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Tony Trabert, Major Champion & Tennis Icon, Dies Aged 90

  • Posted: Feb 04, 2021

Tony Trabert, who saw the sport from all angles as a major champion and ambassador both on and off the court, has passed away aged 90. His record of 106 match wins and 18 titles in the 1955 season remains one of the greatest single seasons in tennis history.

The universally popular American enriched tennis for more than 70 years as the world’s top amateur player, a contract pro, a manager of Jack Kramer’s troupe and executive director of a fledgling players association, which helped push for Open tennis. His insight for more than 30 years as a highly successful television commentator and analyst, helped to drive the sport’s boom and brought the US Open and other major championships to new audiences. He was also a two-time Davis Cup winning captain of the United States, a coach, an author and later served as the President of the International Tennis Hall of Fame before his health and mobility began to suffer.

International Tennis Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, who succeeded Trabert in that role and was on two US Davis Cup teams captained by Trabert commented, “I had big shoes to fill coming into this role after Tony, but that is exactly the example that Tony’s life in tennis was in all areas. He didn’t just show us all how to be a great champion. He was also a role model as a wise coach and mentor, a fair and effective leader, someone who gave back to the sport, and an all-around terrific ambassador for tennis. He was a good friend to me and to so many and he will be greatly missed.”

“The world knew Tony for his excellence in tennis, from his remarkable career to his Davis Cup success as a player and captain to being the voice of the US Open during his decades with CBS Sports,” said Western & Southern Open Tournament Director J. Wayne Richmond. “Tony’s impact went far beyond the court, in particular to those who knew him closely. He was so proud of his Cincinnati roots and was always a loyal supporter of the tournament here.

“Tony also worked very hard to promote the game, developing junior players at summer camps and honoring the great history of the sport during his tenure as president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Above all else, Tony was wonderful friend and an incredibly loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He will be dearly missed.”

Trabert, the son of a sports mad sales engineer with General Electric, grew up in Bond Hill, two houses down from a Cincinnati park that had clay courts, and started playing tennis aged six with his older brothers, Marc and Douglas. It wasn’t long until he came under the guidance of Carmago Club pro Earl Bossang, who gave Trabert his first tennis racquet, and Cincinnati Tennis Club pro Howard Zaeh. Both taught Trabert the fundamentals: good groundstrokes, the volley and an all-court game. His backhand, backhand volley and overhead would become his best shots.

Already a winner of local junior tournaments, 12-year-old Trabert came under the wing of another Cincinnati native, Bill Talbert, during the peak years of his own illustrious career, who offered volleying advice at the 1942 Tri-State Tennis Championships. At this time, Trabert was a big Cincinnati Reds fan and felt he was better at baseball. Talbert, who went on to become an NBC Sports commentator and a future US Open Tournament Director, once said of the youngster, “[Trabert] was interested, hard-working and eager to improve. He was obviously a fine athlete with a natural ball sense, hampered by only being a bit slow on his feet. I could see in him a duplicate of myself at the same age — an intense desire to be a good player and a willingness to spend the long hours required to make the grade.”

He excelled at every sport at Walnut Hills High School, but gradually limited himself to basketball, which he mainly played to sharpen up his footwork for tennis. In 1948, Trabert and his father, Arch, a former amateur boxer, attended the Bobby Riggs and Kramer pro tour match in a Cincinnati high school gym and spoke to both players in the locker room. Quick to pick up technical changes, he became the US National Indoors singles and doubles champion that year.

Trabert became the first player in history to win three consecutive Ohio singles championships. He was offered scholarships at leading West Coast universities, but decided to stay at home, enrolling at the University of Cincinnati, where he studied political science. Trabert won the 1951 NCAA Singles Championship and started as a guard for the Bearcats basketball team, which won the Mid-American Conference championship and played in the National Invitation Tournament. By continually working on his movement and fitness, he kept at a playing weight of 185lbs.

Trabert made his first big impact in 1950, when, as a 19-year-old, he beat Ted Schroeder in the Western Championships and finished the year ranked No. 12 in the United States. On his first all-expenses-paid trip to Europe in 1950 with Talbert, they won every doubles tournament they contested, including the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome and Roland Garros, beating Jaroslav Drobny and Eric Sturgess in the Paris final. Trabert played the Big Game of serve and volley, using a Wilson Jack Kramer Autograph racquet between 1949 and 1956, striking clean and hard service returns that resulted in spectacular passing strokes. His first serve was powerful and he struck his second serve with excess spin. He hit topspin on his backhand, but Trabert’s mind was his greatest asset.

The follow year, he rose to No. 3 nationally, but in September 1951, just as he was about to start his third year at the University of Cincinnati, he was drafted for a near two-year stint in the U.S. Navy that limited his tennis playing time. Reporting initially to Bainbridge, Maryland, he served as a seaman apprentice on the bridge for air defence, then in the quartermaster division and navigation on the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean during the Korean War. Immediately after leaving service in June 1953, Trabert met Shauna Wood (1930-2019) while playing the National Hard Court Championships in Salt Lake City, two months before he captured his first major singles championship title at the U.S. Nationals in Forest Hills (d. Vic Seixas). Wood, a University of Utah graduate, had just been named Miss Utah and became a contestant in the 1953 Miss Universe Pageant. They were married on 26 October 1953 at the Salt Lake City Country Club, before going on a week-long honeymoon in Hawaii and then onto Australia with the U.S. Davis Cup squad.

Photo courtesy: International Tennis Hall of Fame

Trabert’s motto as a player was, “You’re not safe until you get in the locker room.” He won five major singles championships in a three-year period between 1953 and 1955. He captured two Roland Garros crowns in 1954 (d. Art Larsen) and 1955 (d. Sven Davidson) and remained the last American male champion in Paris until 17-year-old Michael Chang lifted the trophy in 1989. Having developed blisters on his feet and right hand in a five-set fourth-round victory over Davidson en route to the 1954 Wimbledon semi-finals, Trabert was determined to capture The Championships crown the following year. He beat Kurt Nielsen 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 in the Wimbledon final and went on to defeat Ken Rosewall 9-7, 6-3, 6-3 in the U.S. Nationals final at Forest Hills — completing the title double without losing a set.

In 1955, 25-year-old Trabert produced one of the best seasons in tennis history, compiling a staggering 106-7 match record, including a 38-match winning streak, 18 titles, including 10 straight tournament wins, and three of the four major championships. He lost to Rosewall in the Australian Open semi-finals. To date, he is one of seven men to win three major titles in a single season. Only Don Budge (1938), Rod Laver (1962, 1969), Mats Wilander (1988), Roger Federer (2004, 2006, 2007), Rafael Nadal (2010) and Novak Djokovic (2011, 2015) have accomplished the same feat.

While Trabert partnered Talbert to the 1950 Roland Garros doubles title, he won four other major team titles with Seixas (1954-55 Roland Garros, 1954 US Nationals, 1955 Australian Championships). Trabert also represented the United States in Davis Cup team, contesting the Challenge Round against Australia each year between 1911 and 1955, including a 3-2 victory in 1954.

Having conquered the amateur circuit in 1955, Trabert looked to settle down with his family as West Coast salesman for Security Banknote Co. Later that year, Kramer offered Trabert a guarantee of $75,000 against a percentage of the gate to play on his pro tour. Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall also signed contracts, but they were talked out of turning pro when they returned to Australia. Trabert toured for 14 straight months all over the world with Richard Pancho Gonzales and in one five-month stretch in North America the pair met on 101 occasions. Gonzales’ serve did the damage, winning the series 74-27 on mostly indoor, portable canvas surfaces, which would move slightly when you set off to chase down a ball. Playing five matches per week, Trabert took home $125,000 in the first year, a far cry from the £10 certificate redeemable at Lilly White’s Sporting Goods story in London after his Wimbledon triumph. At the time bread was a nickel (five cents) and car petrol a dime (10 cents). He won the 1956 and 1959 French Pro titles, beating Gonzales and Frank Sedgman respectively.

While Trabert continued to play on the pro circuit, he took up Kramer’s offer in 1960 and moved to Paris to organise pro tour matches and tournaments in Europe, Africa and Asia. He signed 1962 Grand Slam champion Rod Laver to a pro contract and later helped Rene Lacoste develop what became the Wilson T2000 steel design racquet — used by Billie Jean King, Clark Graebner and Jimmy Connor — and promoted the Lacoste ‘alligator’ logo shirts. Trabert lived in France with his wife, who worked as a top model for Chanel, and their two young children, Mike (born 1956) and Brooke (born 1958), for three years before he stepped into playing retirement by returning to the United States. In 1962, Trabert also became the first executive director of the Independent Tennis Players’ Association (a forerunner of the Association of Tennis Professionals) and continued to push for Open tennis.

Trabert, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1970, opened up his highly successful ‘Trabert Tennis Camps’ in California for children aged 8-18 in 1971. It was the same year he contacted CBS about how he felt the broadcaster was covering tennis. Trabert launched his broadcasting career from an initial two-day taped commentary recorded at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. Renowned for preparing 10 times as many notes as he used, Trabert told fans what they didn’t see and what tactics the players used in a CBS Sports role that spanned 33 years until his retirement in 2004. He mastered the post-final interview at the US Open and worked alongside former American football player Pat Summerall for 25 years. In witnessing the evolution of the game and technology, he also commentated for Australia’s Channel 9 for 23 years alongside Fred Stolle and John Newcombe, and published the 1988 book, ‘Trabert on Tennis: The View From Center Court’.

Photo courtesy: International Tennis Hall of Fame

Trabert, an easy speaker with the manner of a diplomat, was honoured to captain the United States Davis Cup between 1976 and 1980, bringing a young John McEnroe into the fold. The nation lifted the trophy in 1978 (d. Great Britain) and 1979 (d. Italy). In the 1970s, Trabert also coached Kathy May, a future World No. 10 and Taylor Fritz’s mother, until she retired aged 24. While covering a golf tournament in Ponte Vedra Beach in 1982, Trabert met his second wife, Vicki, who worked was a real estate agent at the time, and settled in Florida, just minutes from ATP’s American headquarters.

After more than 50 years as one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors, Trabert was named President of the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island, in 2001. Over the next 10 years, he also chaired the induction and selection committees, meeting with the 21-person panel each year at Wimbledon. In early 2014, he underwent heart surgery, and while Trabert was unable to play golf or tennis due to a bad right shoulder in recent years, he continued to marvel at the great champions and the depth of the sport.

Trabert passed away on Wednesday evening at his family home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, surrounded by his second wife of almost 40 years, and his two children, Mike and Brooke.

Marion Anthony Trabert, tennis player, coach, captain, author and sports commentator, born 16 August 1930; died 3 February 2021.

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Khachanov-Anderson Clash Leads Packed Friday Schedule At Great Ocean Road Open

  • Posted: Feb 04, 2021

Sixteen players remain in the hunt for the Great Ocean Road Open singles trophy. By the end of play on Friday, only four will remain.

Following the suspension of play on Thursday, both the third round and the quarter-finals of the singles draw will take place at Melbourne Park on Friday.

Six of the top eight seeds are still standing at the Great Ocean Road Open, including second seed Karen Khachanov. The Russian, chasing his fifth ATP Tour crown, will meet Kevin Anderson in one of the standout matches of the day at the ATP 250.

Khachanov and Anderson both recorded their first victories of the year on Wednesday. Second seed Khachanov overcame Aussie wild card Max Purcell 7-6(5), 6-3, while Anderson charged past Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-4, 6-2 in 57 minutes.


Anderson won his only previous ATP Head2Head clash against Khachanov in three sets at the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau. The winner of the pair’s second encounter will face sixth seed Reilly Opelka or Botic Van de Zandschulp later in the day.

Third seed Hubert Hurkacz will continue his pursuit of a second ATP Tour trophy of 2021 on Friday. The Delray Beach champion will meet Pablo Cuevas in the third round. Antalya runner-up Alexander Bublik or Stefano Travaglia awaits the winner in the quarter-finals.

In the top quarter of the draw, #NextGenATP Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz will attempt to reach his maiden ATP Tour semi-final. The 17-year-old, who defeated top seed David Goffin in the second round, will meet Thiago Monteiro for a place in the quarter-finals. If Alcaraz can get through that match, he will face 11th seed Jordan Thompson or Mario Vilella Martinez for a place in the last four.

Fourth seed Jannik Sinner will continue his title bid against Aljaz Bedene. Both men will be attempting to book a quarter-final clash againt seventh seed Miomir Kecmanovic or Salvatore Caruso.

Doubles Second Round To Be Completed Friday
The six remaining doubles second-round matches will also feature on Friday’s schedule at the Great Ocean Road Open. Top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah will begin their 2021 campaign against Purcell and Thompson.

Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek will make their first appearance since their run to the Antalya Open final last month (l. to Mektic/Pavic). The third seeds will face alternates Roberto Carballes Baena and Cuevas for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Fifth seeds Marcus Daniell/Michael Venus, sixth seeds Marcelo Arevalo/Matwe Middelkoop, seventh seeds Luke Bambridge/Dominic Inglot and eighth seeds Bublik/Andrey Golubev will also make their first appearances at the ATP 250 on Friday.

View Schedule – Friday, 5 February 2021

1573 ARENA start 10:30 am
Third Round – [11] J. Thompson (AUS) vs M. Vilella Martinez (ESP)

COURT 3 start 11:00 am
Two WTA Matches
ATP Singles Match Murray River Open
Quarter-finals – [6] R. Opelka (USA) or B. Van de Zandschulp (NED) vs K. Anderson (RSA) or [2] K. Khachanov (RUS)

COURT 5 start 10:30 am
Third Round – K. Anderson (RSA) vs [2] K. Khachanov (RUS)

Not Before 12:00 noon

ATP Singles Match Murray River Open
Second Round – M. Ebden (AUS) / J. Smith (AUS) vs [7] L. Bambridge (GBR) / D. Inglot (GBR)

Not Before 3:00 pm
Second Round – After Suitable Rest – [Alt] R. Carballes Baena (ESP) / P. Cuevas (URU) vs [3] I. Dodig (CRO) / F. Polasek (SVK)

COURT 6 start 10:30 am
Third Round – [13] A. Bedene (SLO) vs [4] J. Sinner (ITA)

Not Before 12:00 noon

ATP Singles Match Murray River Open
Quarter-finals – After Suitable Rest – C. Alcaraz (ESP) or T. Monteiro (BRA) vs [11] J. Thompson (AUS) or M. Vilella Martinez (ESP)
ATP Singles Match Murray River Open

Not Before 3:00 pm
Second Round – [8] A. Bublik (KAZ) / A. Golubev (KAZ) vs M. Kecmanovic (SRB) / K. Khachanov (RUS)

COURT 10 start 10:30 am
Third Round – C. Alcaraz (ESP) vs T. Monteiro (BRA)

Not Before 12:00 noon

Third Round – [3] H. Hurkacz (POL) vs P. Cuevas (URU)
Second Round – [5] M. Daniell (NZL) / M. Venus (NZL) vs F. Delbonis (ARG) / A. Sitak (NZL)
Quarter-finals – After Suitable Rest – [7] M. Kecmanovic (SRB) or S. Caruso (ITA) vs [13] A. Bedene (SLO) or [4] J. Sinner (ITA)

COURT 12 start 10:30 am
Third Round – [7] M. Kecmanovic (SRB) vs S. Caruso (ITA)

Not Before 12:00 noon
ATP Singles Match Murray River Open
Second Round – [WC] R. Haase (NED) / S. Querrey (USA) vs [6] M. Arevalo (ESA) / M. Middelkoop (NED)
ATP Doubles Match Murray River Open

Not Before 3:00 pm
Second Round – [1] J. Cabal (COL) / R. Farah (COL) vs M. Purcell (AUS) / J. Thompson (AUS)

COURT 14 start 10:30 am
Third Round – [6] R. Opelka (USA) vs B. Van de Zandschulp (NED)

COURT 15 start 10:30 am
Third Round – S. Travaglia (ITA) vs [8] A. Bublik (KAZ)

Not Before 12:00 noon
ATP Singles Match Murray River Open
Quarter-finals – After Suitable Rest – [3] H. Hurkacz (POL) or P. Cuevas (URU) vs S. Travaglia (ITA) or [8] A. Bublik (KAZ)

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Wawrinka, Felix, Kyrgios On Double Duty Friday At Murray River Open

  • Posted: Feb 04, 2021

Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Nick Kyrgios will all need to record two match wins on Friday if are to remain in contention for the Murray River Open title. In another busy day at Melbourne Park, 12 singles and four doubles matches will be contested as the ATP 250 tournament plays catch-up.

Wawrinka, who has won seven of his 16 tour-level titles as a top seed, will first look to overcome Australia’s Alex Bolt on Friday, before a potential quarter-final clash on 1573 Arena against Jeremy Chardy of France or sixth-seeded American Taylor Fritz. The 35-year-old Wawrinka went 15-8 last season.

Second seed Dimitrov, one place behind Wawrinka at No. 19 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, meets Alexei Popyrin first match on Court 3. The winner will play James Duckworth or France’s Corentin Moutet in the last eight on Court 6. Dimitrov beat Kei Nishikori for the 2017 Brisbane crown.

World No. 21 Auger-Aliassime, who hit 12 aces past Yuichi Sugita in his opening win on Wednesday, challenges Egor Gerasimov of Belarus in the first match on Court 12, before a possible clash against Czech Jiri Vesely or Ricardas Berankis. Last year, Auger-Aliassime compiled a 23-19 match record and finished runner-up at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam (l. to Monfils), the Open 13 Provence in Marseille (l. to Tsitsipas) and the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne (l. to Zverev).

Nick Kyrgios, who is competing this week for the first time in 12 months (since 2020 Acapulco), looks to overcome fourth-seeded Croatian Borna Coric first on 1573 Arena. The winner will return later in the day to face American Marcos Giron or eighth seed Daniel Evans of Great Britain. Kyrgios beat Alexandre Muller in three sets in his first match and saved two set points in the second set against fellow Australian Harry Bourchier in the second round.

View Schedule – Friday, 5 February 2021

1573 ARENA Not Before 12:00 noon

Third Round – [4] B. Coric (CRO) vs [13] N. Kyrgios (AUS)
Third Round – [1] S. Wawrinka (SUI) vs A. Bolt (AUS)
Quarter-finals – After Suitable Rest – [4] B. Coric (CRO) or [13] N. Kyrgios (AUS) vs M. Giron (USA) or [8] D. Evans (GBR)
Quarter-finals – After Suitable Rest – [1] S. Wawrinka (SUI) or A. Bolt (AUS) vs J. Chardy (FRA) or [6] T. Fritz (USA)

COURT 3 start 11:00 am

Two WTA Matches followed by
Third Round – A. Popyrin (AUS) vs [2] G. Dimitrov (BUL)

COURT 5 Not Before 12:00 noon

Third Round – J. Chardy (FRA) vs [6] T. Fritz (USA)

COURT 6 Not Before 12:00 noon

Third Round – J. Duckworth (AUS) vs C. Moutet (FRA)
ATP Singles Match Great Ocean Road Open

Quarter-finals – After Suitable Rest – J. Duckworth (AUS) or C. Moutet (FRA) vs A. Popyrin (AUS) or [2] G. Dimitrov (BUL)

COURT 12 Not Before 12:00 noon

Third Round – E. Gerasimov (BLR) vs [3] F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
ATP Doubles Match Great Ocean Road Open

Second Round – [4] M. Melo (BRA) / H. Tecau (ROU) vs N. Monroe (USA) / F. Tiafoe (USA)
ATP Doubles Match Great Ocean Road Open NB 3:00PM

Second Round – After Suitable Rest – [5] J. Chardy (FRA) / F. Martin (FRA) vs D. Sharan (IND) / I. Zelenay (SVK)

COURT 14 Not Before 12:00 noon

Third Round – J. Vesely (CZE) vs R. Berankis (LTU)
Second Round – C. Norrie (GBR) / J. O’Mara (GBR) vs [3] R. Ram (USA) / J. Salisbury (GBR)
Quarter-finals – After Suitable Rest – J. Vesely (CZE) or R. Berankis (LTU) vs E. Gerasimov (BLR) or [3] F. Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
Second Round – R. Albot (MDA) / E. Gerasimov (BLR) vs [2] W. Koolhof (NED) / L. Kubot (POL)

COURT 15 Not Before 12:00 noon

Third Round – M. Giron (USA) vs [8] D. Evans (GBR)

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Serbia & Spain Bid To Clinch ATP Cup Semi-final Spots; View Friday's Schedule

  • Posted: Feb 04, 2021

The ATP Cup will resume on Friday with three group stage ties at Melbourne Park. Japan is scheduled to play Argentina in the final Group D tie on Saturday.

Defending champion Serbia will attempt to qualify for the semi-finals on Friday with victory over Germany. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has a perfect 10-0 record in singles and doubles matches. He owns a 4-2 ATP Head2Head record against Alexander Zverev. The winner of the Group A tie on Rod Laver Arena will play Russia in the semi-finals.

If Spain wins one match in its Group B tie against Greece, last year’s runner-up will qualify for the semi-finals. Pablo Carreno Busta will open proceedings on John Cain Arena against Michail Pervolarakis, while Roberto Bautista Agut will look to maintain his unbeaten record at the ATP Cup against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second singles match.

In the night session on Rod Laver Arena, with Italy already assured of semi-final qualification, Austria and France play for pride. Both nations lost to Italy 2-1 in Group C ties earlier this week. World No. 3 Dominic Thiem looks to improve upon his 6-0 record against Gael Monfils and Dennis Novak takes on Benoit Paire in the first singles match.

Schedule – Friday, 5 February 2021

Serbia vs Germany

Group A – Rod Laver Arena, starting 10am
Filip Krajinovic (SRB) vs. Jan-Lennard Struff (GER)
Followed by second singles match
Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. Alexander Zverev
Followed by doubles match (subject to change)
Nikola Cacic / Dusan Lajovic (SRB) vs. Kevin Krawietz / Andreas Mies (GER)

Spain vs. Greece

Group B – John Cain Arena, starting 10am
Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) vs. Michail Pervolarakis (GRE)
Followed by second singles match
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
Followed by doubles match (subject to change)
Pablo Carreno Busta / Marcel Granollers (ESP) vs. Michail Pervolarakis / Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)

Austria vs France

Group C – Rod Laver Arena, 5:30pm
Dennis Novak (AUT) vs. Benoit Paire (FRA)
Second singles match not before 7pm
Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs. Gael Monfils (FRA)
Followed by doubles match (subject to change)
Philipp Oswald / Tristan-Samuel Weissborn (AUT) vs. Nicolas Mahut / Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA)

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A Car Break In, A 'Terrible Mistake' And Federer's First Title

  • Posted: Feb 04, 2021

Twenty years ago — when Rafael Nadal was just 14, and 21-year-old Marat Safin sat atop the FedEx ATP Rankings — a baby-faced 19-year-old from Switzerland with a ponytail and a poetic one-handed backhand won his first ATP Tour title. Roger Federer’s celebration after beating Julien Boutter at the Milan Indoors 20 years ago this week was muted, almost as if he knew it was only the start of bigger things to come.

“I’ve had to wait a long time for this moment,” he said after earning $54,000 for the win. “It should get easier from here on out.”

102 titles, 20 majors and more than $100 million in prize money later, it’s safe to say that things did get a bit easier for the man who’s evolved into one of the world’s most celebrated and beloved athletes. But at the time, he had a more pedestrian concern to deal with: figuring out how to get back home after the match. According to René Stauffer’s excellent biography, Roger Federer: Quest for Perfection, Robert Federer, Roger’s dad, locked the keys in the car. He had to smash the window out so they could drive back to Switzerland.

Perhaps the smashing of the window foreshadowed the records his son would break, but in any case, many were surprised that it took Federer as long as it did to capture that first title. He was a top junior, having won Junior Wimbledon and the prestigious Orange Bowl tournament in Miami in 1998. After a 13-17 start on the ATP Tour in ’99, he won bronze at the Olympics in Sydney, where he and Mirka Vavrinec became a couple, and made it to the final of the Swiss Indoors Basel in his hometown.

He was clearly a future star, but no one was sure when that future would arrive.

“I didn’t come in [to the match] thinking I was going to win the title, but I knew I was playing well indoors,” Federer said of that first title in 2001. He recalled near misses in 2000, losing in a third-set tie-break to Marc Rosset in the final of what’s now called the Open 13 Provence in Marseille and a tough five-setter to Thomas Enqvist in the final of the Swiss Indoors Basel.

“I played amazing against Enqvist and ended up losing … so I thought, ‘Oh, God here we go. I’m never going to win a tournament,’” Federer said. “And then when I won Milan, obviously I was extremely relieved and just very happy. I played great. It was a big moment for me.”

Boutter came into the match feeling poised to claim his first title as well. He beat Federer in their only prior match, in a Challenger event in Grenoble two years before. “He was already considered the future Pete Sampras, but at that time he was still untested and quite nervous on the court,” Boutter said in a January interview with “I was confident… it could have been my final.”

Federer beat Goran Ivanisevic and Yevgeny Kafelnikov to make it to the final against Boutter, who won fans a year later at the Australian Open when an opponent in a doubles match inadvertently hit and killed a bird that had been chasing a moth on court. Boutter rushed over to see if he could save it, but when he saw it was too late, he got down on his knees, crossed himself and gave the bird, a house martin, dignified last rites.

“I really wanted to win my first ATP title. That was a big week for me… I felt like I had pressure, because maybe I went into that final as a little bit of a favourite,” Federer recalled. “But it was fast indoors and Boutter was a big server, so you never knew what was going to happen.”

Boutter, a Frenchman then 26 and ranked No. 67, was in a far less compassionate mood against Federer in Milan that day. He went up a break on the Swiss teen in the first set and Roger, who used to be a lot more McEnroe-esque on court as a teen, threw his racquet in frustration. Boutter sensed an opening.

Federer, looking sharp with his ponytail and a red and white kit befitting his Swiss heritage, stormed back to take the first set, 6-4, but fell behind again in the second set and lost it in a tie-break. Then the chair umpire made what Boutter still considers a “terrible mistake”. Federer should have served first in the third set but instead the chair umpire got mixed up and told Boutter it was his serve. If a familiar feeling of dread had taken root somewhere inside young Federer’s gut, he never showed it, breaking Boutter in that first service game and hanging on for a 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-4 win.

It took Federer nearly another year to win another title — in Sydney the following January — and later in 2002 he cracked the Top 10 for the first time. The next year, he was off to the races, going 78-17 with seven titles, including Wimbledon. The Milan Indoors became the Breil Milano in 2003, the Indesit ATP Milan Indoor the next year and the Internazionali di Lombardia in 2005, the tournament’s final season. While the event is gone, it’s clearly not forgotten. Milan now hosts the Next Gen ATP Finals.

The memory of losing to Federer remains vivid for Boutter, who retired in 2004 and is now the tournament director and co-owner of the Moselle Open, an ATP 250 event in Metz, France that’s scheduled to take place after the US Open. Ivan Ljubicic, Federer’s coach, told him two years ago that he and Roger had watched their Milan match on tape recently. Then Boutter bumped into Federer, who was still annoyed that he had lost to him back in Grenoble in 1999.

“He said that he never should have lost that match,” Boutter recalls.

Boutter says that he knew Federer would be a great player, but had no idea he’d win 102 more titles and become one of the all-time greats. He thinks the Milan story could have been different if he hadn’t lost serve in that third set when it should have been Federer’s service game after he had dropped the tie-break.

“I told Roger ‘Imagine if I had won that match, our careers would be switched’,” said Boutter, who reached a career high of No. 46 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 2002. “He laughed and said ‘Yeah probably.’”

Federer admitted that he felt relief rather than joy and happiness — which kicked in 24 hours later — after triumphing in Milan. The Swiss remembers what he said to himself in the moment.

“At least I have one!”

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Medvedev & Rublev: Russia's Two-Headed Monster In Melbourne

  • Posted: Feb 04, 2021

It was clear Russia, as the only country with two Top 10 singles players, would be dangerous at this year’s ATP Cup. Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev have more than lived up to those expectations.

They have become a two-headed monster in Melbourne.

There are 12 countries in the field, and only Russia has not lost a set in singles. They haven’t come particularly close to doing so, either. Before the event, Russian captain Evgeny Donskoy said, “With these guys, it’s pretty easy to be a captain.”

Boy was Donskoy right. Medvedev has earned nine service breaks in his two matches against elite opponents in World No. 9 Diego Schwartzman and former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori. Rublev has picked up where he left off in 2020, when he won an ATP Tour-leading five titles. The big-hitting righty has lost a combined seven games in four sets against Guido Pella and Yoshihito Nishioka.

“We are really happy with our performance. I think Daniil as well, he beat two great players, one of them Top 10, one of them is a legend,” Rublev said. “I played two good matches, I showed a good level. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”

At the end of 2020, Medvedev and Rublev were among the hottest players on the ATP Tour, and both competed at the Nitto ATP Finals in London, where Medvedev lifted the trophy. But entering the ATP Cup, they did not carry any bravado.

Usually you’d expect to see a two-headed monster coming, but not with these two. Medvedev and Rublev are unassuming and amicable off the court. They are both lean, and not physically intimidating. But on court, they are deadly opponents — call them fire and ice. Rublev burns you with his surprising, jaw-dropping power, and Medvedev is a master of using his game to trip up opponents. Neither man is quick to toot his own horn, either.

“In my case, I don’t expect nothing. I just hope we’re going to do our best,” Rublev said before play began. “In the end, what’s going to happen is going to happen.”

To put it simply, the Russians have been too good for their competition. Take Wednesday’s tie against Japan, for example. Nishikori and Nishioka are both solid baseliners, capable of making the best players in the world play well to beat them. That’s exactly what Medvedev and Rublev did, according to Japanese captain Max Mirnyi.

“Both Daniil and Andrey played a very high level of tennis,” Mirnyi said. “Throughout the whole match, I felt that we had a few chances in both matches, but yet again, they came up with the solution and closed us off.”

Russia’s only hiccups have come in doubles, but those matches were not vital because Medvedev and Rublev had already earned singles wins. After Donskoy and Aslan Karatsev lost a Match Tie-break against Japan on Wednesday, Donskoy did not seem too concerned about his country’s hopes. He knows he has a two-headed monster in his corner.

“Fortunately three guys on our team are unbelievable players and they can achieve any goals here in this tournament,” Donskoy said. “I’m looking forward to these guys playing on Friday and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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Nick Kyrgios Reflects On Kobe Bryant Tattoo, Staying Calm

  • Posted: Feb 04, 2021

Just more than a year ago, Nick Kyrgios walked onto Rod Laver Arena for his fourth-round Australian Open match against Rafael Nadal wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey, with tears in his eyes just before the clash began. The Aussie was paying tribute to the NBA legend, who had just passed away in a tragic helicopter crash.

On Wednesday, after his second-round win at the Murray River Open against Harry Bourchier, Kyrgios spoke about how he continues to pay tribute to the Los Angeles Lakers icon. A couple months after last year’s Australian Open, Kyrgios got a large tattoo on his right arm to commemorate Bryant’s legacy.

“When I look down obviously it brings me back memories of how he would have competed, how he would have been remembered,” Kyrgios said. “I definitely feel as if when I’m on court, I feel like I’ve been around the Tour for a while now. I feel like I’m not going to get as angry as I used to. I just feel as if I know what style of tennis I need to be playing to win matches now.”

At 6/6 in the second-set tie-break against Bourchier, Kyrgios was the victim of bad luck when his fellow Aussie’s return trickled over the tape for a winner, giving Bourchier set point. But the 13th seed stayed calm and won in straight sets.

“Obviously I [get] frustrated, but I could have [gotten] angry today when he got the net tape to bring up the set point,” Kyrgios said. “I just stay composed, and that’s the way it is.”


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Between Bryant’s passing and the COVID-19 pandemic, Kyrgios has increasingly put things in perspective on and off the court. This is the 25-year-old’s first tournament since Acapulco last February.

“My relationship with tennis can change in a minute, but I think me being away from it, I’m not getting as angry, I feel,” Kyrgios said. “But I don’t know, obviously it’s instilled a lot of perspective in everyone, but I feel like I’ve had that throughout my career anyway. I haven’t really acted as if tennis is the be-and-end-all for me.

“I just take it day by day. I don’t set any goals. I don’t want to say I’m going to play tennis for longer or shorter. I just want to take it day by day, show up every day, try and play good tennis, try and be positive, try and be a better role model than I was last year. That’s it.”

Photo Credit: Tennis Australia
Last year, Kyrgios competed for Australia in the ATP Cup as his country’s No. 2 singles player. While he did not make the roster this year, Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt spoke about Kyrgios before this year’s 12-country event.

“I think as a whole him having a bit of a break away from the sport, where he’s positioned, for his body and mind, I think is a good thing. Because he hasn’t played a match for so long, though, it’s not going to be easy for him just to come out and switch it on, either,” Hewitt said. “I think it’s perfect for him to hopefully get through a few rounds in one of the ATP tournaments that he’s playing this week. But from a whole, he looks to be hitting the ball well, clean, he relies on his serve and is serving big at the moment.”

Kyrgios will play fourth seed Borna Coric for a spot in the quarter-finals of the Murray River Open.

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