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Paul Annacone Joins Team Roger Federer Full Time – The Friday Five

Player Down – In one of the scarier moments at the US Open in recent memory, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka collapsed on court near the tail end of the first set during her match encounter with Gisela Dulko. Heat was initially deemed the culprit behind the collapse (and it probably did add to the situation), but it was later confirmed that Azarenka was suffering from a mild concussion, which came as a result of a fall she had taken earlier in the day. In hindsight, Azarenka should recognize the foolishness of her actions in staying on the court. Health should never be that severely compromised, and there were plenty of signs that she needed to throw in the towel well before she collapsed. But at the same time, I have to applaud Azarenka. Many a player has retired from a match for far less than she was experiencing, and while she did push the limits too far, I do admire her attitude of wanting to try to find any way to cross the finish line, even when things aren’t going well.

It’s Official – It’s probably no surprise, but Roger Federer did confirm prior to the start of the US Open that Paul Annacone would be joining his team full time. While Annacone is with Federer in New York, Annacone will not be able to go full time with Federer until he finishes his commitment with the LTA later this year. Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi will also remain a part of the Federer team. All are in agreement that having Annacone in his corner is likely to pay some big dividends for Federer down the road, and it would appear that Annacone’s advice is already creeping into the “Maestro’s” game, with Federer finding his way to net with increasing frequency. There’s still plenty of tennis to be played, but a major win in their first Slam together as official coach and pupil could be in the cards for Annacone and Federer.

Hall Bound? – Earlier this week, the International Tennis Hall of Fame announced the names of those individuals who will be on the ballot for possible 2011 induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and the spotlight belonged to Andre Agassi. There were a few grumblings about the Hall putting Agassi forth as a candidate after he had confessed in his autobiography Open to using drugs, but Agassi’s situation is not the same as the performance-enhancing drug problem that baseball currently faces and should not stand in the way of his candidacy for induction consideration. Hard to imagine he won’t make the cut at the first time of asking, so expect to see him take his place among the legends next July.

Roddick Bounced – A few upsets have already occurred at the 2010 US Open, including the loss of Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych to tricky Frenchman Michael Llodra in his opening match on Wednesday. But later that same night, in a men’s second round encounter, Janko Tipsarevic caused an even bigger upset, bouncing crowd favorite Andy Roddick in four sets. While this match did go down as an upset (and certainly a disappointment to the home crowd), it wasn’t a total shocker. Tipsarevic has shown he can produce phenomenal tennis, as few will forget his memorable five-set encounter with Federer at the 2008 Australian Open. That was the kind of spectacular brand of tennis Tipsarevic brought to the court this past Wednesday, and coupling that with the fact that mono prevented Roddick from being match tough going into the Open proved a recipe for disaster for the veteran American. The question to keep an eye on for now will be how Tipsarevic follows up that win in his next round.

Spare a Thought – A former Top-10 player, who along with countryman Nicolas Massu brought glory to Chile at the 2004 Summer Olympics, Fernando Gonzalez now finds his career in a freefall thanks to a niggling knee injury. The Chilean had only been able to compete in one other tournament since Wimbledon, and it showed. After dropping the first set in a tiebreak in his first round match with Ivan Dodig, Gonzalez appeared just a shadow of his former self, quickly surrendering the second set before retiring from the match down 1-0 in the third. A colorful character who hits his forehand as big as anybody, my fingers are crossed that his body cooperates and allows him to have at least one more go near the upper echelons of the game.

By Maud Watson

CORINA MORARIU: RESURRECTION OF THE BRAIN OF A CHICKEN

The following excerpt is taken from the book LIVING THROUGH THE RACKET: How I Survived Leukemia…and Rediscovered My Self by Corina Morariu. It is published by Hay House (February 2010) and is available at all bookstores or online at: www.hayhouse.com or click here to order it from Amazon.com.

I know my dad always had my best interests at heart. He was never too pushy or too pressuring like many obsessed tennis parents are, but he does have a very forceful, mercurial personality; and memories of my early tennis life are stressful.

On my desk, I have a photo of me as a six-year-old getting ready to play my first tennis tournament. I have the whole getup—skirt, headband, wristbands, racket bag—but when I look at that picture, I see a scared little girl about to throw up from fear. I was so nervous that I couldn’t eat breakfast. I didn’t know how to keep score, I was playing a girl a foot taller than I was, and my dad was breathing down my neck. Despite all that, I acquitted myself pretty well on the court. The more I played, the better I got . . . but for me, tennis was never purely fun.

My dad, of course, saw it from his perspective, not mine, and all the signs showed that I could be a very accomplished player. He wanted to pass on his own character strengths of dedication and discipline, which were obvious in his courageous act of coming to America alone and building a new life, and I certainly inherited those traits. If you ask him today what kind of pupil I was, he’d say, “She was very disciplined on the court, very articulate, and if you told her something she should do, she would do it. She was a kid who tried her best all the time. That’s why she was good.” As he later told me, “I just wanted you to be the best.”

My dad had also introduced my brother to the game, and Mircea excelled at playing in the Juniors and ended up playing at the college level at Brown University. However, by the time I was playing tennis regularly, Dad was more established as a physician and had even more time to dedicate to coaching. “I improved on the first generation,” is how he puts it. He also knew that fierce focus on an individual sport was a good way to keep us out of trouble and away from drugs. It worked. I’ve always stayed away from drugs (that is, if you don’t count chemotherapy).

My dad was intense, and extremely dedicated to my development. He analyzed every match in great detail. Like many parents, only perhaps more forcefully, he never got around to telling me what I did right. Only after I complained bitterly about this did he decide to make two checklists: what I did wrong and what I did right. Still, after all these years, what stuck with me were his pointed and impassioned criticisms, sometimes coming at high volume.

When I was ten—a story my brother and I recount in detail to this day—I was playing a tournament and lost a close, hard-fought match in the third and final set, 6-4. It was an agonizing match, and surely I made some stupid mistakes (I was ten, after all) that contributed to my defeat. As we drove home after the match, I was in the backseat, and my dad was driving. Needless to say, he was unhappy with my performance. He was absolutely livid, screaming at me and banging on the steering wheel at the same time. At the height of his rage, he yelled at me, “You know what? You have the brain of a chicken!”

Straight from this devastating remark, he took me to a local track and made me run until he decided that I could stop. I got home and immediately called my brother, who was then away at college in Rhode Island. I was completely crushed and cried out to Mircea, “Dad just said I have the brain of a chicken!” And my brother broke out laughing. He thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever heard. I was shouting at him, “I can’t believe you’re laughing!”

“It’s funny!” he managed to say, and he was right. To this day, my brother will randomly text me: “You have the brain of a chicken.” As a matter of fact, he jokingly suggested that I call this book Resurrection of the Brain of a Chicken. The line gets a laugh every time.

My brother figured out by his midteens that he wasn’t going to let our father rule his life—although, ironically, he did in time follow Dad’s lead when it came to a career path. Not only did Mircea end up specializing in neurology like our father, but he also eventually went into practice with him. Still, at age 15, my brother announced that our dad could no longer be involved in his tennis, which really disappointed my father. So when I came along, Dad made up for it by getting completely, almost obsessively, involved in my game. I was the youngest, the baby girl, who was by nature a pleaser. I compulsively tried to become the perfect child. It seemed like the only thing I could control.

Excerpted from Living Through The Racket by Corina Morariu (Hay House, Inc.). Copyright © 2010 by Corina Morariu. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

GASQUET TOPS LOPEZ; MAYER SAVES FIVE MATCH POINTS

Richard Gasquet and Leonardo Mayer had salient wins on the opening day of the MediBank International in Sydney Monday. Gasquet, in his full comeback from battling cocaine drug charges last year, beat Feliciano Lopez 6-1, 6-4, while Mayer saved two match points in beating Igor Andreev 6-7(7) 6-3 7-6(4).

Gasquet extended his head-to-head record to 5-0 against the Spanish Davis Cup star. “I played well last year with semi-final in this tournament, so I’m happy to be here and to win the first match.” said Gasquet.

Mayer, from Argentina, handed Andreev his fifth defeat in a row in a final set tie-break and his fifth defeat after wasting match points in last 13 months.

In Auckland at the Heineken Open, only three matches were played on Monday. In one of them, hometown pupil, Jose (Rubin) Statham won his first career ATP match beating fellow New Zealander King-Turner 6-2 7-5.