The real women's rankings, Tsonga's blunder and Fed's best
Thanks to all who responded, but let's amend last week's request: If you're Facebook savvy AND know your way around the UFC subculture, let's talk ...
Here's the definitive David Foster Wallace piece. If you have the time to spare, it's a tremendous -- and at times, almost unendurably sad -- read.
S, you know those masked avenger guys that prank called Sarah Palin? I heard a rumor -- unconfirmed -- that they also got Roger Federer a few years ago during the Montreal tournament. If anyone can provide an audio clip (or some details), we'll happily send a prize your way.
Late submission, but we heard that Lisa Raymond threw out the first pitch at a Phillies game, prompting the crack that she has a stronger arm than Jamie Moyer.
Speaking of first pitches, a note to our Cincinnati readers: this is what happens when you don't have the good sense to elect David Pepper as your mayor:
Nice to see Andy Murray has a new album:
Eagle-eyed reader Kevin Stuart of Alexandria, Va., noticed a familiar name in this article. Can this be right?
Justin of Hester Springs, Pa.: Hey, Jon. I've always wondered whether players actually were enticed by the Bonus Challenge in the U.S. Open Series, so I did a study based on rankings of seeded players at the U.S. Open Series tournaments. It pretty much confirms what you've said all along: The U.S. Open Series is great for marketing and for the fans, but the players don't seem to care about the Bonus Challenge.
Surely this is a record for familiar doubles teams.
David Nieves of New York, N.Y., has this week's random encounter:
I wanted to take the opportunity to relay the following experience. When I was about 15 years old (25 years ago) I was in the third set of a match at the Mullaly Park tennis courts in the Bronx (these were also known as the "Yankee Stadium" courts because of their proximity to the stadium). I was in trouble and kept flubbing my forehand volley. On a changeover this woman called me over from the other side of the fence. She told me that I was swinging at the ball and should be punching it.
I took her advice and won the match 7-6 in the third. I felt I had to given that my new, impromptu coach was watching. Her name? None other than the great Althea Gibson. I will never forget how kind she was to me that day. Those courts have since been demolished for the new stadium, but I will always cherish that memory. Truly a class act!
Happy Birthday to Gardnar Mulloy, who turns 95 and has won every age bracket between 35 and 90.
Gurinderpal Doad of New Brunswick, N.J., writes: Maybe this is the real reason David Nalbandian didn't want to go to Shanghai if he qualified; he probably had more of these to do.
We have an informal rule here. If you write a note and manage to thank both "My friends at Amalfi's Restaurant" and "the Dalai Lama," in the acknowledgements, you get a free plug. That said, check out Ed Tseng's "Game. Set. Life."
Nice observation by Sendu Indra of Toronto, Ontario: Of the five biggest titles in tennis (AO, FO, W, USO & YEC) the champion was either Federer or had to get through Federer 22 consecutive times (he was the gatekeeper). Starting at Wimbledon 2004 and ending at the YEC 2008. Federer won 15 of the 22, and was beaten by the eventual winner in the other 7. That streak ended with his last at TMC2008.
Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones and pitcher Garrett Olson will trade in their gloves and bats for racquets and nets at Pam Shriver's PNC Tennis Classic presented by The Baltimore Sun on Nov. 21. Jones and Olson will team with Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva in the Orioles Challenge match bringing new meaning to "doubles" for the baseball stars.
Baltimore Ravens star wide receiver Derrick Mason and long snapper Matt Katula will be providing "coaching" tips from the sidelines along with other hometown sports heroes. Tournament Founder and Chairman Pam Shriver will be calling all the shots as special "Guest Chair Umpire" in the star-studded celebrity mixed doubles closing finale.
Shriver's 23rd annual Charity Tennis Classic takes place at Baltimore's 1st Mariner Arena on Friday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. for the benefit of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF). Net proceeds are distributed to children's charities under the guidance of the BCF. Since 1986, more than $4 million has been raised and distributed to area non-profits.
Tickets for the PNC Tennis Classic are on sale through Ticketmaster outlets, including the 1st Mariner Arena, or by calling Ticketmaster Phonecharge at 410-547-SEAT (7328). Ticket and sponsorship information can be obtained by calling the Tournament Office at (410) 296-2929 or via the web at www.pnctennisclassic.org.
AJ of Atlanta: I'm sure it's hard for any ex-No. 1 to be so ready to pass the baton. But it shows how nice and likeable Roger is, for Sampras to sharethese thoughts.
Gigi sends in this week's long lost siblings:
Finally, Marcia Frost, whose book can be purchased here, submitted the following dispatch from the Heartland:
That Championship Season Continues
By Marcia Frost
It may have not garnered the national sports attention it would have had it been football or basketball, but it was certainly a season to remember. Literally between the cornfields and cow pastures of Illinois emerged a tennis team that would achieve what few others have. And five years later, their record still stands and their members still excel.
South African born Craig Tiley had a dream that he could bring together a group of young men into this Midwestern town and turn them into champions. Along with his assistant, Bruce Berque, they gathered the talent and led them to their goal as Michael Calkins, Pramod Dabir, Ryler DeHeart, Amer Delic, Alex Hobson, Chris Martin, Conner Murnighan, Rajeev Ram, Phil Stolt, Brian Wilson and Evan Zeder became the dream team. They completed an undefeated season before sweeping the 2003 NCAA Championships.
Amer Delic, who also garnered the NCAA singles title in 2003, became the most visible figure from the team, earning a career high singles ranking of No. 60 in the world (July, 2007). The 6'5" Bosnian-born, Florida raised power-hitter was about to go into his senior year when he bowed out to professional tennis. So how did he end up in farmland in the first place? "My decision was actually an easy one," says Delic. "I was scheduled for five official trips, just like everybody else, and my first one was here -- on October 22nd (1999) -- and I came home Friday and called Bruce (Berque) on Monday night and said, 'Bruce, I'm coming.' Craig (Tiley) calls me back and said, 'are you sure, are you sure?' And I was like 'yeah, it's a gut feeling.'
That feeling was right on. That fall, Craig Tiley would sign not only Amer Delic, but also Michael Calkins, Phil Stolt and Brian Wilson. Tiley said at the time, "This is the best year ever in recruiting for the University of Illinois men's tennis program. Every player we wanted, we got." And that was the beginning.
Delic acknowledges that it was a gamble he took going to Illinois and by the fall of 2002 it was paying off. "I think what's even a greater accomplishment is that we did it coming from Midwest as an "indoor team" compared to the usual suspects in the top five." It was a great run not only for the college tennis experience, but since. "I'm fortunate," acknowledges Delic, "both Raj and I, we started together in 2003 and we started traveling with a bunch of different guys and it's kind of like, 'we're here.' I think, between Rajeev, Bobby (Reynolds), Robert Kendrick, Mike Russell, we've been able to push each other and it's just been fun. If you surround yourself with the right people and good people to travel with it makes it a lot easier. We'll see how long ... there's a lot of nagging injuries that you have to deal with."
Rajeev Ram was a highly touted junior who consistently made the top ten in the country. Having grown up in Indiana, the remoteness of Champaign was not foreign to him, but the intensity of the tennis was unexpected. "It felt our practices were almost tougher than our matches. Our matches we were just got to go out there and have a good time."
Ram and Brian Wilson would complete the NCAA sweep when they took the doubles championship. It was something only done by two other schools -- Georgia and Stanford -- and no school has done it since. It was also the depth of the 2003 Illinois team that was hard to match. Stanford had swept the NCAAs with Bob Bryan in singles and doubles, Georgia did it with Matias Boeker earning the triple crown, but the Illini did it with separate players. "Those other guys on the team could have absolutely won doubles and I think there were a couple others of us who were maybe contenders for singles," adds Rajeev Ram.
The experience would prove to be quite a learning curve for Ram and Wilson. Both players turned professional soon after their win and have continued collecting professional trophies on the circuit in both singles and doubles. Rajeev Ram has been consistently in the top 200 in singles and is now at No. 69 in the world in doubles. Wilson, currently battling his own injuries, hopes to also get back to that place in the tour and continue to add to his nearly two dozen pro circuit titles.
Ryler DeHeart was a freshman during the 2002-03 season and though he had 27 wins for the year, he didn't even get to play at the NCAA Championships. DeHeart remembers, "For Pramod (Dabir) and I, the first time we had lost a dual match was my last match my sophomore year, which was kind of crazy how we won like 64 in a row. I felt like the team, especially our practices and everything, there was something different about our program. I think we really pushed it and we were all so competitive at matches, it was almost like when we got to the dual matches. And I remember we were talking about this the other day, Chris Martin and I, it was almost a letdown because everything else was so intense they (the dual matches) were just always preparing us for the matches."
Ryler DeHeart would make his mark on college tennis after the others -- including coaches Tiley and Berque -- would leave, winning the ITA Indoor Championship and even garnering the No. 1 ranking in the country at one point. After his graduation in '06, DeHeart took his pre-med degree and hit the pro tour. A series of injuries kept him from consistent results, though he did pick up a handful of titles on the USTA Professional Circuit. It wasn't those titles or the '03 NCAA Championship that was Ryler DeHeart's shining moment. That came at the 2007 U.S. Open when he fought his way through the Qualifying, squeezed past the No. 68 player in the world, Oliver Rochus, and made his way onto Arthur Ashe Stadium to meet with Rafael Nadal.
"National championships is up there," says DeHeart, "but individually my most exciting tennis moment is probably playing Nadal. Just for the atmosphere and all that." For some players it would have been the scariest hours of their careers. For DeHeart, it was a time to show the world a bit of what he had and he won over the packed stadium and television audiences around the world. It brought DeHeart to a career high ranking of 208, but it also brought out a tear in his shoulder that would require surgery and a six month break from tennis.
It was actually Chris Martin who clinched the championship with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory over Vanderbilt's Lewis Smith. He then hung up his racquet. "It's funny, but people often ask me how it felt to clinch the final match. They seem disappointed when I tell them it was more a matter of circumstance than heroics. I knew I had to win for our team to win," says Martin, who succumbed to injuries and went into a career in finance, as did Pramod Dabir. Despite that many of the team went their separate ways at one time, all of the players from the NCAA winning team have remained close to the school and each other. Phil Stolt would even return to the Illini as Volunteer Assistant Coach for the 2007-08 season. And once every November, there would always be players from the team competing at the USTA Professional Circuit event on the campus.
There was a little less of an alumni presence at the JSM $50,0000 Champaign Challenger -- though all of the present members of the team got to play -- this year with the old team now scattered all over the country. Ryler DeHeart's shoulder injury kept him out of the draw while Amer Delic and Rajeev Ram came out to play. (Delic fell in the first round to Sam Warburg after struggling with a shoulder problem of his own.) At the end of the day, it was Illini who were still standing and collecting trophies. Rajeev Ram and partner Bobby Reynolds (who ironically was on the Vanderbilt team that lost the '03 NCAA final) were the doubles winners, giving Ram his third title at that event. In the singles, the winner was Kevin Anderson, who left the team in 2007 to pursue his professional career. Like most of his past and present teammates, he still calls Champaign his training home and current Head Coach Brad Dancer his mentor. (Former head coach Craig Tiley has moved on to direct Tennis Australia and former assistant Bruce Berque is not the head coach at the University of Michigan.)
When their professional careers are over, both Rajeev Ram and Amer Delic plan to return and finish their degrees. "Now I have a lot of school left, but I also get to pick what I want to do and if it's going to take a little more time, it's going to take a little more time and I don't have tennis to worry about." He will find that not much has changed at the University of Illinois except the chicken coops have been moved to make way for the soon to open Khan Outdoor Complex. Still, the cornfields and cows remain in the area awaiting the next NCAA winning team. And it could even be earned right in there in 2009 or '10, as the school has bid to host the event.
Marcia Frost is a freelance writer, editor of CollegeAndJuniorTennis.com and author of "American Doubles... the Trials... the Triumphs... the Domination." She has also been enthralled with the tennis magic of Champaign-Urbana and has recently made it her home.
Have a great week, everyone!