2017 Hall Of Fame Induction - Captivating & Memorable - UBITENNIS
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2017 Hall Of Fame Induction – Captivating & Memorable

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A special report from Newport By Mark Winters and Cheryl Jones

 

 

Visiting Newport, Rhode Island has a way of fascinating anyone who is even slightly interested in tennis. The town is quaint, and in its own way, stately. Majestic may be a better word to use because the picturesque resort means a great deal to tennis. It is the home of the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum.

Annually on the Saturday of the Dell Technology Hall of Fame Open, which is the ATP grass court tournament played at the facility, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place. It honors players and contributors. The Class of 2017 included – Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Monique Kalkman van den Bosch, Vic Braden and Steve Flink. They were a stellar group of individuals who have definitely left an indelible mark on the game.

Each of the inductees was introduced by an individual who played important part in each of their lives. Chris Evert, who became a member of the Hall of Fame in 1995, kicked off the day by providing an entertaining Steve Flink introduction.

“I’ve known Steve since he interviewed me at the 1973 French Open,” she recalled. “He was just getting started as a reporter back then. His interview with me in Paris was to be his first published piece. It was the day that I reached my first Grand Slam final. Honestly, I cannot tell a lie, but I don’t remember meeting the guy, but he later reminded me.” (She said this giggling as she must have done those forty plus years ago.)

“So, in a sense, we started our careers together. He has earned the respect of both the players and his fellow writers for not only the high quality of his writing but also his great passion for the game.

“Steve has been involved in the game in so many ways. In 1974, to give you a few of his stats, he went to work for World Tennis Magazine. From 1992 until 2007, Steve wrote for nearly every issue of Tennis Week magazine. Since 2007, he has been a great weekly columnist for the Tennis Channel website.”

She went on to note, “I remember a press conference at Wimbledon when I was asked one question after another about my career. Steve must have jumped in at least a dozen times to stop me and set my recollection of the record straight. It got to a point where I was almost afraid to open my mouth.”

She added, “Steve Flink is a tennis historian, following in the footsteps of the great Bud Collins. But he has made his own legacy.”

In typical Flink fashion, when the honoree had the floor, he was wonderfully candid saying, “It was incumbent upon me to interrupt on a regular basis to just set the record straight whenever she fielded questions about her career. Someone had to clarify those facts. It was up to me.

“The reason I think her memory was clouded was that she was a champion who was focused on the future. She didn’t dwell on her achievements. Or, how many titles she’d won, when she last played a particular opponent, or actually any individual accomplishment. That was understandable. I was the historian, but she was a great player, and she knew what her priorities were, and that was to always think of the next major.”

Moving on, he said, “I would not be at this podium right now without the unflagging support of four men who took me graciously under their wings. Three of these individuals, Herbert Warren Wind, Ted Tinling and Jack Kramer, are no longer with us.”

He praised the influence of Tony Trabert, along with that of fellow journalists Scott Price of Sport Illustrated and Brad Faulkner, formerly of the Tennis Channel. “They often believed in me more than I believed in myself,” he said.

The fourth individual Flink acknowledged was his father, Stanley Flink. “I’ve had someone in my corner for all 65 years of my life, who used his profound communicative skills to give me the best possible chance to succeed.

“I very seldom get the chance to publicly praise my father for the vital role he played in enhancing my career, but I very happily do so right now.”

It would be fair to claim that everything said, on such a great day, was richly meaningful. Marc Kalkman raised the standard to a new level when he spoke of his wife, Monique Kalkman van den Bosch, a player he formerly coached. “I was asked to introduce one of the greatest wheelchair tennis players of all times, Monique Kalkman, (Mo Mo as she is known). Each and every day has a story. Each and everybody has a dream. Some people chase their dreams, and some chase their dreams even if they are disrupted by unexpected events.”

At the age of six, van den Bosch first picked up a tennis racquet, but when she was 16 years old, cancer robbed her of the ability to race after tennis balls. With wheelchair tennis, still in its infancy in the Netherlands, she focused on table tennis and became a world champion. In 1992, she began working with Kalkman. He explained, “One needs a lot of dedication, long days, 7:30 training, 10:30 work for the employer, 6:00 back on the court, then the fitness room. Determination, even in a time of change, along with the belief and courage to stick to a plan make a full schedule for a life. Along with that, devotion, and never a dull day on court, often met with a smile and hard work are building blocks. Discipline, always; that start with a thousand forehands, a thousand backhands, a thousand volleys, a thousand serves, a thousand returns, and then it’s time for lunch.

“Mo Mo used all those ingredients. As a friend once told us, if you are a world champion in one thing you’re probably going to be a world champion in many things.”

Kalkman, who was emotional during his address, talked about her “goal setting and planning”, along with her willingness to compete. “(This is) one event you never planned, because you probably never anticipated the possibility of becoming a Hall of Famer.

“Well, Mo Mo, today will be that day. A well-deserved recognition of your part in the history of the sport we all love so much. Congratulations. I’m proud to be part of your dream.”

Van den Bosch explained, “I wasn’t aware of wheelchair tennis until Peter Seegers, my first Dutch coach, introduced me to my new heroes Brad Parks and Randy Snow. They brought the game to Europe (from the United States), and I was so impressed with how they raced around the court, when I was still sitting in my hospital chair, just getting out of it. I was so inspired by these guys driving their own chairs rather than being pushed around.”

She finished her comments in a way that those on hand will never forget. “When I met Todd (Martin, Tennis Hall of Fame CEO) in Australia in the beginning of the year, he told me this induction is going to feel like a wedding.” And she added, “I think you’re right, Todd.

“So, Marc, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, yes, I do want to play mixed doubles with you for the rest of my life.”

Next up was Carl Maes, who began coaching Kim Clijsters at the age of 12. He said of his protégé, “In 2012, this Hall of Famer organized her own ‘Thank You Games’. In no time, she was able to fill a stadium with 15,000 people in order to say thank you to her fans. Today, I think it is our turn to say thank you to Kim.”

In summary, Maes stressed, “As you get older in life, you start doing things for a different reason. Kim has reached a point where giving is more important than taking; where values are more important than victories; where making people better is more important than beating them; where you don’t count your trophies, but you do count the people that you love and trust.
“So, on behalf of myself, but I’m sure on behalf of all the people that have ever come across you, Kim, a profound thank you for the collateral beauty that you have given us during your career, and especially after your career, for who you are and how you are.”

When it was her turn to speak, Clijsters, was so typically Kim, calling attention to the talents and personalities of the other inductees. “Tennis has been so great to me,” she said. “It has given me so many opportunities, and it’s taught me so many lessons, lessons that are applicable both on and off the court, lessons I often talk of with the students at my academy. I would like to describe them in eight words: dedication, caring, optimism, patience, respect, sacrifice, tolerance, and passion. Of those eight words, there are really three that are the most important to me and to all that’s happened, and that has brought me to this special place here today.

“The first is optimism. That is having the right attitude. As you deal with adversity and negative moments, it’s important to stay positive. I’m not just talking about tennis, but in life overall.
“The second is dedication, taking the time to really devote yourself to whatever you want to accomplish, fitness, mentally being ready, (along with) all the extra effort that it takes to succeed. That has been very important to me as well.

“Finally, but most importantly, comes passion. You can be optimistic, you can be dedicated, but most of all you have to bring that special energy and desire to anything that you do. Everyone that has stood on this stage before me and will stand here after me has had a passion for the sport of tennis. I found mine when I was five years old, and I (have been) dedicated to – and I’m dedicated to pass it on to the next generation.

“Those three words are so meaningful. I’ve learned them through my upbringing, my experiences, from the many matches I’ve played, the many people I’ve known and met through tennis.”

Vic Braden, an inventive tennis coach, who was a long-time associate of Jack Kramer’s, passed away on October 6, 2014 at the age of 85. Ray Benton represented him for decades. He was also his business partner for 15 years. “Vic would frankly be awed to be sharing the stage with Monique, Steve, Andy and Kim,” Benton confessed. “He’d want to learn something about each one of you. Why do you like tennis? What makes your game effective? What frustrates you? How can we help you get better?

“Vic would ask these questions because he was a teacher, a researcher, an innovator, a scientist, and a cinematographer, using high-speed film to see what the human eye can’t. He was a historian committed to preserving the rich history of the game in his work.”

Braden was an expressive and clever instructor. Benton told a classic tale about his friend saying, “I remember when a 60-year-old player told him about a National 90 & Over championship. Vic replied, ‘Terrific. You have 30 years to practice and get ready’.”

Benton added, “Vic wanted everyone to learn, to improve, to be happy, and to laugh. Only Vic could explain the physics of topspin in a way that’s both informative and entertaining. That was his gift to all of us.”

Doug Spreen was an ATP trainer before taking on the responsibility of keeping Andy Roddick in top form. “I first met Andy in 2000 in Key Biscayne,” he said. “I was working as an athletic trainer for the ATP. Andy was kind of playing his first big-time pro tournament. I had heard a lot about this Roddick kid, so I ventured out for a second-round match to check him out, courtside.
“Now, in that match, he was playing a guy by the last name of Agassi. Needless to say, it did not go well for Andy. He lost in straight sets. But, as advertised, Andy was pretty good. He had a really, really big serve, and a really good forehand. The backhand was a little shaky.”

Roddick’s career statistics have been well documented, but Spreen called attention to an overlooked fact. “Twelve times Andy played a Davis Cup match that would give the United States the third win of the weekend, and send the team on to the next round,” he said. “Andy won those matches 12 times; 12 for 12 in some of the highest-pressure situations – not too bad for the team closer.”

Tennis has always had “big personalities”, and Roddick’s was one of the most captivating. “Andy was entertaining,” Spreen said. “You knew when he was happy and excited on the court. And, yes, you knew when he was upset and frustrated. You could often tell if he was upset or frustrated because there might just be a couple of broken racquets by the chair on the side of the court. You knew when he was fighting hard on the court. And, yes, you knew when he was not happy with the chair umpire.

“I do miss this part. Andy’s exchanges with chair umpires were far better than any political debate I have heard in a long, long time (laughter). And I knew, and I think most people knew, that every time Andy walked on the court, you would get his best effort.

“Andy also showed us how to handle the good along with the bad. He would fight on the court and never give his opponent an inch, but he always won with humility and was gracious in defeat. No matter the emotional high or low, Andy always showed respect to his opponents. And after some of the toughest defeats, Andy showed unbelievable character and true sportsmanship.”

There was much more to Roddick than a point-winning serve and a forehand that could knock down walls. In interviews, he was verbally adept and could be direct, even sarcastic when asked the same question repeatedly. But, there was also much more, as those at the Hall of Fame ceremony discovered.

Some of Roddick’s insightful and delightful thoughts of the day included:

“For the better part of a year since Todd and I met in the office up here, he would let me know that I was going to be nominated for the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I’ve been trying to connect the pieces. I’ve asked myself how the seven, eight, nine-year-old version of myself, who was this insane tennis fanatic, and the people inside of those walls are super heroes to me, have become my reality.

“It’s an extraordinary honor. It fills my heart to be standing in front of you. To be a Hall of Famer is a dream come true. I know I’m here. I know they’ve given me the jacket. It’s too late to take it back. But I’m not sure it will ever be real in my mind.

“When I knew that Kim Clijsters was the other person being voted on, and obviously she was going to get in, it really made me want to get in this year to share this weekend with Kim. I have a very simple way of putting it. If you have a problem with Kim Clijsters, I blame you (laughter).

“I don’t miss traveling. I don’t miss a lot of things about the tour. This is kind of the weird psychosis of me. I drive by a track at 7:30 in the morning, and I miss that. I miss the structure and I miss our days together. I appreciate you.

“The lessons keep being taught. I’ve been around Rod Laver a couple times this year, in the vacuum of the Hall of Fame process, and I dare you to find a humbler icon in any industry. He’s just a great representation of everything that tennis is. It’s been real fun to get to spend time with him.

“Andre Agassi’s practice sessions when I was 17 years old. Unbelievable ability to put complex issues into very short sentences. I was complaining about the heat one time in Australia. He was like, ‘You’ve only got to feel cooler than one guy’.

“My good friend Jim Courier. He’s probably the player I most identified with because we both had horrible backhands. He agreed with my logic that it’s not wrong if you’re correct. We were up against the Mt. Rushmore of our sport. We were grinders, we worked hard and we tried hard to figure it all out. I consider myself lucky to lean on him for very, very, very frank advice. Thank you, Jim.

“I’m not the best of all time. I’m not going to win Wimbledon. I’m not the best of my generation. I’m not the most well-behaved. I’m not the most polished. I’m also never going to take this honor for granted. I’m never going to forget those who paved the way before us. I’m never going to forget the innocent parts of this game we all love.”

Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Monique Kalkman van den Bosch, Vic Braden and Steve Flink made a difference. They all played major roles in helping the sport become better and even more special. As van den Bosch said, “How magic and powerful is tennis? I think the answer can be found right here at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.”

ATP

Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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Andreescu edges Kostyuk to reach semis in Hua Hin

Bianca Andreescu is into the semi-finals in Thailand.

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Bianca Andreescu (@BenLewisMPC - Twitter)

The Canadian is into the final four in Thailand after beating the Ukrainian in straight sets.

 

Bianca Andreescu booked her spot in the semifinal of the Thailand Open in Hua Hin after beating the Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk in straight sets 6-0, 7-6 in one hour and 28 minutes.

The number one seed hit 19 winners and won 69% of her first serve points in a match where she had an amazing start but was dealt some adversity in the second set.

“I don’t think I started playing bad in the second set,” Andreescu said. “I think she just raised her game and she is always a tough opponent so I wasn’t expecting anything easy.”

The Toronto native who was making her first trip to Thailand came out to a flying start breaking three times in the first set en route to serving a bagel 6-0 set in a mere 25 minutes on court.

Riding the momentum into the second set, the Canadian broke again in the first game and at 3-1 went up a double break and found herself up 5-1 and a game away from the semis.

That’s when the number five seed started fighting back and at 5-2 broke Andreescu for the first time in the match and won the next two games to level the set at 5-5, using her powerful forehand to do it.

The set and the match were ultimately decided by a tiebreaker where the top seed got the early lead at 4-2 and served out the set and match at 6-3 in the breaker to secure the win.

After the match in her on-court interview, she was asked about her chances in the next match.

“I am hoping to win the tournament and I really believe in myself and if I get the support I need hopefully I can win the next two matches.”

Andreescu will face another Ukrainian in the semi-finals Lesia Tsurenko who had no issues getting past the German Tatjana Maria in straight sets 6-1 6-1 in one hour and 16 minutes.

In the other two quarterfinal matches, Lin Zhu of China beat the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 in one hour and 15 minutes to set up an all-Chinese semi-final with the number seven seed Xinju Wang.

Wang needed three sets to get past the Brit Heather Watson 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 in two hours and 40 minutes.

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Australian Open Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas Play for the Men’s Championship

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Novak Djokovic this week in Melbourne (twitter.com/australianopen)

A year ago, Novak Djokovic experienced quite an embarrassing debacle.  After the unvaccinated Djokovic was initially granted an exemption and allowed to enter Australia, he was later detained, and eventually deported and prevented from competing at this tournament.  His refusal to get vaccinated continues to prevent Novak from competing in North American tournaments, missing Indian Wells, Miami, Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open last year. 

 

But at the events Djokovic has been allowed to participate in over the past seven months, he has been nearly unstoppable.  Since the beginning of Wimbledon last June, he is now 37-2, with five titles.  Novak comes into this championship match on a 16-match winning streak, with seven of those victories against top 10 opposition.  With a win on Sunday, Djokovic not only ties Rafael Nadal in their ongoing race for history with 22 Major titles, but he also regains the World No.1 ranking, despite all the tennis he’s missed.

However, standing in his way is a hungry and confident Stefanos Tsitsipas.  This is the Greek’s second Major final, and the second time he’s encountered Djokovic in this round of a Slam.  Two years ago in the championship match of Roland Garros, Tsitsipas secured the first two sets, before losing to Novak in five.  If Stefanos can win one more set on Sunday, he’ll not only win his first Major title, he’ll also become the World No.1 for the first time.

Also on Sunday, the women’s doubles champions will be crowned.  Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, who have won six Majors as a team, face Shuko Aoyama and Ena Shibahara, who are vying for their first Major as a team. 


Stefanos Tsitsipas (3) vs. Novak Djokovic (4) – 7:30pm on Rod Laver Arena

Djokovic’s excellence in the latter rounds of the Australian Open is rivaled only by Nadal’s excellence at Roland Garros.  Novak is now 19-0 in the semifinals and finals of this tournament, which is quite staggering.  He’s also won his last 27 matches at this event, and his last 40 in Australia in general, a streak that dates back over five years.  While Novak suffered a hamstring injury a week before this fortnight, he has still advanced to this final rather easily, dropping only one set through six matches.

Tsitsipas has now reached the semifinals or better in four of the last five years at the Australian Open, but this is his first time reaching the final.  He enjoys plenty of Greek support at this event, and appears to have some extra swagger in his step during this fortnight.  Stefanos has dropped three sets to this stage, and has been superb at saving break points.  Through six matches, he has saved 44 of 53 break points faced.

Both men feel fully at home on Rod Laver Arena, and have described it as their favorite court.  But this is their first meeting on RLA.  They’ve met plenty of times on other courts though, in a rivalry that’s been thoroughly dominated by Djokovic.  The Serbian leads 10-2, and has claimed their last nine matches.  That includes four matches that took place in 2022, in which Novak won eight of their nine sets.  They played three times within a six-week period this past fall on indoor hard courts, with their closest and best matchup taking place in the semifinals of Bercy, where Djokovic prevailed in a final-set tiebreak.

Djokovic is undeniably a huge favorite to win his 10th Australian Open.  But that common knowledge takes a lot of pressure off Tsitsipas, who was so close to defeating Novak the last time they met in a Slam final.  Djokovic has been rather unbothered by all competition during this tournament, even with an injured hamstring.  Can Stefanos pull off one of the bigger surprises in recent tennis history?  I expect him to challenge Novak on Sunday, but Tsitsipas’ backhand remains a liability. And with Djokovic determined to avenge what he sees as mistreatment a year ago in Australia, a Novak loss would be truly surprising.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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