tennis fans

Contest: Win a Free One-Year Subscription to Tennis View Magazine!

(June 17, 2013) We at Tennis Grandstand know that tennis fans can never get enough of the sport! So we have partnered up with one of the hottest tennis specialty magazines around, Tennis View Magazine, to give one of our dedicated readers a free one-year subscription to their magazine!

Entering the contest is simple. In the comment section below, describe your perfect mixed doubles partner and why you chose that individual. It could be a current or former professional player, or even someone personal in your life. Be creative!

Contest closes Monday, June 24th, 2013 at 5pm EST, and is only open to US-based individuals. Winner will be chosen at random from all entries received. Make sure to include a current email address so we may contact the winner!

Good luck and spread the word!

Tennis And Me: What Started With Sharapova

This article discusses how I became a tennis fan and later a tennis writer.  I thought that some of you, especially those who read me more frequently, might find it illuminating, and it’s interesting for me to look back on it too.

***

In the beginning, there was Maria Sharapova.

I entered the undergraduate program at Stanford University in 2006, which meant that I had an unusually long summer holiday.  Following the quarter system, Stanford does not start its fall classes until late September.  In the last few weeks before leaving for California, I had most of my evenings to myself.  Baseball was the sport that claimed most of my attention at that stage, but I had grown accustomed to switching channels to other programs during commercials.  I can’t recall exactly why or when I switched to the US Open at some time that August or September.  Although I had played tennis as a child, I never had enjoyed watching it on television and did so only out of duty when my instructor told me.

But back then there was no willowy Russian blonde strutting around the court in an Audrey Hepburn-inspired black cocktail dress, blasting winners at will.  As luck would have it, and probably because Sharapova often played at night, I saw several of her matches during that US Open before tennis had even started to play an important role in my life.  Gradually, I flipped the channel back to the baseball games less and less often.  I won’t deny the appeal of Sharapova’s looks, but I also am convinced that there was much more about her that captured my interest.  I have been a relatively risk-averse person for most of my life, so the spectacle of someone firing at the edges of lines and corners with such steely composure riveted me throughout that tournament.  My life as a tennis fan thus began as a Sharapova fan, and frankly I doubt that I ever would have become a tennis writer if not for her.

At the same time, that US Open introduced me to other players beyond Maria and struck the first sparks of my passion for the sport more generally.  Among them was Justine Henin (then Henin-Hardenne), whose one-handed backhand and graceful movement I admired even as I rooted for Sharapova against her in the final.  I still have a special fondness for the one-handed backhand, and I think that the roots of my appreciation for that particular stroke lie in watching Henin that year.  On the men’s side, to which I warmed more slowly, Roger Federer amazed me as he did so many others with his knack for winning virtually all of the key points and the balletic way that he seemed to float around the court.

When I moved to California from the East Coast, where I grew up, the shift from one sport to another seemed a fitting accompaniment to a new beginning in a new home.  The 2007 Australian Open became the first tournament that I watched from start to finish, and my reservoir of tennis knowledge expanded exponentially during that single fortnight.  I still believe that watching the early rounds of majors is the best possible way to become more acquainted with the sport.  You will see players whom you never knew existed, and the chances are good that you’ll develop a rooting interest in one or more.  For example, I watched Andy Roddick play Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round there and knew that, even though Tsonga lost, I definitely wanted to see more of him in future.  (Probably more than I did of Roddick, but we won’t dwell on that point.)

While I continued to self-identify as a Sharapova fan, I can recognize in retrospect that my tennis interest already had expanded well beyond her.  Otherwise, I would not have attended the ATP tournament nearest to Stanford, the SAP Open, that February.  My first match featured Ivo Karlovic against Benjamin Becker.  Now, I probably would make a point of not attending that matchup, but I found it thrilling at a time despite the stylistic monotony and the chilly, atmosphere-less arena.  There is an immediacy and intensity to live tennis that watching on television simply does not capture.  I saw Roddick at that tournament and a very young Andy Murray defend his title there, which merely whetted my appetite for more.

The next step consisted of attending a tournament for a full week rather than just a few matches as I had in San Jose.  In August, my family and I made the trip to San Diego for the last edition of the Acura Classic, a Tier I event among the top WTA non-majors before the Roadmap arrived.  Sharapova serendipitously won the tournament, her only title that year, but the trip also exposed me to champions like Venus Williams and Elena Dementieva.  I recall walking along the path above the stadium one day when Venus jogged past and flashed her signature smile at us.  Moments like those are what turn someone just becoming interested in tennis into a devoted tennis fan.

Sometime during 2008, I started the Twitter account that has progressed through a few different iterations into its current @ChrisSkelton87 form.  Oddly, I can’t remember the precise impetus for starting it or exactly when I did.  By that summer, I had connected through the account with many Sharapova fans around the world.  When she left the game midway through that season, though, my interests diversified quickly to fill the void.  My sister had become a devoted Rafael Nadal fan by then, some of which rubbed off on me.  (I have to admit that Nadal was an acquired taste for me, since I found myself more naturally drawn to the offensively oriented and the stylish.  But the taste is acquired now, without a doubt.)  I also warmed to the engaging personalities of the three Serbs who launched their breakthroughs that season.  It was clear by the latter stages of 2008, then, that I was hooked on tennis for good.

It evidently was clear as well to many of my followers on Twitter, who watched deluges of tweets drench their timeline during important and not-so-important matches and tournaments.  One of them, Dean Ryan Martin from the Philippines, suggested that I start a Wordpress blog.  Dean ostensibly wanted to read more of my thoughts on tennis, but I suspect that he also wanted a less cluttered timeline.  At any rate, I took Dean’s advice and plunged into the blogging world just before Indian Wells in 2010.  I’m not particularly proud of my early articles when I look back at them, although I am proud of the designs crafted for the site by my Chilean friend Tilu Osorio.  The articles have plenty of enthusiasm and rhetorical flourishes, and well-chosen images, but the analysis is nowhere near as thoughtful as I had believed that it was at the time.   Nor are the insights overly original, mostly adapted from the professional journalism that I consumed so voraciously.

But the only way to get better is to keep watching and keep writing, and I certainly did both.  I wrote copiously all that year and all the next year, covering virtually every type of topic imaginable.  Sometimes I wrote almost daily for weeks at a time, building my following on the blogs and social media.  By early 2011, I had managed to get the attention of media outlets in the United States and Australia, which somehow found what I had written sufficiently intriguing to commission articles from me.  That breakthrough essentially started a straight line to where I am now, contributing to multiple websites and print publications as I try to establish a foothold in tennis journalism.  It’s remarkable what persistence can accomplish.

In the beginning, there was Maria Sharapova.  In the end?  Well, I don’t think that there will be an end.  Once you’re hooked on this sport, you’re hooked for life.  But I did have the sense of a destination reached when I received credentials to attend Indian Wells this spring.  I had traveled to the tournament twice before as a spectator, and I had written my first series of tennis articles about it.  Writing about the tournament for a generally circulated publication, and attending press conferences with many of the game’s leading stars, I felt that I had arrived.

***

Feel free to share how you came to tennis in the comments.  I’ll return on Friday with a Madrid blue clay/red clay comparison.

American tennis players Mardy Fish and John Isner fire back at Ivan Ljubicic Twitter comment

By Romana Cvitkovic

The tennis world went into overdrive Saturday afternoon as Ivan Ljubicic tweeted a comment targeted at American tennis players supposedly skipping the European tournaments. Americans John Isner and Mardy Fish quickly fought back on Twitter with Fish almost immediately deleting his tweet after he sent it.

Of all the tennis players looking to cause controversy, newly-retired Croat Ivan Ljubicic would not be high on my list that includes the likes of Daniel Koellerer, Yannick Noah, John McEnroe and Marat Safin.  Hell, even Marat Safin has cleaned up his act and holds a seat in the Russian Parliament!

But I digress. In light of Mardy Fish pulling out of the Mutua Madrid Open due to fatigue and Andy Roddick skipping both Madrid and Rome due to a hamstring injury, the presence of American ATP players at the European clay tournaments has dwindled. But Ljubicic’s tweet may have gone a little too far to point the finger.


Three hours later, American John Isner (who was ousted in the second round of Madrid by another Croat, Marin Cilic, and is scheduled to play Rome this week) defended his friend’s absence from the tournaments in Madrid and Rome:

Not even an hour later, Fish fired back heavily at Ljubicic before almost immediately deleting the following tweet.

Unfortunately, the internet is not forgiving once you put something out there. Perhaps this conversation should have occurred through direct messaging, email, or BBM. It’s one thing to put a “generalized comment” on your personal Twitter but it’s also another nobler thing to privately respond. Not sure if there is history here between Fish and Ljubicic, but hopefully the 140 character limitation framed responses insufficiently. However, the fans were drinking it up …


 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Win an Adidas Shirt Autographed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

In celebration of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s ascension to the top five in the ATP World Tour rankings for the first time in his career, Tennis Grandstand has teamed up with adidas to give away TWO signed Tsonga adidas shirts to lucky fans!

Are you the ultimate Tsonga fan and want a piece of tennis royalty? Well, this is your chance! Tsonga will take part in an adidas photoshoot at the start of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California next week where he’ll have the opportunity to answer two questions from Tennis Grandstand fans! Questions will be chosen from the comments section below and he’ll answer your questions on video! We’ll then post the video after the photoshoot for all of you to enjoy.

All you have to do to win a signed shirt is comment below with the question you would most like to ask Jo! Only questions (and not comments) for Jo will qualify you to win a signed shirt, and please submit no more than two questions per person. Be creative, be funny, be intriguing!

The contest is open now and will run until Monday, March 5th at 7PM EST. Kindly remember to provide a contact email address with your comment as we will notify the two winners by email.

Get the word out and get thinking on what you would want to ask Jo!

 

The Little Match That Could

On the evening of Friday August 26, 2011 the eyes of the country were on Hurricane Irene, who was fast approaching the East Coast of North Carolina.  Tennis fans had turned their attention to New York, waiting to see how the storm would effect their favorite players and the upcoming U.S. Open.

I was about three-hundred miles inland from the storm watching one of my favorite matches of the year.

At Wake Forest University in a make-shift tennis stadium located underneath the overhang of the football stadium the 43rd ranked player in the world, 10th seeded Robin Haase, took on the 113th ranked player in the world, Qualifier Julien Benneteau, in the semifinals of the inaugural Winston-Salem Open.

As the sun set and provided some relief from the scorching August sun, approximately four thousand locals packed the temporary stadium ready for some Friday night entertainment.  Most spectators had bought their tickets long before the order of play had been announced, and were feeling a bit slighted- after all, the afternoon semifinal had been between Andy Roddick and hometown hero John Isner!

During the second point of the match, as the sky was turning orange and the crowd was still settling in, Haase’s forehand clipped the net and dribbled over.   Benneteau scampered to the net and made it just in time, awkwardly pitching the ball back over the net.  The two men stayed at the net for a twenty shot sensational yet clumsy exchange of volleys and returns before Haase finally was able to angle the ball out of Benneteau’s reach.  The Winston-Salem crowd leapt to their feet in appreciation and the two men smiled and laughed before Benneteau jovially reached across the net to shake Haase’s hand.  Then the umpire, Somat Madgi, intervened.  Apparently during the exchange Haase had reached his racket over the net and therefore the point was automatically awarded to Benneteau.  Haase and Madgi had a heated exchange before Haase finally settled back in at the baseline and signaled he was ready to move on- to the third point of the match.

Winston Salem, meet Robin Haase and Julien Benneteau.


Robin Haase, 24, is a talented Dutchman often recognized as one of the big underachievers in tennis.  He hits big and plays aggressive, reminiscent of James Blake at his best only with a little more variety.  Coming into the Winston-Salem Open he was soaring at a career high ranking and with his first tournament victory freshly under his belt.  He made it to the semifinals with easy victories over James Blake and Pierre Duclos, and with an upset win over #3 seed Dolgopolov in the quarterfinals.

Julien Benneteau,29, is an effervescent Frenchmen, who prances around the court and makes power and precision seem graceful.  In 2010 he reached a high ranking of 31 before a wrist injury derailed him, and he came into the Winston Salem Open on the comeback trail.  He had to qualify just to get into the tournament and on this Friday night he was playing his eighth match in seven days following three-set come-from-behind escapes against Igor Andreev and Sergiy Stakhovsky.

Early on Haase was clearly rattled from Madgi’s call and Benenteau easily raced out to a 3-1 lead despite not being able to find a first serve. However once Haase started getting balls in play he quickly won five games in a row to win the first set 6-3.   When Haase went up a break early in the second set things seemed grim- the excited crowd became restless, worrying that their night might end way too soon. Would Benneteau be able to pull off another magical escape or would the second point of the match be the highlight?

That’s the phenomenal and infuriating thing about tennis- nothing is a guarantee.  Anything can happen.  Every match has an equal opportunity to be an epic or a complete dud.  The most dramatic match can have no memorable rallies and a blow-out can contain points for a highlight reel.  You just never know.

Luckily on this beautiful night things were far from over. Benneteau finally found his first serve midway through the second set and managed to take it to a tiebreak, where he saved two match points to extend the match to a third set. It wasn’t without drama though.  At one point Benneteau disagreed with one of Madgi’s calls so fiercely that he sat in the back of the court and tried to wait the decision out.  (This tactic was not successful, in case you’re wondering).

In the third set, like clockwork, Benneteau fell behind a break.  Robin Haase served for the match at 5-4 but his nerves found him once again and he was broken.  Benneteau faced one more match point in the third set tiebreak before winning the last three points of the match.  Julien Benneteau defeated Robin Haase 6-3 7-6(7) 7-6(6) to make it to the finals of the Winston-Salem Open.

After a two hour and thirty-two minute sometimes sloppy, sometimes sensational, and always dramatic match the Winston Salem crowd was wild with applause.  This sport of tennis, with two players most had never heard of before, had made it’s way into their hearts.  The energy in the stadium that night was electric and it gave me chills.  There are few things more heartwarming than seeing people fall in love with the sport for the first time. As cheesy as it sounds, it makes me fall in love with the sport all over again.

When all was said and done Benneteau danced, and it was unlike anything Winston-Salem had ever seen- I’d call it a mix of the chicken, the robot, and the electric slide.  People shouted “Allez” in a southern accent. The man I had seen in qualification rounds on a side court had made it all the way to the finals. It was a magical moment.

For Robin Haase, however, it was another memorable collapse.  Every single time he had control he let the match go.  When his game is on it’s indescribable, leaving opponents on the other side completely helpless.  When his brain turns on and he overthinks things his game often falls to pieces and it’s hard to watch without wincing.

In the big scheme of things this little match didn’t mean much in the narratives of 2011. Maybe the more interesting story to most is whether or not Rafael Nadal win one or two majors this year, if Federer can get to seventeen slams, or whether Djokovic will have the best-ever season or merely a top-5-ever season.  But to me that’s like seeing the rich get richer. No disrespect to the top athletes of this sport, but sometimes I think it means more when the players have less.  For these two players, for this inagural tournament, for this Friday night crowd this match meant everything.

The majority of Winston-Salem may never learn how to properly pronounce Benneteau or Haase, but I know that none of them will ever forget the match that night- and shouldn’t that count for something?

 

(Photos c/o Fred and Susan Mullane/Cameraworks USA)

Preview: Spain set to host epic Davis Cup clash with Argentina – Live Coverage

by Stephanie Neppl

Seville is set for what should be an epic Davis Cup final between two of the most likeable teams in tennis: Spain and Argentina. Take a look at pics of the teams interacting this week and you’ll see smiling faces between the players and endearing moments. It’s clear there’s mutual respect and friendship between many of the teams’ top players.

Spain is the favorite, without question. The team is the host and has won four titles in the past 10 years, with the slow clay certainly helping them.  And yes, it boasts Rafael Nadal, arguably the best clay court player ever as well as #5 David Ferrer who’s had a career best year.

This Davis Cup final yields so many storylines and so many questions. Will the Argentineans be healthy enough to be competitive , particularly with Davis Cup veteran David Nalbandian still battling injuries? Will Nadal, mentally exhausted from a topsy-turvy year on tour, find the strength to lead his team to another title? Will Fernando Verdasco and  Feliciano Lopez redeem themselves after losing badly in Spain’s narrow victory over the US in the semifinals? Will Juan Monaco, Argentina’s most in-form player of late, step up against his good friend Nadal in the opening match of the tie?

The emotional tugs for tennis fans may mostly surround Nalbandian. He’s never been part of a winning Davis Cup team, and most feel 2012 will be his last year  on tour. Nalbandian has always been fiercely passionate about Davis Cup and most tennis fans would be pretty ecstatic should he finally win one.

And then, there’s the crowd. Having been to all four grand slams and the Beijing Olympics, I’ve seen my share of partisan crowds. Davis Cup ties are legendary for being noisy and full of very patriotic fans. Will the crowd be fair to both teams or are all bets off? At the Beijing Olympics, the partisan crowd lost all touch with good fan behaviour while its own were playing. Will the Seville crowd behave?

Thus far, the atmosphere in Seville has been fantastic. Somehow the tennis gods smiled down on me as my accommodation is directly across the road from the Spanish team’s hotel. I’ve already been within hand shaking distance from Nadal twice, and have seen the entire team. Last night, I saw Verdasco and David Ferrer quickly race into their hotel from their courtesy van while Nadal and Lopez lingered to bring their bags into the hotel. The number of fans outside the hotel has been rather small, and Nadal has been welcoming to his fans and has posed with a fair few (this professional tennis fan was not quick or assertive enough to ask for a photo either time).

Local shops have also gotten into the Davis Cup spirit with tennis signs and displays (a butchery near Team Spain’s hotel has even crafted a tennis court in its window using  huge pieces of jamon as rackets). A Davis Cup museum has been set up in the city centre showing off programmes and signed memorabilia from past ties while a big screen plays highlights of classic matches.

Today, the draw was held at the  beautiful Teatro Lope de Vega. Sadly, only media were allowed inside and a noisy rally by striking workers (apparently over a migrant worker issues) created a huge distraction from the joy of the Davis Cup draw. My group saw all the teams pull up in cars but that was as close to the draw as we could get since it was not open to the public.

Practices inside Estadio Olímpico de Sevilla have also been closed to the public, though the team’s practice times have been published online. So the excitement and anticipation builds and builds for the many fans who’ve been in town waiting for the tie to begin. The long wait is over at 1pm Friday to see the teams and the stadium. A ceremony will kick off at 1pm, followed by Nadal versus Monaco then Ferrer versus Del Potro.

May the best team win! Vamos!

Stephanie Neppl is in Seville, Spain covering the Davis Cup Finals as a guest contributor for Tennis Grandstand. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Ferrer and Berdych Win in Contrasting Styles at ATP World Tour Finals – Live Coverage

by Stephanie Neppl

Berdych Battles Past Tipsarevic

Disappointed tennis fans didn’t  hide their initial lack of interest in the Tomas Berdych/Janko Tipsarevic match on Wednesday at the ATP World Tour Finals.  It seemed as though many fans hadn’t seen the news that Scot Andy Murray had pulled out of the tournament.

When the players entered the O2 Arena, the applause was muted and that absence of energy seemed to transition into Berdych’s game in the first set. His stinging forehand and aggressive play were nowhere to be found, while Tipsarevic was steady and often merely had to keep balls in play as Berdych‘s error count grew.

Perhaps the Czech was still suffering from a post-match hangover due to his inability to close out world #1 Novak Djokovic on Monday. He didn’t move well in the first set and served poorly as the #2 Serbian took the first set, 6-2.

The second set was more of the same until Berdych finally started to cut down his errors, and he seemed to hang in there until he managed to break Tipsarevic and served out set two 6-3. By this stage, the crowd still was mostly silent – there had been some better shotmaking in set two but the atmosphere felt dead. There just hadn’t been much to cheer about.

But how quickly a match can turn – the third set proved that a poor start can be overcome and fans were treated to a dramatic tiebreaker which had one of the strangest endings one can experience. Up a minibreak, Berdych soon found himself down a match point and Tipsarevic was one volley away from a win. But he overhit it, and then double faulted to go down a match point at 5-6. It was all getting away from the Serb and while receiving serve, Tipsarevic slipped backward, giving Tomas the open court to put away a forehand to win the match. It was a sad end for Tipsarevic, who had shown his mettle as an alternative called in to compete when Andy Murray pulled out.

Losing two straight matches in a third set tiebreak would have been a massive disappointment for Berdych, but after surviving Tipsarevic his hopes of making the semifinals in London are still alive. The Czech must beat Spaniard David Ferrer to qualify for the knockout stages.

Ferrer stuns Djokovic

The night session at the ATP World Tour Finals was a huge contrast to the day session – the crowds were pumped up and vocal from the very start.

And as opposed to the day match, instead of the drama growing throughout the match, this time the match started well but ended up being a very one-sided affair. Most fans might have expected an easy win for the world number one, but David Ferrer proved to be the much better player on the night.

The Spaniard has a reputation for being one of the fittest, hardest working players on the tour, and he demonstrated this to the crowd. It’s hard to outhit Ferrer – he is superbly fit and fast and though he doesn’t possess the most powerful groundstrokes, his placement is fantastic and he can turn defence into offence very well.

When Ferrer went down early break points in the first set, Djokovic looked very much like the player he’s been throughout 2011: his shots had sting and great depth. But all of a sudden, those shots became less potent and it was Ferrer who was wining the rallies. It was if someone flipped a switch and errors began to fly off Novak’s racket. He looked a bit slower and was visibly at a loss for how to turn the match around.

Ferrer would break twice to win the first set and the night never got better for the world number one. Novak only held serve once in the second set and Ferrer would easily advance to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-1 victory. It was the third time in his career that the Spaniard beat the ATP top player after wins over Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal while they were at the top.

In his post-match interview, Ferrer’s smile lit up the O2 Arena. “It was a surprise, no?” he said. “I think today maybe was my best match of the season.” With two straight set wins over player the #1 and #2 players in the world, it was easy to be thrilled for Ferrer, who will now face Berdych on Friday night.

Stephanie Neppl is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals as a guest contributor for Tennis Grandstand. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.

Nadal No Match for Superb Federer in London – Live Coverage

by Ahmed Ibrahim and Stephanie Neppl

Expectations. It’s hard to not be caught up in the hype when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal face off on the tennis courts. Before meeting in the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals, the two had met on 25 previous occasions, including countless Grand Slam finals. Given their illustrious history, it’s easy to expect magic every time they take the court.

Well, the only magic being showcased during Tuesday night’s round robin match between the two tennis greats was on Federer’s side of the court. He barely erred during the hour-long match, blasting winners from all over the court, serving superbly and moving with lightning speed.

Rafa, on the other hand, barely knew what hit him. He looked a half step slow, only hit four winners (compared with 28 for Roger) and his groundstrokes fell too short, time and again.

Rafa fans were stunned into silence as he was broken once to lose the first set, and then was dealt the ultimate humiliation of a bagel in a quick second set.

What went wrong? Rafa has never beaten Roger on the indoor courts. He’s 0-4 against the 16-time grand slam champion in the ATP World Tour Finals, and has historically not performed well in the indoor season.

As much as we Rafa fans want to look for reasons why he lost so badly tonight, it didn’t seem to be about the surface. Fed played nearly immaculate tennis, and Rafa being a bit flat and slow, his short, high balls were just eaten alive by Federer.

Being in the stands watching your favorite lose so badly is not pleasant. There’s nowhere to hide and suddenly the fervent cheers for the other player seem louder and more disruptive. Unfortunately, tonight was one of those difficult nights for this Rafa fan, but all credit to Roger for his stunning play. He certainly looks on track to repeat his 2010 World Tour Finals win.

For the Federer fans in the O2 Arena, however, nothing prepared them for what they would be witnessing: Roger Federer playing at his very best. It was like being transported back to 2005 with the crisp, clean, early hitting of the ball and dominating play from the baseline.

Federer did not give Rafa an inch to maneuver as he played deep ball after deep ball to keep Rafa off-guard and make him move around the court before executing the perfect winning forehand/backhand into the open court.

Notching up 28 winners to Nadal’s paltry four is testament to how well Federer played tonight and the risks he took to outplay his opponent. A 6-3 6-0 scoreline surely gives Federer a huge boost of confidence against the rest of field. No one else is producing this high level of tennis in the indoor circuit.

The atmosphere inside the O2 Arena was electrifying throughout and for Federer fans the cheers grew louder and louder with every winning shot he produced. Why can’t Fed play like this day in and day out? There came a point when Fed fans must surely have asked the question when will Federer’s form suddenly switch off (as is often the case!)?

Witnessing this performance against one the game’s greatest ever players is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Federer vs Nadal legacy will live on forever but for those of us fortunate to see a match live, we should be savoring the moments as they will become less and less frequent.

Stephanie Neppl and Ahmed Ibrahim are in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals as guest contributors for Tennis Grandstand. Stephanie, an avid Nadal fan, maintains the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and her twitter is @StephInNZ, while Ahmed, an avid Federer fan, is the author of the website Tennis Addict and his twitter is @TennisAddict_.

McEnroe – Connors excited to renew rivalry in World Team Tennis July 14 at Randall’s Island in New York

By Lindsay Gibbs

A rivalry will be renewed this summer as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe face off on Randall’s Island on July 14. McEnroe’s New York Sportimes will face Connors’ Philadelphia Freedoms in a marquee night for the 36th season of World Team Tennis, ”A Season of Number Ones.”

It’s been ten years since the champions played each other on the World Team Tennis stage, and twenty since their last ATP match, a straight-sets win by McEnroe in the semifinals of Basel in 1991.  The two met 34 times over fourteen years on tour, with McEnroe leading the series 20-14.

The fervor of their rivalry defined a generation and certainly transcended the sport.  “There was nothing quiet about our rivalry… There was so much more that went into it than just the tennis,” Connors reflected on a conference call on Tuesday.  “I would have played him on crutches because that’s what it brought out in me… the desire to be better.”  The fans picked up on the intensity of the rivalry and McEnroe says he still has people come up to him and declaring “I still think Jimmy Connors is better looking than you.”

Today’s tennis fans are used to a much more cordial form of rivalry.  Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have set the precedent with a heated rivalry on-court but a very professional and friendly relationship off-the-court.  Connors says that he could “never see Mac and I doing a few things that those two have done. “ McEnroe, when talking about the state of the game today, said “if there’s a complaint it’s that everyone gets along too well.”

When asked for predictions on the current crop of top ATP players (Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Federer, and Andy Murray) and their prospects leading into Wimbledon, McEnroe said, “There’s a case to be made for all four.  It’s one of the most interesting Wimbledon’s in some time.”  The two Hall of Famers caused plenty of Wimbledon excitement themselves when they played, as Connors remembers his 1982 Wimbledon Final five-set victory over McEnroe as “probably my greatest performance.”

Both men are looking forward to renewing their rivalry in both singles and doubles on July 14th at Sportime Randall’s Island in New York City.  The evening will be a special benefit for the Johnny Mac Tennis Project , a program to assist the growth of tennis in New York City.     Tickets can be purchased by telephone (212‐792‐8500) or online at www.NYSportimes.com.

Have Rod Laver be Part of Your Holiday Season

As the holiday season fast approaches, New Chapter Press recommends the newly-updated memoir of Australian tennis legend Rod Laver — “The Education of a Tennis Player” – as an ideal gift for tennis fans around the world.

Written with Hall of Fame journalist and historian Bud Collins, “The Education of a Tennis Player” is Laver’s first-hand account of his famous 1969 Grand Slam season, capped off by his win over fellow Australian Tony Roche in the final of the U.S. Open. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their game. He also shares some of the strategies that helped him to unparalleled success on the tennis court.

Originally published in 1971, “The Education of a Tennis Player” ($19.95, www.NewChapterMedia.com) was updated by Laver and Collins with new content including his recovery from a near-fatal stroke in 1998 and helping Australia once again win the Davis Cup in 1973. 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.

“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 of his newly updated memoir. “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.”

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.

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.

“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 newly updated second edition of “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Roger Federer Story: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli, “Acing Depression” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “The Lennon Prophecy” by Joe Niezgoda, “Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Susan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin, “People’s Choice Cancun – Travel Survey Guidebook” by Eric Rabinowitz and “Weekend Warriors: The Men of Professional Lacrosse” by Jack McDermott, among others. 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.NewChapterMedia.com.