Thursday, 26 June 2014


Radek Stepanek is possibly one of the most gifted tennis players to have ever played the game. Even at age 35 he can still push the World's best as he showed in his second round match at Wimbledon against Djokovic. I believe he can still do it because he is a thinker, his shot making is some of the finest you will ever see , still fit and hungry, he may do a 'Connors' and still be playing at 39. 
The entertainer from the Czech Republic has earned just under ten million dollars in prize money, has won the Australian and US Open Doubles titles and has been part of the winning Davis Cup team for his country. In fact he played more than his part in both the Davis Cup victories in 2012 and 2013 as he won the doubles on both occasions with Thomas Berdych as well as winning the fifth and deciding singles match. Will Radek sleep a satisfied man at the end of his career do you think ?
He has never really been considered a singles player but he has produced some amazing statistics in his career in the one on one format, these two matches are proof; In 2007 he played Djokovic in the second round of the US Open , he lost by the score of 6-7, 7-6, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 in nearly five hours. In 2009 he won the opening Davis Cup match against Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in 5 hours and 59 minutes by the crazy score line of 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 16-14. He was aced 78 times in that match but actually hit 170 winners himself including his aces . His ability to win a match like that is testimony to his stamina and mental strength.
The thing I like most about Stepanek is his ability to read a point, like a novel he has already read. He will quite often come to the net on balls that others don't see an advantage on yet he will pick the moments to finish the point as he is not a base liner. That's what makes him dangerous.
A good net player will move in when he sees his opponent line up for a slice backhand that most players are content to accept from the back of the court, Stepanek doesn't look at it like that. He sees a sliced backhand as a chance to move forward as the ball will lack the pace of topspin, a common move for someone who doesn't want to play long rallies. 
The Czech drives opponents crazy with short angled volleys and drop shots that give no rhythm and will ask the question of his opponent " can you hit enough winners to beat me "? Radek plays a risky game as that sort of style is not what is common place in today's game but it is so entertaining for that reason alone, it's quite simply 'different'. His personal life is also 'risky'.
Apparently his marriage to former top ten player Nicole Vaidisova ended because of his new romance with Petra Kvitova, maybe just a rumor but a well publicized one. He was also once engaged to Swiss great Martina Hingis. Radek is a popular man with the ladies.
Stepanek, despite being a doubles specialist has won 5 singles titles plus 17 doubles titles and resides in the tax haven of Monte Carlo. His on court celebrations aren't everyone's idea of tennis etiquette but he draws a crowd with his style, a classic 80's net game that can still match it with today's power from the back. That's a talent in itself.......
Radek Stepanek, a talented player with an '80's' game who can still match it today against the best, and a popular man with the ladies.....

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Ever watched a game of tennis and thought to yourself "geez these guys are good" ? I have done since I was a kid but now days when I watch tennis I look at it a lot differently, quite simply I analyse it. I don't enjoy the game as much i used to because I find it very 'ho hum', it's all pretty much the same, but there are always some good matches in a Slam.
Grass court tennis is rather tactical as opposed to say the French Open which does of course require tactics but it needs a mind to stay out there for as long as the legs will hold up, a slower match. Grass court tennis is quick and the points are over a lot sooner, volleys don't have to be perfect as they do on clay or hard courts, short volleys are sometimes more effective. Trying to hit a winner off a dying short volley can be hard work.
Dustin Brown played this tactic to perfection against Lleyton Hewitt at last year's Wimbledon, the Australian couldn't find an answer to it.
Have you noticed how much a player will actually attack the strength of an opponent ? Watch two big forehands from two right handers and how often they in fact go back to each other rather than try to change the direction. Why is this ? It's not an ego thing. It's because they are playing safe tennis . Changing the direction on a ball is risky from the back of the court so cross court tennis is always the safest option. Tennis professionals will try to get a short reply from the forehand so as to attack the backhand side. How many times do you see a pro come to the net on an approach to their opponent's forehand side ? Not too many smart players would even consider it.
Some call it the 'one , two punch ' where you attack the strength with the equivalent of a boxer's jab then follow it up with a 'hay maker' into the backhand side. I don't believe the tactical side has ever been taught as much as the technical side, it's lacking in the game, it's lack of thought.
How often does a sliced backhand get returned with another slice ? Why is this ? Again it's the safest option as a low slice to the backhand is easier to slice back rather than trying to get down underneath it to hit a topspin shot. A sliced ball is also tough to change direction on so a backhand slice cross court will almost always be returned with another backhand slice, cross court. These guys play the percentages. So what happens when a right hander plays a lefty ? Look at Fed vs Rafa . Roger always struggles to deal with the high spin to his backhand from Nadal's forehand , it's where most points are won by the Spaniard. Rafa hits cross court almost all the time against Roger from his forehand and unless Roger is hitting his backhand at 100 per cent he will lose . 
Same theory, cross court tennis, it's playing the percentages, tennis down the line is risky as you have to change the dynamics of the ball from a cross court ball.  When you first learned to play the game what were you taught ? Hit it out in front, early, that's cross court tennis. Here's a fact you may not know.
From the corner of the baseline to the opposite corner down the line is 4 foot shorter than if you hit the ball to the opposite corner cross court, 4 foot is a lot in tennis.
There's a lot to the game of tennis,being a great ball striker is not enough, you need to know how to play , there's a difference, some realize this , some don't. That's why being a pro tennis player is almost like being an A Grade Student, you need to know your angles...... 

Monday, 23 June 2014


Joakim Nystrom was a typical Swedish player of the 80's, a base liner who looked at times so casual that he appeared to be just having a hit up with a mate. His back hand was his strength, a shot that was hit with two hands but with a one handed release, not unlike Borg's. He didn't miss too many balls from the back of the court as Yannick Noah found out in Monte Carlo in '86.
Apparently the night before the final Yannick's wife gave birth so the Frenchman was lacking some sleep but the highlights of this match show Noah hitting and moving freely despite his late night. Noah's game was to attack as he did in the 1983 French Open final against Wilander yet in Monte Carlo Nystrom simply kept him back, the tactic worked beautifully. The score was 6-3, 6-2 and it shows how depth of shot can win a match , especially against a net rusher. 
1986 was Nystrom's standout year as he peaked at World number 7 in singles and 4 in doubles due in large to a Wimbledon Doubles win with good friend Wilander. In fact he won 5 titles that year in singles plus 4 doubles titles which included Wimbledon. He even beat 'the almighty'. In the final of Madrid he and Anders Jarryd beat 'Jesus' and his partner, that's a fact. How many tennis players out there by that name you reckon??
Nystrom won titles on three surfaces, grass, hard court and clay due mainly to his returning qualities, he rarely missed a return and he didn't just get it back, he returned with 'interest'. In the quarter finals of the French Open in 1985 he lost 5-7 in the fifth set to John McEnroe and at Wimbledon the same year he had another heart breaking loss. Nystrom played eventual unseeded Champion Boris Becker in the third round and went down 7-9 in the fifth , perhaps just a hand full of points that year that may have landed him a major.
The Swede qualified for the year ending Masters Tournament for three consecutive years , '84, '85 and '86 and his last singles title rather fittingly came at Bastaad in his home town of Sweden. 
He also played in Sweden's winning Davis Cup team in both '85 and '87 as he partnered Wilander in both finals in the doubles The two were brilliant together and won both matches comfortably.
Nystrom made the final of 18 singles Championships for 13 titles and he played in 20 doubles finals for a total of 8 titles. He finished his career with a doubles title in Bordeaux, France in 1988 and his career earnings were just over two million dollars. 
Joakim Nystrom was not as well known as perhaps Borg, Wilander and Edberg yet he will surely go down as one of the best players of the 80's, his record speaks for itself. If you look at who Sweden produced  in that decade you will realize just how good the nation was at producing players . Starting with Borg and then continuing with Wilander, Edberg, Nystrom, Jarryd, Carlsson and Pernfors the nation of Sweden was one of the best . Perhaps only Spain recently has surpassed Sweden in the number of top 100 Men's Professional's playing for their country.
The 80's were a great era for tennis, Sweden was possibly the bench mark , Joakim Nystrom was one of the best, no risk.......
 The tall Swede Joakim Nystrom and good friend Mats Wilander who won the 1986 Wimbledon Men's Doubles Title. 

Saturday, 21 June 2014


Kent Carlsson was another Swede from the 80's who made a name for himself on the clay court tournament circuit. Carlsson hit the ball with such extreme spin that a match today with Nadal would have been entertaining to say the least. The Swede's playing style was once likened to 'hitting a topspin lob on most ground strokes', his ball was high and uncomfortable for his opponents. He was fit too. He once famously said that he 'would not lose from lack of conditioning, I would only lose because my opponent was better on the day'.
Carlsson won the junior boys French Open singles in 1984, carrying on a proud Swedish tradition as Wilander did in '81. This was the same year Borg won the Men's Championship, his final major.
 In Bologna , Italy, in 1987  the Swede made tennis history dropping just 10 games for the entire tournament and 5 of those were in the first round. Carlsson won his second round match 0 and 1 before taking on Franco Davin of Argentina who had beaten the number 8 seed Casal in three sets.
The Swede humiliated Davin 6-0, 6-0 which defies belief as Davin was an experienced dirt baller who eventually made it inside the World top 30. Carlsson won his next match 1 and 0 before taking on World number 17 Emilio Sanchez of Spain, another experienced clay courter who made a handy living from the slower surface.
The final was another humiliation in the Swede's favour, 6-2, 6-1, such was his dominance in this particular tournament.
In 1988  he beat future World number 1 Thomas Muster of Austria in the final in Barcelona, a tournament he won twice. He also won in Hamburg in that same year against Henri Leconte in the final by another one sided score line 6-1, 6-2, 6-4. Putting that demolition  into perspective, Leconte lost in the final of the French Open one month later to Wilander.
Carlsson's best performance in Paris was two fourth round appearances in consecutive years of '87 and '88, a tournament that with his style could have perhaps expected better results. He also played Davis Cup for Sweden in 1987 winning both his singles matches in the quarter final against France. He retired in 1990 prematurely due to a knee injury that cost him a longer career and perhaps many more titles on his favourite surface. His highest ranking was World number 6 in 1988 and he finished his career with $998,000 plus some loose change. His endorsements no doubt would have taken him well over the million dollar mark.
Kent Carlsson, yet another Champion Swede from the 80's, if you get a chance, look him up, his style is quite remarkable.......


The Marburg Tennis Club would have to be one of the most picturesque places I have ever had the good fortune to hit a tennis ball at. It made playing the game such a pleasure that you sometimes forgot the game and took in the surrounds instead.
The walk to the club over the few days I was there was a walk through cobblestone streets that if you did the sums on it all you would realize the magnitude of the work required to achieve it. The town of Marburg is nothing short of magnificent, playing tennis there was yet another highlight of my tour of 1991.
I mentioned in my last chapter sitting down in the lounge at the youth hostel in Marburg and watching the Hamburg Masters. From memory I believe that back then it was in fact called The German Open, either way it always attracted a quality field. Give or take a day I remember that May 7 of 1991 produced possibly the most outrageous tennis match there has ever been played at a professional level.
Frenchman Yannick Noah was all but finished with his career but was granted a wildcard into the main draw where he won his first match against Australian Richard Fromberg. In round two he faced Swede Magnus Larsson who at the time was ranked 46, Noah was ranked 113 . This match would leave no doubt whatsoever as to who in fact was the most entertaining player in World Tennis.
Rather than me explain just what Yannick Noah did in this match, look it up, the You Tube highlights are more than worth a look 'Noah Larsson Hamburg 1991'.
Now I am all for entertainment in a game of tennis but this match possibly goes beyond the guidelines of 'tennis etiquette' particularly as it was played for both rankings and prize money. But what did Noah care? I believe that this was his second last tournament before he retired so running after a ball and jumping into the stands to receive a glass of wine from a spectator was all part of Noah's final script .
His John McEnroe impersonation is also one of the funniest things you will see, perhaps even better than the great man himself. Umpiring a match like this would no doubt have been somewhat difficult as some shots played were not actually with the racket. So why wasn't Noah told to behave? Because the crowd reaction to everything he did was so euphoric that the umpire may have risked being dragged out of the stadium , bound and gagged.
The match eventually was won by Noah in three sets but my hat went off to Larsson who played along with it , he didn't have much choice. Noah went on to make the quarter finals where he lost to Larsson's mate Magnus Gustafsson, a fellow Swede who lost in 5 sets in the final to Novacek of the Czech Republic.
Yannick Noah was perhaps the last great entertainer in the game of tennis as far as court antics were concerned. Others could do more with the ball but I don't know of any who could entertain as the Frenchman did. I remember him playing Lendl once and he started mimicking the umpire to the crowd, he had a way with actions. I also recall him as the French Davis Cup Captain who had a rather unique way of 'motivating' his team.
His courtside stereo and dancing could be seen regularly while his players trained , there must have been something in it as he  took his team to victory in 1991 and again in 1996. Noah was one of the great characters of World Tennis who not only won The French Open Men's singles title but who took the French to Davis Cup glory in the same year he retired professionally, France's first victory in 59 years.
Noah also took up singing and in one year sold over one million copies of an album while his son is a champion basket baller in the NBA . Yannick Noah is a man who the Tennis World was fortunate to have as both an ambassador and entertainer......


The first stop for me in 1991 was in fact Marburg , Germany, a beautiful university town of around 70,000 residents. I had heard about the German Tennis League that was in need of players for their annual competition that lasted around 2-3 months. From all reports the German Tennis Clubs paid for the accommodation and expenses for all international players, such was their hospitality, plus their desire to be the best team in their province.
I had been given a name of a local player who apparently put the teams together but unfortunately for me he was away with his family.  I met some local players at The Marburg Tennis Club who I hit with for three days on the clay  as well as taking in the sights. The idea of playing Team Tennis had merit but the one guy I needed to speak with was not available. I had ideas of returning to Marburg toward the end of my trip to see him, unfortunately I did not get back there.
The three or four days I spent in Marburg however were an education , as always, anything you do in a foreign country is a learning curve in life. The youth hostel that was recommended to me was simply magnificent, it backed onto the River Lahn that the town was built next to, a river so cold in May that beers were chilled in it.
When I booked into the hostel I was immediately taken by it's location, the river, the trees, the view , it was quite simply a postcard, so what about my accommodation? I was given a room key that had three double bunks , I had a choice, anyone I liked, this was 'my room'.......
For about one hour, then the fun started. I may have fallen asleep at some stage but I was woken by a rather large noise, the banter of foreign voices, five German back packers to be precise.
I do not even remember how we introduced ourselves but these guys were good fun, drinkers, party animals, young blokes looking for adventure. Their's however was a little different than mine. I was trying to keep myself focused on tennis , there's was to drink as much German beer as humanly possible, something had to give. I believe deep down that I knew I was way too old to be trying to make a living from tennis, that's stating the obvious, yet part of me was hanging on to a slim chance. The rest of me was ready to party with five crazy Germans, I went with the odds.
I never forget the walk into town , cobble stone paths , a chill in the air and me trying to communicate with foreigners who talked funny.
 I do remember one guy, he was my 'translator' , he was the one who knew 'Aussie' well , I talked to him more than the others but I enjoyed their company. By the end of the night I recall walking home with these blokes and doing the usual stuff, kicking stray coke cans, talking gibberish, I felt part of the crew. I didn't drink as much as them , they were plastered, I did however enjoy the entertainment they provided .
Sleeping in a room with five mad Germans who were drunk was one of life's rare opportunities to experience 'culture' at it's 'finest'. The next day at around 4pm they were at it again , down at the river this time. With no fridge in the room how do five beer thirsty Germans get their beverages cold ? Put their cans in the river, yep that's how you do it, the river must have been 3 degrees. Twenty minutes chilling and they were into it again.
They had another 'screamer' that night, I had a night in watching the tennis, the Hamburg Masters was on and it produced possibly the most outrageous tennis match that I have ever witnessed.
The match was between two guys who were world's apart in mindset as far as the game was concerned , but it may just go down in history as the funniest game of tennis ever played. See you in chapter 2........
My next stop , Paris, by train     A Marburg Pub.     

Friday, 20 June 2014


It is no secret that my inspiration to play the game stemmed from my affection towards one country in particular, Sweden. This small Scandinavian Country produced a string of champion players , Borg, Wilander, Edberg, plus some lesser known players.
When Borg retired he actually did what not too many players have ever done, left the game as a defending Grand Slam Champion, as he did in 1981. Mats Wilander kept the French Open Men's Single's Title in Swedish hands with an amazing run as a 17 year old in '82 that gave Sweden the title for five years running. Wilander won it on two more occasions following in Borg's footsteps who won it  six times giving Sweden a total of nine French Open Singles titles between 1974 and 1988.
The Swedes could have had an even more dominant hold on the title in Paris but had to be content with three runner up performances. Wilander lost in the final in '83 and '87 and Stefan Edberg could've completed a career Grand Slam had he converted break points in '89.  Edberg lead two sets to one against 17 year old Michael Chang and at 4 games all in the fourth had break point opportunities. He lost the fourth 4-6 but broke Chang in the opening game of the fifth yet he only won one more game.
In Men's Doubles the Swede's were also prominent in the 80's and 90's which all started in 1983 with a young pair by the name of Anders Jarryd and Hans Simonsson. These two surprised the tennis world as an unseeded pair and even won the final in straight sets against the Australian / American pairing of Edmondson and Stewart.
Jarryd went on to win the Men's Doubles title in Paris on two more occasions, in '87 with American Rob Seguso and in '91 with Australian John Fitzgerald. From memory  I believe that Jarryd and Fitgerald were in fact the first Men's Doubles team to win a million dollars in prize money in one year.
The Swedes love affair with Paris from the first title won by Borg in 1974 to the victory by Jarryd in '91 with 'Fitzy' netted them nine singles titles, three doubles crowns, three singles runner ups plus  three doubles finals appearances. Putting it into perspective, this means that Sweden produced a Men's Singles finalist fifty percent of the time over a period of 18 years, that is quite remarkable. In Men's Doubles over the same time span the Swedes averaged at least one player in the final every three years.
So why the success at The French Open for the Swedes? Bjorn Borg inspired a new generation of players from Scandinavia and he taught them a way of playing that was simple yet effective. Not one of the above mentioned players had a real weapon, except maybe for Edberg who's serve and volley was exceptional. So what made their games so effective? They didn't miss .
They developed their ground strokes on the same surface as the French Open which was like playing in their own back yards . Their shots weren't overwhelming but they hit so few errors that playing against them was like hitting against a wall. This way of playing was proven to be a winning style as Borg's game was a model of consistency, a proven way of winning. Borg would not hit a winner unless he was pressured by a net rusher, he was simply content to out rally his opponents , that takes a strong mind and body.
The Swedes in Paris were inspiring in a golden era for their country and they were as much a part of the tournament back then as Paris in the Spring is part of folklore.....

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


Stefan Koubek is no house hold name, he never was, he was a tennis professional from Austria and in 2000 he reached a career high of World number 20 in singles. He made over 3 million dollars in prize money. Stefan Koubek was an 'enigma'. Here's some random stories regarding the life and 'infamous' times of the Austrian who a movie should be made about, here's why;
In 2002 Koubek played a Frenchman by the name of Cyril Saulnier of France in the first round of the Australian Open. What the hell was Koubec doing while trailing 0-6, 1-6, 1-4, 15-40 ? Was he on the phone to his bookie to raise the odds at the change of ends ?? The Austrian put his opponent to sleep for nearly the entire first three sets then while the Frenchman was tucked up in bed with his victory speech already in his dreams, the scoreline in the paper the next day read Koubek def Saulnier 0-6, 1-6, 7-6, 6-4, 8-6, work that one out......
Next round he played American James Blake , (within 4 years Blake would become World number 4) Blake won the first two sets while Koubek was still eating his breakfast, 6-4, 6-2. Koubek wins the next three sets 6-4, 6-1, 6-2, does this make any sense?
In his last seven matches of 2002 Koubek lost in the first round, interesting to say the least.....
In 2004 Koubek tested positive to drug use at the French Open. He claimed it was for an 'injury' to his wrist, it was inconclusive......
Koubek had a couple of 'off years' , he played mainly Challenger Events before 'getting it together' in 2007.
The Australian Open of that year saw the Austrian up against Aussie Wayne Arthurs, playing his last Australian Open , Koubek had him on toast, two sets to love, he lost in 5, hmmmm....
In Sopot , Poland in 2007 Koubek played Augustine Calleri of Argentina, this match was ridiculous. In Koubek's previous tournament he lost 4-6, 0-6 so his very next match was the one against Calleri. Shall we put it into perspective? 
Koubek lost his last tournament 0-6 in the second set , then trailed 0-6, 0-4 in his next outing, what was this guy doing??
At 6-0, 4-0 did the Argentinian get a call from Cyril Saulnier ?? What ever happened will go down in tennis history as possibly the most ridiculous match ever played.
Koubek def Calliri 0-6, 7-6, 7-5, saving 5 match points, is there a pattern here ??
In Metz , France , Koubek took on Sebastien Grosjean, he lead 5-7, 7-6, 4-2, in the driver's seat, received a bad call , went nuts, was disqualified, is there a pattern here ??
In 2010 a 'friendly' league match between two Austrians, Koubek and Daniel Kollerer got way out of hand as Koubek took offence to his opponent's language so he did what anyone else would do, he choked him. Yep he put his hand around his opponent's neck and tried to kill him , plenty of us have wanted to do the same to our opposition, however it's probably not in the book of 'tennis etiquette'. Kollerer however was no angel, he had a string of offences in World Tennis including racism taunts towards opponents, he was banned for life in 2011 for match fixing. 
So what about our Austrian live wire Stefan Koubek? He retired in 2011 with just over three million earned. Take off tax and expenses, add on endorsements, he probably finished with around two mil in the bank. Enough to buy a villa in the Austrian alps and teach the next generation how to play, perhaps with not as much 'exuberance' as he did though.
Funny game tennis, Stefan Koubek of Austria is living proof, legend......

Monday, 16 June 2014


Remember the 'Get Smart' series ? Outstanding humor, Maxwell was famous for many quotes but one in particular 'missed it by that much' is rather apt for this chapter.
The 1985 US Open Men's Doubles Final saw American pair Ken Flach and Robert Seguso up against French stars Yannick Noah and Henri Leconte, best of 5 sets, as it was back then. This match was between two teams who had rather different results in major tournaments , Noah and Leconte were the 1984 French Open Doubles winners, Flach and Seguso did not own a major. This title match would cement the French as one the best teams in the world for a second year in a row or give the American's their first major.
Flach had a hairstyle not unlike the lead singer of Def Leppard, my favorite rock band of the 80's, this hairstyle would become 'infamous' by the end of the match. I remember watching Flach play in Queensland in a Challenger Tournament , he had an unusual style, very abbreviated ground strokes which he followed to the net, effective. Seguso had a huge serve, these guys were a very talented team.
Noah and Leconte had a lot of flair about the way they played , proven singles players but an accomplished doubles pairing also that sent their home crowd delirious a year earlier with a win in Paris. Huge serves , flashy ground strokes and both could volley well, the sort of team you would pick to play for you on a Nintendo computer game.
The issue with 4 big servers is the lack of rallying, a big serve and solid volley will take many sets to a tie breaker and ask for a slice of luck, as was the case in this final. The Frenchmen took the first in a breaker 7 points to 5, the Americans took the second in a breaker 7 points to 1, an unusual blow out in a set decider, the third set went to another tie break. 
Now anyone who knows anything about tennis will realize that a two sets to one lead is crucial, momentum in tennis is everything, spirits can lift with a lead , fighting back can take it's toll both physically and mentally. This third set tie breaker will go down in history for all the wrong reasons.....
At 6-4 to the Frenchmen , with 2 set points up for grabs Leconte played with his usual flair and went for a forehand drive volley, no holding back, he struck it beautifully. He unfortunately clipped the top of the net but he had a 'lifeline' as it's path was straight at the shoulder of Flach who instinctively turned to get out of the way of the ball. 
Now according to the Frenchmen the ball either hit Flach on the shoulder or brushed his flowing locks, either way they claimed the point and the set plus a two sets to one lead. Why didn't the umpire see it? Noah and Leconte accused Flach of cheating, not owning up to the 'contact' , if there was any at all, the Americans denied any wrong doing. The French put all their toys back in the toy box and went home, mentally, they lost the fourth set 0-6 without even trying.
Flach and Seguso were booed at the trophy presentation , at their first Grand Slam title that happened to be on home soil, such was the public affection for Noah and Leconte , two very World wide popular professionals. Flach and Seguso went on to win Wimbledon twice and one more US Open title, the Frenchmen didn't win another.
 The Davis Cup final of 1991 was perhaps their belated revenge.
The final held in Lyon , France saw a retired Yannick Noah as the French Davis Cup Captain with Leconte pairing up with Guy Forget, another talented left handed Frenchman. The two beat Flach and Seguso in the crucial doubles match and they went on to claim the Cup three matches to one.
Only Flach knows to this day whether or not the ball actually touched him, shoulder or hair, he will take that secret with him when he goes, one of the game's all time greatest speculations...........
Ken Flach and his partner Rob Seguso and a hairstyle that was the centre of controversy in 1985.


The 'issue' with playing tennis in France is the scenery, it is in a word 'distracting'. After deciding that the best thing that i could do whilst on the '91 tennis tour was to actually 'live a little', the train stop at St Raphael made the decision rather meritorious. I remember sitting next to an elderly gentleman when the train arrived , that's when the 'pigeon English' commenced. "I go to take photo of boats and water, you stay at train stop"? 
"Wee, I stay here, you take photo, bus to St Maxime arrive soon".
'Pigeon English or 'Anglais' was as much a part of the French trip that Pizza and pasta was for dinner, it was all part of the fun, I even talked like that when I got home. "Thommo can you quit talking s..., you are back in land of Oz"......
Anyhow to the Riviera, St Raphael was the place I needed to catch a bus to get to St Maxime, the location I was due to play a tournament . It's funny how I 'jagged' so many rather unique situations while I was on this tour, it was as though I was being looked after by a 'higher being'. 
The bus trip with the elderly gent to my tournament destination was one of those learning experiences in life, he was a man who was doing the 'usual European thing', "seeing my family". I trusted this man with my Worldly possessions while I went snapping boats and coast line in St Raphael, if he had 'done a runner' I would have been up s... creek without a paddle. Chances of this old gent doing a runner was slim.
Just wished i had taken his number and address, though keeping in touch with people back in '91 was a little different from now days, I owed him a beer at least, never saw him again. He gave me directions to the tennis club and wished me all the best. 'Pierre' was a nice fellow, France is full of nice people.
My walk to the tennis club at St Maxime was actually along the beach as i took 'Pierre's advice and rather than dodge traffic, I took the scenic route, glad i did.
I walked about a kilometer , 'Pierre' told me "you will like tennis club Glenn, beautiful". 'Pierre' was a man who knew the area, the tennis club to me was the most beautiful club I had seen , but of course only until I visited Monte Carlo 4 days later. That's the thing about France and tennis clubs, the 'best one I have ever seen' is 8th on the list by the time you go home.
I spent  hours at The St Maxime Tennis Club until I found someone who spoke 'Anglais', the rest is history, my old chapters tell the rest of the story. St Raphael is a spot on the French Riviera that will long hold a place in my memory, a place I first took photo's of 'the best place i have ever seen', until of course I walked a kilometer, and then 4 days later in Monte Carlo. The scenery got better as the days went by.
'Pierre' i am sure would be either 95 years old or long gone by now , a man who gave me some directions as I searched for something that I seriously don't know to this day what I was even searching for. At age 21 with a good forehand but nothing more than high hopes I suppose i was simply looking for perspective , maybe some ideas , maybe a story or two to tell. Maybe that makes the most sense.
Playing tennis in Europe will give you an idea on what is required to be successful at it, the lessons you learn along the way regarding culture is worth way more than the occasional win . I was lucky to have done what I did back then , I would recommend it to anyone who has aspirations to play the game at the highest possible level. It puts the game fair in your face and says "welcome to the jungle, show us what you got".
If you are not successful at tennis while you are on the Riviera I know a little bar on the water front in St Maxime where a Corona can take away the disappointment of another early loss in a European Money Tournament. 
Despite it's frustrations, it can be a way of experiencing things way more interesting than the game itself and if ever you pack the rackets for Europe , take a train to St Raphael, say 'Bonjour' to Pierre' from me.....

Sunday, 15 June 2014


The French Open Tennis Tournament usually holds records that no other tennis tournament does, it's pretty obvious why, it's a tournament played on a slow surface, clay. If ever there is a doubt as to what a player should be training on to refine their ground strokes look no further than the European clay court specialists, their error count is minimal. These players are technically brilliant especially from the back of the court but some struggle on quicker surfaces, naturally. 
If you look at the way Rafa hits his forehand then you will see that this style can only really be taught on a slower surface , one that gives a player time to hit it to it's full potential. If a kid trains on a grass or synthetic court the style will be abbreviated, the ball will come through too quick, even on some hard courts. Clay is the answer to refining ground strokes, Rafa is the greatest exponent of this fact.
In the French Open this year in round three the Spaniard played Leonardo Mayer , ranked 65 in the World , a sensational tennis player from Argentina who has won over two million dollars in prize money. The score was 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 but the most impressive thing about this match was the amount of unforced errors that Nadal hit. He missed 2 in the first set, 3 in the second and 5 in the third, that's pretty impressive, so why doesn't he miss ?
Rafa hits the ball so high over the net that he invariably only hits long if he misses , many people don't realize this fact, they just see him hitting it hard, they don't see the height. The net clearance of Rafa is not unlike Borg's, if you don't pick it early it will be up around your ears , every tennis player's worst nightmare.
Rafa has won the French on 9 occasions because he rarely misses , Borg won it 6 times , he missed a hand full of shots each match also, there must be something in this way of playing.
Clay court tennis training will separate the great from the good, it's what needs to happen in each country if they are to keep up with a nation such as Spain who have I believe 14 players in the top 100 men , give or take one or two . It is a surface that will develop ground strokes and a thinking man's game like no other, the proof is in the rankings.
Maybe one day other countries will follow Spain's lead before they have a strangle hold on the game that will be difficult to catch up to. 
The art of not missing is what will take a player to victory, not the winners. If you don't hit a winner but don't miss, well you will be pretty hard to beat........

Thursday, 12 June 2014


I have mentioned The Monte Carlo Country Club fondly in many chapters as it was possibly Bjorn Borg's favourite tournament outside of the French Open and Wimbledon. The tournament belies belief as far as a spectacle is concerned , the view can sometimes be distracting, tennis takes a back seat to the ocean back drop.
Bjorn Borg officially retired in 1983 in February and decided to make Monte Carlo his last tournament appearance, his draw turned out to be a tough one. He drew the number 3 seed Argentinian Jose Luis Clerc first round but surprisingly destroyed Clerc in straight sets 6-1, 6-3. He earned the right to play a young Frenchman by the name of Henri Leconte, at the time a 19 year old but far from overawed.
There was a lot riding on the match as a Borg victory would have seen him take on his heir apparent , 1982 French Open Champion Mats Wilander , his fellow countryman. Wilander was only 17 at the time of his victory in Paris , only 18 in Monte Carlo, the match was sure to be a classic.
Leconte however had other ideas and after losing the opening set 4-6 he grew in confidence as the match wore on and prevailed in a nail biter 7-5, 7-6 in sets two and three. The tie breaker score from memory was 7-5.
Wilander was possibly relieved to not play his more famous Swedish mentor and he beat Leconte easily 7-5, 6-0 in the next round. Mats went on to win the title against American Mel Purcell 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, a title he would no doubt savor as it was not only his first victory in Monte Carlo but in the same year Borg hung up his racket for good.
That same year Wilander lost in the final of the French Open to Frenchman Yannick Noah who is the last Frenchman to win the title in Paris.
It was a sad year that Borg retired, just 26 years of age but with 5 Wimbledon titles and 6 French Open victories. If Borg had won the US Open his trophy collection would almost be complete but he lost in the final on 4 occasions. I will leave this chapter with some visions of Borg and Monte Carlo, the two for many years were like strawberries and ice cream at Wimbledon.......
The Great man Bjorn Borg , in this particular photo outside his Monte Carlo Sports Store, Legend....