Tennis Mailbag (cont.)
Federer's fitness and ability to stay injury-free throughout his career is becoming truly legendary, yet we seem to know so little about his training regimen. Does anybody know what kind of training he does or is this some sort of guarded secret?
-- Sigmund, St. Paul, Minn.
That's a good point. We know that Federer puts an emphasis on year-round fitness, but we know relatively little about the actual routine. He periodically goes to Dubai for these "mini training camps" in the heat. His trainer, Pierre Paganini, stresses flexibility. Federer was blessed by genetics and clearly has a great deal of natural agility to match his natural ability. But otherwise, we don't know much. About the closest we get are these vanilla interviews with Paganini like this and this.
If I were an athlete -- especially in an individual sport -- I would consider this proprietary information. Why would Federer, whose routine clearly works, want to share his training secrets with the world? Hopefully when he writes his post-career book, he gives us more detail here. Meanwhile, who can blame him for guarding this secret, as Sigmund puts it?
Why did tournaments stop posting transcripts of the postmatch interviews? I always enjoyed them; they added a little more texture to the drama of a tournament.
-- John, Philadelphia
This has become a Roe v. Wade debate in the press room. Do you post transcripts online immediately, pleasing fans -- as well as the journalists not on site? Or do you embargo the transcripts for a day, a nod to the journalists on-site (i.e. the ones asking the questions)?
I see this both ways. If the matches are available to watch on TV and online and the postmatch interviews are immediately available to all, it disincentives media outlets from covering events and further imperils journalists. On the other hand, is the audience not ill-served when available information is being suppressed or embargoed? Personally, I'd prefer to see the transcripts released immediately.
Is Federer's father, Robert, THE nicest guy around the ATP Tour? Anyone who mans up enough to congratulate players who have just broken the heart of his own son (Rafa at 2008, Wimbledon; Novak at 2011, U.S. Open, among others), yet always remains the son's biggest fan, rates very highly in my book.
-- SPress, Vermontlandia
No doubt. Robert Federer looks a lot like my late father, so I was always predisposed to liking the guy. But you're absolutely right to rate him highly. One of the more poignant tennis moments: After Nadal beats Federer in that episodic 2008 Wimbledon, Nadal scales the wall to meet his group. Who's there clapping as lustily as anyone and, at one point, helping Nadal maneuver?
Also, before Federer plays night matches at the U.S. Open, you can bet on Robert sitting in the beer garden, often alone, having a cold one. He goes unrecognized -- which says something. Then when he sits in the stands, he often wears one of the AMEX ear-pieces, Steve Bartman style, a wonderful bit of unpretentiousness. He's sitting a few feet from the court, near Anna Wintour and Gavin Rossdale, and he's choosing to listen to Robby Koenig's commentary.
"Tennis player encounters" might be our most popular segment yet. We've easily eclipsed 100. We're getting great entries so feel free to keep sending. Let's just limit to, say 300 words. This week's picks, both inspiring and uninspiring:
Peter of Boston: "My encounter occurred several years ago when I met Billie Jean King. She was visiting Boston University to receive an honorary degree. I was assigned to host another honorary degree recipient, a CEO of an iconic fashion retailer whose late arrival thwarted my well-orchestrated plan to meet an icon and to thank her personally for opening so many doors for my young daughters. Guarding a concealed, tired copy of Play Better Tennis with Billie Jean King, a gag gift my sister picked up at a yard sale for me years before, I watched for every opportunity to meet BJK, but the frenzy of the day conspired against me. I chatted up Ilona Kloss, who couldn't have been more friendly, during the commencement ceremony, but that didn't get me closer to the legend.
"With opportunities dwindling, aforementioned CEO decided to make a quick escape from the post-ceremony luncheon before I'd even spotted BJK. As we approached the exit, Mr. CEO decided to backtrack to chat with another VIP. My chance presented itself when in that instant I saw Ilona and Billie Jean in the food line. With the alacrity of a circa 1970 BJK net approach, I closed in. I'm sure she was bemused (and annoyed) by a stranger bearing a book she probably hadn't seen in 30 years, but she graciously smiled, put down her plate and asked my daughters' names. Often I've taken that book off the shelf when a setback in school or on the court, ice or field has brought discouragement and tears and we've talk about the inspiring figure whose simple script reads: 'To Annika and Elena, Dream big and go for it! Billie Jean King.' "
Dino Balzano of Los Angeles, Calif.: "This past August I flew up to San Francisco for the WTA Stanford event, as my good friend had excellent seats for the final, and I am a huge Marion Bartoli fan. She was playing Serena that day -- it was their first meeting after Bartoli beat her at Wimbledon. As you know, Serena won in straight sets.
"I was scheduled to fly home to L.A. late that Sunday afternoon. I had a 6 p.m. flight and was dropped off at the airport very early, so I had a lot of time to kill. Standing in line for a cup of coffee, I knew I recognized the person standing in front of me, but couldn't place him. Finally, it dawned on me, it was Serena's hitting partner, Sasha. I knew instantly that if he were there, Serena must be in the terminal as well, so I watched to see where he went, and, sure enough, there was Serena in a seat near the gate to the same flight I was to fly on.
"You have to understand that the terminal was practically empty. Hardly anyone was around. Serena was looking at emails on her phone, Sasha just sat in silence, and Richard Williams and his girlfriend were sitting a little further down the row of seats -- they were all silent. I usually hate bothering people for autographs, but Serena is a legend, she was not on the phone or talking to anyone or eating anything, and it just seemed like a completely acceptable time to ask her to sign something. I nervously went up to her, and I congratulated her on that day's win, told her I was there to see her win, and asked her if she wouldn't mind signing the tournament program I had in my hand. I was a polite as I could possibly be.
"I cannot begin to describe you the look that Serena then gave me. First, she appeared genuinely surprised that someone would approach her. Then, the look of utter agitation came over her face. It was obvious that she was not pleased, to say the least. She begrudgingly took my pen and signed her name, nothing else. She signed very slowly, and it was an incredibly awkward and uncomfortable time. When she finished, I didn't know what else to say or do, so I uttered, 'Good luck with the rest of the summer and I look forward to watching you at the Open.' She uttered a very cold and insincere 'Thank you,' and turned back to her emails.
"I can't begin to describe how awful the interaction was. She was not doing anything but sitting and waiting for a flight, I was polite and respectful to her, but she responded to me in a completely condescending manner -- one that made me feel just completely embarrassed and extremely uncomfortable. She is a legendary tennis player, and I would imagine she would have similar encounters with fans each and every day. I can only hope that this is not an example of how she responds to them every time."
Sam, Miami: "I work and live in downtown Miami, and during late March of this year, I was walking home and stopped by my local Publix supermarket to pick up a few things. As I am waiting in line to pay, I notice this tall, Nordic-looking guy bagging his own groceries, which mostly consisted of bottles of Perrier water. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was Robin Soderling, so I ditched the line and walked up to him as he was paying to say hello.
"Luckily, he had an issue with his foreign credit card, so as we waited for the manager, I got to chat him up. As you might imagine, Robin is not very chatty, but I wished him well in the Sony Ericsson and told him I was a big fan. After looking mostly annoyed with me, we shook hands and he walked off toward his hotel. Funny thing was that absolutely nobody else had any idea who he was or why I was so excited to talk to this tall, grumpy fellow."
Mike, Miami: "In the early-to-mid-1990s, I was a ballboy at what was then the Lipton on Key Biscayne. I have a number of stories about many pros, but there are two that always stick out for me. The first one was when I was working the grandstand for a Mal Washington match. Mal's matches were always great to work because he is such a nice guy, but after he won his match, he was hanging around the court talking with us and he tried to use his charm to set me up on a date with one of the ballgirls. Unfortunately, it didn't work out, but it was good for a laugh.
"The second was an on-court exchange I overheard from the Jensen brothers. They had just finished a point and before they went to serve, the conversation went something like this (expletives omitted):
'What are you doing back here?'
'I don't know, I'm just trying to make it look like we know what we are doing here. Aren't we supposed to talk strategy or something?'
'Do you want to get a pizza after the match?'
Followed by energetically running to their court positions to serve the next point."
Here's a link to another.
Your Sun Bowl Parade Grand Marshall, Bill Macatee.
Steve B. of Whittier, Calif.: "Nothing offensive about the Stockholm commercial? Nadal was right-handed. This is clearly a bias against left-handed people."
Kayezad E. Adajania of Mumbai, India, reviews the Nadal book.
Trivia: Which NFL owner financed a college tennis complex?
Danielle Johnson of Charleston, S.C.: "When Kevin Ware mentioned awful trophies in last week's mailbag, I immediately thought of the Swedish Open prize, which looks something like a legless deer hoisting a glass bowl."
The villainous Andre Agassi.
Speaking of Khans ... Asif Khan of Canfield, Ohio: "Not so much a pro-tennis player encounter, but at the 1995 Wimbledon championship with Steffi Graf winning, I walked up to Robin Roberts, ESPN anchor I think at the time, and said, 'Hi, Robin Givens, right? I love you on ESPN.' She looked at me and politely said, 'Uh, Hell, no.' What was I to expect when she gets mistaken for Mike Tyson's ex! I was laughing the rest of the day, and feeling a bit stupid as well. Still gives me a chuckle to this day."
John of Royal Oak, Mich., asks: "Could it be that Charlie McDermott was really born in Majorca?"
Have a great week, everyone!
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