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"Perverse" was Boris Becker's word for the inaugural Grand Slam Cup, which ended on Sunday in Munich with Pete Sampras earning $2 million for beating Brad Gilbert 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the final. To pocket that sum—twice as much as the winner of a tennis event had ever received—Sampras had to play just 12 sets. As runner-up, Gilbert won $1 million. Indeed, even the two alternates, Thierry Champion and Karel Novacek, got $50,000 apiece just for hanging around in case they were needed to fill in for an injured player.
"I never think about money during a match, but when I was serving for the match, I literally started shaking," said David Wheaton following his opening-round defeat of Yannick Noah. No wonder. The win guaranteed Wheaton $300,000. After he upset Ivan Lendl in the quarterfinals, Wheaton's winnings climbed to $450,000, only $31,712 less than he had made during his two years on the pro tour.
Not everyone found the Grand Slam Cup's money irresistible. Becker refused to play, as did Mats Wilander and John McEnroe. To their credit, they saw the $6 million purse for what it was: a bribe designed to entice the game's top male players to betray the tour, which the players assumed control of this year. Before that, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the organizer of the Cup, had been part of the governing body that ran the tour. Miffed that its jurisdiction had been reduced to the four Grand Slam tournaments and the Davis Cup, the ITF concocted an excessive version of what it has always claimed to loathe: a "special event" outside the framework of the tour. What's more, the Cup's timing (a month after the Association of Tennis Professionals' year-end finale in Frankfurt) and its location ( Germany) make it obvious that the ITF was trying to upstage the ATP Championships.
Another Grand Slam Cup absentee was Andre Agassi, who got it right when he said during the ATP Championships, "[The ITF] is trying to deceive the world [into thinking that the Cup] is a really important tournament by offering so much money." Trouble is, Agassi's behavior in the weeks that followed undermined his stance. Shortly after his criticism of the Cup, he withdrew from it. That prompted the ITF to threaten him with both a fine and suspension from one or more Grand Slam tournaments next year. Agassi then asked to be allowed to reenter, only to change his mind again after suffering what his doctor, Richard Westbrook, continues to describe as a cartilage tear in his chest during a Davis Cup match against Australia in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Dec. 2. He sent the ITF a note from Westbrook and withdrew his request to reenter the Cup.
The whole matter might have ended right there had not Barry Lorge, sports editor of the San Diego Union, reported on Dec. 3 that he had overheard Agassi and his brother, Phil, discussing in a St. Petersburg, Fla., restaurant their need to find a doctor who would certify that Andre was too hurt to play in the Grand Slam Cup.
At week's end, the ITF had not decided what penalties, if any, it would impose on Agassi. While it ponders Agassi's fate, the ITF would do well to consider if it would not best serve tennis by disbanding its special event in favor of joining the ATP in sponsoring the real year-end tournament.
EAU DE BEAR
When Iago observed that reputation is "oft got without merit," he might well have been speaking of the bizarre case of Fordham linebacker Mark Blazejewski. After leading the Patriot League with 15.7 tackles per game as a sophomore in 1989, Blazejewski tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a pickup basketball game last January. Fordham's preseason publicity made it clear that he would miss the entire season, and he did. Yet last week, when the Division I-AA All-America team was announced, as chosen by the division's 91 sports information directors, there was Blazejewski on the second team. "It's real strange," said Blazejewski. "I didn't expect it."