by Andrew Eichenholz
In the middle of the summer I got a phone call from one of USOpen.org’s managing editors, who controls content production for the US Open’s official website. I never thought that a few months later I would be sitting here writing about how I got to be the last writer to publish a feature on one of my idols, sat front row in the press conference following arguably the greatest upset in the history of tennis and walked away with a wealth of experience that I never dreamt was imaginable when I published my first tennis story a year and a half ago.
Covering a Grand Slam was epitomized for me by Day 12 of the event— my eighth day reporting on the best tennis players in the world.
The impossible was happening— world No. 1 and history-chasing Serena Williams was down in the final set of her semifinal match, just three sets away from winning her fifth consecutive Grand Slam.
That may not mean much to people who do not follow tennis, but only 12 women have won five Grand Slams in their entire career during the Open era (since 1968), forget consecutively. Williams also would have tied Steffi Graf’s overall record of 22 with a victory. I was doing the “match of the day” story, and when arguably the best player ever is going down, that is a pretty big deal.
Generally, we tried to get all match stories out to our audience within ten minutes of the last point. Every single one of us in our office thought that Serena was going to find a way to survive. Her opponent, Roberta Vinci, would later admit that she thought the same. So, not only was it a matter of trying to pump out a quality product in a short amount of time, but both the writer who was covering the match itself and I were basically writing two stories, not knowing who would come out on top until Vinci hit a winner on match point.
At that point, we had a bit of a problem—few fans knew who the unseeded Vinci was and we did not know all that much about her ourselves besides her results and ranking. Who is she? The world wanted to know and our team had to make that happen, so after filing the “match of the day” story, I did some research on my phone as a few of us ran over to the Italian’s press conference so that I could file a quick piece to help people get to know Vinci.
It was a packed house at the presser— the Italian writers were still on cloud nine, shocked that two players from their country would be playing for the title the next day when not one had made the US Open final before.
If it seems like there was a lot of stuff going on at once, think again. Keeping in mind that this whole series of events happened in the span of an hour or two, I also was responsible for wrapping up the junior tournament and American Collegiate Invitational for the day.
The world outside of our office may have frozen in disbelief, but we still had work to do. That was my day every day at the US Open— there was no sitting for one match, writing it up and getting on the train home. There were always tons of things going on at once and I embraced that.
I would not have had it any other way.
My favorite part of covering sports— not just tennis— is writing feature stories. It is nice to sit back and take in a match to tell the reader what happened and why, but there were 256 players in the men’s and women’s singles draws alone at the US Open. Each of them had a unique story.
From a 19-year-old who spent plenty of time during the summer and the Open itself practicing with Roger Federer to a little-known American woman who went without seeing her mother for four years to pursue her dreams, there were so many stories that nobody had touched yet, so why not go for it?
The freedom my editors gave me was one of the nicer parts of working for the tournament’s website compared to a newspaper. I noticed that a lot of print writers spent their entire day focusing on one thing and one thing only, simply because their newspaper did not have enough space for more.
One of the pieces I wrote that got a lot of fan interaction was probably the piece that I turned around the quickest, believe it or not. Victoria Azarenka was the No. 20 seed because of injuries she sustained last season, but for years has been considered a top-five player.
Everybody in the media center at one point or another had done the same story on her competitive spirit shown on and off the court, including myself. But, a couple of days before I filed, I found her agent on the grounds and asked if her practice partner, who is in reality like a second coach, would be willing to talk to me. He never got back to me, so I was about to send my story in, but a couple of hours before her match, the practice partner texted me, apologizing for not getting back to me sooner.
It was well worth the wait, as even though he is a member of her team and is not going to say anything close to bad about her, I got a glimpse into a different side of Azarenka that really made the story unique.
Walking past the likes of Roger Federer and many of the game’s greats every day and talking to them when they were in press was interesting, but not new. I had been a ballperson at the US Open for a number of years; so being around the best of the best was not nerve-wracking.
That came into play one morning at about 9:00 a.m. when I was walking through the grounds toward our office while the juniors were practicing — juniors and lesser known players typically have to take what they can get in terms of practice courts, so they were out and about bright and early. I glanced around just out of curiosity, and saw a former world No. 1 coaching a couple of Russian girls.
I did not think anything of it at the time, but when the team finished our morning meeting, I realized that it would be interesting to catch up with a top player who was forced out of the sport by a back injury for our readers. So, after covering my matches for the day, I walked around the grounds only to find Dinara Safina watching one of her students’ matches.
During a break, I asked if she would not mind chatting for a bit once the match was over, but she was more than happy to catch up then and there. Safina was known as an extremely emotional player on the court, and it was not out of the ordinary to see her visibly angry with herself, as if she was not having any fun whatsoever. Yet, readers seemed to enjoy what she had to say— namely how much she loved tennis and despite being forced out of the sport as a player, would love to stay involved in it in some capacity for the rest of her life.
Perhaps the most completely reported story I wrote and the one that I spent the most time on was a long form painting of Lleyton Hewitt’s career. Hewitt, who played his final US Open, spent plenty of time atop the world rankings over a decade ago and has become known as the prototypical warrior. Despite many injuries and a physical deficit in terms of size that he faced, Hewitt always seemed to find a way to beat players he should not have. My job was to not simply write about what made him an all-time great, but to talk to people who were or are around him to get insight into what he is like behind the scenes.
To do this, I even reached out to people Hewitt has not played or even spoken to since last millennium to get an authentic idea of what he was like before the Australian reached the top of the world, following his coaches and friends every step of the way until where he is now, laying out his career through the eyes of those around him.
I can go on for days about each and every story, but the one I may remember the most is one that I did not write.
The men’s final was widely anticipated throughout the entire sports world. A colleague and both agreed that we had never, ever been exposed to such an electric atmosphere in our lives. Roger Federer— who has won more Grand Slam titles than anybody— was the underdog against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
There were constant momentum shifts and the crowd responded every single time. Looking around at other press members chuckling as the waves of roars rushed through the chilly night, there was no doubt that something special was happening.
When my colleague and I walked down the stairs to head back to the office for the final time, there was one thing I knew for certain— that special match was the most fitting way to finish what was a more-than-special experience and I will never forget it.
by Jordana Klein
At the age of four, most children are more concerned with when their next visit to the toy store will be or, nowadays, when their parents will let them use the Ipad. Four years old seems quite young to make the decision about whether or not to continue with pre-school and kindergarden or take the route of becoming a professional tennis player. How can you know your child’s ability or coordination at four years old? Many parents around the world have to make the commitment about whether or not to pursue the professional tour dream for their child and even sacrifice some of the most valuable and cherished years of their child’s life.
Players such as Tammy Hendler know this route minute by minute, day in and day out, as they have lived through this journey. Unfortunately for Hendler, her journey ended, like so many other thousands of players, after her success in junior tournaments.
“I barely understood the rules and scoring of tennis when I stopped going to school in Georgia and began training full time, every day, with my dad and other coaches in the area,” Hendler said. “I worked for over a decade all the way to the top, but I fell short of the pro tour.”
Hender is not ashamed or embarrassed about her career, as she was ranked No. 2 in the world in juniors and made it to the qualifiers and even some main draw rounds of major tournaments. Hender’s career-high was her semifinal appearance in the Wimbledon juniors in 2008. She also made the quarterfinals of the 2008 US Open junior singles, represented Belgium in the Fed Cup, and won four ITF singles titles and three ITF doubles titles.
Unfortunately, these results were not enough to propel her into the top of the professional tour, and her career ended after several injuries, including those of the shoulder and elbow. After training in Bradenton, Florida with IMG Academy, Hendler reached a career high of No. 182 on tour in 2012 and earned a record of 122-93 in singles and 46-40 in doubles.
Hendler’s story is not unique, as many players attempt the professional tour after succeeding in the juniors and do not make it to the top. There can only be one Roger Federer, one Maria Sharapova, one Serena Williams. But there are dozens of Hendlers. The road to the top of the tour is incredibly tough, gruesome, time-consuming and difficult, but many players still travel the world every week to compete in as many tournaments as possible in hopes of slowly but surely increasing their ranking.
Even though one may think Hendler’s success in juniors should allow her to qualify automatically for the Grand Slams and other WTA events, she found out that there are hundreds of other players trying to make their way into the top 50 at the exact same time.
“I do not regret one second of my time in the junior and professional world of tennis,” Hendler said. “I met the most incredible people and visited the most amazing places, and I know I would have never had those opportunities had I not chosen this path when I was four years old.”
Rod Laver documented his 1969 Grand Slam season – and his life story – with Hall of Fame tennis journalist Bud Collins in the book “The Education of a Tennis Player” (for sale here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257626/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_tiFEvb1MG9Y13 In the book, Laver also imparts his wisdom on how amateurs can achieve more success in tennis. In this book excerpt, Laver discusses “Killer Instinct.”
When I was a kid, and beginning to play well, a little better than the ordinary, I first experienced the enjoyment of playing to a crowd. It was a good feeling to have my strokes admired, and I was in no hurry to get off the court. As a result I let too many opponents off the hook. I found out that you have to play with the intention of making it a short day, of doing the job quickly and thoroughly.
I don’t mean rush it. Anything but that. But when you have the opportunity you strike then, and you realize that no lead is as big as it looks. If your opponent is serving at 1-4, you feel pretty good: three games ahead. But that’s only one service break, and you want to keep the pressure on, or you’re going to be in trouble. It’s no time to experiment with new shots or to show off for the “sheilas” in the crowd.
I’ve heard it said that you’re either born with the killer instinct or you’re not. I don’t agree with that. I feel I had to develop that killer outlook which, to me, means making the shot called for to win the point and resisting certain temptations. You don’t try to blast a ball 200 mph crosscourt into a corner when you have an easy sitter and your opponent is way out of position. If a soft, unimpressive-looking dink is called for, you hit it and make the point.
The good chances don’t come that frequently, and the killer knocks them off surely when presented with them. The killer doesn’t let up or ease off when he gets a good lead. This can be learned. Make sure of the easy shots—concentrate extra hard on those. Everybody has problems with difficult shots, but the killer gets his edge because he is meticulous with the setups.
Don’t compose eulogies to yourself when you get ahead. Concentrate on staying there. When Charlie Hollis, my coach, decided that I wasn’t homicidal enough, he sent me out with the intent of winning every match 6-0, 6-0. That seems grim for the usual player, but Charlie’s theme was good and clear: run scared and don’t let anybody up.
By Andrew Eichenholz
When Andy Murray walked to the net after a hard fought victory in a final set tiebreak in Valencia late last year, he looked to embrace his opponent, who jokingly or not, flipped him the bird.
Murray had just Tommy Robredoed Tommy Robredo.
Now, it may seem impossible for a person to create a verb with his or her own name, but with his long track record of fighting until the end, Robredo has proven time and time again that he exemplifies that very thing better than anybody else.
So, when Murray looked to congratulate Robredo on a good match, which their clash was, one of the best of the season in fact, the Spaniard was not very happy. Not only did he lose a tough match, but he got beat at his own game, the game of survival.
Robredo’s Grand Slams on his least favorite surface, hard court, in 2014, show why the gritty right-hander has earned his reputation of being a fighter.
In his first Grand Slam match of the season at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Robredo played the always-dangerous Lukas Rosol. Although Rosol is somebody who many would expect Robredo to beat, down two sets to one makes things look a lot different.
It takes enough energy to play down under with the fatigue caused by the rigors of the Australian summer heat, but to hang tough in the fourth set, clinging to his life in the match until a tiebreak would be impressive enough. Not only did Robredo emerge from that vital tiebreak in an even match, but he toughed out the Czech 8-6 in the fifth.
Typical Robredo, never convincing, always there until the end.
Fast forward to Wimbledon, on yet another surface that is not conducive to the heavy topspin, high-net clearance game of Robredo. On the other side of the net, the powerful Jerzy Janowicz, whose serve and groundstrokes skip right through the Wimbledon grass.
Even after not getting off to a good start to his season, or their third round encounter, Janowicz fought back, and started playing tennis reminiscent of his standout 2013 season. From two sets down, Janowicz pushed one of the toughest players on tour around, evening affairs with all of the momentum in his corner.
That is exactly where Robredo wanted him. Down and nearly out, Robredo once again showed that he is most dangerous when backed into a corner. Although he would lose next round to Roger Federer, Robredo showed his character to stay the course and defeat Janowicz.
Robredo may have thought that nobody had seen the script before, so he pressed the rewind button when he arrived to Flushing Meadows for the United States Open. It was time to show the world who he is again, this time on the biggest stage of them all, Arthur Ashe Stadium.
As the crowd looking down from the seats of the largest stadium in the sport of tennis gasped in awe, Robredo was in trouble. The fans were witnessing the birth of a future star in Australian Nick Kyrgios during a third round match. The big-hitter was pushing one of the fleetest afoot of the ATP World Tour around for more than a set, making it seem like Robredo would be on the next flight out of John F. Kennedy Airport.
Slowly but surely, point by point, Robredo maintained his composure, and let Kyrgios start to miss. The first sign of Kyrgios’ dropping confidence was all it took, seemingly giving Robredo a hook to latch onto, never letting go, as he would pull away for a four set win.
By the way, Robredo was down two sets to love against Italian Simone Bolelli in the second round.
Although Robredo may never be a true Grand Slam contender, or a player who fans get to see be at the top of the world in the rankings, one thing is for certain.
Nobody wants to be stuck with Robredo in his or her section of the draw. And, while many opponents will go away and give up when they get down, that is when Robredo is most dangerous.
As he showed after his loss to Murray in Valencia, nobody hangs in there better, and he wants the world to know it.
To read more about the attitudes and teaching methods of Spanish tennis, order the book “The Secrets of Spanish Tennis” by Chris Lewit available here: http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Spanish-Tennis-Chris-Lewit/dp/1937559491
With just a few weeks to go until the beginning of one of the most prestigious events on the Grand Slam Calendar, Wimbledon, we’re all thinking about booking tickets to go and get a glimpse at our favourite stars taking to the courts.
For many of these events, the location is as exciting as the tournament itself. If you can only afford to hit one tennis venue in your lifetime, make sure it is one of these, which offer world class hospitality and entertainment like no other.
Up until 2011, the South African Tennis Open would take place every February at the Montecasino Entertainment Complex in Johannesburg. It’s something of an interesting choice of venue for sports fans, but when we consider the betting element involved in many of today’s sports, it makes perfect sense that spectators would want to go and be a little frivolous in the casino on site. Of course, times have changed since 2011 – with cashback offers available from online competitors, many people are now turning away from the humble brick and mortar casino. This could be just one of the many reasons that the SA Tennis Open ended, but nevertheless, its stunning location will be remembered.
Court Central, Monte Carlo Country Club
Nothing quite says luxury like the Court Central at the Monte Carlo Country Club. As another region which offers a number of decadent pursuits including gambling, Monte Carlo attracts a certain kind of clientele – so anyone wishing to rub shoulders with the elite would be advised to brush up on their Ps and Qs first. Home to the Monte Carlo Masters, this gorgeous location offers a backdrop of rocky Provence hills and stunning views of the Mediterranean.
Foro Italico, Rome
For those who want to take a step back in time, look no further than Rome’s Foro Italico. Home to the Italian Open, this venue takes spectators away from the run of the mill modern tennis stadiums and replaces it with authentic Roman architecture. Viewers will feel as if they are in a real gladiator stadium, surrounded by a plethora of marble statues of naked athletes. With seating for 12,500, this amphitheatre is impressive beyond belief.
Royal Albert Hall, London
This is one venue that we would not usually associate with sports, but the Royal Albert Hall, usually home to concerts, ballets and operas, has also played host to many prestigious tennis events in the past. Located in the museum quarter of central London, it witnessed its first tennis match back in 1970 and today sees tennis stars from around the world coming to compete in the ATP Champions Tour Masters.
Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena, Shanghai
Head over to China’s Shanghai if you are less interested in tennis and are keener on stunning architecture. To mark the city’s official flower, the Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena in Shanghai features a steel roof which has eight sliding petal-shaped pieces, mimicking a magnolia in full bloom. Of course, this 15,000 seat stadium offers more than just a beautiful bird’s eye view – not only is it the hosting place of the Shanghai Masters, but also a variety of basketball, volleyball, ping pong and gymnastics events.
by Thaddeus McCarthy
Turning 33 earlier this month, Roger Federer passed a milestone. That milestone is that no player has won a Grand Slam at 33 or older since Ken Rosewall won the Australian at 37 in 1972. Andre Agassi won the Australian in 2003 a few months before his 33rd birthday, but other than that there is not a single player who has come within a whisker of emulating Rosewall’s Grand Slam age record. Federer has the chance to come within a four year whisker at the US Open.
Whatever happens for Federer at the US Open, he has had a good year. Perhaps though, the one disappointment he will have, is his record in finals. Before Toronto he has won 3 and lost 5. His win in Cincinnati was his best victory since Wimbledon in 2012, as although he has since won titles, they have not been Masters crowns.
Looking at recent past players Agassi won his final Masters title at the grand old age of 34 in 2004. In fact this title was also at Toronto. So perhaps there is some mystical happenings at work for the older players in Cincinnati. I certainly hope so. And when you consider that Pete Sampras won his final title at the US Open at 31 in 2002, to put some frosty icing on his glorious career, then maybe you could summise that the whole American summer would line up well for Federer. Certainly winning the US Open would be fantastic for Federer’s legacy, and would be a title in a similar ilk to Sampras in 2002.
By Thaddeus McCarthy
The tennis world at this time seems to be quite boring.
Some articles are still coming out concerning Novak Djokovic’s epic win over Federer in the Wimbledon final, which is quite surprising seeing that it was over two weeks ago, an article that recently came out discussed how Boris Becker called Federer the Greatest of All Time (yawn). Another article was out recently concerning how Boris does not call himself a friend of Novak’s. But rather than chattering about supposed coach/player relationships or the monotonous GOAT debate, what I will discuss today is the real business that should concern the tennis world right now, which is the upcoming American hard court swing.
Novak Djokovic has effectively lined himself up as the favourite to have the most successful US Open Series. Nadal is not going away any time soon, and will arguably be more of a threat on hard courts than he was through the short grass season. In terms of points to defend, Nadal has by far the most. There is a lot of doubt though, that he will be able to repeat his effort this year with what he did last year and win the US Open series (Cincinnati, Toronto and US Open). I would not put him as the second favourite this year, just because he has never traditionally performed well in the second half of the season. Last year was an odd occurrence in that respect.
The culprit for the second favouritism position this year could rest with Andy Murray, who has no points to defend and is coming under the radar. His performance at Wimbledon was encouraging after his long down period since his Wimbledon win last year. His strongest surface is perhaps hard courts, which is demonstrated by his 2012 US Open title and 3 Aussie Open final showings. Stan Wawrinka could perform well this summer, but since the Aussie Open has not looked like a Grand Slam winner. Jo Tsonga is another contender, but I think he will only do well enough through a week (or 2) to win one of the American summer tournaments, if any. I have always felt that Jo is the sort of player who is able to play lights out tennis for a period. And he could do this at any time.
The real second favourite though, should be Roger Federer, who has traditionally performed well on the American hard courts and is in resurgence this year. And the fact he lost the Wimbledon final could be good, because unlike in 2012, there will be a feeling this year that he still has something to prove. Last year he was having back problems, and so I think that it is not fair to compare his 2013 with 2014. The level he is playing at is similar to 2012, and the Wimbledon final in particular was reminiscent of Wimbledon 2009.
All things considered, Novak Djokovic should have the best period in the next couple of months. If all players are playing at their best on hard courts, I believe Novak is king. Unlike on clay, where I think Nadal still has the edge. Novak has only the one US Open title and will be hungry to grab another. However, the danger of the young up-and-comers will be more persistent this summer than any other time in recent memory. The showing of Nick Krygios (and Milos Raonic) at Wimbledon is a direct example of this.
But Novak and the rest of the tennis world should never count out Rafael Nadal, as he is the greatest competitor and most tenacious player in tennis history. And will be fighting hard to defend his titles. The field lining up against him is led by Novak, but is flanked by some notable old names and exciting new comers. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.
NEW YORK – “On This Day In Tennis History,” the book and mobile app that documents daily anniversaries of historic and unusual events in tennis history, is now available as an electronic Kindle download. The new electronic version – and the mobile app – have been updated with recent tennis happenings into 2014.
The Kindle edition of the compilation is available for $7.99 here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/This-Tennis-History-Day-Day-ebook/dp/B00JQDZ43U/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1402513835 The mobile app is available for $1.99 in both Apple’s AppStore and the Google Play Store at www.TennisHistoryApp.com.
“On This Day In Tennis History” provides fans with a fun and fact-filled calendar-like compilation of historical and unique tennis anniversaries, events and tennis happenings for every day of the year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries in this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, birthdays and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings.
The mobile app is easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details featuring captivating and unique stories of players such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras among many others.
Features of the “This Day In Tennis History” app include:
• Easily browse daily anecdotes and facts
• View birthdays for top legends and current players
• Tweet and email options makes sharing a breeze
• Set up daily reminders
• Quickly search the archive by player
• Save your favorite entries
• No internet connection needed
• Entries will be updated periodically
“On This Day In Tennis History” was created by Randy Walker, the former USTA press officer now the managing partner of New Chapter Media (www.NewChapterMedia.com) and developed and designed by Miki Singh, the former ATP Tour press officer and the founder of www.FirstServeApps.com. Most of the content in the app was originally published in Walker’s hard copy book “On This Day In Tennis History” ($19.95, available here on Amazon.com http://m1e.net/c?96279190-.PAh92abybkPc%4018743019-Kel6bOgMLp6Qc published by New Chapter Press.
Said Tennis Hall of Famer and current U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier of the book, “On This Day In Tennis History is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important—and unusual—moments in the annals of tennis.” Tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of the book “Jimmy Connors Saved My Life,” called the book compilation “an addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way—dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients.”
The app can be found by searching “Tennis History” in the iTunes App Store and Play Store or directly at these two links:
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “Andy Murray, Wimbledon Champion, The Full Extraordinary Story“ by Mark Hodgkinson, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” by Rick Macci with Jim Martz, “Court Confidential: Inside The World Of Tennis” by Neil Harman, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com), “Internet Dating 101: It’s Complicated, But It Doesn’t Have To Be” by Laura Schreffler, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” by Carl Sautter, “Bone Appetit: Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Suzan Anson, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According to Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin among others.
PlaySight Interactive, an innovative sports technology Company and creators of an affordable, tennis analytic system (the ‘SmartCourt’), today announced the completion of a $3.5 million investment round from high-profile private investors including Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King, Bill Ackman, Mark Ein, Dr. Jim Loehr and others. The new capital will fund a global roll-out of PlaySight’s SmartCourt technology for recreational and elite tennis, as well as research and development on applications in other popular sports beyond tennis. A video explaining the technology can be seen here http://youtu.be/hrp9X3K82Ek
“We are very proud to have such a powerful group of investors who share our vision of bringing elite player technology to the grassroots and club level,” said Chen Shachar, PlaySight CEO. “When we developed this technology we saw an opportunity to create an affordable, easy-to-install, cloud-based system for athletes of all levels to improve their game. In the same way that wearable tech devices and micro-cameras are transforming running and extreme sports, we are certain that SmartCourts will make tennis more engaging and fun. PlaySight combines advanced player analytics technology (PAT) with video-replay and social media to deliver an exceptional experience to the world’s 100 million tennis players. It will change the way we play ball-sports forever.”
“PlaySight has the potential to revolutionize the game of tennis as well as other sports through bringing the same sophisticated analytics available at the highest levels sports at a price point that makes it accessible to clubs and players of all levels around the globe,” said Mark Ein, CEO of growth investment holding company Venturehouse Group. “Through this ‘video-gamification’ of sports, PlaySight will make the game more fun and appealing to new and casual players while providing an incredibly valuable training tool for the more frequent player.”
The investor group announced today includes:
Bill Ackman: Founder of Pershing Capital Management LLC
Novak Djokovic: Six-time Grand Slam champion including US Open, Wimbledon, and Australian Open four times. Held world #1 ranking for 101 weeks and is currently #2
Billie Jean King: Presidential Medal of Freedom Winner, International Tennis Hall of Fame Inductee and winner of 39 Grand Slam titles
Mark Ein: Founder/early investor in five companies that have reached billion dollar valuations; founder/owner of the four-time WTT defending champion Washington Kastles and Board member the International Tennis Hall of Fame;
Dr. James Loehr: Co-founder of the Human Performance Institute and performance coach to Jim Courier and Monica Seles
Ray Benton: Former PROSERV president and current CEO of the Tennis Center at College Park (Md.)
Gordon A. Uehling III: Former ATP ranked tennis player, coach and founder of CourtSense – the first “SmartClub” in the world which all his courts are equipped with “SmartCourts”
James Kern: Veteran Wall Street Executive with over 2 decades of Capital Markets expertise. James will be joining PlaySight’s Board of Directors
Based on concepts originally designed to train fighter pilots, PlaySight‘s SmartCourt is an affordable, proprietary technology that is easily installed at tennis facilities and private courts. The SmartCourt provides players with professional real time (and post session) match statistics, analytics, line-calling and video. SmartCourt’s combined capabilities dramatically enhance the tennis-playing experience and greatly improve training and coaching efficiency.
Using five HD cameras, PlaySight’s SmartCourt automatically classifies and tags all the events that take place during a session without the need for court-side operators or wearable sensors. Players can watch selected events (e.g. every backhand down the line that went long), with no need to watch the whole video or manually tag it. PlaySight is also able to record 3D tactical game management information including the height of balls over the net, speed of every shot and the depth of balls hit within the court. The SmartCourt is easily operated by the players through a courtside kiosk and all video and data can be shared within seconds with coaches, friends and family at remote locations. Players can also track distance covered and calories burned during a match or practice session.
The Company plans to apply their affordable technology to basketball, soccer, hockey, baseball and other fields of sports with the same SmartCourt concept.
Already approved by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) for use in amateur tournaments, PlaySight’s SmartCourt technology is already installed at a number of prestige venues including Roland Garros in Paris (home of the French Tennis Federation), CourtSense Tennis Training Center in New Jersey, Queens Club in London, Stefan Edberg’s academy in Sweden, Holland’s Laurense Tennis Academy (the training center for legendary coach Sven Groeneveld) and Ramat Hasharon tennis center in Israel. PlaySight has already installed a total of 35 SmartCourts globally, including 19 in the United States. The Company has recently installed its first collegiate court at The University of Georgia, and is scheduled to install a more than 100 facilities in Florida, California, New York and at other locations around the world later this year.
Rick Macci has been dubbed “the coach of prodigies” by Hall of Fame journalist and personality Bud Collins. His reputation as such started when he worked with a pre-teen Jennifer Capriati in the 1980s, but it was burnished when he worked with Venus and Serena Williams when the future legends were only 9 and 10 years old.
In his new book “Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself And Others” ($19.95, New Chapter Press, available here on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1937559254/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_vfRvtb1P14M50T4C ), Macci describes his incredible first ever meeting with Richard Williams and his first on-court experience with Venus and Serena. The first part of the chapter “Venus and Serena Williams” from the book is excerpted here below:
I was at the Easter Bowl in 1991 in Florida one afternoon and watching kids from the academy compete and someone mentioned to me that there was a girl out in California who had a lot of potential and had just been in the New York Times. I knew every kid in the country and I had never heard of this girl named Venus Williams. And they said, “Yeah, she’s in the New York Times and there is a lot of potential.”
One thing led to another and an agent from Advantage International said, “Mr. Williams is going to give you a call because they are eventually looking to move from California to Florida to come to a tennis academy.” I said, “OK, give me a call.” A couple weekends passed and Richard Williams ended up giving me a call, probably one of the most bizarre and interesting conversations I ever had in my life. We started talking and he explained to me where they’re at, and so on and so forth, and he wanted to know if I wanted to come out to Compton and take a look at his girls. The only thing I knew about Compton was that it was kind of a rough neighborhood back in the day. He said, “The only thing I can guarantee you is I won’t let you get shot!!”
I thought I’ve got to meet this guy! I said, “Hey, it’s May, it’s kind of slow. I’ll come out for a weekend.”
I was very curious because if someone was that good, from what other people said, I know what good would be. I didn’t have anything to do that weekend, so I booked a ticket and flew out to Compton and got into LAX, got a cab to the hotel in Compton. That night Richard and Oracene and Venus and Serena came over and it was interesting because Venus sat on one knee of her dad and Serena sat on his other knee and we had this two-hour conversation. Richard was asking me all kinds of questions. He actually was very insightful because he knew a lot of things that I was surprised about. He knew who I taught and what I’ve done and which kids have won national tournaments, how many times I’ve been coach of the year. He did some homework, so he kind of had the pulse on my career.
The night ended and he said, “I’ll pick you up at 6:30 in the morning and we’ll go to Compton Hills Country Club and that’s where we’re going to practice.” He picked me up at 6:30 in the morning in an old Beetle bus, kind of wobbling side to side. I got in there in the passenger side and there was a spring sticking out of the seat and I was afraid I would harpoon myself and be permanently injured. So I watched how I sat, for sure. Venus and Serena were in the back of it and there must have been three months’ worth of McDonalds and Burger King wrappers in there, and many Coke cans and bottles, tennis balls all over. I asked, “Do you guys sleep in here?” He said, “Sometimes if I have to. Depends on the wife!”
We pulled up to the park and I thought we were going to a country club. He said, “No, this is the Compton Hills Country Club. I named it that.” I thought this guy was crazy. And I was right. Crazy like a fox! More on that later. It was a park that had two courts and it was about 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and there were about 20 guys playing
basketball and there were another 15 people at least passed out on the grass. There was broken glass and beer bottles everywhere. This was definitely different than the luxurious Grenelefe Golf & Tennis Resort, where I was director of tennis. So it was really a culture shock to see the situation.
When Richard and Venus and Serena got out of the car everybody acknowledged Richard. They called him King Richard. They acknowledged the girls. They stopped playing basketball and parted like the Red Sea and we walked through the basketball courts to get to the tennis courts. They were very respectful of the girls, probably because of the publicity. We go onto the tennis courts and they’re kind of like the courts I grew up on. They were broken, chipped up and broken glass was all over the court. The courts didn’t need resurfacing, they needed to be blown up.
I remember Richard had a shopping cart attached to the net post and it had about 20 feet of chain around it. He got the balls from the car and it took him about 20 minutes to get the chain off the basket that was attached around the post so nobody would steal it. He filled up the basket with balls, and they were all dead balls. But I brought a case of new balls because I thought maybe they might not have the best balls.
After we got organized and had all the balls in there, Venus and Serena kind of jogged around the court. One thing I noticed right off the bat: Venus ran kind of different. She was very long, very tall and had strides like a gazelle. I said, “Ah, that’s interesting.” I was thinking she should run track and not pursue tennis. This isn’t very common for tennis, someone who is spindly. She was like a praying mantis. There was a lot of length there in her stride. Serena was very stocky and compact as a 9-year-old.
I started feeding them balls. One blueprint in seeing a lot of kids is that I see greatness technically at a young age. I coached Jennifer Capriati for three years and biomechanically Jennifer was not only one of the best ever in those areas of the game, she was one of best ball strikers ever. So now I’m seeing these girls from Compton and they had beads in their hair and they were swinging at the balls and their arms and legs and hair were flying everywhere. There were elbows going right and legs going back, there was improvising all over. So cosmetically I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, “This is a train wreck! This is all hype and I cannot believe I’m in Compton, California, ruining my weekend.” I didn’t think they were really that good. I had seen all the kids and had just come from the Easter Bowl and I’d had many kids win every national at that time.
I thought Venus and Serena looked like decent athletes but technically they were all over the map just because they were improvising. You could tell they just didn’t have quality instruction. After about an hour we started doing competitive things where Venus would do something against Serena even though Venus was much better at the time. Richard said, “I prefer that they not play against each other.” So I said, “OK” and had one of them come and play with me. So we started competing and right then and there their stock rose immediately. My whole perception — and this is a good lesson for any parent or coach — you don’t judge a book by its cover. I looked cosmetically and I saw what I wanted to see. And I come from a vast background of information and I passed judgment that I thought they were limited. Now when they start competing I saw the preparation get a little quicker, I saw the footwork get a little faster, I saw consistency raise a little higher. I thought, “OK, they went from just maybe average kids their age to they could be some of the better prospects in the country.” At least now their stock was at a point where I thought they’re good, there’s some potential here. Athletically they were unique for sure.
But technically they were still a train wreck. Just a lot of things were really way off. They hadn’t had world-class instruction. But the way they competed, and they didn’t want to lose the point, to me their stock rose even more. To me that’s always the X factor, the way someone competes. Venus and Serena had a deep down burning desire to fight and compete at this age. It was unique. Unreal hunger.
Then Venus asked Richard if she could go to the bathroom. There was a lot of hugging and kissing going on. There were a great close knit, loving family. So Venus decided to go to the bathroom. She went out the gate and the first 10 feet she walked on her hands. And the next 10 feet she went into backward cartwheels.
Now I’m seeing this girl and I’m thinking, “How tall are these girls going to be?” He says, “They’re both going to be over 6 feet, strong and powerful.” And I said, “Let me tell you something. I think you have the next female Michael Jordan on your hands.” And he put his arm around me and he said, “No brother man, I’ve got the next two.” At 10 and 9 years old.
“MACCI MAGIC,” available where books are sold, including here on Amazon.com: http://m1e.net/c?150001094-X99l/7XH5chA2%4063364085-8b8oWs74ZG6qQ is the entertaining and inspirational manual and memoir that helps pave the way to great achievement not only in tennis, but in business and in life. Macci, known as the coach of tennis phenoms, including five world No. 1 players – Venus and Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova – shares his secrets to success both on and off the tennis court through anecdotes and more than 100 of his famous “Macci-ism” sayings that exemplify his teaching philosophy and illustrate the core role and power of positive thinking in the molding of a champion.
The book was written with Jim Martz, the former Miami Herald tennis writer, author and current Florida Tennis magazine publisher. Former world No. 1 and U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick contributed the foreword to the book while another teen phenom student of Macci’s, Tommy Ho, wrote a preface to the book.
Among those endorsing the book are ESPN basketball commentator and tennis fan Dick Vitale who says of Macci, “He will share his secrets for becoming a better all-around person and tennis player and gives you all the tools you will need to assist you in THE GAME OF LIFE!”
Said Mo Vaughn, three-time Major League Baseball All-Star, former American League MVP, “Rick Macci is the best coach I’ve seen. He can coach any sport on any level in any era. That’s due to his ability to communicate directly with his athletes on a level that they clearly understand the technique and what it takes both physically and mentally to be successful. Ultimately the best thing about Rick Macci is that no matter your age, ability or goals being with him on a consistent basis will teach you life lessons that you can take with you regardless of what you do. Rick Macci can make any person better just by his coaching style. My daughter Grace is lucky to have Rick Macci in her life.”
Said Vince Carter, NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist of Macci, “As a professional athlete, I have been around many coaches. Rick’s dedication and commitment to turning kids into great tennis players is paramount. The confidence and technique he continues to instill in my daughter amazes me. Rick Macci’s ability to cultivate a player is a testimony of his dynamic coaching skills.”
Said popular tennis coach and personality Wayne Bryan, father of all-time great doubles team Bob & Mike Bryan, “Rick Macci has long been at the very top of the mountain as a tennis coach. Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Andy Roddick, Jenny Capriati are on his laundry list of Grand Slam champs and all-time greats that he has worked with, but he has coached so, so many other pros and Division I college players through the years. He is a coaches’ coach. He is passionate, motivational, dedicated to the game and players, super hard working from dawn to dusk and into the night when the court lights come on, very bright, knows the game inside and out, still learning, and still striving. He is engaging, fun and funny. His new book is loaded with great stuff and stories are such a great way to entertain and educate and inspire — and no one can tell a story or give a lesson better than Rick. You will enjoy this book and be a better person for having read it.”
Macci is a United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) Master Professional, and seven-time USPTA coach of the year. He founded he Rick Macci Tennis Academy and has been inducted into the Florida USPTA Hall of Fame. He lives in Boca Raton, Florida.
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All-Time” by Steve Flink, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer (www.RogerFedererBook.com), “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “The Wimbledon Final That Never Was” by Sidney Wood, “Acing Depression: A Tennis Champion’s Toughest Match” by Cliff Richey and Hilaire Richey Kallendorf, “Titanic: The Tennis Story” by Lindsay Gibbs, “Jan Kodes: A Journey To Glory From Behind The Iron Curtain” by Jan Kodes with Peter Kolar, “Tennis Made Easy” by Kelly Gunterman, “On This Day In Tennis History” by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com), “A Player’s Guide To USTA League Tennis” by Tony Serksnis, “A Backhanded Gift” by Marshall Jon Fisher “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli (www.Boycott1980.com) among others.