Monthly Archives: December 6, 2021

And so our roadshow version of “Who Do You Trust” this week in Fantasy Tennis begins anew, with another hodgepodge of odd tournaments scattered across the globe on the ATP Tour. For the clay people, there is the Generali Open in Kitzbuhel, Austria and also the Umag event in Croatia. Will they ever run out of clay court events? Stateside we get the Countrywide Classic from Los Angeles, which has a really interesting field of guys and will end up being covered locally over the weekend on ESPN2. Too bad the purse sucks.

In Los Angeles, Andy Roddick was given a wild card into the event and promptly went into the Number One seeding. Lleyton Hewitt would have been Number One, but Roddick’s arrival changed that. I smell a grudge final shaping up, don’t you?

One of Andy’s interesting early round match-ups could be with American newcomer, Sam Querrey, also a wild card here. Querrey is one of our best up and coming guys, with a huge serve and the desire to play aggressively. It would be nice to see him cut his teeth a bit playing against Roddick. Jim Courier in the commentators’ booth spoke rather highly of Querrey during the weekend coverage of the RCA event.

Los Angeles has other interesting matches scheduled in the opening round. How about Marat Safin against Mardy Fish, two guys who can play well but haven’t gotten on track this year. I would think Fish could pull this one out, he was showing some good form at Wimbledon up until his stomach ailment forced him out. Hrbaty faces Andy Murray in another opener. I am still not convinced of Murray’s legitimacy in events; if he lands Brad Gilbert as a coach, that could turn things around. But for now I think the crafty veteran Hrbaty will win this match. Justin Gimelstob takes on Robby Ginepri in a duel of Americans in their opener. Gimelstob had a good run two weeks ago at Newport, and Los Angeles is a second home to him where he likes playing. But Ginepri is finally getting his game going, and he should beat Justin in this match.

The other interesting opening round features Andre Agassi against Belgium’s Xavier Malisse. I was keen on Malisse’s game for a number of years, but he has gotten to be as unpredictable as Safin. Sometimes I call him Baby Safin, he can make wonderful shots and then mentally he takes a hike, often never to return. But his game is so lovely to look at, and I am a sucker for the stylish lads, so here I am again. Lately he has been playing like he cares, which may or may not be good news for Agassi.

Surely Andre would like to put together a good run somewhere this summer going into the US Open, and maybe it could start here in L.A. I would assume he is fit physically and ready to play, so I am going to put my imaginary Fantasy dollars on Andre this week. I expect him to get into the quarters, where he could likely face Fernando Gonzalez. Gonzo is playing in Los Angeles for the first time. Don’t call this man a clay courter; he continues to try his hand on other surfaces besides just clay, and with some success.

So with a little drumrolling please, these are my quarterfinal picks for Los Angeles:

Hrbaty to face Ginepri
Haas to take on Hewitt
Agassi to meet Gonzalez
Tursunov to meet Roddick

But in terms of Fantasy Tennis, I am only picking Hewitt and Agassi from this tournament. Mostly because I want to save Roddick for the bigger purse events coming up, ditto Gonzalez.

The largest purse this week is in Kutzbuhel, where I have picked four guys for the Fantasy league, Verdasco, Massu, Robredo and Nieminen. Davydenko I can’t use, he’s been a major workhorse for me this season, I can only pick him one more time. Gaudio is also a non-pick here, mostly because I am just annoyed with him of late, his play has been every which way and he is losing to a lot of people he should not. So he gets slapped and relegated to the end of the train.

In Croatia we have the Umag event under way. Umag, what a grisly sounding name for a tournament. Couldn’t they drop the g and just call it “Uma?” You’ll rope in a few guys hoping to meet Uma Thurman. Here I went for Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer. Since Ferrer just won a big event this past Sunday, you’d think the competitive juices are flowing mightily and he’s eager for more. He probably is, but the bad news was he won in a gruelling five-setter, so let’s hope his body is up to the task. My co-writer Nina Rota may be correct that he could lose to Novak Djokovic, who also won his first ATP event this past Sunday. It’s just that Djokovic didn’t have to do his win in five sets. But he’s a new kid on the block, I want to see more of him before I make up my mind, and Ferrer has proven to be a pretty reliable workhorse himself this year. Juan Carlos I am picking because he should be able to get by Coria, even if he will probably go down in the final to Ferrer.

Other Notes:

People are still buzzing about James Blake beating Andy Roddick on Sunday in a nifty final from Indianapolis. The good news here is that the two best men now in American tennis played a really good match, so much so that it really didn’t matter who won. From my standpoint especially, since I had picked both of them in the Fantasy league last week to get to the finals.

For the moment, the boys in the locker room can give the nod to James, he is the top American player right now in the world, with his ranking moving up to Number Five this week. But Andy showed some fire and enthusiasm, and whatever tips he picked up working in L.A. with Jimmy Connors they seem to have re-energized his game. The match had a lot of interesting turns, a lot of back and forth, break points being threatened and then saved. Not much separated these two guys on Sunday: a double fault at a key moment, a shot into the net, a sliced backhand when maybe one with more pace would have worked better. Credit to James Blake though who still had to take the match from Roddick, this was no freebee by any stretch.

Robby Ginepri played well too last week in Indianapolis, so all in all the American men are getting their act together. Now they have a road show to show, certainly more than the women. But Serena Williams made her return last week also, in a modest women’s event in Cincinnati. The word is she looks fit and trim, but the lack of match play gives the odd spectacle of her getting by Anastasia Myskina in the opening round, only to lose to Vera Zvonareva in the semifinals in a lackluster two sets. Stuff like that happens to you when you’ve been gone for a while. But a fit and healthy Serena Williams would be a welcome addition to the women’s game, and it’s good to hear she’s back on track and showing signs of being eager for tennis life.

This paragraph is written today, Tuesday, as a follow-up. Agassi did get by Malisse, but Ferrero is out already in Umag. And according to my co-writer Nina Rota, who is covering the Los Angeles event in person this week, Andy Murray pulled out of the event and he’s still not yet signed on with Brad Gilbert.

But Connors and Roddick are in love and have gotten married, so congratulations, guys, we look forward to your progress.

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While Benjamin Becker was winning his third round qualifying match yesterday at the Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles, I happened to sit next to his coach, J-L Fontanot. The last time I saw Becker he was losing the final at a challenger event in Santa Clarita, CA, an hour north of Los Angeles. Since then Becker has qualified into Halle and Wimbledon – where he made it to the second round – and lifted his ranking high enough to get into the main draw at Indianapolis.

Fontanot and Tarik Benhabiles, Roddick’s first coach, are partners in a group that is building a tennis facility in the Bahamas. They are working with Norman Canter who runs the tennis complex at Our Lucaya resort. They plan to assemble a group of professional tennis players and work out of the tennis center which is a short fifteen minute flight from Miami.

Four of the top ten players officially reside in the tax haven paradise of Monte Carlo.

Fontanot pointed out that the Bahamas is a tax free country. If you think this is unimportant, look at the listed residence of the top ten ATP players. Four of the top ten players officially reside in the tax haven paradise of Monte Carlo. Fontanot said that they were in discussion with some top twenty players but could not divulge their names because no contracts have been signed.

If the players do get addresses in the Bahamas, and that’s essentially what the Monte Carlo players have, an address (I once read that the residency requirement for tennis players consists solely of turning up at the Monte Carlo Open every April which is not hard since players are required to play in Master Series event), then those lucky players will have the right to gamble legally on the internet.

The US is already under fire for its participation in two wars – Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and now they are attacking the global sports world too. US Federal agents arrested the principles in the British web site, Even though online gambling is legal in England, the US says that they are breaking US law because they use a “wire communication facility” in the US – the internet – to take bets. has closed down until the legal matter is settled.

… the US has no moral high ground when it comes to betting. Forty-two states have lotteries and Nevada has a casino on every street corner.

This is not the first time the US has indicted off-short internet gambling sites, you can see a large list of precedents here: But it’s the first high profile case and would, I hope, lead to an outcry against the law. The issue is, of course, income tax. If I buy a product at an online company and that company is based in California, I pay California state tax. If I’m Barry Bonds and I get cash from appearing at a memorabilia shows, I’m supposed to report it as income, not give it to my girlfriend.

If I win money by gambling at, I am supposed to report that as income. If I don’t, that’s not the responsibility of and the US has no moral high ground when it comes to betting. Forty-two states have lotteries and Nevada has a casino on every street corner.

The US has trade agreements with other parts of the world for many products, let’s add internet gambling to the list. There’s no justification for putting people in jail for gambling.

Benjamin Becker won that qualifying match and made it into the main draw. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow. I’m goin’ home.

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I was expecting Andy Murray to turn up this week at the Countrywide Classic here in Los Angeles, the second leg of the men’s side of the US Open Series. I also expected Brad Gilbert, reportedly Murray’s new coach, to put in an appearance. Then I read that Murray sat out his Davis Cup singles match against Israel with a brace on his neck and I quickly removed him from my fantasy team. Sure enough, Murray pulled out of this week’s tournament and Gilbert still hasn’t signed the contract because the deal involves running Britain’s juniors program and the two sides haven’t come to an agreement about how much time Gilbert will spend in England.

Who knews that something even better was in store for the US tennis world? Andy Roddick held a news conference in the small interview room at the Countrywide late this afternoon to introduce his new coach, Jimmy Connors. It was so crowded that some photographers never managed to squeeze into the room.

Roddick said he called Connors after the French Open and met with him at Wimbledon. Roddick and Connors decided to work together for four or five days in Santa Barbara before the Indianapolis tournament and see if they clicked. How civil is that? No long drawn out negotiations with every step appearing in the news as there has been with the Gilbert contract, just a short trial period.

Roddick made it to the final in Indianapolis and lost a close three set match to James Blake. After the match he said he had his confidence back. I had planned to ask him where he found it but now the answer is clear. He has a coach who believes in him. “It means a lot when someone who’s won as many tennis championships as Jimmy says, ‘You know what, I believe in you and I think you can really do some great things, '” he said.

I hadn’t really been paying attention to the talk about Connors coaching Roddick because Connors doesn’t seem like the coaching type. He’s not a friendly talkative guy like Gilbert, Connors is a recluse in comparison to other former tennis players, and he’s not soft-spoken like Dean Goldfine, Connors can be prickly and downright crass. Gilbert and Goldfine are former coaches of Roddick. But Connors might have something in common with Roddick’s current coach – his brother John.

Not as a brotherly figure but as a father figure. It’s not just that Connors is old enough to be Roddick’s father or that he kept calling him kid during the press conference, it’s that he reminded me of his mother. Gloria Connors taught Jimmy the game and she was the original tennis mother. She was Jimmy’s biggest fan and cheerleader. And that’s what Connors sounded like today, a cheerleader for Roddick. “People are begging to root for this guy, ” he said of his new charge.

Connors hopes to give Roddick “a little bit of what made me what I was” and a big part of that was his fighting spirit, but what can he do about Roddick’s game? Thankfully he’s convinced Roddick to move forward on the return of serve. Gilbert originally moved Roddick further back because the return is a weak part of his game but neither of Roddick’s subsequent coaches has been able to coax him forward.

This is a hopeful start but we’ll see if Connors can get Roddick to a place where he can compete with today’s all court players. Murray, for one, has beaten him twice this year.

When a journalist asked Connors about instant replay he smiled and said, “That would have taken away a lot of my thing.” Which immediately brings to mind the time that Connors ran to his opponent’s side of the court and erased a ball mark before the umpire could come out and correct it. I assume Roddick won’t learn that kind of behavior from Connors.

Xavier Malisse has no such problem with instant replay. He’s become an expert at it. He used his first challenge in the fourth game of his first round match against Andre Agassi. Malisse had hit a backhand down the line that was called out. Everyone on my side of the court stood up, turned around and looked at the screen to see if the challenge would be upheld. It’s a cool thing, the challenge, because the crowd gets into it. Malisse won that challenge and broke Agassi in the game.

He gave the break back in the next game but he had something better up his sleeve. The set went to a tiebreaker and Malisse hit a shot down the line that went out and made the score 7-4 giving the set to Agassi. Agassi started to walk off the court but Malisse challenged the call. And won. A 7-4 score was now 5-6.

The tiebreak went back and forth, 7-7, 8-7, 8-8, until Agassi got his fourth set point at 11-10 and finally won the set on a Malisse error.

Malisse is a strange guy. He’s quick to anger and is known for losing his temper but his emotions go in one direction only. You don’t see him punch his fist and celebrate a good shot. There was a smile, as you can see here, after he won a challenge but that’s about it. And so it was a quiet second set as Malisse went down without a peep to lose the match 7-6(10), 6-0.

Malisse had lost the first set after winning a challenge and holding two set points. It must have killed him because all the energy drained out of his game in the second set. Maybe Malisse is content to be in the top twenty or thirty or maybe he doesn’t know how to channel his formidable emotions to help him win.

Malisse’s ATP profile doesn’t mention a coach. Perhaps he should call John McEnroe and see if he’d be interested in a coaching job. He could tell Malisse a thing or two about channeling emotions. It would be just like old times. Connors and McEnroe on the tour again.

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If you ever wondered why the European players take their time getting to the US Open Series hard court tournaments, here are two reasons: last week Stuttgart paid over $131, 000 to the winner and this week Kitzbuhel will pay over $139, 000 to its winner. Both are clay court tournaments as is the other European tournament this week, Umag, which will pay out a paltry $49, 039.

The second event in the Open Series is in Los Angeles this week and will pay $74, 197.

It’s awfully nice of England’s tennis association to pay Gilbert but it also adds that much more pressure to the youngster because England is putting all of its hopes on his bony shoulders.

Kitzbuhel is like Stuttgart last week, it pays a lot of money but there are few sure winners. Robredo is the surest player, I have him winning, and that presents a problem because I’ve already picked him five times (ATP fantasy rules allow you to pick a player a maximum of five times in a season). At the beginning of next season, if you’re not tired of this fantasy stuff already, it would be a good idea to sit down with the list of tournaments and count up the the number of clay court tournaments so you don’t run out of players.

Davydenko could get to the final but he could also lose to Lapentti and Gaudio could lose to Monaco. People are discouraged by Gaudio because he’s undependable, but it makes sense to pick four players for Kitzbuhel and Gaudio is one of them. That means picking Robredo, Gaudio, Davydenko and Nieminen while I will go with Massu and hope he beat Gaudio.

Los Angeles has a lot of interesting stories. Roddick has decided to kick butt this summer and play every tournament in sight so he’s accepted a wild card. It’ll be interesting to see how far Agassi can go. I have him losing to Gonzalez in the third round because Agassi is not mobile enough to keep up with today’s hard court players. You can see him stiffen up as he plays.

If Brad Gilbert joins Andy Murray this week in Los Angeles, and why shouldn’t he, it either helps Murray or it becomes another situation where a country puts too much pressure on its players. It’s awfully nice of England’s tennis association to pay Gilbert but it also adds that much more pressure to the youngster because England is putting all of its hopes on his bony shoulders.

I have Roddick meeting Hewitt in the final. In any other year, this would have been another opportunity to see if Roddick has finally figured out how to keep Hewitt from outpsyching him but Roddick has been sliding and Hewitt has only played thirty-six matches this year. Go ahead and use Roddick and Hewitt if you like but I still think Roddick can get you some money in the remaining Masters Series events and, possibly, the US Open. Another choice here would be Gonzalez.

Umag has an interesting money player. Evegeny Korolev is 15-5 on clay this year and could easily beat Coria. I have Ramirez-Hidalgo meeting Ferrer in the final but Djokovic could beat Ferrer.

By the way, I picked the winner of all three tournaments last week including Djokovic’s first ATP title. Fat lotta good it did me, though. My cowriter, Pat Davis, picked both finalists at Stuttgart and Indianapolis and did me one better.

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The US could take some solace in Floyd Landis’ victory in the Tour de France after the treatment of Lance Armstrong. I’ll be the first to tell you that it’s unlikely Armstrong won seven straight Tours without picking up a few extra red blood cells here and there but that doesn’t excuse the actions of the organizers of the Tour.

A 2005 article in the French newspaper L’Equipe announced that a B sample of Armstrong’s urine tested positive for EPO. L’Equipe is owned by the same group that runs the Tour. Never mind that samples are marked anonymously and are tightly controlled by the French national laboratory but both an A and B sample are required for a positive test. As I said in a previous post, the Tour can’t prove that Armstrong tested positive because the A sample has been used up and Armstrong can never prove he was innocent because the A sample has been used up.

If that wasn’t bad enough, at the press conference introducing the 2006 Tour, the organizers showed a highlight film of the 2005 Tour without highlighting the winner – Armstrong. They were happy to be rid of him. Now it was time for a European to win.

Except that Floyd Landis from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the hero. He hasn’t won seven straight times and he’s unlikely to win with an artificial hip – he’ll have hip replacement surgery after the Tour – but no one could remember a ride that matched his solo tour up the mountain that wiped out a ten minute deficit and put him within thirty seconds of the leader. One time trial later he was up a minute and the victory was his.

The US could use some good news. It’s hard enough to be a citizen in a country under fire for its participation in two wars: Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but now the US is attacking the global sports world too. US Federal agents arrested the principals in the British web site,, and is preventing them from returning to their home country. Even though online gambling is legal in England, the US has decided that they are breaking a US law because they have US customers. The website has had to close down until the legal matter is settled.

Look into this matter more before writing about it more:

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