Andy Murray, London Olympics

From Andy Murray’s autobiography, Seventy-Seven

Beijing was one of the best experiences I’d ever had as an athlete. To be involved and part of the team, to go to the opening ceremony, and to speak to many gifted, wonderful sports people – I absolutely loved it. But then I lost in the first round to Lu Yen-hsun of Taiwan.

When I weighed myself the night after my loss, I discovered I’d lost five kilos since leaving Cincinnati a week before. I was completely dehydrated. I had not been a professional in my approach because I was so excited at being part of the Olympics. I knew that when London came around my attitude had to be different. I was never going to make the Beijing mistake again. I had forgotten I was there to win matches for the country, because I was enjoying the experience so much.

I didn’t think that going to the opening ceremony in Beijing would affect me. It was only in hindsight that I realised I had used tremendous amounts of energy, speaking to loads of people and enjoying the whole occasion. For some participants that is what the Olympics should be about, but I know how disappointed I was to lose so early because I had a chance to do well for the country and I blew it.

I would have loved to have gone to the London 2012 opening ceremony – it turned out to be the most spectacular event – but it was the wrong thing to do from a professional perspective. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice.
However, I was among the fortunate people nominated to carry the flame on its journey across the nation. That was a tremendous privilege. OK, I was only able to carry it inside the confines of the All England Club, but there were memebers and players in attendance – I remember Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych cutting short their practice sessions to come and watch me receive the flame.

My first match against Stanislas Wawrinka was a really tough one. I had been practicing with him so often beforehand .. and killing him actually! In those ten days, I think I had won every practice set and I had just felt great generally.[…]

I watched as many of the other sports as I could when I wasn’t playing, and I wanted to try to be a part of that success. When I lose at the Wimbledon Championships, there isn’t usually anyone else left for British fans to support; if I’d have lost at the Olympics, there was still Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis and Chris Hoy. If I had lost, I doubt whether people would have spent much time talking about it, because there were so many other exciting things going on elsewhere to concentrate on.

The night before playing in the final, I watched Ennis, Farah and Greg Rutherford all win gold in Olympic Stadium. The atmosphere was outrageous, it was crackling. The country was alive with optimism, there was momentum and everyone was so positive, from the spectators to the media.
In advance of the Games, the stories had all been about the prospect of terrible traffic problems, potential security problems and ticketing issues. People thought the opening ceremony would not be as good as in Beijing, but it proved to be an incredible spectacle.
Then a few days, it was all: ‘We haven’t won a gold yet’. Everything was negative again. But once the first gold arrived, then another, then a couple more, it all changed. There was nothing to complain about anymore and the whole nation was carried along on a wave of excitement. The athletes performed better than anyone was expecting – career-best performances, golds, silvers, glorious achievements – and I put a lot of that down to the positive momentum all around. As an individual sportsman, I’d certainly never experienced anything like it.

I managed to make good progress through my first four rounds, only losing one set to Marcos Baghdatis, who challenged me really hard again. Then, after I defeated Nicolas Almagro on No.1 Court, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge amongst the spectators, I was into the semi-finals to play Novak again. I spoke to Ivan the evening before and his lessage was the same as usual: to impose my game on the match, play the game on my terms and not to lose running around with my arse against the back fence.
I managed to execute the game plan, turning in one of my most complete performances of the year. In windy conditions I thought I struck the ball really well. In the first set there were some tremendous rallies, but the second set, by comparison, wasn’t quite as good. Novak had a lot of break points, but I served really well and hung tough in those moments and just managed to get the break myself in the end.
The atmosphere was unbelievable, different to anything I’d experienced before. I’d always said that the mnight matches at the US Open had the best atmosphere, but they weren’t even close to what it was like against Novak.
I celebrated victory in the normal way until I sat down in the chair. Suddenly, I leapt up again, as if electricity was surging through my body. I’d realised I had guaranteed myself an Olympic medal.

The final would be a rematch against Roger for Olympic gold.

Kyle Edmund, 2016 Kooyong Classic

Another beautiful day of tennis at the Kooyong Classic.

First match today, a clash between two youngsters: recent Davis Cup champion Kyle Edmund vs Aussie hope Omar Jasika. The Brit is without a doubt a player to watch in 2016.

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Nick Kyrgios, 2016 Kooyong Classic

A hot day in Melbourne today (the Zverev-Edmund match was cancelled due to heat) and lots of action on court. Enjoy a few pictures from day 2 at the Kooyong Classic, and in case you missed it, check out day 1 pictures.

Pablo Carreno Busta defeated former Australian Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis 6-4 6-4:

Marcos Baghdatis

Marcos Baghdatis

Pablo Carreno Busta
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Thanks a lot to Nikos for taking the time to answer our questions on the Tennis Marathon International event and tennis in Greece.

Tennis Marathon

Q: What is the Tennis Marathon International event and how did you get the idea to organize such an event that combines tennis, history and entertainement?

The 2014 International Tennis Marathon™ Event is an innovative international event exclusively for adult amateur tennis players. It combines sport – culture – tourism and entertainment. Tennis fans from all around the world will travel to Athens (Greece) and will have the opportunity to live the Tennis Marathon experience at the facilities located very close to the historic tomb of the Athenians at Marathon City. This was the place where the decisive Battle of Marathon was held in 490 BC, from which emerged both the international term “Marathon” and the sport of the Marathon Race in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.

At the same time the competitors will have the chance to visit the Parthenon, the Acropolis Museum, the Panathenaic Stadium and other historical monuments of world cultural heritage, and also enjoy the Greek hospitality and lively entertainment. The hotel, bungalows and facilities are located on the Mediterranean sea.

Below, pictures of the Panathenaic Stadium, the Marathon Bay and the hosting hotel:

Panathenaic Stadium

Marathon Bay

Hosting Hotel Tennis Marathon

The idea of organizing this International event came after 4 years of organizing the homonymous event in Athens – Greece. In May 2011 I organized the first Tennis Marathon Event and since then I have organized more than 25 events.

The idea of the Tennis Marathon Event was born in the Greek capital, Athens, the home of the Classic Marathon. The idea is to engage a specific number of players in an organized, “Marathon” tennis meeting. The original idea is coupled with a simple and equally unique recipe that makes the event safe and accessible to everyone. The recipe gets even more special by adding ingredients that highlight the importance of the idea of the Tennis Marathon Event and the value of competition and participation.

Q: Do you plan to organize Tennis Marathon in other countries?

My purpose is to expand the Tennis Marathon Events worldwide. The events should be exclusively held by licensed providers who will follow the methodology, rules and philosophy of the original Tennis Marathon Event. The Tennis Marathon brand is an internationally registered trademark in more than 30 countries and is protected by international law.

The right to use the trademark can be acquired only by Licensed Providers. Each tennis club who likes the idea of Tennis Marathon and would like to provide the Tennis Marathon Event at their facilities, can visit the official website: www.tennis-marathon.com and easily become a Licenced provider.

Q: Let’s talk about tennis in Greece, I guess tennis is not as popular as football and basketball?

Tennis in Greece is becoming more popular year by year. Many new facilities have been constructed during the last 10 years. Football and basketball are much more popular, but most of the followers are just fans, not players. On the other hand the number of social tennis players is increasing year after year.

Q: Pete Sampras and Mark Philippoussis are both Greek descendants as well as Australian hopes Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, how do you explain Greece has never produced a big tennis champion?

There is a big gap between social tennis and competitive tennis in Greece. The first is growing year by year, the second is unfortunately getting worst. There are many reasons for this. The main reason is the lack of infrastructure and education on tennis matters in Greece. Despite this fact there is a great tennis player who is still playing on the Tour, coming from Greece, Eleni Daniilidou, former WTA #14. Marcos Baghdatis, former ATP #8 grew up in Cyprus and as far as I know the Cyprus Tennis Federation helped him a lot at the beginning of his career.
Nick Galis was the player who changed once and for all basketball in Greece, in the 80’s. I don’t know if this is going to happen in tennis. But you never know. This is the… Greek miracle!

Nikos with Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras

Nikos with Marcos Baghdatis

Marcos Baghdatis

Q: 10 years ago, Athens organized the Olympics Games, many stadiums built for the Games are now in decay, is the tennis stadium still in use?

The Olympic tennis facilities were in use until 2012, by hosting ITF Tournaments. Unfortunately today there is almost no use of these facilities, basically due to the economic crisis and also due to bureaucracy.

Q: You worked as a volunteer for the Paralympic Games in Athens, what was your role and which are your biggest memories of those Games?

Before the Athens Paralympics I have worked as a volunteer for the Olympic Games in Sydney. I worked at the spectator services in the Olympic Stadium ( track events ). I will never forget how I felt when I listened to the Anthem of the Olympic Games in Greek language, during the opening ceremony.
At the Paralympics in Athens my role was at the wheelchair tennis players services. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me, to watch these super-athletes moving and playing on the field.

Q: You also helped promoting beach tennis in Greece, is it popular and do you plan to organize Beach Tennis Marathon one day?

Beach Tennis is not as popular as Tennis in Greece, as it is happens worldwide. Beach Tennis is quite a new sport. I personally have already organized some Beach Tennis Marathon Tournaments in Athens the past years. There will also be a “Getting to know Beach tennis” session during the 2014 Tennis Marathon International Event.

Q:To put an end to this interview, a few words to convince people to take part to the Tennis Marathon International event?

The moto of the 2014 International Tennis Marathon Event is “Tennis Meets History”. Greece is not a traditional tennis country, of course, although the tennis sport was first hosted in the Olympics Games, in 1896, in Athens city. In 2014 the Tennis Marathon will be held for the first time at the home of Marathon Race, at Marathon City. From my experience as an athlete and also as a volunteer, the most important reason to take part in such an unprecedented event is to become a part of it!

The registrations deadline will be extend to the 26th of May, but there will be no refund in case of registrations after the 30th of April. Find out more info on tennis-marathon.com

Andre Agassi, 2006 US Open

By Stuart Miller, author of The 100 Greatest in New York Sports

For the second straight year, Roger Federer dominated the U.S. Open but for the second straight year it was Andre Agassi who captured all the headlines. The shaggy-haired stylist turned bald elder statesman announced his retirement before the tournament but worse he seemed utterly spent—after his rousing 2005 jaunt to the finals, he’d been so hampered by painful back injuries throughout 2006 that many doubted he’d even survive the first round.

But after a tough four-set victory over Andre Pavel, Agassi endured another round of cortisone injections just to be able to take the court against the eighth seed, unheralded Marcos Baghdatis. The shots worked and Agassi looked like the great shot-maker of old in grinding out a 6-4, 6-4 lead over the first two sets. But Baghadatis pulled out a 6-3 third set and never stopped playing boldly even after he fell behind 4-0 in the fourth; with the crowd urging Agassi to victory, Baghdatis used dropshots and lobs and every other shot in his arsenal to pound his way back to a 7-5 fourth set win.

Entering the fifth set, it seemed impossible that Agassi could recover, but he did more than that—he outlasted his younger foe in this 3 hour, 40 minute marathon as Baghdatis hobbled through much of the ending with excruciating leg cramps. Still, he held twice served needing just one point to force a fifth set tiebreaker before finally falling 7-5.

The match did take its toll on Agassi and he was unable to rebound in time for his next match, falling to 112th-ranked Benjamin Becker in four sets. But as the eight-minute long standing ovation that the fans showered on Agassi made abundantly clear, he went out a winner.