Today, February 10, is a hallmark day in American tennis as it marks the birthday of one of the country’s greatest champions – “Big” Bill Tilden – who was born 116 years ago today. Today also marks the anniversary of Jim Courier taking over the No. 1 world ranking on the ATP computer back in 1992. Courier became the first American man to rank No. 1 since John McEnroe in 1985 and ushered in an era of American dominance in the top spot with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi also holding down the ranking in subsequent years. Courier, McEnroe and Sampras are still on the courts competing and will be action later this week at the Outback Champions Series this weekend in Boston. The following is the excerpt from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, www.tennishistorybook.com) that outlines all that happened on this day, February 10, in tennis history.
1893 – Six-foot-two “Big” Bill Tilden, regarded as one of the greatest players to ever pick up a tennis racquet, is born in Philadelphia, Pa. Tilden dominates the tennis world in the 1920s winning 20 major titles – 10 in singles including three Wimbledon titles and seven U.S. singles titles. Tilden anchors the winning U.S. Davis Cup teams from 1920 to 1926. Writes Bud Collins in The Bud Collins History of Tennis of Tilden, “If a player’s value is measured by the dominance and influence he exercises over a sport, then William Tatem “Big Bill” Tilden II could be considered the greatest player in the history of tennis.”
1992 – Jim Courier becomes the No. 1 ranked player in the world for the first time in his career, unseating Stefan Edberg from the top ranking and becoming the first American to hold the position since John McEnroe last holds the ranking on Sept. 8, 1985. Courier holds the ranking for a total of 58 weeks during his career.
2008 – Jill Craybas of the United States nearly pulls off one of the greatest final-round comebacks in the history of the WTA Tour at the Pattaya Open in Thailand. The thirty-three-year-old Craybas, the 1996 NCAA singles champion for the University of Florida, fights back from a 1-5 third-set deficit against Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska to win five game in a row, then holds match point at 6-5 in the third set, before losing the final by a 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (4) margin. “She came back and was fighting to the last point, I could have finished the match twice, but I didn’t,” says the eighteen-year-old Radwanska, who upset defending champion Maria Sharapova at the U.S. Open five months earlier. “I was nervous and everything put me off. It was a very strange match, but the most important thing is I won the match.”
2001 – Justin Gimelstob earns a dubious Davis Cup distinction when he and Jan-Michael Gambill are defeated by Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Lorenzo Manta 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 as the United States goes down 2-1 to the Swiss after the second day of play in the Davis Cup first round in Basel, Switzerland. The loss, which ultimately becomes his Davis Cup finale, drops Gimelstob’s Davis Cup record to 0-3, tying him with Robert Wrenn and Melville Long for the worst-ever record for a U.S. Davis Cup player. Wrenn loses two singles and a doubles match in the 1903 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Britain for his 0-3 record, while Long turns the same trick in the 1909 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Australasia. Gimelstob also loses in doubles with Todd Martin in the 1998 Davis Cup semifinal against Italy and, also in that tie, loses a dead-rubber singles match to Gianluca Pozzi.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – New Chapter Press has announced the publication of its latest book – On This Day In Tennis History -a calendar-like compilation of historical and unique anniversaries, events and happenings from the world of tennis through the years – written by Randy Walker, the sports marketing and media specialist, tennis historian and former U.S. Tennis Association press officer.
On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, 528 pages), is a fun and fact-filled, this compilation offers anniversaries, summaries, and anecdotes of events from the world of tennis for every day in the calendar year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings. Easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details, the book is the perfect companion for tennis and general sports fans alike and is an excellent gift idea for the holiday season. The book features fascinating and unique stories of players such as John McEnroe, Don Budge, Bill Tilden, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova among many others. On This Day In Tennis History is available for purchase via on-line book retailers and in bookstores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. More information on the book can be found at www.tennishistorybook.com
Said Hall of Famer Jim Courier of the book, “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important-and unusual-moments in the annals of tennis. Randy Walker is an excellent narrator of tennis history and has done an incredible job of researching and compiling this entertaining volume.” Said tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, “An addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way-dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients. As a tennis writer, I will always keep this book at the head of my table.” Said Bill Mountford, former Director of Tennis of the USTA National Tennis Center, “On This Day In Tennis History is an easy and unique way to absorb the greatest-and most quirky-moments in tennis history. It’s best read a page a day!”
Walker is a writer, tennis historian and freelance publicist and sports marketer. A 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s Marketing and Communications Division, he served as the press officer for the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1997 to 2005 and for the U.S. Olympic tennis teams in 1996, 2000 and 2004. He also served as the long-time editor of the U.S. Open Record Book during his tenure at the USTA from 1993 to 2005.
More information on the book can be found at www.tennistomes.com as well as on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1627089030&ref=name and on myspace at http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=428100548
People mentioned in the book include, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, Goran Ivanisevic, Andre Agassi, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Monica Seles, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Anna Kounikova, Jennifer Capriati, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Martina Hingis, Gustavo Kuerten, Svetlana Kuznetsova, James Blake, Wilmer Allison, Mal Anderson, Arthur Ashe, Juliette Atkinson, Henry “Bunny” Austin, Tracy Austin, Boris Becker, Kark Behr, Pauline Betz, Bjorn Borg, Jean Borotra, John Bromwich, Norman Brookes, Louise Brough, Jacques Brugnon, Butch Buchholz, Don Budge, Maria Bueno, Rosie Casals, Michael Chang, Philippe Chatrier, Dodo Cheney, Henri Cochet, Maureen Connolly, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Ashley Cooper, Margaret Court, Jack Crawford, Allison Danzig, Dwight Davis, Lottie Dod, John Doeg, Laurence Doherty, Reggie Doherty, Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers, Jaroslav Drobny, Margaret duPont, Francoise Durr, James Dwight, Stefan Edberg, Roy Emerson, Chis Evert, Bob Falkenburg, Neale Fraser, Shirley Fry, Althea Gibson, Pancho Gonzalez, Evonne Goolagong, Arthur Gore, Steffi Graf, Bitsy Grant, Darlene Hard, Doris Hart, Anne Jones, Gladys Heldman, Slew Hester, Bob Hewitt, Lew Hoad, Harry Hopman, Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman, Joe Hunt, Frank Hunter, Helen Jacobs, Bill Johnston, Perry Jones, Bob Kelleher, Billie Jean King, Jan Kodes, Karel Kozeluh, Jack Kramer, Rene Lacoste, Bill Larned, Art Larsen, Rod Laver, Ivan Lendl, Suzanne Lenglen, George Lott, Gene Mako, Molla Mallory, Hana Mandlikova, Alice Marble, Dan Maskell, Simone Mathieu, Mark McCormack, John McEnroe, Ken McGregor, Kitty Godfree, Chuck McKinley, Maurice McLoughlin, Frew McMillian, Don McNeill, Elisabeth Moore, Angela Mortimer, Gardnar Mulloy, Ilie Nastase, Martina Navratilova, John Newcombe, Yannick Noah, Jana Novotna, Betty Nuthall, Alex Olmedo, Rafael Osuna, Frank Parker, Gerald Patterson, Budge Patty, Fred Perry, Nicola Pietrangeli, Adrian Quist, Patrick Rafter, Dennis Ralson, Vinnie Richards, Nancy Richey, Cliff Richey, Bobby Riggs, Tony Roche, Mervyn Rose, Ken Rosewall, Elizbeth Ryan, Gabriela Sabatini, Pete Sampras, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Manuel Santana, Dick Savitt, Ted Schroeder, Gene Scott, Richard Sears, Frank Sedgman, Pancho Segura, Vic Seixas, Frank Shields, Pam Shriver, Stan Smith, Fred Stolle, Bill Talbert, Bill Tilden, Tony Trabert, Lesley Turner, Jimmy Van Alen, John Van Ryn, Guillermo Vilas, Ellsworth Vines, Brian Gottfried, Virginia Wade, Holcombe Ward, Watson Washburn, Mal Whitman, Mats Wilander, Tony Wilding, Helen Wills Moody, Sidney Wood, Robert Wrenn, Bob Bryan, Mike Bryan, Todd Woodbridge, Marat Safin, Leslie Allen, Sue Barker, Jonas Bjorkman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Donald Dell, Albert Costa, Mark Cox, Owen Davidson, Pat Cash, Mary Carillo, John Isner, Roscoe Tanner, Vijay Amritraj, Mark Woodforde, Tim Henman, Richard Krajicek, Conchita Martinez, Mary Joe Fernandez, Cliff Drysdale, Mark Edmondson, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Zina Garrson, Roland Garros, Wojtek Fibak, Tom Gullikson, Andres Gimeno, Vitas Gerulaitis, Fernando Gonzalez, Tim Henman, Goran Ivanisevic, Andrea Jaeger, Ivo Karlovic, Richard Krajicek, Petr Korda, Luke Jensen, Murphy Jensen, Rick Leach, Iva Majoil, Barry MacKay, Ivan Ljubicic, Cecil Mamiit, David Caldwell, Alex Metreveli, Nicolas Massu, Todd Martin, Gene Mayer, Thomas Muster, Tom Okker, Charlie Pasarell, Mary Pierce, Whitney Reed, Leander Paes, Renee Richards, Helen Sukova, Michael Stich, Betty Stove, Ion Tiriac, Brian Teacher, Wendy Turnbull, Richards, Fabrice Santoro, Ai Sugiyama, Patrick McEnroe, Camille Pin, Phil Dent, Jelena Dokic, Mark Edmondson, Gael Monfils, Xavier Malisse, Dinara Safina, Barry Lorge, Stefano Pescosolido, Fabrice Santoro, Roscoe Tanner, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Roger Smith, Erik van Dillen, Gene Mayer, Tamara Pasek, Stefan Koubek, Jie Zheng, Gisela Dulko, Kristian Pless, Chuck McKinley, Marty Riessen, Brad Gilbert, Tim Mayotte, Andrea Petkovic, Klara Koukalova, Bobby Reynolds, Dominik Hrbaty, Andreas Seppi, Christopher Clarey, Casey Dellacqua, Anders Jarryd, Janko Tipsarevic, Nadia Petrova, Christian Bergstrom, Ramesh Krishnan, Emily Sanchez, Marcos Baghdatis, Mark Philippousssis, Wally Masur, Paul McNamee, Daniela Hantuchova, Gerry Armstrong, Younes El Aynaoui, Thomas Johansson, Pat Cash, Lisa Raymond, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Chanda Rubin, Tony Roche, Alex O’Brien, Petr Korda, Karol Kucera, Amelie Mauresmo, Juan Gisbert, Pablo Cuevas, Jim Pugh, Rick Leach, Julien Boutter, Larry Stefanki, Chris Woodruff, Jill Craybas, Sania Mirza, Mike Leach, Maggie Maleeva, Guillermo Canas, Guillermo Coria, Donald Young, Dick Stockton, Johan Kriek, Milan Srejber, Zina Garrison, Slyvia Hanika, Karin Knapp, Laura Granville, Kei Nishikori, Scott Davis, Paul Goldstein, Alberto Martin, Nicolas Kiefer, Joachim Johansson, Jonathan Stark, Jakob Hlasek, Jeff Tarango, Amanda Coetzer, Andres Gomez, Richey Reneberg, Francisco Clavet, Radek Stepanek, Miloslav Mecir, Jose-Luis Clerc, Colin Dibley, Mikael Pernfors, Martin Mulligan, Robbie Weiss, Hugo Chapacu, Victor Pecci, Charlie Bricker, Greg Rusedski, Robin Finn, Kimiko Date, David Nalbandian, Goran Ivanisevic, Mikhail Youzhny, Nicole Pratt, Bryanne Stewart, Novak Djokovic, Rennae Stubbs, Corina Morariu, Marc Rosset, Kenneth Carlsen, Kimiko Date, Ryan Harrison, Richard Gasquet, Jimmy Arias, Jim Leohr, Felix Mantilla, Cedric Pioline, Annabel Croft, Brooke Shields, Jaime Yzaga, Slobodan Zivojinovic, Alberto Mancini, Peter McNamara, Andrei Chesnokov, Fabrice Santoro, Bud Collins, Mardy Fish, Sebastien Grosjean, Donald Dell, Petr Kuczak, Magnus Norman, Hicham Arazi, Nduka Odizor, Lori McNeil, Horst Skoff, Karolina Sprem, Ros Fairbank, Linda Siegel, Chris Lewis, Kevin Curren, Thierry Tulasne, Guy Forget, Fred Tupper, Jaime Fillol, Belus Prajoux, Ricardo Cano, Georges Goven, Ray Moore, Charlie Pasarell, Paul Annacone, Tomas Smid, Dmitry Tursunov, Elena Dementieva, Arnaud DiPasquale, Carl Uwe Steeb, Bill Scanlon, Jose Higueras, Jay Berger, Jana Novotna, Bill Dwyre, Lisa Dillman, Sean Sorensen, Paul McNamee, Jiri Novak, Benjamin Becker, Ion Tiriac, Neil Amdur, Tim Gullikson, Jan-Michael Gambill, Taylor Dent, Bryan Shelton, Vijay Amritraj, Martin Verkerk, Brian Gottfried, Carlos Moya, Jacco Eltingh, Adriano Panatta, John Feinstein, Aaron Krickstein, Wilhelm Bungert, Derrick Rostagno, Torben Ulrich, Daniel Nestor, Ray Ruffels, Cliff Drysdale, James Reilly, Andy Murray, Leander Paes, Alicia Molik, Barry MacKay among others.
New Chapter Press is also the publisher of The Bud Colins History of Tennis by Bud Collins, The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection by Rene Stauffer and Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli and the soon to be released title The Lennon Prophecy by Joe Niezgoda. Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press is an independent publisher of books and part of the Independent Publishers Group. More information can be found at www.newchapterpressmedia.com
As the Presidential campaign winds down in the United States, it is interesting to speculate whether Senator Barack Obama or Senator John McCain will be a “friend of tennis” in the Oval Office. Tennis players with high incomes may be partial to John McCain for tax purposes, while Barack Obama seems to be more engaged in the sport. Obama played tennis while growing up in Hawaii and follows the sport, as witnessed by a friend of mine who works in political circles who, back 2007, spoke with Obama, who gushed over watching the US Open on television the previous night – in particular James Blake’s five-set win over Fabrice Santoro (Blake’s first career five-set victory). As a working member of the tennis industry, author of the new book On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com) and as the great, great, great nephew of James K. Polk, the 11th President of the United States, I have a great interest in tennis and in U.S. Presidential history.
Who was the most tennis friendly President? Teddy Roosevelt might warrant consideration as he was the man responsible for creating the White House tennis court in 1902. Tennis was part of his exercise regimen and had a group of Washingtonians who comprised of what was called his “tennis cabinet” – a group of players with whom he would talk policy between serves and forehands. Roosevelt may have been inspired in his tennis pursuits by two of the greatest American players of the time – Bill Larned and Robert Wrenn – who were members of his famed “Rough Riders” that fought under his command in the Spanish-American War in Cuba in 1898. Roosevelt in his book, The Rough Riders, bragged of the enlistment of Wrenn and Larned along with “an eclectic group of eastern dudes and western deadshots.” Roosevelt prided in the fact that on two occasions as U.S. tennis champion, Wrenn had “saved this championship from going to an Englishman” referencing Wrenn’s final-round victories over Brits Manliffe Goodbody in 1894 and Wilberforce Eaves in 1897. Larned won a record seven U.S. singles titles – 1901, 1902, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911.
Warren Harding, the 29th President, played tennis early in his life and became re-engaged in the game when the United States recaptured the Davis Cup in 1920. He hosted the winning U.S. team and the Cup to the White House on May 6, 1921 – the first time the famous trophy visited the home of the President. U.S. team members Bill Tilden, Bill Johnston, Dick Williams and Watson Washburn competed in exhibition matches against each other on the White House court, with Harding enjoying the action with his family and staff. President Harding, in fact, appointed Davis Cup founder Dwight Davis as his Assistant Secretary of War in 1923. Davis was subsequently elevated to Secretary of War (the modern day Secretary of State) in the next administration of President Calvin Coolidge starting in 1923.
Coolidge, the 30th President, was the first U.S. President to host and preside over the making of the Davis Cup draw – no doubt at the urging of Davis himself – and hosted the festivities on March 17, 1927. The draw was held on the front lawn of the White House and Coolidge picked out of the Cup the card with Czechoslovakia on it – drawn against Greece in the first round of the European Zone. Wrote 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.”
Herbert Hoover, the 31st President, was also a fan of the game. When running against Democrat Al Smith in 1928, Hoover received a great tennis endorsement from all-time great Helen Wills, who made her public announcement of her support of Hoover for President the day before her win at the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills. In her press announcement in support of Hoover, Wills stated, “All youth can admire Herbert Hoover because of his sincerity, intelligence and great industry. His achievements in the past have been marked with success because of his ability for organization and his wonderful powers of perservance.” During his administration (1929 to 1933), four U.S. Davis Cup matches were played at the nearby Chevy Chase Country Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland – 1929 vs. Japan, 1930 vs. Mexico, 1931 vs. Argentina and 1932 vs. Canada – with Hoover dispatching his wife to represent him at the matches.
Franklin Roosevelt’s connections to tennis came from his cousins Grace and Ellen, who were both U.S. champions – Ellen winning the singles title in 1890 and the pairing with Grace to win the doubles – becoming the first sisters to win a major title. It is interesting to note what President Roosevelt did NOT do in one famous episode in tennis history. On July 20, 1937, the United States Davis Cup team competed against Nazi Germany in the decisive day of the Davis Cup Inter-zone Final at Wimbledon in what many call the most dramatic and politically important Davis Cup match of all time. American Don Budge and Germany’s Gottfried von Cramm played the decisive fifth match where, famously, von Cramm received a pre-match phone call from German dictator Adolf Hitler, who told von Cramm that winning the match was of great political importance to the Fatherland. Budge, who won the match when he came back from two-sets-to-love to win 6-8, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 8-6, said later of Hitler’s phone call, “I thought why didn’t Franklin Roosevelt call me? Didn’t he give a damn?”
Harry Truman, the 33rd President, was the second Commander in Chief to host the Davis Cup draw as he presided over the ceremonies on February 3, 1947. Said Truman shortly before reaching into the Davis Cup trophy to pull of the names of nations in the second post-World War II staging of the competition, “I hope the time will come when we can settle our international differences in courts, just as we settle our tennis differences on a court.”
President Dwight Eisenhower was more of a fan of golf and delegated “tennis duty” to his vice president Richard Nixon, who gave out the winner’s trophy at the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills and Davis Cup Challenge Rounds. In 1957, he famously presented Althea Gibson, the first black to win the U.S. singles title, with her winner’s trophy at Forest Hills. Two years earlier, Nixon also presented the Australian Davis Cup team with the Davis Cup trophy after the Aussies completed a 5-0 shutout of the United States at Forest Hills. Nixon was told by Australian Davis Cup Harry Hopman that day that he might someday be “the youngest president in American history.” Nixon next touched the Davis Cup in 1969 when, as the 37th President, he welcomed the victorious 1968 U.S. Davis Cup team that defeats Hopman’s Australian team in the 1968 Davis Cup final in Adelaide, Australia. That ceremony, that also featured the challenging Romanian Davis Cup team, featured some awkward moments as Bud Collins documented in his book The Bud Collins History of Tennis. Wrote Collins; “President Richard M. Nixon, a bowler and golfer who secretly despised tennis, hosted both final-round teams at a White House reception. This was a nice gesture, but the Chief Executive caused a few awkward stares when, as a memento of the occasion, he presented each player with a golf ball. Perhaps these were left over, some speculated, from the golf-happy Eisenhower administration. “I’m a Republican, but I’ll never vote for him again,” grumbled Cliff Richey. “Why he do this?” said a puzzled Ion Tiriac. “No golf courses in Romania.”
Lyndon Johnson, Nixon’s precedessor, was not a tennis enthusiast but did host the winning 1963 U.S. Davis Cup team at the White House. On January 15, 1964, Johnson hosted the victorious U.S. team at the White House and spent 45 minutes with team members Dennis Ralston, Chuck McKinley and Marty Riessen as well as U.S. captain Bob Kelleher and U.S. Lawn Tennis Association President Ed Turville. As Johnson introduced the team to his press secretary Pierre Salinger he said, “There’s my tennis player. If I can teach Salinger to ride a horse, maybe he can teach me to play tennis.”
Gerald Ford, the 38th President, was known as an avid player and used the White House tennis court more than any President since Teddy Roosevelt. After watching 14-year-old Tracy Austin beat Virgina Ruzici in the fourth round of the 1977 U.S. Open on television, President Jimmy Carter placed a call to the pig-tailed wunderkind to offer his best wishes and congratulations.
Ronald Reagan, the 40th President, played tennis in his youth and was known as perhaps the biggest sports fan among U.S. chief executives. He hosted many athletes and sports teams – including tennis stars such as John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg, Arthur Ashe, Pam Shriver and others. On September 15, 1981, Reagan and his wife Nancy hosted a U.S. Tennis Association contingent to the White House that included U.S. Open champions McEnroe and Austin and the U.S. Davis Cup and Wightman Cup teams. Said Reagan of the 1981 U.S. Open finals, “Nancy and I watched the TV Saturday and Sunday and the matches were so breathtaking I nearly turned blue.” Stan Smith and Marty Riessen hit tennis balls for the assembled group on the White House tennis court – highlighted by Smith hitting a ball that broke through the flimsy, deteriorating net. “I don’t oversee the operation as closely as my predecessor” said Reagan of the White House tennis operations. Nineteen-year-old Shriver proudly told Reagan during the 90-minute visit, “This was my first election and I voted for you, sir.” Ashe then chimed in to Reagan, “Well I didn’t vote for you. But I’m all for you, and I hope your policies work, Mr. President.”
Reagan left the tennis-playing to his Vice President and successor George Bush, who not only had a strong penchant for playing the game but came from a strong tennis bloodline. Bush’s great uncles Joseph Wear and Arthur Wear were bronze medalists in tennis at the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis – Joseph pairing with Allen West and Arthur pairing with Clarence Gamble. Joseph Wear also went on to serve as U.S. Davis Cup captain in 1928 and 1935 – having the opportunity to work with both Bill Tilden and Don Budge. Bush, whose mother Dorothy was also a standout ranking junior player, also entertained many tennis players during his term and remains an active player, competing often at Chris Evert’s annual charity event and frequented the U.S. Clay Court Championships, the Tennis Masters Cup and Davis Cup as a fan when held at the Westside Tennis Club in his hometown of Houston, Texas
Bush attended the U.S. Open when he was Vice President under Reagan, but Bill Clinton was the first sitting President to attend the U.S. Open when he took in the men’s semifinals on September 9, 2000, watching Marat Safin beat Todd Martin and Pete Sampras beat Lleyton Hewitt. He also called Venus Williams after she won the U.S. Open women’s singles title that year and told her “You worked really hard” prompting the witty Williams to ask Clinton for a tax cut on her hard-earned U.S. Open prize money.
After leaving office, Clinton again created tennis headlines when he attended the French Open in 2001 and was, in fact, jokingly blamed for Andre Agassi’s quarterfinal loss to Sebastien Grosjean. Clinton sat to watch the match after Agassi won the first set 6-1, but Agassi proceeded to lose 12 of the next 14 games to go down two sets to one. The five-months-out-of-office Clinton then briefly left the court, as Agassi went up a service break in the fourth set 2-1, but when Clinton returned to watch the match, Agassi lost his service break and proceeded to win only one more game in the match, losing 1-6, 6-1, 6-1, 6-3. “I was bad for him,” Clinton said afterward, referring to Agassi. “I was bad luck. I left, and he won three games. I hated to come back.”
Like his father, George W. Bush, the 43rd President, was a tennis player, but later in life did not play the game as much as he resorted to jogging and cycling for exercise. As governor of Texas in 1999, Bush penned a note of congratulations and good luck to U.S. player Alex O’Brien when named to the U.S. Davis Cup team to face Britain in the Centennial year of the competition, writing “All athletes should consider it an honor to represent their country. Sadly, a number of America’s top tennis players do not share this view. I commend you and your teammates for stepping forward when asked by Captain Tom Gullikson and the USTA. Your patriotism, team spirit and work ethic are inspirations for athletes of all ages.”
His most infamous connection to tennis came just five days before the 2000 Presidential election when it was revealed publicly for the first time that he was arrested for drunken driving in Maine on Sept. 4 1976 with Aussie tennis legend John Newcombe in the car with the future president. “I was drinking beers, yeah, with John Newcombe,” Bush said in a briefing with the press. “I’m not proud of that. I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much, and I did that night. I learned my lesson. I told the guy (the arresting officer) I had been drinking, what do I need to do? He said, ‘here’s the fine.’ I paid the fine.” Newcombe didn’t comment on the incident for another two weeks until after the election. “When it came out I just did the first thing that came into my mind – I went underground mate. I didn’t put my head up,” Newcombe told the Australian Associated Press of when news of the arrest first surfaced. Newcombe described Bush as a “good bloke” who would make a “pretty good president” and said the drunk-driving incident was a minor one in terms of how far Bush was over the limit. “That’s something I’ve laughed about with George for the last 24 years,” Newcombe said. “That’s something that just happened that night. We were just a couple of young blokes going out and having a good time. We didn’t do anything wrong, basically. We probably shouldn’t have been driving at that stage but it wasn’t that anyone was badly inebriated.”
The U.S. Davis Cup team drew a tough first round match at home against Switzerland – and presumably five-time Wimbledon and U.S. champion Roger Federer – in the 2009 Davis Cup competition. The first round tie will be held March 6-8, 2009 at a site chosen by the United States Tennis Association. The last time the two nations met in Davis Cup play, Federer orchestrated one of the greatest single performances ever achieved by a player against a U.S. Davis Cup team, accounting for all three points in the 3-2 first round upset of the United States in 2001 in Basel, Switzerland. In review of this historic effort from Federer, the following is an excerpt from my upcoming book due out November 1 ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY on that series as well as an excerpt from Rene Stauffer’s book THE ROGER FEDERER STORY, QUEST FOR PERFECTION which discusses the month of Feburary, 2001 – one of the most important in Federer’s career.
February 9, 2001 – Patrick McEnroe makes his debut as U.S. Davis Cup captain and his top player Jan-Michael Gambill wins his first “live” Davis Cup rubber in defeating Michel Kratochvil 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 as the United States and Switzerland split the opening two matches in the first day of play in the 2001 Davis Cup first round in Basel, Switzerland. Todd Martin is defeated by Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer 6-4, 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 in the opening rubber of the tie.
February 10, 2001 – Justin Gimelstob earns a dubious Davis Cup distinction when he and Jan-Michael Gambill are defeated by Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Lorenzo Manta 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 as the United States goes down 2-1 to the Swiss after the second day of play in the Davis Cup first round in Basel, Switzerland. The loss, which ultimately becomes his Davis Cup finale, drops Gimelstob’s Davis Cup record to 0-3, tying him with Robert Wrenn and Melville Long for the worst-ever record for a U.S. Davis Cup player. Wrenn loses two singles and a doubles match in the 1903 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Britain for his 0-3 record, while Long turns the same trick in the 1909 Davis Cup Challenge Round against Australasia. Gimelstob also loses in doubles with Todd Martin in the 1998 Davis Cup semifinal against Italy and, also in that tie, loses a dead-rubber singles match to Gianluca Pozzi.
February 11, 2001 – Roger Federer clinches a near single-handed victory for Switzerland over the United States in the first round of Davis Cup, defeating Jan-Michael Gambill 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the 3-2 win in Federer’s hometown of Basel. Federer, who beat Todd Martin in the opening singles and paired with Lorenzo Manta to beat Gambill and Justin Gimelstob in the doubles rubber, becomes one of seven players to win three live matches against a U.S. Davis Cup team, joining Laurie Doherty of Britain, Henri Cochet of France, Frank Sedgman and Neale Fraser of Australia, Nicola Pietrangeli of Italy and Raul Ramirez of Mexico. Says Federer, the future world No. 1, “My total game was good the whole weekend. I can’t complain. I was serving well, feeling well from the baseline. … Usually when I get tired I let go a little bit mentally, but that was absolutely not the case. It was just total relief, total happiness at one time. I was so happy for the team, happy for Switzerland — to beat such a big country.” Eighteen-year-old Andy Roddick, another future world No. 1, makes his Davis Cup debut in the dead-rubber fifth-match and becomes the eighth-youngest American to play a Davis Cup match in defeating George Bastl 6-3, 6-4. Incidentally on the same day back in the United States, Venus and Serena Williams as well as Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras appear on the celebrated American television show “The Simpsons.”
Stauffer also documents Federer’s first ever ATP tournament victory in Milan, Italy the week before playing the United States in the tail end of his chapter “No Pain, No Gain.”
At the start of the season, Federer and Martina Hingis won the Hopman Cup in Perth. It was not an especially significant event but it was, after all, the International Tennis Federation’s sanctioned world mixed tennis tournament. He reached the third round of the Australian Open-avenging his Olympic loss to DiPasquale in the first round before losing to eventual finalist Arnaud Clement. February, however, became the best month of his career to date. At the indoor event in Milan, Italy after the Australian Open, Federer defeated Olympic Champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov for the first time in his career in the semifinals to reach his third career ATP singles final. Federer seized the opportunity and, with his parents in the stands cheering him on, he finally won his first ATP singles title, defeating No. 53-ranked Julien Boutter of France 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-4.
Lundgren was correct. A milestone was achieved. “The relief is enormous,” Federer said. “I’ve had to wait a long time for this moment. It should get easier from here on out.” But the excursion to Milan didn’t end very happily for Roger’s father. In his excitement, he locked his car keys inside the car and had to smash in the car window to retrieve them.
A week later, another career milestone was achieved for the 19-year-old as he returned to Basel for Davis Cup duty against the United States. There was no stopping Federer. He beat Todd Martin and Jan-Michael Gambill in two breath-taking performances in singles, and in between, paired with Lorenzo Manta to defeat the American team of Gambill and Justin Gimelstob in doubles. With his three match victories in the 3-2 Swiss defeat of the USA, he joined Raul Ramirez, Neale Fraser, Nicola Pietrangeli, Frank Sedgman, Henri Cochet and Laurie Doherty as the seventh and the youngest player to win three live matches in a Davis Cup tie against the United States. “It’s like a dream,” said Federer, who shed tears of joy after his match-clinching victory over Gambill.
The Americans, by contrast, were stunned. “You’d have to be blind not to see that he’s got a great future in store for him,” said Gambill. U.S. Captain Patrick McEnroe didn’t try to make any excuses although he was missing his two strongest players, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, in this match. “We knew that Federer would be tough but we didn’t expect this,” he said. “Whenever he got hold of the ball, the point was his.”
February would bring even more success for Federer. The week after his single-handed defeat of the U.S. Davis Cup team, he reached the semifinals in Marseille where his 10-match winning streak was ended by Kafelnikov. The next week, he reached his fourth career singles final, losing to Nicolas Escude of France in a third-set tie-break in the final of Rotterdam. The ATP chose him their “Player of the Month” and effusively praised in their official press communication, “The Federer Express has arrived!” A playful warning was also issued in the press release stating that Federer, “has been blessed with so much talent that it almost seems unfair to his opponents.”