Reto Schmidli

Article by l’Equipe Magazine, translation by Tennis Buzz:

August 1991. No one suspects that a small page in the history of tennis is being written on the clay court at the Grüssenhölzli club in Pratteln, on the outskirts of Basel. This is the first round of the youth tournament of this small club. Not many people pay attention to the match between Reto Schmidli, a hope of TC Arlesheim, the neighboring village, and little Roger Federer, a kid from the TC Old Boys Basel. The match has little interest as it goes one way; Reto dismantles the kid 6-0, 6-0, double bagel.

Two things are then unknown. The first is that Roger will become one of the greatest players of his era; The second is that never again in his career he will suffer a defeat on this humiliating score. “Honestly I never thought about it,” says Reto Schmidli, 38, sitting on the terrace of a family bistro in Arlesheim. And then a friend told me that Roger had given an interview in a student magazine in the United States, where he was asked if he had already lost 6-0, 6-0. He replied that this had happened to him only once, during this tournament in Pratteln, facing me.”

But Reto Schmidli, now a police officer in Basel, never brags about it. However, the story became known in the small world of Basel tennis. “Sometimes, in tournaments, they ask me: Are you the one who beat Roger 6-0, 6-0?”

Reto does not add. “It did not mean much. Roger played his first tournaments, he was 10 years old and I was 13.” Soon, their roads diverged. “Roger joined the national center, I continued my progress but not at the same pace. Later, I joined Roger’s club, the Old Boys, and then I left to Australia, to the club of Patrick Rafter. I was in foster care, I played every day. The goal was to progress as much as to learn English. I came back to Basel, I had a good serve and a good backhand but I do not think I had the talent to become a great player. For that, it is necessary to want it ardently and it was not my case. I just enjoy playing tennis. My best ranking was Swiss number 40 … I started a sports college and then, as I was a fan of the Columbo series, I passed the exam to enter the police … I still play in my club of Arlesheim, in particular the team matches for over 35 year old.”

Reto is of course Federer’s number one fan. “I saw him once, I was at an indoor tournament where he was.” Inevitably, time covered this original match of the summer of 1991. “He had come with his mother. Of course, I did not know that I had just beat an absolute tennis genius. What I remember is that all his strokes came out. As if he already had the idea of ​​tennis that he wanted to play but did not yet have the means to realize it. His balls came out of the court and that’s why I won easily, but let’s say his game philosophy was already there.”

Reto had reached the final of the tournament. Today, the court on which they had played disappeared, replaced by a furniture store. Only remains a nice souvenir for the Basel police officer.

Photo credit: L’Equipe Magazine

Rafael Nadal, Roland Garros 2016

Former French Sports Minister Roselyne Bachelot said on French TV last March that “it is known that the injury of Rafael Nadal, which lasted seven months, was probably because of a positive control”. Nadal filled a lawsuit against Bachelot last month. Here are a few extracts from l’Equipe Magazine’s interview in which the 9-time Roland Garros champion talks about the doping accusations.

Why he filled a lawsuit:

Someone who is supposed to be serious, responsible, can not say those things without any proof, citing someone who’s not on the tour anymore and who has been banned for life (former player Daniel Köllerer). I am not afraid, but my credibility and sport’s credibility in general are at stake. No one can say things like that without information, so the only way to stop such unfounded statements is to take legal action. I have full confidence in French justice.

His reaction to Bachelot’s accusations:

I am serene. What she said can not hurt me because I know all the work I’ve done to be where I am today. On the contrary, for the people who know nothing about that and hear Bachelot’s accusations, it’s shocking. It damages the image of my sport, my image, and I can no longer tolerate it. I worked so hard throughout my career, always ensuring respect for my true values, applying to give everything every day.

On doubts about his physical playing style:

Maybe my way of playing encourages ill-intentioned people to think certain things. It’s unfair and it’s a lack of respect for my daily work. Some players hit harder than me, others are stronger physically, others even mentally. You need to have all those qualities to be the best. But I’d never put in doubts anyone.

About French players’ support:

I go very well with all the French players and I was heartened by their support. We are together on the tour, we see each other in the locker rooms everyday and we know each other well. I appreciated.

About his confidence in the anti-doping system:

I believe in my opponents. I am sure players I face are clean. Simply because I believe in the anti-doping system.

On his request to the ITF to publish all his drug-test results:

We’re in the middle of a lawsuit and my lawyers intend to use the results for my defence. They advised me to wait until the end of the lawsuit before publishing them. Once the legal procedure is behind me, I will share them. AnNd I’m sure that in a near future that’s something that will happen all the time. It would be a great way to show that our sport is clean. Today, it’s essential for its image that we are as transparent as possible.

On whether there are enough doping tests:

I can not say if there are enough tests or not. What matters is that everything has to be made public.

Interview by Georges Homsi for l’Equipe Magazine, translation by Tennis Buzz. Photo credit: Tennis Buzz.

Andy Murray and Amélie Mauresmo

Andy Murray announced his ‘mutually agreed’ split from coach Amélie Mauresmo earlier this month. In an interview with l’Equipe Magazine, Mauresmo explains the reasons behind the end of their partnership. She also talks about the Fed Cup, and various things she already discussed in previous interviews like her view on Grand Slams format and lack of winning culture in France.
Here are a few extracts (interview by Romain Lefebvre and Franck Ramella, translation by Tennis Buzz):

Q: We would like to know more about your split with Andy Murray

I had the feeling we had felt the end of road professionally. It was concluded that it would be difficult to continue. I reduced a bit my number of weeks of presence since the Australian Open and we spent little time together. It happened to be a difficult period for him and I couldn’t help him. But this decision (to end the partnership) was initiated some time ago.

Q: For what reasons?

I don’t want to go into details. Everybody could see some things.

Q: In particular you no longer sat in Murray’s box in Miami?

I no longer wished to be there. I wanted to try something else.

Q: Because of his behaviour on court?

Andy is complex. On a court he can be the complete opposite of what he is in life. It can be confusing. I was there to help him. I had the feeling we could not make progress anymore.

Q: What is your assessment of this experience?

It was a beautiful adventure. It broke down barriers in mens’ tennis. I was proud to be a pioneer. And it worked, thanks to respect and communication. I have good memories of his success on clay last year (titles in Munich and Madrid) while he had never won a title on this surface. I liked the way Andy works, I enjoyed working with his team. Andy has great listening and analysis capacities. He is curious, always looking. And that’s what makes great champions. It was a great challenge in which I put myself in danger. I accepted the job because I knew I could bring him most of the things he wanted. He had difficulties to communicate. He wanted someone able to listen to him. He also wanted to play more aggressively, near the baseline. He thought he could open up a bit more with a woman. Back then, he didn’t want to play anymore.

Photo credit: Tennis Buzz, Andy Murray practicing with Thanasi Kokkinakis, Roland Garros 2015

Adriano Panatta

Extract from Hard Courts: Real Life on the Professional Tennis Tours by John Feinstein

For years the Italian was considered the most corrupt tournament in the game. Line judges routinely cheated foreigners who were facing Italians. When Adriano Panatta won the tournament in 1976, almost every player he beat felt he had been cheated. One umpire quit in the middle of the match, when he was not allowed by the tournament referee to overrule several horrendous calls. (It was in fact in 1978, read the all story here: Italian Open 1978: silenzio cretini! )

One story Italians tell holds that in the early 1980s, when Panatta, the god of Italian tennis, was beginning to slide, he would sit in on the draw – then done in private – to make sure he drew a first-round opponent he could beat.

The story goes that one year, Panatta rejected three different names that were pulled out for him, the last being Ismael El-Shafei, an Egyptian who won a few matches on tour during his career. On the fourth try, El-Shafei’s name came out again. Okay, Panatta said, I’ll play El-Shafei. He did – and lost.

Andre Agassi, 1991

By Scott Ostler, published in THE NATIONAL, March 1991

LAS VEGAS- So I’m driving a white, $500,000 Lamborghini Countach, which is basically a jet engine with turn signals, weaving through heavy traffic near the Strip, trying to catch another motorist who has requested a drive-by autograph from the guy riding shotgun with me, trying to be cool while hoping not to pop the clutch and send us rocketing into the fountain at Caesars Palace, and idly wondering if I’m being conned.

My passenger, the owner of the Lamborghini, is Andre Agassi, Mr. Rock ‘n’ Roll Tennis. Public opinion on Agassi seems divided into two camps – tennis insiders, who see Agassi as an overrated phony with bad manners, and tennis outsiders, who see Agassi as an overrated phony with bad manners.

Agassi is aware of the criticism. He is aware that, to an extent, he has earned it. He has launched a campaign to make himself more accessible to the press and lovable to the public.

I have taken my shots at Agassi in print, had roaring good fun at his expense because it seemed like the right thing to do. But a tennis promoter I know has pleaded with me, “If you just meet Andre, get to know him…”

Sounds like a crazy idea, but I phone Agassi’s agent and request an interview. The agent phones back and says Andre will do an interview, but there is a catch. The agent says, “Andre wants to know if, instead of just talking for an hour or so, you two can get together and spend some quality time.”

This is not an unusual request in the world of athlete-media relations; this is a freakish and bizarre request. Most famous sports figures define quality time as any time spent away from the media – the farther away, the higher the quality.

Paranoia sets in. Am I allowing myself to be used as a PR tool, a dupe in a plot to fix Agassi’s bad name so he can sell more sneakers and cameras?

Or could it be that he really is a decent fellow who wants the world to see the side of him that isn’t about tanking, taunting, ducking, and spitting?

You be the judge. For the record, though, I spent about seven hours with Agassi in this, his hometown, and here are some of the things he did not do:

* Curse,

* Gossip or badmouth anyone in any significant way, not even to call anyone a bozo.

* Fail to open a door for anyone, man or woman.

* Fail to drive courteously and safely.

* Refuse an autograph request.

* Bleach, tease, comb or fuss with his famous hair, or otherwise primp or pose.

* Play loud music on his car stereo, except for one quick demonstration.

* Leer at babes.

* Act even remotely angry, impatient, bored, spoiled, or – as we used to say in high school – stuck up.

Still, the day wasn’t a complete washout.

“If youdon’t mind, I’d like to take you my favorite place for breakfast,” Agassi says.

We hop into his Jeep and drive to the outskirts of town, to a truck-stop diner just off the interstate. He parks near the sea of 18-wheelers. At the diner entrance, a trucker does a groggy double-take as the kid with a diamond earring, long fluffy hair and Levi’s shorts politely holds open the door.

Sure, this restaurant could be part of the con. But the people who work here know Andre, a couple of them come out of the kitchen to exchange pleasantries. Nobody asks for an autograph.

“To me, this is real life,” Agassi says. “It’s not people making you believe you’re something special.”

He says that’s a problem. “I always do my best to remind myself what reality is. You have to fight so hard to keep a grip on it, to deal with the fact that you are never lacking in friends, that there’s always someone around who makes you feel like you’re special. You can forget that loneliness is a reality, but in my world, loneliness comes in a different way.

“You’re never sure, if your money was gone, how many people would still care. One thing I worry about is motives. I put people on stage. The few people really close to me, I don’t question them, but the others are guilty until proven innocent…”

Girls, for instance. They dig Andre. But is it for his money and fame, or for himself? Some girls send him photos of themselves naked. Some try and weasel into his hotel rooms. Before Andre enters a hotel room, his burly weight-training coach goes in first and checks under the beds and in the closets.

Until recently Agassi went steady with one girl for about two years.

“I’m not exclusive anymore,” he says, “but I hang out with a limited amount of people.”

Female-wise, his main friend these days is a BYU student whom Agassi doesn’t have to put on trial, which is a big relief.

“I’ve known her since I was 8,” Agassi says, “but I’m going to run out of girls like that pretty soon.”

Speaking of motives, I mention to Agassi that people might be skeptical of his new glasnost with the media, see it as a slick image-repair campaign.

“I’m flattered that they would think I’m that smart,” Agassi says. “I’m hoping my sincerity shows through that.”

Referring to a writer from THE NATIONAL who has been critical of Agassi, he says, “My goal is not to change the ideas about me. I don’t want to change the [John] Feinsteins of the world. I just don’t want to become like people, who in the midst of surviving pressure, stop telling their story. We all have pressure in our daily lives; we can’t let the pressure beat us.”

The closest Agassi has come to tap-dancing is when he talks about the pancake house incident. In a Florida restaurant one night last December, sportswriter Barry Lorge overheard Andre and his brother Phil seemingly plotting to fake an injury so Andre could skip a tournament.

“Philly and I were talking about taking steps as alternatives, not as strategies,” Andre says. “I was injured, and we were discussing ways to make that known as soon as possible, and it came off as some kind of conspiracy. I was really trying to make the right decisions.”

The flapjack flap was the sledgehammer that broke the camel’s back. Tennis magazine named Agassi Twit of the Year, and called him the Milli Vanilli of tennis.

And yet, there are the fans. At tournaments, the fans seem to enjoy the Andre show.

“Walking onto the court in San Francisco, I was reluctant to see how the crowd would respond,” Andre says. “I was relieved to see that [past misdeeds] were either water under the bridge, or were not taken seriously in the first place… Every time I step onto the court and people are in the stands, I’m flattered.”

Say this about Andre Agassi: He can drive down the street in one of his seven gleaming cars, fans honking and staring and waving, the world at his feet and be aware that he is one lucky dude.

“My father always says I was born with a horseshoe up my ass,” Agassi says with a laugh. (OK, one curse word in seven hours.) “Things have worked out well for me.”

We stop at his parents’ home, where Andre lives when he’s in Las Vegas, and we tour the garage. He owns three Porsches, the Jeep, the Lamborghini, a Ferrari Testarossa and a special-edition Corvette that will blow the doors off your standard wimpy ‘Vette. Andre is curretnly showroom-drooling over something called a Vector, a high-performance space vehicle capable of 240 mph.

He loves to give cars as gifts. He has given cars to his two sisters, his trainer, his coach. He gave a Porsche to brother Phil, a Range Rover to mom and Cadillacs to his dad, Mike Agassi. Alas, Mike Agassi still struggles with the adjustment from smaller cars to the heavy Motown metal. He has crashed two Cads and is currently nursing No. 3.

“The one thing I’d miss if I didn’t have money,” Andre says, with innocent sincerity, “would be not being able to buy my dad a new Cadillac when he totals one.”

Andre shows me his Porsche S4 GT 172 and says, “This is a real practical car, even for a family.”

Family of two, max.

The Lamborghini is practical, too, now that there is a Lamborghini mechanic in Las Vegas and Agassi doesn’t have to ship the car to Los Angeles on a flatbed truck every time it needs a fan belt.

The cars, Andre admits, are an indulgence. They are his reward for a boyhood donated to tennis, for being yanked out of school in the middle of the eighth grade and packed off to Florida, “moving away from home at 13 to a tennis academy that was like a military school.”

Andre’s agent, Bill Shelton of International Management Group, hates to see his client spend so much money on cars, but Shelton shrugs and says, “They really are his only vice.”

Andre cranks up the monster stereo system in the Ferrari. From the power and volume, I’m guessing that the Ferrari’s motor has been removed to make room for the speakers. The garage shakes but does not collapse, since the song he’s playing is mellow rock. No heavy metal for this boy.

“I’m into lyrics,” he says. “James Taylor, people like that.”

Andre Agassi, the perpetrator of Rock ‘n’ Roll Tennis, is an easy-listening kind of guy? It’s true. When Barry Manilow played Vegas, Andre went to see the show. Two nights in a row.

His parents’ home is a nice suburban layout but far from palatial. Andre uses his bedroom only for storage, he sleeps on a coach in the den. His alarm clock is a giant cockatoo named Fred.

“I want to buy a big, new couch,” says Mike Agassi, spreading his arms in the living room, “so Andre can sleep here, watch TV.”

The backyard is dominated by a tennis court, where Mike gives free lessons to nine local kids, and a giant TV satellite spy dish. Satellite feeds of sports events omit the commercials, allowing Mike to eavesdrop on announcers as they chit-chat during the breaks.

Mary Carillo hates me,” Andre says, matter-of-factly.

Adds Mike Agassi, “When she is not on (live) TV, she is very obnoxious.”

“{Jimmy} Connors is very bad {anti-Andre},” Andre says. “Cliff Drysdale is good, {Fred} Stolle and {Roscoe} Tanner are good, and Barry McKay.”

High on the list of the criticisms of Agassi is the feeling that he has done more product endorsing than big-tournament winning. “Major scores through minor feats,” is how Bud Collins puts it.

Agassi never has played the Australian Open, and he has snubbed Wimbledon the last three summers because it didn’t, uh, fit his schedule. This is like the Giants skipping the Super Bowl to rest up for the exhibition season, and it has done Agassi’s image no good.

The rumor is that Agassi almost surely will play Wimbledon this summer, but he doesn’t want to make a definite public commitment yet.

“If I go, I’m going over there with high hopes,” he says. “The thought of being there makes me nervous. I’m really excited.”

Andre says he wants me to meet his trainer, Gil Reyes, who lives nearby.

“Which car should we take?” Agassi asks.

I pick the Lamborghini, and we cruise the two miles to Reyes’s house. The trip takes approximately 14 seconds.

Agassi and Gil Reyes – Andre calls him Gilly – work out in Reyes’s garage in their quest to produce the first tennis player to hit a ball so hard it vaporizes. Most top tennis players are dedicated conditioners, but Agassi probably works harder than any of them on sheer power. He works on flexibility and endurance, but power is a major component of the overall plan.

When Agassi weighed 150 pounds, he already hit the ball harder than anyone in tennis. In 14 months with Reyes, Agassi has added 27 pounds of granite, and grown two inches to an even 6 foot.

“To give you an idea,” Andre says, “when I started, I bench-pressed 135 pounds. Now I do five reps with 250 pounds. And the biggest improvement has been my legs. I lost to [Boris] Becker in ’89 in three sets. He overpowered me. Last year I beat him in three sets. We’re even now in strength; we compete on ability.”

Some critics say Andre is too strong, overmuscled. His record this season would indicate some fine-tuning is needed, but Agassi and Reyes believe the work they do in the garage is correct and vital.

Bouncing around the garage demonstrating the sophisticated equipment, Andre and Gilly are like Hans and Franz of “Saturday Night Live,” brothers dedicated to a grand quest and geeked up on the pumpatude of it all.

Andre has great affection for the members of his inner council – Gilly, Philly, Billy, Nick and Dad.

Billy is Bill Shelton, Andre’s agent at IMG. Philly is Andre’s brother, personal manager and constant traveling companion. Nick is Nick Bollettieri, Andre’s coach for the last seven years. It’s a close-knit group. You prick one, they all bleed, and at times this has been Team Tourniquet.

There is a camera convention in town and Agassi has agreed to stop by the Canon exhibit to sign some autographs. In the Canon TV commercials, Andre says, “Image is everything.”

“People want to tie that [slogan] in with my philosophy of life,” Andre says, driving over to the show. “It’s [Canon’s] slogan, not my philosophy.”

The Rebel image, though, does seem to fit. Agassi’s Nike shoe commercials also play to the basic theme- Andre as James Dean with a tennis racket. He talks of getting kicked out of the Bollettieri Academy several times for refusing to cut his hair, for failing to conform. That hasn’t changed. When he visited the White House last year to meet George and Barbara Bush, Andre showed up in a sweatsuit and sneakers.

Nor is tennis etiquette his strong suit. He is the bad boy of the sport, no question, and the gods of tennis have sent down the perfect antagonist in Pete Sampras. These two are yin and yang, Wally Cleaver and Eddie Haskel, at least on the surface.

Never mind that Agassi is a Christian who doesn’t drink, do drugs or even go to R-rated movies. Image is everything. When Sampras beat Agassi in the U.S Open final last year, it was a clear-cut case of good kicking evil’s butt.

“There probably are a lot of people who would have been disappointed if I’d beated Sampras,” Agsasi says nonchalantly. “It seems like Petey reaps the benfit of the controversy I start… He is capable of a broader fan base, but people know where I’m coming from and they know what I’m feeling. It’s like a good song, I won’t cheat you on the lyrics, I’ll give you your money’s worth. It would be too easy for me not too say a lot, not act up on the court, but the whole point is not just to survive.”

Sampras has taken subtle shots, through the media, at Agassi’s off-beatness, but Agassi says, “Petey’s really harmless, I don’t think he’s very vindictive.”

The autograph-signing goes smoothly. Agassi charms the Canon VIPs. He is still wearing the shorts, walking shoes with the laces untied, and a plain cotton shirt.

“Those wonderful legs,” sighs a woman standing in the autograph line.

Driving away from the convention center, Agassi talks about people he admires.

“I’m a big fan of [Wayne] Gretzky,” he says. “I love Jack Nicholson. I like the interest he creates, the mystique, what people would give to find out what he’s really like. That’s neat when you can carry that kind of charisma.

“Old George Bush has really won his place with me, too. The way he’s handled all this, the example he’s set for this country, has been awesome.”

We drive out to a golf course that Las Vegas hotel baron Steve Wynn has carved out of the desert for himself and a few select pals. It is a golfer’s Eden, with waterfalls and lakes, hills and trees. Some days you can play an entire round without seeing another foursome.

Agassi commandeers an electric cart and gives a high-speed tour of the course, nearly crashing into an outcropping of boulders as he drives blindly over the crest of a steep hill. Then he picks up his clubs and a bag of “range” balls – brand-new Titleists – and heads for the practice tee.

Agassi is a weekend golfer, never had a lesson. He plays lefthanded, though he’s a rightie in tennis. He pulls out a 3-wood and, on this chilly late afternoon, without so much as a warmup swing or a waggle or a tee, slams about 20 dandy drives down the middle, all well over 200 yards. Two or three veer off course, but even on those he makes solid contact. The swing is smooth, the distance impressive. Rock ‘n’ Roll golf.

It’s time to head to the airport, and he offers to let me drive the Lamborghini.

“That’s good,” he says as I merge cautiously onto the freeway, trying to ease the car out of third gear, “you’re going 90.”

He talks about what the 1991 model Andre Agassi will be like.

“I’ve made a commitment to get out more, to talk more,” he says. “Other than that, no difference. I’ll go out there and play some fun tennis, some hard tennis. I just want to add something to tennis. I have fun being me on the court.”

At a stoplight, a car pulls up next to the Lamborghini and the driver motions for an autograph. Agassi laughs and shrugs. The light turns green. Impulsively, Andre rips a page out of my notebook and signs his name.

“See if you can catch up with that guy,” he says.

If all this has been an act, it ‘s a real good one. Very convincing. The impression is that if Agassi can eliminate the more childish stuff- the spitting, the tanking, the taunting- what would be left would be an exceptional athlete with personality, charisma and style, and Tennis magazine would have to find itself a new Twit of the Year.

Agassi drops me off at the airport. As he roars away, six of seven people stop and stare, just like people always did in the last scene of “The Lone Ranger” TV show, when they would stand at the outskirts of town and watch the Lone Ranger gallop into the sunset on his white horse, and wonder what he was really like.

Julia Goerges

Thanks to Tony for sharing his experience:

I enjoyed meeting German tennis star Julia Goerges at the 1st Anniversary celebration for Bank of the West in Indian Wells, CA. She was an absolute pleasure, signing autographs and taking photos with everyone before it was back to training at the BNP Paribas Open. I’m definitely on ‪#‎TeamJule‬ now!

Julia Goerges

Julia Goerges

Julia Goerges