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Monday, 11 July 2016

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Ah, the Wilson T2000 metal racket. I was a MISERABLE tennis player as a kid, not much better now, but when my father came home with a T2000 I thought that was an easy path to greatness. One of the worst rackets ever made, a sure fire way to tennis elbow as that thing sang like a tuning fork. Glad Conners could handle it.

Great story!

Jim

Just lovely, Mike.

Dave

Very cool article and story! Chrissie never forgets to mention that she had a stellar career when she is commentating during Serena matches, but she has stated recently that she thinks Serena is the greatest female player to ever play the game.

what a great recollection, told wonderfully.

my short and unremarkable tennis career mirrored yours closely, only ten years later, and without the brush with fame. I remember slobbering all over the tennis rags looking at equipment (much as camera stuff online presently !). As I recall Wilson had a whole line of metal racquets identical to the one Connor's holds in the picture.

Though I lusted for the seventy dollar version, the twelve dollar racquet matched my non existent savings more appropriately... and not even sure what the extra money would've gotten me. tighter strings and an inflated sense of skill and importance. Damn, again like cameras !

What a terrific story! Too bad you didn't have an iphone on you. No autograph?

Also wanted to note that Margaret Court retired more than once. The first time in 1966 to get married, having won 13 majors, including a double career slam. She came back in '68, won a calendar slam in '70, and continued to play for years, though giving birth to three kids slowed her down a bit, until retiring for good while pregnant with her fourth child, having accumulated 25 major singles titles.

As if that wasn't remarkable enough, she's one of only three tennis players to win at least one of every slam title that she was eligible for (i.e., a singles, doubles and mixed doubles title at each of the four majors) and the only player ever to collect at least two of each.

I also have a Chris Evert story. In the early 70s I was working for The Miami Herald in Fort Lauderdale, and with some of the other guys in the office, would occasionally walk down to the tennis courts on Sunrise Boulevard to play tennis after work. Chris Evert's father, Jimmy, had some kind of position with the parks department as a tennis coach. There were a whole bunch of concrete courts there, lit at night, plus one clay court, which was always immaculately groomed. But -- nobody played on the clay court except Chris, though it was a public court paid for by the taxpayers. It was hardly ever used, although she'd sometimes play on it with a partner and you could stand outside the screen and watch. You just couldn't play on it -- or at least, that was the legend. Or myth. Or possibly even the truth.

Sports like tennis and golf weren't as important back then as they are now -- they were just on the cusp of becoming what they are now. So she once asked you to help warm her up, but today, if you were to hit a ball with a star of her magnitude, you'd have to pay for it, one way or another.

While I can appreciate the Williams sisters' skills, modern tennis leaves me cold inasmuch as I can NOT take that 'hyah!(or whatever it is, that guttural sound) when they hit the ball, drives me nuts.

IF you ever get the chance, and obviously you're a Chris and Martina nut from back in the day, do NOT miss the '30 for 30' film about Chris and Martina. Fabulous.

'(...) I realized it wasn't me who was hitting so well—it was she.' What a beautiful insight - and that for a boy of fifteen. Makes me think, may be the universe is doing this to us at all our great moments. (So step onto the court, buddy [m/f], when the occasion presents itself!)

Lovely story, Mike.

I think the distance between a real sports person - a professional, these days - and anyone who "plays a bit", even to a fairly high standard, is enormous.

I hope the book is coming on apace, Mike, but I have to say that you are among the most consummate of essay writers.

[Thank you! --Mike]

Mike, you must send this post to Ms. Evert! I'm sure she has some website, at least I would expect so.

I'd bet she would get a kick out of your story.

Please consider it.

You are to be commended for remaining upright and conscious while Chris Evert talked to you. I am not sure I could manage that feat even today.

Mike, fascinating!

I didn't know you were interested in tennis, but I'll give you a name to watch, if you are interested, Stefanos Tsitsipas. He is still a youngster, if I am not mistaken he is only 15, but he won his age at Wimbleton double this year, playing with another kid.

Yeah, he is a fellow Greek too, but that's not the reason, I am proud of him. His parents are good friends of ours!

Excellent post today. Your recollection of juvenile insecurity and overconfidence brought back memories of my own. I am happy to know that you eventually came to your senses and now have wonderful memory. I wish I could say the same . . . .

I thought this article at Vox made a great argument for Simone Biles being the most dominant female athlete of all time. http://www.vox.com/2016/7/11/12135222/us-gymnastics-team-roster-gold-simone-biles-olympics

I think Serena is great but I find it hard to see the GOAT argument. There are just to many phenomenal athletes to choose from.

How is Dara Torres not considered better? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dara_Torres

People thought she was serious when she tweeted she'd be competing in Rio at age 49! In an event dominated by 19 year-olds!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2015/04/01/is-five-time-olympic-swimmer-dara-torres-coming-out-of-retirement-at-age-47/

"Torres has a proven track record of retiring and coming back when everyone thought she might be too old. Torres, who competed in the 1984, 1988 and 1992 Olympics, made her first comeback in 1999. At 33, she went on to win five medals in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, making her the oldest female swimmer to medal in the history of the Games.

Torres would go on to break that record in when she made her second comeback in 2007. At the age of 41, Torres became the the oldest swimmer ever to win an Olympic medal after she won three medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing."

[I really just used the term GOAT here in relation to women's tennis, not to female athletes of all kinds. --Mike]

A great story well told, Mike. You usually get on base but this one is still bouncing in the parking lot.

Mike,
Wonderful Story, beautifully written.
Thanks
m

I still vote Rod Laver as top dog.
As for the women - they want the money the men make but still play 3 sets to 5 for the men.
If they really want the same money they should play 5 sets - or play the men.

[I think that would be fair, so long as the men could also give birth. --Mike]

Wonderful story Mike! I had my moment when I was seventeen. I played soccer in high school and was goalie. Visiting Paris in 1969, some friends and I were boarding at the University of Paris in the summer of 1969. We decided it would be fun to kick the ball around on the University’s pitch one afternoon. A group of tall black athletes came on the field and after a bit they approached us and offered a pick-up game. Knowing no better, we agreed and got our butts kicked by the Ethiopian National football team. They were very gracious and a terrific amount of fun to play against and yes, I managed to stop one or two kicks on goal.

My brush with tennis greatness came when I was 4. We belonged to a tennis club that hosted a tournament for older players. One day I was in the locker room and most likely staring at a strange looking man. (As a young child I tended to stare at people who looked unique to me). Well, this man smiled at me, said hi, and patted me on the butt with his racquet. It was Ilie Nastase. I have no recollection of it but my brother and father seem to remember it well.

Beautiful! Thank you!

I think she might be the greatest of this time period. I have this rather horrible distrust of sports stars though, I don't think I could blame Armstrong. I do however feel like eventually someone will find a better legal concoction than is available today and we will see even greater stars come from it.

Whoops. Clearly my previous post had an error. Let's replace it with this amended version.

It's clear Mike. Chuck the camera twaddle and lets get down to real stuff. To demonstrate. A moment from my life at a similarly impressionable age. This story is regularly retold in our family to pick on me but I am fiercely proud of it.
The family had just relocated to a new city. I carefully surveyed the neighborhood to find the best tennis club. Over several weeks I stood outside courts watching the games on Saturday afternoons and made my choice. Consequently I underwent a radical change of religion. Clearly the best team in the area belonged to a particular church. Ya gotta get your priorities right.

You are very good at coming up with the unexpected, Mike. I enjoyed that thoroughly.

It is interesting that you mention Margaret Court, because here in Melbourne Australia, they named a tennis court after her. Not quite as ironic as my local swimming pool, the Harold Holt Memorial Pool named after a former prime minister, missing presumed drowned whilst swimming at the beach.

[So is it called Margaret Court Court? You're right, that's the sort of thing I would like, although the Harold Holt thing is a bit too much. --Mike]

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