Srichaphan has the weight on a continent on his shoulders
Posted: Monday March 15, 2004 6:12PM; Updated: Tuesday March 16, 2004 12:46PM
Some random musings from a quick trip to the desert: Here it is mid-March and we can call off our "Press Conference of the Year" competition. Check this out. The WTA Tour minders are surely wringing their hands over Sesil (B. De Quite Mill) Karatancheva when in fact they ought to be happy. Her disarming candor, uh, intemperate remarks prevented folks from noticing that only three top 10 players are left at Indian Wells, an event that pays $2.1 million in prize money. ... The men, on the other hand, featured 18 of the top 20 players in the Pacific Life draw. David Nalbandian is sidelined with an injury and Juan Carlos Ferrero made the trip but pulled out with the chicken pox. ... The woes of Daniela Hantuchova, the 2002 Pacific Life champ, continue. She lost to qualifier Marissa Irvin 7-6 in the third. Having already parted ways with Harold Solomon, Hantuchova is now being coached by Nigel Sears again. Another player tracing a similar downward slope is Jelena Dokic who lost in her first-round match. ... Some good news from the women's world: the WTA Tour signed Whirlpool as the European sponsor. Combined, the Whirlpool deal in Europe, the Porsche deal in the U.S. and the Dubai Duty Free deal everywhere else totals more money than the Tour was getting from the old title sponsor. Perhaps some of this new lucre will be invested in looking for the cause of this pandemic of injuries. Still it's a coup for Tour CEO Larry Scott. For more on Scott, check out this Q&A I did with him. ...
From the here-we-go-again department: Seems that the USTA is allowing the captain of the women's Olympic team to depart from the rankings and chose the squad based on "subjective" criteria. Wonder who stands to benefit from that? ... Greg Rusedski was exonerated by an anti-doping panel and which ruled that "unanimously and unequivocally" he was not guilty of a doping offense." These "low level nandrolone" cases have proven to be a nightmare for the ATP since it looks increasingly likely that tour trainers inadvertently provided the players with the banned substances in question. (The ITF was quick to issue a press release rebuking the Tour for its mishandling of the procedure. A parade of players, quite reasonably, expressed sympathy for Rusedski and concern for the current climate.) But at a time when leaders of other sports are being pilloried in Congress for toothless testing programs, you'd hope that tennis' aggressive testing doesn't get completely obscured by the procedural errors and trainers' snafu. ... On a lighter note, Jim McIngvale, the Miss Havisham of tennis, owns a horse named Wimbledon that won last week's Louisiana Derby.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame has announced that John Curry of Great Britain is the 2004 recipient of the prestigious Golden Achievement Award, which is given by the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) and presented annually on a worldwide basis to individuals who have made important contributions to tennis in the fields of administration, promotion or education, and have devoted long and outstanding service to the sport. For more than 30 years, Curry has made an important impact on world tennis. He served as Chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club and Chairman of The Lawn Tennis Championships (Wimbledon) from 1989 to 1999.
College note: The Fighting Illini not only ended Indiana's dreadful basketball season but the men's tennis team made its mark in history Sunday night by setting the new NCAA winning streak record of 46 matches, behind a 6-1 triumph over Big-Ten foe Minnesota, ranked 36th. Stanford had held the mark since 1999 when it won 45 matches in a row. Ironically, Illinois stopped the streak by beating the Cardinal at the National Indoor Championships. ... Another college note, Clint Swett of Sac-town writes: "Just thought you might want to proffer props to Duke's men's team, which went to California and beat No. 8 UCLA and No. 4 USC in back-to-back matches."
The USTA announced that it has awarded The West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y., two new professional tennis tournaments, bringing the total to three for the 2004 season at the historic club. Each tournament will be played on a different surface and will serve as a Grand Slam tune-up event. The historic West Side Tennis Club was the home of the US Open for more than 50 years. It will host two USTA Pro Circuit men's challengers -- The Forest Hills Clay Court Classic May 10-16, and The Forest Hills Grass Court Classic June 7-13 -- and a newly-sanctioned WTA Tour hard court tournament Aug. 23-28 leading into to the 2004 U.S. Open. The two USTA Pro Circuit events will be held the weeks immediately preceding the qualifying tournaments at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, respectively. The USTA funds the 96 Pro Circuit events throughout the U.S. -- awarding nearly $3 million in prize money -- and acquired a sanction from the WTA to launch the August women's event.
I believe it is time for a PPA, a Periodic Paradorn Assessment. I realize it's early, but I am concerned because Srichaphan has slumped at the same point last year. Does Srichaphan have a reasonable shot at winning a Grand Slame someday? Also, assuming that he sticks with his father as coach, and he certainly appears determined to do so, wouldn't he benefit from some sort of tactical consultant on the side? If so, whom would you recommend for that job?
With a highly entertaining game and boundless personal charm, it seems to me that Srichaphan has only good things to offer the sport. While his record at the past three Slams is impressive, wouldn't we all love to see him make deeper runs at big events, if for no other reason than the fact that he'd be on TV more often?--Andrew, Burlington, Vt.
Srichaphan has gotten off to a rough start in '04.
Mark Dadswell/Getty Images
I agree with your premise. It would great for the sport if P-Dorn could put it all together and win a Slam. Right now he is basically the figurehead for tennis in Asia, a huge untapped market. If he were ever to win a Slam it could really be a catalytic event in tennis's history. Which, of course, is part of the problem. When you feel like you're playing not just for yourself, not just for your country, but for billions of people, it tends to breed some pressure. Nice a guy as he is, Srichaphan is really burdened by expectation.
His results post-Australia have been abysmal. And, as aesthetically pleasing as his game is, he still lacks a certain intestinal fortitude. We've this before, but the same perspective and geniality that make him so well-liked on Tour work to his detriment when it's late in the match. Plus, you wonder about his schedule. The guy plays as prolifically as Joyce Carol Oates cranks out books. For all intents he hasn't had a week off this year. Note to his handlers: Appearance money pays the rent and spreads the gospel, but sometimes you're better served taking off a week of two.
On game alone, Srichaphan has what it takes to win a Major -- penetrating strokes, good athleticism, the requisite big serve for faster surfaces. Mentally, it's another matter. He's said repeatedly that he's sticking with pops as a coach. In fact, he goes a step further: he's claimed he'd rather be No. 12 in the world and work with his father than be No.1 under someone else's tutelage. Much like the Williams sisters, you have to respect that devotion and loyalty to family. If he were to make a change, I'd recommend someone who could identify with his situation and help his handle the immense pressure he faces. Speaking of nice players you'd like to see break through...
A friend says that once Kim Clijsters wins a Slam, the flood gates will open like they did for Steffi Graf, and she will win well over a dozen. I think Justine Henin-Hardenne is the machine. Who is right? Also, does Jennifer Capriati have one more run in her?--Chad Silvey, Akron, Ohio
I think Clijsters will get on the board eventually. She's too good a player not to. And if there's any karmic justice, you'd like to think such a genuinely nice person will get rewarded. But she won't win a dozen Majors. As recently as last week, she spoke openly about wanting to start a family and I wouldn't be surprised if she's out of tennis by her mid-to-late 20s.
As for the Capster, her game has really dropped Hantuchova-like since the U.S. Open semis. In fairness she's had her share of injuries but losing a match of that magnitude obviously takes a psychic toll as well. Still, I wouldn't write her off, particularly given the iffy state of women's tennis. (Anyone else get the feeling the WTA Tour is starting to resemble the NBA Eastern Conference?) If neither Venus nor Serena are playing and the draw starts to break right, Capriati -- as well as a half dozen other players -- could take home the big prizes. As devastating as the loss to Henin-Hardenne must have been, here's a more positive spin: just six months ago, she went shot-for-shot with the world's top-ranked player and came within a few points of reaching the U.S. Open final.
Now that Vince Spadea has the "best-player-to-have-never-won-a-tournament" monkey off his back, who inherits the title for most surprising lack of success on the Tour?--Rob Oliver, Louisville
Good question. He's only 17 so it's not entirely fair to affix the label to Rafael Nadal. How about Feliciano Lopez, who, at last check, also had the distinction of being the highest-ranked lefty? As for the women, I guess you have to go with Nadia Petrova who's currently No. 12 in the world. Of course there's also that other Russian who got to No.8, won Grand Slam doubles titles and made some decent coin in endorsements.
Is it too early to start speculating on who will be on the U.S. Davis Cup team when it plays Sweden next month? Obviously if healthy, Andy Roddick and the Bryans are a lock, but what about Mardy Fish and Robby Ginepri? I did some digging and Fish has had some prior success against the Swedes (Jonas Bjorkman, Thomas Enqvist, Robin Soderling and Joachim Johansson) going a combined 6-1 against them. Ginepri on the other hand is 0-1 having only played Enqvist. Right now, is it safe to say that Fish will be the guy and Ginepri will be the alternate? Or perhaps it will come down to who plays better in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne?--Anthony Girard, Foster, R.I.
I think your instincts are right. Pat McEnroe has the good fortune of watching his players at two TMS events (played on the same surface as the tie no less) and then making a decision. For instance, you gotta believe that Blake's win over Ginepri Sunday did not go unnoticed by Cappy. As it stands, the obvious choice is to select Fish off the menu. Here's some food for thought: the captain has made it clear that he wants to go with the youth movement. But provided he continues his strong play, shouldn't M.C. Vince Spadea -- a south Florida native, no less -- at least get some consideration?
Have you seen Big Bill, A. R. Gurney's play about Bill Tilden now playing at Lincoln Center?--Joy, Brooklyn, N.Y.
I haven't seen it yet. But here's a review that our good friend and Mailbag lead guitarist Kostya Kennedy wrote in the latest Entertainment Weekly:
"Big Bill Playwright A.R. Gurney (Love Letters) renders a slight, almost journalistic account of William Tilden, the glamorous father of U.S. tennis who wound up jailed for pedophilia. Fortunately, John Michael Higgins (Best in Show) plays Tilden superbly, his jauntiness not quite masking the darkness and sadness within; given the harem of ball boys, the story amounts to its own kind of Greek tragedy. Tilden was a spectacular winner (seven U.S. singles titles in the 1920s), and also fancied himself a pure sportsman. "[To] lose cheerfully and generously, that's the first commandment," he says. It's a creed he couldn't quite follow."
Last week, you said that Patrick Rafter should make the tennis Hall of Fame. Now, tell me, what about Gustavo Kuerten? He's a three-time French Open champion, a Masters Cup winner, holder of 20 career titles and numerous records in Tennis Masters-Series. He also kept Brazil in Davis Cup Elite from 1996 to 2003. --Fabricio Faria, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Kuerten ought to be a lock. Don't forget he was a year-end No.1.
I used to enjoy watching Alex O'Brien play tennis, especially doubles with Sebastian Lareau. I haven't seen his name at a tournament in a long time. Did Alex retire?--Gwen Olmstead, West Hartford
O'Brien has been retired for more than a year. Mailbag honorary, TriBeCa correspondent and in-house counsel/sommelier, H. Willens, informs us that O'Brien is recently married and lives in L.A. in a "really sweet apartment."
Speaking of good head-to-head records, why not look at Serena Williams? The only active player on tour that has a winning record against her is Paola Suarez (1-0, and it was a default victory). The other player: Sanchez-Vicario (2-1).--Dallas Walsh, Edmonton, Canada
Thanks. Something tells me that if Serena ever faces Suarez again, her record will be 1-1.
I just came across an astounding statisti:. Steffi Graf played in a total of 214 tournaments; she won 107 of them. That's lifetime even money taking home a trophy. Is anyone else even close to this?--Aaron Gerritz, Arlington, Va.
That's astounding. Fifty percent right on the nose. I'd be interested to know what Seles' record was through the spring of 1993. One of you want to do the math? Others: my handy Official Guide to Professional Tennis tells that Serena Williams has won 23 titles and only lost 47 matches, a pretty good batting average. That's gotta be up there. Also Vince Spadea is 1 for 223.
With the way that Joachim Johansson was playing in Memphis, do you think by next year's Aussie Open that he'll have people calling him Aussie Pim?--Mila, Manila, Philippines
FINALLY, regarding our discussion about the fastest serve ever, many of you turned up this link. Many thanks.
Mike Romeling of East Nassau, N.Y. wrote: "There was a player from Great Britain named Mike Sangster who had a monster serve (and not too much else) and would sometimes get deep into the draw at Wimbledon. He is the one credited with the 153 mph serve in 1963. What the state of the equipment used to measure speed was in those days, I don't know. There is also the persistent claim that in 1931 Bill Tilden hit a serve "officially" measured at 163.6 mph. Again I do not know the technology used to measure that serve."
It's still unclear why the record book has ignored Sangster and Big Bill. We threw this one to the great Howard Brody -- the Tilden of tennis physics -- and he responds: "I did some work in 2000 on an article by Tom LeCompte that was published in TENNIS Magazine on the Tilden serve. It was measured using a "ballistic chronometer" and reported on in AMERICAN LAWN TENNIS (May 1933). My response to LeCompte was that the data was inconclusive.
Have a good week everyone and enjoy the last week of I.W.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Jon Wertheim covers tennis for the magazine and is a regular contributor to SI.com.