Richard Evans Leaves No Stone Unturned In His Book "The History Of Tennis" - UBITENNIS
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Richard Evans Leaves No Stone Unturned In His Book “The History Of Tennis”

With impeccable research, Evans covers it all, from Tilden to Federer, Lenglen to Serena Williams in his latest book.



Bill Tilden

Esteemed British tennis historian Richard Evans has been the author of no fewer than 22 books across his remarkable lifetime. He is one of the deans of tennis journalism, as well as an unimpeachable authority on the evolution of tennis and all of the great players who have most vividly captured the imagination of the public. Evans has been an outstanding journalist over the course of more than six decades, writing for newspapers and magazines in both Great Britain and the United States, authoring his books. Moreover, he even served a couple of stints inside the corridors of political power working for the ATP at different junctures in the 1970’s and 1990’s.


In many ways, through so many eras in an abundance of capacities, Evans has been synonymous with tennis, living it and breathing it from his youth into his eighties, witnessing all of the sea changes, writing about the game with both exuberance and sagacity. Evans has traveled as widely as anyone in his profession and, with urbanity and sophistication, has played a role in boosting the popularity of the game with his astute reporting and unbridled enthusiasm for where he believes tennis fits into the fabric of society.

Considering his stature as a reporter, it is fitting that Evans has released a new book entitled “The History of Tennis”. This must be considered his most important work yet. To be sure, there have been other authors who have written voluminously on essentially the same topic and contributed mightily to the literature of tennis. The lyrical Italian Gianni Clerici put out a highly regarded and perhaps definitive book on tennis history in the 1970’s. Bud Collins wrote his first encyclopedia more than forty years ago and later put out several versions of “The Bud Collins History of Tennis”. The last edition came out after Collins passed away in 2016. Others have thrown their hats into the ring of tennis history with similar pieces of scholarly work.

Evans does a fine job in his book of combining statistical analysis of the game with a lofty overview of the most prominent champions and personalities, along with isolating landmark developments in the shaping of the sport including the quest for Open Tennis in 1968, the crucial 1970 formation of the “Original Nine” in women’s tennis, the men’s ATP boycott of Wimbledon in 1973, and a number of other things.

It is in clarifying some of the overarching issues in tennis that Evans is at his best. Having covered some U.S. Presidential campaigns and conventions in the 1960’s and seventies, he has always had an agile mind, a sharp eye and quite a good ear for politics in both the world at large and the universe of tennis.

This journey through the heart of tennis history is thoroughly encompassing. Evans wisely elects to devote a limited amount of space to the evolution of tennis in its embryonic stages. Nevertheless, his grasp of what matters is unassailable. Evans crystallizes the origins of the game, tracing the sport from the 16th Century all the way up to 1874 and the official birth of the game invented by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield.

Wingfield may have had different motives in his quest for recognition, but, as Evans writes, “There is no question that Wingfield was in this for profit—the family having fallen upon hard times—and he was anxious to get the patent for his invention, which he finally received in February 1874, despite some people coming forward to claim they had been playing something similar for years.”

Evans moves on in his manuscript to the formation of the game in England and the United States, as Wimbledon commenced competition in 1877 with a 22 player men’s field, followed by the U.S. Championships four years later. He also masterfully describes the start of the Davis Cup in 1900 and how the prestigious international team competition got off the ground, enhanced the tennis landscape and widened the lanes of interest worldwide.

But it took some time. Describing the first Davis Cup tie between the British Isles and the United States at the Longwood Cricket Club in Massachusetts which commenced on August 7, 1900, Evans writes, “All things considered, it was not an auspicious start. Conflicts in South Africa, where the Boer War was at its height, and Cuba, where Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders had been fully engaged, depleted both teams. The two top Americans, William Larned and Robert Wrenn, had both been in Cuba while Britain’s Dr. W. V. Eves was involved with the Boer War. And although the British brothers Reggie and Laurie Doherty were not in the army, both found an excuse to decline the [Davis Cup] invitation.”

Dwight Davis and the trophy cup that bears his name, 1924

The story of an incomparable sport keeps unfolding spectacularly through the eyes of Evans in this overarching view of tennis history. The way he structured the book made it easy for the reader to follow and not difficult to comprehend. After he comprehensively examines the game’s infancy and ensuing decades, Evans devotes chapters to the period following World War 1 and the 1920’s; The Thirties; The Forties and Fifties; the Sixties; the Seventies; The Eighties; The Nineties; and the 21st Century.

Determined to put the women on the same platform as the men, he devotes a chapter to the birth of the women’s tour and the WTA. This kind of compartmentalizing is a highly successful formula for sweeping seamlessly through the decades and making it all enjoyable to digest. He leaves no stone unturned. Doubles is featured. The Olympics is covered. Snappy sidebars enhance the book. It’s all there.

Through it all, Evans knows his priorities well. Writing on the post-World War 1 period that was so critical in the evolution of tennis in establishing enduring superstars who transformed the world of sports, Evans points out, “The decade following the First World War was dominated by seven extraordinary champions, five of whom were French. Bill Tilden, who was known for his towering personality as much as his brilliant game, was the American exception among the men, and Helen Wills, a beauty as well as a great tennis player, was among the women. Two of the seven players became the game’s first truly global stars: Tilden and Suzanne Lenglen, who swept all before her with a balletic style of tennis that proved invincible. The elegant, poker-faced Wills was the only player worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Lenglen.”

Evans brings in the “Four Musketeers” (Rene Lacoste, Henri Cochet, Jean Borotra and Jacques “Toto” Brugnon) as the “remaining quartet” in that scintillating cast of seven players he has singled out in capturing that critical era, perceptively putting them all in perspective. Shifting to the 1930’s and the importance of Don Budge (the first player ever to secure a Grand Slam in 1938), Fred Perry (the best British player of all time), Wills ( the winner of 19 majors in singles), Helen Jacobs (a four-time victor at the U.S. Championships) and the sometimes mysterious Alice Marble ( a five time major singles champion),  Evans is thoroughly immersed in the telling of the story.

As he writes about Marble in the late 1930’s, “By then, Marble’s lift had taken many a twist. She was always welcome at William Randolph Hearst’s California mansion, where she became good friends with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Soon she was taking lovers of both sexes. Drama was never far from her life. As they would say in Hollywood, Alice Marble was quite a gal.”

On we go. In his chapter on the forties and fifties, Evans brings to the forefront the likes of Jack Kramer and Lew Hoad. The author has long been in the camp of erudite observers who revere Hoad unabashedly. Evans recounts Hoad nearly winning the Grand Slam in 1956 before bowing against his buddy Ken Rosewall in the final of Forest Hills. Evans writes of the Hoad-Rosewall US Championships final, “Hoad seemed well on his way to the Grand Slam when he won the first set 6-4. Had Lew not relaxed or let his concentration slip a little, his name would have been forever etched in the pantheon of the game as one of the three greatest players of all time.”

Ken Rosewall

Evans does not clarify who would have joined Hoad in that elite territory if Hoad had indeed secured the Grand Slam, but one suspects Rod Laver and Roger Federer might be his choices. Be that as it may, as Evans recalls the 1960’s he weighs in on a narrowly failed attempt at the ITF General Meeting to usher in Open Tennis at the start of that decade rather than in 1968 when it officially came about at last.

The vote at that meeting failed because three delegates did not vote to ensure the necessary two-thirds majority. Evans writes, “The three culprits may have paid better attention had they realized that, in holding back this move toward progress for eight long years, they deprived Pancho Gonzalez and Ken Rosewall of their best chances of ever winning Wimbledon, which neither did. One can only surmise how many more Grand Slam titles Lew Hoad and Rod Laver would have won, but one thing is clear: the game’s record books are distorted as a result of carelessness and stupidity.”

Examining the 1970’s, Evans points to the rise of superstars Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg, and astutely analyzes the centerpiece match of the decade between the defending champion Connors and Arthur Ashe on the fabled Centre Court of Wimbledon in the 1975 final. Ashe toppled his heavily favored countryman 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6–4 in a career defining moment.

Evans writes of that Ashe tactical masterpiece, “It was a triumph that spread happiness and satisfaction throughout the sporting world, because it had been a triumph in which intellect and character had called the shots. Ashe had become the first black man to win Wimbledon. No one could have worn the crown with greater dignity.”

Through a large chunk of that important chapter, Evans informs the reader thoroughly and discernibly about the ATP Wimbledon boycott of 1973, when more than 80 of the leading players including John Newcombe, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe and Rosewall removed their names from the original draw and withdrew from the world’s most prestigious tournament in a unified stand on behalf of Nikki Pilic, who was controversially barred from competing in the tournament. Evans gets to the heart of the boycott in one clarifying sentence among his many lucid paragraphs: “The immediate result of the boycott was to highlight a fact that reactionaries in the amateur establishment did not want to countenance—namely, that the players had to have a say in the running of the game.”

The women needed to carve out their own niche in that same era as the “Original Nine” signed professional contracts with World Tennis Magazine founder Gladys Heldman in 1970 which led to their own tour, and later with the establishment of the WTA in 1973. Billie Jean King, of course, was a central figure in both cases, settling herself apart as a towering player and a formidable leader, becoming the first WTA President. Evans lauds King for her contributions but fittingly reserves high praise for Heldman, writing, “It was no exaggeration to call Gladys Heldman a mover and a shaker, and she was about to shake the women’s game to its core.”

Evans later zeroes in on Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova and their incomparable 80 match rivalry which lasted from 1973-88. He writes, “In style and personality, they were polar opposites, but throughout most of their time as deadly rivals they established a friendship that would last a lifetime.”

Naturally, Evans soon moves on to the spellbinding 1980 Wimbledon final between Borg and John McEnroe as the centerpiece of his 1980’s coverage, which also includes the industrious Ivan Lendl, the brilliant Boris Becker and the fascinating Mats Wilander. The Borg-McEnroe battle featured their unsurpassed 18-16 fourth set tie-break won by McEnroe, who saved five match points in that sequence after wiping away two match points when Borg served for the match at 5-4 in that set— only to lose 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6 to the imperturbable Swede.

Evans gets to the essence of the confrontation, writing, “The duel had become a classic contest between a player whose instincts were to stay back and pass against the all-out aggression of a natural serve-and-volleyer. Speed of eye and foot were of the essence and both men were so fast it was impossible to determine who was reacting quicker to the thrust and counter-thrust.”

In his “Women in the Eighties” chapter, Evans writes more on the enduring Navratilova-Evert presence but also brings in the tenacious Tracy Austin, the free-flowing Hana Mandlikova and, of course, Steffi Graf, who won the “Golden Slam” in 1988 by taking all four majors along with a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

Chris Evert

Even more compelling is his chapter on women in the 1990’s. Here Evans writes poignantly on the Graf-Monica Seles rivalry and the tragic stabbing of Seles in the spring of 1993 that permanently altered the mindset of the dynamic left-hander with the two-fisted shots off both sides.

Commenting on the aftermath of the stabbing and Seles’s inevitable and understandable decline as a champion, Evans writes, “Graf reclaimed her dominance over the women’s game without ever having the chance to show that she could have challenged Seles for the No. 1 spot—if, indeed, she could have. Given her talent and champion’s determination to fight through adversity, Graf might have worked out a method of dealing with the Serbian whirlwind, but the question mark will remain forever.”

That was some thoughtful analysis. I believe that Graf had already made some inroads in the rivalry in the year leading up to the tragedy, losing an epic 1992 French Open final to Seles 10-8 in the final set at Roland Garros, crushing Monica in the Wimbledon final at the cost of only three games, and falling marginally short in a hard fought, three set Australian Open final in 1993. In my view, the two extraordinary champions were heading for a new phase of their rivalry which would have been magnificent. In my view, Graf would have held her own.

Across the 377 pages of “The History of Tennis” I found myself largely in accord with the judgments of Evans. One glaring exception concerned his assessment of the two greatest Americans of the nineties and beyond— Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.

Evans deservedly lauds Agassi for becoming only the fifth man in tennis history to win all four major championships (the list, of course, has grown to eight with the arrival of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic). He credits Agassi rightfully for his versatility in taking his major titles on two different hard court surfaces— in Melbourne and New York— as well as the clay of Roland Garros and the lawns of Wimbledon.

As Evans concludes, “By the time they [Sampras and Agassi] retired, it was what separated Agassi from Sampras, who had a 20-14 winning record over him but never even reached a Roland Garros final. Agassi had the ability to win everywhere, on anything.  Sampras tended to dominate when they met in Slams and had the bigger, more spectacular game. Who was better? The argument will rage for as long as the game is discussed.”

On this one I have a serious quibble. Sampras won 14 major titles, six more than Agassi. He also upended Agassi in four of their five head to head meetings in major finals, including three on the hard courts at the U.S. Open which suited both players so well. Moreover, Sampras concluded no fewer than six years at No. 1 in the world while Agassi realized that feat only once.

In my view, as a fellow historian, there is no debate whatsoever; Sampras was clearly the better player and his superiority in their most consequential skirmishes sets him far apart from his countryman. The lingering debate is not about Agassi versus Sampras, but Agassi measured against McEnroe and Connors. Agassi and Connors both won eight majors while McEnroe garnered seven. Agassi’s surface adaptability is more pertinent when compared to his two left-handed fellow champions, although Connors did win majors on clay, grass and hard courts. Sampras demonstrably surpassed Agassi over and over again when it mattered the most.

Roger Federer

Be that as it may, Evans leaves no stone unturned in his historical overview of the sport. He makes the case that there is really a “Big Four” rather than a “Big Three” in the men’s hierarchy, putting Andy Murray in that exclusive club along with Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic despite their much wider range of accomplishments. Murray has garnered three major titles across his distinguished career (along with two Olympic gold medals) while Federer and Nadal have 20 Grand Slam titles each with Djokovic only two behind.

Evans defends his decision with clarity. “There will be question marks raised against Murray’s inclusion, which statistically seem obvious, “he writes. “My reason for doing so is based on many factors, the first being that it is difficult to exclude from the equation a man who appeared in eleven Grand Slam finals and 21 Masters 1000 finals during that period. Not only was Murray always in the mix, rarely losing to anyone other than his three rivals, but injury forced him to miss 13 Grand Slams as opposed to six for Nadal, four for Federer and one for Djokovic.”

Evans is making a compelling case for Murray to be linked with the three icons. I have my doubts because the gap is so wide between Murray and the towering trio above him, although Murray did also manage to finish 2016 at No. 1 in the world. That was no mean feat as he moved past Djokovic down the stretch. Some would be in accord with the Evans assessment of Murray, many would probably disagree, but Evans is well reasoned in his argument.

He also does a first rate job of writing on both the men and women in the 21st Century, praising Maria Sharapova effusively for her professionalism and temerity on a tennis court, writing, “Maria Sharapova  epitomized much of what was happening in the women’s game, not least with an ambition and work ethic only a few had been able to surpass in the previous decades.”

Every bit as perceptive in his chapter on the Williams sisters. Evans refers to what seemed like outlandish claims from their father, Richard, who predicted when they were respectively ten and nine years old that both would win Wimbledon. Evans writes, “Yet Venus and Serena achieved exactly what Daddy had said they would. And they did it in a way that strained credulity still further. Mr. and Mrs. Williams defied every norm and, according to current wisdom of the time, did everything wrong. For a start, they took them out of all junior competition.” This is a book which belongs prominently in every sports fan’s tennis library. In addition to the elegant and learned prose of Evans, the photography is splendid. In “The History of Tennis”, Richard Evans draws on his lifelong treasure chest of tennis experiences and remembrances to capture the essence of the sport with a mastery few in his field could match.

Steve Flink has been reporting full time on tennis since 1974, when he went to work for World Tennis Magazine. He stayed at that publication until 1991. He wrote for Tennis Week Magazine from 1992-2007, and has been a columnist for and for the past 14 years. Flink has written four books on tennis including “Dennis Ralston’s Tennis Workbook” in 1987; “The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century” in 1999; “The Greatest Tennis Matches of All Time” in 2012; and “Pete Sampras: Greatness Revisited”. The Sampras book was released in September of 2020 and can be purchased on Flink was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2017.


Iga Swiatek’s Ultimate Reflection: From Rome Heartbreak To Breakthrough Triumph

Iga Swiatek ultimate reflection has taught us the physiological demands of being an athlete.



Iga Swiatek’s life has changed over the last few years and now the world number one reflects on the defeat that defined the success that followed over the last few years.


Picture the scene. It was the 15th of September, 2020. The world was continuing to go through a traumatic time with the COVID-19 Pandemic six months in and tennis had just restarted a few months earlier in America.

A young 19 year-old called Iga Swiatek had just burst onto the scene having dominated the ITF tour and also conquered Grand Slam juniors. The Pole had won Roland Garros doubles with Caty McNally and followed that up by winning Wimbledon in singles.

Swiatek’s transition to the main tour was taken to like a duck to water as she reached her first final in Lugano in 2019 in April. That was followed by a decent showing at Roland Garros, reaching the last 16 before being demolished by former champion Simona Halep.

However at a young age, Swiatek had showed she can compete with the very best and more success was predicted for the Pole in the future.

Although nobody would predict was about to follow over the next few years with Swiatek eventually winning two Roland Garros titles and becoming one of the most dominant world number one’s in recent history.

Before we get to tennis domination, Swiatek had to go through what every athlete has to go to and that’s defeat.

It was in the Italian capital right before Swiatek’s first Grand Slam title in 2020 that the Pole suffered a massive setback as she would lose the most significant match in her career.

On the 15th of September 2020, Iga Swiatek went out in the first round to Arantxa Rus 7-6(5) 6-3.

A shocking defeat for Swiatek, who had high expectations for Rome and was looking to build some last minute momentum before her favourite Grand Slam of the year.

It was a career defining defeat for Swiatek though as she would win Roland Garros a few weeks later, claiming her first of three Grand Slam singles titles so far.

Three years later, Swiatek returned to Rome as the world number one and as defending champion ahead of her second Roland Garros title defence coming up in Paris.

In the Italian capital, Swiatek gave the ultimate reflection of that defeat to Rus that changed her career:

“Well, it wasn’t easy honestly. It was pretty tricky part of my career. I mean, I just started, but career,” Swiatek reflected on after her 6-0 6-0 demolition of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

“Well, this match, I remember it like a pretty traumatic one. She played, like, high balls. It really worked here on this slow surface. I couldn’t manage that properly. I was making a lot of mistakes. I didn’t feel really well.

“Then I remember we had some serious talks with the team on what to change and how to, like, reset, what I should do to feel a little bit better. I came home to practice, and that period of time wasn’t, like, easy at all. I also probably had some expectations because it was clay and I knew that I can do better. Yeah, it was really, really hard.

“Even when I came on Roland Garros, I remember just being on the Jean Bouin before the tournament, practicing there. I literally had the talk with Daria if it makes sense to continue everything because I felt so bad. I felt like, I don’t know, my expectations were just pretty high. I felt really bad on court. Always tense and stressed, even when I was practicing.

“I was able to kind of just really, really reset and let it go. I remember I was practicing I think with Kiki Mladenovic. We made a bet, me and Daria, if I’m finally going to have one practice that is going to be without any drama. I don’t remember what’s bet was for, but I remember it was about not having drama on practice, just playing one practice that is going to be calmer than most of my practices, but this is the goal.

“Since then, I managed on this tournament to kind of let everything go. Honestly, when I played my first rounds in Roland Garros 2020, I thought I played so bad that I can’t go lower, so I’m just going to play and see how it goes. Then I won couple of matches. I was like, Okay, what’s going on? Why am I suddenly winning?

“I managed to keep that till the end of the tournament. That’s why my win last year on Roland Garros felt much more special, because I felt like I’m in the right place. In 2020 it all felt like it’s like a big coincidence that I’m even here in the final of Roland Garros, for example. It was a tough time for me.

“Looking overall, I wouldn’t say that my 2020 season was good. I would say I only played well on Roland Garros. I don’t even know why, so… I’m pretty happy that I, like, worked through that experience and actually understood that lowering expectations, just letting everything go, was honestly the key. I tried to repeat that throughout all these years.”

Swiatek’s answer to a question about a defeat that defined her career shows her maturity and world-class talent on and off the court.

A teenager to identify her vulnerabilities and weaknesses is not easy let alone bringing people in to work on solutions.

Swiatek’s Roland Garros victory in 2020 was the start of a few years of success but almost ended in dramatic fashion having gone through stress throughout the tournament.

However it was a blessing in disguise as the Pole was able to identify long-term solutions for problems that relate to stress for the future as well as creating an environment that proves that she can still win the big tournaments.

Now Swiatek is stronger mentally than she ever has been, who knows if she’ll win a fourth Grand Slam title in Paris this year but the formula has been set for future success.

Swiatek’s ultimate reflection has taught us that the Pole is well on course to dominate the sport and create a legacy for many other young athletes on how to diagnose psychological problems.

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The sorrows of the young Sinner



How strong is Jannik Sinner really? How the renaissance of Italian tennis deflated in Rome…


By Ubaldo Scanagatta

What could have been a memorable fortnight in Rome, despite some questionable scheduling and court quality, was hampered not only by the dire weather but also by the Italian players, who didn’t live up to the expectations. For the first time since 2019 no Italian, man or woman, featured in the quarterfinals. 

Jannik Sinner had reached the quarter finals one year ago, where he was defeated by Tsitsipas (76 62). In 2021 Lorenzo Sonego had an outstanding run to the semifinals, putting away Thiem and Rublev, and was only halted by Djokovic. Matteo Berrettini made it to the quarterfinals in 2020, where he lost to Ruud. 

Have we been overly trumpeting a Renaissance of Italian tennis in these years?

If we delve into the matter, we cannot really blame Matteo Berrettini for missing Internazionali BNL d’Italia two times in a row because of an endless string of injuries, neither can we criticize Lorenzo Sonego and Lorenzo Musetti for losing in straight sets against Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 5 in the world and one of the best clay specialists, a two-time winner in Montecarlo, finalist in Roland Garros 2021 and Rome 2022. And Marco Cecchinato, while brushing away Bautista Agut, flashed glimmers of his heyday, namely 2018-19 when he reached the semifinals in Paris and a peak ranking at No.16.

Sonego even had two setpoints in the second set, which he didn’t play so brilliantly. Musetti had snatched a break in the second set but let the Greek back in before fatally dropping serve in the 12th game, just like in the first set. When the points get tight, the gap between the top players and the others suddenly widens.

There is no doubt that the great disappointment came when Jannik Sinner unexpectedly lost to Francisco Cerundolo. Throughout his young career the Argentinian had already beaten three top ten players (Ruud, Rublev and Auger-Aliassime) and is a tough hurdle to clear on clay, but the way he disposed of Sinner in the last two sets with a double 62 was discomforting.    

A great disappointment because expectations were immense, considering that in the three Masters 1000 he played this year he had reached one final (Miami) and two semifinals (Indian Wells and Montecarlo).

 Djokovic and Alcaraz, were the first two favourites for the title. But Sinner was rated as a third pick. And once Alcaraz and Djokovic were most unexpectedly ousted from the tournament he appeared as a likely winner. Also because Tsitispas hadn’t got off to brilliant start of clay season; Ruud had been struggling even more and Medvedev had never won a match in this previous four participations in Rome. 

So is Sinner really as strong as here in Italy we say he is? Only Einstein could answer: it’s all relative.

Of course he’s a strong player. And it’s likely he’s going to stay in the top 10 for a long time. Much longer than Panatta, Barazzutti and Fognini did. Probably also than Berrettini, who has already been in the top ten longer than the three I mentioned, though helped by  favourable circumstances, like the frozen rankings due to Covid.

How strong is he? Well, it depends on who we compare him with. If we look at his birth certificate, we cannot but think of Carlitos Alcaraz and Holger Rune.

Well, perhaps we have a little exaggerated, spurred by patriotism and craving for a true Italian champion, who has been missing since Panatta. Because the results achieved by Alcaraz, a Major and 4 Masters 1000, as well as No. 1 of the ATP ranking are quite different. It’s true that Jannik has beaten him on 3 occasions out of 6, at Wimbledon, Umag and Miami, not to mention the epic match at the US Open when he lost in 5 sets after having a match point. But this simply means that Alcaraz suffers his game, his powerful hitting from the baseline. In this sense there’s not such a huge gap, but many other aspects have to be taken into account.

Which are Jannik’s limits, compared with the current No. 1 in the world? Alcaraz is a much more complete player in terms of touch and finesse, natural gameplay fluidity, explosiveness of shots, physical strength, athleticism and variety of recovery skills and, therefore, unpredictability, tactical ductility, from serve and volley which he sometimes executes persistently, as he did against Medvedev, never looking like a fish out of water at the net) to marathon runner resilience. He can mix up powerful serves and kick serves, continuously varying angles and spin. His dropshots are completely natural. Jannik’s tennis, instead, often gives the impression of being robotic, even though he has made great progress in the last year.         

I have often said that Jannik Sinner resembles Ivan Lendl, because Ivan’s philosophy was centred on work, work, and work, but he definitely wasn’t endowed with the same natural talent as John McEnroe. Yet he won more than McEnroe and this must be the hope, the goal of Sinner and his team.

Rune is a much more natural talent than Jannik. And it’s not only his mentor who says this.  He’s more complete, he serves better, he lands drop shots with greater ease, he can alternate powerful groundstrokes and changes of pace…like Big Cat Mecir. He plays a clever tennis, instinctive at times, but also well-reasoned.

He has already won a Masters 1000, and he’s ahead of Jannik. He’s got a big personality, though sometimes he comes up with unpleasant behaviour on court. He quite reminds me of McEnroe. People just would wait for Mac to meltdown. It will be the same with Rune. The way he put away Djokovic, in spite of the match interruption due to rain which probably cost him the second set, proves his mental qualities. He had displayed the same qualities when he beat Sinner in Montecarlo.

He has achieved goals which Jannik has just got close to. Jannik seems to be often hampered by injuries. He’s not a natural tennis player, he’s not a natural athlete. But his desire to succeed is so impressive that he will overcome these shortcomings.

Alcaraz lost to Marozsan, but before losing he tried everything. He snatched a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak of the second set, which he ended up losing 7-4, because he too is young and can suddenly have lapses. But he battled away and tried to change tactics, whereas Jannik seemed flat and just gave in, without finding the strength to react and fight back.

Sinner is young too, and sooner or later he’s going to get through these situations. But he has to find his way. Many are the features of his game he has to work on: his serve, his volleys. His ultimate breakthrough is still to come.      

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye  

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The Madrid Open Men’s Final Was Three Sets Of Sheer Excitement



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Winning is the ultimate key for Carlos Alcaraz or any tennis player.


Three sets in a non-major match just make winning more exciting for everyone other than the loser, even though Jan-Lennard Struff can take solace this time. After all, he was just a lowly “Lucky Loser.”

Struff actually took Alcaraz out of his game all the way until the Spanish 20-year-old finally came up with back-to-back love service games to secure a long 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory on Sunday in Madrid.


It was only then that Alcaraz could breathe easily against Struff’s amazing power and ability to win key points at the net.

Struff actually out-Alcarazed his foe until the end appeared to be in sight. The big German seemed to have an answer for everything Alcaraz could come up with until those last two service holds by the newest adult member of tennis greatness.

Alcaraz simply showed the packed house his true greatness and will to win. The young man was the true gem in the Madrid ATP Masters 1000 event.


Alcaraz appeared to do it all with a broad smile on his young face. Three sets just made it more exciting for everyone other than the loser.

Alcaraz seems to enjoy the extra practice time when he needs it. And he needed it to turn back a 33-year-old opponent who played his heart out until the end.

He was outhit and outplayed, but when it came time to end things, Alcaraz was ready for the challenge.


Struff didn’t do anything really wrong. Alcaraz just did what he does best. Win.

The usual one-sided wins by Alcaraz, of course, are supreme fun for his growing number of fans. But at times like Sunday, Alcaraz appears to need to keep the pressure on until the clutch time comes. Otherwise, the fans might start celebrating too early.

After all, they already are in Rafa Heaven. What are the fans supposed to do if their two greats, Alcaraz and Rafa Nadal, have a showdown in Paris?

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at

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