Los Angeles

14 Majors For Federer, Sampras and…Woods

Roger Federer won his 14th career major championship at the 2009 French Open, which not only tied him with one Pete Sampras, but another “rival” in professional sports, Tiger Woods. Ironically, on the same day that Federer won at Roland Garros, Woods won his 67th career PGA Tour event at The Memorial as he heads into the home stretch to try and win his 15th career major golf title at the US Open at Bethpage Black in New York. The following excerpt from the book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com, $24.95, New Chapter Press) details Federer’s relationship with both Sampras and Woods.

When Tiger Woods achieved the “Tiger Slam” in 2000 and 2001-winning all four of golf’s major championships in a row-Roger Federer was not yet 20 years old. The way that Woods dominated golf and reignited interest in the sport certainly caught the attention of the young Federer. However, he never thought that he would ever be compared to someone as dominant as Woods. “His story is completely different from mine,” he said in the spring of 2006. “Even as a kid his goal was to break the record for winning the most majors. I was just dreaming of just once meeting Boris Becker or being able to play at Wimbledon some time.”

Despite their different developments and the differences between their sports, the commonalities between Woods and Federer became unmistakable through the years. Like the four-time Masters champion, Federer is in full pursuit of sports history. While Woods is pursuing Jack Nicklaus and his 18 major championships, Federer is chasing Pete Sampras and his 14 Grand Slam singles titles. Both Woods and Federer are amazing because of their mental resilience, which is evident from the fact that they manage to make the most terrific shots under the greatest of difficulties.

Unlike his parents, Roger Federer is not a passionate golfer, but he follows Woods’ career with great interest. “It would be interesting to meet him and to see what he’s like in person,” Federer said in Key Biscayne in 2006.

Both Federer and Woods are clients of the International Management Group (IMG) and Federer’s agent, Tony Godsick, is friends with Mark Steinberg, the agent of Woods. In the summer of 2006, Federer asked Godsick if he could arrange a meeting with Woods. “The next thing I heard was that Woods would be delighted to come to the US Open final,” Federer recollected. “At that time the tournament hadn’t even started. I would have preferred meeting him in a more relaxed atmosphere than on the day of the US Open final-and I still had to get there first.”

The public had no idea that a spectacular meeting was in the making behind the scenes at the US Open. After Federer defeated the Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinals, he was informed that Woods was going to make good on his promise. He flew to New York from Florida on his private jet with his wife, Elin, to watch the US Open final in person. To everyone’s surprise, Woods took a seat in Federer’s guest box-which was quite noteworthy given the fact that Federer faced an American, Andy Roddick, in the final. “The fact that Tiger was sitting there put me under extra pressure,” Federer later admitted. “It was just like when I was younger when my parents or Marc Rosset watched me play in person. You want to play especially well.”

Woods’ timing was perfect. He watched and cheered as Federer won his third straight US Open title, defeating the resurgent Roddick 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. For the third year in a row, Federer won both Wimbledon and the US Open-a record that he didn’t have to share with anyone.

While Federer briefly met Woods before the final, the two spent well over an hour together in the locker room following the match, drinking Champagne and gazing at the US Open trophy that Federer just won. Woods even talked on the phone to Federer’s parents who were at home in bed as it was nearly three in the morning in Switzerland.

“I was impressed by how much we had in common,” Federer explained when Woods was on his way back to Florida. “He knew exactly what I was going through and I see what he has to go through. I’ve never spoken with anybody who was so familiar with the feeling of being invincible.”

“It was terrific for me to see him go into my player’s box, shake his fist, and enjoy himself,” he recollected a few weeks later. “He was the loudest one in my box. I was surprised how loose he was about it. He was happy as a kid to be able to watch the final. I think we’ll do things together more often.”

The appearance of Woods at the 2006 US Open final sparked more comparisons-and debates-between the two “athletes of the century” as to who was greater and more dominant. With all due respect to Woods, James Blake came out in favor of Federer. “In tennis, it’s a tournament where you have one bad day and you’re out,” said Blake. “That’s what we do every single week. Roger is winning every Grand Slam except for the French, winning every Masters Series tournament. That means he can’t have one bad day-that’s incredible. Not to mention he has to be out here for four hours running as opposed to walking while carrying one club-again not taking anything away from golf. Tiger’s proven himself every Sunday every time he has a lead. But look at Roger’s record in Grand Slam finals, too. In Grand Slam finals, he’s 8-1. That’s unheard of.”

The Woods camp and golf fans pointed out that the American, in contrast to Federer, already won all four major tournaments in his sport and instead of only having to defeat seven opponents at the biggest tournaments, Woods had to fight off around 150 contenders. Tennis aficionados emphasized that Grand Slam tournaments lasted two weeks and not just four days and that in tennis, having an off day is enough to get knocked out whereas in golf, players could always save the day in such a situation.

Still others highlighted the commonalities between the two. “Despite their total dominance, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer show a modest self-discipline that would have impressed the most chivalrous medieval knight,” The Daily Telegraph of Britain wrote. The Calgary Sun stated unequivocally which of the two super athletes it favored-“(Federer) is infinitely more human than Tiger Woods, more precise, more likable, more honest, less robotic, seemingly enjoying his place as a tennis player for the ages.” The Daily News of Los Angeles, by contrast, questioned all of these comparisons. “You say the Swiss dude is definitely the greatest tennis player of all time? Good, then we can switch back to the Bengals-Chiefs. Equating Roger Federer to Tiger Woods isn’t a backhanded compliment, it’s a forehanded insult. An athlete of Federer’s all-around refinement deserves better than to be defined in terms of another athlete.”

After his US Open victory, Federer returned home to Switzerland when he received a surprise phone call. Pete Sampras, whose legacy and records were now one of Federer’s biggest rivals, called to offer congratulations. “He had already text messaged me three days ago and now he was calling me to congratulate me personally,” said Federer shortly after the US Open. “He asked if I had gotten the message. I said I was just about to reply. It was almost embarrassing. Perhaps I should have replied quicker.” Sampras told Federer how much he liked to watch him play and emphasized that he now was more clearly dominant than he was during his prime. “To hear something like this from him was incredible,” Federer said. “It’s never happened to me before that my earlier idol called me to compliment me.”

Sampras and Federer continued their text message relationship, with Sampras offering more good wishes over the following few months. Before the tournament in Indian Wells in March of 2007, Federer then took the initiative and called Sampras, who meanwhile announced he was returning to competitive tennis on the Champions circuit run by his contemporary Jim Courier. Federer asked Sampras if he would like to hit some balls and train together. “I wanted to see how well he could still play because, after all, he was one of my favorite players growing up,” Federer explained. With a wink in his eye and devilish grin, he then said, “beating him in his backyard in Wimbledon was so special to me, so I wanted to try and beat him in his house.”

Federer and Sampras only played once during their careers-the memorable round of 16 match at Wimbledon in 2001. Late in Pete’s career, the two had one brief practice session together in Hamburg. “It started to rain,” Federer recollected. “I was so disappointed, but he was happy to get off.”

After their training session together in Los Angeles in the spring of 2007, Federer expressed his surprise at how well Sampras could still keep up during their practice session. “We played some great sets and tie-breaks. I’m glad to see that he’s actually still enjoying tennis.” The scores of these practice matches? “They’re secret,” Federer said. “Surprisingly, he was very good, but not good enough to beat me!”

Federer found that he and Sampras shared many commonalities and could talk in great detail of their respective lives and pressures on the tour, as well as common experiences, experiences at particular tournaments and even about players who they both played against. With Woods, this was not the case. “Pete and I played the same tournaments and even played against the same opponents,” Federer said. “I have much more in common with Pete than I have with Tiger off court.”

“When I was new on the tour, I hardly ever spoke to Pete,” he continued. “First of all, he was never around at the courts, and when he would come into the locker room, everything was quiet because he was respected so much by all the other players.” Several years later, Federer finally got a chance to find out what made Sampras so unique and what brought him so close to perfection.

Mondays With Bob Greene: I thought I took all the right decisions today

STARS

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

SAYING

“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.

SETTLING UP

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.

STRAIGHT IN

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.

STYLISH RETURN

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.

SIDELINED

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.

STOP IT

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.

SUSPENSION SHORTENED

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.

STAYING RETIRED

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.

SHARED PERFORMANCES

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

Dusseldorf: www.arag-world-team-cup.com/

Kitzbuhel: www.atpkitz.at

Warsaw: www.warsawopen.com.pl/

Strasbourg: www.internationaux-strasbourg.fr/

Paris: www.rolandgarros.com/index.html

TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK

(All money in USD)

ATP

$490,000 Interwetten Austrian Open, Kitzbuhel, Austria, clay

$1,800,000 ARAG ATP World Team Championships, Dusseldorf, Germany, clay

WTA

$600,000 Warsaw Open, Warsaw, Poland, clay

$220,000 Internationaux de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France, clay

SENIORS

Grand Champions Brazil, Sao Paulo, Brazil, hard

TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK

ATP and WTA

Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (first week)

Tennis Legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley Officially Recognised

Evonne Goolagong

Written by the WTA Tour

ST. PETERSBURG, FL, USA – Australian tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley has been officially recognised as one of only 16 women to have attained the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour’s World No.1 singles ranking since computer rankings were introduced in 1975.

It was recently discovered that Goolagong ascended to the top spot for one ranking period (rankings were issued bi-monthly during 1975-1990) shortly after her gripping 63 57 63 win over Chris Evert at prestigious 1976 Virginia Slims Championships held at the Forum in Los Angeles.

The belated accolade comes about following a recent search in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Rankings archive in St. Petersburg, Florida, which revealed that a handful of paper records were in fact missing between April and July 1976, most notably was the ranking period April 26 to May 9.

On looking at the point differential between No.1 Evert and No.2 Goolagong on the April 12 printout, there was little separating the two. When the Jenkins method was applied to compute the rankings following the results of the Virginia Slims Championships on April 17, and with the 1975 Family Circle Cup points (which Evert won) from the 52 weeks previously coming off on April 26, Goolagong moves into the No.1 spot by 8/10ths of a Rating Point.

Two weeks later on May 10, when Evert’s victory at the 1976 Family Circle Cup and Goolagong’s non-entry are factored in, the American moves back into the No.1 spot for and would continue to hold it for 112 consecutive weeks until Martina Navratilova’s victory at Wimbledon in 1978.

To celebrate the achievement, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour sent Goolagong Cawley a Waterford Crystal trophy, something new No.1s in recent years have received. She is pictured in this story with the trophy.

“I’m simply delighted,” said Goolagong Cawley from her home in Noosa, Queensland. “In Australia at the end of 1975 and during the ’76 Virginia Slims Tour (which finished just before Easter – Chris and I then played World TeamTennis with no more official tournaments until the WTT break for Wimbledon) I played at the highest level, the most consistent tennis of my career. The tournaments were on grass and on mostly quick carpet which helped the serve and volley part of my game and for five or six months I felt virtually unbeatable.

“Prior to this time, I had lost to Chris a number of times in a row mostly on clay – her best surface – but strangely during that time it was my ground strokes that improved and subsequently gave me such an edge on everyone, including her. Today I am happy and gratified that what I felt at the time has now been recognised officially. It’s personally very satisfying and this has been the best Christmas present.”

“Evonne was always one of the most beloved and gracious of champions,” said Sony Ericsson WTA Tour CEO & Chairman Larry Scott. “We felt once it came to light that she did in fact assume the No.1 ranking for a period in 1976, it was important to recognise the achievement, just like we had with all the other 15 women who have achieved that pinnacle in women’s tennis.

“Unfortunately our record keeping wasn’t perfect in those early days of women’s tennis and our ranking system was viewed as a means of just accepting tournament entries. It wasn’t until the early 1980s that the media and players started to pay attention to the changes in the rankings during the year as opposed to only the end of season rankings. Media coverage has evolved to the point now when a player cracks the Top 10 for the first time or attains the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour No.1 Ranking that it attracts world-wide attention and deservedly so.”

Veteran observers of the tennis writing community had this to say:

“Back in the Seventies, most of us as tennis writers didn’t pay much attention to the weekly rankings; we were more concerned with where the players stood at the end of the year, and that was when we paid serious attention. The computer rankings in the seventies were only just evolving and most of us were still writing on typewriters; of course there was no internet.

“Hence, when the WTA, through an innocent mistake, did not give Evonne Goolagong the honor she deserved as an authentic No.1 in 1976, that error went right by us in the press. We knew that Evonne was having a great year and was involved in an exciting battle for the top spot with Chris Evert, but the oversight regarding her rise to No.1 during that season was simply not noticed. Blame that on the times, the circumstances, and the fact that the week in, week out rankings were not a top concern of many writers, and that is why Goolagong never got her due.

“She was one of the great players of the Open Era and it is a very good thing for all of us historians that she is finally getting recognition for having achieved the No.1 ranking in the world. It adds to her legacy of seven Grand Slam singles championships and a wonderful overall record through the years.

“I do not blame the Tour in the least for what happened; in fact, it is setting the record straight now, and 31 years later Goolagong is at last being officially given an honor she deserved long ago. It is good for her and good for the game. When historical errors are made, they should be corrected, and that is the case right now. Good for the Tour and good for Goolagong, because now everyone will know that she was indeed the No.1 player in the world during her prime.”
Steve Flink

“Evonne was certainly one of the most graceful and charming of champions – a delight off the court and on. She was very shy as a young player and I think she surprised many of us by maturing into a powerful advocate for the Aboriginal people. I would imagine a strong family life when she got married helped her develop the confidence off the court and on it. 1976 was most certainly her most consistent year.

“The rankings were, indeed, less noted on the women’s tour than the men’s in those early days and records were badly kept so week by week would have been difficult to check at the time. It’s terrific that she gets her just reward now. But Evonne’s game transcended statistics. As Bill Tilden might have said, she played her own sweet game.”
Richard Evans

“Hurrahs to the diggers who discovered that Evonne Goolagong should have been ranked No.1 during 1976, not No.2. It took a while, but never too late for justice. This fact will be noted in the next edition of my Tennis Encyclopedia in 2008.”
Bud Collins