by Kevin Craig
Serena Williams won her 23rd major title on Saturday at the Australian Open as she defeated her older sister, Venus Williams, in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
The theme after the match was not about Serena celebrating her win, but about celebrating her relationship with her sister.
“She’s an amazing person. There’s no way I’d be at 23 without her,” Serena said. “She’s my inspiration. She’s the only reason I’m standing here today.”
The match-up between the Williams sisters in the final in Melbourne was the oldest major final in history on the women’s side, but the two sisters showed no signs of slowing down this fortnight as each looked very impressive. Serena was just a bit more impressive, as she was able to claim her 7th Australian Open title and regain her throne at No. 1 in the WTA rankings.
“I’m enormously proud of you. You’re the world to me,” Venus said.
The match got off to an interesting start as there were four breaks of serve in a row. With each player possibly a bit nervous and unsure of how to handle the situation, it took a few games for everything to settle down. But once it did, Serena was the one who took charge. She would break for a 4-3 lead in the first set before holding at love a few games later to close it out.
Up a set, Serena continued to look confident. She had a look at a break point in Venus’ second service game of the second set, but the older sister was able to fight it off. But with Serena continuing to dominate on serve, the pressure on Venus was ever-present, and it finally got to be too much in the 3-3 game.
With Venus serving, Serena created three break chances and was able to capitalize on the third, giving her a break lead and putting herself just two games away from the title. Nothing would get in Serena’s way, as she dropped just two points in her last two service games, holding comfortably to close out the win and take the Australian Open title.
Serena is now an astonishing 23-6 in major finals, and improves to 7-2 in major finals against her sister Venus. Venus still has many positives to take away from this event, as she will improve to No. 11 in the world, her highest ranking since September, plus she also had her best result at a major since 2009.
“Thank you, Venus, for inspiring me to be the best player that I could be and inspiring me to work hard,” Serena said.
Serena’s 23 major titles is now an Open Era record, passing Steffi Graf’s 22. Margaret Court holds the overall record at 24, something that Serena will certainly have her sights set on throughout the rest of 2017.
by Kevin Craig
Venus Williams defeated Coco Vandeweghe in the Australian Open semifinals on Thursday, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3, to help set up an all-Williams final. Venus will take on sister Serena in the final on Saturday after she easily knocked out Mirjana Lucic-Baroni in straight sets.
“It’s always very satisfying to be able to get through in such a big match against an opponent who was just on fire,” Venus said. “It means so much.”
The 36-year old Venus will take on Serena for the 28th time, and the ninth time in a major final. Serena currently leads in both departments, 16-11 overall and 6-2 in major finals. Venus will be going for her eighth major title and first since 2008, while Serena will be looking for her 23rd.
“She’s basically my world and my life and she means everything to me. I couldn’t be happier with these results, and for us both to be in the final is the biggest dream come true for us,” Serena said.
Against Vandeweghe, Venus got off to a bit of a slow start, as she faced four break points in her opening service game. She could only save the first three before getting broken, but was able to bounce back right away and break the big-hitting American. From there, each play settled into the match and found their rhythms, as no more break points were seen in the rest of the set.
In the first set tiebreak, the returner won the first five points, allowing Vandeweghe to take a 3-2 mini-break lead. The 25-year old American playing in her first major semifinal would eventually take the tiebreak 7-3, thanks to a five-point run.
“I’m versatile. I can adjust. I can do what I need to do to win a match,” Venus said. Adjust is exactly what she did as the rest of the match was a completely different story than the first set.
Venus battled back straight away with a no-nonsense mindset in the second set. Vandeweghe’s level of play that had been so impressive the entire tournament finally dropped, and Venus was able to break her twice in the set. Added onto the two breaks, Venus was able to save eight break points in the second set, allowing her to even up the match and take it to a decider.
In the third, Venus was once again able to break early to apply some scoreboard pressure on Vandeweghe. Once again, Vandeweghe had difficulty converting on Venus’ serve, as she missed out on two break points in her first service game. From there, Vandeweghe only won more than one point in a Venus service game once in three tries.
In the final game of the match, with Vandeweghe serving at 5-3, Venus had a look at four break points and the nerves in the building increased with every one that Vandeweghe saved. On the fourth attempt, though, Vandeweghe sent a backhand long and Venus had finally won and reached the Australian Open final.
Venus and Serena will meet in the final on Saturday and it will be one of the most anticipated matches on the women’s tour in a very long time.
“I just feel like no matter what happens, we’ve won. She’s been through a lot. I’ve been through a lot. A Williams is going to win the tournament,” Serena said.
by Kevin Craig
CoCo Vandeweghe set up an all-American semifinal at the Australian Open on Tuesday as she easily dispatched the 2016 French Open champion Garbine Muguruza in straight sets, 6-4, 6-0.
The other American she will face in the semifinal is seven-time major champion Venus Williams, who also won in straight sets over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-4, 7-6(3).
“It’s a dream to play someone you grew up watching. To play an unbelievable player, future hall of famer, to be on the court with her, I’ve only experienced it one time before,” said Vandeweghe, who lost that matchup on clay in Rome. “But to do it at this stage of a Grand Slam is kind of crazy.”
Vandeweghe has been playing the best tennis of her life this fortnight in Melbourne as she knocked out the No. 1 player in the world Angelique Kerber in the fourth round before following that up with a demolishing of the No. 7 seed Muguruza.
In the first set, the American had a look at seven break points before she could finally convert the break on her eighth attempt for a 4-3 lead. In her first four service games of the match, Vandeweghe only lost five points on serve, but when she went to serve out the set a few nerves may have crept into her mind. She fell to 30-40 as Muguruza had a chance to get back on serve, but the big hitting American fought off that break point before winning two more points to take the set.
That was the last change Muguruza would have in the match as Vandeweghe steamrolled through the second set, winning it 6-0. The Spaniard only won four points on serve in her three service games while the American only faced one break point and saved it, earning her a spot in the semifinals.
“It feels really good. It’s amazing to be in a semifinal, but not satisfying. I want to keep going,” Vandeweghe said. “There’s more things to do out on a tennis court that I’m hoping to achieve.”
The 36-year old Williams had a battle on her hands against Pavlyuchenkova, and had to battle back from a break down two separate times in the first set before she broke at love in the final game to steal it from the Russian.
In the second set, Williams once again battle back from a break down twice, but was unable to grab a third break this time, so the set went to a tiebreak. There, Williams fell behind 3-1, but was able to rattle off five points in a row to create three set points. She only needed one as she took the tiebreak 7-3, earning her spot in the semifinals.
“Today was such a hard fought match and she never let up,” Williams said.
“I’m sure she’s going to want to be in her first final,” Williams said about Vandeweghe. “I’m going to want to be in only my second final here. So it’s going to be a well-contested match.”
That semifinal matchup will take place on Thursday in Melbourne, with the winner heading to the Australian Open final.
by Kevin Craig
Karolina Pliskova ended the opportunity of having an all-Williams semifinal at the US Open as she defeated Venus Williams on Monday, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).
“I put everything in there, I’m happy that I won it,” said Pliskova.
The 10th-seeded Pliskova reached her first quarterfinal at a major with the win that saw her battle back from a being down a set and a break in the second set, while she also had to fight off a match point in the third.
In the first, the Czech didn’t have much to offer for the crowd-favorite Williams. The American, currently ranked No. 6 in the world at the age of 36, rolled out to a 3-0 lead in the first set with ease. That lead would expand to 5-1 for Williams, but she would have difficulty closing out the set as Pliskova would break her twice and actually got the set back on serve.
With Pliskova serving at 4-5, though, she quickly fell into a 0-40 hole and was unable to battle out of it as Williams broke on her third chance to close out the set and take a lead.
The second set saw some of that momentum for Pliskova from the end of the first set carry over. Despite going down a break early, the Czech didn’t let it crush her hopes, as she immediately broke in the next game before breaking again two games later, eventually having a 5-3 lead. Serving out the set at 5-4, Pliskova had no troubles levelling the match as she held at 15 to take the match into a decider.
Pliskova, who hit 33 winners in the match, continued to be in charge early on in the third set, pressuring Williams in her first two service games. The pressure paid off as Pliskova broke for a 2-1 lead before fighting off three break points in the next game to go up 3-1. One sloppy game at 4-3, though, would cost Pliskova the lead as Williams broke easily to level up the match.
With Pliskova serving at 4-5, it looked like the opportunity had slipped out of the hands of the 24-year old as Williams had a look at a match point. Pliskova was able to hold her nerve, though, and earn a tough hold for 5-5. That gave the Czech a confidence boost that allowed her to break in the next game and attempt to serve for the match at 6-5.
After quickly going up 40-0, with three match points in hand, it looked like Pliskova had finally sealed the deal. It would never be that easy with Williams, one of the most decorated tennis players of all-time, on the other side of the net. The American was able to save all three of those match points, winning five points in a row to break back and force a final set tiebreak.
“To be honest, it was very difficult after I lost my serve for 6-6. She played a very good game but I was still focused,” said Pliskova.
In the tiebreak, the fight-back from Williams had finally reached its limit. Pliskova was able to race out to a 6-2 lead where the American saved a fourth match point. At 6-3, though, the job was finally completed as the Czech capitalized on her fifth match point to ensure her place in the quarterfinals of a major for the first time in her career.
“So far I’m happy that I got my first quarter-final. I’m going to enjoy this moment and prepare for the next match,” said Pliskova, who will take on either the No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwansa or Ana Konjuh in the next round.
by Kevin Craig
Angelique Kerber of Germany was able to prevent an all-Williams sister final from happening at Wimbledon as she defeated Venus Williams on Thursday, 6-4, 6-4, to reach the final.
“It’s just amazing…to beat Venus in the semis. It’s always tough. I’m so excited to be in the final here,” said Kerber. “I’m just happy to be playing my best and to be in my second grand slam final.”
The match got off to a very unexpected and topsy-turvy start as each of the first five games were breaks, as well as seven of the first eight. It was Kerber, though, who was able to get that crucial extra break and first hold of the match for 4-2, before eventually snatching the first set.
“I don’t know what was the problem. I think we both were returning very well at the beginning of the first set. I mean I was a little bit nervous when I go out there because I was trying to play my best tennis,” said Kerber.
The second set looked like it could be similar to the first as the German was able to break in the opening game, but that was that. The No. 4 seed felt little pressure from that point as she lost just five points in her five service games of the set, setting up a rematch of the 2016 Australian Open final in which she was able to defeat the 21-time major champion Serena Williams, who needed just 48 minutes to win her semifinal against Elena Vesnina, 6-2, 6-0.
“I know that she played long matches, in the first week especially. I was trying to move her. That was the plan,” said Kerber of her strategy against the 36-year old Venus, who made 10 more unforced errors than her opponent.
“I played against a lot of great opponents. I had a lot of tough matches. It’s not easy out there,” said Venus. “There is no such thing as impossible. It’s always possible. That’s what you feel as an athlete.”
Venus did manage to show signs of life halfway through the second set as she was able to fend off three break points while down 1-3 to hold before earning a 0-30 lead on Kerber’s serve in the next game. The German was too good though and managed to hold on, making her eager for another shot at arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time.
“I know she will go out and try everything to beat me right now,” said Kerber of her matchup with Serena which will take place on Saturday at Wimbledon.
by Kevin Craig
Sisters Serena and Venus Williams both won quarterfinal matches Tuesday at Wimbledon, meaning they are both just one win away from setting up an all-Williams Wimbledon final, the first since 2009.
“I’m so happy we’re both in the semifinals…Obviously, she’s such a tough opponent. I want her to win. But not the final, if I’m there,” said Serena.
Serena, who has won six Wimbledon titles, defeated Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4, 6-4, while Venus, who has won five Wimbledon titles, defeated Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan, 7-6(5), 6-4.
Serena, who is defending the Wimbledon title she won in 2015, got off to a slower start than she would’ve liked on Tuesday as she was unable to work her way into any of Pavlyuchenkova’s service games. The 21-time major champion persisted, though, and stood strong on her serve, allowing her to capitalize on the one weak service game of the set from the Russian. It came at a costly time too, as Serena, who won 90 percent of her first serve points in the match, earned a 0-40 lead at 4-4, converting on the first break chance before holding at love to close out the first set.
The second set was not any easier for the American, though, as Pavlyuchenkova refused to go away. After fighting through a long game on serve to open up the second set, the Russian appeared to have the momentum on her side. Pavlyuchenkova became the aggressor, forcing Serena to work for her service games.
That time of the match was short lived, though, as once again at 4-4, the Russian played a poor service game and Serena capitalized on her first break chance. The break earned the No. 1 player in the world a 5-4 lead, a carbon copy of the first set, before holding comfortably to close out the match and reach her 10th semifinal at Wimbledon.
“I am excited to be able to win and get through, it felt really good,” said Serena. “I am just trying to win my match…one thing I have learned this year is just to focus on the match.”
Venus, who is the oldest player in the Top 200, looked like she would have a tough day at the office from the get go. The American found herself down break point four times total in her first two service games of the match before being broken in her third game, giving Shvedova a 3-2 lead. The seven-time major champion was able to break right back, though, settling things down in the set.
Venus earned a set point on Shvedova’s serve at 5-4, but the Kazakh was able to fight it off and eventually force a tiebreak. Shvedova, the No. 96 player in the world who was playing in her third major quarterfinal, raced out to a 5-2 lead and looked to be in charge. No pressure was felt by Venus, though, as she was able rattle off five points in a row to steal the set.
“She was on fire…somehow I walked out with the set,” said Venus.
Shvedova wasn’t able to bounce back from the disappointment of dropping the first set in a tiebreak, as Venus broke in each of her first three service games, grabbing a 4-1 lead. It was straightforward from there for the American as she closed out the match to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon for the first time since 2009.
“What a tough day on court…I love playing the game, I always have. The wins and losses all lead to this big moment,” said Venus. “This is an awesome day. I would love to be walking towards the final.”
Serena will take on Elena Vesnina in the semifinals, while Venus have the more difficult task of battling the 2016 Australian Open champ Angelique Kerber on Thursday.
Not only is a potential matchup in the final on their minds. The sisters are playing doubles together at Wimbledon for the first time since 2014 and have reached the quarterfinals as they look to snag their sixth Wimbledon doubles title and 14th major title overall.
“On This Day In Tennis History,“ the popular tennis book, ebook and mobile app, is now also available as an audio book. The calendar-like compilation of historical and unique anniversaries, events and happenings from the world of tennis is now available in audio form via Audible.com and can be purchased here on Amazon.com: http://www.mailermailer.com/rd?http://www.amazon.com/This-Tennis-History-Day-Day/dp/B0178PCQH4/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1449508067&sr=8-1 The narrator is Tiffany Bobertz, a theatre production veteran graduate of Augustana College and resident of Tempe, Arizona. The audio version is available for sale for $26.21 or $14.95 with an Audible.com membership.
The popular mobile app version of the book is available for $2.99 at www.TennisHistoryApp.com. The app can be found by searching “Tennis History” in the iTunes App Store and Play Store or directly at these two links:
“On This Day In Tennis History,” compiled by Randy Walker, is a fun and fact-filled, this compilation offers anniversaries, summaries, and anecdotes of events from the world of tennis for every day in the calendar year. Presented in a day-by-day format, the entries into this mini-encyclopedia include major tournament victory dates, summaries of the greatest matches ever played, trivia, and statistics as well as little-known and quirky happenings. Easy-to-use and packed with fascinating details, the book is the perfect companion for tennis and general sports fans alike and is an excellent gift idea for the holiday season. The book features fascinating and unique stories of players such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, John McEnroe, Don Budge, Maria Sharapova, Bill Tilden, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, Martina Navratilova, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova among many others. “On This Day In Tennis History” is available for purchase via on-line book retailers and in bookstores in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
“On This Day In Tennis History” is published by New Chapter Press while the mobile app was designed and developed in conjunction with Miki Singh, founder of www.FirstServeApps.com. Fans can follow the app on social media at Twitter.com/ThisDayInTennis and facebook.com/thisdayintennis.
Said Hall of Famer Jim Courier of the book, “‘On This Day In Tennis History’ is a fun read that chronicles some of the most important—and unusual—moments in the annals of tennis. Randy Walker is an excellent narrator of tennis history and has done an incredible job of researching and compiling this entertaining volume.” Said tennis historian Joel Drucker, author of Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, “An addictive feast that you can enjoy every possible way—dipping in for various morsels, devouring it day-by-day, or selectively finding essential ingredients. As a tennis writer, I will always keep this book at the head of my table.” Said Bill Mountford, former Director of Tennis of the USTA National Tennis Center, “‘On This Day In Tennis History’ is an easy and unique way to absorb the greatest—and most quirky—moments in tennis history. It’s best read a page a day!”
Founded in 1987, New Chapter Press (www.NewChapterMedia.com) is also the publisher of “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” by Steve Flink, “The Secrets of Spanish Tennis” by Chris Lewit, “Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer, “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” by Bud Collins, “How To Permanently Erase Negative Self Talk So You Can Be Extraordinary” by Emily Filloramo, “The Education of a Tennis Player” by Rod Laver with Bud Collins, “The Greatest Jewish Tennis Players of All Time” by Sandra Harwitt, “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, “The 87 Rules For College” by Jacob Shore and Drew Moffitt, “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli, “The Lennon Prophecy” by Joe Niezgoda (www.TheLennonProphecy.com), “Bone Appetit, Gourmet Cooking For Your Dog” by Susan Anson, “How To Sell Your Screenplay” by Carl Sautter, “The Rules of Neighborhood Poker According To Hoyle” by Stewart Wolpin, “Lessons from the Wild” by Shayamal Vallabhjee among others.
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.
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.
By Thaddeus McCarthy
As I have just returned home from covering the ASB Classic, and the Heineken Open is already underway, I thought that now would be a good time to give you a summary of the Classic and an intro to the Open.
The ASB Classic was a fantastic six day event played at the ASB Tennis Centre, Auckland. It was (pleasantly) sunny, even though the forecast had predicted rain. The play did not disappoint, and from a personal perspective, as it was my first time covering a tournament, it was brilliant, and the experience certainly lived up to expectations. It was also the dream final, the one everyone had wanted from the start, Venus Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic. Now sometimes these sort of the matches can be disappointments; like many of the long awaited finals in our sport e.g. any number of the Federer/Nadal French Open finals. But this was different; it was tight and the tennis was electrifying. In the first set, Ivanovic cruised to win 6-2. Venus saved a match point at 5-4 in the second set, and went on to win it 7-5. In the final set though Ivanovic’s younger legs proved to be springier. She caught a break at the early stages of the set, and did not let go from there, eventually prevailing 6-4, and taking the title.
Both Venus and Ivanovic said in the post-match interviews, that this tournament was the perfect preparation for the Australian Open. I think after watching both players, I would expect at least one of them to go into the second week there. They are both on comeback trails right now, but I think that Ana is the more likely one to do so. She has the younger legs, still only being 26. And has a number of weapons on disposal, such as a blistering ground strokes and strong service game. Whereas with Venus you have to say that age is catching up with her. The other player that most impressed me from the tournament was American Jamie Hampton. I was at the press conference where she announced that she was pulling out of her semi-final with Venus, due to a hip injury. Something about her struck me. She seemed in a way similar to the Mighty Fed, in that she spoke almost in third person. She seemed very sure of herself, and I am certain that if she gets over her injury in time, by the Australian Open she will do well. In her quarterfinal against Lauren Davis, I was impressed by the all-round strength of her game.
The NZ Festival of Tennis continues this week, with the Heineken Open. David Ferrer is the defending champion here, and has come back (now as the World No. 3) to defend his title. The other headline acts will be Tommy Haas and John Isner. Gael Monfils, the flamboyant Frenchman unfortunately pulled out this week citing fatigue. Being the first month of the year this is pretty doubtful, but understandable that if he is not feeling totally right, he doesn’t want to ruin himself for the coming Slam. The tournament organisers were in talks with Andy Murray’s manager about potentially getting him in on a wild card, after his early exit from the Qatar Open. Unfortunately though, this was not to be the case. In reality it was too much of a rush for Murray to suddenly come down here to play a tournament after his Qatar loss. Tournament Director Karl Budge insisted after the Murray and Monfils announcements that the tournament does still have some exciting talent, such as young American Jack Sock, not to mention Marcos Baghdadis, Benoit Paire and Phillip Kohlschreiber. Ferrer’s path to the title, will no doubt still be a difficult one, even without a Murray in his way.
As the Classic proved for the ladies, the Heineken Open will serve as a good preparation for the Australian Open, as that Slam begins on the 15th. If I were to predict a player from this tournament who has the potential to win it though, it would not be David Ferrer. Although he has a very high likelihood of winning the Heineken again, I just don’t think that he has enough firepower to win a Slam. Yes, he did reach the French final last year (where he was dually shellacked in straight sets by Nadal), but Slam winners traditionally need to have a weapon arsenal at their disposal. It is very uncommon for journeyman (such as Ferrer) to win Slams. One-Slam-Wonder Journeyman who immediately come to mind include Andrei Gomez (1990 French) and Thomas Johanseen (2002 Aussie). Now in both these cases they were lucky; in Gomez’s case, Agassi was more worried about his hair piece falling out than winning the final. In Johanseen’s case, he had a very favourable draw that year, and played the volatile and unstable Marat Safin in the final.
My pick for the surprise run of the tournament is Benoit Paire. He is a tall man, with surprising balance, and of course has a booming serve. Although he has not yet gone beyond the third round of a Slam, the Australian as we all know is notorious for unexpected runs. Marcos Baghdadis, 2006 anyone? Or how about Fernando Gonzalez, 2007, or Tsonga, 2008. All of those players had weapon arsenals; the Gonzalez forehand was, is still is legendary. Whatever the case though, surprise run or not, for all of the players involved in this lead-up tournament, the Heineken will be great preparation for the Aussie Open.
You will hear from me again at the completion of the tournament. So for now, keep well.