Wimbledon

French Open Champ Muguruza Falls at Wimbledon

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

Current French Open champion and 2015 Wimbledon runner-up Garbine Muguruza of Spain was shocked on Thursday at Wimbledon as she was taken out by the No. 124 player in the world, Jana Cepelova.

Cepelova, a 23-year old from Slovakia, grabbed the straight sets win in stunning fashion by a score of 6-3, 6-2.

Muguruza allowed Cepelova to get off to a confident start as the 23-year old broke the Spaniard in her first service game of the match before holding at love to consolidate for a 3-0 lead at the first sit-down of the match. Cepelova had difficulties serving out the set the first time as she broke Muguruza again for a double break lead at 5-2, but could not close out the set in her first attempt. The set was won two games later, though, as Cepelova was able to fight off a late burst from the French Open champion.

“From the beginning, I feel really good on the court,” said Cepelova.

That late burst from the first set could not be sustained in the second set as Cepelova quickly stamped her foot down and took control. Breaking in both of Muguruza’s first two service games of the set allowed the challenger to race out to a 4-0 lead. The match was done and dusted at that point as Cepelova was able to hold in her next two service games to close out the match and reach the third round of Wimbledon for the second time in her career.

“I am really surprised, I didn’t expect two sets…Last year I beat (Simona) Halep on this court and I had great memories,” said Cepelova, who surprised even herself with the impressive performance.

The Slovakian, who had to win three qualifying matches to get into the main draw, has a knack for major upsets as she has the aforementioned win over Halep in the first round of Wimbledon last year to go along with her win over Serena Williams in 2014. Cepelova’s three biggest wins of her career have given her wins over a No. 1 player in the world, a No. 2 player in the world, and a No. 3 player in the world.

“I have some great players beaten so I’m very satisfied,” said Cepelova, who was once ranked as high as No. 50 in the world.

“I like these courts. I like to play against the biggest stars, against the champions.”

The loss for Muguruza means she became the ninth consecutive first-time major winner to fail to reach the quarterfinals of the next major tournament.

“I think she played great…she was trying a lot of stuff that was working. My energy was not really there. I was trying, but it didn’t work at all,” said Muguruza.

Cepelova has now won eight of her last nine matches and will look to continue her good run of form in the third round of Wimbledon where she will take on another major finalist in Lucie Safarova, the No. 28 seed in this year’s event who reached the final of the French Open in 2015.

MuguruzaLossWimby

Roger Federer Ends Cinderella Run of Marcus Willis at Wimbledon

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Roger Federer ended the Cinderella run of Marcus Willis on Wednesday at Wimbledon as the No. 3 player in the world defeated the No. 772 player in the world, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4.

Willis, the Brit who was extremely close to pulling the plug on his professional tennis career, decided to make a run at his dream one more time and was successful, winning a wild card tournament to earn entry into the qualifying tournament at Wimbledon, where he was able to beat three top-quality players, one of which was ranked inside the Top 100, to earn a spot in the main draw.

“This story is gold. I hope the press respects his situation. It’s easy now to use it, chew it up, and then throw it all away. He’s got a life and career after this,” said Federer of Willis’ story.

A match with Federer on Centre Court inspired Willis to confidently breeze through his first round match in straight sets, but the 17-time major champion was able to quickly stomp out any possibility of Willis’ run continuing, racing out to a quick one set advantage in less than half an hour.

Willis provided the crowd with something to cheer for early in the second set as he got on the scoreboard for the first time to get to 1-1. The 25-year old played Federer tight throughout the set, but was unable to create any chances on the serve of the Suisse, winning just four points in four return games. Because of the inability to create chances on the return, one poor service game from Willis at 2-3 was the turning point in the set, as Federer converted on his third break point of the game to grab a 4-2 lead, before eventually closing out the set.

The British crowd continued their massive support of Willis in the third set, and he did not disappoint. The Brit looked like he belonged on the biggest stage in tennis as he battled toe-to-toe with arguably the greatest player of all time, serving confidently and beginning to create chances on return. Willis saw just his second break point of the match at 3-2 in the third set, but it was staved off by the veteran, propelling him to break at love just three games later before closing out the straight sets win.

“It’s not easy for him to come out there and play a decent match. There’s a lot of pressure on him as well. I thought he handled it great,” said Federer, complimenting Willis’ performance.

Sure, Willis didn’t win the match, but he earned something so much more important than that. He won the respect of millions of tennis fans around the world, especially those in his own country, who surely hope that he will change his plans and continue his professional tennis career.

“It was all just a blur. It was amazing…I love every bit of it,” said Willis. “The whole experience was incredible.”

After the match had ended, Federer stayed by his chair, allowing Willis to be the one who walked out to the middle of the court to acknowledge the applauding fans giving him a standing ovation, something he may never be able to do on that big of a stage again.

“It was his moment. I wanted him to have a great time,” said Federer.

Federer will take on the winner of Dan Evans, another Brit, or Alex Dolgopolov in the third round.

Juan Martin del Potro Makes Winning Return To Wimbledon

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Juan Martin del Potro made a winning return to Wimbledon on Tuesday as he defeated Frenchman Stephane Robert, 6-1, 7-5, 6-0.

Del Potro was in complete control of the match from the get go, breaking Robert in four of his first five service games, and having a look at three break points in the one game that he did not break. That, combined with a few easy holds, allowed the Argentine to cakewalk to a first set win before having to battle in the second.

After splitting breaks in the first two games, there were almost no opportunities on return for either player until the 12th game in which del Potro, who lost just four points on his first serve throughout the match, was able to break and win the set.

That break was the first of four consecutive for the 27-year old as he only dropped one point on serve in the third set to bagel Robert and close out the match in comprehensive fashion.

“To be honest, I feel my forehands and serves are working well at the moment. But my confidence is not there yet,” said del Potro, who hit 20 forehand winners and zero on the backhand side.

While Robert may be ranked just No. 79 in the world, he has racked up impressive results in 2016, and the way that del Potro was able to dispatch the journeyman was a confidence boost for the former No. 4 player in the world, but he is still making sure to look at the bigger picture.

“This is my comeback after three years. I’m expecting to be better in the future, but for this year my challenge is to finish healthy and ready to make a good preparation for the next year.”

Del Potro, who last played at the All England Club in 2013 when he reached the semifinals of Wimbledon, has had to deal with a plethora of problems with his wrist that have required three separate operations, sidetracking what had the potential to be one of the greatest careers of all-time.

“I was close to quit tennis in the end of last year, but now…I’m enjoying tennis again. I’m starting to talk about tennis and no more about my wrist. That’s important,” said del Potro.

His appearance at Wimbledon this year is his first at a major since the 2014 Australian Open. Of course, his most notable result at a major is his US Open title in 2009 in which he beat Roger Federer in an epic five-setter, but he did have a great amount of success at the majors throughout his career before injuries hit, including two semifinal and five quarterfinal appearances, which allowed him to reach a career high ranking of No. 4 in 2010 and finish the season in the Top 5 twice.

Del Potro has already successfully come back from an issue with his wrist as he was sidelined in early 2010. He was unable to defend his US Open crown and fell to a year-end ranking of No. 257, before impressively climbing back to No. 11 in 2011, re-solidifying his position at the top of the game.

Unfortunately, injuries returned in early 2014, limiting del Potro’s play to just a few tournaments in recent years, and he is looking to make a second successful comeback.

“I’m working hard mentally because I have to deal with some pains and some frustrations,” said del Potro.

After playing just two tournaments in 2015, the Argentine has been able to play seven events coming into Wimbledon this year and has surprised himself with how much success he is having as he was able to reach the semifinals in Delray Beach and Stuttgart.

“This year is completely different for myself and I am enjoying tennis a lot,” said del Potro.

The 2009 US Open champ will take on the two-time major champ in Stan Wawrinka in his second round match in what is sure to be a blockbuster.

Novak Djokovic In Hunt For Calendar-Year Grand Slam

With the third Grand Slam of the tennis season getting underway in South West London this week, Wimbledon and the upcoming US Open provide Novak Djokovic with the opportunity to become the first man in the history of the men’s game to win a calendar Grand Slam. The Serbian world number one has achieved success at the Australian Open and French Open so far in 2016, and will be looking to write himself into the record books with further victories this summer.

Djokovic is seeded one for Wimbledon, and as he hunts for his fourth title on the grass in London, the Serbian still believes that there is room for improvement in his game. This will certainly be ominous news for his closest rivals, with bookmakers Coral offering Djokovic as the favourite over the next two weeks with tennis betting odds of 8/11 Of course, we cannot talk about Wimbledon without mentioning home favourite and 2013 winner Andy Murray. With another day, another Murray story makes the headlines, and the Scot heads to Wimbledon having achieved the perfect preparation with another title at Queens, under his new coach for the second time, Ivan Lendl. Murray is the 5/2 second favourite with Coral, with Roger Federer and Milos Raonic at 11/1 and 12/1 respectively to upset the world’s current top two.

Meanwhile, August sees the return to action of the US Open at Flushing Meadows, with the world’s best players battling it out under the lights in New York. Djokovic will be looking to defend his title from last year, and with it possibly achieve the calendar Grand Slam. As a result, Coral offer Djokovic tennis betting odds of 10/11, with Murray once again the second favourite at 4/1. With Rafa Nadal missing Wimbledon due to injury, the Spaniard will be hoping to recover in time to take part in New York, where he is currently 16/1 with Coral to win his third US Open title.

Having failed to win a Grand Slam title since 2012, Federer will be looking to hit back in the best way possible at critics who have written off the 34-year-old over recent years. The Swiss maestro certainly loves the grass of Wimbledon, and it will take a brave man to bet against the seven-time champion reaching the latter stages once again this year.

Marcus Willis, Ranked No. 772, Is British Cinderella Out Of Hollywood Screenplay With Wimbledon Win

by Kevin Craig

@KCraig_Tennis

 

Marcus Willis, the No. 772-ranked player in the world, put on an astounding performance on Monday at Wimbledon, continuing his improbable run that began even before the qualifying event last week.

Willis beat Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania in straight sets by a score line of 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 thanks, in large part, to the massive crowd support he had on Court 17.

Berankis, a player who has shown spurts of great talent on the ATP World Tour level, was simply unable to crack through the spirited performance from Willis, winning only one of 20 break points that he saw and was simply unable to ever get a foothold in the match.

Early breaks in each set allowed the Brit to play confidently throughout the match as he put on display his great touch around the net and his “unorthodox” game that has the ability to frustrate any opponent.

The confident display never wavered from Willis, and an unreturned serve on match point gave him the biggest win of his career over the 53rd ranked Berankis and a spot in the second round.

The 25-year old had absolutely no intentions of playing in Wimbledon this year, and was close to even calling quits on his professional tennis career. Having only played one event since September of 2015, Willis found himself looking for tennis teaching jobs around the world. After an inspiring conversation with his girlfriend and a bit of luck, though, Willis found himself back on court looking to fulfill one of his biggest dreams.

Willis, in order to fulfill that dream, had to play in a pre-qualifying event just to earn his spot in the main qualifying event for Wimbledon, and his entry into the pre-qualifying event only came when a player had travel issues and was unable to make it to the tournament site in time.

Some impressive performances in the pre-qualifying earned Willis a wild card into the qualifying event, where he was able to dispatch three very talented players, one of which is currently inside the Top 100, to continue his magical run into the main draw of Wimbledon.

“I’ve always wanted to play at Wimbledon. I just never thought it would happen,” said Willis.

He is getting his opportunity to play at Wimbledon now and is taking full advantage of it. His prize for reaching the second round? £50,000 and a match against seven-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer.

“I think it’s one of the best stories in a long time in our sport,” said Federer of Willis’ run.

“I’m not sure he can play on grass, that’s good,” said Willis jokingly. “I get to play on a stadium court. This is what I dreamed of when I was younger.”

When Willis was younger, he was one of the highly touted juniors coming up through Great Britain with a lot of promise.

“When I was a junior, yeah, I was talented…Then I got dropped in the real world,” said Willis. “I lost a lot of confidence, made some bad decisions, went out too much, lifestyle wasn’t good…I didn’t have the drive.”

Thankfully, though, for Willis, he has regained that drive and will now get to play on arguably the biggest stage in tennis on Wednesday; Center Court at Wimbledon.

“Two, three, four years ago, [playing at Wimbledon] was looking very unlikely. Now I’m here. I’m going to enjoy every minute,” said Willis.

Why Novak Djokovic WILL win all four Grand Slam titles in 2016

Without a doubt, Novak Djokovic is the best tennis player on the planet and the Serbian won three of the four Grand Slam titles on offer in 2016. This year, the world number one will be looking to go one better and claim victory in all four major tournaments as he looks to cement his place as one of the greatest male tennis players of all-time. Here is why Djokovic is capable of defying the odds and enjoying an incredible season in 2016.

Okay, so Djokovic is an exceptional tennis player. In fact, it could be argued that he is more or less unbeatable on his day. The Serbian’s consistency at the top level stands him apart from the rest and his hunger and strive to achieve greatness helps to motivate him in almost every single tournament that he enters. As of January 11th, Djokovic is priced at 6/1 with Coral to win all four Grand Slam competitions this year and many will be backing the Serbian to succeed in the sports betting in 2016.

Perhaps the most straightforward tournament of all will be the Australian Open, which gets underway later this week. In Coral’s sports betting markets, Djokovic is priced at 4/6 to win a sixth Australian Open title. It is by far his favourite event and the Serbian will be well favoured, especially if Andy Murray is forced to drop out of the competition due to the impending birth of his child. Djokovic loves the Melbourne event and must rank as the greatest player on the planet on the hard court surface.

The trickiest tournament will be the French Open. Djokovic is yet to win at Roland Garros and while Rafael Nadal has struggled in the last couple of years, it would be foolish to rule the Spaniard out. If the Serbian is going to win this particular title, his time is now – especially before last year’s winner Stanislas Wawrinka becomes one of the top players in the world. It will be tough but if anyone is capable of defying the odds, it’s Novak Djokovic.

From there, Djokovic will only need Wimbledon and the US Open to complete the set. In 2015, the Serbian won both of these tournaments with relative ease although he did have to dig deep in order to defeat Roger Federer in both finals. The Swiss superstar may not be the same athlete that he was five years ago but he still possesses sheer talent and is capable of denying Djokovic the coveted Grand Slam quadruple.

So, will the Serbian achieve this goal? Well, it’s an incredibly difficult ask but Djokovic is an exceptional tennis player. A lot will hinge on the performances of Andy Murray – if the British number one performs at his best, Djokovic will find it tough. However, any slip-up and the Serbian will be too good and should capitalise. Fans are set for a great year of tennis and it could be a record-breaking performance if Djokovic has his way.

 

Something Called The Grand Slam – Book Excerpt From “The Education of a Tennis Player”

Rod Laver is one of five players to win the Grand Slam of tennis – sweeping all four majors in one calendar year. He is the only one to achieve this amazing feat on two occasions – in 1962 and in 1969. Laver discusses the Grand Slam in this except from his book “The Education of a Tennis Player” (available here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257626/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_3LuMvb169NNH6) written with Bud Collins.

Grand Slam varies in meaning in the games of bridge, baseball, golf, and tennis. A sweep of the tricks, or a home run with the bases loaded, is unusual but not rare. The bridge table and the ball diamond offer the possibility daily.

In golf and tennis, a series of triumphs within a calendar year make up a Slam. Golf ’s has been singular, celebrated only in 1930 when Bobby Jones, the phenomenal Georgian, won the amateur and open championships in both Britain and the United States. I can’t imagine there’ll ever be another just like that one, since only an amateur is eligible to enter all four tournaments, and the amateur who can compete evenly with pros in golf and tennis no longer exists. Today golf’s Grand Slam is considered the winning of both the U.S. and British Opens plus the Masters and the PGA. No one has ever done it.

The Slam in tennis is also an obstacle course of four national championships to be won in one year, though farther flung in time and location: the Australian in January, the French in June, the British in July, and the U.S. in September. I like to think the tennis Slam is the hardest of all because you have to get your game up to top level four times over an eight-month stretch, and of course you’re playing other tournaments in between, too. Much travel and changing conditions are involved. In 1969, I started in the tropical summer heat of Brisbane and wound up in the autumn rain of New York.

I’m not sure when I first heard the term Grand Slam, but it was Don Budge—the original Slammer—who cleared up the meaning for me. Don explained that the only countries to win the Davis Cup—Australia, the U.S., France, and Britain—became known as the Big Four, the world’s tennis powers, and when Budge was the first to sweep the Big Four titles in 1938—the year I was born—his feat was called the Grand Slam.

Five years earlier, an Australian, Jack Crawford, came very close. Jack won the Australian, French, and Wimbledon (British). The official name is The Lawn Tennis Championships, period, (but everybody calls this event Wimbledon.) At Forest Hills for the U.S. Championship, Crawford led Fred Perry two sets to one, and it appeared that he would have a Slam. Crawford hadn’t set out specifically to win all four, as did Budge in 1938, and numerous others including myself later. He just won the first three, and that had never happened before. But there was little, if any, ballyhoo about a Grand Slam preceding his bid to complete it.

In his column in The New York Times, John Kieran did write: “If Crawford wins, that would be something like scoring a grand slam on the courts, doubled and vulnerable.” And when Crawford fell short, Allison Danzig reported in paragraph three of his account in the Times that “Crawford’s quest of the Grand Slam was frustrated.” With his 2-1 lead in sets Crawford may have looked the winner, but he was through, exhausted. He was having trouble with his asthma, and even occasional slugs of brandy taken during the fourth and fifth sets couldn’t turn him back on. Jack won one more game, and Perry won the match, 6-3, 11-13, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1.

The next year Perry, the dashing Englishman, took three of the major titles, but he was cut off early, losing in the fourth round of the French. But he won the French in 1935 and became the first to win all four major titles, though not within a calendar year. Budge not only made the first Slam, he says he invented it. “I take certain whimsical pride in creating it [the Slam],” he wrote in his autobiography. “Crawford almost won something that didn’t exist. There was only passing notice at the time that I had won all four titles, but with time and publicity the stature of the Grand Slam grew. The expression became popular and it was what I came to be best known for.

“In 1938 I had set my goal to win these four titles, but only my good friend and doubles partner, Gene Mako, was aware of it,” Budge wrote. “The fact that there was no such acknowledged entity as the Grand Slam made it somewhat easier for me because I wasn’t bothered by the cumulative pressure of the press and fans that Laver and Lew Hoad [in 1956] had forced on them. But the pressure from within was no less intense for me than for them.”

The Times’ “passing notice,” as Budge calls it, was just that after he beat Mako in the Forest Hills final. “Feat Sets a Precedent” was the fourth deck in the headline, and well down in his story Danzig noted: “… a grand slam that invites comparison with the accomplishment of Bobby Jones in golf.”

Budge relates that his biggest goal had been attained in 1937 when he led the United States to its first Davis Cup success in ten years. He was clearly the master of the amateur world, and he wanted another goal to keep his interest high in 1938 before he helped in the defense of the Cup and then turned pro. He set out to make a Slam, an original contribution to sporting lore, and a target for those who followed. Thanks to his pioneering, the Slam received plenty of ballyhoo thereafter, and was uppermost when I made the rounds.

In Budge’s time, obviously, few non-Australians made the twenty-one-day haul Down Under to play in our championship. The boat trip was forbidding and expensive. In 1938, only Budge, Mako, and three or four Australians even played all four Major tournaments. By my day the jets opened up the world to everyone and squeezed it together, making it relatively easy for a squad of tourists to hit all the major stops. The same tough crowd was everywhere—there was no avoiding them.

In Budge’s Grand Slam, six of his 24 victories were over men ranked along with him in the world’s top ten. In mine of 1969, I won 26 matches, 12 of them against others in the top ten. I also won the South African championship, the British Indoor, the U.S. Pro, and 11 other tournaments, a total of 18 titles in 33 tournaments. The pace had accelerated. We were playing every month of the year, probably too much for our own good. But the money was there, and we went after it. Tennis wasn’t a year-round occupation in the Budge era. It is now. I think it’s more demanding, flitting between time zones, and there’s more pressure with so much money being pumped into the game. But I like it this way, the money and the constant movement.

When I make comparisons between today and the more leisurely Budge period, I’m certainly not trying to make my triumphs sound any grander than his, just pointing up differences. At the end of 1969, a
panel of the most respected tennis writers drew up an all-time ranking. It was headed by Bill Tilden. Second was Budge, followed by me. I don’t think anybody can really say who was the greatest, but I am happy to accept that ranking. Moreover, I considered Don a friend, and I’ll always be grateful to him for the way he treated me in 1962 when I was on the verge of my first Grand Slam.

Another man might have been resentful of my claiming a piece of the property that had been his alone for twenty-four years. Not Don. He had been through the tension, and knew what it could be like. He
helped me relax by spiriting me away for a day in the country before Forest Hills began that year. We drove to the Grossinger’s resort in the Catskills where I could take it easy. Nobody asking questions, no phones ringing. We even played a couple of nonchalant sets. He was great.In Don’s year, he was unquestionably the best player in the world, though an amateur. I couldn’t very well consider myself the best when I won the amateur Grand Slam in 1962 so long as such splendid pros as Pancho Gonzalez, Ken Rosewall, and Lew Hoad were at large. Plus Butch Buchholz, Alex Olmedo, Andres Gimeno, Barry MacKay, and Mal Anderson. I was excited and tremendously pleased at making the Grand Slam in 1962. The collection of titles raised my asking price when I turned pro a few months later—but I knew I wasn’t the best. Probably Rosewall was then. Knowing that took something out of my satisfaction at dominating amateur tennis. I had my Grand Slam; now I wanted a shot at Rosewall, Gonzalez, and the others. To get it I had to drop into limbo with them on the pro circuit and give up any thought of ever repeating the Grand Slam.

It was either glory or money in those days prior to open tennis. You took your choice: glory (and, of course, enough money to get by on) with the amateurs; or very good money and anonymity with the pros. It was time for me to make the good money, and to satisfy my competitive urge against the blokes I knew were the strongest. But no more Slams . . . I thought then.

I’d heard about Budge’s Grand Slam, and Californian Maureen Connolly’s, too. Until Aussie Margaret Smith Court did it in 1970, and German Steffi Graf in 1988, Maureen had won the only women’s Slam in 1953. My first year away from Australia, 1956, I was a witness to a nearthing.Lew Hoad was the world’s No. 1 amateur then, one of my early heroes, and I was able to watch almost all of his matches as he took the Australian, French, Wimbledon, and came into the final at Forest Hills. One match away, but across the net was Kenny Rosewall. I sat there marveling at Rosewall, along with the rest of the crowd, as he destroyed Lew’s bid, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. I never stopped marveling at him. Thirteen years later, he was still around trying to break up my second Grand Slam. He had his shot at me in the final of the French, but I played the clay court match of my life and avoided the treatment he gave Lew.

But in 1956, it was exciting enough just to be at Forest Hills and follow Lew’s progress. I was eighteen, awed, and unknown. A few aficionados recognized my name because I’d won the U.S. junior title a month before, but I could wander around getting the feel of the place completely unnoticed.

I was out of that tournament fast. Ham Richardson, then the No. 1 American, was my first-round opponent, and by virtue of the company I was keeping I played for the first time in the Forest Hills Stadium. Ham got me out of there before you could say one-two-three: 6-1, 6-2, 6-3. My Queensland mate, Roy Emerson, got to the quarters, and I was glad for him. It was fun for a young Australian to watch as his countrymen dominated the championship of their great rival, America, with Hoad, Rosewall, and Neale Fraser surrounding a solitary Yank, Vic Seixas, in the semis. I didn’t mind the passive role of spectator at the final. I figured I’d be there in one of the starring roles one day, but the thought of a Grand Slam for Laver didn’t occur to me until four years later.

In 1960, I won the Australian title for the first time, and since that’s the only way you can begin a Grand Slam, I wondered: Why not me? After beating Neale Fraser—coming from two sets down—I had that feeling that it was going to be a big Laver year. Hadn’t I been Wimbledon finalist to Alex Olmedo in 1959? So why couldn’t I make a GrandSlam?

Manolo Santana, the gifted Spaniard, showed me why. He and that slow clay in Paris abruptly brought me back to the real world. Parisian clay may look harmless, but it’s quicksand for us outsiders from Australia and America, a trap that clogs our power and swallows us. Europeans are like kids snapping up peanut butter sandwiches when they operate on the home ground against big hitters. My visions of a Grand Slam were almost blacked out in the first round of the French by a Pole named Andrzej Licis, who pushed me all over for five sets. Weird luck was the only way I beat him—with a no-hope shot made up on the run, a backhand topspin lob at match point that floated over his head, plunked on the baseline and left the ball stained with a big white chalkspot. I had never heard of Licis before, and seldom after, but that afternoon I thought he was one of the greatest players in the world. I doubt he felt the same respect for me.

I wasn’t thinking Grand Slam anymore, just wondering how much longer I could last. Not another round. Santana, who really was one of the best, and plays a clay court as artistically as Isaac Stern plays the violin, put me out with little trouble.

I had to learn to play on clay, to firm up my patience and prepare my way to the net better. The Grand Slam was three-quarters grass [today hard courts replace lawns in Australia and the U.S.], and I wasn’t worried about myself there. The other quarter, the French, is something else, more challenging than the others, more difficult to win, more satisfying from the standpoint of having survived a terrific test.

There isn’t as much pressure, perhaps, because it’s early in the season and the prestige isn’t as great as Wimbledon or Forest Hills. But in Paris you know you’ve been in a fight. You come off the court exhausted, looking battle-stained, your clothes and body smudged with red clay. I promised myself that in 1961 it would be different for me in Paris. It was to the extent that I got to the semifinals before running into Santana, who was the top seed. And I gave him a better match. After four sets we were even—in the score anyway, two sets each, and I’d had a fine chance to win in four, leading 4-1. But I was through, and Manolo wrapped me in a lovely web of shotmaking, 6-0 in the fifth. I believe that’s the only time it’s happened to me since I’ve been a world-class player. It happened so fast it was almost painless.

In the second set Manolo sprained his left ankle. He took off his shoe and hobbled around, testing, to see if he could go on. I followed him to commiserate, but not to step on his bare foot as I should have. I missed my chance. Still, it didn’t seem to matter when I had that 4-1 lead in the fourth set. Then Manolo exploded. He was sure of his ankle again, and he rang up eleven straight games and the match. I never got close until we shook hands.

Five weeks later, I won Wimbledon and was considered No. 1 in the world. Was that a nice thing to do to your leader, Manolo—blitz me in Paris with all those people watching?

A Look Back At Boris Becker’s Historic First Wimbledon Title

In 1985, Wimbledon bore witness to one of the most unpredictable and exciting runs to a championship when 17-year-old Boris Becker romped his way to an historic title at the All England Club. Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame journalist and tennis personality, profiles Becker’s run to his first of three Wimbledon titles in this excerpt from his book “The Bud Collins History of Tennis” below.

Attention, please. Or, in the native tongue of Boris Becker, Achtung! Not only did a new champion appear on the tennis scene in 1985, he also ushered in a new era. In a year that sparkled with fresh faces, the brightest and most engaging belonged to a 17-year-old son of a West German architect, a teenager either too cool or too naive to know he had no business playing with grown men.
At Wimbledon, a tournament that prizes tradition above all else, Becker challenged the past and won. Never had anyone so young claimed a men’s title at The Lawn Tennis Championships. Never had an unseeded player been fitted for a singles crown. Never had a German male ascended to the throne of tennis. Becker changed all of the above in the span of three hours, 18 minutes on one sunlit, summer afternoon.
The youngster, who had won only one previous event on the men’s tour (three weeks earlier at Queen’s Club in London, over Johan Kriek), climaxed a breathtaking rise to prominence by wearing down eighth-seeded Kevin Curren, 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, in the Wimbledon final. By the end of the season, he had made a spectacular jump in the rankings from No. 65 to No. 6 and became the symbol of change sweeping over the sport.
Belly-flopping Boris, who threw himself at balls with teenage abandon, injured his left ankle in the fourth round against Tim Mayotte and wanted to quit after the fourth set. His manager, Ion Tiriac, dissuaded him. Becker probably should have been defaulted because of the overly long delay in being treated. He resumed thanks only to the sporting forbearance of Mayotte. It was soon obvious that this was a charmed fortnight for the husky redhead. Three of his first six matches were suspended and held over for another day, a circumstance that would unnerve even veteran players.
Not Becker. He responded to every challenge like a man, yet still reacted with the infectious enthusiasm of a boy. In the final, before a capacity crowd that included assorted princes and princesses, the 6-foot-3 man-child answered Curren’s serve with a bludgeon of his own— 21 aces to Kevin’s 19. He also out-volleyed and out-steadied his 27-year-old opponent from the baseline.
“I should have had the advantage,” Curren said. “Being older, being to the semi-finals [1983], being on Centre Court. Maybe he was too young to know about all that stuff.”
Or at least too young to rattle. Becker became such a sensation in the early stages of the tournament with his reckless dives—”Usually, he comes off the court with blood on him,” observed Tiriac—that the bookmaking chain, Ladbrokes, installed him as a 7-4 favorite after the quarterfinals.
His popularity with the fans was not echoed in the British press, which did not let anyone forget he was a German. Even the respectable broadsheets relentlessly used war analogies in describing the player. In The Times, the respected Rex Bellamy duly noted that scheduled television programming in Becker’s homeland was interrupted to carry his quarterfinal victory over Leconte and added, “How odd it was that Germany should have such a personal interest in a court on which, in 1940, they dropped a bomb.”
It’s true a bomb did land on the roof of Centre Court in October 1940, destroying 1,200 seats. And no German was permitted to enter the tournament for four years after it was resumed in 1946. (Germans had been banned for nine years after WWI.) Ironically, Becker’s shining moment occurred on July 7, the birth date of Baron Gottfried von Cramm. For more than half of the century, the Baron was regarded as one of the finest players never to have won Wimbledon.

Thirty Years Ago At Wimbledon….Anne White’s Fashion Statement

It was 30 years ago in 1985 when Wimbledon experienced perhaps its most controversial moment of fashion. On the cold day of June 27, 1985, Anne White decided to wear a more functional all white body suit outfit provided by her clothing endorser Pony in her match with Pam Shriver, but the outfit was later deemed to be a “wardrobe malfunction” by the strict Wimbledon officials. The excerpt from the “This Day In Tennis History” mobile app and book by Randy Walker (www.TennisHistoryApp.com) documenting the famous fashion incident can be found below.

June 27, 1985 – Anne White turns heads at The All-England Club when she sports a white body stocking in her first-round match against Pam Shriver at Wimbledon. White wears all-body leotard-like outfit to keep her warm during the chilly day in London and splits sets with the No. 5 seeded Shriver before play is suspended due to rain. Wimbledon referee Alan Mills later calls the outfit not appropriate tennis attire and forbids her from wearing it again in the tournament. White returns the next day, without her all-white body suit and dressed in a traditional white tennis skirt and blouse, but loses the third set and the match 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-3. Says White the following day, “I’m a little aggravated I couldn’t wear it today. But it’s their tournament and I don’t want to do anything to upset them or hurt their feelings. I mean, I don’t want people spilling their strawberries and cream because of me.”

The 10 Greatest Wimbledon Matches of All Time

With Wimbledon upon us, it’s fun to get nostalgic looking back at the greatest matches of all time from the greatest tournament in tennis. In his book “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” (for sale here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257936/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_J0GGvb1GB6WV8) author Steve Flink describes the greatest tennis matches of not just Wimbledon, but in the history of the sport, and ranks the matches in order of their significance. The following is the Flink’s rankings of the greatest Wimbledon matches of all time as they appear in his book. Here is the list, in order, of the greatest tennis matches in Wimbledon history, with their respective “all-time” ranking on the left.

1. (No. 1 All-Time) Rafael Nadal d. Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-7 (9), 9-7, final, Wimbledon, grass, 2008

2. (No. 2 All-Time) Bjorn Borg d. John McEnroe 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18) 8-6, final, Wimbledon grass, 1980

3. (No. 8 All-Time) Pancho Gonzales d. Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9, first round, grass, Wimbledon, 1969

4. (No. 10 All-Time) Henri Cochet d. Bill Tilden 2-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-3, semifinal, Wimbledon, grass, 1927

5. (No. 12 All-Time) Margaret Court d. Billie Jean King 14-12, 11-9, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1970

6. (No. 18 All-Time) Helen Wills Moody d. Helen Jacobs 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1935

7. (No. 25 All-Time) Maria Bueno d. Margaret Smith 6-4, 7-9, 6-3, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1964

8. (No. 27 All-Time) Stan Smith d. Ilie Nastase 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1972

9. (No. 28 All-Time) Roger Federer d. Andy Roddick 5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14, final, Wimbledon, grass, 2009

10. (No. 29 All-Time) Maureen Connolly d. Doris Hart 8-6, 7-5, final, Wimbledon, grass, 1953