Work in Sports
Spadea busts out in a big way
Posted: Monday June 26, 2000 11:37 PM
By Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated
No doubt. By objective standards, heading into the match, Rusedski was struggling. His former top-five ranking had descended outside the top 20. Yet compared to Spadea, he was positively sizzling. Breaking the futility record set in the '80s by a journeyman, Gary Donnelly, Spadea hadn't won a match all year. Though he closed out 1999 with a top-20 ranking that included eight wins over top-10 opponents, this year he has lost on every surface, all over the world, in every way possible. His luck didn't figure to improve at Wimbledon, where he had won but one match in his seven-year career. In fact, he joked that when his parents saw the draw -- realized that he'd be playing a hard-serving, seeded Brit in the first round -- they went home to Florida.
Jesting aside, it was probably something less than coincidence that Spadea's first win this year came with his family in absentia. The consensus is that Spadea's troubles stem largely from his relationship with his -- how to put it? -- eccentric father/coach, Vince Sr., the ATP Tour's answer to Samantha Stevenson. Spadea Jr. surmised that his dad was home following the match on the Internet, wreaking havoc on his keypad. Instead of congrats from the family, Spadea received a postmatch hug from John McEnroe.
If the match weren't bizarre enough, it had the added effect of fueling the debate about Wimbledon's seeding practices. When the Spanish insurgents pleaded their case that some players were given an unfair boost at their expense, it was clear that Rusedski was the most obvious beneficiary. That Rusedski lost on his home soil to a grass-court neophyte whose last win came eight months ago lends credence to the argument that Wimbledon officials ought not to play Cassandra, and instead should simply follow the 52-week rankings. Seeing Rusedski -- one of the least popular players on tour to begin with -- bolting on the first day of the tournament no doubt brought a wry smile to Alex Corretja's face. But it didn't compare to the look of relief/pride/bemusement that registered with Spadea when he pulled off the biggest -- and least likely -- win of his career.
Playing in her first event since Amelia Island, Serena Williams took the court wearing a lavender boa ribbon in her hair. She beat Asa Carlsson 6-3, 6-2. Afterward she apologized to her fans for her injury-addled year. "If I've disappointed anyone, I'm very sorry. Stay tuned. They'll have a lot of action coming up." ... Most of the bounces went right for Anna Kournikova. After blowing two match points in the second set, she regained her composure and took out 10th-seeded Sandrine Testud 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. By my decidedly unofficial count, there were 41 courtside photographers. Even when Testud served to stay in the match, not one lens was pointed in her direction. ... Rossana De Los Rios, the first-week darling of Roland Garros, lost her first-round match to Tamarine Tanasugarn of Thailand. ... Quote of the day goes to Spadea. When asked about breaking Donnelly's record, he responded: "Maybe we should ask for a wild card in doubles."
Sports Illustrated staff writer Jon Wertheim will be filing daily reports from Wimbledon.