Steve DeVries

The Journeyman: Open Season

Mark Keil, scribes this week on the final major of the year: the US Open.

It really has been great writing about my past tournament experiences. This nourishes my ego immensely and thank you for staying tuned.

In 1991, I played with Francisco Montana of Miami. Francisco was an All-American out of the University of Georgia. An All American is a player who play’s collegiate tennis and qualifies as one of the 64 best player’s in Division I university tennis in the year-end season individual championships. There are probably around 175 school’s that play Division I. If the player is seeded in singles, or gets to the round of 16 in the event, he get’s a plaque proclaiming his status.  If a player get’s to the quarterfinals in the 32-team doubles event, he also becomes a member of the team. Francisco was a stellar junior player, and once beat Jim Courier 6-0, 6-0 in the Orange Bowl.  He had more hitches in his serve than a Nebraska trailer park. We lost to Steve DeVries, the All-American out of Cal-Berkeley and the current Bryan brother’s coach David MacPherson.

The next time I competed at the Open I played with Stefan Kruger and we beat Danie Visser of South Africa and Laurie Warder of Australia 6-4,7-6.  Visser was a crafty lefty, who had tremendous success in doubles.  His partner Laurie was a scratch golfer.  Staying at the Open is always fun. I would always try and stay where Patrick Rafter was staying, usually the Hotel Elysse.  It was great to hang out in the lobby’s Monkey Bar and check out the female’s trolling.

[ad#adify-300×250]

In 1994, I played with Rikard Bergh, nicknamed “the Liar” for always telling fibs.  He was cool, in that the year we played together I signed up with a partner, but he called me and told me we were not high enough to get in. He said if I played with him, we could squeak in.  So we got in, and beat Yevgeny Kafelnikov and David Rikl, Wade McGuire and Jeff Tarango and got a chance to play for a quarterfinal spot.  We faced Tom Nijssen and Cyril Suk.  In the third set we got hooked by the umpire Steve Ulrich, on a deep lab that landed out for us to go up a break in the third.  Ulrich is by far the worst chair umpire ever.  We lost 7-6, 4-6, 3-6. 

In 1995,  I played with Peter Nyborg and we lost to the NCAA doubles champions from Ole Miss Ali Hamadeh and Mahesh Bhupathi  6-7, 3-6.  In those days, the collegiate champion in singles and doubles would get a wild card into the main draw.  Now, only if American’s win the event, do they receive one, and I don’t think that applies to the doubles anymore.  The next year I played with Matt Lucena, the two-time college doubles champion with two different partners. We beat Brett Hansen-Dent and T.J. Middleton 6-4, 6-4.  Hansen-Dent got to the finals of the NCAA’s in singles once for the Trojans of USC.  We beat another SC boy Brian MacPhie and his partner Michael Tebbutt the next round.  They both had wicked lefty serves.  We lost to Sebastien Lareau and Alex O’Brien after that. O’Brien won the singles, doubles, and team title for Stanford in 1992. 

In 1998, Doug Flach and I lost to Macphie and Patrick McEnroe 6-7, 4-6.  Papa Mac was watching, and I felt like I was in a rerun episode of Johnny Mac playing Bill Scanlon and I was the ballboy.  In my final match at the US Open, I teamed up with Luis Lobo of Argentina. At that time, he was at the end of his career, and was coaching Marcelo Rios as well as playing doubles on the tour.  We defeated Garcia-Roditi and lost to Lareau and O’Brien again.

Enjoy the tennis on TV, or if you have the gumption, head to the Open and watch it live!

[ad#journeyman]

Saying “#*!& You!” To A Chair Umpire And Other Summer Tennis Tales

The week after a Slam, there are many tournaments on the calendar and they all offer exciting opportunities to have fun.  The second week of Wimbledon in 1991, I headed north to play singles in a challenger in Bristol, England. I played the former NCAA doubles champion out of USC and Davis Cupper from Zimbabwe Byron Black, and won 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The grass was ok, and the people were very friendly.  I went down in the second round to Steve DeVries, the pigeon-toed Northern Californian doubles specialist 6-4, 6-2. In doubles, I played with the San Diegoan Scott Patridge and we went out to Nduka Odizor – “The Duke of Odizor” – of Nigeria and his partner Michiel Schapers of the Netherlands. Michiel is a bright tall Dutchman, who was hard to get a lob over.

One of the tour stops after Wimbledon is the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, R.I, also on grass. I played doubles with Patrick Bauer one year, and I remember after losing to Maurice Ruah and the Bahamian Roger Smith, I headed to the locker room where I had a few Miller Lite’s.  They were the sponsor of the tourney, and they were not less filling. One year, I played doubles with the Miami Hurricane and great guy Michael Russell, who famously had match point on eventual champion Gustavo Kuerten one year at Roland Garros. We lost a tight match to the Finn Liukko and the Dutchman Wessels 6-4, 7-6 .

Gstaad is tourney held in the Swiss Alps just after Wimbledon. Fans can flock to the event and get a glimpse of Swiss cows – similar to the one Roger Federer famously was given after winning Wimbledon in 2003. Players can parasail off of the mountains, go river rafting, and it is where I proposed to my ex-wife (may that marriage rest in peace!) I played doubles one year with my brother-in-law Tobias Hildebrand. We were the last team to get in, and unfortunately I embarrassed the whole family by getting defaulted in our match for saying – “(expletive that rhymes with duck) You!” to the umpire. The umpire couldn’t believe what I just said, and asked again what I said to him. “F*** You” was my response again.  All the emotion of trying to win a match a family member obviously got to me.  I was defaulted immediately and fined. I had a great run there in doubles in 1996 with the gregarious South African player who knows everybody Gary Muller.  He was a true friend, looking out for me and securing deals for team tennis for me in Germany.  We would play together on the Bundesliga team of Weiden, where we reached the final losing to the Paul Haarhuis-led team from Halle. In Gstaad, we beat Pimek/Talbot, and Mohr/Strambini before losing to  the Czech duo of Novak/Vizner in two breakers.

Another delightful event is held each year in Palermo, Italy.  I arrived there and went on my morning run, and really took in the city.  The place can become a sort of Alcatraz if one is not careful.  The pool at the courts was always full, and the Spaniards who usually dominated the tournament would frolic around the edge.  One time, a Spanish coach was climbing up the high dive, and slipped at the top rung and came sliding down.  Luckily, he didn’t get hurt, but it was the event of the day.  I played with 2001 Wimbledon doubles champion Donald Johnson, and we beat the brother’s Haygarth – Brent and Kirk. We went down to the Olympic silver medalist from 1996 Neil Broad and Greg Van Emburgh 6-4, 6-4.

Last, but for sure not least, the Swedish Open played on the western coast of Sverige (Sweden) is a wonderful event to watch. In 1997, I teamed up with Fernando Meligeni of Brazil and we took out Andersson and Timfjord of Sweden before getting crushed by Haygarth and Van Emburgh. The place was never asleep, people carousing 24 hours a day, cruising around town and getting ice creams on hot days.  Pepe’s Bodega sponsored a volleyball tournament, and I felt like Karch Karaly for a moment. My wife pulled me out of the place by my hair, much to my chagrin.  I played there at the end of my career with Martin Rodriguez of Argentina. He didn’t speak much English, so it was like being on the best date of your life. We had a tough three-setter with the kids from up the road, Simon and Johan. They won and another week ended with a loss – as most do for players on the ATP Tour. I’m living in the past, hoping for a bright future…