Andre Agassi, 2006 US Open

From Agassi‘s autobiography Open:

Thirty minutes before the match, I get an anti-inflammatory injection, but it’s different from the cortisone. Less effective. Against my third-round opponent, Benjamin Becker, I’m barely able to remain standing.

I look at the scoreboard. I shake my head. I ask myself over and over, How is it possible that my final opponent is a guy named B. Becker? I told Darren [Cahill] earlier this year that I wanted to go out against somebody I like and respect, or else against somebody I don’t know. And so I get the latter.

Becker takes me out in four sets. I can feel the tape of the finish line snap cleanly across my chest.

US Open officials let me say a few words to the fans in the stands and at home before heading to the locker room. I know exactly what I want to say. I’ve known for years. But is still takes me a few moments to find my voice.

The scoreboard said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found. Over the last twenty-one years I have found loyalty: You have pulled for me on the court, and also in life. I have found inspiration: You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments. And I have found generosity: You have given me your shoulders to stand on, to reach for my dreams – dreams I could have never reached without you. Over the last twenty-one years I have found you, and I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life.

It’s the highest compliment I know how to pay them. I’ve compared them to Gil [Reyes].

In the locker room it’s deathly quiet. I’ve noticed through the years that every locker room is the same when you lose. You walk in the door – which slams open, because you’ve pushed it harder than you needed to – and the guys always scatter from the TV, where they’ve been watching you get your ass kicked. They always pretend they haven’t been watching, haven’t been discussing you. This time, however, they remain gathered around the TV. No one moves. No one pretends. Then, slowly, everyone comes toward me. They clap and whistle, along with trainers and office workers and James the security guard.

Only one man remains apart, refusing to applaud. I see him in the corner of my eye. He’s leaning against a far wall with a blank look on his face and his arms tightly folded. Connors.

I makes me laugh. I can only admire that Connors is who he is, still, that he never changes. We should all be true to ourselves, so consistent. I tell the players: You’ll hear a lot of applause in your life, fellas, but none will mean more to you than that applause – from your peers. I hope each of you hears that at the end.

Thank you all. Goodbye. And take care of each other.

Andy Murray and Fernando Verdaco, Wimbledon 2013

From Andy Murray‘s autobiography Seventy-Seven:

Having won the Olympic gold medal and the US Open the previous year, I expected to go into Wimbledon with a bit more confidence, but the feelings of nervousness and stress were still the same. Maybe after the US Open, I felt that playing a Slam wouldn’t be the same arduous challenge anymore because I had won one, but for 99 per cent of the British population Wimbledon is the only one that really counts for the British players. I couldn’t change that. I felt that pressure.

Getting the first in under the belt can be the trickiest at Wimbledon. I am always nervous before the opening match because the court plays differently for a couple of days; it is extremely green and tricky underfoot. So I was really pleased to put in a decent first-round performance against Benjamin Becker.

Elsewhere, Rafael Nadal went out in the first round to Steve Darcis of Belgium and Roger Federer was beaten in the second round by Sergiy Stakhovsky from Ukraine (the guy I had beaten in the US Open junior final in 2004). Both Rafa and Roger were in my half of the draw and as soon as they were out, all the media talk about how tough it was going to be for me suddenly turned. ‘This is Andy’s Wimbledon to win.’ ‘If he doesn’t get to the final it will be a catastrophe.’ That’s why I never get obsessed with draws. But it is hard to block out that sort of talk and avoid complacency.

The fact that a lot of players were slipping and sliding on the courts in difficult conditions was also a concern. Against Lu Yen-hsun in the second round, I didn’t feel comfortable at all. My movement was stiff and tentative. I was also playing on No.1 Court which plays a little differently to Centre Court so I wasn’t settled. I felt anxious throughout, but managed to get through in straight sets.

The win set up a third round meeting with Tommy Robredo of Spain, the number 32 seed and a very fine player. We played under the roof on Centre Court which changes the conditions somewhat. It gives the court slightly different characteristics, which was something I needed to use to my advantage. I think I did a good job; it was my best match of the tournament.

Saturday afternoon brought some light relief as I got the opportunity to meet again some of my fellow Team GB Olympians, who had been invited into the Royal Box for the day. It was great to see some familiar faces, all decked out in the box, so after a quick switch of clothes from my practice gear into a suit and tie, I walked out to an ovation that was one of the most profound of my life. These are not the kind of occasions I particularly relish – I don’t know quite what to do or say, but everyone wanted to shake hands, have their pictures taken, say a few encouraging words. That was special for me. My spirits were rising all the time.

On Monday, I felt really good in defeating the Russian Mikhail Youzhny in straight sets. My quarter-final opponent would be Fernando Verdasco of Spain, a left-hander, the first time I had played one since Feliciano Lopez in the third round of the 2012 US Open.
It might not be easy for the layman ot understand why, but playing lefties is very different because of their variety of spins and angles. And when Verdasco is having a good serving day – as he was this time – he is a daunting challenge.[…]

Even though it was a five-setter, there was not too much running involved – only three kilometres over three-and-a-half hours. Many of the points were quick ones. After the match, I was more mentally than physically tired. The whole affair was really draining and emotional. Often guys come back from two sets to love down and end up losing that fifth set because it is hard to keep that concentration and not have a dip for a few games. Luckily I didn’t do that in the fifth and it was great to know I could come back to win without playing my best tennis.

In the semi-finals, I was drawn to play Jerzy Janowicz of Poland. He had been one of the stories at the end of 2012, racing through the field at the Paris Masters indoor event to reach the final and his ranking shot up as a consequence. He beat me in that tournament – I had match point, but didn’t follow through with a shot when I had a chance.

No one could predict how Janowicz would feel playing in his first Grand Slam semi-final. I know from experience that you feel so close to a final, but it also seems a huge distance away. […]
My opponent hit a 139-mph ace in his first service game, a statement of intent. Against someone like Janowicz it is important to let them know you mean business, that whatever they do, you are right in there with them, not prepared to give an inch.
I lost the first set on a tie-break. It was clumsy on my part but it was only one set. I broke his first service game in the second set. It was past eight o’clock and I could sense he was getting agitated by the gradually worsening light. It was perfectly playable but he kept on chuntering to the umpire about it. When I won the third set from 4-1 down, which he wasn’t happy about (neither was I that I let him have such a lead), he was going at the umpire again. I didn’t see Andrew Jarrett, the referee, walking on to the court, but I suddenly sensed his presence.

‘We’re going to close the roof,’ he told me.

I just thought he had to be kidding. Just because Janowicz is moaning about the light, we close the roof? Why? I wanted him to explain the rule to me but, as far as I recall, all he said was,

‘It’s the fairest thing to do… I’ve decided to close it.’

Back in the locker room, Janowicz was soon on his mobile phone, which was pretty hilarious when I come to think about it. It wasn’t a quiet conversation either, he was pretty agitated. I just sat down with my team, had a shower, and got ready to come back out to play. Anyone would be a little angry at the circumstances. I had the momentum and the light was good enough to play. It was 8.40pm, hardly night-time at that time of the year. There was at least half an hour of playable light left.

But I knew I had to put that grievance behind me. I had a job to finish. I wanted to win the match and win it now. And I was pleased with how quickly I settled down when we went back on court. I played a really good fourth set.
And so I was into the Wimbledon final again, against Novak. it was a match-up I was beginning to relish.

Taylor Fritz, Memphis Open 2016

Enjoy a few pictures of Taylor Fritz hard fought 6-4 5-7 7-6 win over Benjamin Becker in the quarterfinals of the Memphis Open on Friday. Read full recap here.

Fritz d. Becker

Fritz d. Becker

Fritz d. Becker
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Taylor Fritz, Memphis Open 2016

The main court (aka Stadium) at the Racquet Club of Memphis can be simultaneously intimate yet spacious. Even the uppermost rows of the bleachers aren’t that far from the court — in fact, a couple of fans told me they didn’t get around to sitting in their assigned spots because they felt they could see more of the court from further up.

That said, during the marquee matches, fans were encouraged to compete for courtside seats by demonstrating how much noise they could make during the changeover between games three and four. The winners were then reseated in the Stash Home Furnishings box, which was right behind the player(s) seated to the chair umpire’s left, with leather armchairs, champagne, and snacks. This couple had previously been sitting high above the baseline to the right of the main entrance; they are now behind Mikhail Kukushkin’s chair.

winners of courtside seats

This isn’t to say things don’t get crowded or congested — just ask folks trying to leave right after a match. But to date, the stands are rarely filled to capacity (there’s been only one match where I couldn’t find a seat, and that was Maria Sharapova vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands in 2010), and it’s usually OK to discreetly move down a few rows or find a more congenial spot if, for example, a nearby stranger literally cannot hold their liquor (an incident I heard about from an Arkansas fan — after the third spilled glass, she opted to move, stating that while she herself liked wine, she wasn’t interested in wearing it).

At any rate, no matter where you end up sitting in Stadium, you get to hear and see quite a bit. The crowds this year were supportive of both American and foreign players, applauding great points no matter who played them. While the majority of players aren’t household names, they are still among the best 200 in the world; while the disparity in skills and experience is often notable (2010 champion Sam Querrey is in a different league than qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka, Kei Nishikori likewise significantly better than Kukushkin, and Challenger circuit habitues Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop no real threat to Querrey paired with Steve Johnson), the lower-ranked players are still capable of powerful rallies, astonishing volleys, and wicked serves that kick into the stands, which means that even the straightforward straight-set not-really-in-doubt matches can be fun to watch, rewarding spectators with fantastic points to ooh and aah over.

The Friday afternoon session started at 3:00 p.m. I was able to catch the final set of the Benjamin Becker vs. Taylor Fritz quarterfinal on Stadium. It was chaired by Australian silver badge umpire Simon Cannavan, who has a deep, resonant voice (shown here following a ball as it hit the ceiling):

Simon Cannavan
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Nishikori, Soderling and Kukushkin, Memphis Open 2016

Peg is reporting from the Memphis Open this weekend. Enjoy her first recap:

I first visited the Racquet Club of Memphis six years ago, as a volunteer for what was then a co-ed tournament (ATP 500 / WTA International). I was lucky enough to be assigned practice court duties; highlights included running after balls during a Berdych-Lu practice match and taking in how intense both Sharapova and Roddick were in their hitting sessions. In 2012, I attended several matches with friends and returned for the finals on my own.

The women’s tournament has moved to Rio, the men’s tournament is now a 250, and the title sponsor is now Servicemaster. Some other things have changed since I was last here. For example, there used to be parking spots for returning champions to the right of the club’s entrance:

reserved parking for Roddick

Now, there are different levels of VIP parking inside the gates:

Entrance to the Memphis Racquet Club

The champagne theme extends to courtside tables behind the chair umpire.

chair for Nishikori v. Querrey

Balls still fly into the stands (and occasionally sail over them) regularly both on Grandstand and on Stadium, and sometimes a flute or bottle gets knocked over.
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