Stellar French International Club Cocktail Reception - UBITENNIS
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Grand Slam

Stellar French International Club Cocktail Reception

The first Tuesday of Roland Garros annually features a morning cloud burst which soaks Paris, and in the evening the French International Club’s Cocktail Reception. Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta, and Mark Winters and his wife Cheryl Jones, who are Ubitennis contributors, regularly attend the affair. Winters provides his impressions of this year’s May 28 th gathering.

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Photo taken by ubitennis

There is another consistency at Roland Garros, beside Rafael Nadal winning the Coupe des Mousquetaires on the final Sunday. (The Spaniard has now won twelve titles.) The first Tuesday of the tournament usually is replete with rain clouds that never seem to dampen the spirit of those in attendance at the French International Club’s Cocktail Reception. The morning weather on May 28th, sported puffy rain clouds. But this year’s downpour began with a blast of hail that softened to intermittent showers throughout the day.

 

Following the script of recent years, the storm actually abated before the 7:00 pm soirée, which is an annual activity supported by the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT). Last year there was record setting attendance of near 300. Though an official account was not given for the 2019 gathering, it seemed to be nearly as large.

Thierry Pham is so polished that he would clearly be comfortable hosting the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. As President of the French IC and a member of the Executive Council of the International Clubs, he welcomed those in attendance. After his introductory remarks he turned the podium over to Bernard Giudicelli, President of the Fédération Française de Tennis and the Chairman of the French Davis Cup.

Bernard Giudicelli and Thierry Pham

Giudicelli pointed out the changes that had been made at Stade Roland Garros, calling attention to the refurbishing of Court Philippe Chatrier and the addition of a new venue,  Court Simonne Mathieu, which is truly an architectural marvel. He added that next year, lights will be added to those two courts, along with Court Suzanne Lenglen, and Court No. 4. But, the pièce de résistance came with his revelation that in 2020, Court Philippe Chatrier would have a retractable roof.

There was an all-star cast on hand. There were so many “Who’s Who” tennis names that it would be impossible to mention everyone. Frew McMillian and his wife, Sally, were part of the mix. So, was Ubaldo Scanagatta, the effervescent Italian who plays an important role in his country’s IC.

Bernard Giudicelli and Thierry Pham – photo by Jean-Charles Caslot

Having first met Gail Beneditti, when she was coaching the elite French junior girls, including Amelie Mauresmo, the first question I ask when I see her at the affair is – Are you still undefeated in ITF senior competition? Year after year, her record has been unblemished. But much to my surprise she had finally lost a match. In the middle of May, Heidi Eisterlehner of Germany had downed the former Australian player, who is now a French citizen, in the Women’s 70 final at Cervia, Italy.

Among the Americans, who joined me, to enjoy the festivities were USIC President J. Donald Tansey and his wife, Marie, Jim Lowenstein, Carol McCracken and Mark Lindblom.

Marie and J. Donald Tansey, Jim Lowenstein, Carol McCracken and Mark Lindblom, and Mark Winters

The always affable Francoise Dürr (Browning) lived for ten years in Phoenix, Arizona. Over twenty-five years ago, she returned to France and is now residing near Paris. Admitting that it had been a while since she had spoken English, the 1967 Roland Garros singles’ titlist shared wonderful insights regarding today’s “game.” She went on to offer recollections about the slams she had played, along with the special place in her heart that she has for Roland Garros. She extolled the tournament’s panache, along with the wonders of Paris, while chatting with “The Two Marks” (Lindblom and Winters).

While waiting to enter restaurant “Le Roland-Garros”, where the cocktail reception was held, I met Etienne Lecoeur of the French IC. We talked a little bit about our backgrounds. Then he mentioned his current focus – Cambodia. It seems as if Lecouer, the founder and CEO of DoubleSlash, a company that among other things provides assistance to needy communities around the world, has borrowed a page from Jean Borotra, who began the French IC in 1929. Borotra was known for his spirit, as well as his concern about the game and those who played it.

Lecoeur is attempting to bring tennis to the disadvantaged in Cambodia. His project is far reaching and insightful. Any USIC members interested in learning more about his plans should contact him at etienne@doubleslash.com

Frew and Sally McMillan Photo Mark Winters

During his speech, Giudicelli noted, “The Fédération Française de Tennis has invested in the future. We have faced some difficulties, but there is a lot of support and passion in the organization (FFT).”

He concluded saying that he hoped everyone enjoyed Roland Garros this year and that they should plan on returning next year to see the new and improved Stade Roland Garros.

As everyone present agreed, 2020 will be memorable for the tournament as well as the French IC.

Hail The French IC Photo Cheryl Jones

Grand Slam

Tennis Australia Face Calls To Honour Margaret Court In 2020 Amid Potential Backlash

The 77-year-old is regarded as one of her country’s greatest-ever tennis players, but has been criticised for a series of homophobic comments she has made.

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Controversial tennis legend Margaret Court has said she wants to be treated the same as fellow former great Rod Laver concerning the upcoming anniversary of one of the biggest milestones she has ever achieved in her career.

 

2020 will mark 50 years since Court won all four grand slam titles within the same season. An elusive achievement in the world of tennis. Only three women in total have managed to complete a calendar grand slam – Maureen Connolly (1953) and Steffi Graf (1988) are the others. Court also still holds the record for the most grand slam singles titles ever won by a tennis player at 24. One ahead of Serena Williams.

Court said she has received no contact from Tennis Australia regarding any plans to mark her milestone. Laver, who is the only man to ever complete the calendar grand slam twice, was honoured this year for his accomplishment. It is the 50th anniversary of when he claimed the four major trophies back in 1969.

“I think Tennis Australia should sit and talk with me (about the anniversary),” Court told Nine News Australia.
“They have never phoned me. Nobody has spoken to me directly about it. I think they would rather not confront it.
“They brought Rod in from America. If they think I’m just going to turn up, I don’t think that is right. I think I should be invited. I would hope they would pay my way to come like they paid for his, and honour me. If they are not going to do that, I don’t really want to come.”

Any move to honour Court at the Australian Open in January is likely to split opinion. The 77-year-old has been criticised for a series of homophobic remarks she has made for many years. In 1990 she once said that Martina Navratilova was a bad role model for children because she is gay. A vocal opponent of same-sex marriage, she said in another interview in 2017 that tennis was ‘full of lesbians’ and those who identify as transgender were ‘the work of the devil.’ In another incident, Court wrote a comment to an Australian newspaper is which she said took a swipe at former player Casey Dellacqua after she announced the birth of her child. Dellacqua is in a same-sex relationship.

There have been calls for Court’s name to be removed from one of the premier stadiums at the Australian Open in light of hew views. Billie Jean King, who is one of the founding members of the WTA, has previously called for the arena to be renamed.

“I don’t feel any of that should be brought into my tennis career,” Court told The Sydney Morning Herald about calls for her name being removed. “It was a different phase of my life from where I am now and if we are not big enough as a nation and a game to face those challenges there is something wrong.
“Many gay people think my name shouldn’t come off it. There are many gay people who don’t believe in gay marriage. They know that marriage is between a man and a woman and they will say that. Then you get the radicals coming at me, you have got these minority groups in every area now having a say and taking on nations and taking on big companies.”

Whilst her comments have triggered controversy, Court has insisted that she has nothing against gay people. Claiming she has members of the LGBT community attend her church. Following retirement from tennis, Court became a Christian pastor.

“I have gay people in the church. It is nothing against the people themselves, I just said what the Bible said. If I can’t say what the Bible says, there is something wrong.”

The ball is now very much in the court of Tennis Australia, who oversees the running of the Melbourne major. Although coming to a decision will not be easy. In June they were named as one of the best sporting organisations for LGBTIQ+ inclusion in the annual Pride Sport Awards in Melbourne.

“As previously stated, Tennis Australia recognises the tennis achievements of Margaret Court, although her views do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.” A statement from Tennis Australia reads.

During her career Court won 140 titles in the Open Era (1968 onwards). 92 of those were in singles and 48 were in doubles. At the 1963 Australian Open and 1970 US Open she won all three titles in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

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Grand Slam

Simona Halep To Change Grand Slam Schedule Ahead of Olympics

The Romanian is set to play extra events in the majors in a bid to boost her chances of winning a medal in Tokyo.

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Former world No.1 Simona Halep has her eyes set on winning more than one medal at the 2020 Olympic Games after confirming she will play extra matches during three grand slam tournaments next year.

 

The 28-year-old intends to participate in the mixed doubles along with a yet to be decided compatriot. It will be a rare appearance for Halep, who has only played in two mixed doubles tournaments throughout her professional career so far. Doing so at the 2015 US Open and 2016 French Open with Horia Tacu.

Despite her lack of experience in the discipline, the Romanian is hoping to build some momentum in the grand slams next year. A two-time grand slam champion, she has focused solely on singles competition at every major for over four years.

“I have only Melbourne, maybe French Open, and grass. Grass is a little bit dangerous because the surface is tough and you can get hurt a little bit with the men’s serve.” Halep told reporters in Beijing.
“But the goal is to play all the time mixed doubles with my partner to get used to the game, to be able to achieve a good result at the Olympics.”

Halep made her Olympic debut back in 2012, but opted not to play in the 2016 edition. In London she lost in the first round of both the singles and women’s doubles competition. Halep is bidding to become only the third Romanian tennis player in history to win an Olympic medal. Following in the footsteps of Tecau and Florin Mergea, who won a silver medal together in Rio 2016.

“I want to win any medal in the Olympics to fulfil everything I have done in tennis,” Halep said following her triumph at Wimbledon in July. “It is a chance to play for my country and I have always loved to do that. The disappointment from [losing in Fed Cup] this year really hurt me so to play well to get a medal, it would be a dream.”

The world No.6 has also been confirmed as her country’s flag-bearer for the upcoming event in Tokyo.

Playing through the pain

Whilst her long-term goal has been set out, Halep’s focus for the immediate future is on this week’s China Open. She kicked-off her campaign on Sunday with a clinical 6-1, 6-1, win over Sweden’s Rebecca Peterson. Peterson was her first real test since withdrawing from Wuhan due to a back injury. Whilst the score looks positive, she is not getting too ahead of herself.

“I’m not 100 percent recovered, I still feel pain,” said the sixth seed.
“Always when you have an injury, it’s a little bit risky.
“But I accepted it, I took the risk.”

A former runner-up of the tournament, Halep is hopeful of having a strong run. Beijing is her first tournament since turning 28 on Friday. To mark the occasion, she celebrated the milestone at one of the world’s most prestigious landmarks.

“Every year it’s nice to come back here,” she said. “This tournament’s a big tournament and important for everybody, and the atmosphere is very nice. You can see everyone is focused on their job.
“This year I celebrated my birthday at the Great Wall. It was actually the first time I’ve visited the Great Wall after coming here many years in a row. I think it’s going to be a good week for me—even if I was a little bit injured last week, I feel good now. I’m feeling good to play and to win matches.”

Halep will play Russia’s Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round on Monday.

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ATP

Roger Federer Can Win Australian Open, Says Laver

The 81-year-old speaks out about the world No.3.

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Roger Federer (@usopen on Twitter)

Tennis legend Rod Laver has back world No.3 Roger Federer to add to his record-breaking grand slam tally in the future.

 

The 38-year-old currently holds the record for most major singles won by a man at 20. However, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are closing in on that tally. Djokovic is currently on 16 and Nadal in one adrift on 19 following his latest triumph at the US Open. Meanwhile, Federer has only featured in the final in one out of the last six grand slam tournaments. Doing so at Wimbledon in July where he failed to convert two championship points against Djokovic. His last major title took place at the 2017 Australian Open.

Despite the recent lack of major silverware for the Swiss Maestro, Australian great Laver believes he can still challenge for the biggest titles in the sport. Saying that it is possible that Federer could continue playing until the age of 40.

“He seems to be fine and that’s what counts. If you love the game as much as you do, that’s fine.” He commented on Federer’s longevity in the sport.
“I also give Roger a very good chance of winning the Australian Open again in Melbourne in January.”

Laver admits that it is possible that the two other members of the Big Three could end their careers with more titles than Federer. Nadal is five years younger than him and Djokovic is six. However, he believes there is one thing that separates him from the others.

“Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are all big champions. But Roger surpasses tennis, the world of sport, and sports in general in a way that no one in history has done before him. He is the most recognized athlete in the world and a figurehead for this great game.

The first encounter between Laver and Federer took place 13 years ago in Melbourne at the Australian Open. Since then, the two have formed a bond with Laver saying they ‘clicked’ straight away.

The biggest example of the friendship between the two is perhaps best illustrated by the Laver Cup. An annual team tournament where Europe takes on the rest of the world. Similar to that of Golf’s Ryder Cup. Named in honour of the tennis great, Federer is one of the co-founders of the event. Which has since been granted a place within the ATP Calendar. Although no ranking points are on offer.

This year’s edition will be held in Switzerland for the first time. Critics have been quick to point out the disparity between the two teams. Europe consists of all players ranked inside the top 20 compared to one from the world team. However, Laver dismissed the significance.

“I do not think so. The team World has excelled in both Laver Cups in doubles and also celebrated one or two big victories in singles. I expect it to be exciting.” He said.

The three-day 2019 Laver Cup will get underway in Geneva on Friday.

List of players participating

 Team Europe
Captain:  Björn Borg
Vice-captain:  Thomas Enqvist
Player Rank
 Rafael Nadal 2
 Roger Federer 3
 Dominic Thiem 5
 Alexander Zverev 6
 Stefanos Tsitsipas 7
 Fabio Fognini 11
 Team World
Captain:  John McEnroe
Vice-captain:  Patrick McEnroe
Player Rank
 John Isner 20
 Milos Raonic 24
 Nick Kyrgios 27
 Taylor Fritz 30
 Denis Shapovalov 33
 Jack Sock 208

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