Jimmy Connors wins his 109th and final professional singles title, defeating n°181-ranked Gilad Bloom 2-6 6-2 6-1 in the final of the ATP Tour event in Tel Aviv.
The 109 professional singles titles for Connors is the most of any male player in tennis history and dates back to 1972 when he wins his first title at London’s Queen’s Club tournament.
Ivan Lendl eventually wins 94 pro singles titles in his career that ends in 1994 for second place on the all-time list, followed by John McEnroe with 77 singles titles.

The only players to win more titles than Connors are Martina Navratilova with 167 singles titles and Chris Evert with 154.

Jimmy Connors, US Open 1991

Is there a way to make tennis better? Are you unsatisfied with some aspects of the game today? Maybe you will find interesting the last part of John McEnroe’s autobiography “Serious”. Published in 2002, just after the big turn into a new millennium, the book has a final chapter made up by the “Top 10 recommendations  for improving tennis in the 21st century”. Even though almost ten years have gone by since their formulation, some of McEnroe’s ideas are still very popular among tennis analysts and commentators. We would like to discuss them one by one, starting with the first five.

1. Tennis should have a commissioner. Baseball, football, and basketball all do, why not our sport? (I’m available…)

I don’t believe such a figure would contribute to make tennis a better sport. Tennis is a much different discipline from those listed by John. While baseball, football and basketball are “national” sports, tennis is international and I do think that a strictly central organization with the presence of a commissioner would only give the game an exaggerated uniformity it doesn’t need. It’s nice to leave some autonomy to all the tennis events, or all the tournaments would end up looking the same in every part of the world. What tennis really does need is a skilled CEO, able to solve its main problems before thinking of raising his/her wage. I’m referring to issues such as the formulation of the season calendar. What we have seen in recent years, with Etienne de Villiers’ ideas of tournaments with round robin groups and Adam Helfant’s calendar organization for the men’s tour from 2012 on, are not exactly the best solutions…

2. The United States should have a National Tennis Academy. Flushing Meadows would be a natural site, but if the logistics there are too daunting, there are many other possibilities. Kids with potential should be brought in from all over the country, on scholarship if necessary, and they could be developed in much the same way I was by tony Palafox and Harry Hopman at the Port Washington Academy (I’m available here, too…)

I’m not in favor of a central tennis academy, either. I think that United States already has an almost official National academy in Nick Bollettieri’s, even if it’s not managed by the USTA. But, if this tennis school has given tennis good results in terms of numbers over the years, producing players such as Agassi, Courier, Capriati, Seles all able to reach the summits of the game, it has also contributed to create a unique and uniformed style of play, electing two handed backhand and play from the baseline to a credo. I think that every player should be free to develop his/her own style and a National academy goes right in the opposite direction.

3. Players need to be more accessible to fans and the media (did I really say that?), the way NASCAR drivers are.

While I think that media relations are already a big part of players’ daily routine, Mac is right as far as interaction with fans is concerned. Players like Federer and Nadal brought a huge popularity to the sport which is not completely exploited. I mean, there are lots of occasions, during tournaments, to meet top players, but, for example, if you look at the fanzone of the ATP World Tour website, it doesn’t even provide straight contact between tennis fans and players. There should be a way to access them on the official site of the ATP, giving them the opportunity to answer the fans’ questions through the site, while this occasion of meeting is left to the players’ official websites and to their social media profiles. Also, there’s no real community on the ATP official website, no forum for the exchange of opinions among fans. The interaction through Facebook and Twitter is not the same thing. And a downloadable screensaver and a fantasy game are not enough.

4. A return to wooden rackets would be a huge improvement for professional tennis. The biggest change in the game in the last twenty-five years – the replacement of wood by graphite – has been a bad one. I happen to think that wooden rackets are beautiful aesthetically and purer for the game. Look at baseball: kids start with aluminum bats in Little League, then move on to graphite or kevlar or whatever in college , and then – and only then – if they make it to the majors, do they get to use those beautiful wooden rackets bats that require greater expertise for success. Why not do the same thing in tennis? I think it looks great to have a little wand in your hand, instead of some ultra-thick club big enough to kill somebody with! Wood to me has glamour. You need strategy and technique. Tennis, these days, is sadly lacking in all those things. It’s all Wham, bam, thank you, mma’am.

This is a complete nonsense that I even refuse to comment. The evolution of materials made tennis a totally different sport, but it’s too late now to complain and a step back is something totally out of the world, from a commercial, technical and logical point of view. I assume this is a provocation of yours, Mac…

5. Like other sports, tennis should have a season. I’d recommend February to October. For three months every year there wouldn’t be any tennis. Players could rest and recharge; fans could work up a little hunger to see the game again.

This is a very interesting point, instead. As I said for point 1, the formulation of a reasonable season calendar is one of the big problems tennis has to face. While top players often complain their off season is too short, they are the first to arrange very lucrative exhibitions in the month of December, the only one with three weeks without official tennis. I think three months without tournaments would be too much for players (and for addicted fans as well…). After all, players are professionals and as intense a sport as tennis can be, there’s no professional on earth with three months off in a year. Nevertheless, I believe players should be left free to make their own schedules, there should not be mandatory tournaments (something that has killed minor events). The more you play (and, of course, the bigger tournaments you play), the more points you gain. Quite easy. As far as the calendar, I think January is too early for a Grand Slam event that should be placed after at least one big warm-up tournament. There’s too little rest between the French Open and Wimbledon and the post-US Open season is too long. Let’s say I would give players (and fans) one, but just one, extra week of rest.

Article written by Tennis Buzz’s contributor Mauro Cappiello
Read the second part of the article»

John McEnroe, 1981 US Open champion

From John McEnroe‘s autobiography, Serious:

Borg and I split the first two sets, and he was ahead 4-2 in the third. He had broken me twice, and was serving to go up 5-2, but I hit two great topspin-lob winners over his head in that game, and after the second one I could have sworn I saw the air go out of him.

From there on in, it looked as if Bjorn was doing something I had never seen from him before: throwing in the towel. After having been down 2-4 in the third, I wound up winning that set 6-4 and cruising through the fourth, 6-2. In the last set, it looked to me as though he was barely trying.

“There are times – usually in exhibitions, but sometimes even in big tournaments – when you feel so bad physically or mentally that you’re simply not able to go all-out. It’s a tricky situation. You don’t want to lose by just missing every ball, so you hit a shot and leave a part of the court open.
At that point, your body language clearly says “I’m not going to cover that – just hit it there, it’ll be a winner, and the people will think, “Look, he was too good”. That’s what happened with Sampras when he played Lleyton Hewitt in the final of the 2001 Open: Pete had just run out of gas – he looked as if he had glue on his feet.
And that’s what happened with Borg in 81 – except that it did’t look physical to me.”
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I’ve had the chance to win 2 entry tickets for the Optima Open, the belgian stop of the ATP Champions Tour, so I spent a nice day last Friday in Knokke-Heist, Belgium.

Situated in the heart of the country’s Flemish-speaking Flanders region, Knokke-Heist is considered to be one of Belgium’s most exclusive and affluent seaside resorts.

Knokke-Heist

Knokke-Heist

Knokke-Heist
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Borg, McEnroe Wimbledon 1981

I had been famous for a few years now, but Wimbledon in ’81 is where I became infamous.

John McEnroe

Excerpts from McEnroe‘s autobiography, Serious:

“I was unbelievably tense at Wimbledon in 1981 because I knew, after beating Borg at the Open, that I could win it, should win it, would win it – unless disaster struck.
Well, disaster did strike, and kept striking, round after round, and somehow I kept getting through – endearing myself to nobody in the process.

It began at the beginning.

Although this was to become one of my famous matches, I’m positive almost nobody remembers who I played, and when I played it: Tom Gullikson, first round, Wimbledon 1981. Court One.

I had behaved badly at Wimbledon before. I was already Super Brat. Now I upped the ante. Tom could be a pretty tough opponent on grass, but i had a much tougher adversary out there that day. Even though I would eventually win in straight sets 7-6 7-5 6-3, I just couldn’t rest easy when I got ahead: the devils were crawling all over my brain that afternoon. When Gullikson went ahead 4-3 in the second set on a miserable line call, I smashed my Wilson Pro Staff racket, and James issued me a warning. And later, when a linesman called a serve deep that I had clearly seen throw up a spray of chalk, I threw my new racket and gave a scream that came straight from Queens – but that has traveled very far in the years since.”

Man, you cannot be serious!

[youtube width=”480″ height=”385″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekQ_Ja02gTY[/youtube]

You guys are the absolute pits of the world.

The umpire understood “You guys are the piss of the world” and gave Mac a point penalty. McEnroe demanded to see the referee, and yelled:

We’re not going to have a point taken away because this guy is an incompetent fool!

After the match, McEnroe was fined $750 for the obscenity, $750 for an unsportsmanlike comment about the umpire, and threatened with an additional 10000 fine and suspension from the tournament.

And I want you to understand: I felt terrible. I’ve felt awful virtually every time I’ve had one of my on-court meldowns.

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Bjorn loves John

One was calm and collected.
One was fierce and furious.
Together, they changed tennis forever.

Björn <3 John is a limited edition underwear collection celebrating the single greatest duo in sports history.

With double designs and part of the proceeds going straight to charity, Björn Borg and John McEnroe team up in the Swedish Underwear Liberation.

Four different skivvy styles will make up the collection, two of which are designed by Borg and two by McEnroe. The collection is inspired by the ’80s, better known as the golden age of tennis. Among the collection will be 100 pieces of extra limited edition underwear. Featuring the real signatures of Borg and McEnroe, they’ll be randomly sold at Bjorn Borg retailers around the world.
Pre-order on bjornborg.com

A nice way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their last Wimbledon clash.

Bjorn Borg – calm and collected

John McEnroe – fierce and furious