professional tennis player

WHEN DID SITTING ON CHANGE-OVERS START AT WIMBLEDON?

A great trivia question out there that one might not find too easily with a Google search, and was touched upon briefly on American television by Cliff Drysdale and Patrick McEnroe on ESPN and Mary Carillo, Ted Robinson and John McEnroe on NBC, is the following:

“What was the last year in which there was no sitting on changeovers at Wimbledon?”

The answer is 1973, with the men’s final that year being between Jan Kodes of Czechoslovakia and Alex Metrevelli of the Soviet Union.

Writes Kodes his new coffee-table glossy book JAN KODES: A JOURNEY TO GLORY FROM BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN (New Chapter Press, available for $36.46 on www.amazon.com), “In the course of the entire Wimbledon competition we were not allowed to sit down during change-overs; that got introduced only the following year. My final with Metreveli was thus the last match when players could not rest – there were no chairs. We had thirty seconds to drink, towel off and get back to the other side of the court. It was ok with me. The matches flowed, there was nothing disturbing the continuity. But what a difference a year later, when I played against Connors in the quarter-finals and he sat down at 2:1 in the first set and stayed there for a minute and a half! That made a real difference….”

Kodes won that 1973 Wimbledon, defeating Metrevelli 6-1, 9-8 (5), 6-3.

JAN KODES: A JOURNEY TO GLORY FROM BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN was originally published in Czech and provides a narrative and illustrated history of Czech tennis through the eyes of Kodes and author Peter Kolar. The book, filled with hundreds of unique and personal photographs, documents the successful journey of Kodes from political turmoil of the Cold War to international tennis fame, detailing the early days of darkness and family persecution in communist Czechoslovakia and the complexities of becoming a professional tennis player under a totalitarian regime. Entertaining anecdotes featuring Czech tennis legends Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova are also featured as well as the stories behind Kodes’ victories at Wimbledon and the French Open and his two runner-up finishes at the U.S. Open. The book is available for $49.95 in bookstores and retail outlets across the United States and Canada. It is a deluxe glossy photo and text hard cover that fills 548 pages.

Kodes is considered the most under-rated tennis champion of the Open Era, reaching five major singles finals, winning the French Open in 1970 and 1971 and the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1973. He also reached the U.S. Open final in both 1971 and 1973, losing to Stan Smith and John Newcombe, respectively. Kodes played Davis Cup for Czechoslovakia for 15 years, leading his country to the final in 1975, where it lost to Sweden in Stockholm. His Davis Cup finale came in representing the team in 1980 when it won the championship over Italy in the final. Kodes has served as his country’s Davis Cup captain, president of the Czech Tennis Association, and tournament director of ATP Czech Open tournament.

JUSTINE HENIN MAKES TRIUMPHANT RETURN

Justine Henin made a triumphant return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour in Brisbane on Monday with a 7-5, 7-5 win over second seeded Nadia Petrova.

In her first competitive match since retiring eighteen months ago, Henin showed no signs of rust as she advanced against an opponent she has dominated 11-2 in their career head-to-head meetings.

Henin also defeated Petrova last month in an exhibition match in Cairo by a score of 7-5, 6-2, so the result should come as no surprise.

The crafty Henin only lost five points on her first serve in the opening set and broke Petrova at 5-5. She would later close out the frame with an ace.

In the second set Petrova staked an early 2-0 lead before Henin fought back and again broke at 5-5 to march towards victory.

Petrova seemed to take the defeat in stride and had nothing but praise for Henin in her post-match press conference.

“I think she is a better player than before she retired. She’s more aggressive,” Petrova said. “Previously, she was more of a clay court player, but now I see her a hardcourt player as well. She’s certainly playing high level of tennis.”

Personally, I would be embarrassed as a professional tennis player to lose to someone who has been away from the game for a year and a half. Henin however is not just any returning player. The Belgian has won 7 Grand Slams, an Olympic Gold as well as 41 other WTA titles in her career. At only 27 years old, there is still plenty left in the tank both physically and emotionally for Henin.

“I feel better today than when I retired, that’s for sure,” Henin said. “Better emotionally, mentally, better with myself—and that makes a big difference that I will enjoy being on the tour again.”

Under normal circumstances, a win over a top-twenty player like Petrova after such a sustained absence from the game would garner more attention and praise. While many eyes are on Henin, the bar has been set high by her compatriot Kim Clijsters. Winning a couple of rounds will not suffice and anything short of a title in the near future may be deemed a disappointment by some – a fact that would have seemed ridiculous before Clijsters’ incredible run at Flushing Meadows in August.

The comparisons to Clijsters are inevitable and not simply because of their shared Belgian heritage. Both took approximately the same amount of time away from the game and both are former top level players who have enjoyed Grand Slam success. The immediate returns that Clijsters enjoyed during the summer spoke volumes about the immense talent that she possesses. As much, if not more, will be expected from Henin.

Henin now advances to the second round where she will face qualifier Sesil Karatantcheva.

Henin announces return to Sony Ericsson WTA Tour: This Week in Tennis Business

From seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Justine Henin announcing her return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour to Zina Garrison settling her racial discrimination lawsuit with the USTA to the Indianapolis Tennis Center being named a USTA Certified Regional Training Center to nearly 47 million viewers tuning into to the television coverage of the six week long Olympus US Open Series to a record 721,059 fans attending the US Open this year, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.

  • Former world No. 1 Justine Henin ended months of rumors when she announced her return to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour on Belgian television station RTL. “I’m truly happy and profoundly moved to be able to announce this evening that I am going to return to competition,” said Henin, who is now 27 years old. Henin wants to participate in exhibition events in Charleroi, Belgium and Dubai to prepare her game in time to play in the Australian Open in January. “Justine is one of the great champions in the history of women’s tennis, and we, along with millions of her fans around the globe, are thrilled with her announcement today,” said Stacey Allaster, CEO of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour.

  • Le Soir announced that Belgacom, a Belgian telecommunications company, will be Justine Henin’s sponsor during her comeback.

  • Former United States Fed Cup captain Zina Garrison settled her racial discrimination lawsuit with the USTA, but terms of the lawsuit were not disclosed.

  • The USTA announced that the Indianapolis Tennis Center on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), has been named a USTA Certified Regional Training Center.

  • In its sixth year of existence, the Olympus US Open Series had its most successful season. A record of nearly 47 million viewers tuned into the television coverage over the six week season. Attendance was high at all events including 226,000 fans turning out during the two week Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open in Cincinnati and more than 200,000 at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, which is an ATP World Tour record for a one week tournament. “The success of the Olympus US Open Series in its sixth year proves that the Series is as popular as ever among players, fans and television viewers,” said Jim Curley, Chief Professional Tournaments Officer of the USTA. “The Series provides a national platform to promote the sport and showcase the USTA’s efforts to grow the game at every level, as we did with the Quick Start play format in a number of series markets.”

  • This year’s US Open attendance reached an all-time high with 721,059 fans attending the two week Grand Slam tournament in New York, surpassing last year’s mark of 720,227. The US Open also set a first week record with 423,427 fans attending, including a single day record of 61,554 fans attending during the first Friday of the tournament.

  • In the US Open championship match on CBS that saw Juan Martin del Potro beat Roger Federer to capture his first Grand Slam singles title, television ratings increased by 41 percent from last year. The overall viewership throughout the tournament was 55.8 million, a 24 percent increase from the 2008 tournament.

  • USOpen.org, the official website of the US Open, had unique hits on the website from more than 200 countries and a total of 392 million page views, which was an increase from the 222 million page views in 2008.

  • Roger Federer was fined $1,500 by the US Open for an audible obscenity during the US Open final. USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said a total of $31,500 in fines was collected by the tournament.

  • Serena Williams will be featured in a Proctor & Gamble ad campaign for its Tampax brand in October magazines.

  • Patron, the national vehicle of Malaysia, has signed on to be the tournament title sponsor for the inaugural Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur. The tournament will be held from September 26 to October 4.

  • The 2009 Grand Slam for Children hosted by Andre Agassi and presented by Genworth Financial will take place on Saturday, September 26 at the Wynn in Las Vegas. Now in its 14th year, the Grand Slam for Children has already raised nearly $75 million to support a movement to improve education for children.

  • Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reports that Novak Djokovic is in negotiations with K-Swiss for a clothing sponsorship deal. Djokovic’s clothing contract with adidas finishes at the end of this year.

  • According to the Melbourne Sun, Paul McNamee, the Chief Executive of the Australian Open from 2000 to 2006, has put his name in as a possible candidate to be the next President of Tennis Australia.

  • 2009 US Open junior singles champion Bernard Tomic of Australia has left the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida and will now train in Australia.

  • On September 17, the Tennis Channel launched, Court Report, which is a one-minute nightly news update that will be produced four times a night on Thursday through Monday and will appear at the top of the hour from 7pm to 10pm EST. Court Report will be anchored in turns by experienced broadcast journalists, Cari Champion, Arlene Santana and Angela Sun.

  • Five-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Hingis was the first celebrity voted off of the BBC’s reality show, Strictly Come Dancing. “It was a great experience, I learned so much,” said Hingis. “I wish it would continue but here we are.”

  • According to Latvian media, Ernests Gublis has hired former pro Hernan Gumy as his new coach.

  • Former world No. 2 Tommy Haas has signed a sponsorship deal with Lagardere, which is a French conglomerate with holdings in publishing, retail, media and aerospace.

  • American teenager Melanie Oudin has signed an endorsement deal with AirTran Airways. “I am thrilled to have AirTran as a partner as I strive to reach my goals as a professional tennis player,” said Oudin.

  • Gilbert Ysern, Director of the French Open, has downplayed but did not deny rumors that the French Open might move to Disneyland Paris. “It’s really premature to discuss such a project,” Ysern told L’Equipe. “We can’t deny the possibility exists, but no negotiations have been initiated. We are still working actively on the Georges Hébert stadium project. But given the technical and political problems we face, we have to envisage the worst-case scenario — that is to say, not being able to properly complete the project and being forced to leave Roland Garros.”

  • The day after her loss to Kim Clijsters in the US Open final, Caroline Wozniacki went apartment shopping in Manhattan. “On Monday, I went with my parents and a real estate agent to look at some properties in New York where I would really like to have a home in the U.S. to come stay and train at during the year,” Wozniacki said on her blog on her official website.

Courier “Tweets”- And Beats McEnroe at Turning Stone Resort

VERONA, N.Y., May 2 – Jim Courier not only beat John McEnroe in a tennis match Saturday night, but “tweeted” about it as well.

Using the social network “Twitter” to update fans and followers via his blackberry on changeovers, Courier beat McEnroe 6-3, 4-6, (10-4 in Champions Tie-breaker) in a special “Legendary Night Exhibition” at the Turning Stone Resort in Central New York.

“Posting was a fun exercise,” said Courier, who can be found on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jimcourier. “It forced me to evaluate what was happening in real time although it also made me realize my thumbs are slow for typing. Hopefully it gives some insight into the mind of a tennis player in the heat of battle. I am looking forward to checking out the transcript and seeing if I actually made any sense or was just babbling.”

Courier is believed to be the first professional tennis player to use Twitter or any social networking device while competing in a professional match. The use of Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are forbidden in the rules of tennis as it opens up the possibility of illegal coaching. Courier’s match with McEnroe Saturday was not an officially sanctioned match or part of the Outback Champion Series global tennis circuit where Courier and McEnroe now compete. Courier frequently uses Twitter to connect with fans, comment on current issues in professional tennis and discuss behind-the-scenes details of the Outback Champions Series.

“Mac 2-1 on serve. Ball’s moving fast w/ppl in bldg. Feel good so far,” was Courier’s first in-match “tweet” during a changeover as McEnroe took a 2-1 lead.

Courier broke McEnroe’s serve in the fifth game of the match, tweeting of McEnroe double-fault on break point and of having to be aggressive on his forehand, “Got the break 3-2. Mac df on bp. I need to stay down and go after fh more. Covering it too much. Stay slow on 1st serve. Rushing a bit.”

Four games later, Courier broke McEnroe again to close out the first set 6-3, documenting McEnroe’s anger in breaking a racquet by tweeting, “6-3 JC. Mini McFreak. Broke a stick. Some shaky calls out here. I start serve 2nd set. Feeling better now. Got to keep driving the ball.”

Later in the second set, after taking a 2-1 lead, Courier, then tweeted, “2-1 JC on serve. Keep aggressive on his serve works well. Almost broke 2nd game. He’s edgy”

Two games later, taking a 3-2 lead, Courier wrote, “3-2. Tight service game. Was down bp. Served out of it. Rushed that game 2 dbl flts. Relax!!!”

McEnroe broke Courier in the seventh game of the second set, benefitting from Courier missing an easy forehand on break point. On the changeover, Courier wrote, “Gagged a fh sitter to lose serve 4-3 mac. Gotta refocus. Loose game there” Then two games later, Courier typed, “4-5. Gotta break. Stay down and rip returns. No cute shots.”

McEnroe served out the set the next game – forcing a first-to-ten points “Champions Tie-Breaker” played in lieu of a third set. Courier cruised to win the tie-breaker 10-4, winning eight of the last 10 points of the match.

Courier’s final tweets concluded, “10-4 in the breaker my way…served huge and ripped some passing shots. Felt good to finish big. I hit a rick-donk-u-lous slice angle pass to go up 2 minibreaks off of a sick mac approach. Yee haw.”

Following the singles match, Courier continued to document the evening of highly-entertaining tennis as he and Tracy Austin were defeated by McEnroe and Anna Kournikova 6-4, 2-6, (10-4 Champions Tie-Breaker) in mixed doubles.

The line of the evening may have come from McEnroe, who while serving at set point at 5-4 in the mixed doubles, yelled to Courier on the other side of the net, “Do you want to twitter before I serve?” Courier smiled and McEnroe then fired an ace up the middle by Courier to close out the first set.

The Legendary Night was run by the Turning Stone Resort in conjunction with InsideOut Sports & Entertainment, the New York-based sports marketing company co-founded by Courier that also runs the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over.

Courier is one of 15 men in the history of tennis to play in all four Grand Slam tournament finals. He won two French Open singles titles (1991 and 1992) and two Australian Open titles (1992 and 1993) and was a Wimbledon finalist in 1993 and a US Open finalist in 1991. Courier finished the 1992 season as the world No. 1 ranked player and won 29 career titles (23 singles titles, 6 doubles). He also helped the United States win the Davis Cup in 1992 and 1995. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.

Home to the PGA TOUR’s Turning Stone Resort Championship, the Turning Stone Resort delivers AAA Four Diamond award-winning accommodations, world-class gaming and entertainment, five challenging golf courses, a private dance club and a world-class spa. The Turning Stone Resort is located 35 miles south of Syracuse and just a four hour drive from New York City. More information can be found at www.turningstone.com.

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

How to Become a Professional Tennis Player

This week, director/producer of the tennis documentary “The Journeymen” and now tennis coach Mark Keil’s weekly column on tennis discusses how to become a professional tennis player:

There really is no wrong or right way to become a professional tennis player but there is some sort of receipe on trying to make it on the tour. First, I must define what “making” it as a professional player means. Different people use various ways to determine if a player can be called an actual professional player. I feel it is all relative; it all boils down to each player’s specific goals.

To me, a player “making” it as a professional if he or she can make more prize money on the tour than actual expenses of being a player. A player who wants attempt the tour must have been playing tennis for many years, usually starting at around 5 or 6 years old. The player must have started competing in junior events before reaching 10 years old, but this theory can be thrown out the window by the Williams sisters. They rarely competed in any junior tournaments; they just trained extensively, signed with a major tennis agency, got wildcards into pro events, and then they started winning matches. But they are the exception, not the rule.

Going to a tennis academy at a young age is one way a young player can learn the game and play against the best kids in the world. A young player who can compete and obtain an ITF junior world ranking might have a shot, but living a normal life at home and practicing after school can also yield results.

A player must compete as often as possible; gettting a national ranking is a minimal qualification to go on to the next level, which is, 90% of the time, college. If a player can compete at a high level in college, and most importantly, continues improving, that is a good sign that it is a good idea to give the tour at least a shot in the summers between semesters at school. It’s easy to play collegiate matches in front of a home crowd, but the best player will come out at a Futures event in some faraway land and have some success.

If the player has a decent ITF junior or collegiate ranking, he or she should try the Futures Tour. All of this requires significant finances, so obtaining a sponsor is almost a must in this day of making it. The sponsors are usually family, good friends, or occasionally come from making a business plan and soliciting people you know to invest in your future. A player needs to raise a minimum of $50,000 a year for a minimum of 3 years to be realistic in making the top 100 in singles or top 50 in doubles.

A player must at least try to make it for two to three years. It rarely happens quickly, and a player must expect to be on the road a minimum of 35-40 weeks a year in order to move up in the world rankings. I think a player should try the tour if he or she has a top 50 division 1 collegiate ranking or top 30 ITF junior world ranking. Upon graduation from college, or a top 30 ITF junior ranking, the player should turn professional and give it a shot. The player’s collegiate or ITF junior ranking should be enough to gain entry into open qualifying draws of Futures, which are the entry level tournaments on the tour.

I don’t think it really matters that much if a player attempts to make it at 21 or 22 years old. They say the average career of a tennis professional is 7 years, no matter when they start. Plus, having a college degree will give the player some job security.

A player must be based in a place where a lot of professionals train such as Saddlebrook Resort or IMG/Bollettieri Academy. A player surrounded by fellow players in a positive training atmosphere will force very hard work. Having a coach is a plus, but not a necessity at the early stages of the career, but if a player can return home and work with somebody, it will be beneficial. It is almost impossible to get a sponsor to pay not only for expenses but also for a traveling coach.

Good luck and go for it!!

Until next week, take care.

The Journeyman