Rick Macci has been dubbed “the coach of prodigies” by Hall of Fame journalist and personality Bud Collins. His reputation as such started when he worked with a pre-teen Jennifer Capriati in the 1980s, but it was burnished when he worked with Venus and Serena Williams when the future legends were only 9 and 10 years old.
In his new book “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, available here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1937559254/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_vfRvtb1P14M50T4C ), Macci describes his incredible first ever meeting with Richard Williams and his first on-court experience with Venus and Serena. The first part of the chapter “Venus and Serena Williams” from the book is excerpted here below:
I was at the Easter Bowl in 1991 in Florida one afternoon and watching kids from the academy compete and someone mentioned to me that there was a girl out in California who had a lot of potential and had just been in the New York Times. I knew every kid in the country and I had never heard of this girl named Venus Williams. And they said, “Yeah, she’s in the New York Times and there is a lot of potential.”
One thing led to another and an agent from Advantage International said, “Mr. Williams is going to give you a call because they are eventually looking to move from California to Florida to come to a tennis academy.” I said, “OK, give me a call.” A couple weekends passed and Richard Williams ended up giving me a call, probably one of the most bizarre and interesting conversations I ever had in my life. We started talking and he explained to me where they’re at, and so on and so forth, and he wanted to know if I wanted to come out to Compton and take a look at his girls. The only thing I knew about Compton was that it was kind of a rough neighborhood back in the day. He said, “The only thing I can guarantee you is I won’t let you get shot!!”
I thought I’ve got to meet this guy! I said, “Hey, it’s May, it’s kind of slow. I’ll come out for a weekend.”
I was very curious because if someone was that good, from what other people said, I know what good would be. I didn’t have anything to do that weekend, so I booked a ticket and flew out to Compton and got into LAX, got a cab to the hotel in Compton. That night Richard and Oracene and Venus and Serena came over and it was interesting because Venus sat on one knee of her dad and Serena sat on his other knee and we had this two-hour conversation. Richard was asking me all kinds of questions. He actually was very insightful because he knew a lot of things that I was surprised about. He knew who I taught and what I’ve done and which kids have won national tournaments, how many times I’ve been coach of the year. He did some homework, so he kind of had the pulse on my career.
The night ended and he said, “I’ll pick you up at 6:30 in the morning and we’ll go to Compton Hills Country Club and that’s where we’re going to practice.” He picked me up at 6:30 in the morning in an old Beetle bus, kind of wobbling side to side. I got in there in the passenger side and there was a spring sticking out of the seat and I was afraid I would harpoon myself and be permanently injured. So I watched how I sat, for sure. Venus and Serena were in the back of it and there must have been three months’ worth of McDonalds and Burger King wrappers in there, and many Coke cans and bottles, tennis balls all over. I asked, “Do you guys sleep in here?” He said, “Sometimes if I have to. Depends on the wife!”
We pulled up to the park and I thought we were going to a country club. He said, “No, this is the Compton Hills Country Club. I named it that.” I thought this guy was crazy. And I was right. Crazy like a fox! More on that later. It was a park that had two courts and it was about 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and there were about 20 guys playing
basketball and there were another 15 people at least passed out on the grass. There was broken glass and beer bottles everywhere. This was definitely different than the luxurious Grenelefe Golf & Tennis Resort, where I was director of tennis. So it was really a culture shock to see the situation.
When Richard and Venus and Serena got out of the car everybody acknowledged Richard. They called him King Richard. They acknowledged the girls. They stopped playing basketball and parted like the Red Sea and we walked through the basketball courts to get to the tennis courts. They were very respectful of the girls, probably because of the publicity. We go onto the tennis courts and they’re kind of like the courts I grew up on. They were broken, chipped up and broken glass was all over the court. The courts didn’t need resurfacing, they needed to be blown up.
I remember Richard had a shopping cart attached to the net post and it had about 20 feet of chain around it. He got the balls from the car and it took him about 20 minutes to get the chain off the basket that was attached around the post so nobody would steal it. He filled up the basket with balls, and they were all dead balls. But I brought a case of new balls because I thought maybe they might not have the best balls.
After we got organized and had all the balls in there, Venus and Serena kind of jogged around the court. One thing I noticed right off the bat: Venus ran kind of different. She was very long, very tall and had strides like a gazelle. I said, “Ah, that’s interesting.” I was thinking she should run track and not pursue tennis. This isn’t very common for tennis, someone who is spindly. She was like a praying mantis. There was a lot of length there in her stride. Serena was very stocky and compact as a 9-year-old.
I started feeding them balls. One blueprint in seeing a lot of kids is that I see greatness technically at a young age. I coached Jennifer Capriati for three years and biomechanically Jennifer was not only one of the best ever in those areas of the game, she was one of best ball strikers ever. So now I’m seeing these girls from Compton and they had beads in their hair and they were swinging at the balls and their arms and legs and hair were flying everywhere. There were elbows going right and legs going back, there was improvising all over. So cosmetically I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, “This is a train wreck! This is all hype and I cannot believe I’m in Compton, California, ruining my weekend.” I didn’t think they were really that good. I had seen all the kids and had just come from the Easter Bowl and I’d had many kids win every national at that time.
I thought Venus and Serena looked like decent athletes but technically they were all over the map just because they were improvising. You could tell they just didn’t have quality instruction. After about an hour we started doing competitive things where Venus would do something against Serena even though Venus was much better at the time. Richard said, “I prefer that they not play against each other.” So I said, “OK” and had one of them come and play with me. So we started competing and right then and there their stock rose immediately. My whole perception — and this is a good lesson for any parent or coach — you don’t judge a book by its cover. I looked cosmetically and I saw what I wanted to see. And I come from a vast background of information and I passed judgment that I thought they were limited. Now when they start competing I saw the preparation get a little quicker, I saw the footwork get a little faster, I saw consistency raise a little higher. I thought, “OK, they went from just maybe average kids their age to they could be some of the better prospects in the country.” At least now their stock was at a point where I thought they’re good, there’s some potential here. Athletically they were unique for sure.
But technically they were still a train wreck. Just a lot of things were really way off. They hadn’t had world-class instruction. But the way they competed, and they didn’t want to lose the point, to me their stock rose even more. To me that’s always the X factor, the way someone competes. Venus and Serena had a deep down burning desire to fight and compete at this age. It was unique. Unreal hunger.
Then Venus asked Richard if she could go to the bathroom. There was a lot of hugging and kissing going on. There were a great close knit, loving family. So Venus decided to go to the bathroom. She went out the gate and the first 10 feet she walked on her hands. And the next 10 feet she went into backward cartwheels.
Now I’m seeing this girl and I’m thinking, “How tall are these girls going to be?” He says, “They’re both going to be over 6 feet, strong and powerful.” And I said, “Let me tell you something. I think you have the next female Michael Jordan on your hands.” And he put his arm around me and he said, “No brother man, I’ve got the next two.” At 10 and 9 years old.
“MACCI MAGIC,” available where books are sold, including here on Amazon.com: http://m1e.net/c?150001094-X99l/7XH5chA2%4063364085-8b8oWs74ZG6qQ is the entertaining and inspirational manual and memoir that helps pave the way to great achievement not only in tennis, but in business and in life. Macci, known as the coach of tennis phenoms, including five world No. 1 players – Venus and Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova – shares his secrets to success both on and off the tennis court through anecdotes and more than 100 of his famous “Macci-ism” sayings that exemplify his teaching philosophy and illustrate the core role and power of positive thinking in the molding of a champion.
The book was written with Jim Martz, the former Miami Herald tennis writer, author and current Florida Tennis magazine publisher. Former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick contributed the foreword to the book while another teen phenom student of Macci’s, Tommy Ho, wrote a preface to the book.
Among those endorsing the book are ESPN basketball commentator and tennis fan Dick Vitale who says of Macci, “He will share his secrets for becoming a better all-around person and tennis player and gives you all the tools you will need to assist you in THE GAME OF LIFE!”
Said Mo Vaughn, three-time Major League Baseball All-Star, former American League MVP, “Rick Macci is the best coach I’ve seen. He can coach any sport on any level in any era. That’s due to his ability to communicate directly with his athletes on a level that they clearly understand the technique and what it takes both physically and mentally to be successful. Ultimately the best thing about Rick Macci is that no matter your age, ability or goals being with him on a consistent basis will teach you life lessons that you can take with you regardless of what you do. Rick Macci can make any person better just by his coaching style. My daughter Grace is lucky to have Rick Macci in her life.”
Said Vince Carter, NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist of Macci, “As a professional athlete, I have been around many coaches. Rick’s dedication and commitment to turning kids into great tennis players is paramount. The confidence and technique he continues to instill in my daughter amazes me. Rick Macci’s ability to cultivate a player is a testimony of his dynamic coaching skills.”
Said popular tennis coach and personality Wayne Bryan, father of all-time great doubles team Bob & Mike Bryan, “Rick Macci has long been at the very top of the mountain as a tennis coach. Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Jenny Capriati are on his laundry list of Grand Slam champs and all-time greats that he has worked with, but he has coached so, so many other pros and Division I college players through the years. He is a coaches’ coach. He is passionate, motivational, dedicated to the game and players, super hard working from dawn to dusk and into the night when the court lights come on, very bright, knows the game inside and out, still learning, and still striving. He is engaging, fun and funny. His new book is loaded with great stuff and stories are such a great way to entertain and educate and inspire — and no one can tell a story or give a lesson better than Rick. You will enjoy this book and be a better person for having read it.”
Macci is a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Master Professional, and seven-time USPTA coach of the year. He founded he Rick Macci Tennis Academy and has been inducted into the Florida USPTA Hall of Fame. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com) among others.
Men’s singles: Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5) 3-6 16-14
Women’s singles: Serena Williams beat Venus Williams 7-6 (3) 6-2
Men’s doubles: Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic beat Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan 7-6 (7) 6-7 (3) 7-6 (3) 6-3
Women’s doubles: Venus and Serena Williams beat Samantha Stosur and Rennae Stubbs 7-6 (4) 6-4
Mixed doubles: Mark Knowles and Anna-Lena Groenefeld beat Leander Paes and Cara Black 7-5 6-3
Boys’ singles: Andrev Kuznetsov beat Jordan Cox 4-6 6-2 6-2
Girls’ singles: Noppawan Lertcheenakarn beat Kristina Mladenovic 3-6 6-3 6-1
Boys’ doubles: Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Kevin Krawietz beat Julien Obry and Adrian Puget 6-7(3), 6-2, 12-10.
Girls’ doubles: Noppawan Lertcheewakarn and Sally Peers beat Kristina Mladenovic and Silvia Njiric 6-1 6-1
Wheelchair women’s doubles: Korie Homan and Esther Vergeer beat Daniela Di Toro and Lucy Shuker 6-1 6-3
Wheelchair men’s doubles: Stephane Houdet and Michael Jeremiasz beat Robin Ammerlaan and Shingo Kunieda 1-6 6-4 7-3 (match tiebreak)
Oscar Hernandez beat Tiemurax Gabashvili to win the Nord/LP Open in Braunschweig, Germany
Potito Starace beat Maximo Gonzalez 7-6 (4) 6-3 to win the Trofeo Regione Piemonte in Turin, Italy
Polona Hercog beat Varvara Lepchonko 6-1 6-2 to win the Cuneo ITF Tournament in Cuneo, Italy
“It’s not really one of those goals you set as a little boy, but, man, it’s been quite a career. And quite a month.” – Roger Federer, who won his sixth Wimbledon title, and 15th Grand Slam tournament crown, just four weeks after capturing his first French Open title.
“He’s a legend. Now he’s an icon.” – Pete Sampras, talking about Roger Federer after the Swiss star broke Sampras’ Grand Slam tournament victory record of 14 titles.
“Sorry, Pete, I tried to hold him off.” – Losing finalist Andy Roddick, apologizing to compatriot Pete Sampras.
“I’d rather definitely be number two and hold three Grand Slams in the past year than be number one and not have any. I don’t know what to do to be number one. I don’t even care anymore.” – Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon to go along with her 2009 Australian Open and 2008 US Open titles, yet is ranked number two in the world.
“Do I feel invincible? I’d like to say yes, but I really do work at it.” – Venus Williams, after winning her semifinal but before losing the title match to her sister Serena.
“I think I will beat him in a marathon easy.” – Robin Soderling, on meeting Roger Federer in another sport after losing to the Swiss star for the 11th straight time.
“Oh, it is only because he is better than everybody else. That’s it.” – Ivo Karlovic, when asked about Roger Federer’s secret for success.
“I don’t play to break records but it’s great to have them.” – Roger Federer.
“It’s a wonderful achievement. She’s played so well so many times. You know, a lot of the times actually at my expense.” – Venus Williams, on her sister Serena winning an 11th Grand Slam tournament title by beating Venus in the final.
“There’s no easy [way] to losing, especially when it’s so close to the crown. Either way, it’s not easy. ” – Venus Williams.
“One of the first things I noticed was our name on the board, on the big plaque. Now we get it twice. It’s obviously going to be special to come back next year and see that.” – Daniel Nestor, after teaming with Nenad Zimonjic to win their second straight Wimbledon men’s doubles title.
“It’s a game of inches and when you’re playing two guys who are serving close to 130 (mph), and you’re not getting a lot of sniffs on your return, it’s a dice roll. They were the better team today and I have to give them a lot of credit.” – Bob Bryan, on losing the men’s doubles final.
“I was Santa Claus on the court, serving so many double-faults.” – Dinara Safina, after overcoming 15 double-faults to beat Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinals.
“I wasn’t sure if it’s Serena or Andy Roddick on the other side of the net, 125 mph all the time.” Elena Dementieva, on Serena Williams’ big serves in their semifinal match.
“Venus played as if she had some place to go and she was in a major league hurry to get a great dinner.” – Father Richard Williams, on Venus’ 51-minutes semifinal victory over Dinara Safina.
“I think she gave me a pretty good lesson today.” – Dinara Safina, after losing to Venus Williams in 51 minutes.
“I’m still scared of Serena Williams. I find her very intimidating.” – Laura Robson, a 15-year-old from Britain, talking about the ladies’ locker room at Wimbledon.
“Roof! Roof! Roof!” –Centre Court crowd chanting as the new retractable roof was closed for the first time when a light sprinkle interrupted play.
He had to work overtime to do it, but Roger Federer became the first man in history to win 15 Grand Slam tournament singles titles. His record-breaking 15th was the longest men’s Grand Slam final in history at 77 games as Federer outlasted Andy Roddick 5-7 7-6 (6) 7-6 (5) 3-6 16-14. The previous record was 71 games in the 1927 Australian Championships, while the previous Wimbledon mark was 62 games last year when Rafael Nadal beat Federer. The Federer-Roddick battle also was the longest fifth set in a men’s Grand Slam tournament final, breaking the old mark of 11-9 set in 1927 at Roland Garros. Federer served 50 aces, the most he has served in a match and only one behind Ivo Karlovic’s Wimbledon record of 51 aces. Federer’s previous best was 39 aces when he beat Janko Tipsarevic at the Australian Open in 2008.
SISTERS DOING IT
Sisters Serena and Venus Williams tried to take home all of the hardware from Wimbledon. Serena beat Venus in the women’s final, snapping the older sister’s two-year reign at Wimbledon. The two then teamed up to win the women’s doubles for the second time.
Ana Ivanovic will rest for at least a week after she suffered a slight tear in her left thigh during her fourth-round match at Wimbledon. The 2008 French Open champion left the court in tears after the first game of the second set against Venus Williams, who won the first set 6-1. Ivanovic is not scheduled to play again until August 3.
SHUT MY TOP
It took a brief shower, but Wimbledon showed off its new roof. With the crowd shouting “Roof! Roof! Roof!,” the retractable roof over Centre Court was closed for the first time on the second Monday of the tournament. The light sprinkle had halted play during he second set of a match between top-ranked Dinara Safina and 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. By the time the roof was closed and the match resumed, the rain had stopped. But officials decided to keep the roof shut for the final match of the evening, Andy Murray beating Stanislas Wawrinka in a five-set match that ended at 10:39 p.m., more than an hour later than the previous record. Wimbledon joins the Australian Open as the only two Grand Slam tournaments with roofs. The Australian Open has roofs over its two main courts and plans to cover a third. The French Open plans on having a roof over its center court by 2011, while the US Open is looking into the possibility of covering a court.
Twenty-eight staff members at Wimbledon were asked to stay at home because they were suspected of having swine flu. Two players – Michal Mertinak and Filip Polasek – also showed symptoms of the world-wide ailment. Mertinak withdrew from the second round of the mixed doubles because he was not feeling well. The two players were sharing a hotel room in London. All England Club spokesman Henry O’Grady said that despite the precautions, no one at Wimbledon is known to have swine flu.
India’s Prakash Amritraj and Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi hope their recent play will allow them to form a full-time doubles partnership. In only their third tournament together, Amritraj and Qureshi reached the third round before falling to the fourth-seeded team of Mark Knowles and Mahesh Bhupathi 6-4 5-7 7-6 (3) 6-0. “I’m glad we had these two weeks as a team,” Amritraj said. “I think we should take this partnership forward and we’re definitely a team to be reckoned with.”
Women’s tennis is returning to New York’s Madison Square Garden, if only for one night. Four top players will compete March 1 in the second Billie Jean King Cup featuring no-ad scoring, a one-set semifinal and best-of-three final. Serena Williams won the inaugural event earlier this year, besting her sister Venus in the final. The 2008 field also included Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. This year’s four Grand Slam tournament winners will be invited to participate in next year’s tournament. Serena has won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, while Svetlana Kuznetsova captured the French Open.
Rafael Nadal won’t be there when Spain’s Davis Cup takes on Germany in a World Group quarterfinal. Nadal, who has been struggling with tendinitis in his knees, was left off the Spanish team, just as he was for last year’s final, which Spain won by defeating Argentina. Spanish captain Albert Costa has named Fernando Verdasco, Tommy Robredo, David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez for the tie that will be played on clay in Marbella, Spain, later this week.
Wimbledon quarterfinalist Ivo Karlovic and Marin Cilic will lead Croatia’s Davis C up team against the United States. Croatia, which won the Davis Cup in 2005, will stage the tie on an indoor clay court in Porec, Croatia. Led by Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick, the American team includes James Black and brothers Bob and Mike Bryan, marking the 12th time in the last 13 Davis Cup contests that the same quartet of players will be together. Croatia has beaten the United States twice in Davis Cup competition.
Andre Agassi will play World Team Tennis this summer for the Philadelphia Freedoms. He will play at home on July 10 against the Boston Lobsters and at Newport Beach, California, on July 17. While Agassi played World Team Tennis before – for the Sacramento Capitals from 2002-04 – there will be two veterans stars making their WTT debuts. Michael Chang will play for the Capitals, while Kim Clijsters will suit up for two matches with the St. Louis Aces. Clijsters plans to return to the WTA Tour after a two-year retirement. Other stars playing this season include Serena Williams (Washington, DC), Venus Williams (Philadelphia), Maria Sharapova (Newport Beach), Martina Navratilova (Boston) and John McEnroe (New York). WTT is getting a boost this summer from its new partnership with the United States Tennis Association and a new team in New York City. The USTA has become a 25 percent owner of the league in an effort to expand the USTA Junior Team Tennis program.
The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award will be awarded by the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum (ITHFM) to Tennis Channel for its ongoing contributions to tennis. The award will be given at the 28th annual “Legends Ball” on Friday, September 11, in New York City. The special night will also honor a host of tennis luminaries, including Rod Laver, who will receive a special Life Trustee Award, and the Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2009: Donald Dell, Andres Gimeno, the late Dr. Robert Johnson and Monica Seles. The Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award was created in honor of an individual whose passion and generosity for the game of tennis inspired others to contribute to the advancement of the sport. Cullman served as president and chairman of the ITHFM from 1982-88. Previous winners of the award include BNP Paribas, Rolex and Sony Ericsson. Tennis Channel will be covering its first US Open this year. The network also covers Wimbledon, the French Open and Australia Open in high definition, as well as the US Open Series, Davis Cup, ATP Masters series, fEd Cup and top-tier Sony Ericsson WTA Tour championship competitions.
SITTING IT OUT
Anna Kournikova won’t be playing World Team Tennis this season. The Russian star has been sidelined with a wrist injury. A WTT spokesperson said Kournikova made her decision after experiencing pain from tenosvnovitis while practicing for what would have been her seventh season with the league. The St. Louis Aces player has not responded to therapy or a series of cortisone shots. But while she’s unable to play, Kournikova plans to travel with her team to matches in Philadelphia, Washington DC, Springfield and St. Louis.
Braunschweig: Johan Brunstrom and Jean-Julien Rojer beat Brian Dabul and Nicolas Massau 7-6 (2) 6-4
Turin: Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace beat Santiago Giraldo and Pere Riba 6-3 6-4
Cuneo: Akgul Amanmuradova and Darya Kustova beat Petra Cetkovska and Mathilde Johansson 5-7 6-1 10-7 (match tiebreak)
SITES TO SURF
Davis Cup: www.daviscup.com
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
$500,000 Campbell’s Hall of Fame Championships, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, grass
$100,000 Open Diputacion Ciudad de Pozoblanco, Pozoblanco, Cordoba, Spain, clay
$220,000 GDF Suez Grand Prix, Budapest, Hungary, clay
$220,000 Collector Swedish Open Women, Bastad, Sweden, clay
$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Biarritz, Biarritz, France, clay
World Group Quarterfinals
Czech Republic vs. Argentina at Ostrava, Czech Republic
Croatia vs. United States at Porec, Croatia
Israel vs. Russia at Tel Aviv, Israel
Spain vs. Germany at Puerto Banus, Marbella, Spain
Americas Zone Group 1 Playoff
Peru vs. Canada at Lima, Peru
Americas Zone Group 2 Second Round
Venezuela vs. Mexico at Maracaibo, Venezuela
Dominican Republic vs. Paraguay at San Francisco de Marcons, Provincia Duarte, Dominican Republic
Asia/Oceania Zone Group 1 Playoff
Thailand vs. Kazakhstan at Nonthaburi, Thailand
Korea vs. China at Chun-cheon City, Korea
Asia/Oceania Zone Group 2 Second Round
Philippines vs. Pakistan at Manila, Philippines
New Zealand vs. Indonesia at Hamilton, New Zealand
Europe/Africa Zone Group 1 Playoffs
Belarus vs. FYR Macedonia at Minsk, Belarus
Europe/Africa Zone Group 2 Second Round
Slovenia vs. Lithuania at Otocec, Slovenia
Latvia vs. Bulgaria at Plovdiv, Latvia
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$600,000 Catella Swedish Open, Bastad, Sweden, clay
$600,000 Mercedes Cup, Stuttgart, Germany, clay
$125,000 Bogota, Columbia, clay
$220,000 Internazionali Femminili di Tennis di Palermo, Palermo, Italy, clay
$220,000 ECM Prague Open, Prague, Czech Republic, clay
Robin Soderling beat top-seeded Rafael Nadal 6-2 6-7 (2) 6-4 7-6 (2)
Agnes Szavay beat third-seeded Venus Williams 6-0 6-4
Philipp Kohlschreiber beat fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic 6-4 6-4 6-4
Samantha Stosur beat fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva 6-3 4-6 6-1
Victoria Azarenka beat eighth-seeded Ana Ivanovic 6-2 6-3
Nikolay Davydenko beat eighth-seeded Fernando Verdasco 6-2 6-2 6-4
Sorana Cirstea beat 10th-seeded Caroline Wozniacki 7-6 (3) 7-5
“This is not a tragedy, losing here in Paris. It had to happen one day. That’s the end of the road, and I have to accept it. I have to accept my defeat as I accepted my victories – with calm.” – Rafael Nadal, after having his record 31-match victory string at Roland Garros snapped.
“This is for sure the biggest moment so far of my career. I couldn’t even dream of this before the match, so I will remember this match for the rest of my life.” – Robin Soderling, after beating Rafael Nadal.
“Everybody’s in a state of shock, I would think. At some point, Nadal was going to lose. But nobody expected it to happen today, and maybe not this year.” – Mats Wilander, a three-time French Open champion on Robin Soderling’s victory over Rafael Nadal.
“It’s just a bad day at the office, as they say.” – Novak Djokovic, after losing to Philipp Kohlschreiber.
“I’m used to beating people 6-0. I’m not used to my shot not going in and losing a set 6-0. So it completely was foreign ground for me.” – Venus Williams, after losing to Agnes Szavay 6-0 6-4
“In the fourth game, I just suddenly started feeling so dizzy, and I completely lost my balance.” – Ana Ivanovic, after losing to Victoria Azarenka.
“I’m angry, because even though it was (Roger) Federer, it was a near-miss. I was so close to winning this match.” – Jose Acasuso, after losing to Federer 7-6 (8) 5-7 7-6 (2) 6-2.
“She (a WTA Tour official) told me to play with another T-shirt otherwise I was facing a fine. I told her to find one for me otherwise I would have had to play naked.” – Virginie Razzano, who was told to change her shirt because a sponsor badge on the shirt was misplaced.
“I’m just glad I finally won a match out there.” – Andy Roddick, an American who finally won a match after three straight first-round losses at Roland Garros.
“Well, he actually looks a little bit tired to me. He doesn’t look like he’s fresh enough. I think it’s going to be tough challenge for him to win this time, actually.” – Elena Dementieva, predicting Rafael Nadal will not win a record fifth straight French Open men’s singles title.
“The point is never over. I mean, the ball is a little bit far but I have to find a solution to jump or to dive or slide or whatever, to reach it. And when I think I can, I will try some magic. On a break point, you have to jump or dive. I mean, I go for it.” – Gael Monfils, on his acrobatic style of play.
“He’s not (Rafael) Nadal, but he’s still a great player on clay.” – Janko Tipsarevic, on Andy Murray’s improved game on clay.
“Winning the semifinal is not winning the tournament, so it doesn’t change anything.” – Roger Federer, when asked if he was relieved to see his possible semifinal opponent, Novak Djokovic, lose his third-round match.
“For the Americans, a lot of times, this isn’t our main goal of the year. Ours is generally Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.” James Blake, an American, after losing a first-round match to Argentine qualifier Leonard Mayer.
“I wasn’t nervous at the beginning, but at the end, when I had to close the match, I was very nervous, yes. I was dying of nerves.” – Leonardo Mayer, a qualifier who beat James Blake.
“We’re trying as hard as we can. Once these two weeks are over, the clay talk is over, and we’ll be looking to my most fun part of the year: Wimbledon, grass courts. That’s where we play our best.” – Mardy Fish, an American, after losing a first-round match.
“I feel very disappointed. She’s Serena. She’s one of the biggest players here, so bad luck for the draw,” said Klara Zakopalova, after failing to cash in on eight match points in her first-round loss to Serena Williams.
“I don’t see trouble. What I see is a champion that found a way to win on a day that she didn’t play good. See, in order to be a champion, you have to win when you should lose.” – Richard Williams, after his daughter Serena squandered eight match points before beating Klara Zakopalova 6-3 6-7 (5) 6-4.
“I felt like I had the match in my hands and I was doing well and even if I didn’t win, I was playing really well … I felt like I probably played the best tennis that I played this year.” – Jelena Dokic, after retiring with a back injury while leading fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva.
“I think the Serena now would definitely beat the other Serena. I’m older. I think I’m wiser. I think I’m just a more mature player.” – Serena Williams, after her second-round win over Virginia Ruano Pascual.
Rafael Nadal’s stranglehold on Roland Garros was smashed by Sweden’s Robin Soderling in a fourth-round match. It was the first time the Spaniard, who was seeking his fourth consecutive French Open title, had lost on the red clay of Roland Garros. In his opening round match, Nadal snapped Bjorn Borg’s record of 28 straight French Open match wins by a man. His second-round victory eclipsed Chris Evert’s overall tournament record of 29 consecutive match victories. He got to 31 straight before running into Soderling, a player Nadal had never lost to before. In their last meeting, on clay in Rome in April, Nadal won 6-1 6-0. This time Soderling finished with 61 winners, 28 more than Nadal, and advanced to the quarterfinal of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.
Serbian Ana Ivanovic has failed to defend her women’s singles title at Roland Garros, losing a fourth-round match to Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-2 6-3. Last year’s French Open victory pushed Ivanovic into the top spot in the WTA Tour rankings. Since then she has struggled and came into this year’s tournament seeded eighth. Ivanovic had a trainer look at her neck before the final game of the first set, and later said she began feeling dizzy and lost her balance. Azarenka grabbed a 4-0 lead in the second set en route to her victory.
She spent the first week working overtime, but Maria Sharapova was still around at the stare of the second week of the French Open. The unseeded Russian won four straight three-set matches to gain a quarterfinal berth at Roland Garros for the fourth time in her career. This is Sharapova’s first Grand Slam tournament since she lost a second-round match at Wimbledon last summer. She then suffered an injury to her right shoulder and underwent surgery in October. Sharapova only played one singles tournament before her remarkable run in Paris. “I’m definitely a little bit sore, but I’ll be fine,” Sharapova said. “That’s why the Grand Slams are great. You have a day in between, a day to recover, and that always helps the body.”
Sisters Venus and Serena Williams won’t be adding to their stash of Grand Slam doubles titles at this year’s French Open. The American duo wasted a match point in their 7-6 (4) 5-7 7-6 (6) loss to Bethanie Mattek-Sands of the United States and Nadia Petrova of Russia. Venus served for the match at 6-5 and was broken. The sisters led 6-5 in the tiebreak, one point from victory, before Mattek-Sands and Petrova won the last three points of the match. The Williams sisters won the French Open in 1999, one of their eight Grand slam doubles titles.
Jelena Dokic was leading fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva when she was forced to retire from their second-round French Open match because of a back injury. Playing in her first French Open since 2004, Dokic appeared to pull something in her lower back at 2-2 in the second set. She left the court to receive treatment from the tournament trainer and returned to break Dementieva and take a 6-2 3-2 lead. But Dementieva won the next two games before Dokic, tears streaming down her face, retired. “I didn’t deserve to win this match,” Dementieva said. Once ranked as high as number four in the world, Dokic rolled her ankle in his fourth-round match at the Australian Open in January. “Obviously it’s not my time at the Grand Slams,” she said. “I’m not 15 anymore, so it’s time probably to take more care now.”
SQUEAKING AND SQUEALING
A teenager from Portugal, Michelle Larcher de Brito, was the talk of Roland Garros more for her sound than her game. Grunting, squealing and moaning with every shot, the 16-year-old qualifier reached the third round before she was silenced by France’s Aravane Rezai. “It’s very disturbing, it’s disturbing me,” Rezai told the umpire before insisting the umpire consult the Grand Slam supervisor on the issue. Larcher de Brito shrieked when she hit the ball, yelped when Rezai’s shots were long and slammed her racquet when she was frustrated, earning boos from the crowd. “It’s just something I’ve done always since I started playing tennis. I’m going to keep on doing it because it’s really part of my game,” said Larcher de Brito, the first Portuguese player to advance to the third round of a Grand Slam tournament.
It took three sets before Serena Williams finally beat her Spanish foe, but it was a point in the opening set that riled the world’s number two-ranked player. With Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez close to the net, Williams fired a shot right at her. She managed to get her racquet on the ball, but Serena says the ball also hit her opponent’s arm. “The ball did touch her 100 percent on her arm,” Serena said. “The rules of tennis are when the ball hits your body, then it’s out of play. You lose a point automatically.” Television replays seemed to back Serena’s version, but Martinez Sanchez insisted the ball did not hit her and the umpire agreed. “To say I’m a cheat is stupid,” Martinez Sanchez said. “I’m not going to comment on it.”
SAY NO TO DRUG TESTS
Rafael Nadal wants the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to stick up for the players and against the World Anti-Doping Agency’s new out-of-competition drug-testing rules. A number of top players, including Serena Williams, have complained about a new WADA rule that says athletes must say where they will be for one hour each day so they can be found for testing. Saying that’s too invasive, Nadal complains that it will be tough to keep WADA constantly updated on his whereabouts.
Tennis isn’t the only thing on the mind of Sania Mirza these days. The 22-year-old Indian star has become engaged to a longtime friend, Sohrab Mirza. Despite the same last names, they are not related – yet. According to family members, the 23-year-old Sohrab Mirza, who is studying business, and the tennis star will be married on July 10 in her hometown of Hyderabad. In January, Sania became the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam tournament title when she teamed with India’s Mahesh Bhupathi to win the Australian Open mixed doubles crown.
Two-time Grand Slam tournament finalist Mark Philippoussis says he is broke, facing a legal battle to keep his home and suffers from depression. The Australian player, who earned more than USD $7 million during his career, said he is being sued for failing to pay the mortgage on his home in Melbourne, Australia. Once ranked eighth in the world, Philippoussis says he has been unable to play for three years following several knee operations. The knee injury ended his ATP tour playing career, which saw him reach the 2003 Wimbledon final, losing to Roger Federer, and the 1998 US Open final, where he fell to Patrick Rafter. Philippoussis said he is looking to play in tennis legends events with former stars like John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Pat Cash.
Two freshmen are the newest National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tennis champions. Unseeded Devin Britton of the University of Mississippi became the youngest men’s singles champion, while Mallory Cecil of Duke captured the women’s singles crown. Britton ended a 22-match win streak by Steve Moneke, beating the Ohio State senior 3-6 6-2 6-3. In her final, Cecil beat Laura Vallverdu of the University of Miami 7-5 6-4.
Southern California has been awarded the 2008 Pac-10 Conference men’s tennis title after UCLA was penalized for using an ineligible player. The violation was self-reported by UCLA and the ineligible player wasn’t identified. UCLA had to forfeit all singles and doubles matches in which the player participated. As a result, team results of UCLA’s matches against Southern California and Arizona State were reversed, giving Southern Cal a 7-0 record. UCLA dropped into a second-place tie with Stanford at 5-2.
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
(All money in USD)
ATP and WTA
Roland Garros, Paris, France, clay (second week)
$170,000 UniCredit Czech Open, Prostejov, Czech Republic, clay
TOURNAMENTS NEXT WEEK
$1,000,000 AEGON Championships, London, Great Britain, grass
$1,000,000 Gerry Weber Open, Halle, Germany, grass
$119,000 BSI Lugano Challenger, Lugano, Switzerland, clay
$220,000 AEGON Classic, Birmingham, Great Britain, grass
$100,000 Open GDF Suez de Marseille, Marseille, France, clay
Happy St. Patrick’s Day – a day where a salient moment happened to John McEnroe, whose grandparents on his father’s side were from Ireland. As excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com), McEnroe made his Davis Cup doubles debut and when he received no luck of the Irish in Key Biscayne in his swan song appearance in the modern day Sony Ericsson Open.
1927 – U.S. President Calvin Coolidge conducts the draw for the 1927 Davis Cup competition on the front lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. Coolidge picks the card with Czechoslovakia on it, which is drawn against Greece in the first round of the European Zone. Writes the New York Times of the event, “Surrounded by diplomats from the twenty-five nations entered into the tournament, he drew the card bearing the name of Czechoslovakia from the bowl of the trophy. Joseph C. Grew, Under Secretary of State, then picked Greece, which was paired with the nation of the President’s choice. The various diplomats then formed in line and each withdrew the name of one nation from the cup.” An ironic event occurs when the representative from Belgium selects his own nation from the cup. Twenty one nations are placed in the European Zone and four in the American Zone. The winner of each zone would meet each other and the winner taking on the United States, the holder of the Davis Cup, in the Challenge Round.
1979 – John McEnroe and Peter Fleming make their Davis Cup debut as a doubles team, defeating Ivan Molina and Orlando Agudelo 6-4, 6-0, 6-4 giving the United States a match-clinching 3-0 lead over Colombia in the Davis Cup first round at the Cleveland Skating Club in Cleveland, Ohio. McEnroe and Fleming become arguably the greatest doubles combination the United States has ever fielded in Davis Cup play, ending their patriotic partnership in 1984 with a 14-1 record. They win 14 straight Davis Cup doubles matches – a record among U.S. Davis Cup doubles teams – and represent the U.S. on Davis Cup final-winning teams in 1981 and 1982. Their final Davis Cup doubles match is their only defeat – a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 loss to Stefan Edberg and Anders Jarryd in the title-clinching win for Sweden over the United States in the 1984 Davis Cup final in Goteborg, Sweden.
1992 – John McEnroe, whose grandparents on his father’s side were born in Ireland, receives no luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day in what becomes his final match ever at the Lipton Championships in Key Biscayne, Fla., losing to Richard Krajicek 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the third round.
1996 – In a final played with on-court temperatures surpassing 110 degrees, Michael Chang defeats No. 68th-ranked Paul Haarhuis of the Netherlands 7-5, 6-1, 6-1 to win the Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells, Calif. “Today I could actually feel the heat coming through the soles of my shoes,” says Chang following the match. “They announced 110 degrees, but I was told it was 130 degrees. They just didn’t want to scare anybody.”
2001- Booed as she enters the court for her final round match against Kim Clijsters at the Tennis Masters Series -Indian Wells, Serena Williams withstands the harsh fan and media allegations of match-fixing, by defeating Clijsters 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Fans react severely to the Williams family after Venus Williams abruptly withdraws from her semifinal match with Serena Williams the day before. “In the beginning, I was a little shocked,” Serena says. “Then I was like, ‘Wow, this is getting old. Move on to something new…I prayed to God just to help me be strong, not even to win, but to be strong, not listen to the crowd.” The withdrawal and aftermath came on the heels of tabloid story in the National Enquirer stating that Williams father Richard fixed the 2000 Wimbledon semifinal between the two sisters.
2007 – Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia wins her second Pacific Life Open championship in Indian Wells, Calif. – and her second career title – defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 6-3, 6-4 in the women’s singles final. “I think all the best things in life are worth waiting for, moments like this,” says Hantuchova, who wins her first title in Indian Wells five years earlier. “I guess all the hard work and everything I had to go through makes the victory that much sweeter.”
For a man who’s the father of two successful tennis stars, Richard Williams sure has a hard time containing his bitterness.
Williams recently had these things to say to a newspaper in India:
The first dealt with the explosive and sensitive issue of race. “People are prejudiced in tennis. I don’t think Venus or Serena was ever accepted by tennis. They never will be.”
He then proceeded in conspiratorial fashion to attack the media; among other things, he accused them of preventing Venus and Serena Williams from ever achieving Grand Slam success. He went so far as to claim it “the worst media job that they have done on any human being in the world.”
Finally, Williams closed out the verbal festivities by insulting former stars Tracy Austin and Chris Evert-Lloyd. “But if you get some little white no-good trasher in America like Tracy Austin or Chris Evert, who cannot hit the ball, they (the media) will claim this is great.”
Let’s consider these comments and allegations further.
On the issue of race, they say you can never understand a man until you walk in his shoes. I can’t possibly comment on what a black person goes through on a daily basis; however, sometimes there are more effective, if not graceful ways to get your point across. Smearing an entire sports community with one brush is unfortunate as much as it is distasteful.
If in his heart he feels there is a racial divide in tennis, then he would be better off channelling his efforts into educating people about it.
The second proclamation regarding the media has two faces to it. The first is that the media is an easy target to chastise when things don’t go your way. Conversely, it is your best friend when all is well and exposure is necessary. In other words, the media is both your friend and enemy.
The other side of that face cuts right to the issue of accountability. That the Williams sisters have not been able to match their enormous potential with a boat load of Grand Slam titles is something only they can answer. Pointing a finger at others is a feeble attempt to try and skirt away from this fact.
Finally, his attack on Austin and Evert is easy enough to debunk. In fact, for a person who is a tennis insider, it is quite astonishing, if not absurd, to assert what he did. Saying Evert could not hit the ball is a little like saying Elvis was a poor guitarist – just like there were better guitarists that existed before and after him, many tennis players before and after Evert could “hit the ball” with more power than she could.
The Williams sisters indeed prove this. In many ways, they took tennis onto another athletic plane. This impressive achievement is a testament to their talent. To chastise those who brought the game fame during a time it was played differently is patently unfair, if not ignorant.
Nonetheless, Williams would do well to remember that technology has also had some say in this. For example, in ice hockey, today’s players shoot the puck harder since the introduction of new composites such as titanium. In tennis, a racquet can play a significant role in adding power to one’s game.
Evert has an added dimension to her legacy, which is decorated with 18 Grand Slam titles. Presley emerged at a time when teenagers were ready to rebel through music. Evert came during a time when women were fighting to be treated with respect and equality. The late 1960s and early 1970s, lest we forget, was when the birth and golden age of women’s liberation happened; tennis jumped on that revolution.
Evert was also in the middle of one of sports’ great rivalries in the 1980s as her melodic and patient baseline style took on the ferocious, powerful serve-and-volley approach of Martina Navratilova. Oh, how tennis aged with grace and beauty!
Richard Williams should be proud of and satisfied with what his gifted daughters, who have amassed great wealth thanks to tennis, have contributed to the evolutionary process and that they remain a welcomed addition to the sport.
Yet, for Mr. Williams, it seems that the fact that his daughters are part of tennis’s great heritage is not enough.
Perhaps it is time for Richard Williams to stare into the mirror and see what the reflection gives?
24 March 2008
Ana Ivanovic won her first Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title of the year, the Pacific Life Open, and sixth of her career by defeating Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 6-3.
Mardy Fish joined a growing list of players who can claim an upset victory over Roger Federer when the American beat the world’s No. 1 player in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open. It wasn’t even close as Fish crushed his Swiss opponent 6-3 6-2.
Roger Federer, who has won eight of the last eleven Grand Slam tournaments, has yet to win a title of any kind in 2008. Federer’s hold on the world No. 1 ranking became even more tenuous after he fell to American Mardy Fish in the semifinals of the Pacific Life Open. So far in 2008, Federer has lost three times, to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals, to Andy Murray in the opening round at Dubai, and to Fish in Indian Wells.
“There is something in this desert air which keeps me going year after year. I’m doing pretty good here.” – Novak Djokovic after winning the Pacific Life Open men’s crown with a 6-2 5-7 6-3 win over Mardy Fish.
“It’s always painful to lose, but I prefer losing in the final to losing in the second round.” – Svetlana Kuznetsova, after losing to Ana Ivanovic in the women’s title match of the Pacific Life Open.
“He would never miss, really, when I needed a miss once in a while.” – Roger Federer after his 6-3-6-2 semifinal loss to Mardy Fish at the Pacific Life Open.
“This obviously wasn’t Roger’s best day.” – Mardy Fish after upsetting top-ranked Roger Federer.
“The truth is he played better than me today. It’s difficult to say more things.” – Rafael Nadal after losing to Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-2 in the Pacific Life Open semifinals.
“I think we both played good tennis from the first point on, and I was really happy with that.” – Ana Ivanovic after beating Svetlana Kuznetsova to win the Pacific Life Open women’s singles.
Dinara Safina teamed up with fellow Russian Elena Vesnina to win their first women’s doubles title, defeating the third-seeded Chinese team of Yan Zi and Zheng Jie 6-1 1-6 10-8 (Match Tiebreak) at the Pacific Life Open.
Israelis Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram won the Pacific Life Open men’s doubles crown. They beat Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia 6-4, 6-4.
Not only did Svetlana Kuznetsova hand Maria Sharapova her first loss of 2008, she may have had a hand in knocking the Australian Open champion out of her next tournament. After losing to Kuznetsova 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 at Indian Wells, Sharapova pulled out of next week’s Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, citing a shoulder injury.
WTA head Larry Scott was quick to defend two of the sport’s greatest champions after Richard Williams took a verbal swipe at them. “Champions like Chris Evert and Tracy Austin have done so much to help build women’s tennis to where it is today, and it is regrettable that anyone would criticize them in this manner,” Scott said. His response came after Williams, Venus and Serena’s father, charged that Evert and Austin, both enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, were boosted by the media even though they “cannot hit the ball.”
Svetlana Kuznetsova has problems on the final day. Ranked fourth in world, the Russian has reached three singles finals this year, and has lost them all. She has now lost eight of the last nine tournament finals she has played.
The back injury that caused her to pull out of the Pacific Life Open has been even more troublesome for Lindsay Davenport at home. The problem has prevented the new mother from carrying her baby. “I haven’t been able to lift him out of his crib, out of the stroller or out of the car seat, so I’ve feel like kind of a bad mom in that regard,” Davenport said.
SELES BY SELES
Monica Seles is writing her memoirs. Seles was the No. 1 player in the world when a man climbed out of the stands in Hamburg, Germany, during a match in 1993 and stabbed her in the back. She was off the tour for more than two years before coming back to win the Australian Open in 1996.
John McEnroe will play World Team Tennis for the eighth season this year when he competes in three road matches for the New York Sportimes. McEnroe will visit the Philadelphia Freedoms on July 14, the Washington Kastles on July 15 and the Newport Beach Breakers on July 22. Others scheduled to play World Team Tennis this season include Lindsay Davenport, Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, Martina Navratilova, Anna Kournikova and the Bryan twins, Bob and Mike.
SITES TO SURF
TOURNAMENTS THIS WEEK
ATP and WTA Tours
$3,770,000 Sony Ericsson Open, Key Biscayne, Florida, hard court