Joachim Gérard

The Open du Nord, in Lille, had the great idea to organize a wheelchair tennis exhibition before the singles final between Karen Khachanov and Rudy Coco: a mini-set (tie break at 4 games all) between the Belgian Joachim Gerard, world number 5 and the French player Nicolas Peifer world number 6.

Some spectacular points in a relaxed atmosphere. Enjoy some photos and videos.

L’Open du Nord à Lille a eu la très bonne idée d’organiser une exhibition de tennis en fauteuil en lever de rideau de la finale entre Karen Khachanov et Rudy Coco. Au programme: un mini-set (tie break à 4 jeux partout) entre le Belge Joachim Gérard, numéro 5 mondial et le Français Nicolas Peifer numéro 6 mondial.

Quelques points spectaculaires dans une ambiance décontractée. Ci-dessous quelques photos et vidéos.

Joachim Gérard and Nicolas Peifer

Joachim Gérard
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Open du Nord doubles trophy ceremony

Last match on Saturday: the final between number 1 seeds Yannick Mertens and Boy Westerhof and number 2 seeds Jonathan Eysseric and Constant Lestienne.
Lots of people left after the second semifinal. The match is not really exciting (by the way I really don’t like the no-ad rule) and the umpire was really bad, I couldn’t understand a word of what he was saying. Mertens and Westerhof win 6-4 6-4.

Dernier match programmé samedi: la finale du double opposant les têtes de série numéro un Yannick Mertens et Boy Westerhof aux têtes de série numéro deux les Français Jonathan Eysseric et Constant Lestienne.
Une bonne partie du public est partie après la deuxième demi-finale de simple. Le match n’est pas vraiment passionnant, et l’arbitrage est particulièrement mauvais, impossible de comprendre un traître mot de ce que dit le juge de chaise. Mertens et Westerhof l’emportent 6-4 6-4.

Constant Lestienne:
Constant Lestienne

Jonathan Eysseric, former junior world number one/Jonathan Eysseric, ancien numéro un mondial junior:
Jonathan Eysseric
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Karen Khachanov

Pro tennis was back in Lille last week, three months after the historic Davis Cup final. The Open du Nord, a $15,000 Futures tournament, is of course much less prestigious than the Davis Cup, but it is always fun to get to watch some live tennis. Lower tournaments are also a good opportunity to discover young players in the making like Karen Khachanov and Quentin Halys, or some charismatic veteran players like Rudy Coco.

This tournament was full of surprises: the number 1 seed, Boy Westerhof (No. 1) was upset in the first round by qualifier Corentin Denolly; in the quarterfinals the defending champion Yannick Mertens (No. 263) and Jonathan Eysseric (No. 278) were beaten by Constant Lestienne (No. 459) and Quentin Halys (No. 619).

Khachanov, Lestienne, or Halys Coco, who will join Ronald Agenor, Greg Rusedski and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as winner of the Open du Nord?

Le tennis pro était de retour à Lille la semaine dernière, trois mois après la finale de Coupe Davis. Bien sûr, l’Open du Nord, un tournoi Futures 15 000$, est bien moins prestigieux que la Coupe Davis, mais c’est toujours agréable de regarder du tennis live, quelque soit le niveau, non? De plus les tournois Challengers et Futures permettent de découvrir de jeunes espoirs, comme Karen Khachanov et Quentin Halys, ou des vétérans charismatiques comme Rudy Coco.

Les surprises se sont enchaînées durant le tournoi: Boy Westerhof, tête de série numéro 1 et 252ème mondial a été battu par le qualifié Corentin Denolly, 17 ans et 1036ème mondial dès le 1er tour; en quarts de finale, le tenant du titre, Yannick Mertens (No. 263) et Jonathan Eysseric (No. 278) ont été battus respectivement par Constant Lestienne (No. 459) et Quentin Halys (No. 619).

Khachanov, Lestienne, Halys ou Coco, qui va rejoindre Ronald Agenor, Greg Rusedski et Jo-Wilfried Tsonga au palmarès de l’Open du Nord?

Karen Khachanov (No. 363) vs Constant Lestienne (No. 459)

The 18 yr old Russian takes the control of the match from the first point on, and wins easily 6-4 6-0. Khachanov, whose biggest weapons are his powerful forehand and serve, has already 3 victories over top 100 players (Hanescu, Ramos and Tipsarevic). I guess we’ll hear more from him in the years to come.

Le jeune Russe prend le contrôle du match dès le premier point, et l’emporte facilement 6-4 6-0. Khachanov, dont les points forts sont le coup droit et le service, a déjà 3 top 100 à son tableau de chasse (Hanescu, Ramos et Tipsarevic). Un joueur à suivre, qui pourrait faire parler de lui sur le circuit ATP dans les années à venir.

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Jennifer Capriati, Australian Open 2002

By Suzi Petkovski, Tennis Week, February 2002:

Rarely does the sequel beat the original. Jennifer Capriati was mindful of that as she returned to the Australian Open, site of her fairy-tale first Slam win 12 months before.

“It’s pretty tough to top last year,” Capriati conceded. “I mean, that’s the best I’ve ever played.”

But Capriati had cause to reconsider after her courageous 4-6 7-6(7) 6-2 comeback victory over Martina Hingis in a dramatic 2002 Australian Open final played in brutal heat.

“I don’t know which one was better, winning last year or this year,” beamed the 25-year-old after an arduously successful first Grand Slam defense. “I don’t know what there is to come. But definitely, this is the most unique victory.” Jen, we’re, like, really stoked for you and stuff.

Capriati recovered from a 6-4 4-0 deficit and stood a point from 5-1. She stared down four match points in two separate games, as well as the tiebreak, in the second set. For the first half of the match, the American’s play had been inhibited; a contrast to the blazing winners of last year. But on those critical match points, Capriati was a lion. Not for 40 years has a woman overcome match points in a Grand Slam final; no one has ever survived four.

All this was achieved in horrific heat that turned the Australian Open final into the Australian Open furnace. Temperatures in the stands hit 90°F, but on court the mercury was a brain-frying 107°F.

“It was just really hard to breathe; the air was just so thick and so hot,”

said Capriati of the toughest on-court conditions she’d ever endured. A big call coming from a Floridian.

For all the 130 minutes of the final, the capacity 15,000 crowd wasn’t watching a sporting contest so much as wincing at a form of cruel and unusual punishment. In between long, searching points both players sought relief by taking the seats of line judges, slumping exhausted over the courtside slock, leaving the court several times, and in the case of Hingis, donning an ice vest. During the 10-minute break at the end of the 66-minute second set, both women were packed in ice in the locker room – “quite a sight,” Martina related.

As a Hingis backhand floated wide to give Capriati the tumultuous second set, the Swiss Miss hurled her racquet from baseline to coutside seat. She sensed she’d thrown away her last chance for victory. And so it proved. Hingis dreaded the thought of going back into the inferno. “I didn’t really believe in it anymore.” When they returned, the 21-year old was running on fumes. She’d been on court for a three-set doubles final victory the previous day, also in scorching heat, and fooled no one when she made the first break of the decider to go ahead 2-1.

“My head was all over the place,” recalled Martina. “I knew I probably wouldn’t last if I really needed to.”

Hingis’ physical collapse was as painful as it was inevitable. On her penultimate service game, the spring gone from her step, she foot-faulted to hand the break to Capriati. Finally, on the Hingis serve, Capriati clinched consecutive Aussie crowns with a forehand return winner on her first match point. Having won just four of the first 14 games, Capriati hammered out 13 of the next 17.

Physical strength and staying power, so impressive a feature of Capriati’s triumph in 2001, again proved decisive. This year, a new face joined Capriati’s travelling troupe: trainer Chantal Menard, a Milan-based, former world kickboxing champion. But even more impessive was Capriati’s mental steel. “The whole time, even though I was coming from behind, I thought I could still win this,” Jennifer revealed. “I never really thought of myself as being defeated out there.”

Indeed, Capriati was indomitable in the face of many mental battles: the strain of defending a Slam for the first time, the jolting loss to Alexandra Stevenson in her first match at Sydney, and she strained hip flexors that she carried into the tournament. She came back from a break down in the third set against Greek newcomer Eleni Daniilidou and staved off a set point against Rita Grande in the fourth round. Agasint the erratic Amelie Mauresmo in the quarters, Capriati was ruthless, winning 6-2 6-2, and in a semifinal of fierce, primal hitting against Kim Clijsters, she broke free 6-1 in the third.

But the most perilous test came in the final against Hingis. “I had a lot to deal with out thee,” Capriati reflected.

“Just being the defending champion, trying to keep the No.1 status, dealing with the conditions, and I didn’t feel like I was playing my best tennis in the beginning. So it means a lot to me that, as long as you just stay in there and try your hardest and fight, it can win you matches and that’s exactly what I did today.”

Monica Seles and Anke Huber, Australian Open 1996

By Claude England, Maryland Match Point

At first I thought it must have been the strong capuccino I had enjoyed after ou last dinner in Melbourne that was keeping me so wide awake, but as the minutes continued to tick by, I came to realize it as the sheer excitement of the past five days at the Australian Open that was still tingling through my body.
So many talented players, great matches, and the magnificent state-of-the-art Australian Open facility. Where to begin?

Mark Philippoussis opened up the center court action with a straight victory over Nicolas Kiefer, who would have, at that time, thought he would go on to upset Pete Sampras in straight sets, only to be thrashed in the following round by fellow Australian Mark Woodforde.
Next it was defending champion Andre Agassi who basically limped onto center court after having the misfortune of hurting a tendon in his knee during a fall on his apartment steps. Andre, wearing a pathetic bandage, somehow won this match against Argentine qualifier Gaston Etlis, who at one point was serving for the match, and at another time was within two points of perhaps the upset of the decade. It was a sad sight from both ends of the court. Etlis played brilliant tennis, showing no mercy for Andre’s inability to move around the court, hitting precision drop shots that the defending champion, instead of racing towards, could only stand and watch. But when it came to winning those final points, Etlis became even more creative in finding ways not to win, and Andre hobbled to a 6-3 in the fifth victory.
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John Newcombe, Australian Open 1975

From John Newcombe’s autobiography Newk:

I was really in no mood to play in the 1975 Australian Open, which began in the last week of ’74 at Melbourne’s Kooyong. I wanted to relax and have fun with family and friends over Christmas, and for some time, I’d been arguing the point with the organisers of the Open. Many players were skipping the event because they refused to sacrifice Christmas. I argued that if only it could be put back a few weeks, till the end of January, there’s be a stellar list of competitors.

I told tournament director John Brown that I wouldn’t be playing. I was jaded, I wasn’t motivated, and not having played in a tournament for nearly two months I was rusty and about 4 kilos overweight. I told Brown that the only thing that could make me reconsider would be if Jimmy Connors was competing – and I was sure he’d be giving the Open a miss. Then, 11 days before the tournament, Brown rang me and said that Connors had decided to play, and asked whether this changed my decision. ‘Give me an iron-clad guarantee that Jimmy is definitely going to be there, and I’ll sign up right now,” I replied. Jimmy was coming, and it was on: the tennis championship of the world.

I struggled throughout the early rounds of the Open. In spite of my training regimen, I was uninspired and inconsistent. My fans despaired as 19-year-old German rookie Rolf Gehring took me to five sets in the second round. I was not playing well, but I was winning.
At the end of the first week, there was some rain, so the second half of the Open was concertinaed into three days, with the final of the singles to be played on New Year’s Day. I played Geoff Masters in the quarterfinals and he had me down two sets to one before I beat him 10-8 in the fifth. Then I played a doubles quarterfinal with Tony Roche, which we won, and the next day I had to face Tony in the singles semifinal. This was a gruelling program, so before I played Rochey, I went to see Stan Nicholes, our old Davis Cup trainer, and he massaged my legs for two hours, pushing all the lactic acid out of them, and when I squared off against Tony I felt good.

I needed to because this match was probably one of the hardest I ever played. As mentioned previously, Tony and I had a habit of going all out against each other, and this was no exception. Again, the match went to five sets. At one point in that deciding set, Tony had me 5-2 down. Then, somehow, I finished up beating him 11-9 in what became a marathon.
To this day, I have no recall of that fifth set. I was so physically and mentally exhausted I played on instinct alone. At the end, as the 12,000-strong crowd gave Rochey and me a standing ovation, Channel 7’s on-court commentator, Mike Williamson, came to interview me. I have no memory of that either, but he says I sat there on my chair with a towel over my head staring glassily ahead, reminding him of a boxer who’d just copped a 12-round hammering. Apparently I managed to quip:

‘I can certainly think of better ways to prepare for a final against Jimmy Connors. I feel as old as Ken Rosewall right now.’

But really, all I wanted to do was cry. That exhausting semi had taken me somewhere my brain and body had never been before.
Later, after I’d showered, I sat for a while with Tony and said:

‘Mate, I’ve got to play Connors tomorrow in the final. I can’t play in the doubles. Can we default?’

Like the true friend he is, Rochey didn’t hesitate to let me off the hook. Next, I returned to Stan and he pummeled my legs for another two hours. After that, I had the quietest New Year’s Eve of my life.

On 1 January 1975, I woke feeling fresh and not hurting too much, considering. I jogged 2 kilometres to loosen up, then went to the courts to play Jimmy Connors.
I wasn’t intimidated by him. Perhaps I should have been? The man who had been likened to boxer Joe Frazier – ‘he keeps coming at you’ – had waged a brilliant Open campaign, thrashing all comers on his way to the final. He was an unbackable favourite with the bookies, but not the crowd.
Throughout, his brashness had annoyed local fans, especially when he arrogantly dismissed the 37 Australian players in the tournament. ‘I don’t care how many they are,’ he boasted. ‘Bring them on one after another. I’ll beat them all.’

Connors and I played probably the greatest, certainly the most intensely fought, Australian Open final ever. It was a blazing hot day, the flies were terrible, the atmosphere electric and the crowd noisy and parochial, yet of my life so focused was I that I could have been playing on the moon. I knew I was in for the fight against a skilled and implacable opponent who’d destroyed everyone who’d crossed his path. Also, at 30 years of age and having just played that killer match against Tony, I wasn’t sure if my body could take it. I had to put myself into the zone and be in tune with everything that was happening inside me.

Against all the predictions, and to the delight of the fans, I won the first set 7-5, which led one character in the crowd to yell at Connors ‘What happened Mouth?’ Jimmy then broke me in the second set and easily held his service to win 6-3.

In the third I broke him, then he broke me, then I broke him again to win 6-4. That first break has gone down as a memorable moment in Australian tennis history. With Jimmy serving at 0-15 and me leading 3-2, three contested line calls in a row – the third one an ace – gave him a 40-15 lead. I was angry, and the crowd was angry, booing and catcalling at the injustice they reckoned I’d copped. Then Jim did an odd thing: he deliberately double-faulted in an attempt to pacify the crowd. It worked. The fans, so against Connors right through the tournament, suddenly cheered him for his good sportmanship. But he’d let me back into the game and I took ruthless advantage of what I considered was his patronising and overconfident benevolence. I couldn’t believe what he’d done. I’m all for playing fair, but not to the point of martyrdom. Every player gets bad calls and you have to live with them.

In the fourth set, I was on top 5-3 after a few aces (I served 17 in that final) and was serving for the match. At this stage I had some energy left but I was starting to feel totally buggered. Normally I’d train two to three months for a Grand Slam event and, having put in the hard work, my condition would always see me through. But this time, with just 10 days training under my belt, I was way underdone. From the first point of the final, I conserved every ounce of energy. I didn’t smile a lot, didn’t show much emotion. Between points I walked slowly and calmly and breathed deeply. I knew Jimmy would take me to the wire and I prayed I had enough left to accomodate him.

Connors didn’t disappoint me. At 3-5 down in that fourth set, when many other guys would have packed it in, Jimmyplayed like a tiger to try to save the match. He pulled off an unbelievable game to break me, clouting some tremendous winners. Racing around the court like a dervish, he got me to a tie-break. First I went ahead, then he went ahead and served for the set at 6-5 in the tie-break. I battled to tie the score 6-6, then Connors went ahead 7-6. Finally, I finished off his brave flurry: he lost three points in a row and I ended his agony with a serve to win the set 7-6. […]

After the match I was euphoric, and embraced Angie and the kids. It was an emotionally charged presentation at courtside, and not only because of the classic match Jimmy and I had played, or Evonne Goolagong‘s win over Martina Navratilova so soon after the death of Evonne’s dad, Ken, in a car accident. Just a week before the fianl, Cyclone Tracy had levelled Darwin, and the nation was bruised and hurting? I auctioned my racquet for $1400 to benefit Darwin’s homeless and then, even though I was wrecked, I played a fundraiser exhibition match at the Hodern Pavilion to raise more money.