Extract from Hard Courts by John Feinstein

Cincinnati had been favored stop on the tour since 1979, when it had become The ATP tournament. For years it was the only tour stop that contributed funds to the players’ pension funds. It was also a prime example of how a tournament could grow by promoting itself as an event rather than by just showcasing name players.

Paul Flory, the tournament direct, was a minster’s son who had grown up in Dayton and worked most of his life for Procter&Gamble. He had been tournament director since 1975, when the Cincinnati tournament was still the Western Open and was played on clay in a small club down by the Ohio River.
The tournament had moved to Kings Island in 1979, when the ATP offered itself to Flory if he could find a site with hard courts. Flory moved the tournament and had built the stadium slowly, adding stages each year as the tournament became a summer staple in the Cincinnati area.

The tournament benefited the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and a number of players visited during the week. Some took this responsibility quite seriously. Jim Courier went back three times. Miguel Nido, a qualifier, went around the players’ lounge one day trying to round up players. Benji Robins, the tour’s marketing-services coordinator, worked all week trying to encourage players to go to the hospital. It wasn’t easy. A couple of players asked tournament officials if they could get paid to visit the hospital. On Friday, eight players were scheduled to go. One – Nido – showed up.

That afternoon, the tournament got a bit of unexpected bonus, when Edberg beat Chang in a superb three-set quarterfinal and officially moved past Lendl to become No.1 was no small thing. Edberg was only the eighth man to be No.1 since the start of computer rankings, in 1973. The women’s No.1 club was even more exclusive – it had only six members.

Edberg actually appeared excited about becoming No.1. Remembering his twenty-four hours as No.1 in 1988, after the ATP staff’s error, he smiled and said,

“I hope this time they got it right. It’s nice that I can say I was number one in the world, even if I don’t keep it for long. Not many guys get there. For years, people told me I could be number one. I’m glad I made it.”

Tennis is a game that takes players to all corners of the earth. It was therefore fitting that on the night he became No.1 player on the planet, Edberg, a Swede who lived in London, sept in room 536 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Blue Ash, Ohio.

Regardless of where he was, Edberg was playing brilliant tennis. The Wimbledon victory had clearly given him renewed confidence. He won in Los Angeles in his first tournament since Wimbledon, and he won rather easily in Cincinnati. The Chang match was his most difficult. He beat Gomez and Gilbert in the semifinals and final respectively, without losing serve once. The score in the final was 6-1 6-1. It was over in fifty-nine minutes. When someone asked Gilbert if anyone could have beaten Edberg, he shrugged. “All I know is there’s no way I could have beaten him, that’s for sure.”

Edberg was feeling good about things, he even made a joke in his postmatch press conference. When someone jokingly asked if President Bush had called to congratulate him on becoming No.1, Edberg shook his head.

“No, he didn’t”, he said, deadpan. “But he did call and ask me about that Iraq thing.”

The most fun part of the Edberg-Gilbert final was the awards ceremony: it took exactly seven minutes.

I was in Paris this week end for the Roland Garros charity day and the Sunday Start. Here’s a photo recap of Sunday’s matches on the court Philippe Chatrier.

Stosur-Benesova

Solid first match by Stosur, semifinalist in 2009 and finalist here last year. She beat Iveta Benesova, ranked 52, in straight sets 6-2 6-3. Next opponent for the Australian: Simona Halep.

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

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Only 20 sentences dedicated by Andre Agassi to his 2001 Australian Open win in his autobiography Open? The Australian Open, a tournament he “loves some much”…… as much as he loves tennis, or not.

Sure, there’s not much to say about his 6-4 6-2 6-2 routine win over the surprising Arnaud Clément.

Agassi-Clément

Extract from Agassi’s biography:

“In January we fly to Australia. I feel good when we land. I do love this place. I must have been an aborigine in another life. I always feel at home here. I always enjoy walking into Rod Laver Arena, playing under Laver’s name.

I bet Brad that I’m going to win the whole thing. I can feel it. And when I do, he will have to jump the Yarra River.
I batter my way to the semis and face Rafter again. We play three hours of hammer-and-tong tennis, filled with endless I-grunt-you-grunt rallies.
He’s ahead, two sets to one. Then he withers. The Australian heat. We’re both drenched with sweat, but he’s cramping. I win the next two sets.

In the final I face Clément, a grudge match four months after he knocked me out of the US Open. I rarely leave the baseline. I make few mistakes, and those I do make, I put quickly behind me.
Clément is muttering to himself in French, I feel a serene calm. My mother’s son. I beat him in straight sets.

Agassi-Clément

Andre Agassi

It’s my seventh Slam, putting me tenth on the all-time list. I’m tied with McEnroe, Wilander, and others – one ahead of Becker and Edberg.
Wilander and I are the only ones to win three Australian Opens in the Open era. At the moment, however, all I care is seeing Brad do the backstroke in the Yarra, then getting home to Stefanie.”

Steffi Graf and Brad Gilbert