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The Story Of The Little-Known IC Presidents’ Cup

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Mark winters provides an insight into the sixth Presidents Cup, a tournament featuring players aged between 35-70 from clubs in both France and America.

 

The sixth Presidents’ Cup took place November 9th through the 11th at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Cub. The spectacular destination resort, located just a few lapping waves from the shores of the Pacific Ocean, a bit north of San Diego, teamed with the beach perfect weather providing the picture-perfect setting to showcase an all-star cast of 35 to 70 year-old performers participating in the biannual competition between the International Clubs of the United States and France

At the end of two days of play, the US had earned more victories than their opponents in the 28 singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches that were contested. During the tournament dinner the first night, Charles (Charlie) Hoeveler, the US captain, pointed out that the US led, but that was because the home team had won all four of the matches that day and they each ended in a Super Tie-Break. Had that not been the case, the score would have been tied, 7-7. “The overall level of play was off the charts,” Hoeveler said. “It was exciting because there were so many close matches.”

Hoeveler, who has played 15 IC contests, formed the “Presidents’ Cup Dream Team”, with a fellow Dartmouth College alumni – William (Bill) J. Kellogg, President & CEO of the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, (which has also hosted the IC Avory and Amigos Cup contests in the past). Over the years, he has been on the US team at more than half-dozen IC events (including the Presidents’ Cup). Based on his experience, he believed the level of play was one of the best he had ever seen at an IC gathering.

The US-France competition was an outgrowth of former USIC president Les Nicholson’s desire to honor the memory of two of the game’s icons – Robert “Bobby” Abdesselam and Eugene “Gene” Scott. They both passed away in 2006, (the first year of competition). They were alike in so many ways – intelligent and skilled at compartmentalizing issues. On and off court, they juggled situations adroitly. They were cultured and classy, but more specifically, they each had a presence that spoke volumes. They were truly “Renaissance Men.

Abdesselam was born in El-Biar, Algeria. He was the French Junior Champion in 1937 and ’38. In time, he became the country’s No. 2 player and was a Davis Cup participant from 1947 until 1953. His best Grand Slam tournament singles showing took place in 1949 when he was a Roland Garros (French National Championships) quarterfinalist. In 1946, he was the winner of the All England Plate, a competition that was held for those who lost in the first or second round of singles at Wimbledon.

Scott was from St. James, New York, and was a phenomenal high school athlete. He lettered in hockey, soccer, tennis and track. At Yale University, he added lacrosse to his impressive list of sports participation activities. But, tennis was his real love. In 1963, he was ranked No. 4 in the US, and two years later he achieved his highest world ranking – No. 11. He was a member of the US Davis Cup team in 1963 and ’65. In addition, he was the US Real Tennis (Court Tennis in the US) champion for five consecutive years (1973-’77).

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Abdesselam was head of the French International Tennis Club from 1993 to 2004. Scott was president of the USIC between 1976 and 1998. The two are comparable in many other ways. The Frenchman earned a law degree at the Law Faculty of Paris. Scott was a University of Virginia Law School graduate. While working at a Wall Street law firm in 1967, he escaped from the day to day grind and rode the subway from New York City to Forest Hills to play the US National Championships. Using the newly developed Wilson T-2000, (which René Lacoste had invented in France in the early 1960s), he reached the tournament semifinals. His best showing in Europe, like that of Abdesselam, was reaching the 1964 Roland Garros quarterfinals.

Though nearly 18 years apart in age, (Abdesselam was born January 27, 1920 and Scott on December 28, 1937), they could, without too much of a stretch of the imagination be considered “Two peas in a pod”. Both were passionate about tennis, life, friends and causes.

In 1942, Abdesselam joined the Algerian World War II forces. He was part of the French Expeditionary Corps that was involved in the campaign for Italy. Because of his courage in action, he received the Cross of War 1939-1945, and the US Bronze Medal. Between 1946 and 1963, he was counsel to the Court of Appeals of Algiers. He was elected a Member of National Assembly (MNA) in 1958, and supported a French Algeria. Because of his stance, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) regarded him as a traitor, and members of the group riddled his car with bullets in 1960. When Algeria gained independence in 1962, Abdesselam left the political arena and concentrated on his international law practice.

In 1974, Scott founded Tennis Week Magazine, a publication for “committed tennis fans”. With the savvy candor of his “Vantage Point” column, he was admired for his challenging and forward thinking. At times though, those in the tennis hierarchy had difficulty fathoming his approach. Scott’s directness carried him into battle – sans physical combat, of course – when he was a member of the USTA Board of Directors in 1995 and ’96, just as it had in 1972-73 when he was president of the Eastern Tennis Association. Some tennis insiders considered his ideas evolutionary; others regarded them as revolutionary. His work as a player agent received the same seesaw reviews.

Great Britain became the very first International Club in November of 1924. Jean Borotra, one of the fabled (French) Musketeers, began the French IC in 1929. The US joined what has become a 40-nation organization in 1931. Annually, the USIC competitive schedule includes the Amigos Cup against Mexico; the Baker Bowl, which is part of the “Canadian Matches”, as is the Gengler Cup; the CQS 4 National Trophy (in Prague); the Sorlien Cup (with Canada); and The Gene Scott Trophy (with the Bahamas). Beside the Presidents’ Cup, the Avory Cup (against Great Britain) and the Broward Craig Trophy are biannual competitions as well.

As a youngster, the Four Musketeers were Abdesselam’s idols. As his involvement in the game increased, he became aquatinted with the group and over the years, he became a close friend of Borotra’s and provided legal guidance for the legendary performer. He also played a significant role in the international growth of the Lacoste Company. His leadership as Chairman, between 1959 and 1992 is remembered as a stellar time for the prestigious Racing Club de France.

Scott challenged and pushed those who worked with him. He urged each of them to be more than ordinary. This was true at Tennis Week and the tournaments he organized, such as the Kremlin Cup. It definitely carried over to the twenty books and countless stories that he wrote and edited over the years. He was formidable on the court, but even more so off it. He could be intimidating, yet he made a difference by mentoring the likes of John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis. Scott observed high standards and expected those around him to do likewise. All of this justifies why so many in the sport regarded him as the game’s conscience. (And all of this led to his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame posthumously, in 2008. He also became a member Court Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.)

In recent years, soccer has set a precedent staging “friendlies” between rival nations around the world. The International Club has enjoyed tremendous success with similar activities like the Presidents’ Cup. Prior to the competition, Hoeveler, a first time IC captain, admitted that IC events are like no other tennis competition.  The reason is simple. With age group national championships, along with International Tennis Federation Team and World tournaments, there is a lot at stake.

IC matches are not business as usual. The emphasis is on having a good time on and off the courts. The “order of play” is to enjoy the social aspect presented, particularly the opportunity to catch up with old friends and to definitely make new ones.

Hoeveler set out to make the Presidents’ Cup a unique experience for individuals who have had a career full of them. To do so, the founder and CEO of US Sports Camps, that operates Nike Sports Camps, used skills forged in making the organization the largest company of its kind in the world. He juggled the match schedule and partner pairings like an award winning magazine layout artist to ensure that all the players had plenty of court time. Assisted by Kellogg’s extensive tournament arranging experience, he created a setting that had a wonderful ambience.  Erika Smith added to the atmosphere by inviting everyone who attended the tournament dinner to come out to the fire pit set up on the beach and introduced the French contingent to S’mores, an American graham cracker, chocolate and marshmallow combination that is headlined by a freshly roasted marshmallow.

French IC President, Thierry Pham, at the gala dinner, pointed out that the gathering was the first time that his country had played an IC event in California. The presence of Pierre Darmon, the former top player in France, and the individual who Pham replaced as the head of the country’s IC, magnified its significance.

Following the completion of the 2016 President’s Cup, everyone – players and significant others were full of praise. In their minds, the event, in a word, was memorable – one that Robert “Bobby” Abdesselam and Eugene “Gene” Scott would have enjoyed, thoroughly.

Disclaimer: Article was published with the authorisation of Mark Winters.

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PTPA Outline Vision After Appointing Executive Director And Advisory Board

The PTPA has announced a new executive director and advisory board.

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The Professional Tennis Players Association has outlined their vision for the future after appointing an advisory board and an executive director.

 

Vasek Pospisil made the announcement last night as he and Novak Djokovic look to secure a legitimate players voice at the tennis political table.

In the main core of the statement they announced the make-up of the PTPA’s backroom board, “PTPA co-founders Vasek Pospisil and Novak Djokovic have named Adam Larry executive director, enlisted Carrie Gerlach Cecil to lead Brand and Communications and appointed Bill Ackman, Michael Hirshfeld, Rebecca Macdonald, Katarina Pijetlovic and Anton Rabie to its Advisory Board,” the statement read.

“Created by the players for the players, the PTPA is an integrated association for professional tennis players. The PTPA movement is uniting and mobilizing tennis players in order to create transparency and fairness throughout decision-making in professional tennis.”

The move is an interesting one as up until now it was a mystery as to what the PTPA’s strategy was and who was involved so far with there being no idea from the ATP or WTA’s side what the PTPA was trying to achieve.

Now there is an advisory board there may be sharp movement and progress made into how the PTPA can secure more player-related decisions in Tennis and ensure that there is a level playing-field in terms of decisions affecting the players.

In the statement Vasek Pospisil, Novak Djokovic and new executive director Adam Larry all gave strong hints about the PTPA’s future vision as they look to challenge the establishment in providing change for tennis.

“With the establishment of our advisory board, our branding and communications team and the appointment of Adam Larry as executive director, we have taken one step closer to toward our goal of facilitating a fair and sustainable competitive environment for tennis players today, and for generations to come,” Pospisil said.

“We are working toward growth to help all players, not just the top 100, to make sustainable livelihoods and have their rights protected on and off the court. From top to bottom, we must use our collective voices to help players today and tomorrow,” stated world number one Novak Djokovic.

“The PTPA wants to work with all of the tennis governing bodies to inspire collective reform to better the sport,” new executive director Adam Larry claimed.

What comes next for the PTPA nobody knows but this new board means that business is expected to pick up very quickly in the latest twist in the political tennis game.

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Novak Djokovic Confirmed For Olympics But Del Potro Pulls Out After Medical Advice

The Serbian will be bidding to win gold in Tokyo later this year for the first time in his career.

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This year’s Olympic tennis tournament has been given a boost after officials confirmed world No.1 Novak Djokovic will be playing at the Games.

 

The 19-time Grand Slam champion had been contemplating whether to play at the event or not amid ongoing COVID-19 conditions. Djokovic previously said he would reconsider travelling to Tokyo if fans weren’t allowed to attend. Since that comment, organisers have given the green light for up to 10,000 domestic fans to attend Olympic venues. Although foreign fans are banned from attending this year due to the pandemic.

Amid questions over Djokovic’s participation, the Serbian Tennis Federation has told Sportski Zurnal that he has pledged to play. It will be the fourth time the 34-year-old has represented his country in the Olympics. So far in his career, Djokovic has only won one medal which was bronze back in 2008. He also finished fourth in 2012.

“Novak has confirmed his desire to participate in the Olympic Games and we have already sent a list with his name on it to the Olympic Committee of Serbia. It will be forwarded from there,” the Tennis federation told Sportski Zurnal.

As it currently stands Djokovic is on course to achieve the calendar ‘golden slam.’ A rare achievement where a player wins all four Grand Slam titles, as well as the Olympics, within the same year. In singles competition the only person to have ever achieved this was Stefi Graf back in 1988.

“Everything is possible, and I did put myself in a good position to go for the Golden Slam,” Djokovic said after winning the French Open
“But, you know, I was in this position in 2016 as well. It ended up in a third-round loss in Wimbledon. This year we have only two weeks between the first round of Wimbledon and the finals here, which is not ideal because you go from really two completely different surfaces, trying to make that transition as smooth as possible, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“So obviously I will enjoy this win and then think about Wimbledon in a few days’ time. I don’t have an issue to say that I’m going for the title in Wimbledon. Of course, I am.”

Del Potro’s comeback delayed again

There is less positive news for Juan Martin del Potro, who was the player who beat Djokovic to win a bronze medal back in 2012. The Argentine hasn’t played a competitive match on the Tour since June 2019 due to a troublesome knee injury. Back in March the former US Open champion said playing at the Olympics again was motivating him during his rehabilitation.

However, since then progress has been slower than what Del Potro would have liked. As a result, he has been advised not to play in the event and continue his recovery.

Delpo won’t be able to play the Olympics Games. The knee rehab is going well according to the doctor’s plan but he suggested Juan Martin to go on with his rehab process and training, and skip Tokyo 2020,” a statement from Del Potro’s communication team reads.

Since 2010, the former world No.3 and two-time Olympic medallist has undergone eight surgeries.One on his right wrist, three on his left wrist and four on his knee. He has won a total of 22 ATP titles so far in his career.

The Olympic Tennis event will start on July 24th at the Ariake Coliseum.

RELATED STORY: Why Are So Many Tennis Players Skipping The Olympics?

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Victoria Azarenka And Amanda Anisimova Advance In Bad Homburg

Victoria Azarenka continued her momentum towards Wimbledon.

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Victoria Azarenka and Amanda Anisimova both cruised into the second round as they prepare for Wimbledon.

 

Starting with two time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka who enters this week after winning the doubles title with Aryna Sabalenka in Berlin.

Azarenka continued her momentum with a 7-5 6-0 win over compatriot Yuliya Hatouka.

The world number 14 struggled in rainy conditions in Germany in the first set as she was broken three times in the first set.

It was a tough start from Azarenka who couldn’t consistently blast past the world number 271.

In the end Azarenka saved some break points and broke in her following two return games to seal the opening set in 53 minutes.

However the second set was much easier as she didn’t concede a single break point and won all six games.

Azarenka will now play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Meanwhile 19 year-old Amanda Anisimova is looking for a good grass court season after crashing down to 81st in the world.

The American sealed a 6-1 7-5 win over German veteran Andrea Petkovic as she moved into the last eight.

Anisimova produced a high-quality first set as she stormed into a 4-0 lead in the opening set.

After sealing the opening set in 24 minutes, Anisimova continued the momentum by breaking in the opening game of the second set.

However Petkovic has shown good performances on a grass court in the past and she remained resilient to break back for 4-4.

Despite that setback, the American broke in the eleventh game and closed out the match to love.

Anisimova will play Angelique Kerber or Anna Blinkova next.

In other results Katerina Siniakova edged past Jessica Pegula 6-3 5-7 6-4 and will meet Laura Siegemund in the quarter-finals.

Siegemund booked her place in the last eight with a 6-2 6-2 win over Tamara Korpatsch.

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