Monthly Archives: July 31, 2021

Diego Hartfield was playing his first regular ATP tennis match at age twenty-five. Unfortunately his opponent was Roger Federer and the tournament was the French Open. You could tell that Hartfield wasn’t used to the big stage, he wore dark underwear under his white shorts. Otherwise he acquitted himself well. After losing the first set by a respectable 5-7 score, he had Federer down 15-30 at 5-5 in the second set. Federer came to the net and Hartfield had a great opportunity to pass him down the line and get a break point but he put the ball into the net. Since Hartfield is already twenty-five he’s not likely to set the tour on fire but it could happen and, if it does, he’ll learn that good players don’t miss opportunities like that. Federer won the match 7-5, 7-6(2), 6-2.

Two American men survive. Blake beat Srichaphan and will meet Almagro next. Kevin Kim won his first round match. What is the farthest he’s even gone at any slam? Oh never mind. He meets Nadal in the next round.

ATP fantasy tennis players must be breathing easy. No big player has gone down yet. A lot of people have picked Stepanek and Gaudio but we won’t know until the next round if Baghdatis can take out Stepanek – I doubt it, he’s still awkward on clay – or Ferrero can take out Gaudio.

Smallfry, a member of our subleague (tennisdiary.com), has nominated Santoro for the Frozen Chicken award. It goes to the player “whose game is hard to dismantle and refuses to be put away.” Maybe Acasuso needs a pair of poultry shears, he finally managed to subdue Santoro, 6-3, 6-1, 3-6, 1-6, 11-9. I have a feeling there might be more nominations as the Open moves on. Feel free to make your own nomination.

Mauresmo looks spunky. Megan Shaughnessy had just broken her to get back to 4-4 in the second set after Mauresmo had won the first set. Mauresmo broke back immediately and even did a jump scissors kick complete with fist pump to celebrate an overhead winner. She then served out the set for a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Big sigh of relief for the French contingent.

It’s interesting to see how players insulate themselves on the tour. Players tend to shut out the fans and play only to their retinue. Mauresmo directed her celebratory dance towards her coach, Loïc Courteau. Sharapova is one of the worst. When she start to mishit balls, she slumps and looks at her father in the stands. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the Sharapova living room watching, silently, while the two of them play out an elaborate father/daughter family ritual replete with cheering, complaining, whining and, sometimes, resolution.

I would really prefer to be included but I do understand. Read the first post of Rafael Nadal’s French Open blog. If you’re rich and famous it means dining with kings and jetting to Barcelona for the evening. I know life is tough when the hardest decision you have to make is whether to walk your sister or your mother down the red carpet of a huge media event, the celebrity sports world is a very insular, make believe affair, but Nadal also has to deal with fans turning up at his house. On Center Court, Chris Meyers’ interview show on The Tennis Channel, Nadal said that fans come to his house looking for him. On one occasion, his uncle/coach Toni, who lives in the same building, simply went upstairs and brought Nadal down so the fans could have a photo taken with Nadal. That’s perfectly fine until a crazy person turns up. But [blockquote]what happens when an idiot with a gun or a knife wants to make a name for himself?

I once lived next door to a house that Mick Jagger owned in Manhattan. He could not walk the twenty feet from his car to his front door unless a security guard was glued to his side. That is scary.

Players insulate themselves for emotional reasons too. Once a player has a meltdown or misbehaves in a tournament, footage of that behavior will become a permanent part of that player’s broadcast profile. As Hingis warmed up for her match today with Lisa Raymond, there it was again, footage of Hingis’ complete meltdown against Steffi Graf in the 1999 French Open final. She was so distraught at having failed to win after serving for the match that she left the court and her mother had to drag her back for the awards ceremony. As soon as Henin-Hardenne appeared for her first round match, footage of her Aussie Open breakdown accompanied her.

Nadal is very open and friendly in his blog. He describes his day to day life with details that most players don’t share. I hope he keeps his openness and friendly attitude throughout his career. I’d hate to see him change. But I would understand.

By the way, if you think Sharapova is the only one who ever sold sex for the WTA, check out this image of Mary Pierce stretched across a bench wearing a gown that barely holds her in place. She’s wearing stiletto heels and exposing plenty of thigh. Even with the clay court and the net in the background, this would be too racy for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. S.I. models are totally unthreatening. In this pose, Mary looks like she’s posing for a dominatrix magazine. Yes, ma’am, whatever you say. Here’s a pose that might have been in the swimsuit issue. Sultry. But unthreatening.




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Diego Hartfield was playing his first regular ATP tennis match at age twenty-five. Unfortunately his opponent was Roger Federer and the tournament was the French Open. You could tell that Hartfield wasn’t used to the big stage, he wore dark underwear under his white shorts. Otherwise he acquitted himself well. After losing the first set by a respectable 5-7 score, he had Federer down 15-30 at 5-5 in the second set. Federer came to the net and Hartfield had a great opportunity to pass him down the line and get a break point but he put the ball into the net. Since Hartfield is already twenty-five he’s not likely to set the tour on fire but it could happen and, if it does, he’ll learn that good players don’t miss opportunities like that. Federer won the match 7-5, 7-6(2), 6-2.

Picking winners at a grand slam is a bit easier than other tour events. Things tend to go a bit more to form because the stakes are so high that the top players rise to the occasion and the lesser players succumb to the pressure. That’s by way of deflecting credit for picking the winner in 60% of the first round matches instead of my usual 50%.

Mauresmo looked spunky. Megan Shaughnessy had just broken her to get back to 4-4 in the second set after Mauresmo had won the first set. Mauresmo broke back immediately and even did a little scissors-kick jump-hop complete with fist pump to celebrate an overhead in the game. She then served out the set for a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Big sigh of relief for the French contingent.

It’s interesting to see how players insulate themselves on the tour. I’ve decried the players’ tendency to shut out the fans and play to their players’ box. Mauresmo directed her celebratory dance towards her coach, Loïc Courteau. Sharapova is one of the worst. When she starts missing balls she slumps and looks at her father in the stands. [blockquote]Sometimes I feel like I’m in the Sharapova living room watching, silently, while the two of them play out an elaborate father/daughter family ritual replete with cheering, complaining, whining and, sometimes, resolution.

I would really prefer to be included but I do understand. Read the first post of Rafael Nadal’s French Open blog. If you’re rich and famous it means dining with kings and jetting to Barcelona for the evening. I know life is tough when the hardest decision you have to make is whether to walk your sister or your mother down the red carpet of a huge media event, the celebrity sports world is a very insular, make believe affair, but Nadal also has to deal with fans turning up at his house. On Center Court, Chris Meyers’ interview show on The Tennis Channel, Nadal said that fans come to his house looking for him. On one occasion, his uncle/coach Toni, who lives in the building, simply went upstairs and brought Nadal down so the fans could have a photo taken with Nadal. That’s perfectly fine until a crazy person turns up. But what happens when an idiot with a gun or a knife wants to make a name for himself?

I once lived next door to a house that Mick Jagger owned in Manhattan. He could not walk the twenty feet from his car to his front door unless a security guard was glued to his side.

Players insulate themselves for emotional reasons too. Once a player has a meltdown or misbehaves in a tournament, footage of that behavior will become a permanent part of that player’s broadcast profile. As Hingis warmed up for her match today with Lisa Raymond, there it was again, footage of her complete meltdown against Steffi Graf in the 1999 French Open final. She was so distraught at having failed to win after serving for the match that she left the court and had to be dragged back for the awards ceremony by her mother. And, of course, as soon as Henin-Hardenne appeared, footage of her Aussie Open breakdown accompanied her.

Nadal is very open and friendly in his blog. He describes his life in detail that most players don’t share. I hope he keeps this openness and friendly attitude. I hope he doesn’t turn into a

Kevin Kim won his first round match. What is the farthest he’s even gone here or at any slam? Oh, never mind. He meets Nadal in the next round.

I caught a glimpse of Hingis’s winning percentage on ESPN. It’s 6th alltime at .819. What sticks out, though, is Chris Evert. She’s the only one with a percentage over 90%. That is unbelievable.

By the way, if you think Maria Sharapova is the only one who ever sold sex for the WTA, check out this image of Mary stretched across a bench wearing a gown that barely holds her in place. She’s wearing stiletto heels and exposing plenty of thigh. Even with the clay court and the net in the background, this would be too racy for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. S.I. models are pretty wholesome. In this pose, Mary looks like she’s posing for a dominatrix magazine. Yes, ma’am, whatever you say. Here’s the Sports Illustrated pose.

It’s an interesting juxtaposition that Capriate is the one who appears to look like the wholesome, All-American girl and Pierce can successfully pose as the vixen. Yet it’s Capriati who has tasted the dark side.
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Before the French Open gets into full swing, let’s take a look at two players who are missing in action: Jennifer Capriati and Mary Pierce.

Capriati and Pierce’s lives have been intertwined since early in their tennis careers. When Pierce’s father, Jim, was developing her as a young tennis player, he was upset that Capriati was getting more help from the USTA than Mary so he packed up and moved the family to France, his wife’s native country. Pierce was the youngest player to turn professional when she joined the tour at age fourteen in 1989. Capriati took that record away the next year when she turned professional at age 13.

There are, unfortunately, plenty of pushy and even abusive fathers in tennis and that is something else these two players share. Pierce’s father, Jim, was physically abusive; Pierce said that he used to slap her after losing a match. In 1993, he was banned from attending WTA tournaments for, among other things, shouting abusive statements at Mary’s opponents.

If Capriati is thirty years old and has three grand slams and still doesn’t know why she plays tennis, how mature could she have been at age 13?

Capriati’s father, Stefano, wasn’t physically or verbally abusive, but he was, at the very least, short sighted and opportunistic in pushing Capriati to turn professional before she was mature enough to handle it. She’d won four Junior slam titles the year before she turned professional and her father thought that there was no point waiting any longer to join the tour, but the pressure to be a cash cow for the family and a savior for American tennis took its toll on Capriati. In 1993 she left the tour to be a high school student and in 1994, she acted out as many teenagers do when they are unhappy with their family – by getting into trouble. She was arrested in a Miami hotel for posession of marijuana.

There are more than a few problems with becoming a professional athlete at too early an age. If you have an abusive parent, you are in no position to stand up to them and fight back at age fourteen. You also don’t really know who you are, you haven’t formed a very strong sense of yourself. Capriati returned to the tour in 1996 but she bristled at the incessant questions about her off-court problems. After a loss to Monica Seles in the 1999 US Open, she broke down during the post-match press conference while reading a letter in which she apologized for any pain she’d caused her family and fans then pleaded that her past be left behind.

Capriati bounced back to win three slams but she’s been off the tour since November 2004 with a shoulder injury and when I read an interview with her last Thursday in the New York Times, I wondered if she was any closer to knowing who she is and what she wants to do in life. Talking about her eighteen month absence from the tour she said, “You don’t know what’s your driving force. Is it sponsors, pressure, money, self-worth? Or is it that you really love the game so much that you can’t be away from it?”

If Capriati is thirty years old and has three grand slams and still doesn’t know why she plays tennis, how mature could she have been at age 13? Compare this with Martina Hingis who returned this year after a three year layoff from the tour. In an interview in Sports Illustrated last week she said, “I could leave tennis but it wouldn’t leave me. It’s what I do. So I came back.” It seems pretty clear and simple to her.

Pierce has suffered through injuries too. She’s been out since February with a foot injury then injured her groin practicing for Roland Garros. She missed most of 2001 and part of 2002 with a chronic back injury but recovered well enough to reach the finals of the French Open, the US Open and the year-end tournament in 2005 and end the year ranked number 5.

Pierce has chosen to manage her life by depending on her religious faith. She’s come to terms with difficulties in her life in a way that satisfies her and she’s done it at an early enough age that she can still play topflight professional tennis. She has, for instance, reconciled with her father.

Hopefully Capriati can recover from her injury and figure out what she wants to do with her life soon enough to end her career the same way it started, interwined with Pierce.

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Baghdad is not a place for man nor beast these days. Nor tennis players either, it would seem. The news from the front is not good. The AP reported on Saturday that an Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players were yanked from their cars and gunned down by unidentified men. The problem? Not with the game apparently, but with the attire. The men were warned not to wear shorts on the grounds that it was offensive to Muslim sensibilities. The men – the coach was a Sunni, the two players were Shiites – apparently decided to go ahead anyway. Which probably should prompt the question in our minds, what sort of bubble do tennis players live in when they live in Baghdad? Where people are dying all around you, and daily life is generally topsy-turvy? And if we maintain that they should play on, then what are the logistics of even getting practice courts in this environment? And where ARE the practice courts?

God, tennis players in Baghdad. It’s a surreal touch almost hatched from a mind like Joseph Heller’s, in Catch 22. But I like it though, don’t you? It is important that, in the face of extreme human stupidity and cruelty, we have a few idiot savants who want to run out and play tennis, even if it is a rainy day and the world is falling apart around them. Or perhaps not. Is it possible the Bush administration is correct that progress is being made, and people are feeling more optimistic there? Could the players really feel that way too? In which case, they felt enough progress toward a new future had taken place that they could venture forth. Legs bared. I hope someone there could perhaps come forward and shed further light on this miserable event.

This whole episode probably says something about where tennis players exist, no matter where they live in the world. In the mental scheme of things. There is a simplicity and a purity to tennis that seems so inviolate as to make us gravitate towards it. And yet tennis is an utterly useless activity, in the big scheme of things. Like chess, or opera, where I can’t even understand the words nearly all the time. But I feel better when I put my grubby hands on them. These forms of art, and sport, offer us succor of some strange sort. Strange fruit. I’ll take it.

I remember a tale I heard taking a train trip – second class, thank you – through India in the late 70s. A young Dane onboard told me about an earlier train ride when he sat across from a Hindu couple, a middle-aged man and his wife. The wife seemed very disconcerted throughout the trip, then she finally whispered something to her husband. He looked over at the Dane, who was wearing shorts, it being India in the great heat of summer just before the monsoons hit, and said, “Please sir, would it be possible for you to cover your legs. My wife finds it a great distraction.” The young man was happy to oblige. He found it all rather amusing, as did I at the time. I could concur with the wife. His legs were a beautiful distraction, and because I was born where I was, I was able to freely and unabashedly enjoy the sight of them. Others across the globe are not. And are, in fact, offended by the very idea. Hence our current situation.

So, perhaps we can suggest that the Iraqis, sadly, should have chosen a wiser course. Especially in the light of many middle class Iraqis now packing it in and taking their leave of Baghdad. Once and for all. It is just not worth it, and their fear has finally started to outweigh their hopes. It is just too dangerous a place to have any hope of a normal life anytime soon. Those players and the coach probably knew some of those people who were fleeing the city. The fact they chose to stay could indicate one of two possibilities. They either truly were living in a bubble, and felt themselves well enough off that their safety was not a question. Or they were fully aware of the dangers, but chose to stay on anyway, like many German Jews did even after Hitler came to power.

The latter choice personally sounds more inviting to me. It’s a way of thumbing your nose at the chaos ands strife around you. Yeah, I’m wearing shorts, you got a problem with that? But that could just mean you are being an utter ass, and you deserve to get yourself shot up. You have to take into account your surroundings. How real is the danger. In early Nazi Germany, you could fudge it a bit. After all they were so bloody middle class at their root. In Baghdad, it’s different. It’s horrifically publicly violent in ways that Nazi Germany would never allow. At least they killed you neatly, behind closed oven doors. No muss, no unsightly sights to scare the horses and the children. In Baghdad there is no such luxury. It’s all in beautiful living, immediate color.

There are also certain risks involved, and those Iraqis may not have been ready for the challenge of what happens when you engage in poor reality testing. In a war zone. So, what were they thinking? It sounds harsh to suggest this, but they bear some responsibility here. To go or stay, that is a key question. Perhaps in the end they should have realized the threat to their safety was serious and acted accordingly to protect themselves better. But this is coming from a coward, who has learned with age that there are, truly, times when you just have to cut your losses and bail.

Now I understand more what Sania Mirza, the Muslim player from India, has to deal with. Tennis and all surrounding it are lovely and fine in my book, including the attire. Here I am, looking over my own notes the other day to propose a return to short shorts in a future column, and these guys in Iraq are willing to kill people over these baggie things the guys all seem to wear nowadays.

Go figure out the world.

Tennis forever.

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Yes, the French Open starts on Sunday this year. That means that there are three Sundays instead of two during the tournament and that is one more weekend day, in this case memorial weekend in the U.S., for getting some prime time network exposure.

It’s exhausting for ATP fantasy leaguers because there is a 128 player draw. That’s 64 first round plus 32 second round plus 16 third round plus 8 fourth round matches to pick before we get to the quarterfinalists.

I’m going with Federer, Robredo, Nalbandian, Davydenko, Stepanek, Ferrer, Gonzalez and, of course, Nadal. This is the end of the clay court season so Robredo, Ferrer and Gonzalez are at the end of their usefulness for this year. Stepanek is a strange pick but he’s in Roddick’s part of the draw – need I say more – and Olivier Rochus is the only competition there.

There are 7 US players in the draw: Roddick, Blake, Kevin Kim, Gimelstob, Ginepri, Goldstein, and Spadea. Gimelstob and Goldstein get a qualifier in their first round match as does Kim who is a qualifier himself. Even Federer gets a qualifier in the first round since Clement dropped out. Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

I have Roddick going down the Rochus in the third round and Blake losing to Almagro in the second round in case it matters.

There are a few interesting first round matchups. Grosjean and Pavel: Pavel just got to the finals at Poertschach but Grosjean is French and though it won’t get him a title, it should get him to the third round. Gonzalez and Safin: it’s a nightmare to have to play Safin in the first round if you’re a top ten player but it probably won’t matter. Safin has been having his troubles this year. At one tournament he slipped and sprained his ankle while walking to the hairdresser. I hope he can find his way to the court safely.

The draws below go as far as picking the semifinalists. I’ll update as things move along.

I’m so exhausted from picking the damn draw that I’m too tired to be engaging. Tomorrow I’ll talk about some of the players who are not at the Open. See you then.




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