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SAM QUERREY IS SET TO BEAT SAM QUERREY’S WORLD RECORD 10 STRAIGHT ACES IN THE K-SWISS DEFIER DS.
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cont ents features 12 WILD CARD Success wonâ€™t make Ernests Gulbis boring. By Stephen Tignor
16 TICKET TO THE SHOW Think the U.S. Open is tough? Check out the tournament to get into it. By Andrew Friedman
18 QUICK FIXES 5 solutions to your on-court problems. By Tom Perrotta
departments 04 GAME ON 20 GEAR 22 LOCKER ROOM Sunglasses for on and off the court
23 411 Take our quiz to find out if you should go to a tennis academy
24 FINAL CALL GOLDEN CHILD: Caroline Wozniacki let the sun shine in at Wimbledon in June.
COVER: IAN WALTON/GETTY IMAGES; THIS PAGE: JULIAN FINNEY/GETTY IMAGES
How to match your string to your game
6/28/10 12:43 PM
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inside HIGH SCHOOL PHENOMS HITTING PARTNERS OF THE STARS 5 QUESTIONS WITH ELENA DEMENTIEVA NCAA CHAMPS TALK ABOUT GOING PRO Rafael Nadal took on local teens two days before the French Open. The court is inside an abandoned swimming pool in Paris.
>>> 6: Women who have topped the WTA rankings in singles and doubles after Serena Williams accomplished the feat in June. The others: Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Martina
6/25/10 1:40 PM
TEAM PLAYERS Like most public high school tennis players, Jack Sock and Lilly Kimbell go to dances and hang out with their friends. One thing they never do is lose. Sock, an 18-year-old headed into his senior year at Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kan., is a perfect 58-0 in his career. He already has a sub-700 ATP tour ranking and was picked as a practice partner by Roger Federer at this year’s Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Kimbell, 18, finished up her senior season at New Braunfels High School in New Braunfels, Texas, without losing a set—just like she had done the previous three years. She earned a full scholarship to the University of Georgia. Despite their unblemished records, both players say high school tennis is anything but boring. “Hanging with my teammates, practic-
Kimbell (left) and Sock have never lost a high school match.
ing with them, helping the school win a state title, trying to be a team leader—those are the cool things about high school tennis,” says Sock, who led his team to a state title in the spring. Kimbell, who helped New Braunfels win three state championships, also loved the team atmosphere. “I’ve had lots of friends, I went to dances and football games,” she says. She trains at the nearby by John Newcombe Tennis is Ranch. Both th Sock and Kimbell
The tennis isn’t competitive, but Lilly Kimbell and Jack Sock like the team spirit. And the football games. could have gone to a fulltime tennis academy, but they have no regrets. “Sure, those girls are traveling around the world more, maybe playing more tournaments,” Kimbell says. “But look what they’re missing. I would also be
afraid of burnout.” After his senior year, Sock will decide whether he’ll go to college or directly to the pros. “I’ve seen guys make the jump too early and then struggle,” he says. “I don’t want to do that.” —TOM A. MCFERSON
BY THE NUMBERS
FINAL SCORE: LONGEST MATCH, MOST GAMES PLAYED, MOST ST ACES EVER HIT 183 Total time—4 hours, 32 minutes longer than the previous longest match: Fabrice Santoro vs. Arnaud Clement, 2004 French Open.
TOTAL GAMES PLAYED
8 HOURS, 6 MINUTES LONGEST MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL GAME EVER PLAYED: 1984, WHITE SOX OVER BREWERS
TIMES THE FIRST-ROUND MATCH WAS SUSPENDED FOR DARKNESS
5th set games mes played, 26 more revious high in an entire than the previous ncho Gonzalez vs. match: Pancho sarell, 1969 Wimbledon Charlie Pasarell,
Hingis, Kim Clijsters and Lindsay Davenport. >>> 3: Titles on 3 different surfaces for Sam Querrey, who became the fi rst player this season to do so—hard court in Memphis, his,
TIME OF THE 5TH SET TOTAL ACES. ISNER (112) AND MAHUT (103) BOTH TORCHED IVO KARLOVIC’S 2009 RECORD OF 78.
JOHN ISNER VS NICOLAS MAHUT
TWO HUNDRED FIFTEEN
BATTLE OF BRITAIN
LEFT: JACQUES DEMARTHON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES; FROM TOP LEFT: COLETTE LEWIS; SUSAN MULLANE/CAMERAWORK USA; GETTY IMAGES
Two top-ranked juniors never get tired of putting it on the line for their high schools
clay c lay in Belgrade,
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David Vande Pol and his students in San Diego.
PARTNERS MEET THE SECRET PRACTICE WEAPONS OF VENUS, SERENA AND MARIA In today’s pro game, “hitting partner” can mean anything from a one-time stint as Roger Federer’s whipping boy to a full-time, globe-trotting gig that resembles coach and confidante. Federer likes to work with young pros or top juniors who don’t mind being bossed around for a chance to see the master at work. “They learn and improve themselves, which is important to me, too,” says the Swiss, who invites players to his second home in Dubai, where he puts them up in five-star hotels. Serena Williams likes her full-time hitting partner, Sasha Bajin, a 25-year-old former top junior from Serbia, because she says he makes her laugh and has the “thick skin” needed to handle her many moods. Hitting partners usually have one thing in common: They’re mostly men. Male pros want hitting partners with skills as close as possible to their rivals on tour; while many women practice together at tournaments, they generally don’t hire women as practice partners. They’re looking for players who have bigger games than their rivals. Bajin, 25, is one of the three best-known hitting partners, along with ex-American pros Michael Joyce, 37, who has become Maria Sharapova’s coach, along with her father; and David Witt, 37, who works with Venus Williams. Their roles are part friend, part coach, and part travel companion. Coaxing, cajoling, criticizing, ego stroking, and scouting are all part of the job, along with the ability to mimic opponents’ styles. “If Venus is playing someone who hits with a lot of spin, I’ll hit a lot of spin,” says Witt, who has been with her for three years. But it takes more than just tennis skill to make these
A perfect partner can coax, coach, scout and crush the ball. And dress up for the Grammys.
relationships work. “The biggest thing you have to have is trust,” Joyce says. Witt and Bajin scout opponents and provide prematch tips by e-mail. “I don’t tell Serena what to do but I give her some ideas from my point of view,” Bajin says. Joyce does more. “The only reason ‘hitting partner’ is used on the women’s tour is because there are so many parents that want to pretend they’re coaches,” he says. “To me a hitting partner is the guy you paid 15 bucks at the park to hit. It’s a stupid term.” A hitting partner who wants to show off probably won’t last long. Bajin dials back his own power to give Serena “confidence, if necessary.” He remembers once forgetting to restrain himself in front of a big crowd in Miami. “I got too excited and started hitting the balls really hard,” Bajin recalls. “She’s like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’” Compensation varies. Some hitting partners are paid by the week, while others, like Witt, Joyce and Bajin, collect an annual salary and bonuses based on the performance of their players. There are perks, too. Bajin enjoys being part of an A-lister’s entourage. “I go to the Grammys,” he says, smiling. “No other player can offer me that.”—DOUGLAS ROBSON
Venus Williams talks strategy with David Witt.
It’s noon on a sunny Monday in San Diego when a group roup of eighth graders takes over the courts ourts at the Peninsula Tennis Club. Like most ost beginners, they have trouble hitting the he sweet spot and hardly nce between a Continental know the difference stern grip. Still, they’re havand a semi-Western asn’t always like this. ing fun. But it wasn’t ber the first day—a lot of sad “I can remember faces,” instructorr David Vande Pol says. “It just seemed like they didn’t even want to hanged in a hurry.” be there. That changed ct of life for this group of Change is a fact m the Monarch School, one kids. They’re from n the nation that are excluof two schools in ss children. The school is for sively for homeless hrough high school students kindergartners through ar-round. Most come from and operates year-round. ea. Last year, Vande Pol, shelters in the area. a former Division I men’s tennis coach at y, volunteered to introduce Pacific University, arch’s kids. The school the sport to Monarch’s thought it would be a nice break from regular on class. physical education “We strive to provide our students with xtracurricular experiences academic and extracurricular that they would not otherwise get due to financial constraints, aints,” vice principal Joel Garcia says. Since last fall, around 20 eighth graders have taken one-hour hour lessons on Mondays. Teachers and volunteers olunteers drive them to the club, which provides free courts and supplies racquets ts and balls. Vande Pol has ments on the court and in noticed improvements other areas, too.. “They’re much more eager to be out there,” he says. “They’re much uidance.” more open to guidance. Their teacher, Dana Harwood, has efits, too. “My eighth noticed the benefi grade students have overcome so many obstacles,” she says. “For some, the tennis class is one of the he highlights of their week.” But don’t take the adults’ words for it. “I thought it was going oing to be boring,” Jerijah, 14, says. “But now ow I think it’s fun.” His classmate Jessie, e, 13, says she enjoys the drills that help her er move faster. This summer, the students were scheduled to attend their heir first USTA tournament and play in one, an “in-house” event, as Vande Pol says. Guaranteed that the home team wins.—SARAH AH THURMOND
SPARRING PARTNERS: MANUELA DAVIES/DOUBLEXPOSURE; WILLIAMS SISTERS: GETTY IMAGES
A program for homeless kids does more than teach forehands and backhands
Serbia, and on grass at the Wimbledon tune-up at Queen’s Club in England. >>> 1: Number of Russians ranked in the WTA’s Top 10 in June, down from six in August 2008. >>> 42: The age of Austrian an tennis great and former No. 1 Thomas
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CHAMPIONS CHAT The NCAA singles winners talk about their futures This year’s NCAA singles champions, Bradley Klahn of Stanford University and Chelsey Gullickson of the University of Georgia, talk about tennis and what the future may hold. The NCAAs is an intense two weeks that includes team and individual events. What did you do to get through it? KLAHN: I just tried to take it match by match, whether it was singles or doubles, and not worry about fatigue or anything else. GULLICKSON: My team lost early. So watching all the rest of these other teams playing and competing on our home courts [at Georgia] turned out to be very motivating for me. Are you giving any serious thought to turning pro? KLAHN: [I’m] not really considering it yet. I’ll be playing a few Futures and Challengers, so we’ll see.
GULLICKSON: Right now, I plan on
finishing school. How will you know if you’re ready? KLAHN: If I feel I’m ready and my coach
feels I’m ready, and I’m stringing some wins together, maybe it will be time. GULLICKSON: If I were to get a couple of wins at the U.S. Open, or do well in a couple of circuit events, that might change things.
Chelsey Gullickson of the University of Georgia with her singles trophy.
What’s the difference between the college game and the pro game? KLAHN: You’ve got to be physically and mentally ready to fight and grind on every point in the pros. GULLICKSON: In college, so sometimes you get easy matches. On th the tour, there are no easy matches. If you’ you’re not ready to play from the first momen moment, you’ll lose. Growing up, who was a m major influence on your tennis tennis? KLAHN: Lee Merry, my coac coach. He’s been a huge influence on my m game. GULLICKSON: My older sist sister, Carly. She turned pro early and has ha been out there battling. —TOM A. MCFER FERSON
Bradley Klahn of Stanford University cranks a backhand.
NCAA WINNERS: BILL KALLENBERG; MARTINEZ SANCHEZ: GETTY IMAGES
Musterr when he announced that
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez San was born in Spain and grew up playing on red clay, but the 28-year-old 28-year lefty abandoned the backcourt fo for a tennis life led at the net. “I know it’s funny because so many Spaniards play from the bas baseline,” says Martinez Sanchez, who ups upset Jelena Jankovic in straight sets to w win the Italian Open in Rome in Ma May, hitting 17 winning volleys and 22 drop d shot winners to break into the To Top 20. “But when I was 7 or 8 I always liked to come to the net. I like to tak take risks.” Her serve-and-volley style has been compared to Martina Navra Navratilova, who is a big fan of Martinez San Sanchez’s touch at net and mastery of differe different spins. “If she can get faster, she’ll be a real force,” says the nine-time Wimbledon W champion and Tennis Chan Channel analyst. Martinez Sanchez had a careerc changing year in 2009 when whe she won
two WTA tour titles—in Bogota, Colombia, and Bastad, Sweden—and broke into the Top 30. She also won a tour-leading seven doubles titles with her countrywoman Nuria Llagostera Vives. It’s hard to believe, then, that she actually took off the better part of a
Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez doesn’t do baseline tennis— and she doesn’t quit with two coaches, Alejo Mancisidor and Victor Lopez, who were assembling a team of young women to travel and train together in Cornella, Spain, just outside Barcelona. The coaches convinced Martinez Sanchez to play the game the way she wanted—up at the net—even if it meant losing matches in
“I like to take risks,” says Martinez Sanchez, a lefty who won the Italian Open in May. year and a half, starting in 2004. “My ranking was getting worse and worse and I just lost the motivation,” she recalls. Martinez Sanchez spent the time teaching tennis to kids back in her hometown of Yecla, Spain, but that left her unfulfilled and she decided to give the tour another try. The turning point was a chance meeting in 2006
the beginning. “I had to learn to trust myself,” she says. Martinez Sanchez says that her only goal is to work hard. “In 2001, I was in the Top 100 but I didn’t fight to stay there,” she says. “I thought I had arrived and all was done. But it’s never done. You always have to keep fighting.” —CINDY SHMERLER
he would return to the ATP tour, 11 years after playing his last las match. The 1995 French Open champ denied he ever retired, saying he had taken an 11-year holiday. >>> 25: Average age of the Top
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RECORD TIME Here’s what it takes to play the longest match ever
ELENA DEMENTIEVA In real life, Elena Dementieva might be the best player in women’s tennis never to have won a major title. In the world of video games, she’s far better than that. The super-fit Russian with the sometimesshaky serve talks about her passion for Wii, her fear of driving and an icky endorsement deal. We understand you’re great at video games. What are your strengths? My serve is so much better when I’m playing a video game. I just feel unbeatable on my serve. I like playing [as] myself, and I beat Roger Federer, so you know how satisfied I was. It’s good for your confidence.
Want to break a tennis record? Two weekend warriors are here to show you how. First, buy comfortable sneakers, at least four pairs of socks, a golf glove, and lots of granola and energy bars. Next, bring your friends—or better yet, ask them to show up in shifts as you try to play the longest tennis match in history. Oh, and don’t make any plans for at least 36 hours. “A 16-year-old in good physical shape with tons of tennis in his background could definitely top 40 hours,” says David Watkins, a 26-year-old television reporter who recently teamed up with a colleague, 43-year-old Eric Perkins, to play a match that lasted 36 hours, 36 minutes and 40 seconds. The previous record of 36 hours, 36 minutes and 36 seconds, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, was set in 2009 by two players from the Netherlands. Watkins and Perkins are awaiting certification from Guinness. What was the hardest part of their performance? Fighting off boredom.
Perkins did it by winning 65 of the 68 sets they played and gulping down bread and burritos during changeovers. To keep them awake and at least semi-alert, they had friends rotate in to watch them at all hours. A rock band, a marching band, and a cheerleader in a gorilla suit
36 hours of tennis? All it takes is a few pairs of socks, energy bars and very loyal friends. made guest appearances. Watkins and Perkins have one more piece of advice: Watch out for blisters. They used golf gloves to protect their hands, but not even regular shoe and sock changes could protect their feet. They eventually had to play barefoot—on an indoor hard court—because of the discomfort. With the right approach, Watkins says, “I bet [someone] could hit 48 hours.” —JOHN CLARKE JR.
DEMENTIEVA: HARRY HOW/GETTY IMAGES; ILLUSTRATION: JOHN UELAND/UELAND ILLUSTRATION
Do you excel at any other sports? All my friends, they’re laughing at me because I’m so bad at other sports. When it comes to soccer, ice hockey, basketball or swimming, I’m just so bad. People look at me [and ask], “Are you a professional tennis player?” I’m just so [uncoordinated]. Do your fans ever surprise you? People sometimes come to Moscow trying to find my home address and just wait for me there. It’s easy to catch a player during the season by coming to the tournaments, but when [they] come to Russia, it’s really surprising. That’s just like the real extreme. Do you just jump in the car to get away from them? I’m not a good driver. I’m very careful when I’m on the road. I don’t drive much because, well, I was born in Moscow and driving in Moscow is crazy. It’s such bad traffic and people are so aggressive. I’m always scared to drive there. What’s the most unusual endorsement request you’ve had? I remember [being asked to endorse] toilet paper. That’s something I would never do. What was the campaign about? I don’t tell you [laughing]. —JAMES LAROSA
20 WTA players as of the first day of Wimbledon, up from 23.3 10 years ago. >>> 3h, 45m: Amount of time Britain’s Heather Watson spends in school each day. That’s 30 minutes less than she spends training at the Bollettieri academy.
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HOT SHOTS FROM THE WORLD OF TENNIS
photo ops G o
BONDING WITH THE DOG: An intense Alona Bondarenko holds her dog during the Polsat Warsaw Open in May.
FAST TRACK: 2010 Roland Garros champ Francesca Schiavone shows off her Ducati Monster 900 motorcycle.
MODEL BEHAVIOR: Feliciano Lopez hosted a Lexus party with Bar Rafaeli in Madrid in May. No word on who was named prettiest.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: SPLASH NEWS; GETTY IMAGES (4); ART SEITZ; SPLASH NEWS; BERNARD WIS/PARIS MATCH/POLARIS
STROKE FOR STROKE: Jurgen Melzer poses with girlfriend Mirna Jukic, who won a bronze medal for Austria at the 2008 Olympics in the 100-meter breast stroke.
6/25/10 1:27 PM
GOSSIPING GIRLS: Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska share a moment at the WTA player party at Wimbledon while Caroline Wozniacki looks on.
HE’S INCREDIBLE: Rafael Nadal posed with the Incredibles at Disneyland Paris after winning his fifth French Open title.
SHINY, HAPPY MARIA: Fashion plate Maria Sharapova sparkled in a copper sequin mini-dress at the WTA’s Wimbledon party.
HIS GAME HAS KICK: Marcos Baghdatis shows off his soccer skills during a “players vs. trainers” game at Roland Garros.
PARIS STATE OF MIND: Former champ Mary Pierce presented the French Open women’s trophy, and the next day came back to watch the men’s final with Jay-Z and Beyonce.
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Ernests Gulbis has begun to buckle down and realize his considerable potential. But donâ€™t worry, heâ€™s not ready to become another boring athlete just yet. By Stephen Tignor
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a tennis match is to come to know every tiny aspect, every miniscule move, every tic of the two people on court. You can recognize a player by his forehand and his kick serve, but you can also recognize him by his grunt, or the way he orders a ball boy around, or the ritual he performs before serving. Bjorn Borg, cool assassin, blew on his fingers as he set up to serve. Andy Roddick, power pitcher, drums the ball into the court. Nikolay Davydenko, reluctant champion, taps it gingerly downward. It’s safe to say, though, that no one does it exactly like Ernests Gulbis, the 22-year-old Latvian who has had a breakthrough 2010. Gulbis gets set, bounces the ball up to eye level, and then tips it a little farther upward with the back of his tossing fingers before finally letting it settle into his hand. What does this odd, extraneous maneuver say about the ATP tour’s new young star? Here’s one possible interpretation: He’s got talent and creativity to waste, but he may have trouble finding the best uses for them.
In the past, Gulbis hasn’t had much trouble finding ways to waste that talent. When he broke into the Top 100 in 2007, his sonic serve and forehand appeared to be the new state-of-the-art in power tennis. In ’08 he used those two shots to take a set and put a scare into both Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon and Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open. But Gulbis sophomore-slumped with a vengeance, and by the middle of ’09 he appeared to be heading for all-time underachiever status. For the first nine months and 24 tournaments of that season, he failed to advance past the second round. This child of wealth—Gulbis’ father, Ainars, is one of the richest men in Latvia—looked like he wanted to be anywhere other than a tennis court. The low point came when Andy Murray played circles around him for three quick sets at Wimbledon. “Sometimes you want to be there,” Gulbis said of his mind-set earlier this year, “and sometimes you want to go home. Sometimes you’re fighting hard, and sometimes you’re fighting yourself.” It’s ironic, but also in keeping with the unpredictable nature of Gulbis’ talent, that a few days after speaking those words, he stopped fighting himself long enough to win the first title, in Delray Beach. Along the way, Gulbis reminded people that, whatever his mental struggles, the state-of-the-art
power game was still intact. With the patient help of new coach Hernan Gumy, who, chin in hand, is a Buddha-like study in calm as he watches from the stands, Gulbis had turned a corner. While his new, floppy hairdo might not have screamed work ethic, he went on to have the best sustained results of his career during the spring clay season. There he reached the semifinals at the Rome Masters, defeating Roger Federer and stealing a rare set from Rafael Nadal on clay. Afterward, Federer noted Gulbis’ unusual talent, saying he was surprised at the amount of pace he could generate even with his second serve. By the end of spring, Gulbis had a 22-10 record on the year and had cracked the Top 30. What changed? From an emotional standpoint, Gulbis’ transformation might be summed up by his choice of pet press-conference words. Two years ago, his word of choice was “loser,” used in the sardonic sense familiar to most American teenagers. He said he didn’t want to be a “big loser” before his match with Nadal at Wimbledon in ’08. And at that year’s U.S. Open, he predicted that no one would come to his press conference after his match with Roddick because, “No one is interested in losers here.” This was the voice of the ironic post-adolescent, the overgrown child.
At Delray Beach in February, though, Gulbis had a new pet word, courtesy of Gumy: “enjoy.” “My coach told me before the match,” Gulbis said, “‘Just go on court. Enjoy your first final, you’re a young guy, enjoy it.’” This was the voice of a young man enjoying something for the first time: feeling like a winner. If we were watching the tennis version of a Rocky movie, we’d have reached the scene where Gulbis begins to practice furiously. Devoting heart, soul and body to the sport, he goes on to fulfill his potential, and by movie’s end he’s kissing the winner’s trophy at Wimbledon. But Gulbis isn’t Rocky, and he isn’t Andre Agassi, the most famous player to go from entitled teenage brat to workaholic champion. If there’s a model for Gulbis’ approach to the game, it’s more likely another world-weary ultra-talent from the Eastern bloc who never quite lived up to his promise: Marat Safin. Neither Gulbis nor Safin are afraid to be honest about their ambivalence toward their careers. Neither is afraid to ditch the clichés about hard work and dedication beloved by all pro athletes. That remained true for Gulbis even during his run of spring successes. A few weeks after his win over Federer, Gulbis told London’s Daily Telegraph, “I like competing. I don’t like practicing.” He’s even willing to question the value of winning itself. “When you reach a goal, it’s OK,” he said, “but also an empty feeling. When I won my first ATP tournament, I was happy for maybe 10 minutes.” Those are not the words of a typical pro tennis player. And for good reason: To motivate yourself to win a match, you can’t brood over the fact that it’s going to leave you feeling empty 10 minutes later. But Gulbis, for better or worse,
doesn’t have a typical tennis player’s mind. He speaks in an intelligent half-whisper. He answers questions at length, and with a musing, philosophical air. He’ll skip the latest Will Ferrell vehicle in favor of a dark David Lynch film. And he has a bent sense of humor. Asked if it was true that he flew to tournaments in his father’s Learjet, Gulbis answered, “Yes, and I have a helicopter, a submarine and a spaceship.” Gulbis doesn’t need the money, and he says he doesn’t want the fame. His motivation, he says, is to prove to himself that he belongs at the top. But the men’s game has plenty of dedicated champions, plenty of guys who never doubt the value of hard work and winning, and who would never let you know if they did. With Safin’s retirement, though, the ATP could use a new wild card, and that’s what Gulbis, with his unpredictable talent and appealingly self-deprecatory intelligence, can bring. It’s what he’s already bringing. While his breakthrough spring ended with a first-round exit at the French Open, Gulbis still managed to come up with one of the tournament’s best quotes before he took off. Asked about a racquet he had cracked during his loss, he said it had been “not a big deal.” Asked, then, what would be a big deal, he thought for a second before flashing a Safin-like conspiratorial grin. “Minimum three racquets smashed,” he said, “throw them to the stands, hit somebody with a ball. I have to think about it. I’ll get back to you.” Even if he never lifts a Wimbledon trophy, even if he never learns to love practice or find much joy in winning, we should have plenty to look forward to from Ernests Gulbis.
“Sometimes you want to be there,” Gulbis says of playing on the pro tour, “and sometimes you want to go home.”
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Robson (below), who lost in three sets, and Witten (far right), who made it through and went on to play Novak Djokovic on national TV, illustrated the extreme ups and downs that come with the qualifying event.
On O n Saturday, atur August 29, 2009, two days before the U.S. Open started, the he outer co courts at the USTA’s National Tennis Center were supposed to be empty. e mpty. But tthe qualifying tournament, in which 256 men and women play three hree round rounds, vying for 32 spots in the main draws, was extended past its sscheduled cheduled conclusion, thanks to a relentlessly rainy Friday. Thatt afternoon, af on Court 14, with almost nobody other than coaches aand nd fam family watching, Canadian Peter Polansky resumed his Friday match with Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko. Polansky had a set under his belt and was up 5-4 in the second, but down break point. Determined to get off to a quick start, he hit three extra practice serves after the umpire called “time.” Five tense points later, Polansky had won a berth in the U.S. Open. He celebrated with his team while Lacko, with no support group in attendance, let himself out of the court’s seldom-used side gate and disappeared into the crowd. The moment illustrated the ups and downs routinely on display in the qualifying tournament. Win three rounds and you earn real prize money and a chance to compete with the game’s elite, perhaps even on television. Lose and it’s back to the minor leagues, or maybe the juniors, and the worldwide hunt for wins, dollars and rankings points. Those stakes produce high emotions. That same Saturday afternoon, on Court 15, Frenchman Josselin Ouanna took on Brazil’s Julio Silva in a match that assumed the air of a street fight thanks to Silva’s pugilistic, almost hostile, disposition. (Silva lost.) Meanwhile, on Court 4, British prospect and 2008 Wimbledon junior champion Laura Robson blew a 4-0 lead in the third set, squandered a chance to serve out the match, and fell to Eva Hrdinova of the Czech Republic in a tiebeaker. Robson plopped down into her chair, buried her head in her towel and began to sob. All tournaments have qualifying rounds, but at the U.S. Open, an event often maligned for its main stadium that stretches to the heavens and its food priced for a Manhattan restaurant rather than a Queens sports facility, the “qualies” are an incredible value—they’re free. The competitors might not be well known, but the tennis is world-class, and fans can sit up close without waiting in line and watch the drama unfold. The qualifying rounds are a variety pack, mingling up-and-comers, career mid-level players, and veterans willing to risk a little ignominy for another shot at glory. The 2009 field included former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, formerr Australian Open finalist Arnaud Clement, 35-yearold American Vince Spadea, padea, and one-time Wimbledon semifinalist Xavier Malisse. Those names might inspire sentiment among fans, but a pool of players equally qually hungry for a place in the main event showed them no mercy. y. They all lost in the first round. It took a young American rican to remind us of all the things that draw us to qualifiers: Jesse Witten, then 27, ranked No. 276, who had never won a tour-level match. Witten fought his way into the main draw and became one of the stories of the Open when he beat No. 30 Igor Andreev in the first round, using a forehand that he uncorked over and overr to the delight of the partisan crowd. There was the air of a Hollywood fantasy about out Witten, who was one part Rocky and one part King ng
Ralph (a comedy in which John Goodman emerges as the heir to the British throne), because Witten isn’t built like a tennis player. Five-foot-10 and a stocky 180 pounds, he wore the same costume every day, a white T-shirt and baggy black shorts that hung down to his knees. It was a dizzying week for the Naples, Fla., native. After beating Andreev, he found himself in Media Room 1, where marquee names go to meet the press. After his second-round win, over Argentina’s Maximo Gonzalez, Witten was invited onto ESPN and Tennis Channel. He enjoyed the attention, but marveled at how the more successful players handle it day in and day out. “It’s hard to picture yourself on the main court, the main stage, with all the attention on you,” he said. Like many in his position, Witten was accustomed to events in towns such as Humacao, Puerto Rico, and Mansfield, Texas, where the winner’s take is about $2,000, and players stay in the homes of local families. As the Open began, he had no sponsor and was thinking of hanging it up. “It’s expensive to play tennis,” he said. “I wasn’t sure it was worth it, especially on my own dime.” Before the Open, Witten had earned just $19,000 in 2009; his third-round appearance at Flushing guaranteed him $48,000. The third-round crescendo of Witten’s tennis opera came on a pictureperfect Saturday afternoon when he faced off against world No. 4 Novak Djokovic in Louis Armstrong Stadium. With a group of supporters from his alma mater, the University of Kentucky, in the stands chanting his nickname (J-Dub), a jingoistic house cheering, and a national audience watching on CBS, Witten surprised everybody by splitting the first two sets with the former finalist. Then, at 5-all in the third, Witten capitalized on a break point with the shot of his career: a backhand-down-the-line winner from several feet outside the court, earning himself the chance to serve for a two-sets-toone lead. But that’s when Witten imploded. In the next game, several of his forehands found the net, and after one sailed long, he threw his racquet to the ground. On Djokovic’s second break point, Witten committed the worst sin of all: He double-faulted, then shook his body in a paroxysm of frustration. a ly when people put in fourteen days, they’re almost done with the “Usually ament,” W tournament,” Witten said afterward. It was a fair point. Qualifiers may come e first rou into the round with a bit of a leg up, having become acclimated to the onditions but as the rest of the field gains momentum, qualifiers local c conditions, g needle tilting toward empty. often find their gas here’s llikely a bigger factor that holds many qualifiers back from Butt there’s reate success: succ greater belief. After his loss to Djokovic, Witten confessed that he often questioned whether he deserved a place among the best in the game. “That was my biggest thing,” he said. “I feel like ‘I don’t belong’ was my mind-set. I never really said it or tell people that. Just in my mind, I don’t know how good I am.” am. Scheduled to play a Challe Challenger in Tulsa, Okla., shortly after the Open last year, Witten said he’d have ha no trouble going there from Louis Armstrong. “I’ve been doing it for six years now, so this is new to me,” he said. “I really would like to do this a lot more often. This is fun. This makes tennis fun.” Witten hasn’t won a Challenger C since his U.S. Open adventure, but he did qualify for Roland Garros this year. Ranked No. 170 as of June, he might very well show up in the qualifying tournament for the th Open again. Who knows whether we’ll be treated to an another memorable storyline—from Witten or from another ho hopeful—or how long it might last. But, like the qualifiers themselves, we can always dream. ANDREW FR FRIEDMAN IS A CONTRIBUTING EDITOR AT TENNIS MAGAZINE. MA
1Think the U.S. Open is competitive? 1You haven’t seen the tournament to get into it. 1By Andrew Friedman
16 SMASH FALL 2010
6/24/10 12:02 PM
“I REALLY WOULD LIKE TO DO THIS MORE OFTEN,” WITTEN SAID OF HIS RUN IN THE OPEN’S MAIN DRAW.
6/24/10 12:02 PM
6/24/10 12:01 PM
OUR EXPERTS SERVE UP FAST SOLUTIONS TO FIVE COMMON ON-COURT PROBLEMS. BY TOM PERROTTA It’s easy to develop bad tennis habits. It’s even easier to forget the good advice you’ve been given. The first thing you need to know is that this happens to every player, at every level. The second thing you need to know is that you can do something about it, and do it quickly. We asked some of our resident instruction gurus to put together a refresher course on a few of the most common on-court ailments. Here’s what they had to say.
WHAT’S BROKEN: MY SERVE KEEPS GOING INTO THE NET HOW TO FIX IT: If your serve goes into the net, it usually means your toss is too low, says Rick Macci, who has trained the Williams sisters, Jennifer Capriati and Andy Roddick, among others. A low toss limits your swing and wrist snap and forces you to push the ball. A slightly higher toss can help, or the solution might be to use the same toss but hit the ball at a higher point, rather than letting it drop (you should hit the ball when it’s at its peak or just below it). You should also adopt a Continental grip if you haven’t already done so. “If you have a frying-pan grip [semi-Western or Western], you’ll hit down and into the net often,” Macci says.
ILLUSTRATION BY JESSE LEFKOWITZ
WHAT’S BROKEN: I HIT MY OVERHEADS LONG HOW TO FIX IT: First, make sure you move back far enough when you set up, says Dave Hagler, a USPTA Master Professional based in Los Angeles. Your contact point must be at least even with the front of your body, and preferably slightly out in front. If the ball feels great at contact but still goes long, it’s a sure sign that your contact point is too far back (either over your head or even behind you). To start, try aiming for the top of the net. But here’s Hagler’s most important tip: “Keep your non-dominant hand up a bit longer than normal. If your hand stays up, your head will stay up, and the ball should go in.”
WHAT’S BROKEN: MY BACKHAND VOLLEY LACKS DEPTH AND BITE HOW TO FIX IT: “My initial reaction is, you’re not getting your shoulder into it,” says Lynne Rolley, director of tennis at the Berkeley Tennis Club in Berkeley, Calif. “This is a common weakness for players who have twohanded ground strokes.” Rolley offers a number of pointers. First, make sure you hold the head of your racquet up, rather than letting it dangle. Take the racquet back by turning your shoulders, not by stretching your arm across your body. Step into the volley and keep moving forward through contact. Rolley’s last piece of advice: “The backhand volley should take place on the side of your body.”
WHAT’S BROKEN: MY SLICE BACKHAND FLOATS OVER THE NET AND SITS UP AFTER IT BOUNCES HOW TO FIX IT: Anne Hobbs, a former Top 40 player and Top 10 doubles player, suggests hitting the ball at a higher point and swinging both down and forward. The trick is to carve the ball while you’re hitting through it. A slightly tighter grip on the racquet will ensure that it doesn’t finish up (you don’t want to scoop the ball or cut across it). “A shorter, sharper swing with less follow-through is needed to generate pace and keep the ball low to the ground,” Hobbs says.
WHAT’S BROKEN: MY FOREHAND HAS A LOT OF SPIN BUT LACKS DEPTH HOW TO FIX IT: The first thing to consider, according to Ken DeHart, director of tennis at the San Jose Swim & Racquet Club in San Jose, Calif., is hitting the ball higher over the net so it lands deeper in the court. If your forehand has plenty of height but still lands short, try relaxing your grip. “A tight grip keeps you from completing your swing and directing the ball deep into your opponent’s court,” DeHart says. He suggests, on a scale of 1 to 5, a grip tension of 2 or 3. DeHart also cautions against lifting your head immediately after contact. This will interrupt your swing. TOM PERROTTA IS A SENIOR EDITOR AT TENNIS MAGAZINE.
FALL 2010 SMASH 19
6/24/10 12:01 PM
6/25/10 1:46 PM
STRINGS THAT SING
Are you a ripper or a touch player? Match the latest string offerings to your game. By Bob Patterson
RIPPERS Players who need more spin to control the power they generate with their long, fast strokes.
TOUCH PLAYERS Hitters who want more feel and comfort from their strings, but also want to avoid the high cost of gut.
The strings listed here can be used in a hybrid form: co-polyester in the mains (for spin and durability) and synthetic in the crosses to provide more comfort and feel, along with power for players with medium swing speeds.
Serious players know that the type of string they use can make the difference between losing in the first round and hoisting the winner’s trophy. We put the latest models to the test to help you cut through the clutter, arranging them by two distinctive player types: rippers and touch players. BABOLAT RPM BLAST
TECNIFIBRE X-ONE BIPHASE
TYPE: MONOFILAMENT, CO-POLYESTER | GAUGE OPTIONS: 16 (1.30 MM), 17 (1.25 MM) | SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE: $17
TYPE: MULTIFILAMENT | GAUGE OPTIONS: 16 (1.30 MM), 17 (1.24 MM), 18 (1.18 MM) | SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE: $20
Of all the co-polyester strings out there, we feel this one is easiest on the arm. Several players switched to it earlier in the year, including French Open champions Rafael Nadal and Francesca Schiavone. The reason: It has a softer feel, but it still generates plenty of spin. Babolat kept the spin potential high by making the string an octagonal shape, which the company says adds some extra grab on the ball. Babolat also added a silicone coating that reduces friction between the main and cross strings to help prevent premature notching.
There’s no beating natural gut for its blend of comfort, power and resiliency. But the Tecnifibre X-One comes as close as you can get to gut in a synthetic. Spin doctors will love the ultra-thin 18-gauge version, which will bite into the ball to create spin. It’s also as durable as a lot of thicker 17-gauge offerings from other string-makers.
LUXILON ADRENALINE TYPE: MONOFILAMENT, CO-POLYESTER | GAUGE OPTIONS: 16 (1.30 MM), 16L (1.25 MM), 17 (1.20 MM) | SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE: $10
The latest from Luxilon, the top brand for co-polyester on the pro tours, Adrenaline is a liquid crystaline polymer string that provides a crisp feel and plenty of control. What does that mean and how does it make a difference? We found it similar to Luxilon’s popular Big Banger Alu, but it appears to hold its tension a little longer. That may not mean much to pros who restring after every match, but it will matter plenty to the rest of us who don’t get free strings from sponsors.
HEAD FXP POWER
GAMMA TNT2 TOUCH TYPE: SOLID CORE WRAPPED IN FIBERS | GAUGE OPTIONS: 16 (1.32 MM), 17 (1.27 MM) | SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE: $18
The new addition to the Gamma line is a multifilament string with a solid core. The design is meant to provide much of the comfort you get from a multifilament, but with a crisper feel and greater durability. It’s ideal for players with medium swings who stubbornly refuse to restring until they break one.
WILSON HOLLOW CORE PRO TYPE: HOLLOW CORE WRAPPED IN FIBERS | GAUGE OPTIONS: 17 (1.27 MM) | SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE: $13
This string has a triangular, air-filled core that provides exceptional shock absorption and strength. The outer wrappings are made up of thousands of nylon and fluorocarbon fibers for increased power and comfort. Spin doctors will appreciate the bite on the ball and the comfortable feel.
TYPE: MULTIFILAMENT | GAUGE OPTIONS: 16 (1.30 MM), 17 (1.24 MM) | SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE: $20
PRINCE PREMIER LT The FXP will add some extra pop to a medium swing. It’s also soft, thanks to the FiberGel fibers incorporated in the outer layers. They cushion the ball on impact the way a gel insert in a tennis shoe buffers the blow on hard courts. This string also has a special coating that protects it from prematurely fraying, a common flaw in multifilament strings, which are made of thousands of hair-like fibers twisted together that tend to break up with use. The FXP is the most comfortable string in this touch-player group.
TYPE: MULTIFILAMENT | GAUGE OPTIONS: 16 (1.30 MM), 17 (1.25 MM), 18 (1.20 MM) | SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE: $16
Premier LT multifilament has “linear technology,” which allows the 900-plus fibers in the string to create optimum elasticity. The result is a string bed that pockets the ball and sends it back deep into your opponent’s court. Polyamide coating, used in automotive airbags and heat-resistant parts in the aerospace industry, adds extra durability. The Premier LT is the power king in the touch-player group.
THE CREEP FACTOR Strings start to deteriorate as soon as they’re woven into your racquet. Stringers call it “the creep factor.” Performance is lost in two primary stages. It starts with the “initial creep” within the first 24 hours after stringing. After that, the decline is more gradual over the lifespan of the string. How gradual depends on string type, hours of play and your playing style. Strings usually will go dead, or lose their resiliency and elasticity, within six months of being installed, even if they never touch a tennis ball. You’ll lose power, control and shock absorption—and maybe make your arm sore—if you keep hitting with dead strings. Gut has the longest lifespan, followed by synthetics and co-polyesters.—B.P.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JOYCE LEE
FALL 2010 SMASH 21
6/25/10 1:46 PM
BRIGHT YOUNG SHADES Sporty? Glam? Conservative? Whatever your style, we’ve got your eyes covered. By Sarah Thurmond
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Tennis goes Hollywood in these berry-colored sunglasses. You’ll look like a starlet ready for her close-up while cheering from the stands. $55, fossil.com
Lady Gaga fans will recognize these unisex shades from her “Bad Romance” video. Aspiring hipsters will appreciate them for their retro 1980s aviator design. $120, Solstice Sunglass Boutiques, solsticestores.com for locations
Samantha Stosur reached the French Open final wearing a pair of these sunglasses. Their snug fit keeps them from moving around while you’re playing, and the lenses have a smudgeresistant coating and protective filters to block out harmful rays. $155, oakley.com
You can’t beat the price of these cool shades for boys and girls. With almost a dozen colors to choose from, you can stock up and have the perfect pair to fit any mood. $11, fredflare.com
22 SMASH FALL 2010
❺ IZOD 747 Pewter brush gives these traditional metalrimmed sunglasses an updated look. They’re also durable, with a sturdy bridge and wide opaque plastic arms. $110, at optical retail stores nationwide
❻ RAY-BAN CLUBMASTER These shades come in styles galore. If you prefer a classic look, there’s ebony or tortoise. Or, make a bold statement in one of the striped or marblepatterned frames. No matter what you choose, you’ll look the part of a club pro. $130, Sunglass Hut stores nationwide PHOTOGRAPH BY GRANT CORNETT
6/25/10 12:54 PM
When I’m away from home I feel...
If I saw a tennis star across the net I would... liberated.
FACTS, STATS & CHAT ON THE JUNIOR GAME
Grades are... The event I’ll be most excited for next spring is...
WHAT’S YOUR NEXT STEP?
be incredibly nervous.
I regularly sleep in until noon.
the No. 1 most important thing for me.
No. 2 to my tennis.
Take our quiz to ﬁnd out if you’re best suited to play high school tennis, compete in high-level tournaments, or go to a tennis academy. By Sarah Unke
My mind-set when it comes to hard work is... I crumble when pushed by my friends.
When it comes to peer pressure...
The more I train, the better I’ll be. High School You can’t have it all, but you can lead a rounded life if you stick to high school tennis. You’ll be able to stay home, study hard, and keep up an active social life, all while playing the game you love. The competition may not be as intense as you’d like, but hey, that just means you’ll dominate the field.
like I’m a part of something.
In the classroom...
I space out. I’d rather be playing tennis—I can study on my own.
Traveling far for competition...
Playing on a team makes me feel...
is a lot of fun. I like the time on the road. makes me crazy. I want to play top players nearby.
Academy You live and breathe tennis, so why not go to a place where everyone else does, too? You’ll play against the best of the best and get your body and mind in peak condition. But there are downsides. You have to be independent and willing to live away from family and friends, and you’ll wake up early, work out often, and hit the court multiple times a day.
I like to get up and make the most of my day.
I’m pretty unfazed.
I like to participate and work in groups.
Tournaments You love tennis, but an academy isn’t the only place to find good competition and training. If you don’t want to leave home or stray too far from your studies, you can expand your horizons by playing competitive tournaments in addition to high school tennis. You’ll put miles on your (or your parents’) car, but it’ll be worth it when you earn that scholarship.
I try my best, but I also like to relax.
be anxious to show him what I’ve got.
I like to drill hard, so I’m seriously in shape.
I work out when I can.
When it comes to fitness...
FALL 2010 SMASH 23
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“AND NOW FOR MY IMPERSONATION OF NOVAK DJOKOVIC PUTTING ON DEODORANT IN THE LOCKER ROOM.”
Think you can beat that caption?
Take a look at this photo and write your best one-liner. The winner will receive some free gear. E-mail captions@ smashtennis.com.
LAST ISSUE’S WINNER:
By using the seagulls as a distraction, Kim managed to make off with the trophy.
—Kevin Hochstrasser, Hamden, Conn.
24 SMASH FALL 2010
Jonathan Erlich (left) and Novak Djokovic celebrate their doubles victory at the AEGON Championships in London.
CLIVE BRUNSKILL/GETTY IMAGES
“SMASH” (ISSN 1930-2592) is published 4 times a year (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter). Vol. 5, No. 3. Copyright © 2010 Miller Publishing LLC. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Printed in the U.S.A. MANUSCRIPTS AND ART: The Publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited manuscripts, art, photos, or negatives. SUBSCRIPTIONS: USTA Members (800) 990-8782 or email@example.com. All other subscribers: U.S. and Canada (800) 666-8336, Foreign (515) 247-7569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. SUBSCRIPTION RATES: U.S.A. and Possessions: 6 issues for $9.97. Canada: 6 issues for $15 (includes GST). Foreign: 6 issues for $15. Back issues available for purchase at www.tennis.com. CHANGE OF ADDRESS: Send your magazine label along with your new address to SMASH P.O. Box 5693, Harlan, IA 51593-1193. Please allow eight to twelve weeks for the address change to affect delivery. SUBSCRIPTION PROBLEMS: Write to SMASH P.O. Box 5693, Harlan, IA 51593-1193 and include a label from your latest issue, if available. Address all non-subscription correspondence to SMASH, 128632 Roadside Drive, Suite 235, Agoura Hills, CA 91301; POSTMASTER: Send address changes to SMASH, P.O. Box 5693, Harlan, IA 51593-1193. Periodical postage paid at New York, NY, and at additional mailing offices.
6/24/10 12:01 PM
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