Mike Penner

ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY: ANDY RODDICK STOPS “THE WORM”

From the book, ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), it was on February 24, 2008 when Andy Roddick stopped “The Worm.” The book excerpt from February 24 is featured below.

2008 – Andy Roddick beats Radek Stepanek 6-4, 7-5 to win the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif. Roddick celebrates the win by mimicking Stepanek, known for performing the belly-on-the-ground dance called “the worm” on court after big victories, by wiggling his right leg and left arm. Said Roddick, “Everybody’s asking me about the Worm. All I hear is the Worm. I wanted to find something as cheesy if not cheesier to go with, which was tough. I figured one bad leg kick and I’d be on par.” Said Stepanek of Roddick’s celebration, “I don’t know what that was. “

Also on this day, Roddick’s current coach, Larry Stefanki had perhaps his greatest day as a player, as documented below;

1985 – Twenty-seven-year-old tennis pro Larry Stefanki, ranked No. 143 in the world, caps off an incredible week of upsets, defeating David Pate 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to win the Pilot Pen Classic in LaQuinta, Calif. Stefanki, the touring pro at the LaQuinta Resort, is given a last minute wild-card entry in the tournament when bigger name players – namely Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg – decline opportunities to play in the event. Stefanki rides a string of upsets to win the second pro title of his career to go with a 1981 title in Lagos, Nigeria. Wrote the late Mike Penner of the Los Angeles Times, “In fact, the Larry Stefanki Story is almost too good, too sensational. This is the stuff of comic books, Steven Spielberg movies and prime-time TV drama.” “Unbelievable,” says Stefanki of his run. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. You dream about this.” Tournament Director Charlie Pasarell says, “I’m not sure the match would have been any better than this. If we could’ve written the script, we couldn’t have done it any better…I have a tremendous responsibility to this event and to the ticket buyers to bring in some big names. We wanted Wilander and Edberg, but after today’s match, I walked over to Larry, shook his hand and said the worst mistake I could’ve made was getting Wilander and Edberg.”

Roddick Goes “Cheesier”, Stefanki Stars in Spielberg Movie

Andy Roddick and Radek Stepanek have has a mini rivalry over the last two weeks – Stepanek beating the American 3-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the semifinals of San Jose two weeks ago, while Roddick avenged his loss to the Czech in the final in Memphis on Sunday by a 7-5, 7-5 margin. Roddick and Stepanek had a memorable – and humorous – match a year ago on Tuesday as excerpted below from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY (which you can buy at www.tennishistorybook.com for $19.95) Appropriately, Roddick’s current coach, Larry Stefanki, has his career highlight – described as something out of a Steven Spielberg movie – on this day in 1985. Read below and enjoy events that happened on this day in tennis history.

1985 – Twenty-seven-year-old Larry Stefanki, ranked No. 143 in the world, caps off an incredible week of upsets, defeating David Pate 6-1, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to win the Pilot Pen Classic in LaQuinta, Calif. Stefanki, the touring pro at the LaQuinta Resort, is given a last minute wild-card entry in the tournament when bigger name players – namely Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg – decline opportunities to play in the event. Stefanki rides a string of upsets to win the second pro title of his career to go with a 1981 title in Lagos, Nigeria. Writes Mike Penner of the Los Angeles Times, “In fact, the Larry Stefanki Story is almost too good, too sensational. This is the stuff of comic books, Steven Spielberg movies and prime-time TV drama.” “Unbelievable,” says Stefanki of his run. “I’ve never experienced anything like this. You dream about this.” Tournament Director Charlie Pasarell says to the Times, “I’m not sure the match would have been any better than this. If we could’ve written the script, we couldn’t have done it any better…I have a tremendous responsibility to this event and to the ticket buyers to bring in some big names. We wanted Wilander and Edberg, but after today’s match, I walked over to Larry, shook his hand and said the worst mistake I could’ve made was getting Wilander and Edberg.”

2007 – Justine Henin claims her 30th career WTA Tour title – defeating Amelie Mauresmo 6-4, 7-5 in the final of the Dubai Open in the United Arab Emirates. Henin’s 2007 title in Dubai is her fourth to go with her titles in 2003, 2004 and 2006

2008 – Andy Roddick beats Radek Stepanek 6-4, 7-5 to win the SAP Open in San Jose, Calif. Roddick celebrates the win by wiggling his right leg and left arm, mimicking Stepanek, known for performing the belly-on-the-ground dance called “The Worm” on court after big victories. Says Roddick, “Everybody’s asking me about the Worm. All I hear is the Worm. I wanted to find something as cheesy if not cheesier to go with, which was tough. I figured one bad leg kick and I’d be on par.” Says Stepanek of Roddick’s celebration, “I don’t know what that was. ”

1984 – John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors join forces on the U.S. Davis Cup team for only the second time in their careers as Connors defeats Florin Segarceanu 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 and McEnroe defeats Ilie Nastase 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 as the United States takes a 2-0 lead over Romania in Bucharest.

2007 – Playing in her first tournament since the previous October, 26-year-old Venus Williams shows no sign of her injured left wrist in defeating No. 1 seed Shahar Peer of Israel 6-1, 6-1 in the final of the Cellular South Cup in Memphis, Tenn., The title is the 34th of her career. Says Williams, “I’m so excited.”

2007 – Mikhail Youzhny fends off three match points to defeat Novak Djokovic 3-6, 7-6, 7-5 in the semifinals of the ATP event in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Youzhny goes on to win the title, defeating Croat Ivan Ljubicic 6-2, 6-4  in the final. Says Youzhny, “Last week I beat Djokovic in Marseille and that helped me today when I was a break down in third set. It was a tough match but sometimes in a tournament it is better to play matches like this on your way to the final.”