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Winners Announced For Fan Essay 2

  • Posted: Jun 02, 2020

Winners Announced For Fan Essay 2

Fans 18 and under show off tennis writing skills

The ATP editorial team had another fun time reading the entries that were sent to us for the second installment of our Fan Essay Contest.

Writers aged 18 and under were challenged to write an essay of 500 words or less on the topic: ‘If you could work any job at an ATP Tour event, what would it be and why?’ The winning entries are featured below.

The Fan Essay Contest will run every three weeks and writers are encouraged to keep sending essays for each new question in the competition. The next topic will be announced later this week. Thanks to all of the talented writers who have entered!

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A Day Interviewing On Tour
By Aditya Sharma, 16, Gurgaon, India

When I was a small kid, I sat in front of the television and saw Roger Federer defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semi-finals of the 2010 Australian Open. After the match, Jim Courier came on court to interview Roger.

He had the audience out of their seats! I was laughing so hard for the next 15 minutes listening to the funny conversation between them. I realised that there was also a funny and casual side to tennis.

I thought that it would be so cool to be a post-match on-court interviewer. Tennis is not an easy sport. Standing next to such inspiring people who do it every day, with a microphone and having conversations with them, would be an honour to do on the ATP Tour.

I would ask them questions about their daily life and experiences. I’d get to know the human side of them and their struggles, achievements and thoughts. There are so many things that I have learned about the players through their on-court interviews. It gives an insight into their lives and all of their achievements that inspire us.

Another exciting experience of being a post-match interviewer is that you get to travel around the world to illustrious ATP Tour events. You’re in the action at the grandest ATP Masters 1000 stages like Madrid, Montreal, Monte-Carlo and Miami.

I imagine talking to a player like Roger, who has won 103 Tour-level titles including 20 Grand Slams, and Stan Wawrinka, who has three Grand Slam titles, a Masters 1000 trophy and has defeated a World No. 1 player in all of his major finals. Or to players like Andy Murray and John Millman, who have shown us that a career after threatening injuries is still possible.

I imagine myself at the Swiss Indoors Basel and going on court after Roger won his match, asking him questions and maybe having a laugh as well. Who knows who else I’d get to meet? Maybe Rafa in Barcelona? Thiem in Vienna?

Many legends of the sport like Courier and John McEnroe have turned to on-court interviewing after ending their illustrious careers. This shows their affection for the game that they love and cherish. Maybe I’d get the chance to meet them on the job as well, learn from them and maybe even get an autograph!

This job offers more than interviews. It offers an opportunity to learn, observe, meet various shareholders and become part of the ATP Tour.

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A Lens Into The Action
By Zara Vellani, 15, Sydney, Australia

There are highlights in every tournament. Highlights that are brought by the players when they hit a winner, ballkids when they almost dive to make an amazing catch, chair umpires when they put their foot down and Dominic Thiem’s hair this year at the Australian Open. (Get it? Streaks through his hair…highlights…never mind).

The point is that the fans see it all in matches. People talk about it and sometimes it even makes the news! However, it is crucial to understand that there is more than what meets the eye.

Behind every brilliant match, there is continual effort that extends before and after, as well as throughout the whole tournament. So much support and effort is provided by countless staff who no one knows about. I think that it is vital to recognise these people who dedicate so much time without being in the spotlight.

If I were an employee at an ATP Tour event, I would probably like to be one of those people.

More specifically, I would like to be a cameraman (or camerawoman in my case) or videographer at tournaments. Everyone knows that there are cameramen, but these unsung heroes are the reason that people can enjoy tournaments all over the world. I think that these employees are extremely special because they are working in an environment where they are so close to top players, but cannot interact with them. I think that it would require a lot of mental strength and resilience to be a cameraman.

Being so close yet so far, contributing so much to the game and getting little credit for such an exhausting job deserves credit in itself. Having these humble traits is something that I aspire to.

This isn’t to say that I don’t like getting credit where it is due, but I think it’s a good point about how there are hard workers everywhere who make things look very easy. I think that being a cameraman is a good balance of having an important job that you also enjoy. They have a vital role and must stay focussed. Being able to consistently work hard for extremely long periods of time is something that I highly value. Plus, they get an awesome view of the match!

It’s a job which requires a lot of mental strength and a good work ethic. Their critical role in the tournaments is one which requires a massive amount of effort and dedication. I’d be satisfied if I could have half the strength of these amazing people.

Banter In The Locker Room
By Joaquin Ramirez Kakarieka, 17, Santiago, Chile

If the dream and desire to be a professional tennis player has always stayed with me, the opportunity to work at the ATP Tour is also another dream. I’d love to be there, see players pass by and observe their lives from another perspective. I thought up nine job options and ended up choosing one.

We start with the ball kid. They must all have a great time together and also have the luck of being inside a tennis court, perhaps even being able to witness a final up close in Centre Court at Wimbledon or watching Roger Federer face Rafael Nadal. But they also have many rules. They have to be very focussed on their obligations and cannot simply be spectators watching a match.

A chair umpire and a linesman have a lot of responsibility. One mistake and the players on court can get upset or you have the whole public against you. That would be hard.

A courtesy car driver could be a very relaxing job, but there may not be much interaction with the players and that’s what I’m looking for.

A reporter or photographer is much more attentive to his work than to matches. They’re both very tiring jobs.

A post-match on-court interviewer has to do a perfect job. They must manage the nerves of being able to interview players after the match, prepare good questions and also delight both the public and the player.

A physiotherapist is another option that I considered, but you have to know how to communicate very well with them and understand what pains they feel.

After much thought, I decided that my dream job on the ATP Tour would be as a locker room attendant. You need to have everything prepared spotlessly like the towels for each player, the bottles they need, ice tubs, showers and bathrooms. I would try to interact as much as possible with the players and also observe their routines before and after each game. I’d ask them how their day was and how they handle matches. You can get another perspective of how the players are inside the locker room and also be there to help them.

You will see fearsome players with a strong personality on court, but they can be friendly and talk to you in the locker room. I would have to handle my nerves, but believe they would go away once I started chatting with them.

From Ball Boy To Pro 
By Gabe Joshua Oliver Dodanwela, 10, Singapore

I’m a kid and the only job for a kid on the ATP Tour is being a ball boy. Being a ball boy requires speed, accuracy and effort. Some kids will want to be the CEO or hold the most important jobs on the ATP Tour, but you could also have an amazing time as a ball kid!

Firstly, the ball kids get attention when there are positive or funny moments. At the Australian Open this year, Rafael Nadal accidentally hit a ball girl and gave her a kiss afterwards. When you are a ball kid, everyone depends on you to help the match keep moving quickly.

Ball kids have to take a trial for the job and are selected by other people. They have to practise a lot and keep getting experience until they are doing their job in a major match at the Nitto ATP Finals. They must have a lot of stamina, especially if a match goes on for hours on end. It’s a lot of hard work, but it pays off in the end.

I think it’s the best job because you can still be a top tennis player when you get older and rewrite the history books. It might be the start of a fantastic tennis career. There are plenty of positives because you might meet some of your favorite tennis players, be seen on TV and have your family get to watch you.

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Resurfaced: How Uncle Toni's Tough Love Shaped Rafa

  • Posted: Jun 02, 2020

Resurfaced: How Uncle Toni’s Tough Love Shaped Rafa

Uncle Toni may not be still coaching Rafa, but his influence remains strong with the all-time great and underpinned Rafa’s 10 Roland Garros titles

Editor’s Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Roland Garros would now be underway. During the next two weeks will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the clay-court Grand Slam, which tournament organisers are now hoping to stage in September. This story was originally published on 5 June 2018.

&*#!!” curses Toni Nadal.

Interrupt Toni when he is in task mode and the oaths fly out of his mouth like hot sparks from a blacksmith’s anvil. It is important to understand that Toni does not curse casually, nor as a form of insult, rather of exasperation.

In this particular case, it is the frustration of being delayed and quite possibly missing a flight from Palma de Mallorca to Madrid. We are at the entrance of the Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy in Manacor, and the airport is nearly an hour’s drive away. I am but one of a handful of obstacles keeping Toni from getting to the airport on time.

Standing aside, I watch Toni multi-task. He answers phone calls, signs papers, buttons his dress shirt, ties his leather shoes, and wrestles my oversize travel bag into the back of his two-door Mercedes SLC Roadster. Eventually, the retractable hardtop comes down, my bag goes in and we are ready to go. I briefly consider suggesting a hands-free apparatus for his phone, but then I realise that Toni Nadal is anything but hands-free.

Finally we are on our way. Toni looks at his watch and utters one last ‘&*#!!’. But this curse is different, a bit softer, more of a slow, drawn out sigh of relief. Leaving the academy, Toni drives through a mix of newly paved roads, narrow cobblestone alleys and a couple of roundabouts that he accelerates out of with the grace, speed, and confidence one would expect from Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso. As if on cue, the phone finally stops ringing just as Toni hits the Ma-15 highway.

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One time I have a big discussion with Pato Clavet,” Toni begins. “Pato believes it is his job to make sure his player has everything in order to play his best; racquets perfect, water, balls, and like this. And I say, ‘this is not my opinion.’ If Rafa forgets his water, I say, ‘Well, it is your problem, today you don’t drink water.’ My work is not to bring water. Do you want to be a professional coach or a waiter?”

Our route to the airport takes us through the heart of Mallorca, where windmills that used to grind grain and pump water cast long shadows over fields that produce almond, fig and olive trees in great abundance. Restaurants fortified with heavy brick barbeque grills and wood-fired ovens look like they were built to feed legions of Roman soldiers. Meals are peasant food soaked in olive oil and portions are big enough to last for days. While Barcelona may very well be the cradle of Spanish tennis, it is here on the island of Mallorca, part of Spain’s autonomous zone, that lie the clues to how the world’s most successful tennis coach was formed.

The relationship between player and coach is very important,” Toni continues as if some subterranean fire has been stoked inside of him. “Also it is the education that the player gets at home. My family formed my character. My father did not talk too much, but you see what he has done and I learned my character from his example.”

There can be no doubt where Toni Nadal’s demarcation line is drawn: respect for people.

In this life, respect is very important as it should come from the younger to the older persons,” Toni says. “Not the other way around. Unbelievable the way the young today behave not showing respect. &*#!!!”

Like the great Carthaginian General Hannibal, who was born here in the Balearic Islands, Toni commands by both example and charisma. Just as Hannibal was fueled by a single-minded purpose in defeating Rome, so too has been Toni’s intense focus on forming his nephew.


With each military victory, Hannibal’s legend grew, and so too did Toni Nadal’s opinions gain merit with every Grand Slam Rafa won. While the amount of trophies they have collected together is impressive, equally so is that neither Toni nor Rafa fell victim to a trap as old as time. A trap that has tripped many a successful man – hubris.

What I remember most about Toni from my time on Tour was how kind he was to people,” remembers Peter Lundgren, former coach of Roger Federer and other ATP World Tour stars. ”He was always very polite.”

Juan Manual Esparcia of Spain, another ATP World Tour coach, has observed Toni and Rafa rise to greatness from the beginning.

Toni puts great emphasis on the education of strong values,” says Esparcia. “Rafa’s attitude to overcome the many adversities he has had to face and doing so in the most gracious manner, the example that Rafa Nadal gives to everyone every day, not only as a professional, but as a person, has Toni’s philosophy written all over it.”

Jack Reader, former coach of Viktor Troicki and Alexandr Dolgolopov, echoes a similar opinion.

We often practised with Rafa,” says Reader. “And I never once saw Toni say something to Rafa that Rafa did not immediately acknowledge. I don’t know what Toni would say, but I do know that from the outside theirs seemed a relationship built on absolute respect and trust.”

Toni recalls: “I have said to Rafa, ‘In my opinion you have to do this, but make what you want’… Do you think that I like to see my nephew’s forehand follow-through wrapping his racquet around his head? Many times I say to him about the biomechanics and physics of a tennis stroke. If you want to put the ball there, then the arm goes here. But make what you want; it is your problem. It is your responsibility.”

At heart Toni is a professor. And like any good teacher, he is an astute student. However, his form of communicating is not for the sensitive type.

Normally when you are not stupid you can learn,” Toni declares. “I have watched the greatest players in the world on the practice court and in competition. In this life, when you know that you are not the best and if you want to defeat the best you must be open to new ideas and keep learning to improve.”

A good example is Rafa changing his service grip two days before the start of the 2010 US Open. And then another change to the serve came before the 2016 US Open, where they experimented with more slice and angle. That being said, if after consideration Toni does not agree with something, then you will know it immediately.

I talk always about to make the things simple,” Toni says. “Today we have a problem that society believes if it is too simple, then it is difficult to earn too much money. I have seen many people talk about analytics. And they forgot to see how is the player with the ball? What is most important is to arrive good to the ball, follow through and have good movements around the court.”

It is true when you have more information, it is good, but information without the eyes and feeling of the coach is not enough. Many times you cannot see the things that analysts write. For example, the statistics say that you make 10 unforced errors with your backhand today. But maybe that is because your forehand is not right in this moment. A good coach needs to observe with his eyes on the situation, not just numbers on a paper.”

Agree or disagree with Toni, he is very consistent on the subject of eliminating excuses.

I was disappointed at Wimbledon in 2013,” Toni admits. “My nephew lost to Steve Darcis. Rafa says to me that he can do nothing as he has knee problems. I say, ‘No, I don’t agree. If this match was in the final would you play like this?’ After many years I know it is impossible to win always – it is a part of the game – but let us speak the truth.”

Esparcia says, “I think Toni’s best quality and strength is knowing to analyse the needs in each situation in order to reach the next goal… To give Rafa the right solution at specifically the right moment, and to find the way to motivate him, regardless of the circumstances he might be facing.”

Another time, in 2006 at the US Open,” Toni remembers, “and my nephew is complaining about the balls, that he cannot give them spin. Every day he is telling me the same. And so I say to Rafael, “OK, I go to the tournament director and see if he can change the balls for you.’ Then Rafael lost to James Blake. I go home to Mallorca and he went to Beijing and wins the tournament with the same balls he lost to Blake. So I ask him how the balls can take your spin in Beijing but not New York?”

There can be no better proof positive of the Pygmalion effect theory than Toni and Rafael Nadal.

I remember once we were in Barcelona at Carlos Moya’s house,” Toni recalls. “Rafa was 15 or maybe 16, and Carlos says to me, ‘Toni, would you sign your name that in the future that Rafael will be good like Alberto Costa?’ And I say, ‘No, I don’t sign because I believe that Rafael will be better.’ And Carlos Moya was a little surprised. Because immediately he says, ‘Do you sign that in the future Rafael will be like Carlos Moya?’ And I say, ‘OK, yes, because you were No. 1 in the world.’ But I did not sign anything. When I went out of the house with my nephew that night I said to Rafael, ‘You can be better than Carlos Moya, but I do not want to show disrespect to him in his house.’ I knew my nephew was special.”

For me was always too important to form the player,” Toni continues. “I was always happy when we were on the court and I was able to construct his game.”

Jose Perlas is one of the ATP World Tour’s most recognised coaches. There is not much in professional tennis, Spain or worldwide, that he has not seen.

In some ways it was a perfect storm,” begins Perlas. “The Nadal family had experience of being athletes at the highest level of sport. Toni knew what it took to be good, and he also knew how much work it took to sustain that level. He was a tennis coach who had very strong opinions and he spoke with great conviction. Then Rafa had all the physical and mental gifts of an exceptional athlete, and the intense hunger to be great. Toni was an extremely dedicated professional coach who understood how to use his authority while assembling a team of experts around Rafa.”

As we enter the airport a journalist and camera crew are assembled and waiting on Toni to arrive. Though Toni may not be on the ATP World Tour any more, he is still in demand. When your pupil has 16 Grand Slams and is considered one of the greatest players in the history of tennis, your opinions matter.

Quite possibly, Toni might be the last of the breed. That species of tennis coach who commands from the frontline while saying what needs to be said without fear of retribution. The coach of yesteryear who demands hard work every day, a good attitude, respect for the game and those people associated with it. And no matter how great the stakes or painful the loss, refuses to make excuses while offering a simple no-frills match analysis. My guess is that Harry Hopman would certainly approve of Toni Nadal.

– Reproduced with permission from Elite Tennis Journal

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Flashback: Djokovic Saves 4 M.P. To Beat Tsonga In 2012

  • Posted: Jun 02, 2020

Flashback: Djokovic Saves 4 M.P. To Beat Tsonga In 2012

Serbian extended Grand Slam win streak to 26 matches

After rallying from two sets down to defeat Andreas Seppi in the Round of 16, Novak Djokovic knew he would have to raise his level in the 2012 Roland Garros quarter-finals if he wanted to keep his bid for a non-Calendar Grand Slam alive.

The reigning Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open champion faced crowd favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the 11th time in their ATP Head2Head rivalry on a damp Tuesday afternoon on Court Philippe-Chatrier. The pair entered the contest tied at 5-5, with Tsonga winning both of their previous contests in France.

World No. 5 Tsonga carried the hopes of a nation on his shoulders as the last French player in the draw, following Richard Gasquet’s fourth-round exit to Andy Murray. But the Parisian crowd, who had anticipated a classic battle on terre battue, was quickly silenced by a rapid start from Djokovic.

Appearing to suffer from fatigue after his own five-set victory in the previous round against Stan Wawrinka, Tsonga was easily broken in three consecutive games as Djokovic quickly established a 6-2, 2-0 advantage after just 27 minutes. Sensing that the match was slipping away from his grasp, Tsonga began to neutralise his rival in extended rallies and closed points with powerful attacks to turn the match on its head.

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The Frenchman soon broke for 4-4 — to the delight of the Parisian crowd — and earned late breaks in both the second and third sets to snatch a two-sets-to-one lead. Cheers reverberated around Court Philippe-Chatrier. Their man was just one set away from the semi-finals.

As Djokovic returned to his bench, he knew he would need to earn another five-set triumph to survive. Since losing in five sets to Jurgen Melzer in the 2010 quarter-finals, the five-time Grand Slam champion had won each of the seven fifth sets he had contested. But, to reach that stage, he would have to find his way through a gripping fourth set.

“From the start, I played really well,” said Djokovic. “I was a set and a break up and then an incredible crowd supported Jo and he started playing really well. It was really difficult to stay focussed, but I was believing that maybe I can have my chances.”

Tsonga continued to push Djokovic to the limit, serving his way out of trouble on numerous occasions. The 6’2” right-hander earned four match points on his opponent’s serve late in the set, but Djokovic stepped up the court and committed to each and every shot he played to force a tie-break.

Surviving from the brink of defeat had become a habit for Djokovic on the Grand Slam stage, having also saved two match points in both his 2010 and 2011 US Open semi-final triumphs against Roger Federer. Riding a 25-match Grand Slam winning streak, the Serbian had built a fearless reputation in the locker room.

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From 2/4 down in the tie-break, Djokovic once again raised his aggression and showed no fear. Tsonga committed back-to-back errors to hand Djokovic the set and the Serbian soon ran away with the match. The World No. 1 claimed two service breaks to serve for the match at 5-1 in the decider and converted his first match point with a backhand up the line after four hours and nine minutes.

“Unfortunately, there had to be one winner and one loser today,” said Djokovic. “He was the better player for most of the match. I was very fortunate to come back from four match points down. I don’t know how I went through that. It was an incredible match.”

The Serbian’s bid to hold all four Grand Slam trophies at the same time was ended by Rafael Nadal in the championship match, but Djokovic did manage to achieve the feat in Paris four years later. In the next three years, Tsonga advanced to the semi-finals in Paris on two occasions (2013, ’15).

“I’d said before the match that I was going to give my all, to do everything I could to win,” said Tsonga. “Unfortunately, the opportunity passed me by. I would have loved to have won this match, to have done better, fought harder, but I had nothing left at the end.”

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Bautista Agut Back On Court: Social Media Roundup

  • Posted: Jun 02, 2020

Bautista Agut Back On Court: Social Media Roundup looks at what your favourite players have been up to

Your favourite players are finding plenty of ways to keep busy. From Roberto Bautista Agut working on his game, to Jannik Sinner hitting the gym, find out how the world’s best players have been spending their days.

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Bautista Agut resumed his normal practice sessions in Spain.


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Vamos a por un nuevo lunes y un nuevo mes 🚀 Espero que también vosotros estéis disfrutando ya del tenis! . Monday, 1st of June 😃 Hope you are enjoying tennis as well! . #RobertoBautistaAgut #Tennis #Tenis 📷 @equeliteferrero

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Sinner continued to focus on building his strength.


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Enjoyed another hard week of training.. hope everyone has a great weekend 💪🏼☀️ #Training #PushYourLimits #FridayFeeling

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Jan-Lennard Struff reflected on his breakout run last year at Roland Garros.


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One year ago today….I reached the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time. By beating Borna Coric 11-9 in the 5th Set in the 3rd Round of French Open. It meant the world to me back then. And it still does now. The crowd was amazing and the support I got was unreal! 🔥 #memories #moments #frenchopen #rolandgarros #neverquit

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Dominic Thiem took in a birds-eye view of Vienna.


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above Vienna

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Grigor Dimitrov camped outside in Indian Wells.


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Am I the last player still in Indian Wells? #castaway

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Andrey Rublev rejoiced at being able to get back on court.

Bob Bryan looked back on his maiden Grand Slam doubles crown with Mike Bryan at 2003 Roland Garros.


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During this week, it’s been hard not to reminisce about the memorable times we had at @rolandgarros. Here’s a few pics from ‘03 when the dreams of two skinny 25 year olds came true. #rg20 #rolandgarros . . . . 📷: Getty Images

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Ivo Karlovic hit his first batch of serves in more than two months.


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First serves after weeks of isolation and shingles and not wanting to play and..

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Stan Wawrinka couldn’t decide on which ice cream pop he wanted, so he finished both of them.


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Life is like an ice cream … Enjoy it before it melts !! 😏⛰☀️🍦⌛️🤷🏻‍♂️ #doublethefun #mondaymood #lovelife #enjoy #stantheman

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Sampras, Inspired By Late Coach, Creates Emotional Roland Garros Run

  • Posted: Jun 02, 2020

Sampras, Inspired By Late Coach, Creates Emotional Roland Garros Run

American scores hat trick of five-set wins at 1996 event

Editor’s Note: But for the COVID-19 pandemic, Roland Garros would now be underway. During the next two weeks, will look back on memorable matches and happenings at the clay-court Grand Slam, which tournament organisers are now hoping to stage in September.

Roland Garros was a perpetual struggle for Pete Sampras throughout his career. The American arrived in 1996 having won every other Grand Slam at least once, but had yet to produce a memorable run in Paris. Despite being the top seed that year, the serve-and-volleyer had lost seven of his past 10 clay-court matches and many critics didn’t even consider him an outside favourite to win.

But buoyed by the memory of his late coach Tim Gullikson, who passed away that April from brain cancer, Sampras produced his best run in Paris. He powered through a brutal draw, weathering five-set matches against two-time champion Sergi Bruguera in the second round and fellow American Todd Martin in the third round, before facing another all-American clash in the quarter-finals against two-time champion Jim Courier.

It was Courier who stood across the net when Sampras broke down in tears during their 1995 Australian Open quarter-final, just days after Gullikson received his diagnosis. Sampras rallied from two sets down to win that clash and, fittingly, did so again on Court Philippe Chatrier. With the crowd urging him on, Sampras reached his first Roland Garros semi-final by battling past Courier 6-7(4), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.

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“It was time to step up. I knew that’s what Tim would have wanted me to do,” Sampras wrote in his autobiography, A Champion’s Mind. “The Parisians are astute fans and tennis aesthetes… They were well aware that I had just lost Tim and their sympathy for me was obvious. Their press was all over the story. Tim had just died, yet because of all the publicity and endless questions, he was more alive in my mind than at any other time since he became ill.”

Sampras was able to adjust in the last three sets, keeping the ball away from Courier’s lethal forehand and focussing their rallies on backhand exchanges. He cleaned up his net game and increased his first-serve percentage, firing an ace out wide on match point to prevail after well over three hours of play.

Courier questioned Sampras’ level of exhaustion during the match and hinted at gamesmanship afterwards, wondering aloud how his opponent could appear to have no energy and still continue to blast aces. The top seed brushed off those comments, but cited his dominance in their ATP Head2Head series (16-4) while speaking the following year to Sports Illustrated and said that “he’s pissed that I beat him every time”.

Repeated five-set matches took their toll on Sampras and he quickly bowed out to eventual champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the semi-finals. But inspired by his performance on his most challenging surface, Sampras dominated the second half of 1996 and finished as year-end No. 1 after prevailing at the US Open and Nitto ATP Finals.

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