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).
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.
Andy Murray won’t travel to Australia
Andy Murray will miss next month’s Australian Open after testing positive for COVID-19 a couple of weeks ago.
Andy Murray has made it official, he won’t be making the trip down under after working with Tennis Australia to find a viable solution to make it work.
“We’ve been in constant dialogue with Tennis Australia to try and find a solution which would allow some form of workable quarantine, but we couldn’t make it work.”
Murray was scheduled to fly to Australia with one of charter flights but due to a positive Covid test wasn’t able to make the flight and put his tournament in jeopardy.
Although he missed the chartered flights there was still a small chance he would play but had to workout an agreement with Tennis Australia to make it work. However it didn’t work and was gutted with the news.
“I want to thank everyone there for their efforts, I’m devastated not to be playing out in Australia. It’s a country and tournament that I love.”
EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Melbourne Bubble – ‘Top Names Get Preferential Treatment But That’s Part Of The Tour’
Marcelo Demoliner celebrated his birthday in quarantine, his doubles partner isn’t allowed to leave his room for 14 days and he believes there is a difference in treatment between the top players and others. Yet, he refuses to complain about the situation he finds himself in.
Like his peers, Brazil’s Marcelo Demoliner passes his time in Melbourne quarantine by training, sleeping, eating and posting amusing videos on social media.
Demoliner, who currently has a doubles ranking of world No.44, is required by Australian law to abide by a strict isolation period before he is allowed to play any professional tournament. Although he is allowed to train unless he is deemed to be a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for COVID-19. An unfortunate situation 72 players find themselves in, including Demoliner’s doubles partner Santiago Gonzalez
During an email exchange with UbiTennis the Brazilian sheds light on what he labels as an ‘usual experience’ that has prompted criticism from some players. Roberto Bautista Agut was caught on camera describing conditions as a ‘prison’ in a video leaked to the press. Although he has since apologised for his comments. Demonliner himself is not as critical as others.
“It is an unusual experience that we will remember for a long time,” he told UbiTennis. “It is a very complicated situation that we are going through. Obviously, it is not ideal for us athletes to be able to go out for just 5 hours a day, but mainly for the other 72 players who cannot go out, like my partner Santiago Gonzalez. They have a complicated situation of possibly getting injured after not practicing for 14 days, but it is what it is.’
“We need to understand and adapt to this situation considering Australia did a great job containing Covid.”
With three ATP doubles titles to his name, Demoliner is playing at the Australian Open for the sixth year in a row. He has played on the Tour for over a decade and has been ranked as high as 34th in the world.
Besides the players complaining about food, their rooms and even questioning the transparency of the rule making, Tennis Australia also encountered a slight blip regarding the scheduling of practice.
“I was a little lucky because I stayed in one of the hotels that we don’t need to take transportation to go to the training courts. It made the logistics issue much easier. The other two hotels had problems with transportation and logistics in the first two days, but I have nothing to complain about, honestly.”
Demoliner remains thankful for what Tennis Australia has managed to do in order for the Australian Open to be played. Quarantine can have a big impact on a person mentally, as well as physically. Each day players spend at least 19 hours in their hotel rooms which was no fun for the Brazilian who celebrated his 32nd birthday on Tuesday.
“Without a doubt, it is something we have never been through before. I’m luckily having 5 hours of training daily. I am managing to maintain my physical preparation and rhythm. It is not the ideal, of course, but I can’t even imagine the situation of other players who are in the more restricted quarantine.”
Priority given to the top names
As Demoliner resides in Melbourne, a selected handful of players are spending their time in Adelaide. Under a deal struck by Tennis Australia, officials have agreed for the top three players on the ATP and WTA Tour’s to be based in the city. The idea being is that it will relieve the strain on Melbourne who is hosting in the region of 1200 arrivals.
Craig Tiley, who is the head of Tennis Australia, has insisted that all players will have to follow the same rules wherever they are based. Although some feel that those in Adelaide have some extra privileges such as a private gym they can use outside of the five-hour training bubble. Japan’s Taro Daniel told the Herald Sun: “People in Adelaide are being able to hit with four people on court, so there’s some resentment towards that as well.” Daniel’s view is one echoed also by Demoliner.
“I do believe they are receiving preferential treatment, quite different from us. But this is part of the tour,” he said.
“The top tennis players always had these extras, we are kinda of used to it. We came here knowing that they would have better conditions for practicing, structure, hotels… they also have merits to have achieved all that they have to be the best players in the world. I don’t know if it’s fair, but I believe the conditions could be more similar than they are in this situation.”
Some players were recently bemused by a photo of Naomi Osaka that surfaced on social media before being removed. The reigning US Open champion was pictured on a court with four members of her team, which is more people than what those in Melbourne are allowed to train with.
As the Adelaide contingent continues their preparations, those most unhappy with them are likely to be the 72 players who are in strict quarantine. Demoliner is concerned about the elevated risk of injury that could occur due to the facts they are not allowed to leave their rooms. All players in this situation have been issued with gym equipment to use.
“I think that they will be at a considerable disadvantage compared to who can train. But we need to obey the law of the country, there is not much to do … until the 29th they will have to stay in the room and that is it,” he said.
“Whether it is fair or not, it is not up to me to say because I am not in this situation. The thing about having the other players who didn’t have contact with the positive cases to also stay in the rooms is the concern about the risk of injury, specially for singles players. It will be a tough challenge, especially at the beginning of the season.”
In recent days, officials have been holding video calls with players to discuss ways to address these concerns ahead of the Australian Open. Which will start a week after they are allowed to leave their rooms.
When the tournaments do get underway there are also questions about how the public will react to players who have made headlines across the country for their criticism of the quarantine process. A somewhat sore point for Australian’s with some nationals unable to return home due to the government restrictions. On top of that, people in Melbourne are concerned about a potential outbreak of COVID-19.
“It is a very complex situation. I fully understand the reaction of the Australian population considering the recent events… the effect that the players are bringing, the risks to the population,” Demoliner said of the current circumstances.
“We know this and obviously they are concerned with the whole situation, which is still very uncertain. On our side, though, they did allow us to come here to play. It is important to remember that the decision to welcome us was approved by the Australian Government, otherwise we would not be here.”
Demoliner is one of three Brazilian doubles players ranked to have a top 100 ranking on the ATP Tour along with Bruno Soares and Marcelo Melo.
Who Are The Best Hard Court Creators In The Last 12 Months?
Here are some of the best players at earning break points on a hard court in the last 12 months.
As the Australian Open, slowly, approaches UbiTennis looks at the biggest hard court creators from the last 52 weeks.
Although winning matches are determined on how many break point opportunities you convert, to convert the break points you need to create them in the first place.
This can be the biggest challenge but for the players below this isn’t a problem as they are able to consistently create break point opportunities on a hard court.
Starting with the women, it may be a surprise to nobody that Garbine Muguruza, one of the more aggressive returners on the tour leads the way, earning on average 10.4 break points in the last 52 weeks on a hard court.
Muguruza’s hard-hitting style mixed with controlled placement puts her in pole position to punish her opponents on return.
There are also other big hitters in the top 10 such as Petra Kvitova, who averages 9.6 break points while Aryna Sabalenka earns 9.5 break points on a hard court.
While 2020 grand slam champions Iga Swiatek (9.8) and Naomi Osaka (9.3) also feature on this list.
Meanwhile on the men’s side it is Roger Federer who leads this list on average earning 10.8 break points, slightly more than Garbine Muguruza who is on top of the women’s list.
Federer is just ahead of Roberto Bautista Agut with 10.5 break points. This shows just how much Bautista Agut has improved on hard courts in the last 12 months being able to create so many break point opportunities with his return game.
Also featuring on this list are Alexander Zverev (9.2), Novak Djokovic (8.5) and Daniil Medvedev (8.3).
These are the players to look out for when seeing the players who are most likely to create opportunities in their respective draws and who the biggest servers may want to avoid in the Australian Open.
Here are the full lists of the top 10 from each tour and remember the Australian Open is set to begin on the 8th of February.
WTA Top 11 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks
- Garbine Muguruza – 10.4
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – 10.2
- Saisai Zheng – 9.9
- Iga Swiatek – 9.8
- Anett Kontaveit – 9.6
- Petra Kvitova – 9.6
- Petra Martic – 9.6
- Aryna Sabalenka – 9.5
- Ons Jabeur – 9.5
- Simona Halep – 9.3
- Naomi Osaka – 9.3
ATP Top 12 – Most Break Points Earned On A Hard Court In Last 52 Weeks
- Roger Federer – 10.8
- Roberto Bautista Agut – 10.5
- Alexander Zverev – 9.2
- John Millman – 8.9
- Dominic Thiem – 8.9
- Guido Pella – 8.8
- Cristian Garin – 8.5
- Novak Djokovic – 8.5
- David Goffin – 8.4
- Adrian Mannarino – 8.3
- Daniil Medvedev – 8.3
- Grigor Dimitrov – 8.3
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