October 7, 2015

Catching Up with Vania King

Vania King gives towels to children

(September 1,  2015) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY –  WTA player Vania King is back on tour after being absent for about almost a year. Playing under a protected ranking, we caught up with the Californian who is currently ranked at 414 in the world after her first round US Open loss to Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-4, on Monday.

Tennis Panorama News: A tough match on the road back. You are under a protected ranking, am I correct?

Vania King: So I played three tournaments prior to this and yes I was out for almost a year. I didn’t touch a racquet for seven months. I had a herniated disc in my neck. I started having pain in May of last year. By US Open I had decided that I had needed some time to take off. I took off seven months, it got much better, so I was very happy with that. Started practicing and I really wanted to make the US Open. I felt that my tennis was good and I needed matches. Today I felt like it was a good match for me. I really see I need to get stronger. I was out for seven months and only practiced for three months. The first two I was so weak that I really couldn’t do what I wanted to do. Now I really can’t do what I really want to do in terms of fitness –wise, court-wise, because my body is not strong enough to do it. So slowly my goal is next year. I feel that my tennis is there.

I was up a break in both sets, I just need to get stronger.

TPN: Have you set your goal for next US Open in terms of your fitness?

VK: I haven’t set a specific date, but I really hope that I can be back next year, with or without any injury. Being strong and healthy. One year, I was gone for a year so I lost all of my rankings (points).

One year to get back into the the 100 may be a tough task for me but, I’m going to take it a step at a time and I feel that my tennis is good, so I’m happy about that. It just depends on how long this body takes to get strong again.


TPN: What keeps you motivated to keep playing? You are only 26, but it seems like you have been around for a long time.

VK: Tennis has changed a lot. When I came on tour it was fairly common for players to come up at 14, 15, 16… I was late actually at 16, 17 – that was late. But after me, no player that broke through was a teenager, very, very few players, but Americans overall.

It’s very hard for players to break through, the game has gotten very physical and players are mentally and physically very tough, so it’s hard to break through you have to be consistent physically and mentally throughout the year.

I needed to stop for my physical health, but it was also very benfeficial for me to stop mentally, because I have never had a break.

As to your question, to stay motivated, to recognize that players, we do get burned out during the year because we do play a long season. If we play too many tournaments in a row, then we get burned out. With experience every play figures out what they can handle mentally. So for me it took me a few years to figure out how many tournaments can I play in a row. Which areas geiographically do I feel better in, in that way I adjust my schedule. And if I’m feeling bad, what do I do, should I push through it, should I take a break, go on holidays…

With experience, I learned to recognize the signs and for me it was always better to take a step back and not to push through it, take a few days off, take a week off… and then come back.


TPN: Are you playing doubles at all?

VK: I’m playing here with a protected rank, so I’m playing maybe Wednesday or Thursday.


TPN: What’s been the highlight of your tennis career?

VK: Winning my first title in Bangkok. Winning the grand slams. Results-wise those are the best, but I think that if I could be happy consistently then I could I could be pleased. That was my goal to be happy for a long period of time. Recognizing metal dips and stuff and trying to maintain that.


TPN: Tennis idols growing up?

VK: When I grew up I loved Pete Sampras, I played nothing like him because I’m tiny. Don’t have a big serve but I loved watching Pete. Watched all of his matches, tape them and watch them. I loved watching the rivalry between him and (Andre) Agassi, but I always rooted for him.


TPN: What do you think of when I say the name Serena Williams?

VK: I want her to win the Grand Slam. I think she can do it. I think she needs to stay focused. I think most of the tennis tour would be excited if she won it because it’s milestone for our generation. Of course Steffi (Graf) has done wonders for tennis, but we haven’t had someone from our generation to surpass the world records. She has won four in a row. Technically not the Grand Slam. I think she’s a great champion. I am so envious, I admire her so much for how strong she is mentally. Everyone’s got great tennis, of course she’s got great tennis but she is mentally the most stable and strong and that’s why she’s where she is.

TPN: Are you playing any tournaments the rest of the year?

VK: My plan is to play challengers because now I don’t have a ranking. I’ll play challengers get stronger and then use my protected rank. I’ve got a couple more protected ranking tournaments I’ll use them for next year.


Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News at the US Open.


Q & A with ATP Rising Star Elias Ymer

(August 31, 2015) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In qualifying for the US Open, Sweden’s Elias Ymer became only the second man to qualify at all four Grand Slams in a single season. The world No. 144 on the ATP World Tour lost in his first round main draw match to Diego Schwartzman of Argentina 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. He took time out after his loss to speak to Tennis Panorama News.

Tennis Panorama News: Can you talk about the rare feat of making all for major main draws through the qualies in the same year? Can you talk about your road through the qualies?

Elias Ymer: Of course it’s a big effort. I was really motivated in the qualies. I played every slam I wanted to make the main draw. I was really working in the qualies, focusing on every match. I had good structure before every match, planning, everything was good. I earned it, I was winning every match. I really played good in the qualies.


TPN: Most challenging qualies?

EY: I think in Australia when I was playing my first qualies. When I qualified it was really like, I felt the most in Australian because the others, I feel of course but it’s not the same feeling. The first one is an unreal feeling.


TPN: How did you get into playing tennis?

EY: My father was a professional runner and my parents come from Ethiopia and my father wanted me to be a runner but I don’t like running so much you know. In Ethiopia everyone running and when we came to Sweden. In Sweden tennis is a big sport, they have so many great players.


TPN: There has been a bit of a tennis player drought in Sweden, do you feel pressure because of it?

EY: No. I wish I had some players coming up with me, so I was not the only one. They could challenge me and I could challenge them we would move up together. It is what it is now and I have to see some other young guys coming up. I try to focus against them and challenge them.

TPN: Who were your tennis idols? Did you mimic them in your style?

EY: Not really because I haven’t see many players who play like me I play really different because, sometimes when I try to watch and see who I’m playing like, I cannot find the guy.

TPN: Describe your playing style.

EY: Aggressive from both sides. I need to be a little bit more consistent. When I’m playing really good, everything works for me sometimes when I’m little off I can be up and down. I use my forehand a lot to move the players side to side, trying to come to the net, I know it’s going to come, my game.


TPN: So who were the tennis players you admired?

EY: Of course Sweden has a lot of players… I was always too young, we never really had one to look up to. (Robin) Soderling was a Swedish player we were watching quite young. What he has done is unbelievable. It was sad when he had stopped playing.


TPN: Do you speak to any of the former Swedish pros?

EY: I speak a lot with Magnus Norman and Stephan Edberg. Twos guy who I really admire, really admire. They know a lot about tennis and they are a big help.


TPN: You are only 19, what’s been the highlight of your career so far?

EY: When I qualified for all four slams is a big highlight and I have to say when I qualified in Australia, it was a dream come true, actually to play in the main draw. Because I’ve been wanting to play in Grand Slams, it’s what you dream of.


TPN: Do you have any goals set for you within the next year?

EY: I think this loss for me was very important. I saw a lot of stuff I need (to work on), I have a lot of work ahead of me, I’m going to need to put my head down and work my a** off because it’s not coming easy. This job is like really tough and I have a lot of work.


TPN: What are your plans for the rest of the year?

EY: I’m going to Turkey, then I’m going to stay in Europe playing some ATPs mixed with Challengers.


Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News at the US Open


Althea Gibson Week 8/25-29: TPN Talks to ALTHEA Filmmaker Rex Miller

Photo of Althea Gibson and Millicent Miller courtesy of Rex Miller

Photo of Althea Gibson and Millicent Miller courtesy of Rex Miller

(August 24, 2015) NEW YORK, NY – With the celebration of what would have been Althea Gibson’s 88th birthday on August 25, it’s Althea Gibson Week. This week not only commemorates her accomplishments at the US Open, where she won singles titles in 1957 and 1958, but also the national broadcast debut of the documentary film ALTHEA, on PBS’ American Masters, Sept. 4th, 2015 at 9 p.m., with an encore on WNET, New York on the morning of the US Open men’s final on September 13th.


All over the New York City area, special screenings of the film will be taking place, before its broadcast television debut.


Tennis Panorama had the chance to speak with ALTHEA filmmaker Rex Miller about what this week means to him. Miller’s mother played with and against Gibson.


“For me it’s all about Althea, and our team, we call ourselves “team Althea,” Miller said.

“I was fortunate enough to get great people fired up about this project, they’ve put up a lot of work and personally my biggest enthusiasm comes from the film. We are going to be having four events in Harlem this week, and that’s real exciting because that’s where Althea grew up. We had a goal of helping althea get re-recognized. We wanted to take her to icon status, that may or may not happen, I think she deserves that. But to have her recognized, especially in Harlem is just awesome, in Queens and Long Island as well.


“Althea’s story to me is important on several levels,” Miller said.

“For the tennis fan, obviously it’s a tennis story, and a sports story. But it’s also a civil rights story because Althea achieved all of this in the early 50’s. I mean she broke the color barrier in 1950, then she went on to win the US Nationals, Forest Hills and Wimbledon in 1957 and 58. This is the time of Emmitt Till, Rosa Parks and lynchings in the south. Long before Arthur Ashe, long before Martin Luther King.

“She really was heroic in having to break down barriers during this time, way back in the early 50s. She overcame all of these obstacles and her achievements span across many areas.


“Not only did she breakthrough in tennis, she also played pro golf – the first female African American to be on the LPGA tour.


“She sang at the Wimbledon Ball, on the Ed Sullivan Show live. She was in a John Wayne film, directed by John Ford.” Gibson also made an album. On top of all of this, Gibson also earned a college degree at Florida A&M.


“She’s a role model for kids today of any ethnic group,” Miller said. “So her story is important.”


There is also an outreach component to the film in which many schools have had screenings of the film which have been successful. “It has worked so well that we are working with our various outreach partners, including the USTA and setting screenings over the next year.”

“We also plan on renovating two Black history tennis sites” – the backyard courts of Dr. Hubert Eaton in Wilmington, NC and tennis Hall of Famer Dr. Robert W. Johnson of Lynchburgh, VA who coached Arthur Ashe.


For more information about the film http://www.altheathefilm.com/ Follow on twitter at https://twitter.com/AltheaFilm


Here is a list of scheduled events for Althea Gibson Week:

Aug 25 : Harlem Junior Tennis & Education program

The Harlem Junior Tennis & Education Program will host a viewing of the Althea at the Harlem Armory where Althea trained and competed. Katrina Adams, Dante Brown, Directors. Filmmaker Rex Miller will join the audience for a Q/A following the screening.

For more info please visit hjtep.org


DATE: Tuesday, August 25 2015

TIME: 1:00pm to 3:00pm

LOCATION: Harlem Armory – 40 West 143rd Street NY, NY 10037

TICKETS: Open to all – Please RSVP (212) 491-3738


Aug 25 : Films at the Schomburg

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Presents AMERICAN MASTERS, ALTHEA: Remarks by Neal Shapiro, President & CEO WNET and Michael Kantor, Executive Producer, American Masters, excerpts from the film, a discussion and reception with  The Honorable David N. Dinkins, Art Carrington, and director Rex Miller. Talk-back with guests following the screening.

For more info please visit Films at The Schomburg


DATE: Tuesday, August 25 2015

TIME: 6:00pm to 9:00pm

LOCATION: The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture , Langston Hughes Auditorium – 515 Malcolm X Boulevard NY

TICKETS: Seating Limited Registration Required

Registration: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/films-at-the-schomburg-althea-tickets-17953871513


Aug 26 : Queens Day at the museum

The Queens Museum presents the Queens Premiere of ALTHEA, as part of Queens Day at the US Open.

For more info Queens Museum/info@queensmuseum.org


DATE: Wednesday, August 26, 2015

TIME: 6:30pm

LOCATION: Queens Museum, New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park Queens, NY 11368

TICKETS: RSVP  info@queensmuseum.org or (718) 592-9700


Aug 27: US Open Draw Ceremony


DATE: Thursday, August 27 2015


Aug 27: ImageNation Cinema Foundation presents a screening of ALTHEA.

Doors open at 6:30pm / Screening at 7pm, Q&A with director Rex Miller to follow.

Free! $5 suggested donation.

Please visit www.imagenation.us to learn about the #iLoveSoulCinema crowdfunder.




ImageNation’s RAW SPACE,

2031 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd., New York, NY 10027

(bet. 121st & 122nd)




Aug 28 : The West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills

The West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills, hosts a screening of ALTHEA. Reception and outdoor screening on the grass courts just after sunset. Visit the legendary site of Althea’s groundbreaking 1950 match against Louise Brough, and her 1957/58 US National titles. In the shadow of the grand old stadium, built in 1923 and recently renovated, the film will be viewed after sunset on a 20′ screen. Cocktails available beforehand. Q&A with director Rex Miller to follow. For more info Forest Hills


DATE: Friday, August 28 2015

TIME: 8:00pm

LOCATION: The West Side Tennis Club – 1 Tennis Pl, Forest Hills, NY

TICKETS: Open to public, please RSVP as seating is limited

(718)268-2300 Ext 115  Attn: Bob Ingersole


Aug 29 : The Jungle: Re-dedication of courts

The David Dinkins Tennis Club at The Jungle presents, “A re-dedication of the Althea Gibson and Sydney Llewellyn courts at The Jungle public courts”, 7th Avenue and 150th St., Harlem, in honor of those who have contributed to the Jungle’s legacy. This year’s inductees will be David Dinkins and tennis great Bob Ryland. The ceremony will start at 10:00 AM. It will be followed by a party for kids and their parents, in conjunction with our weekly “Free 10 and Under Family Tennis/Reading Program.” All are welcome!

For more info please visit The David Dinkins Tennis Club


DATE: Tuesday, August 29 2015

TIME: 10:00am

LOCATION: The Jungle public courts – 7th Avenue and 150th St., Harlem NY, NY

*Parking is available up the school’s ramp next to the park at 7th Avenue and 150th St.

TICKETS: FREE – All are welcome!


Aug 29 : Long Island Premiere

Long Island Premiere screening of ALTHEA, presented by the Gold Coast Film Festival. Q&A with director Rex Miller to follow.

This premiere is sponsored in partnership with the USTA Eastern Long Island Region.

For more info please visit Gold Coast International Film Festival


DATE: Saturday, August 29 2015

TIME: Doors 7:00pm; Screening 7:30pm

LOCATION: Soundview Cinemas, Port Washington, NY

TICKETS: Regular $15 / Student $10


TICKETS: http://goldcoastfilmfestival.org/althea/


Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama


Related article:

Althea Gibson Documentary Project “Althea” Selected for Film Festivals


From ATP Pro to “Shark Tank” – Zack Fleishman Talks About Being an Entrepreneur

Zack Fleishman ucla 4

(May 12, 2015) Former ATP World Tour professional Zack Fleishman will be taking the plunge on the ABC-TV show “Shark Tank” on Friday, May 15, 2015.


Shark Tank, which has aired on ABC since 2009, is a program in which aspiring entrepreneur contestants make business presentations to a panel of “shark” investors.


The former tennis player who reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 127 in 2007, will have his company Shark Wheel featured on the program. Fleishman is the company’s Chief Operating Officer.


Shark Wheel is based in in the Lake Forest community of Orange County. Shark Wheel’s technology guru David Patrick has literally reinvented the wheel with a design that offers superior performance advantages to the traditional wheel.


The Shark Wheel design is the perfect intersection of a cube, a sphere, and a three-dimensional sine wave. It appears to be a square or cube rolling from the side/45 degree angle, but from the rear view looks like a snake or three-dimensional sine wave in motion.


The former UCLA All-American who competed in all four majors as a professional, with career wins over the likes of Fernando González, David Nalbandian, Vince Spadea, Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri, Daniel Nestor, Tomáš Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson and Nicolas Mahut talked about his transition from swinging racquets to reinventing wheels.

“What happened was that I was having my best year in tennis in 2007, reached my career high of No. 11 in the United States, No. 127 in the world and in 2008 I flew off a mountain bike and had a horrible accident, said the 35-year-old Californian. “My tire popped and I flew over the handlebars and severely injured my shoulder, I tore everything, so I had to get reconstructive shoulder surgery. And I tried to come back a year later. I actually won a futures tournament and I had to get a second shoulder surgery, re-torn in the same spot. So that basically knocked me out of competition.”


“Then I started teaching tennis full-time and then what happened was my tennis coach, he was also my fitness trainer. He used to travel with me to the U.S. Open and a bunch of other big tournaments and he used to always make fun of me because I used to read science books all the time. That was my obsession – physics, cosmology, anything to do with science.

“So one day when I was working out, one of my clients made a major scientific discovery which made the cover of Time Magazine. He said that I think you would understand the scientific discovery and that he would like me to hear all about it. I said absolutely.


“So he introduced me to one of his clients and it started off for the first two months as me almost being his apprentice, learning all about the discoveries that he made, it was beyond fascinating.


“And then it slowly turned into a business relationship when he had all these unique shapes that came out of this discovery.

“He actually spent years developing this scientific model.

“Then one day he said, did I ever show you this wheel.

“He showed it to me, and I literally called the patent lawyer five minutes later.

“And we changed directions only working on the (Shark) wheel.

“I was just extremely hungry to help him get his ideas to the marketplace and that’s how I got involved and went from tennis into entrepreneurship.”


A small company based in the Lake Forest community of Orange County, Shark Wheel’s technology guru David Patrick has literally reinvented the wheel with a revolutionary design.


Patrick’s passion for skateboarding along with his interest in the natural world led to the discovery of the Shark Wheel.  Patrick discovered the shape while studying natural sciences. It is based on the shape of shark jaws and is a pattern found throughout nature. Once he realized the significant advantages of the wheel, a team was assembled, a patent was obtained, and Shark Wheel was born. The Shark Wheel offers a faster ride, more slide control, and better grip through rain and rough terrains.


The Shark Wheel can be used for almost any application that uses a wheel, but it is the company’s intent to manufacture only skateboard products and roller skate/roller derby wheels.  Shark Wheel ‘s expansion into a full spectrum of markets where the Shark Wheel could increase efficiency, roll faster, and maneuver through uneven surfaces would be executed only through licensing agreements.


As for expanding the wheel’s use, Fleishman said: “We decided to start in skateboarding because it’s a cool market.

“We plan to go into a variety of markets – doing licensing deals from everything from scooters to roller skates to luggage to office chairs, all the way down to cars one day.”

Any possible use of this wheel in tennis someday? “Not quite yet -we may be able to throw some wheels on the umpire’s chair and a couple of other places,” the entrepreneur said with smile in his voice, “but I plan to look into that soon because I’d love to bring my current business back into the tennis world somehow.”

Fleishman talked about playing pro tennis versus what he’s doing now in the business world: “I look at business as a sport and when I was playing tennis, all I was doing was trying to out-work my opponent, out-think my opponent and figure out ways to get ahead, find advantages – and that’s exactly how I look at business.

“I’m scared that my competition is out-working me, out-thinking me. So even though it’s a lot less physical, it’s a lot more mental, it’s a whole new exciting learning curve for me to master the art.

“And I’m just an extraordinarily competitive person and I look at this as a different sport that I took up.”


As for preparing his pitch for Shark Tank, “We were only given a few weeks of preparation time so it was a full-time job getting ready for the show, he said. “We had a very small time frame to build prototypes to show on the show and I had to learn every single part of our business, every single number, down to the penny. I was very well-prepared by the time the filming of the TV show came around.”

The show was taped a few months ago.

The former world No. 127 still keeps up with the tennis world. Of particular interest to him is college tennis and the up-and-comers on the pro tours.

He’s very proud of having coached the No. 1 women’s college player – Maegan Manasse of the California Bears, University of California, Berkeley. He predicts that she’ll be a Top 20 player someday. He thinks she’s ready for the pro tour and to keep an eye out for her as she’s been “under the radar” for her entire career.


As for the men, Fleishman likes to watch Dominic Theim, Borna Coric. “I really like watching those young guys, how they are able to perform at such a high level at such a young age.”


“It’s so amazing for me to be part of a new discovery that has never occurred in all of human history – somebody reinvented the shape of the wheel and it actually out performs a traditional wheel.”


See if Fleishman can convince the panel on Shark Tank to back the Shark Wheel on Friday, May 15, 2015 on ABC-TV. Check local listings for the time and the exact channel.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News


Approach Shots: Getting to Know Tennis Umpire Ali Nili

By Wendy M. Grossman

(June 14, 2014) LONDON – “To be close to professional tennis,” says Ali Nili, in explaining his motivation for working as a tennis umpire. Nili is an Iran-born US citizen and one of the ATP’s cadre of ten full-time umpires. This makes him as much of an elite member of his profession as the players whose matches he oversees: only 25 umpires in the world have, like him, earned the profession’s highest qualification, a gold badge. Ten of them work full-time for the ATP, traveling the tour alongside the players.

Umpiring wasn’t what he set out to do. “I wanted to play. I wasn’t good enough.” He sounds comfortable with that.

“It’s just a fun job in general, especially if you’re a tennis fan.” Nili is speaking shortly after umpiring the semifinal between Stanislas Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov. It was a match not without incident: down a set and 3-5, Wawrinka crashed his racquet repeatedly on the court and then, apparently dissatisfied with the demolition job, deliberately folded it in half. Nili seems unbothered by that or any suggestion that angry players might be at all scary. “Just because of the fact that I know them, I work with them every week.”

On the other hand… “I would rather deal with any professional player than any junior’s parents. They want their kid to win at any cost, and anybody in their way is an enemy. I realized that early in my career and tried to stay away from it.”

From the sounds of it, umpiring is a more social job than playing: umpires at the top level hardly ever work with anyone they don’t know, and accordingly they have each other as company.

But players do have one advantage. In a long match they can leave the court for bathroom breaks or request medical treatment. Umpires, on the other hand, stay in place throughout, climbing down only when the match ends or, on clay, if someone wants a mark inspected. It’s not surprising, therefore, when Nili says that ,”My only pre-match routine is go to the bathroom.” When he’s working at Wimbledon or one of the other Grand Slams, where the men play five-set matches, he doesn’t drink anything until the end of his last five-set match.

“It’s easier to stay sharp thirsty than when you have to go to the bathroom out there.”

Nili earned his first international certificate in 1998. Like players, umpires start out in the weeds of the game – small, local events or junior matches. As they learn, gain experience, and improve, they move up the ranks through a series of certificates: white, bronze, silver, and, finally, gold. A tournament like Queen’s, with a singles main draw of 56 and a doubles draw of 16, uses six umpires, four from the ATP’s group, the rest contractors.

Nili jokes about preferring women’s matches at the major because they’re only best-of-three sets, but you have to suspect that every umpire would have liked to have been in the chair for the historic 2010 Wimbledon first-round match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which went to 70-68 in the fifth and took more than 11 hours over three days to complete.

“Even he” – meaning the umpire in that match, Mohamed Lahyani – “would tell you that it goes a lot faster than the action time.” In general, he says, “The better the match is, the easier it is to keep your level of concentration. You do a tough five-set match which lasts four hours and when you sit up there it feels like a half an hour.” By contrast, “The opposite is also possible. You might do a match, that might never really pick up, you know, and it’s not the most exciting match in the world and it’s one hour and it feels like three hours. The closer the match is, the tougher the match is, the better the tennis is, the easier it is to concentrate. You get into the flow and the match just drives you along.”

Mistakes still do happen, of course. Umpires are taught not to dwell on them. “We just really always think forward. We always just think about the next call. The more you think about what happened the more chance there is that you’ll miss something else because you’re losing concentration.”

Few mistakes have lasting effects like the one in Venus Williams’ second round match at Wimbledon 2004, when the umpire incorrectly awarded an extra point to her opponent, Karolina Sprem, in the second-set tiebreak. No one corrected the error, and Sprem went on to win the match, though Williams did earn – and lose – three set points along the way.

“Usually, at least in men’s tennis, if you call the score wrong for two points in succession one of the players is going to tell you.” Or, if not the players, a line judge. “It’s not something that happens really often.” Modern technology helps: umpires have tablets that connect directly to the scoreboard so when he punches in the score everyone sees it and it feeds through to TV. A wrong score popping up in those circumstances generally gets a reaction in the stadium.

The hardest thing to learn, Nili says, is “to see the ball well”. Most, though not all, of the top rank of umpires play tennis themselves. “And then communication and not taking things personally.”

One surprising thing to learn is that just as the players must change their games in shifting from clay to grass, so must umpires change their procedures.

“It’s kind of like an art to umpire on clay,” Nili says. “It’s very different. You have to have a better feeling for the match. You have to have done a lot of clay-court matches in order to be a good clay-court umpire.” Years of experience on other surfaces doesn’t automatically translate.

“It’s a lot different.” On other surfaces – hard, indoor, grass – whether or not Hawkeye is available, as soon as a point ends the umpire looks at the loser in case he has questions, comments, or breaks a racquet. “On clay you keep staring at the mark so you don’t lose it.” Obviously. Because: if there’s a disagreement you will have to get down and go check it.

Asked to name the stand-out matches he’s umpired, Nili picks first the 2008 match between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, which stretched to three tiebreaker sets and took two hours, 35 minutes to finish. “The longest three-set match ever played on hard court,” Nili says, and also, “Every point was really amazing. That’s probably the best tennis I would say, I’ve umpired.” Then he names a match from a few months ago: Federer versus Djokovic at this year’s Indian Wells final – “That was a good match.” He umpires comparatively few women’s matches, but obliges with Serena Williams versus Jelena Jankovic in Rome.


Approach Shots: Meet Andrew Krasny – The Voice of the BNP Paribas Open

Krasny in Paris

Andrew Krasny – The Voice of the BNP Paribas Open as well as many other tennis tournaments and events.


INDIAN WELLS, California – For those attending and watching BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the voice you’ll hear introducing the players and conducting on-court interviews on Stadium 1 will be that of jack of all entertainment media trades – Andrew Krasny. Krasny has done everything in the field of entertainment media, from radio to television, from producer to host.

Krasny is the voice of many tennis tournaments which include the Sony Open in Miami, Cincinnati and the Family Circle Cup in Charleston to name a few.  With all of his work in tennis some have dubbed him “the voice of tennis.”

“My first job in Hollywood was answering fan mail for comedienne Joan Rivers.”

How did he get the job? “I grew up in Los Angeles and my friend’s father was the Executive Producer of the Tonight Show and he introduced me to Joan and her family and we became friends and then while I was in college my first job was to work on her show when she was at Fox. Hopefully no one is doing the math that really shows how old I am.

“That was my first job and then I went into producing talk shows, became by choice an audience warm-up guy – where I got my formal training to be in front of crowds and then I continued to produce shows and got a job hosting a dating show in the USA Network called Crush. Which was a TV where if a friend had a crush on you and they were embarrassed to tell you, we told you your friend had a crush on you and then you had to decide which one of these three people in my life has the crush on me.

“And then I produced for Martin Short, Joan Rivers, Leeza Gibbons, John Tesh and then I was at a tennis tournament one day at UCLA. I can’t tell you what year it was but I was producing a radio show for Joan Rivers. I noticed that an older gentlemen was on the court and I was wondering where the energy was, and a friend of mine was working for the tournament at the time, I said to him, ‘do you think there is a need for an emcee and a host?’

“I met Bob Kramer and the next year Bob Kramer let me volunteer on court two and I was such a fan of tennis that to volunteer, to get free clothes, to be able to stand near Agassi, Sampras, Safin – and Joan Rivers gave me the week off every year. So for two or three years I volunteered, that led me to being moved to Stadium 1. And from Stadium 1 at UCLA I got recommended to do the women’s event in Carson. From Carson came the Women’s Championships, from the Championships became Indian Wells, From Indian Wells became Miami, from Miami became Stanford, Stanford became Cincinnati, Amelia Island, San Diego and next thing you know to make a long story short in 2009 I was asked to be part of the team at the US Open. This now I would say has become 60 percent of my livelihood and 60 percent of my career is becoming an emcee and announcer around the world for tennis.

“I’m realistic to the energy and expertise that I bring to the fan experience at a tennis tournament,” when he talked about further goals in tennis. “Everyone always asks me ‘do you want to be on TV more?’ and I go back and forth with that. I’m flattered and honored that many events use my post and pre-match interviews for television and it’s fun to be recognized when I’m out and about by people saying ‘you’re the guy who hands out trophies at tennis tournaments’ or ‘I saw you on ESPN’ or this or that.

“As far as tennis goes, I’m perfectly content doing what I do, and my other television career being a correspondent and a host on a few television shows – working with Marie Osmond currently, that I am pursuing my avenues of hosting and being more on television in that aspect, but as far as tennis goes, I felt I have won the lottery and I am not screwing with it for one single moment.”

So which players give the best interviews? “First of all,” Krasny said, “I’m appreciative and grateful for every player has opened their heart out to me and has said many things to me over the past few years that have made my job the greatest job in the whole wide world.

“I will say by far there is not a better ambassador, more articulate ambassador to the game than Roger Federer. Roger has a great respect for the job that I do, and obviously I am a huge fan of his and love his work.

“No one gives me a better interview than Roger Federer. But that being said I’m grateful for the amazing things Rafa (Nadal) has said over the years, Novak Djokovic, it’s an incredible opportunity to get to know them better and understand and respect them.

“On the women’s side…. the first player who ever said to me ‘I love what you do and you are the first person who has done it the way you do’ goes back to Mary Pierce.

“First person who saw him on TV to know that a dream came true for Krasny in terms of finally being on air for tennis, was Lindsay Davenport who is a good friend. Davenport who will inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 12, was inducted into the Southern California Tennis Hall of fame by Krasny this past summer.

So with all of the very unique names in tennis, do any of them give him any problems in terms of pronunciation? “Some of women’s names tend to be harder than the men’s,” Krasny said.

“In terms of finding the correct way to say a player’s name, he goes straight to the player.

“Names are not so much a problem for me, I need to make sure I do my homework  and know my facts is more important to me than pronunciation names, because that’s a given.”

Krasny does admit that he makes a rare mistake or two. “Saying Fed Cup instead of Davis Cup in front of Tim Henman and he laughed. (I) said Belgian instead of Belgrade, Serbia in front of Novak Djokovic once and he stopped during warm-up to hit me with a tennis ball.”

At the Sony Open, Krasny incorrectly read a scoreboard and said that Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova were playing doubles together and Serena Williams sent him a text message to make fun of him.

The native Californian who also teaches on-air hosting and public speaking, tells his students, “you are never judged for a mistake you make, it’s how fast you can bounce back and get out of it.”

Tennis players make mistakes, he points out and so do announcers. “I hit a ball out, we make mistakes but at the end of the day, I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

I asked Krasny about what would people be surprised about him behind the scenes.

“I’m a diva when it comes to traveling. I’m not a huge fan of traveling. Once I’m there, I’m OK. But I love to make sure I have a nice hotel, I love to make sure I have transportation.”

“We are all on a mission to make sure that the fan experience is just unmatched and that I feel that I’ve been on the forefront of being part of a team that has really changed the sport in the last 10 years. When I started here at Indian Wells 9 years ago we had no videoboards, we had me on court from 11 in the morning to two in the morning with my iPod and look where we’ve gone. We’ve got a multi-billion dollar facility, we’ve got a new expansion with Stadium 2. Tennis is bigger and stronger than it’s ever been before and I’m so proud to be part of it. Behind the scenes we are just trying to put together the best show possible.”

Follow Andrew Krasny on twitter @AndrewKrasny.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News



Approach Shots – Judy Murray Q & A Part One



(September 17, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – During the US Open, Great Britain’s Fed Cup Captain Judy Murray, mother of ATP players Andy Murray and Jamie Murray sat down to do an interview with Tennis Panorama News.

In part one of our Q & A, the former top Scottish women’s tennis player spoke about her introduction to tennis and coaching, Fed Cup, women coaches and those women coming up the ranks of British tennis.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: How did you get involved in tennis?

Judy Murray: I started playing tennis when I was about 10. Back in those days, when racquets were wooden and balls were heavy, the courts were all just one size. It was actually quite tough to start tennis younger than that unless you were quite big because the equipment was heavy.

My Mom and Dad both played, they played for the county, played a lot down at the local club. When I was big enough, I started to join in. I just learned from playing with my parents.


KP: With your sons, did they naturally want to play because you played?

JM: Probably, we lived about 300 meters from the tennis courts and when they were very small, we didn’t have much money and I didn’t have a car. I went round to our local club and did some work just as a volunteer and started working with some of the older juniors because I was still playing at a good level. I was the Scottish No. 1 for quite a number of years.

I started working as a volunteer coach when they were very small and some of the kids that I started working with, they started to get quite good and that is when I realized that my initial coaching qualification that I had done when I was a student wasn’t really helping me to help them particularly, so I was just teaching them from a tactical base, which was based on my own playing experience. In my day you didn’t have coaches. You learned how to play the game by playing the game.

I upgraded my qualification when Jamie and Andy were six and seven and then a couple of years later I upgraded it again, because I realized  that a lot of the kids I was working with, were becoming pretty good at the Scottish level and I wanted to help them to be the best that they could be. And I realized that my knowledge of playing the game was all about playing the game, it wasn’t too much about teaching them from a technical base, so I wanted to learn about that. I haven’t up graded my qualification since then. That was the highest level of coaching qualification at the time in Britain. It was a year-long course that was a big thing for me to take on when the boys were quite young, the workshops were all down south.

Also what I remember about that course is that there was a lot of information but not enough about how to actually use the information. And what I have learned in my 20 years or so of coaching is that it doesn’t matter how much information you’ve got if you are not able to communicate it effectively and in the right way with the kids or the adults in front of you, you are not going to get the job done. I think a lot of it comes down to how well you communicate, how much you can enthuse the kids by the way you behave with them. I keep saying kids because I’m so used to working with juniors but now I’ve started working more on the women’s side, but it’s the same thing – you need to have a good rapport. You need to have some fun. You need to get your point across. The other thing is that the better you know your player as a person, the more chance you have at doing a good job with them because understand what makes them tick and what makes them react badly and you’ve started at the best way to get them to do things.

KP: Speaking of working with different players, how challenging is it to be the Fed Cup Captain?

JM: That’s quite a challenge. It’s certainly was a challenge the first year because I had never worked on the women’s side before. I’d worked with juniors and obviously on the men’s side. But working with girls is quite different than working with boys and working with women is quite different from working with girls. Had to learn a lot about that but like throughout my coaching career, I speak to people. I speak to people who have been there and done it before and have lots of experience and then you form your own opinion. You form you own view or philosophy. So I picked a lot of people’s brains. It’s mostly men on the women’s tour, mostly male coaches.


KP: Why do you think there are so few female coaches?

JM: I think there is not a great career pathway for female coaches. I think it doesn’t matter whether you work in clubs or whether you are working with better level players. I think it’s you know, that natural thing is for women to get married probably in their twenties and have their kids and then the life of a coach is actually very difficult because if you are coaching in a club for example or a domestic program, your busiest times are going to be after four o’clock and on weekends. So you’re working in the evenings and on weekends, if you’ve got family it’s very difficult. I think if you get to the stage where you want to work with a full-time player then you need to be prepared to be on the road for probably about 30 weeks of the year and that’s very tough as well.

But I think there are one or two things which come into play too. It’s tough to make a living in the game unless you are probably 70, ranked 70 and above. And really anyone ranked below that, it’s tough to have to pay for a coach and a coach’s expenses on the road with you and your own expenses too. Most girls, I think will try to pick a coach who can also work as a sparring partner, and that tends to lend itself more to males who play at a decent level and who can fill that kind of dual role. I think that has something to do with it as well.

Of course there is nothing wrong with having male coaches, but I think we could do with having more females because I do think that female coaches understand the needs and feelings of girls a lot better than guys do and I’ve been saying this for some time now. In our country we need to get more little girls playing tennis and taking up tennis. Tennis has become very attractive now since Wimbledon and since the success of Laura (Robson) and Heather (Watson), very young and exciting prospects and they’re great role models for young girls and for women’s tennis. But once we get little girls into tennis, we need to make sure they are having a lot of fun, doing what they are doing. We need to have a lot more female coaches working with little girls, for exactly the same reasons – to ensure we can retain them in the sport because little girls tend to generally be not as competitive, not as boisterous as boys and can be put off by being in a mixed group or being with a male coach who finds it easier to deal with the boys, because the boys kind of do all the competitive things because they enjoy doing that sort of thing. Building a stronger female coaching workforce in our country is important to us to retain more girls in the game.

KP: Beyond Heather and Laura, who are the women coming up behind then in Great Britain?

JM: Some of the girls have started to do quite well pushing themselves up the rankings. Johanna Konta was at a career-best ranking at 112 before the US Open, I think she’ll drop a little bit. She won a 25 and a 100K back-to-back during the summer which was very good progress for her. So she’s moving in the tight direction. She’s 22 now.

Tara Moore is the same age as Heather Watson and she is very, very talented and she has started to show some good signs of progress. She still needs to work at being able to put good performances in on a consistent basis, and so much of that being able to perform consistently well is down to how emotionally stable you can be for longer periods of time and that always doesn’t come quickly to every player. I think sometimes you have to let them grow into themselves a bit. But she has a huge amount of potential – a very, very skillful player. I think that if she can get herself together I think she can go places over the next couple of years.

And we have Sam(antha) Murray who was playing in the qualies here (US Open). She was at a US college on a scholarship and she has started to push herself up the rankings. Very hard worker, good all-court game, plays good doubles as well, big first serve.

Elena Baltacha had a surgery on her foot in the off season last year, so she’s just playing again full-time, but she has produced good performances as well. It won’t be long before she’s back at her best. Beyond that we are starting to look at the juniors.

We have three very good juniors born in 1998.  Maia Lumsden who won the 14s Orange Bowl in December, Gabby (Gabriella) Taylor who trains in Spain and Jazzy Plews who also trains in Spain. All have been ranked within the top ten at the end of last year in the 14s. So they are all in a good place as well.

But certainly, from my point of view we need to use this opportunity now where tennis is the kind of buzz word among sports in Britain just now. We need to use the opportunity to get more girls playing and to develop a stronger female coaching workforce to retain more of them in the early stages, and then to educate more coaches to be able to do a better job through all the development stages. There’s quite a big job to be done but there’s a huge opportunity at the moment. I will always argue that more better coaches, produce more better players. We need to, in my opinion, to invest in our coaching workforce.


In part two of our interview, Murray talks about the women’s tour and some of her proudest moments.


Chef Pierrick Boyer Serving Taste of Tennis Down Under

Pierrick Boyer

(January 4, 2013) The Australian Open is less than two weeks away and with the anticipation of an upcoming major, Melbourne will play host many pre-tournament soirees. One of the very special events will be the Swisse Taste of Tennis – where the culinary world meets the tennis world to raise funds for charity. This is the sister event to the Taste of Tennis in New York which has kicked off the US Open for the past 13 years.

Some of the tennis players scheduled to participate in the event include Lleyton Hewitt, Max Myrni, Tamira Paszek, Ivan Lendl, Lucia Safarova, Casey Dellacqua, Anastasia and Arina Rodionova, Yaraslava Shvedova and Chanelle Scheepers.

Tennis Panorama News caught up with award-winning international pastry chef, Melbourne resident Pierrick Boyer, who will be one of the featured chefs at Taste of Tennis. Boyer has 21 years in the field working with some of the industry’s most internationally renowned chefs.

Boyer has participated in the event four times. “Let’s not forget it’s a charity event and it is one of my favorite events of the year,” Boyer emphasized. “It is fun, there is beautiful food, we talk about sports and there are great people who want to make a difference. I love giving my time for charities, tennis, food and promoting Melbourne.” Boyer is the Head Pastry Chef of Le Petit Gâteau in Melbourne.

“Yes, I am a big (tennis) fan,” Boyer said. “I’ve been to the Indian Wells Tournament, because I lived nearby for five years and, of course, the Australian Open where, luckily, I did some cooking classes for the tennis players. I had the pleasure to meet Aleksandra Wozniak, Arina and Anastasia Rodionova, Gael Monfils and Henri Leconte, Mansour Bahrami, who are fantastic to see on the court. And I used to play years ago,” Boyer said with a smile.

I asked Boyer if he thought there was a similarity between chefs and tennis players, since both have intense training and travel all over the globe. Also many of players seem to be “foodies.”

“I agree,” said Boyer.” We have this in common with some chefs who travel the world and I am lucky I can do this as well, several countries are already scheduled for my desserts making workshops overseas. But the life of a tennis player is hard as well, loads of traveling and that’s a lot of time away from home.”

As far as which tennis players he thinks would be good pastry chefs, he tips Arina Rodionova and Aleksandra Wozniak. “With a bit of practice Arina Rodionova could be because I know she enjoys my pear and almond tart. She had this for her birthday.”

“Aleksandra Wozniak really enjoyed my signature cake, the brownie passion chocolate crunch, at a previous Taste of Tennis event,” Boyer added.

So what inspired him to launch a career in the world of pastry? “At four or five years old, we were living next to a pastry shop at Croissy Sur Seine, near Saint Germain en Laye! And every time my parents were looking for me, I was next door sampling ice creams, cakes, croissants… hahaha.”


As far as what special dish he will be preparing for Taste of Tennis, he saidIt’s a gluten free, dairy free, very healthy dessert.”

It’s a Coconut Quinoa organic blueberry, raspberry, coconut crumble. Boyer told me to enjoy it with Gold Label 2011 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

The Swisse Taste of Tennis takes place on January 10, 2013 at Grand Hyatt Melbourne from 7pm-10pm with an after party at Silk Road Melbourne. Tickets for the event can be purchased at http://www.swisseactivetasteoftennis.com.au

The event benefits the charities Diabetes Australia-Victoria and National Institute of Integrated Medicine (NIIM), which will receive 100% of the proceeds raised.

Follow @tasteoftennisau for more information and follow Pierrick Boyer on twitter @PierrickBoyer or his website http://www.pierrickboyer.com/.


Karen Pestaina is the woman behind Tennis Panorama News


Chris Evert – A Life Devoted to Tennis

NEW YORK, NY – From hoisting 157 singles trophies during her career on the court, to her current role as tennis commentator for ESPN, tennis hall of famer Chris Evert continues to be very active in the sport.


Evert was ranked No. 1 in the world for seven years, won 1309 matches, captured 18 majors titles, and won one slam each year for 13 years in succession.


Not resting on past laurels, the Floridian has stayed involved in the sport since she retired in 1989.


On Friday night the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum honored the Class of 2012 at the “Legend’s Ball”  at Cipriani – the inductees included Jennifer Capriati, Gustavo Kuerten, Manuel Orantes, Mike Davies, and Randy Snow (posthumously).


Also among the award recipients was Chris Evert, inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame back in 1995. She was being honored for her dedication to tennis and the positive impact she has made on the sport with the Eugene L. Scott Award. Scott was a US Davis Cup player, tournament director and the founder of Tennis Week magazine. He wrote a column for magazine called “Vantage Point.” Many referred to Scott as “the conscience of the game.”  He died in 2006. Former winner, Billie Jean King presented Evert with her award.


“I don’t win any trophies anymore for tennis on the court so it’s nice to receive a service award to put me back into the game and I never really retired,” the 57-year-old Evert said.


Past recipients of this award which were selected based on their commitment to communicating honestly and critically about the game, or has had a significant impact on the tennis world have been John McEnroe (2006); Andre Agassi (2007); Billie Jean King (2008); Arthur Ashe and his wife Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe (2009); Martina Navratilova (2010); and Dick Enberg (2011).


“I stopped playing professional tennis but it’s still my life and I still talk about it on ESPN and I write about it in Tennis Magazine, Evert said, “and I have a tennis academy. It’s been a great livelihood for me.”
Evert also reflected on this years’ US Open.

“It’s kind of a sad, bittersweet US Open,” Evert said due to the retirements of Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick.

“It’s not really a happy US Open with those two players gone because they’re very well-liked and they had a lot of presence on the court lot of personality. But that’s how life is. We also saw the emergence of Laura Robson and some other young players. And we’re going to see some young players not. It’s kind of like the changing of the guard right now.”

Speaking of young players, Evert noted the success of a player in her own academy in Boca Raton, Florida. “We had one girl Anna Tatishvili get to the round of 16,” Evert said.  Tatishvili lost to Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-2.

“So she had been training with us for like 10 years. We have a lot of young kids and if their goal is to get a scholarship to college or to win their local tournament or to be on their high school team, it’s the same to us as if they’re going to be on tour.”

On top of her academy, her broadcast work for ESPN and her work as publisher and contributor roles for Tennis Magazine, Evert also hosts a charity event each year since she has been retired. Over the years, her philanthropic endeavors have raised more than 20 million dollars to fight against drug abuse and child neglect in Florida.

Her playing days may be long over, but it doesn’t stop her from serving the game that has been her life.


Karen Pestaina is the founder and editor of Tennis Panorama News.


Approach Shots – Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew


Mark “Scoop” Malinowski has written about tennis for Tennis Magazine, Tennis Week, Tennis Magazine Australia, Ace Magazine of Great Britain, Florida Tennis, Totally Tennis, Tennis View, www.ATPWorldTour.com, and CBS Sportsline.com. He has done Biofile interviews with Arthur Ashe, Don Budge, Pete Sampras, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Patrick McEnroe, Manuel Santana, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Jim Courier, Novak Djokovic, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and hundreds of other WTA and ATP players.


“Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew” (CreateSpace October 2011) is his second book. His first book was about boxing, titled “Heavyweight Armageddon: The Tyson-Lewis Championship Battle.”

Through interviews with opponents, media, officials, fans, friends and others in the tennis industry, Malinowski paints a very unique portrait of former No. 1 Marcelo Rios. It’s an entertaining work, especially for tennis fans. So many of the quotes about Rios are priceless and prove what an enigma he was as a player and is as a person. “Scoop” answered a few questions about his book.


Karen Pestaina: What inspired you to put this book together?

Scoop Malinowski: Marcelo Rios was one of the most inspiring and talented players I ever saw play the sport. He had a stylish, colorful way of playing that many tennis figures admired and appreciated, people like Roger Federer, Mats Wilander, Luke Jensen, Brad Gilbert, among many others, respected Rios and the way he played, when at his best. Rios was also controversial because he was different and had a rebellious attitude. Rios should not be forgotten, he was an important player in tennis history. One worthy of some kind of book or tribute.  


KP: What was the most difficult part?

SM: It’s not easy to do a book about a subject and you know the subject won’t cooperate. Rios, as you probably know Karen, was far from cooperative with the media. So the hardest part was figuring out how to go about constructing the book.  I already had a good amount of content and information about Rios from other players from a Tennis Week magazine feature I did about Rios in 2005. Eventually I decided to form the book abstract and freeflowing, unpredictable and unusual – qualities which personified the subject himself. It’s definitely a different kind of read. But so far, the majority of readers of the book were happy with it. Many Rios fans contacted me saying they loved it. Hugo Armando, a former ATP player, who knew Rios from their days at Nick Bollettieri Academy, said it was one of the best tennis books he’s ever read.  


KP: Collecting all of the quotes and interviews must have been a big task. How did you approach it?

SM: Rios was a fascinating character and I was curious to learn as much as I could, which made the process almost easy. The original Tennis Week article started out by accident, when Thomas Johansson gave me a great story about Rios, when I asked him a ‘Funny Memory’ while doing a Biofile with him. That story, which is included in the book, sparked me to ask other tennis people for memories and anecdotes about Rios. And it seemed everybody I spoke with had a great story or a strong opinion of Rios. So a few years later, in 2008, when I decided to develop the original article into a book, it was just a lot of fun to listen to tennis world people talk about Rios. Some of the stories blew me away, or made me laugh so hard I had to wipe my eyes. The plan was just to talk to as many players, media, photographers, fans, officials, etc. etc. as possible at the various pro tournaments and events I covered – Miami, Delray Beach, U.S. Open, Newport.  And collect as much info about Rios as possible.

KP: Who were the most difficult people to get to comment on Rios?

SM: Well, I didn’t even bother to talk to Rios. I tried and failed about ten times to do a simple Biofile Q&A with him during his career and he refused every time, so there’s no way he would cooperate with a book about him. Which was no problem, because I didn’t expect him to tell me anything anyway. I tried many times to get his former coach Larry Stefanki to talk but he refused. I tried to get Agassi and at first it seemed he would talk. Agassi’s assistant e-mailed me saying Andre would talk but only if Rios personally asked Andre to. Obviously, Team Agassi didn’t realize I was doing it without Rios’ permission. When they learned that, that door closed. I would say everyone else I spoke with for this book, were very very helpful and shared a tremendous amount of information which I am extremely grateful for. Michael Joyce, Jan Michael Gambill, Nick Bollettieri, Bob Brett, Gilad Bloom, Roger Federer, Bud Collins, Alberto Bersategui, Luke Jensen, Donald Dell, Mike Nakajima of Nike, Weller Evans of the ATP were all enormously helpful.

KP: Have you sent Rios a copy of this book? Has he read it yet?

SM: I didn’t send a copy to Rios. Though one of the journalists with a Chilean newspaper who I did an interview with about the book, said he would give Rios a copy. That’s all I can tell you. I would think Rios would like this book, some parts will make him laugh, and of course some parts will probably make him cringe a little [smile].


KP: What do you personally think about Rios and his career?

SM: At his best, it was like watching a magician. Like Luke Jensen said, Rios played tennis differently than anybody else ever did. He changed the game, he was ahead of his time, his time hasn’t even come yet. It was just a thrill to see him play his best tennis, like the two matches with Agassi in Miami, and the final of the Grand Slam Cup vs. Agassi in Germany. Even Roger Federer said, Rios was one of his favorite players to watch, he said this back in 1999, the first time I interviewed him. But when Rios didn’t feel like playing it was a big disappointment. Because you wondered, what happened? How could he play so poorly when just the other day he was amazing? Despite the inconsistency, he was a great player in his era. Nobody can ever take away the fact that he was #1 in the world. That’s an amazing achievement. Rios was the best player on the planet for six weeks in 1998.


KP: Are you working on any other books?

SM: Yes, I’m working on a book about Muhammad Ali. Sort of similar to the Rios book, it’s a collection of memories and anecdotes about Muhammad Ali from outside the public eye and behind the scenes. Things most people don’t know about Muhammad Ali. For example his daughter Laila told me, Ali would take her and her siblings to a fast food restaurant for hamburgers. And then fans would recognize him and before you knew it, hundreds of people would be there, around her dad. Ali would get so wrapped up in being around those fans and people that he would forget he was even there with his kids and then would have to drive back and pick them up. So I’ve collected a lot of memories like that, just need to get a couple years more of those kinds of stories and personal memories.

The book can be purchased at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Marcelo-Rios-Man-Barely-Knew/dp/1461162416

Malinowski also writes for Tennis Prose, and his own site the Biofile. Follow him on twitter at @scoopmalinowski.