olympics, but it was delayed when France failed to get the Games. Jean Gachassin, president of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), said the future of Roland Garros depends on it getting the roof. “The goal is to have an outdoor stadium that can be covered, instead of an indoor stadium that can be uncovered,” said Marc Mimram, the head architect for the project. The Australian Open has two courts with roofs, while organizers of the US Open are considering building a roof over its main court, Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf say their names and trademarks are being used on Web sites without their permission. The two, who are married, have filed separate cyber squatting claims in federal court. Agassi claims that the domain names andre-agassi.com, andre-agassi.net and andre-agassi.info have been registered. Graf says steffigraf.com, steffigraf.net and steffigraf.info have been registered without her consent. Both Agassi and Graf are seeking ownership of the domain names.
When he finally serves his suspension for betting on matches, Mathieu Montcourt will only miss five weeks on the ATP tour instead of eight weeks. And he will be able to compete at both Wimbledon and the US Open this summer. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) noted the 24-year-old Montcourt bet a total of USD $192 on 36 different tennis events, but none on his own matches or at tournaments where he was playing. Citing “the small amounts gambled (and) the absence of influence of the bets on the matches in question,” the CAS reduced Montcourt ban to five weeks, starting July 6. The Frenchman was a finalist this past week at the BNP Paribas Primrose Bordeaux where he lost to Marc Gicquel 3-6 6-1 6-4 in Bordeaux, France.
Just because she has picked up a racquet and hit with longtime coach Carlos Rodriguez, Justine Henin says she has no plans to un-retire like fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters. “I hasten to add, just to improve my condition and stay healthy,” Henin said of the practice. A year after she surprised the world by retiring while ranked number one in the world, Henin says she still feels the pain of competitive tennis every day. “If it is not the knee, it is the shoulder,” she said. The seven-time Grand Slam tournament champion is now a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, earlier this year visiting eastern Congo, and is appearing on Belgian television in a show titled “12 works of Justine Henin.”
SCRAPPING TENNIS PROGRAMS
In cost-cutting moves, two American colleges have dropped their tennis programs. Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, suspended indefinitely its tennis programs affected 12 student-athletes, seven men and five women, as well as coach Malik Tabet and assistant coach Martha Montoya. Athletic director Ron Prettyman said he had to cut USD $350,000 from his budget. The university says it will honor all scholarships for the 2009-2010 school year for tennis players who want to stay at ISU, while those who want to transfer will be able to play at other schools.
At Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, Louisiana, the men’s tennis team was cut because of the budget. Officials said the move to drop the 10-player squad was because next year’s proposed state budget calls for chopping millions of dollars from public universities. Southeastern plans to retain men’s tennis coach Jason Hayes, who also oversees the women’s team, which for now will be spared.
The University of La Verne in Southern California won’t drop its women’s tennis team after all. Two weeks after announcing it was dropping the sport temporarily, the women’s program has been reinstated. The biggest problem at the La Verne, California, school – located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles – was the lack of a facility since the school turned the courts into a parking lot in 2007. But the school worked out a deal to use the facilities at The Claremont Club during the spring, making it possible for the school to keep its program. The men’s tennis program, however, remains on hiatus with no definitive timetable for its return.
Madrid (men): Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Simon Aspelin and Wesley Moodie 6-4 6-4
Madrid (women): Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Kveta Peschke and Lisa Raymond 4-6 6-3 10-6 (match tiebreak)
Bordeaux: Pablo Cuevas and Horacio Zeballos beat Xavier Pujo and Stephane Robert 4-6 6-4 10-4 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$490,000 Interwetten Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay
$1,800,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championships, Dusseldorf, Germany, clay
$600,000 Warsaw Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay
$220,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay
Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
ATP and WTA
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)
The upcoming issue of Tennis looks back at the past 40 years of tennis (the Open Era), which began with an inclusion of professionals into its most esteemed events — the Grand Slams — for the first time. This move revolutionized the sport and brought us some amazing memories in upsets, defeats, victories, and feats. Read on to see what the mag deemed worthy of its list. (Do you agree? Tell us!)
The Best Shots: The invicible serve of Peter Sampras. “No player owed as much to a single shot. Even as he aged, his serve kept winning him Wimbledons.” The runners-up are Steffi Graf’s forehand, Chris Evert’s backhand; Jimmy Connors’ return, and Roger Federer’s forehand.
Crucial Matches: Props to Tennis for not going with the safe choice of Billie Jean King d. Bobby Riggs (no offense, BJK). Instead, they turn our attention to the 1990 U.S. Open meeting between Sampras and Ivan Lendl. “An unknown Sampras ended Lendl’s streak of eight U.S. Open finals, and helped usher in the power era,” according to the magazine. Runners up are McEnroe defeating Borg at the 1981 U.S. Open, the 1973 Battle of the Sexes, Rosewall winning over Laver in Dallas, 1972; and Graf’s victory over Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1988.
Biggest Upsets: Navratilova’s 1983 French Open loss to Kathy Horvath, bringing the American’s win-loss record for that dominant year to 83-1. Runners-up are Doohan d. Becker, 1987; L. McNeil d. Graf, 1994; Yzaga d. Sampras, 1994; and Ashe d. Connors, 1975.
Outrageous Moments: The biggest buhskyooze moment is the 1993 stabbing of Monica Seles. The incident derailed a potentially historic career for Seles (btw, why wasn’t her backhand in the top 5?). Runners-up are McEnroe defaulting in Melbourne, 1990; Connors wiping out a ball mark, 1977; the Ilie Nastase uprising at Flushing Meadows, 1979; and Jennifer Capriati’s drug bust mug shot, 1994. (By the time Martina Hingis effed up at Wimbledon this year, drugs were already passe…)
Biggest Rivalries: “The cold war duals of Navratilova vs. Evert defined the term ‘rivalry’ in tennis,” notes the magazine. Their duels ended up 43-37 in Navratilova’s favor. Other rivalries mentioned are Laver vs. Rosewall, Borg vs. McEnroe, Court vs. King, and Sampras vs. Agassi. It’s early yet, but what about Rafa and Roger?
Records: Steffi Graf’s Golden Slam. Runners-up are Chris Evert’s semifinals run from 1971-1987; Navratilova’s 350 titles (that’s 200 more than almost everyone else, man or woman!); Roger Federer’s 10 Grand Slam Finals from Wimbledon 2005 to the U.S. Open in 2007 (a men’s record), and Nadal’s clay-court streak of 81 consecutive wins.
Best Dressed: Serena Williams takes the title in fashion. “From the cat suit to the soccer socks, Serena has made tennis fashion a sport of its own.” Runners-up are Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert, Maria Sharapova, and Roger Federer.
Biggest Disappointments: The “ornery and super-smooth” Chinito, Marcelo Rios. He never won a major, and he defaulted a match in Los Angeles back in the early aughts, ruining the one chance I had to see him play. Other losers are Iva Majoli, Anna Kournikova; Dick Stockton, Mark Philippoussis.
Feel-Good Victories: The tearful collapse of Jana Novotna in the 1993 Wimbledon final made her 1998 win against Natalie Tauziat even sweeter. Runners-up: Virginia Wade’s win at Wimbledon in 1977, Yannick Noah’s 1983 win at Roland Garros, Jennifer Capriati’s comeback at the 2001 Aussie Open, and Goran Ivanisevic’s historic Monday final in 2001.
Written by Alessandro Nicolo
Here’s the thing: tennis is one of those sports I play more than I watch. It’s just one of those things. There’s not enough time in a day for me to watch every sport. On the other hand if someone would pay me – trust me – I’m watching anything.
You’re reading the words of a guy who has watched curling on more than one occasion.
Tennis is a great game. The athletic demands are complimented by the technical aspects of mastering the sport. A few years ago my close friend, a former tennis player and instructor, told me that by the time he’s done Roger Federer may very well be the greatest tennis player who ever lived. I took those words seriously since my friend was not into hyperbole. More sober and sane than he they don’t come. “There no weaknesses in his game,” he said.
Well, Roger Federer won his 10th men’s singles grand slam title, winning in straight sets over a feisty Fernando Gonzalez at the Australian Open. That’s good for fifth all-time, which ties Federer with Bill Tilden. He’s two titles behind Ray Emerson and only one behind Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.
More importantly, at 26 he is just four grand slam titles away the all-time leader Pete Sampras.
Tennis has a problem on its hands. Through most of the sport’s history tennis was blessed with classic rivalries. Who can forget those battles in the 1970s and 1980s between Borg, McEnroe, Connors and Lendl? Sampras and Agassi had a thing going too. But who will dance with Roger?
Andy Roddick has the attitude and will to challenge him, but if his serve is off he struggles. Rafael Nadal has flair and is blessed with a more complete game but outside of clay he’s a mere mortal.
In modern tennis there is no one that comes remotely close to Roger Federer. His dominance is pure net – excuse the bad pun. What captivates me is how smooth and beautiful his game really is. He’s perfect in all aspects of the game without looking like a robot.
Let me take this a step further. Forget statistics. I’m dropping the gloves here. Forget Tiger Woods. Forget Babe Ruth, Pele, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky. Forget Michael Schumacher and Mohammed Ali – to name a few.
Yeah, I may be getting excited here but I’m going with a sports junkie’s instinct here. People will always debate Montana or Unitas? Chamberlin or Jordan? Lemieux, Orr, Howe or Gretzky? Even Pele has legitimate challengers in Diego Maradona and Alfredo di Stefano. Some even swear that we wasn’t the greatest Brazilian player ever. For this they look to Garrincha.
For his part, Ali is sometimes not referred as the greatest heavyweight of all time. It’s notoriously hard to judge auto racing or cycling – though Eddie Merckx can easily plead his case as the greatest cyclist ever. Come to think of it, he Woods come as the closest challengers that I can think of. But even experts admit Tiger has some weaknesses to his game. I’ve yet ot hear that about Federer.
I know I’m mixing some team sports in there but you get the picture. Yes, tennis has had its fair share of dominant players. The consensus however has Rod Laver as the greatest and most complete player ever. Sampras has the numbers to back him up.
I recognize all that. Still…
There is a very real chance that when Federer retires he may close out his career as the most dominant professional athlete ever.
Just for that I’ll be watching. There may not be any parity in tennis (sometimes dynasties are just plain good) but Federer’s class and elegance may just enough for sports fans to forgive and forget.
Alessandro Nicolo – the hack with a knack – is a freelance writer and sedentary bon vivant living in Montreal.