The main draw matches at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells are scheduled to commence today, which is to say on Wednesday morning local time. Even as I write, the men’s qualifying draw – dense with fascinating matches – is slimming down to an even dozen. The women’s qualifying draw is already there.
Television coverage is due to begin on Friday, provided initially by the Tennis Channel. In the dreary parlance of marketing, we are informed that this is ‘one day earlier than the network’s traditional first-Saturday start’, ‘tradition’ in this case being employed capaciously to denote anything that previously happened for any length of time at all. For the arithmetically challenged, this radical new Friday start will occur fully two days after main draw play begins. I’m not the first person to note this discrepancy, and I won’t be the last. Nor would I be the first to suggest that the decision to delay coverage until the third day of play isn’t driven by money.
In any case, pointing it out is redundant, since no one, including the networks, is pretending otherwise. Instead we’re left to bask in the rapturous news that ‘the tournament will culminate with 12 live hours on ESPN networks’. One cannot elude the impression that the fans are supposed to be grateful. Any fans particularly overcome by gratitude are encouraged to call up the network and let them know.
However, it is debatable whether the main draw really begins today. Indian Wells, like Miami, doles out an extravagant selection of byes: all thirty-two seeds are granted safe passage to the second round, the point at which Andy Murray ‘traditionally’ loses. This is precisely one third of the main draw (which is 96 strong). The remaining 64 players – qualifiers, wildcards and those unwashed members of the top hundred whom Ernests Gulbis cannot pick out of a police line-up – are left to vie for the privilege of facing a seed. By this rationale, the Indian Wells first round is really just a supplementary or transitional qualifying round. In order for a seeded player to win the title, he or she must win six matches. A non-seeded direct entrant or wildcard must win seven matches. Qualifiers must win nine matches. It doesn’t seem fair, but, once again, I assume that’s the point.
The goal of seeding is to protect the best players from having to face each other early on, thus limiting the opportunity for upsets. A little over a decade ago the seeding in 96 (and 128) player draws was expanded from sixteen to thirty-two players, which provided added protection. The bye system provides even greater protection. Even without a bye it is eminently unlikely that, say, Victoria Azarenka would lose in the first round, but the bye removes any doubt whatsoever, thereby transforming a theoretical unlikelihood into a practical impossibility. For the general sports fan – who really just wants to see the most famous players facing off – this probably isn’t a bad thing.
More to the point, it isn’t a bad thing for ESPN. Those twelve hours of semifinals and finals coverage that we’re supposed to be grateful for didn’t come cheap. ESPN will do everything it can to guarantee the best return on its investment, and from their point of view the best return is to have Federer, Sharapova, Nadal, Williams, Djokovic and Azarenka present at the tournament’s conclusion. (Williams of course won’t be at Indian Wells, and you can be sure that the presiding television interests aren’t thrilled about that.) The only exceptions are if a local player makes a deep run. Last year’s men’s event was thus pure spun gold: Federer and Nadal in one semifinal, and Isner defeating Djokovic in the other. Each protagonist was recognisable to a general sports fan, and the narrative of local boy making good is always compelling.
And it’s those general fans that provide ESPN’s revenue, which has invested considerable time and effort grooming Chris Fowler in order that he can render the eldritch intricacies of the sport comprehensible for the layperson. In and of itself, there’s no inherent problem with having the best players contest the later rounds at every tournament. Some may (justifiably) contend that seeing the same few players fight for titles each week grows stale. On the other hand, the freshness gained by seeing a new face is often offset by the perfunctory thrashing they receive when they encounter an elite player. But it is a problem when the urge to see certain outcomes causes the sport to tilt results in that direction, which is more or less the tacit goal of the bye system (and, let’s be frank, the seeding system). The top players have an objectively easier time reaching the later rounds than their lower-ranked peers, notwithstanding that they’re already better players anyway.
Unlike ESPN, the Tennis Channel by definition caters to viewers with a specific interest in the sport itself, who’re willing to pay a premium to watch tennis theoretically whenever they want to (though in practice they’re often constrained by the superior purchasing power of rival networks). These are fans whose interest extends beyond Sharapova or Nadal, all the way to, say, Gasquet and Kuznetsova, and beyond. Although, apparently not far beyond. Not far enough that they’ll get to see the WTA’s first round, let alone any qualifying. Fans who are that hardcore will have to resort to alternative means, such as audio coverage through the website.
The combination of the 96 draw and a midweek start (rare in tennis) conspires to make the qualifying event feel more like a part of the tournament than is elsewhere the case. Qualifying began on Monday, which is the point at which tournaments traditionally begin – and here the term ‘tradition’ is warranted. Meanwhile having a weirdly inconsequential first round helps the qualifying tournament shade into the main one. In some ways, this would be a nice thing, if it wasn’t so effectively undone by the clear message of the television coverage, which is that the initial few days (and the men and women playing on those days) aren’t worth the effort. The three levels of fandom, it seems, neatly correlate with the three classes of players in the respective tours: the big names, the lesser names, and the unwatchables.
Sadly, the lack of early-round coverage hardly helps the lower ranked players, whose already anaemic aspirations might be starved by a lack of exposure. What Indian Wells really does is reinforce the multi-tiered system that seeding originally created, and that the expanded seeding arrangement later augmented. The television schedule then makes it clear for all the non-seeds that their necessary toils do not merit a wider audience.
The BNP Paribas Open likes to refer to itself as the unofficial fifth Slam. This is mostly a fairly meaningless marketing term, but it is only rendered more so by the consideration that the last Major we enjoyed – the Australian Open – had coverage not only from day one, but high-definition streams running through qualifying. Indian Wells certainly has the money – the prizemoney increase this year is to be heartily applauded – and the technological wherewithal. I can watch Thiemo de Bakker play Christian Garin at a Challenger in Santiago, but I couldn’t watch Gulbis play Christian Harrison in southern California. Is it too much to ask to have some cameras rolling from the outset?
By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
There was a lot of very good tennis scheduled and played on the first day of the Australian Open. Unlike other Slams, which split up the first round into three days, the Australian Open plays exactly half of the first-round singles matches on each of the first two days. That means 32 of each men’s and women’s matches on Day 1, with the same scheduled for Day 2. The problem with that, for myself and for every other fan not actually on the grounds in Melbourne, is that less than half of them are available to be viewed.
The tournament uses 16 courts on each of these first two days for singles play. Of those 16, only 7 of those have television cameras. If you want to watch a certain player or match, the first thing you have to do is check what court he or she is playing on. Unless you go to Melbourne, you can’t see the match if it’s not on one of those courts (Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena, Margaret Court Arena, and Courts 2, 3, 6, and 8).
Of course, it’s also not just about planning what matches you want to watch. Tennis is so unpredictable and amazing matches can come out of anywhere. We should have the availability of turning to those at any time should a compelling match come up. Three of the six 5-setters on Day 1 weren’t televised. Three matches went past 6-6 in the final set of Day 1 (two men’s and one women’s), two of which were on untelevised courts, including Radek Stepanek’s defeat of Viktor Troicki and Fabio Fognini’s loss to Roberto Bautista Agut. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I know that a match in a Slam is at 6-6 in the final set, I want to turn to it. People pay money for tennis packages so that they can watch every match. So why can’t the watch every match?
The real travesty in all of this, of course, is that the year is 2013. It’s so easy to have cameras on the courts. It doesn’t even have to be anything really special. Just put a camera there. This isn’t the 90s, where companies had only one channel and could only show one match at a time anyway. Cable could get you a second channel. This is the day of digital and satellite packages; with live streaming of every available court on the internet. Is it really so impossible to just put cameras on every court? No commentary is necessary; just have a camera at every match so fans can watch their favorite players or good developing matches.
The most disappointing thing of all is that it shows that the Slams refuse to learn from potential disasters. Can anyone imagine what would have happened if, in 2010, Isner/Mahut had been on untelevised Court 19 instead of Court 18? I’m sure there would have been some sort of mad scramble to get a camera crew and commentators to that court. But that’s not the point. It’s so easy nowadays to have everything televised. I just hope that it won’t have to take us fans missing out on a historic match before those in charge come to their senses.
Djokovic was in the midst of a remarkable 37-0 run and was on top of the tennis world.
What would the cover photo be? Perhaps it would be a beaming Djokovic, pointing to the skies after his emphatic victory over Andy Murray at the Australian Open. Or maybe a snapshot of his primal screams during one of his four wins over Rafael Nadal at Masters 1000 finals.
But it wasn’t to be. A tennis fan can only dream.
When LaRosa tweeted a picture of the cover I thought I had clicked on the wrong link. “This can’t be right,” I told myself, “I don’t see Djokovic anywhere!” It was only upon further inspection that I saw the tiny photo, accompanied with the tagline, “Novak Djokovic is the most dominant athlete in the world right now.”
Djokovic continued to dominate and finished the season as the No. 1 player in the world with an astounding 70-6 win-loss record. Djokovic performed his best when the stakes were the highest, winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. Tennis.com has recently named Djokovic’s 2011 season as the No. 3 best men’s tennis season ever.
While tennis is a niche sport in the United States and Sports Illustrated caters to an American audience, Djokovic deserved to win Sportsman of the Year.
In addition to his on-court talents, the charismatic Serb has reached rock star status in his home country and has become the face of the once war-torn nation.
Brad Gilbert, former coach of Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray, is not a man of few words. When Sports Illustrated named college basketball coaches Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski as the Sportswoman and Sportsman of 2011, Gilbert took to Twitter to voice his displeasure.
He also points out that the mighty Roger Federer, who has 16 Grand Slam titles, has never been named Sportsman of the Year either. In fact, no tennis player has won since Chris Evert did in 1976.
While foreign athletes with weird last names may be a hard sell to American sports fans, Djokovic’s historic season should have been honored. Maybe tennis is not ready for the spotlight. But when it is, I hope to see Novak Djokovic on the cover – front and center.
In a couple of days, the Australian Open will be under way. The ‘Happy Slam’ is not only great for the players, but it has also proven to be the most fan friendly of the four majors. The Aussies have provided us free streaming of the qualifying tournament as well as the draw ceremony and the “Rally for Relief” event will be aired on Tennis Channel (Saturday at 10pm EST.) By the wonder of technology, I was able to stream today’s draw ceremony on my phone and it looks like we’re in for some great tennis in the next two weeks. I’m already preparing myself for some sleepless nights. In case you missed it, or you were just too lazy to check out the draw for yourself, I’ll be breaking it down piece by piece.
First off, Rafa and Roger have won 23 of the last 26 Grand Slam events, so you’d pretty much be crazy to pick anyone else to win. However, if anyone can challenge their dominance, it’s going to happen in Melbourne. Historically, the Australian Open has provided us with a lot of breakthrough performances. The 2008 final was contested between Novak Djokovic and Jo Wilfried Tsonga and the 2005 final between Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt. Every other Slam final for the last five years has included either Federer or Nadal.
Just remember, I’m no Nostradamus and some of my picks may sound a little crazy, but it’s boring if you always pick the better players. Sometimes the mediocre guys rise to the occasion and even the best players have bad days.
Seeded Players: Rafael Nadal (1), Feliciano Lopez (31), John Isner (20), Marin Cilic (15), Mikhail Youzhny (10), Michael Llodra (22), David Nalbandian (27), David Ferrer (7)
Clearly all of the expectations lie on Rafa. He could become the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four Slam titles at the same time, something not even the great Roger Federer has accomplished. Although, Laver was quick to say that this would be impressive, but would not equal his calendar year sweep. Nadal certainly could have drawn a worse quarter, i.e. Andy Murray, but there are a lot of great competitors lurking in here, ready to take away his chance at making history. In round 4, Rafa is likely to face John Isner (or Marin Cilic) who can both be occasionally great, but I definitely like Nadal’s chances. In the quarters he could find Mikhail Youzhny, Michael Llodra, Lleyton Hewitt, or David Ferrer. All of the are dangerous, but Rafa would have to have a pretty off day to lose. Rafael Nadal’s biggest challenge will likely come in the semifinals: Robin Soderling or Andy Murray.
Semi Finalist: Rafael Nadal
Possible Sleeper: Michael Llodra
Best First Round Match: David Nalbandian (27) v. Llyeton Hewitt ***This will be a fight to the death. Given the hometown advantage, I think Lleyton will prevail.
Seeded Players: Robin Soderling (4), Thomaz Bellucci (30), Ernests Gulbis (24), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (13), Jurgen Melzer (11), Marcos Baghdatis (21), Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (32), Andy Murray (5)
A week ago, it was huge news that Robin Soderling would usurp Andy Murray’s place as No. 4, giving him his own quarter of the draw. However, the universe likes a good joke and Murray landed smack at the bottom of Soderling’s quarter. So, things are pretty much the same as they would have been. Robin did catch a (tiny) break by ending up on Rafa’s side of the draw considering his head-to-head with Federer. Speaking of Andy Murray, expectations are high. He made the final last year and hasn’t yet managed to prove himself by winning a major event. Andy’s road the final is tough, probably the worst of any guy in the Top 5. In round 3, he’s likely to face Guillermo Garcia-Lopez who had a great fall season, beating Rafa and winning an ATP title. Then things get really tricky. In round 4, Andy could face Jurgen Melzer, Marcos Baghdatis, or Juan Martin del Potro. Whoever gets there will be tough. Things only get worse because, he will likely see Robin Soderling in the quarters. If he even makes it that far, his prize will be a semifinal meeting with Rafael Nadal. This is no one’s dream draw.
Semi Finalist: Robin Soderling
Possible Sleeper: Juan Martin del Potro, Alexandr Dolgopolov
Best First Round Match: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (13) v. Philipp Petzschner
Semi Final: Robin Soderling d. Rafael Nadal ***Yes, I know I’m crazy, but have you seen how fit Soderling looks and Nadal’s coming off a bout with the flu
Seeded Players: Tomas Berdych (6), Richard Gasquet (28), Nikolay Davydenko (23), Fernando Verdasco (9), Nicolas Almagro (14), Ivan Ljubicic (17), Viktor Troicki (29), Novak Djokovic (3)
Novak Djokovic is thanking his lucky stars tonight. This draw suits him beautifully. His greatest triumph came in Melbourne in 2008 and I’m sure he’s keen to repeat that. To get there, Nole will likely have to go through the huge server, Ivo Karlovic, countryman Viktor Troicki, and either Nikolay Davydenko or Fernando Verdasco. I like his chances, particularly after his triumph over Federer at last year’s US Open. I think Djokovic is more confident in his abilities that he has been since the ’08 AO. However, we all know that Nole’s biggest enemy is heat, and even though his conditioning has gotten significantly better, weather will still play a huge role in his draw.
Semi Finalist: Novak Djokovic
Possible Sleeper: Janko Tipsarevic
Best First Round Match: Viktor Troicki (29) v. Dmitry Tursunov
Seeded Players: Andy Roddick (8), Juan Monaco (26), Stanislas Wawrinka (19), Gael Monfils (12), Mardy Fish (16), Sam Querrey (18), Albert Montanes (25), Roger Federer (2)
Andy Roddick is the unluckiest man in tennis. I’m just going to say it. Of all the people who have been deprived of Grand Slam glory by the genius of Roger Federer, no one has been on the losing end more times than Andy Roddick. I think he’s in great form, making last week’s final in Brisbane, but there’s no way he beats Roger Federer at this year’s tournament. I am looking forward to a Roddick/Federer quarter final though because I love them both. I’m sure everyone is interested to see what Stanislas Wawrinka will bring to this tournament. Regardless of what you think of his decisions, he has definitely re-dedicated himself to tennis and it paid off in the form of winning last week’s tournament in Chennai. The American men really seemed to lose out in this year’s draw. Isner’s got Rafa in the 4th round and Querrey’s got Federer. I think both of them have excellent chances of finally breaking through to a major quarter or semi this year, but it’s not going to be the Australian Open. Federer had a “bad” year last year (only winning one major, making a semifinal, and two quarterfinals) but ended the season on a high note by beating Rafael Nadal to winning the World Tour Finals for the fifth time. He’s the defending champion and I think we’ll be seeing him play a lot of tennis over the next two weeks.
Semi Finalist: Roger Federer
Possible Sleeper: Andrey Golubev
Best First Round Match: Gael Monfils (12) v. Thiemo De Bakker
Semi Final: Roger Federer d. Novak Djokovic ***Fed’s not letting Nole beat him again.
Final: Roger Federer d. Robin Soderling
Stay tuned for my take of the women’s draw.
By Maud Watson
Hanging it Up
After previously stating that he might give it a go in 2011 and see how both his body and ranking held up, American Taylor Dent has decided to officially call it a day on his career. An exciting serve-and-volleyer who reached a career high ranking of No. 21, his career was unfortunately hampered by multiple back injuries. With his wife and young son Declan, Dent will have plenty to keep him busy in retirement, but he’s already expressed interest in staying connected with the tennis world. No doubt that with his charming disposition, he could make a great addition to Tennis Channel’s commentary booth. Another retirement, albeit less publicized, was that of Czech doubles specialist, Martin Damm. You can expect to see him back on the tennis scene right away, however, as he has already announced that he will be coaching American sensation Ryan Harrison. Harrison wowed audiences at the US Open this past summer, and he’ll be looking to utilize Damm’s expertise to take the next step in his budding career.
Maybe it was the numerous complaints from fans across the country. Maybe it was a more lucrative deal. Whatever the reasoning behind the switch, American tennis fans will be thrilled to note that the Indian Wells and Miami Masters, two of the largest events in tennis, will be broadcast on ESPN2 and ABC in 2011. This is welcomed news after the two tournaments had previously been aired on the affiliates of Fox Sports, which meant poor, haphazard coverage that led to plenty of hate mail and angry postings. Hopefully the change in carriers will also lead to an increase in viewership, participation, and popularity of the sport in the United States
This past weekend, Italy defeated the United States in a repeat of the 2009 final. The title marked Italy’s third championship in just four years. Granted, the United States was fielding a relatively young team that included teenage Fed Cup rookie Coco Vandeweghe, but much credit has to be given to the veteran Italian squad that included both Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone. The victory in particular had to be the icing on the cake for Schiavone, who enjoyed her best season as a professional. Perhaps both of the Italians will be able to channel the positive boost from the Fed Cup title into their play in 2011, much the same way Schiavone did this past year.
Tournament organizers and Parisian fans were disappointed when current World No. 1 Rafael Nadal was forced to pull out of the final Masters event of the season, having cited tendinitis in his shoulder. Hopefully the injury is not a result of the tweaks he has made to improve his serve, and Nadal and his camp will be praying it doesn’t become nearly as problematic as his knees. At the very least, Nadal will be doing all in his power to ensure that he is ready for the final tournament of his season, the ATP World Tour Championships in London. He’s yet to add that impressive title to his long list of accomplishments, and after a poor showing at the same event last year, he’ll be looking to make amends at the end of what has been the best season of his young career.
While much of the United States was focused on its national elections, the WTA had its own election earlier this month. Newly-crowned year-end No. 1 Caroline Wozniaki will be joining the WTA Player Council, replacing Patty Schnyder. In addition to Akgul Amanmuradova and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Wozniaki will be joining Schiavone and both Venus and Serena Williams. As Wozniaki’s star has only continued to shine brighter with each tournament she enters, it’s safe to say that hers will be a voice that carries some weight as the Player Council works to continually shape policy and life on the WTA.
By Maud Watson
And the Award Goes to… – In the aftermath of the Oscars, one of sports’ most prestigious awards, the Laureus Awards, were announced earlier this week. Tennis twice took top honors, with Serena Williams winning for Sportswoman of the Year, while Kim Clijsters took home the prize for Comeback of the Year. The only head scratcher for me was Federer going away empty handed, especially since he essentially had a better season than Serena Williams. That said, track star Usain Bolt, who won Sportsman of the Year, was a deserving candidate, and overall, it was still another great showing for tennis.
Bit of Joy – After the devastating earthquake that caused the tie between Chile and Israel to be delayed by a day, it was host country Chile that gave their home nation something to smile about in the wake of tragedy. Chile ultimately won the tie 4-1. After the win, Chilean star Fernando Gonzales dedicated the victory to his fellow countryman and announced he was going one step further to assist with relief efforts by pulling out of Indian Wells to tour the areas hit hardest by the quake, as well as leading calls to raise aid.
The Good Goran Returns – Much to the delight of up-and-comer Marin Cilic, Goran Ivanisevic has agreed to continue to serve as his part-time coach. He’ll be with Cilic for both the Miami and Madrid Master 1000 events. This is not a permanent change, as Brett is still Cilic’s full-time coach. Given Ivanisevic’s experience, however, there’s no doubt his influence will further enhance the younger Croat’s game and see him continue his climb up the rankings.
Tennis Channel to the Rescue – After a couple years of multiple complaints from viewers, Indian Wells worked out a deal that will see Tennis Channel become the main cable provider for the tournament. It may not be ESPN2, but I was happy to see the network switch. It’s ridiculous that two of the biggest events in tennis, Indian Wells and Miami, should be on a network like Fox Sports that offers a random and small amount of coverage across the United States. It cheats the fans, and in a way, it cheats the tournament. At least this year, there should be a little less hate mail flying around as fans can tune into Tennis Channel to get the coverage they deserve.
Humiliation for Great Britain – It’s no secret that the nation of Great Britain, once a powerhouse in Davis Cup play, has been struggling to find a foothold in the competition. Particularly in the wake of the retirements of both Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski, as well as a lack of participation from current British No. 1 Andy Murray, the people of Great Britain have collectively had to hold their breath with each nerve-wracking tie. But this past weekend was more than nerve-wracking for the Brits; it was humiliating, as current British Captain John Lloyd “earned” the distinction of becoming the first British captain in 110 years to lose five successive ties, the latest coming at the hands of Lithuania. Now just a step away from being relegated to the lowest level of the Davis Cup competition, the LTA is reviewing what went wrong against the tiny Baltic nation. Sources speculate John Lloyd may get the sack, and many, including Boris Becker, are suggesting that Tim Henman is the ideal candidate to replace Lloyd. I’m not opposed to Henman taking over the helm (though he’s already stated he’s not interested in the position at this time), but I personally think the LTA is missing the point if that’s all that is done. Even Henman himself has stated it isn’t fair to blame Lloyd or Annacone for Britain’s poor performance. If the talent isn’t there (or properly developed as the case may be), it’s hard to win a Davis Cup match, irrespective of who’s guiding the ship.
NEW YORK, N.Y. – Tuesday, September 8, 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of Rod Laver winning his historic second Grand Slam by defeating Tony Roche 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the final of the 1969 U.S. Open. The final was played on a rain-soaked grass tennis court at the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills in Queens, New York.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of this significant moment in tennis history, New Chapter Press has re-published Laver’s memoir THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER that details the 1969 tennis season as well as the life and times of the Australian tennis legend. Written with Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins, THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER is now available in a limited capacity via tennis retailer TennisWarehouse (www.TennisWarehouse.com or [email protected]), directly from New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com or [email protected]) or at the U.S. Tennis Association Bookstore during the 2009 U.S. Open through September 13. The book will be available via traditional book retailers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia by early 2010. Special limited edition hard-cover editions of the book are available for $29.95, while paperback copies are for sale for $19.95.
Originally published in 1971, THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER was updated by Laver and Collins in 2009 with new content including his recovery from a near-fatal stroke in 1998. The memoir features descriptions of Laver’s most suspenseful matches and memorable portraits of his biggest rivals Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Tony Roche and Pancho Gonzalez. Writes Laver in the updated version of the book of the prospects of the next member of the Grand Slam club, “I wonder when another Grand Slammer will appear and join me. I look forward to it, and will welcome whoever it is just as Don Budge welcomed me in 1962. I was glad to see Steffi Graf as the latest in 1988. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal seem to have the best chance, along with Serena Williams. I wish them success.”
Of the 1969 U.S. Open final against Roche, Laver writes the following;
“The court was greasy, but somehow slow, which favored me because Tony’s slice didn’t take. Movement was tough, and this was a break for me because Tony decided not to put on spikes. He figured his strained thigh muscles would be jarred by the quick stops you make in spikes, possibly bringing on a cramp.
“That first set was one of the strangest I’ve ever played. I should have won it and deserved to lose it. I got what I deserved and Tony took it 9-7, just took it right away from me after I’d been serving for the set at 5-3. He did it with beautiful backhands. I was sloshing and slipping around, and a couple of times I had asked referee Mike Gibson for permission to put on my spiked shoes. I’d wanted to begin the match in them, but he’d refused. After that game, Mike said all right. It meant all the difference to me.
“Tony immediately won his serve in four points, but I felt surer on my feet and I knew I’d get going. Especially when I stopped him two points short of the set to keep even at 6-6. But I wasn’t so sure when I lost that first set anyway. I’d had a lot of luck during the year, and I wondered if it had run out at last. Although I’d worn spikes here and there throughout my career, the occasions were so rare during my professional days that they took some getting used to. You consciously changed your movements at first. Picked up your feet. No sliding. It was a new sensation until you were re-accustomed to them.
“The slight uncertainty of moving in spikes was gone for good in the first game of the second set when I came through with a big serve at the crucial point of the match. With the first set his, and the pressure on me, Tony got me down 30-40 on my serve. One more point and he’d be up a set and a break, a pretty good edge in that mush.
“We both knew this was a huge point. He took his time getting ready to return, and I did the same lining up—not overly so, maybe not even noticeable to the crowd, but we had to be right for this one. I was righter. I threw myself into the serve, and sliced it wide to his forehand. It didn’t come back. He barely touched it, and I could tell it pained him to miss the opportunity. You don’t get too many break-point chances on grass—and he didn’t have another.
“It wouldn’t be apparent for a while, but the match turned upside down right there. I won the game and began hitting harder and harder as I got surer of my footing. Then I won the next and the next—five straight. From that break-point chance in the first game, Tony managed to win only five of the last 23 games. He came all apart as I wrapped him up, 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Not even a rain delay of a half-hour at the beginning of the third set could rust my concentration or help him pull his together.
“Unlike 1962, I had control of myself all through the final match of the Grand Slam. I was never dazed as I had been against Emmo seven years before during a brief case of nerves down the stretch.
“Serving match game, I opened with an ace. I knew what I was about, and wasn’t going to let Tony breathe. It was 40-0 when I did try to end with a grand-slamming flourish on a forehand volley. I blew it. A minor disappointment not to be able to score with a put-away as I had on the championship point at Wimbledon.
“It fell to Tony to lose it with a forehand that he hit long. Both of us were glad it was over. Afraid to use spikes, he’d been victimized in sneakers, unable to counteract my better shots, including a number of very good lobs. It was one of my best days with the lob, always a useful shot, but even more damaging that day when running was tough.
“Not enough ordinary players realize the value of the lob, and I guess I didn’t until I became a seasoned pro. It’s much more than a desperation measure. As an amateur, even if the odds were against my making a shot, I’d usually let fly anyway. When I became a pro, I couldn’t risk throwing away points like that because the opposition was equal or better.
”This meant I had to be realistic. If my chances of making a shot from a difficult position were doubtful, I found you seldom get hurt with a lob.
“But there were no more lobs to be hit. Not one more stroke on a chase that began God knows how many strokes ago in Brisbane when I hit the first serve to a fellow I wouldn’t know if he walked into the room, Massimo di Domenico. The others I knew pretty well . . . Andres . . . Arthur . . Emmo . . . Tony . . . Newc . . . Dennis . . . Kenny . . . Okker . . . Smith.
“There were 1,005 games in 26 Grand Slam matches, and now it was all over.”
Laver captured 11 major singles titles during his career, including Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969. After joining Don Budge as the only man to win a Grand Slam by sweeping all four majors in 1962, Laver turned professional where he, along with fellow pros Hoad, Rosewall and Gonzalez, were banned from playing the “amateur-only” major tournaments. When the “Open Era” of tennis began in 1968, Laver netted another five major singles titles, including his Grand Slam sweep of all four in 1969. Laver won nearly 200 singles titles during his career and was inducted into the International Tennis of Fame in 1981.
“I am delighted that THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER is back in circulation and available for a new generation of tennis fans,” said Laver. “Winning the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969 seems just like yesterday and this book brings back a lot of memories of the great matches and exciting times. I hope people enjoy reading my story.”
Collins, himself a 1994 inductee in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, first met Laver in 1956 at the Longwood Cricket Club in Boston during the U.S. National Doubles Championships. Thirteen years later, the two collaborated on the book that was only to be published if Laver won the Grand Slam. Collins is best known for his colorful television commentary – and his colorful wardrobe – as well as his columns in the Boston Globe. Collins currently works as a commentator with ESPN2 and Tennis Channel.
“Rod Laver is one of the greatest treasures we have in tennis and THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER is one of our sports most important literary works,” said Collins. “Rod was always so humble and gracious, but he could play tennis like a hurricane. He was as a great a champion as we have ever had in tennis and one of the all-time nicest guys.”
New Chapter Press is also the publisher of THE BUD COLLINS 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 among others. More information on New Chapter Press can be found at www.NewChapterMedia.com.
FLUSHING, N.Y., August 20, 2009 – The USTA announced today a series of expanded fan enhancements and programming for the 2009 US Open. This year’s Opening Night ceremony will celebrate athletes who “give back” with a special appearance by Andre Agassi and other notable athletes. Other on-court ceremonies during the tournament will pay tribute to Arthur Ashe and Pancho Gonzalez. New features at the US Open this year include the recently opened USTA Indoor Training Center that will host an array of US Open activities, hundreds of hours of US Open programming on new cable broadcasters ESPN2 and Tennis Channel, and for the first time a live reveal show of the US Open Draw on ESPNews.
Other fan enhancements include the return of SmashZone, the premier interactive fan experience in tennis, and the return of wheelchair tennis to the US Open. The USTA will host its first-ever Family Day at the US Open, with reserved family courtside seating in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Also at the 2009 US Open, the country’s Best Tennis Town will be announced on-site, and the nighttime order of play will be reformatted so the men take the court before the women during some evening sessions. Instant replay also has been added to the Grandstand, meaning the US Open will now feature the system on all three primary show courts.
The US Open Welcomes ESPN and Tennis Channel: ESPN2 will make its debut as the lead cable broadcaster for the US Open, providing approximately 100 hours of TV coverage and more than 260 hours of coverage on its signature broadband network ESPN360.com. The US Open also will have a major presence on ESPN, ESPN.com, ESPN International, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Mobile Properties. All action on televised courts will be presented in High Definition. Tennis Channel will provide “round the clock” coverage of the US Open in 2009, with nearly 250 hours of planned total coverage. In addition to live match coverage, Tennis Channel will bring fans up-to-speed with post-match highlight shows and next-day preview shows.
Special Opening Night Ceremony: A ceremony celebrating athletes who “give back” will feature two-time US Open champion Andre Agassi, soccer’s Mia Hamm, quarterback Doug Flutie and former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson. The special ceremony on Arthur Ashe Stadium court also will include an appearance by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and featuremusical performances by Grammy winner Rob Thomas and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The O’Jays. The ceremony will be televised live on ESPN2.
Pancho Gonzalez Tribute: On Saturday night, September 5, special guests including actor Benjamin Bratt will host a tribute to former U.S. National Champion Pancho Gonzalez on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The tribute will celebrate Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships and will include a video presentation highlighting Gonzalez’ life and tennis career. Gonzalez family members, as well as a number of former players and Hispanic community leaders, will be in attendance.
Arthur Ashe Court of Champions Induction: Arthur Ashe will be inducted into the US Open Court of Champions in a ceremony held Thursday evening, September 10. In 1968, Ashe won the first US Open of the Open Era. An amateur at the time, Ashe became the first African-American man to win the US Open.
25th Anniversary of Super Saturday: On Saturday, September 12, the USTA pays tribute to the first official “Super Saturday,” which took place 25 years ago. The US Open stands alone among the four majors by packaging the Men’s Singles Semifinals and the Women’s Singles Final on the second-to-last day (and evening) of the event. The first Super Saturday was the biggest blockbuster of them all, featuring some of the greatest names in tennis—including Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Martina Navratilova—with all four matches on Center Court (including the men’s seniors match) going to the limit.
Live US Open Draw Reveal Show on ESPNews: For the first time ever, the US Open draw will be unveiled live from Bristol, Conn., airing uninterrupted on ESPNews from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 27. Defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams will join USTA President and Chairman of the Board Lucy Garvin for a viewing ceremony at The TimesCenter in Manhattan. ESPN anchor Chris McKendry will host with Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez analyzing the draw.
Live Online Streaming: USOpen.org, the official website of the US Open, will offer the most extensive live streaming in the history of the event, airing all matches within the ESPN and Tennis Channel broadcast television windows. Streaming up to five matches simultaneously, US Open.org will make more than 150 matches available for free within the United States. Live streaming also will integrate live match stats updates, fan commenting and picture-in-picture capabilities.
US Open Bracket Challenge: The 2009 US Open Bracket Challenge will make its debut, allowing fans to fill out the US Open brackets online to win prizes. With separate competitions for the men’s and women’s singles draws, the participants compiling the most bracket points in each draw by the end of the tournament will win a trip to the 2010 US Open. Prizes will be awarded to the second through 10th place finishers as well. The challenge can be accessed at USOpen.org and will go live following the US Open draw unveiling ceremony, aired live on ESPNews on Thursday, August 27.
USTA Indoor Training Center: The new 245,000-square-foot indoor building near the East Gate is a state-of-the-art training facility that opened in November and will house the fan-friendly SmashZone, USTA Membership, the Heineken Light Lounge and other activities during the 2009 US Open. Featuring 12 tennis courts, locker rooms, a fitness center and a full-service pro shop, the new building increases year-round access for tennis players to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the world’s largest public tennis facility.
Family Day: The US Open is holding its first-ever Family Day on Tuesday, September 1. Parents accompanied by children 14-and-under can sit together in reserved courtside seating in Louis Armstrong Stadium. The day’s activities will feature contests, giveaways, special entertainment attractions and autograph sessions. An exclusive family breakfast, located in the Corporate Hospitality Pavilion in the Indoor Training Center, is also available as an add-on package with a previously purchased September 1 day session ticket.
SmashZone: The premier fan interactive attraction in tennis, SmashZone will return to the 2009 US Open after a three-year hiatus. Located in the Indoor Training Center, the 20,000-square-foot interactive experience features the QuickStart Tennis play format (tennis scaled to size for kids) on two courts, as well as on “Center Court” where there will be revolving programming each day, including special guest appearances, games, contests and exhibitions. Other activities include a Fast Serve Cage, “American Express Challenge a Pro,” “The Training Zone,” a state-of-the-art electronic backboard, “You Call the Shots” where fans can become sports broadcasters, and tennis video games.
American Express “Challenge a Pro:” Using interactive GreenScreen technology, fans are invited to “virtually” play against tennis pros Sam Querrey or Caroline Wozniacki on-site at the US Open “SmashZone.” A unique digital video is captured and then sent to the participant via text, MMS or email, which can also be shared with family and friends and posted to their social networks.
American Express “Rally Experience:” All tennis fans on-site will be able to take their passion for tennis into the gaming world by simultaneously engaging in a virtual tennis match using their mobile phone as a controller with pro players Shahar Peer and Gael Monfils. American Express will donate $1 to the USTA Serves Foundation for every participant that plays throughout the US Open event, up to $10,000. Players and Open attendees can watch as the number of participants is tracked along with the time of each play on a giant LED screen located in the heart of the Open.
Best TennisTown: On September 6, the much-anticipated winner of America’s Best Tennis Town will be announced on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Representatives from the finalist cities of Independence, Kan.,Midland, Mich., and Ojai, Calif., will attend the US Open, with the winner receiving $100,000 for tennis programs in its local area. The nationwide call required towns to self-nominate via application form and submit a five-minute video highlighting the community’s passion for tennis. Ten cities were chosen as semifinalists and then voted on by the general public.
Kids Nightly Anthems: An instant tradition from the past two US Opens, children selected from auditions at the US Open Casting Call held at Radio City Music Hall in early June will perform in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Out of the 225 children who tried out, 15 were selected to perform. The performers hail from the New York metro area, Philadelphia,Florida, Tennessee, and New Jersey. Two singers have performed in all three US Opens and two sisters from Brooklyn, N.Y., will take the stage together.
Record Prize Money: The 2009 US Open purse will top $21.6 million, marking the third consecutive year that the tournament’s prize money has increased by $1 million. Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn a record $1.6 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money based on their performances in the Olympus US Open Series. The top three men’s and top three women’s finishers in the Olympus US Open Series will together earn up to an additional $2.6 million in bonus prize money and be crowned at the US Open, which provides a potential total payout of $24.2 million.
Instant Replay on Grandstand: The Chase Review electronic line calling system makes its debut on Grandstand, giving the US Open instant replay on all three primary show courts. In 2006, the US Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to use electronic line calling technology, which serves as an officiating aid while increasing the excitement for in-stadium fans and TV viewers.
The Return of Wheelchair Tennis: Wheelchair tennis returns after a 2008 absence due to the Paralympic Games in Beijing. The world’s finest players will take to the courts, as eight men and eight women will compete in the Wheelchair Division in singles and doubles, while four players will take part in the Quad Division in singles and doubles (non-gender specific). Play starts on Thursday, September 10, and runs through Sunday, September 13, with a 33 percent increase in prize money over the 2007 competition. Rules of wheelchair tennis are the same as able-bodied tennis, except that the ball can bounce twice.
New Nighttime Play Format: Breaking the tradition of putting the men’s match in the second half of the nightly doubleheaders, in 2009 there will be a new gender-equality policy under the lights. This year, some evening sessions will start with a men’s match followed by a women’s match.
New Champions Invitational Format: The US Open Champions Invitational returns for its fourth year with a new design—players will compete in the popular World TeamTennis format. Players will be divided into three four-person teams, with each team playing a total of two matches from Wednesday, September 9, to Saturday, September 12. Each match consists of one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. As in past years, each of the players invited for 2009 is either a past Grand Slam singles champion or finalist. This year’s invitees include Tracy Austin, Mary Joe Fernandez, Goran Ivanisevic, Hana Mandlikova, Todd Martin, Ilie Nastase, Stan Smith, Guillermo Vilas and Mal Washington, among others. The team captains will be Pat Cash, Billie Jean King and Ivan Lendl.
Heineken Light Lounge: Adults are invited to visit the Heineken Light Lounge, located in the front of the Indoor Training Center. Fans can relax and enjoy a Heineken in the lounge featuring the Heineken Wisdom Wall and the EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis game on the Nintendo Wii system. Limited edition US Open-Heineken merchandise will be available.
US Open Gallery – International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum: Each year since 1999, the US Open Gallery features a display from the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. This year’s exhibit is themed, “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement” and showcases the Grand Slam achievement in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and on the junior level. The exhibit will display trophies, photos and artifacts from historic calendar-year Grand Slams, including Rod Laver’s in 1969, Steffi Graf’s in 1988, the doubles Slam of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver in 1984, as well as Stefan Edberg’s junior Grand Slam in 1983. The US Open Gallery is open daily and located in the southwest corner of Louis Armstrong Stadium.
US Open Tennis Auction: The US Open will host the first major tennis auction in North America, featuring a wide variety of tennis memorabilia including Bobby Riggs’ “Sugar Daddy” jacket from the historic 1973 Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean King, trophies won by the legendary Bill Tilden and assorted racquets used by Jimmy Connors. The auction, hosted by the prestigious Guernsey auction house, will take place on Friday, September 11, at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 13, at 11:00 a.m. in the Indoor Training Center. Bidding can take place in person or live at auctioneers.com and guernseys.com. A portion of the proceeds benefit USTA Serves, the philanthropic entity of the USTA.
Green Initiatives: The USTA is expanding its efforts this year at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in order to ensure that the US Open will register as little impact on the environment as possible. The NTC grounds will feature 500 recycling bins and all paper products will be made with 30 percent post-consumer waste. Hybrid vehicles will make up 52 percent of the Lexus player transportation fleet (up from 30 percent in 2008) and Constellation Energy, the US Open’s energy provider, will supply Renewable Energy Certificates to offset the US Open’s electricity consumption. A reusable tote bag and organic T-shirts, including one designed by Venus Williams, will be sold on the grounds and a fan awareness campaign which includes player PSAs; an additional PSA from Alec Baldwin will run throughout the tournament.
From Tennis Channel buying ads criticizing Cablevision for not carrying the network to the USTA announcing that Cincinnati will get an upgrade at its tournament site to Monica Seles returning to Canada to play an exhibition match, these stories caught the attention of tennis fans and insiders this week.
Tennis Channel, who has exclusive rights to several of the US Open matches throughout the two week tournament, has purchased between $500,000-$1 million worth of print ads in the New York City area. These ads were created out of dissatisfaction with Cablevision, who tried to place the station on a sports tier. As a result, the Tennis Channel ads encourage customers to purchase DirecTV, Verizon and Dish Network, all of whom will televise the matches.
On Thursday, the USTA and Cincinnati-based Tennis for Charity, Inc., announced a $10 million upgrade towards the Lindner Family Tennis Center that hosts the annual Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open in August. The groundbreaking begins 72 hours after the completion of the this week’s ATP tournament and will include the addition of 750 seats and six luxury suites and upgrades to the players locker room, players lounge and press box.
Monica Seles, the only player in the open era to win four straight Canadian Open titles, returned to Canada on Monday to take participate in an exhibition to mark the start of the WTA Rogers Cup in Toronto. Seles teamed with Canadian player Aleksandra Wozniak, losing 6-3 in to Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova.
Laurent Delanney has been named ATP CEO, Europe.
David Shoemaker has been appointed WTA President, as former President Stacey Allastar will assume the role as WTA CEO.
200,077 tickets were sold at the recently completed ATP Rogers Cup in Montreal, breaking the previous ATP record that they accomplished in 2007 by selling more than 185,000 tickets.
11,976 packed the ground of the ATP Rogers Cup final in Montreal between Andy Murray and Juan Martin del Potro to watch the match on a big screen TV on the Banque Nationale grandstand court.
Davis Cup dates for 2010 are as follows:
World Group First Round: March 5-7
World Group Quarterfinals: July 9-11
World Group Semifinals and World Group Playoffs: September 17-19
World Group Finals: December 3-5
On August 30 the Grand Slam Tennis Winners exhibition will take place in East Hampton, N.Y. Participants in the event, which will honor Andre Agassi, will include Nick Bollettieri, Murphy Jensen, actor Alec Baldwin, ladies from The Real Housewives of New York City and a grand slam champion to be named later.
Following the Cincinnati tournament this week, Novak Djokovic will begin working with Todd Martin. Djokovic will continue working with his full-time coach Marian Vajda.
In a New York Times article from 40 years ago, the then US Open tournament director, Owen Williams, says that the tournament lost $80,000 due to rain.
Babolat announced that its Pure Storm racquet line will be improved by adding GT Technology. HEAD announced the renewal of its racquet and bag sponsorship contract with Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), which marks 30 years of partnership.
World No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Roger Federer last week in Montreal, has begun playing with the Wilson (K)obra racquet instead of the (K)Blade Tour.
WASHINGTON, DC (July 24, 2009) – The Washington Kastles upset the top-seeded New York Sportimes 22-19 in Overtime to win the Advanta WTT Eastern Conference Championship title on Friday night and advance to Sunday’s Advanta WTT Finals at Kastles Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Oudsema hit a second serve ace in the final set to win the first game in Overtime and put the Kastles into Sunday’s Advanta WTT Finals against the winner of the Western Conference Championship clash between the Springfield Lasers and the Newport Beach Breakers (also played on Friday night).
2009 Male MVP Leander Paes and Rennae Stubbs got the Kastles off to a strong start in the opening set of mixed doubles with a 5-4 win over Robert Kendrick and Abigail Spears. Spears dominated Olga Puchkova in women’s singles 5-2 to give the Sportimes a 9-7 lead after two events. Paes and Scott Oudsema outgunned Kendrick and Jesse Witten 5-3 in men’s doubles to tie up the match 12-12 at halftime.
Last season’s Female MVP Rennae Stubbs and Puchkova energized the boisterous crowd with a dominating 5-2 win over Spears and Christina Fusano in women’s doubles, giving the Kastles a 3-game cushion leading into the final set.
Kendrick sent the match into Overtime and pulled the Sportimes within two games by outlasting Oudsema in men’s singles 5-4. However Oudsema’s serving heroics secured the first Finals appearance for the Kastles in only their second season in the League.
Tickets for the Advanta WTT Finals are available by calling (202) 4-TENNIS or at www.washingtonkastles.com. The match starts at 5 pm EST on July 26 at Kastles Stadium and will air on Tennis Channel on July 29 at 7 pm EST.
Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League – Results for Friday, 7/24
(Home teams in capital letters)
ADVANTA WTT EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:
Washington Kastles def. NEW YORK SPORTIMES 22-19 (OT)
Mixed Doubles – Leander Paes\Rennae Stubbs (Kastles) def. Abigail Spears\Robert Kendrick (Sportimes) 5-4
Women’s Singles – Abigail Spears (Sportimes) def. Olga Puchkova (Kastles) 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Scott Oudsema\Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Robert Kendrick\Jesse Witten (Sportimes) 5-3
Women’s Doubles – Rennae Stubbs\Olga Puchkova (Kastles) def. Christina Fusano\Abigail Spears (Sportimes) 5-2
Men’s Singles – Robert Kendrick (Sportimes) def. Scott Oudsema (Kastles) 5-4
Overtime – Men’s Singles – Scott Oudsema (Kastles) def. Robert Kendrick (Sportimes) 1-0
Newport Beach Breakers @ SPRINGFIELD LASERS, 7:05 PM (CDT)
Eastern Conference MP W L PCT MB
y – New York Sportimes 14 10 4 0.714 —
x – Washington Kastles 14 7 7 0.500 3
Boston Lobsters 14 7 7 0.500 3
Philadelphia Freedoms 14 4 10 0.286 6
New York Buzz 14 4 10 0.286 6
Western Conference MP W L PCT MB
y – Springfield Lasers 14 12 2 0.857 —
x – Newport Beach Breakers 14 9 5 0.643 3
Sacramento Capitals 14 6 8 0.429 6
Kansas City Explorers 14 6 8 0.429 6
St Louis Aces 14 5 9 0.357 7
x = Clinched Playoff Spot
y = Clinched #1 seed for Conference Championship
For live scoring and complete player / match statistics, please visit www.WTT.com