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.”

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Saves Two Match Points To Extend Winning Streak In Barcelona

Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a scare to reach the Barcelona semi-finals.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas saved two match points to defeat Facundo Diaz Acosta 4-6 6-3 7-6(8) in Barcelona.

The former finalist saved two match points against the inspired Argentinian as Tsitsipas reached the semi-finals.

It means Tsitsipas is 9-0 in the clay court season and has the chance to set up a potential rematch with Casper Ruud in the final.

The duo met in last week’s Monte-Carlo final where Tsitsipas claimed his third title in Monaco.

Speaking after the match Tsitsipas admitted it was difficult to sustain his level, “I was coming close [to losing] at certain moments in the match. It seemed like a mountain,” Tsitsipas stated to the ATP website.

“I reminded myself that I have a headband that I wear here that has a mountain and that I need to climb it, so it kept me going. It was difficult. It was extremely difficult to sustain the same level throughout the entire match and I think he played incredible.

“I think he left everything out there. He is a good clay-court player. He has a title on the ATP Tour for a reason and today it was a level he was able to bring out on the court that made it quite obvious.

“I got a little bit tense on my serve, I won’t lie. I think I started decelerating a lot, but once I got a hold of that I was conscious of that, it went back to where it belonged and helped me a lot in the tie-breaker because if I didn’t figure it out, I don’t know. It was very mental in general. I really had to go to uncomfortable places mentally and go over the limit at some point.”

Tsitsipas is currently seven in the world in the live rankings as the Greek is looking to claim his first title in Barcelona.

Next up for the Greek will be either Dusan Lajovic or Arthur Fils while Tomas Martin Etcheverry takes on Casper Ruud in the other semi-final.

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Elena Rybakina Looking To Adapt To Clay, Reaches Stuttgart Semi-Finals

Elena Rybakina has admitted it takes time to adapt to clay as she prepares for the semi-finals in Stuttgart.

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Elena Rybakina is into the semi-finals in Stuttgart after a 6-3 5-7 6-3 win over Jasmine Paolini.

After surviving a three set match against Veronika Kudermetova in her first round, Rybakina continued to struggle on the clay against the Italian.

However the former Wimbledon champion produced some big tennis in vital moments in order to reach the last four in Germany.

Although she has had success in the past on the clay, Rybakina knows that it will take time for her to adapt on the surface.

Speaking after her win over Kudermetova Rybakina explained the reasons why it is difficult to have immediate success on clay, “Well, I always believed that I can play good on clay. My first win on the WTA was on clay,” Rybakina was quoted by tennis365 as saying.

“It’s just the season is quite short, and of course me, for example, I need a bit more time to get used, to adapt, to play some matches. But overall I think that I can play well on all the surfaces. Last year it was a great tournament in Rome, and then the French Open, I actually feel also well there.

“I like the courts. It’s just I was unlucky with sickness, so I think I’m doing pretty well for now. I like a faster surface, and I think in Madrid it’s quite fast. For now I was not successful there, but I think that’s a great tournament for me.

“Rome was nice. As I said, French Open, I like the courts. It’s just the question of good preparation and being healthy. And then it all depends on you and of course on the opponent.”

Last year Rybakina claimed the title in Rome and was one of the favourites for Roland Garros.

However the Kazakh had to withdraw in the third round due to illness which hampered her progress throughout the season.

Now Rybakina will look to make amends for that as she is into the semi-finals in Stuttgart where she will play either defending champion Iga Swiatek or Emma Raducanu.

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Rafael Nadal Takes Positives From Barcelona Exit Against Alex De Minaur

Rafael Nadal exited the tournament in Barcelona in the second round to Alex De Minaur.

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Rafael Nadal believes that he can be competitive for Roland Garros despite his 7-5 6-1 defeat to Alex De Minaur in Barcelona.

The 12-time champion suffered a straight sets defeat to the in-form Australian in the second round.

There was a valiant comeback from Nadal in the opening set as he recovered from a break down to get back onto level terms.

However De Minaur was too strong for Nadal as the world number eleven won nine of the last ten games to set up a third round meeting with Daniel Altmaier or Arthur Fils.

After the match Nadal congratulated De Minaur on the victory and analysed his own performance, “I mean Alex is a great player but honestly no, in terms of tennis today he’s in better shape than me so he is playing at a really high level since the beginning of the season, I think he made a really important step forward in his level of tennis,” Nadal told reporters in Barcelona.

“So just happy for him and congratulate him for the level he played today. And I think I was able to show myself most important to show the world and show myself when I was really trying and showed a high percentage of intensity, my level was there to compete.

“And I didn’t practice a lot so that encourages me to keep going and tells me that if I spend the day on the tour and keep practicing with the players on this surface, I really hope and really believe that I can keep being competitive and my body will allow me to push the way that I know.”

The defeat to De Minaur was Nadal’s third match all season having struggled with injury with the Spaniard hinting this could be his last time playing in Barcelona.

Despite the loss Nadal admits he feels happier and more comfortable than he did a couple of weeks ago, “I feel much more comfortable and much more happier today than one week and a half ago,” Nadal explained.

“I managed to play two matches, playing against great players and I mean when I was able to play I was not very far without a doubt. And I feel myself that if I’m able to keep practicing days on the tour and if my body allows me to spend hours on court and have the practices the way that I need.”

Now the next goal for Nadal is to try to reclaim his Roland Garros title, a tournament he has won on 14 different occasions.

As for Roland Garros Nadal just hopes he can be competitive for the second Grand Slam of the season as he intensifies his preparations over the next few weeks, “I hope to be competitive, that’s the truth and I hope and believe that I can be competitive in a few weeks,” Nadal stated.

“That’s the way I need to perceive today and my final goal is to give myself a chance to be realistically competing at Roland Garros. In my tennis career I was able to compete at the highest level at every single tournament, trying to win tournaments and I was not able to do it today.

“But I hope to be ready in a few weeks.”

Before Roland Garros, Nadal will hope to play in Madrid which starts on the 25th of April.

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