When I first got interested (now addicted) to tennis, the player I liked the most was Venus Williams. She looked like me and was beginning to utterly dominate her opponents. Except Martina Hingis. Whom I did not like.
My first memory about Hingis involved Venus’ beads. You might recall that Venus was having a bit of trouble with the hair situation back in the ‘90s. Her beads would fall out, which would lead to point penalties. This happened against Hingis at a tournament in 1997, and she (get this) walks into the press conference with one of Venus’ beads and tossed it out to reporters. As a present, she said. So I did not like Martina Hingis.
As a side note, you know who else I didn’t like was Lindsay Davenport. Lindsay Davenport is an American, like the Williams sisters, and she was out there in the media talking about how she and Hingis have formed a united front against one of my all-time favorite players. (Hingis is from another country. Hi, Lindsay!)
You know, I only started liking Martina Hingis when the sisters Williams, especially Venus, were able to turn the tide and beat Hingis. I liked watching Serena Williams win her first U.S. Open title against Hingis. Didn’t mind too much when she’d have to pull out of a tournament with injury. (That sounds mean, but so does throwing out my favorite player’s beads at a press conference to mock her.) It was quite satisfying to watch Hingis leave the court in tears when she lost the French Open.
I liked making fun of her as she played as often as possible, trying to gather up enough points to hold on to her No. 1 ranking. That was because she was falling more often to the power players of the time.
If my petty levels were set just a bit higher back then, I might have noticed that Hingis was actually a very good player. She was smart and survived on guile against players who relied on power far more than she should have. She used all of the court. She was three moves ahead of her opponent for most of her early career and it would have been amazing to watch.
If I had liked her. And I did not.
The first time she retired in 2003, due to injury, I was good with it. Didn’t miss her for a second. My girl Venus had finally started winning Grand Slams. Then Hingis came back a couple of years later and it was time for a new round of fun for me, watching her lose to my new favorites – Kim Clijsters and Victoria Azarenka.
I admit I tittered a little bit when she retired yet again, prompted by a two-year drug suspension. Even still, it was too bad, I thought, that her career might be defined by such a black mark. But c’est la vie, correct? Don’t do the line if you don’t want to do the time.
By the time, she had returned to the game in 2013 (the year she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame), she was focused on playing doubles, a game I had begun to enjoy myself as a recreational player. I preferred singles, but any pickup match I played at my local courts was usually doubles. No one wanted to play singles except me, so I played doubles.
Doubles, in case you don’t play tennis, isn’t like singles. In singles, it’s all on you, which seems easy enough. You set the strategy and considering who my favorite player was at the time, my plan usually involved hitting the ball as hard as I could. That didn’t always go well. But I did not like doubles at first. You can hit the hardest, but it doesn’t always mean you’ll win. Now, instead of one person, you have to navigate the court with two people, plus another person on your side whose job, it appears, is really to get in your way. But I also didn’t understand doubles. So I lost at doubles a lot and I was trying to figure out how to play it. I was tired of losing in doubles to the same people.
So anyway, Martina Hingis. She returned again in 2013 and I assumed she was doomed to fail. How could it go any other way? I mean, she still had her same powderpuff serve!
She didn’t fail. She taught Sania Mirza how to play doubles. That’s my opinion. But I think I can back it up. Just watch Mirza in doubles before Martina and watch her now. They were utterly dominant – in 2015, they started a run of three straight doubles titles, starting with Wimbledon. I know because I watched all of it.
Right now, in fact, as I write, I’m watching Hingis’ last match again – her alleged last match. I don’t quite believe she’s quitting, because I don’t like that she is.
I know. I know.
But things change. People change. For instance, I really enjoy doubles now. It’s a lot more challenging than singles. So many angles, strategies, options. Did you know you can win a match without trying to hit the cover off the ball? You can lob, use drop shots (even off of service returns. Sorry) and vary ball pace to keep your opponent off-balance. It’s actually more fun than singles, I think. I’m not totally sure. I haven’t played singles in at least a year.
People change. And when you change, you start to appreciate some things more than you used to. For example, you note how difficult it must be to return to a public stage after a degree of humiliation after a failed drug test. It must be harder still to do that and come back to cement your status and make even more history than you did when you were 15. You appreciate just how boss it is to end your career among the best players in your game – with you on top as No. 1. Again.
You also realize that you’re actually older by a few years than Hingis, which means that yes, tossing beads to mock someone is childish, but she was a child. You also realize that there is at least one person willing to forgive that transgression, so maybe you could get over it, too.
Still, it would be a stretch to say that I like Martina Hingis. But I learned a lot while hate-watching her matches – that the serve isn’t everything (but honestly, girl, you could have worked on that serve. Look at Justine Henin), that although tennis is a physical sport, it is also 99.962 percent mental, that doubles tennis is not inferior to singles, that one stumble doesn’t have to define a career, or a life. That’s all up to you.
So thanks, Martina. Happy retirement. Please, please go do something about that serve.
A Rude And Silly Reply From Nadal, I Am Waiting For His Apology
I asked Nadal an innocent question about his wedding; he took it so badly that he eventually burst into an offensive: “That’s bullshit”
LONDON – I was really surprised by Rafael Nadal’s reaction to a question that was quite innocent and totally legitimate. A reaction I consider unbecoming of him, rude and silly. I sincerely hope he will extend his apology for this behaviour. Respect remains paramount, no matter if you are the greatest champion or the new kid on the block. In front of everybody, Rafa disrespected me.
I hadn’t seen him since the Laver Cup in Geneva. And in the meantime,… he had gotten married. I had no intention whatsoever to ask a particularly original question or, as I have seen written in some tweets, to “show off”. And I certainly didn’t want to provoke him. Maybe the question did not come out the way I wanted: we always need to be concise during press conferences, and you cannot explain all the details, but what I wanted to ask was simply for him to explain whether the days around his wedding day had been emotional, different from the normal routine made of trainings, forehands and backhands. That’s all, no malicious innuendos, no desire to be irritating or original. I was just curious about what I considered a special moment in his life. Getting married is usually not like taking a walk in the park, even when it is possible to rely on a full team taking care of the arrangements – I assume that was the case for him – and there aren’t many details you have to worry about.
I am sorry I am forced to report such an ill-advised behaviour by Rafa Nadal of all people. He is a champion and, before that, a young man I have always appreciated, with whom I have had a good relationship ever since I saw him play for the first time in Montecarlo. He was just 17 years old, and one night he finished his match against Albert Costa very late, playing under the floodlights, in front of a scattered crowd, when most reporters had already left the Country Club to attend the traditional soirèe the tournament organizes every year at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club, next to the Jimmy’z.
This is the video footage of our exchange at the end of his English-language press conference, before the question time reserved for the Spanish press. Our dialogue starts at 10:50.
In essence, I asked Rafa if by any chance his wedding had been a disrupting element, albeit solemnly important, to his routine. This is the transcript of our interaction, with my notes in brackets.
Q. Tonight you were playing very short many times. I don’t know why, because you’re not used to that. I’d like to know, for many people to get married is a very important distracted thing (in the life of a man and a woman, it was implied) before the marriage, during the marriage, after the marriage. I’d like to know if somehow your concentration on tennis life has been a bit different even if you were going out with the same girl for many, many years (I was implying that it wasn’t love at first sight, I understand it didn’t turn his life upside down, but it still could have had some distracting effect, with the King of Spain being present and all… It wasn’t a small family wedding)
RAFAEL NADAL: Honestly, are you asking me this? Is a serious question or is a joke? Is it serious?
Q. It’s serious. (Off microphone.) Is not something that happens every day (at that point I had no microphone any longer so my retort was not captured by the official transcript), you can experience strong emotions, your parents, your wife, yourself…
RAFAEL NADAL: Okay. I surprise, is a big surprise for me you ask me this after I have been with the same girl for 15 years and having a very stable and normal life.
Doesn’t matter if you put a ring on your finger or not. In my personal way, I am a very normal guy.
Maybe for you was (did he want to add ‘different’) — how many years you have been with your…
Q. Wife 30 years this year.
RAFAEL NADAL: And before?
Q. (off microphone) 5 years
RAFAEL NADAL: Ah, maybe before you were not sure. That’s why (he smiles to the rest of the press room and he adds). Okay. Okay. We move to Spanish, because that’s bullshit. Thank you very much.
Unfortunately, due to some background chatter in the interview room I didn’t hear the “bullshit” word, I just read it on the transcript after a few colleagues made me notice he disrespected me. In fact, as soon as I went back to the press room, all colleagues, French, Swiss, even Spanish expressed their support to me because my question was perfectly legitimate, it was not engaging, mean, embarrassing or indelicate. So much so that when Rafa asked me whether it was a joke or a serious question, I immediately replied “It’s serious”. I was surprised he even had to ask.
The fact that Rafa has been together with Cisca, Francisca, Maria Francisca or Mer for 15 years does not imply that the days around his wedding, with 300 guests, friends, the King of Spain Juan Carlos ans other sporting legends were just like a walk in the park. I wasn’t there, so I don’t know whether Rafa’s parents, or Meri’s parents or some of their close friends cried, were moved to tears, experienced all those emotions that are normally coupled with weddings.
If Rafa did not experience any emotions just because he has been with the same woman for 15 years, that’s his problem. As far as I am concerned, maybe I’m just more romantic, or softer, but I thought it would be normal to get emotional in tying the knot with the woman of your life in front of so many people; an important, unforgettable moment. People usually live that day as a very special day. Rafa does not hold back expressing his emotions when he wins an important point on court – over and above his “vamos”, his jumps and his fist pumps – if his wedding day was a routine experience for him, but just the formalization of his union by exchanging rings with his fiancée… well, I am sorry for him. I don’t know what Xisca thinks about it. Judging from Rafa’s response, there should be no enthusiasm or emotion capable to upset his routine, when getting married after having been with the same woman for 15 years. He was even surprised when someone, like myself, asked him about possible emotions on his wedding day. I am stunned. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but I feel I should point this out because of the way he treated me.
To put it simply, I could not believe that even after dating the same woman for 15 years, the day before the wedding could be completely routine, without any emotional involvement. This is why I asked the question, without thinking it could be misinterpreted, or considered a joke, even less labeled as ‘bullshit’.
Perhaps Rafa was nervous because he had just lost a match (6-2, 6-4 without ever getting a break point) against an opponent he had always defeated before, Alexander Zverev. This could partially justify his behaviour, but he had not given any signs of nerves during the previous questions. I have always considered him an intelligent person. But sometimes even intelligent people make mistakes or say silly things. But they apologise afterwards. I hope Rafa is going to do it, sooner or later. If he won’t, never mind. But he will not make a very good impression to me or to all my colleagues, including the Spanish reporters from Puntodebreak and Eurosport who came to talk to me immediately after the incident.
I want to stress once again that my curiosity about how he may have reacted to an important moment in his life that I didn’t believe could be seen as a mere formality, was entirely innocent. He didn’t understand it, I hope someone will explain him, even if this for sure will not be an important moment in his life. Even if, in some way, we have been knowing and seeing each other for 15 years.
Article originally published in Italian on ubitennis.com
NOTE TO OUR READERS – In reference to the exchange occurred between myself and Rafael Nadal during the press conference following his first match, I have had a clarifying meeting after his win against Medvedev. We both have acknowledged the reasons that led to the misunderstanding and the subsequent exchange of unpleasant words, mainly due to our imperfect knowledge of the English language. This is it. We’ll turn the page, for everyone’s satisfaction, and Nadal and I maintain the mutual respect that has always been a cornerstone of our relationship. Our readers are naturally free to form their own opinion on this event, but at this stage any further comment would appear unnecessary. Thank you for your attention. (Ubaldo Scanagatta)
Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month Significance
Annually, around the world, those who served in their country’s military are remembered for the commitment they made to insure freedom. Usually tennis players are feted for their success on court. Many of them have been heroes on other fronts. Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month calls attention to those who have made a difference.
In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day. It was a day to honor all the US military veterans who served their country. It should not be confused with Memorial Day, which recognizes all those who perished while safeguarding the nation.
Armistice Day had originally been called Remembrance Day. It was first observed in 1919 in the British Commonwealth, recognizing the armistice that ended World War I on Monday, November 11, 1918 at 11 a.m. The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is especially significant because it ended what had been thought to be the war to end all wars. Sadly, it wasn’t, but the day has been set aside to honor those who helped keep the world safe from tyranny.
An all-star collection of tennis players served their country during World War II. The Gestapo arrested Jean Borotra one of the famed Four Musketeers in November of 1942. He was sent to a German concentration camp and then to Itter Castle in Austria. In a battle for the castle, he escaped and played a role in the subsequent victory that was earned.
Stade Roland Garros was stained by having served, from 1939-40, as an “centre de rassemblement”, an internment camp for political dissidents and foreign nationals. Those euphemistically “housed” at the facility lived and slept in “the caves” beneath the stairwells at what is now Court Philippe Chatrier. Present day players have said they can feel their ghosts while waiting in the corridor to walk onto Chatrier to compete in their matches.
Yvon Petra was the last Frenchman to win Wimbledon and the last men’s champion to wear long pants in The Championships final in 1946. Becoming a Grand Slam singles winner is especially commendable since he was held prisoner in a German camp for two years after he was captured in 1940, in Alsace, France during the invasion. He seriously injured his left knee attempting to avoid capture. Ironically, because he had competed in Germany before the war, he was recognized as someone notable which resulted in a doctor being sent from Berlin to treat his injury.
Tom Brown spent WWII in a tank… with a tennis racquet. He never really said if the racquet was a constant reminder of his pre-war on-court success and inspired him at Wimbledon in 1946. But, having just traded his Army khakis for white tennis shorts, he was a Wimbledon semifinalist, losing to Petra 4-6, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 8-6.
Art Larsen, who was nicknamed “Tappy” because of his habit of tapping things for good luck, played tennis as therapy. A talented lefthander, he was mentally scarred because he had participated in the landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day in WWII. After the war, he recalled the terror of watching US planes mistakenly bomb US troops thinking they were German forces. He admitted after surviving without a scratch, his behavior became even more eccentric because he had witnessed that terror. (Then they called it shellshock, but now it is referred to as PTSD.)
Of all the famous players who served with distinction, none could match Gardnar Mulloy. Mulloy was a naval officer who commanded a LST32 (Tank Land Ship) in the Mediterranean during WWII. In 2015, the year before he passed away, Mulloy received a French Legion of Honor an accolade for his involvement in the operations that took place in Italy and the Provence area in France. The recognition made him the oldest recipient of the order since it was created by Napoleon.
Robert (Bobby) Abdesselam, a great junior player prior to WWII, and later the President of the French International Tennis Club from 1993 until 2004, played a role in the landing of the Allied Forces in Algiers in 1942. As a member of the French Expeditionary Corps, he served as a liaison officer in the Italian campaign. His courage was rewarded when he received the Cross of War (1939-45) and a US Bronze Star.
It is impossible to adequately pay tribute to all of those who, over the years, have made their country better through military service. In early September, the US Open took a monumental step by recognizing those in the services by celebrating Lt. Joe Hunt Military Appreciation Day. (Hunt was the 1943 US National singles champion who lost his life when his Navy Hellcat, a WWII combat aircraft, went into a deadly spin on a training flight off the Florida coast in early 1945.)
But, there are so many others who have been overlooked. Individuals who put their lives on the line around the world in places like Korea, Vietnam, in the Gulf Wars and Afghanistan to name but a few of the conflicts since WWII. So many were killed but even more have slipped back into civilian life unsung and unrecognized, forced to ignore the scars that often don’t show. Anyone who served his or her country should be recognized every day, because they are the reason we can breathe free.
They deserve much more than one day a year gratitude. Eleventh Hour, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Month Honorees are among us twenty-four/seven. They should never be forgotten because they sacrificed so much so that we can remain free.
Andy Murray Is Going In The Right Direction
Andy Murray came from a set down to pass another test against France’s Ugo Humbert to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, at the European Open on Saturday. The former world No.1 is through to his first singles final since Dubai 2017. Edging closer to his first singles title after coming back from a second successful surgery on his hip.
It seems that Andy Murray, who wasn’t sure whether he would be able to compete again at the beginning of the season this year, is finding his way back very well these days.
The Scot commenced his comeback slowly and carefully by playing doubles with Spain’s Feliciano Lopez at the Queen’s Club Championship in June. Where they both clinched the title in a very positive comeback for Andy, who seemed at the time very eager to play tennis again though he wasn’t completely ready for big stages as he always used to.
A couple months later in Zhuhai, he got his first singles win on tour since his comeback, which was followed by a loss to world No.26 Alex De Minaur in 3 sets. Taking on the US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini in the opening round at China Open was a real challenge and a good test for the former world No.1 to evaluate how everything is going on. He passed in two sets in what was a good indication that everything is going in the right direction. Then he got past his countryman Cameron Norrie in three sets before falling to Thiem in two.
He lost after Beijing in Shanghai to Fabio Fognini in the second round during a very exciting match. Including some clashes between both of them with Murray losing his game when he was serving for the match in the decider set.
Even if he didn’t get any significant result there, playing such long matches against top players is an essential part in the build-up process for his game mentally and physically.
“It’s just difficult in tennis, because you don’t get the opportunity to just come in and play one set like you might in other sports and build up your fitness by playing a little bit longer each time. You need to get it through playing matches and maybe at that stage I just wasn’t quite ready physically for long matches. But now obviously my body’s getting a little bit more used to it and coping fairly well.” Said Murray about his improvement.
In Antwerp this week, the Scot seems to be getting better as he got four singles wins in a row, so far, for the first time since his comeback. In other words the number of matches won consecutively in one week increases as he plays more which is a good indication that his body is getting used to it more and more and recovers faster, yet he still needs some time to reach his highest level. Having played long, intense matches in the quarter and semi finals against Marius Copil and Ugo Humbert today, which could have some effect on his physical readiness against Wawrinka. Who reserved a spot in the final by beating Jannik Sinner (6-3, 6,2). Both players dropped two sets on their way towards the final with Murray playing an additional match.
Whether the Scot lifts his first single trophy since 2017 on Sunday or not, he is definitely getting in there with a very good rate. Considering he was thinking of retirement earlier this year than having a hip replacement surgery afterwards and now competing in such a level and one step away from a single title, that is a huge success. Moreover, he is getting more confident and mentally tougher which is shown clearly in the last two matches; surviving from a very tight situation and keeping cool in a very crucial moments.
Speaking about his aspects of the game, his defensive game has improved very fast. It’s been a fundamental part of his game throughout his career. He is trying to level up his offensive shots and turning from the defensive to the offensive when possible, especially on fast indoors courts, which would normally take more time as he’s gaining more confidence. Yet Murray needs to work hard on his serve, especially his second serve which costs him a lot of points sometimes very crucial ones.
Russia opens the Davis Cup campaign with a 3-0 win over Croazia
Canada beats Italy 2-1 in the opening day of the Davis Cup in Madrid
Vasek Pospisil upsets Fabio Fognini in Davis Cup opening match in Madrid
Gerard Pique Believes Long-Term Davis Cup Project Will Work Despite Critics
(VIDEO) Tsitsipas Crowned New Champion After Nail-biting Final
‘I Wasn’t Rude’ – Ubitennis Founder Defends Himself Following Run-In With Nadal In London
Rafael Nadal In Good Shape Ahead Of Bid For Elusive Paris Title, Says Coach
Roger Federer Speaks Out On Nadal’s Wedding Ahead Of Basel Campaign
Five Facts To Show How Absurd Ash Barty’s WTA Finals Prize Money Earnings Is
Top WTA Coach Accused Of False Advertising
(VIDEO) Roger Federer, Alexander Zverev Guide Europe To Laver Cup Glory
(VIDEO) US Open Day 14: Rafael Nadal Ends The Tournament With An Extraordinary Win
(VIDEO) US Open Day 12: Bianca Andreescu Is The Queen Of New York
(VIDEO) US Open Day 12: Daniil Medvedev Stands In The Way Of Nadal’s 19th Grand Slam Title
(VIDEO) US Open Day 11: Why Bianca Andreescu Toppling Williams Will Not Be A Shock
ATP2 days ago
‘I Tried Everything’ – Frustrated Roger Federer Reacts To ATP Finals Exit
Davis Cup3 days ago
Alexander Zverev Slams Revamped Davis Cup Finals
ATP2 days ago
Tomas Berdych: It Is Up To Others To Decide My Legacy
Hot Topics2 days ago
Dominic Thiem Downs Reigning Champion Zverev In Historic Win At ATP Finals
ATP2 days ago
Youth Prevails As Stefanos Tsitsipas Stuns Six-Time Champion Federer At ATP Finals
Focus3 days ago
Jannik Sinner cruises through to the semifinal at the ATP Challenger in Ortisei
ATP3 days ago
ATP Finals 2019 Day 7 Preview: Roger Federer Continues Chase For Record Seventh Title
Hot Topics2 days ago
Big Three Dominance In Grand Slams Will End In 2020, Says Top Players