open singles

Brothers And Sisters At The US Open – The Richeys And Dinara And Marat

NEW YORK, Sept. 1, 2009 – The best brother and sister combinations in the history of tennis – Dinara Safina and Marat Safin of Russia and Nancy and Cliff Richey of San Angelo, Texas – are all in attendance at the 2009 U.S. Open. Safina begins play as the No. 1 seed in women’s singles Tuesday, the same day as Nancy Richey, a Hall of Famer and a U.S. Open singles finalist 40 years ago in 1969, returns to the U.S. Open for the first time in 15 years. Richey, who lost to Margaret Court in the 1969 U.S. Open women’s singles final, is attending the U.S. Open with her younger brother Cliff, a two-time Open semifinalist. Marat Safin will begin his final career major tournament Wednesday when he plays his first-round match against Jurgen Melzer of Austria.

Safin and Safina are the only brother sister combo to rank No. 1 in the world rankings. The Richeys are the only brother-sister pair to rank No. 1 in the United States and were called by tennis historian Bud Collins in his book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, prior to ascent of Safina, as “the game’s most extra-ordinary sister-brother combo.”

Nancy Richey was the first woman to win the first “open” major championship at the 1968 French Open (as an amateur, making her the only amateur woman to win a major singles title). She also won the Australian Open in 1967 and ranked as the No. 1 American in 1964, 1965, 1968 and 1969. Richey achieved a rare “six-peat” at a U.S. Tennis Association national championship – an effort that world No. 1 Roger Federer is attempting to do by winning his sixth straight U.S. Open men’s singles title this year – when she won the women’s singles title at the U.S. Clay Court Championships from 1963 to 1968. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003.

Cliff Richey won the year-end international professional points title in 1970 (a precursor to the ATP rankings), highlighted by semifinal showings at the French and U.S. Opens. He clinched the year-end No. 1 U.S. singles ranking that year defeating Stan Smith in a match that rode on the final point of the match – a winner-take-all on the final point of sudden-death nine-point tie-breaker – Richey winning the semifinal match at the Pacific Coast Championships in Berkeley, Calif. 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (5-4). His book detailing his trials and triumphs with clinical depression will be released in the spring of 2010 by New Chapter Press.

A comparison of the top-line achievements of the best brother and sister combinations are as follows;

Marat Safin
• Two major singles titles (2000 US Open, 2005 Australian Open)
• Two runner-up showings at majors (2002, 2004 Australian Opens)
• World No. 1 for 9 weeks in 2000
• Led Russia to Davis Cup titles in 2002 and 2006
• Won 15 career singles titles

Dinara Safina
• Three runner-up showing at majors (2008, 2009 French Open, 2009 Australian Open)
• World No. 1 for 20 weeks
• Won 11 career singles titles
• 2008 Olympic silver medalist in women’s singles
• Led Russia to the Fed Cup titles in 2005

Nancy Richey
• Two major singles titles (1967 Australian Open, 1968 French Open)
• Four runner-up showings at majors (two-time U.S. singles finalist, 1966, 1969), French Championships (1966), Australian Championships (1966)
• Four major doubles titles (1966 Australian and Wimbledon doubles champion, 1965 and 1966 U.S. doubles champion)
• World No. 2 in 1969
• Led U.S. to Fed Cup title in 1969
• 69 career singles titles (in pro and amateur eras)
• Won a record six straight U.S. clay court titles

Cliff Richey
• Three-time major semifinalist (1970 French Open, 1970, 1972 US Opens)
• Pepsi-Cola Grand Prix point winner – unofficial No. 1 in the world – in 1970 (pre-ATP rankings)
• Lead U.S. to the Davis Cup title in 1970
• Won 45 career singles titles (in pro and amateur eras)

Said Cliff Richey of the dynamics of sibling rivalries, “When there are two that good in the same family, there is always good-natured needling and sometimes not so good-natured needling as to results and current form etc. But, of course, the best thing is that you always have a practice partner. My sister Nancy and I always felt we took advantage of that very much. We always felt that it was a big time advantage to have a built in practice partner.”

Said Nancy Richey of her relationship with her brother in the competitive world of international tennis, “Cliff and I are four years apart in age and we were both glad that we were relatively close age-wise so that we had pretty much coinciding careers. I never really felt that it was a rivalry but more a joint effort. Being of the different gender, it really eliminated the rivalry aspect as far as I was concerned – sister/sister or brother/brother seems to me would be more difficult.”

What Really Happened During The 1983 U.S. Open Final

So what really happened during the 1983 U.S. Open men’s singles final? As you may recall, Jimmy Connors, playing in his seventh – and final – U.S. Open singles final, was hobbled during his match with Ivan Lendl with major foot problems and left the court in the third set after with what he later described as a case of diarrhea. Was Connors lying?

Donald Dell, the tennis agent supreme, founder of ProServ (now BEST) and Connors agent at the time, tells the REAL story behind the curious events that unfolded as Connors won his record fifth Open title in his entertaining and useful new book called NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OFFER (Portfolio Books, $25.95 click here to pre-order).

This Saturday in Newport, R.I., Dell will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, along with Monica Seles, Andres Gimeno and Dr. Robert “Whirlwind” Johnson.

Connors was diagnosed with a blood blisters and the morning of the Open final and could not run or practice. He said he was going to default the final to Lendl. Dell, who will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame this week in Newport, R.I., wrote “The growth of tennis really started to plateau, and I could see this non-finals really hurting the game.” So, the day of the final, Dell got in touch with a trainer with the New York Jets who recommended Connors take a shot of xylocaine, a sort of “souped-up novacaine.” Dell presented Connors with this option and he agreed not to forfeit the final to Lendl. The only problem with the shot was that it only lasted about 90 minutes before the effects would wear off and the pain would return. Should the match go longer than 90 minutes, Connors had to somehow get off the court so the trainer could administer another pain-killing shot. Players are authorized to leave the court for one bathroom break during a match, so when the pain-killer would begin to wear off, Dell orchestrated for Connors to take a bathroom break, where the trainer would be secretly hiding in the bathroom to administer another pain-killing shot. After Connors won the first set 6-3, he lost the second set 6-7, and at 2-1 in the third set, he began to limp noticeably on court. Dell signaled for the trainer to make his secret move to the bathroom to wait for Connors. While Lendl protested in vain that Connors should not receive medical treatment, no tournament officials followed Connors off-court into the bathroom. Another shot was administered and Connors went on to beat Lendl 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 6-0 to win his fifth Open title.

Wrote Dell, “Afterward the official doctor for the Open came up to me and said “Donald, I don’t know what you did, and I don’t want to know,” I said, “If that’s the way you feel, fine. But I can live with what I did.”

Connors, in his post match press conference, was asked why he left the court, and answered “I had a horrible attack of diarrhea.”

Now that’s a genuine behind-the-scenes story.

In addition to other fascinating stories and anecdotes, NEVER MAKE THE FIRST OFFER is an excellent read and must-have for tennis and sports business enthusiasts.