September 28, 2016

Jimmy Connors and Monica Seles to serve as presenters at International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2016 Induction

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(June 22, 2016) NEWPORT, R.I.,  – Tennis legends Jimmy Connors and Monica Seles will return to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island this summer to serve as presenters at the Hall of Fame induction festivities.

The Class of 2016 Induction Ceremony will see the sport’s highest honor be presented to former world No. 1’s Marat Safin of Russia and Justine Henin of Belgium. In addition, Class of 2015 Hall of Famer Amelie Mauresmo will be honored during the ceremony. Mauresmo was unable to attend last year’s ceremony due to the birth of her child.

“It’s very fitting to have the great champions of the Class of 2016 be welcomed into the International Tennis Hall of Fame by two of our sport’s all-time greats, Jimmy Connors and Monica Seles. We’re looking forward to a fantastic Rolex Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend in Newport in July to celebrate Justine, Marat, and Amelie, and their remarkable accomplishments,” commented Todd Martin, CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Along with the inductees, Connors and Seles headline a star-studded weekend in Newport for the festivities, with the induction ceremony set for July 16 and additional events throughout the weekend, including PowerShares Legends Newport, a one-day legends tournament featuring Safin back in action.

Connors, an eight-time major champion, will serve as the presenter for Safin at the ceremony. In the ceremony, the presenter traditionally introduces the inductee before they are officially inducted, providing a look back at their career accomplishments and contributions to the sport. Although they played in different eras, Connors and Safin, both fiery competitors, have long been admirers of each other’s tennis careers. Connors was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1998.

Seles, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009, will present Henin at the induction ceremony. Seles and Henin’s careers had some overlap with the two players meeting in competition seven times. Both players were bolstered by notable baseline games and fierce backhands, and the two legends also approached the sport with a mental toughness that made them nearly untouchable at times.

During the ceremony, Amelie Mauresmo will be presented by her longtime manager and friend Micky Lawler, who now serves as president of the WTA.

International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987, will play an active role in the induction ceremony. Hall of Famers Rosie Casals, Vic Seixas, Owen Davidson, Butch Buchholz, Donald Dell, Peachy Kellmeyer, Charlie Pasarell, and Jane Brown Grimes, will all be in Newport for the event. Additional notable tennis guests joining the celebration will include former world No. 1 Dinara Safina, sister of Marat Safin; retired WTA player Jill Craybas, who is a Rhode Island native; and former ATP stars Vijay Armritraj and Jimmy Arias.

On Sunday, July 17, when the newly inducted Marat Safin will be back in action on the tennis court. Safin will be competing in PowerShares Legends Newport, a special one-day tournament featuring three matches and one eventual champion crowned among retired tennis greats. In addition to Safin, the event will feature Andy Roddick, James Blake, and Mark Philippoussis.
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Tennis Legends Gather At ‘No. 1 Celebration’ To Commemorate 40 Years Of Emirates ATP Rankings

 

From the ATP World Tour – AUGUST 24, 2013 -NEW YORK — ATP World Tour No. 1s past and present gathered to mark the 40th anniversary of the Emirates ATP Rankings at the ‘No. 1 Celebration’, Friday night at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Ilie Nastase, who became the first ATP World No. 1 on 23 August 1973, was present to be honoured on the night, along with successors John Newcombe, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, Marcelo Rios, Carlos Moya, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The legends each took part in an on-stage Q&A with Justin Gimelstob and Guy Forget, sharing their experiences of reaching the summit of world tennis, before posing for a group photo with the ATP World Tour No. 1 trophy. Each year-end No. 1 received an engraved replica of the trophy.

No. 1 Celebration  Nadal, Federer

“It’s definitely an ultimate goal for any athlete, not just tennis players,” said current World No. 1 Djokovic. “Growing up, in early childhood, you are inspired to show that love and appreciation and passion towards the sport, and of course there is this big drive – waking up every morning, working so hard, developing skills to be No. 1 in the world. Not many players have achieved that and to sit with fellow champions, it’s an incredible feeling… I’m really honoured to be here.”

Watch Highlights Of No. 1 Celebration

Federer, who held the No. 1 ranking for a record 302 weeks, spoke about sharing the stage with the players who inspired him. “It was very important for me to have someone to look up to. Stefan was one of them, so it’s nice to see you here tonight and all the others players… We’ve put such huge effort in the game, and that’s a platform we can enjoy today. So it’s unbelievable. Thanks for being an inspiration Stefan, all of you here today.”

On a lighter note, a self-deprecating Roddick said, “It is an honour to be the worst player in the room.” Fellow American Courier added, “It’s a great honour to be here among friends. I dreamed of being in this arena, and to be part of this group is mind-blowing.”

Year-End No. 1s  McEnroe, Djokovic

The evening, part of the broader ATP Heritage programme, also included a tribute to former ATP Executive Chairman and President Brad Drewett, who passed away in May following a battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Drewett founded the ATP Heritage programme earlier this year.

“Brad cherished the history of the ATP and men’s professional tennis in general,” said Mark Young, CEO ATP Americas. “Tonight’s celebration is a reflection of that. It was his vision to see all the No. 1 players gathered together as we honoured their achievements.”

The ATP Heritage programme, with the support of its founding partner Rolex, will continue to serve as a platform to celebrate the rich history of the ATP and the remarkable achievements of the world’s greatest players throughout history.

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Dear Guillermo Vilas, My Father Thanks You and I Thank You

 

By Karen Pestaina

(AUGUST 23, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – It is rare that I write anything personal on this website. I’ve been working in media since I was in High School and as primarily a broadcast journalist, being objective in reporting is my job. I’ve worked in places from ballparks to war zones so I take being media very seriously. I see my role of that of a journalist as that of a public servant in which I report facts and not opinion. I always tell people to read as much as they can from all types of sources to form their own truths. As they say – don’t believe everything you read.

This is one day I can’t be objective. Last Saturday, I was about to make my way out the door to cover the New Haven Open. About two blocks later, my mother called me to tell me that my father had died twenty minutes earlier. My father had been ill for a long time, almost two years, I’d been expecting it. But even though I expected that the day when the horrible news would come, I was still in shock when it actually happened.

I’ve been a tennis fan all of my life and the love of the sport was instilled in me by my father – a physician who would never play golf, but tennis on Wednesdays. My father hated golf and turned on golf if he wanted to take a nap. I must confess, I have done the same thing. My love for tennis came in earnest when as a child my father took me to the Men’s Finals of the 1977 US Open which was the last one played at Forest Hills. It was my first live tennis match.

Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas upset American Jimmy Connors in four sets. The one thing I remember from that match was Vilas being picked up and carried around by fans on the court as though he were some sort of hero. I remember thinking, if this happens at the end of every match this is some exciting sport. I did not know what the significance of this match was, I just know that it was exciting to watch. Needless to say that after this match I became a huge tennis fan. My father was a huge Vilas fan before this, not so much about his tennis or his work ethic but about his personality. How many players today write books of poetry as he did.

Let me tell you about my father, all of his life he was a loyal subject of the British Empire, despite becoming a citizen of the United States a few years after I was born. I was the first American in my family. He always said to others that he spoke “the King’s English” and not the Queen’s because when he was born a King was on the throne. My father kept his British accent until the day he died despite having lived in the US for 50 years.

Being the American Brit as he was, he rarely showed any emotion. The only time I ever saw him come close to crying was when my oldest brother died as a teenager. He ruled our household like a monarchy, sometimes like a benevolent dictator, but he was always up for a debate on any subject in the book. He had an IQ higher than Marion Bartoli, but he rarely ever spoke about it. It was not his way to brag or boast – about anything. He was a firm believer in Judeo-Christian values which meant being humble.

Having grown up in a British territory my father loved three sports – Cricket, football (soccer) and tennis. He came to love baseball, basketball and football when he emigrated to the US but that never altered his love for the big three – Cricket, football and tennis.

After my first visit to the US Open, it became a family ritual to attend the US Open every year. We always would attend the first few days of the tournament in order to see all of the players. Back then in the late 70’s and early 80’s not as many people attended the early rounds, so more times than not, we would sit in the sponsor’s seats to watch some of the matches. In those days those seats were left unfilled in the early rounds of the tournament.

In those days my father would take myself, my second brother and a sister to the matches, and one thing we were forced to do was to watch at least one match which featured a British player. I remember one time that a match with a British player was taking place at the same time as a Bjorn Borg match! My sister, who was a huge Borg fan was furious, but there was nothing she could do, we all had to be together as a family – end of discussion.

One year when one of my Aunts came to visit for the US Open, we went up to the ticket booth to buy “day of” tickets. A British player that made it into the main draw (I don’t remember the name of the player) heard my Aunt speaking in her British accent and asked us if we would like his extra tickets. Of course she took them and we sat in what was the equivalent of the player friend’s box then and cheered him on, sadly he lost that day.

My father and his family were seriously tennis fanatics – I was too young to remember this but my mother told me when Arthur Ashe took out Jimmy Connors to win the Wimbledon title, my father was on the phone with one of my uncles in London for the entire match! A two-hour plus phone call from New York to London must have cost a fortune. So why did my father do this? Wimbledon was not shown live in 1975 in the US back then. He wanted to witness history in “real time,” even though it meant “watching it” with one of his brothers through the telephone.

My father often discussed his favorite players in tennis history. Above all for him was Rod Laver. My father said that if someone else can win two real grand slams, then they’ll be my favorite player. His second favorite male player or as he would have said, his favorite player of the “modern age,” was Pete Sampras. My father loved the serve and volleyers. In fact although he enjoyed watching Roger Federer play, he felt that the Swiss should come into net more. He also would speak so enthusiastically about Pancho Gonzalez, how when he played it was though he was “fighting to save his life.”

As for the women, my father admired Althea Gibson for her spirit and drive in a world which did not want to accept a black woman playing tennis. He also enjoyed watching Billie Jean King and Chris Evert and had a crush on Evonne Goolagong. Serena Williams may have the most major championships in her family, but Venus won my father’s heart. My Dad used to tell me that she reminded him of Althea Gibson and wished that Venus would come to net as much as Gibson did.

As Wimbledon has many traditions, we had a Wimbledon tradition in our household. Our family would all sit and watch the men’s final on TV. When I was little, the men’s final took place on a Saturday. Due to the power of television contracts over the years, the final was switched to Sunday. With the Sunday men’s finals this would mean that we would have to miss church – and we would never miss church. ONLY for the Wimbledon men’s final would we ever miss church on Sunday.

As we were blessed to have a major in our backyard, the US Open, it meant no family events could be planned during those two weekends within the tournament. Our family friends and extended family knew that none of us would be attending barbeques or parties if it was scheduled during the US Open.

As much as my father loved the game, he did not want it to become anyone’s profession – especially his children’s. At one point I was a decent player as a child and played a few tournaments, not that I wanted to become a pro someday. This was not what my dad wanted. He had higher aspirations for his children and that was the end of my days of competition as a junior. I forgave my father about this years later when I came to understand why he was that way.

Since the late 70’s with the exception of one year when I was beginning graduate school, I’ve attended the US Open. Needless to say I’ve kept up with news of Guillermo Vilas through the years and had the chance to actually meet him and speak with him about 10 years ago at the US Open. When I told my father about it, he was absolutely thrilled.

Although he is old enough to be my father, I’ve had a crush on him ever since I saw him win the US Open. Just ask my husband – it must drive him crazy when I talk about the man who should have been No. 1 in 1977, but he never lets on.

Today when I think of Vilas I think about my  happy childhood and my father teaching me to love the game of tennis. Indirectly I have Vilas to thank for my love of this sport.

I have taught that love of tennis that my father taught me to both my husband and my son and they both are as almost obsessed with the sport as I am. Now my husband and I fight over which one of us will attend the next Davis Cup tie as our son begs us to take him with us.

I guess it is fitting that my father should pass on during the week before the US Open as it was “our time” of year.

As my father had Alzheimer’s for almost the past two years, he “missed” Andy Murray win the Olympic Gold medal for singles, the US Open and more importantly Wimbledon. Despite now being an American, my father, a former British subject who never lost his “Britishness,” would have been so proud of him.

During my father’s wake, I spent hours talking to tennis-obsessed relatives about today’s game. My uncles are also major Venus Williams fans and don’t want to see her retire. Despite my dad’s body in full view being there in his coffin right in front of the room of the funeral home, I held back my emotions like the daughter of a good citizen of the British Empire – stiff upper lip and all that.

During the funeral on Friday, I began to give my testimonial about my dad. My dad was so proud of being able to live his dream of becoming a doctor that I had to speak about his pure love and joy of his profession. He knew he wanted to be a doctor since he was eight years old. It was then that my tears finally flowed for my father. He taught me and my siblings to stand on our own, to fight for what we want in this world, and the importance of social responsibility, regardless of our professions.

How fitting that after the funeral on Friday, my father was buried in a cemetery less than a mile from where I learned to play tennis.

Incidentally, the day that my father died last weekend was Guillermo Vilas’ birthday. My tweet wishing Vilas a happy birthday on the Tennis Panorama News’ twitter account came at the exact time my father was declared dead at 5:37 a.m. Eastern Time.

 

A tennis journalist friend relayed this to me after he heard about my dad’s passing on Vilas’ birthday: “….truly one of those coincidences that leads us to contemplate providence.”

As I prepare to cover the US Open as media next week, I do so with a heavy heart, but I never would have been here in the first place if it were not for love of the game my Dad taught me and of course Guillermo Vilas.

 

(I want to personally thank those who ran the site, the twitter and covered tournaments and events for me in my absence, while I had to deal with my father’s passing – Josh Meiseles, Vito Ellison, Jack Cunniff and especially Junior Williams.)

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Federer Survives Fall and Simon to Gain 36th Straight Grand Slam Quarterfinal

Roger Federer

(June 2, 2013) Roger Federer was pushed to five sets on Sunday and had to recover from a fall on the clay, as well as a loss of focus in rallying to defeat Frenchman Gilles Simon, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of the French Open.

“I didn’t hurt myself or anything,” said the Swiss about his fall at 3-2 in the second set in which he appeared to have twisted his ankle while stretching for a backhand.  “But maybe I did lose, you know, that touch of confidence for a little bit, and then I was out of the match there for a bit.

“But, I mean, I think more credit to him, because I wasn’t bothered by the fall in any way, actually.  If anything, mentally, or maybe gave him a mental boost.  Who knows what it was, you know.

“So maybe it was little things like that, but, yes, it was ‑‑ first, it was up to him to figure things out after the first set, and then the beginning of the second was tough for him, as well.”

“And then, well, then he came in on the next two, and then it was up to me again to figure things out.  And I’m happy I found a way and took the right decisions and was able to sort of tidy up my play a little bit, not spray that many unforced errors, even though I don’t think it was that bad.  You’re always going to hit some against Gilles because he does a great job retrieving.

“But, yeah, overall I’m very happy.  Stayed calm under pressure, and it’s always fun being part of matches like this.”

In the middle of the match, Simon won 10 of 13 games to take a two sets to one lead.

“When I was beating him, I got involved in the rhythm.  And I played as quickly as I could so he couldn’t have any rhythm,“ Simon said.

“I saw him fall, but this coincided with the time things were improving for me, because I was good on that particular rally.  And, you know, I had to really push things to make him fall.  But I wasn’t waiting to fall to turn things around.

“And then I don’t know whether it had a serious impact on his game.  All I know is that at that point in the match I was releasing my shots, and I found a simpler pattern with my serve.  I attacked with my serve.  And that proved fruitful.”

Federer put together a run of his own to recover from a two sets to on deficit. The No. 2 seed and 17-time major winner captured 12 of the last 15 games to win the match.

The victory gave the second seed Federer his 36th consecutive quarterfinal at a major tennis event as well as his 900 career victory on the ATP World Tour. Federer is fourth in victories behind Jimmy Connors (1156), Ivan Lendl (1068) and Guillermo Vilas (940).

“It’s been an amazing run, and I’m happy I’m still on it,” Federer said.

“The number is unbelievable.  I probably would have been happy with one at one point in my career, when I was younger and eventually you raise the bar and say, Okay, hopefully I can reach my first semifinals, like in 2003 at Wimbledon.  I went on to win the tournament, and the rest we know.”

It was also Federer’s 58th win in his French Open career, equaling the record shared by Guillermo Vilas and Nicola Pietrangeli.

“I knew 900 was on the line, Federer commented.  “I didn’t know about the Vilas one, but I’m just happy I have been able to win a lot of matches throughout my career, really.  Give myself an opportunity over and over again.  I love this game.”

Federer will play another Frenchman, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the quarterfinals.

“I’m looking forward to the match against Jo‑Willy,” Federer said.  “I mean, obviously it’s a big challenge playing him here in Paris.  He’s a great friend of mine.  We had a great tour together in South America on a couple of the events, and we know each other well.  I think we’re both looking forward to this match.”

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Say “No” to Best of Three

By Dave Seminara

Why is it that tennis writers and former players always seem to be agitating for changes that would result in less tennis being played in the pro ranks? For years, we’ve been hearing that the Davis Cup shouldn’t be an annual event, and that tennis’s offseason should be longer. Now during the first week of this year’s U.S. Open, the buzz was all about reducing the men’s matches from best of 5 to best of 3 in majors.

 

Ben Rothenberg made a best-of-3 pitch in the New York Times’ U.S. Open Preview issue, ESPN tennis analyst’s Darren Cahill and Patrick McEnroe said that the idea was getting some traction and merited further discussion and Billie Jean King wrote a piece for The Huffington Post arguing the same point.

 

I’m a tennis fanatic and I live for dramatic five setters. While Cahill and others have said that the Olympics best of three until the final format proved that best of three could be as compelling as the best of five majors, I had the opposite experience. For me, the Olympics felt no different than a Masters 1000 series tournament like Toronto, Cincinnati and the rest.

 

King maintains that the men should play less in order to avoid injuries like the one that’s kept Rafael Nadal out of action this summer. But there are scores of current and former players that continued to win into their 30’s under the best of 5 format- Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi- and some athletes from every sport will sustain injuries no matter how many sets they play.

 

Rothenberg’s primary justification for paring back the length of men’s matches is the notion that the player who is leading at the end of 3 sets nearly always wins the match. He cited a statistic indicating that the player leading after the first three sets won 90% of matches in the last five years, but this year’s Open certainly bucked that trend.

 

There was a total of 23 five setters, with 10 players coming from 2 sets to love down to win in the first four days, tied for the second most in the Open era, and only 4 behind the all time record set at the 2002 Australian Open. Of the 23 five setters, the player who was winning at the end of the 3rd set won on only six occasions.

 

If the final had been straight sets win for Andy Murray, just imagine all the drama we would have missed out on. The match was full of plot twists, and despite the fact that it lasted almost five hours, the crowd didn’t want it to end. After Murray won the first two sets, the crowd seemed to shift allegiance to Djokovic-because they wanted more tennis- and then shifted back to Murray in the 5th.

 

One could argue that this year’s draw has been the exception, not the rule, but consider how different tennis history would be if the men had been playing best of three in the majors during the Open era. Roger Federer wouldn’t have a career slam, because at Roland Garros in 2009, his one win there, he would have lost to Tommy Haas in the Round of 16. And he wouldn’t have regained the #1 ranking, breaking Pete Sampras’s record for weeks in the top spot, because he was down two sets to love in the 3rd round of Wimbledon this year against Julien Benneteau.

 

Then again, he would have won the 2009 U.S. Open over Juan Martin Del Potro and could have fared better in other majors, like the 1999 Wimbledon, the 2011 U.S. Open, and the 2002 and 2005 Australian Opens.

 

In a best of three set world, Rafael Nadal would have lost to Robin Haase in the 2nd round at Wimbledon in 2010, rather than winning the title; Novak Djokovic wouldn’t have won this year’s Australian Open or the 2011 U.S. Open; and McEnroe would have a career slam, having beaten Lendl in the final of the ’84 French, rather than blowing a two set to love lead, but he wouldn’t have won Wimbledon or the U.S. Open in 1980.

 

Neither Michael Chang nor Boris Becker would have won majors at 17, and Becker wouldn’t have won Wimbledon or the U.S. Open in 1989. The point here is twofold: first, it isn’t that uncommon for players who are trailing at the end of three sets to win the match and then go on to win the tournament, and second, the better player is more likely to prevail in best of five set encounters. For obvious reasons, fans want to see Rafael Nada late in the final, not Robin Haase; Roger Federer not Julien Benneateau. If the men’s game switched to best of 3 sets now, it would also make it difficult to compare records from one era to another.

 

But the most important reason for keeping the best of five format is that five set matches test a player’s mental and physical strength in a way that three setters don’t. All of the most dramatic men’s matches I’ve seen in my lifetime- Federer-Nadal in the final of Wimbledon in 2008, Federer- Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009, Borg-McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1980, Lendl-McEnroe at the ’84 French, Connors-Krickstein at the ’91 U.S. Open, Isner- Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, and McEnroe-Becker at the Davis Cup in ’87- were five setters.

 

Yes, five setters are tough on the body, but at most majors, the players have a day off in between most of their matches. And, let’s face it; watching guys overcome cramps and other injuries to win is high theater. Who could forget watching Pete Sampras gut out a win over Alex Corretja at the U.S. Open in ’96 after throwing up in the plants at the back of the court?

 

Tennis writers often suggest making dramatic changes to the sport, but I love tennis too much to advocate any changes that would result in less tennis. As far as I’m concerned, the sport is just fine the way it is.

 

 

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