Pasarell’s look back on Andre Agassi’s first trip to the BNP Paribas Open

By Leighton Ginn

Former BNP Paribas Open owner and tournament director Charlie Pasarell said his mentor Pancho Gonzalez request an unknown 15-year-old get a wildcard. Without question or seeing the kid, Pasarell gave the kid a wildcard.

That kid happened to be Andre Agassi.

Agassi did well in the first round, beating John Austin, setting up a matchup against then No. 1 Mats Wilander.

Prior to the match, Wilander came into Pasarell’s office to ask what he knew about Agassi.

Pasarell didn’t know much, but suggest Wilander avoid his forehand.

When Pasarell went to watch the match, Wilander hit every shot to Agassi’s forehand, and won in dominating fashion, which Pasarell jokes about.

“Well that’s how much I know about the game of tennis,” Pasarell said laughing.

Because Agassi was an amateur, he couldn’t accept prize money. But Pasarell said made sure Agassi was properly compensated.

Agassi had put in his expenses as $300, but the prize money for reaching the second round was $1,000.

But Pasarell said he looked at Agassi’s expenses and thought there were things that were off, and made his corrections.

The story was later told differently by Agassi in his autobiography, “Open.”

Below is the full video of Pasarell talking about Agassi at the BNP Paribas Open.

Why do some people think Serena Williams career is over after the year she’s had?

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Watching the ESPN talk shows and many were ready to declare Serena Williams’ career over, or she might not win another major, etc.

It always seems to happen to all the great players when they suffer an upset loss and they are over 30-something.

Williams lost her semifinal match to Karolina Pliskova, who is No. 11 in the world and might have the biggest weapons on the WTA Tour, outside the Williams sisters.

But the overanalyzing of Williams began soon after the match.

So here’s my take on a few of the issues.

  1. HER DAYS OF DOMINATION ARE OVER: When the new rankings come out Monday, Williams will be No. 2 behind Angelique Kerber. This year, Williams reached the finals of the Australian, French and Wimbledon and the semifinals of the US Open. She won Wimbledon. And ask yourself, is there a player on the WTA Tour you would make a favorite over Williams? Kerber will be No. 1, but I still don’t think I would favor her over Williams just yet.
  2. WILLIAMS’ BEST DAYS ARE BEHIND HER: I felt this last year, when she completed the Serena Slam for the second time. Williams is not the same player she has been, but to her credit, she has evolved her game. She’s gone from intimidating power player to more of a cerebral assassin. What hasn’t changed is Williams’ fierce competitive nature. On the WTA Tour, no player really has elevated to Williams level, and the ones who have haven’t maintained it until Kerber. But it remains to see how long Kerber can keep up this level, and if some other players can rise.
  3. AGE HAS TO CATCH UP WITH HER: Williams turns 35 later this month, which is old for tennis players. Her shoulder hurt was an issue in the Rio Olympics and now her knee was giving her problems. This could be the most legitimate threat to her career. But for right now, we don’t know the extent of these injuries. But Williams says she plays for the majors, so we could easily see her take the rest of the year and relinquish the year-end No. 1 ranking to Kerber, rather than chase her. Williams has proven she doesn’t need a good seed to win a tournament, so she could lighten her schedule and still contend for majors.

In tennis, there is this desire to declare someone’s career over prematurely. When Pete Sampras went on a two-year slump, they thought he was done until he won the US Open. People thought Roger Federer was through last year because he hadn’t won a major since the 2012 Wimbledon, but he was No. 2 in the world and reached the finals of the US Open and Wimbledon.

We don’t always know when it’s over for a great player. But there should be real evidence. Although there will be a change at the top, Williams is still at the top of the tour.

Unless there’s something more, I anticipate Williams will be back next year contending for major titles and the No. 1 ranking.

 

 

 

Could Novak Djokovic lose out on Player of the Year honors in a year he completes the Grand Slam?

 

In a year where Novak Djokovic became the first player to win all four Grand Slam titles, there is a possibility that he could lose out on Player of the Year honors.

It’s unlikely, but plausible.

What makes is plausible is the way Andy Murray is playing of late. If Murray captures the US Open, then he will have a stronger case.

Currently Murray has a Wimbledon title and reached the finals of the Australian and French Opens, both of which Djokovic won. Then you throw in the Olympic gold medal, that’s an incredibly strong year.

What might give Murray an edge is how Djokovic had done at Wimbledon and the Olympics.

Djokovic lost in the third round at the All England Club to No. 41 Sam Querrey and the first round in Rio, although he did lose to the eventual silver medalist in Juan Martin Del Potro, who is currently No. 141 in the rankings.

It’s been a draining year for Djokovic, who has played at a superior level for an incredibly long time. But since the award is for accomplishments since January, he could be leaving the door open for Murray.

It won’t be easy for Murray. He would have to win the US Open, and he has never won two majors in the same season (depending on how you rank an Olympic gold medal). And the US Open is the most grueling Slam.

Now if Murray does win the US Open, that might still not be enough to surpass Djokovic.

In Masters 1000 events, Djokovic has won four of six events. Murray has won just one, but did reach two finals.

How much the Masters 1000 events count into Player of the Year honors, I’m not sure, but these are significant tournaments.

And there is also the ATP finals in November. If Murray can win that, then people will have to look closely.

So US Open and ATP Finals titles, and with Djokovic still playing high-level tennis, is a huge mountain for Murray to climb.

But it is also possible.

 

Andy Roddick will have his New York moment in World Team Tennis

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By Leighton Ginn

 

When Andy Roddick makes his return to World Team Tennis for the 2016 season, it will be in a place he never played but in a state where he had his biggest moments.

Roddick will play for the New York Empire at Forrest Hills, the longtime home of the US Open, on Aug. 9. The next day, the Empire will travel to take on the Philadelphia Freedom which will complete the season for Roddick, who is also part of the WTT ownership group.

Playing in New York is the highlight for Roddick, given his history in the Empire State.

“I feel like I’ve grown up in front of New York,” Roddick said. “I played doubles there for the first time in a pro tournament when I was 15 to retiring there and playing my last match in 2012. I had the highest of highs, and lowest of lows.

“But I just love New York. The fans are so fair all the time. If you give them everything you have, they’re going to give you everything they have. Conversely, if you play like a schmuck, they’re going to let you know about it. I’ve always kind of appreciated the honesty of the New York sports fan.”

Roddick said he has always been a fan of the unique style of WTT, and is always happy to participate. He believes the pacing is what makes it so exciting for the fans.

“Everything is quicker, faster, more in-your-face,” Roddick said. “The one-set matches keep your attention, or demand your attention during the 2-3 hours. I always liked it. It feels like the players are more interactive based on the format. It’s something I enjoyed when playing.”

Roddick also attributes World Team Tennis to his progression as a professional, while the format also provides something exciting for the fans. So when he was approached about investing in the league, Roddick said it was a no brainer.

“Anytime you’re approached by someone on the iconic level of Billie Jean King, especially in the role she’s played and how important she’s been in the game of tennis, you always want to listen,” Roddick said. “We’ve had a great relationship for a long time. Her presence in this league and my memory of this league and the opportunity it gave me.

“I was 17 and had no ranking, kind of just trying to break through in the pro ranks when they let me play for the team in Boise, Idaho at the time. That experience of playing professionals day in and day out in a three-week sequence during the summer was a huge part of my development. It felt like something that was good to be apart of.”

 

Andy Roddick impressed with how far Novak Djokovic has come, but too early to rank him as GOAT

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By Leighton Ginn

Andy Roddick said when Novak Djokovic first burst into the consciousness of the ATP Tour, he wasn’t an obvious talent like he saw when contemporaries Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal debuted.

Yet if Djokovic can continue on the trend he is, he might go down as the greatest ever, surpassing both Federer and Nadal.

“I think with Novak, it’s a realistic conversation to have,” Roddick said on July 13 over the course of two conference calls to promote appearances at the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 17 and World Team Tennis on Aug. 9-10. “And it’s a realistic question to ask, where you think he’ll fall in that line. It’s a complement to him that he’s forced his way into that conversation.”

For over a decade, Federer has been talked about as the greatest ever, and holds the record with 17 major singles title. Nadal is tied with Pete Sampras for second with 14. Djokovic is tied with Roy Emerson for fourth with 12.

Djokovic is 29 and playing the best tennis of his career. He had won all four majors consecutively until his upset loss to Sam Querrey in the third round of Wimbledon.

If Djokovic continues dominating the tour, five more majors is within the realm of possibility.

It’s time to talk about Novak Djokovic as one of the greatest ever in tennis

In comparison, Federer did reach the semifinals of Wimbledon, but has not won a major title since the 2012 Wimbledon. Nadal has struggled with injuries and hasn’t won a major title since the 2014 French Open.

But Roddick said it’s really hard to judge until Djokovic, Federer and Nadal complete their careers.

“It’s like comparing movies having not watched the last 20 percent of the great movies,” Roddick said. “Right now, if you look at the numbers, Roger is there and five slams (lead) is significant, but Novak is obviously trending. He’s the greatest right now.”

2013 Mylan World Team Tennis

July 13, 2013;Mylan World Team Tennis Springfield Lasers @ Orange County Breakers Andy Roddick (USA). Photo courtesy of CameraworkUSA.

 

Roddick is a contemporary with Federer, as they both won their first major titles in 2003, with Federer taking Wimbledon and Roddick the US Open, which would be his only major title. And Roddick, a mainstay in the top-10 throughout his career, also has a long history against Nadal and Djokovic.

Two years later, Nadal would come onto the scene and had an instant impact as a teenager in 2005.

Roddick said it was obvious from the start of both Federer and Nadal’s careers would be special.

“You look at Rafa and he’s a physical specimen, the weight of shot is amazing,” Roddick said. “You look at Roger  and the talent is instant to your eye. What he can do on a tennis court, and with the flare and the options he had on a tennis court, it created a little bit of jealousy.”

The first impression Roddick had of Djokovic was very different. While Djokovic was a promising young talent, Roddick saw enough weaknesses he could take advantage of.

“With Djokovic, I don’t think it was as obvious to the eye when he first came out, but he’s improved the most after the first four or five years of his career,” Roddick said. “To take something like his physical fitness, something I viewed as a weakness when I played him in 2008 and 09, he’s turned it into a bonafide strength for him now, which is a testament not only to his work ethic, but also to his ability to see what his weaknesses were.”

Roddick also points to Djokovic’s forehand, a shot that could be prone to errors in pressure situations earlier in his career. That’s not the case anymore, Roddick said.

“Early on, I knew I could go to that side and maybe get a couple of tight errors,” Roddick said. “With just little technical adjustments, now it’s a strength under pressure.

“I think his progress as a player is maybe the most obvious of those three guys. It’s really impressive what he’s become.”

Roddick said he got a chance to know Djokovic a little more during a trip to South Korea for an exhibition they were playing.

Djokovic approached Roddick to see if he would like to go early to hit and work off the jet lag.

Roddick agreed and showed up 30 minutes early. He didn’t see Djokovic in the locker room and was wondering if he would be late.

When Roddick walked to the court, he found Djokovic, who had arrived 30 minutes before Roddick and was in the middle of his stretching routine.

“I think it gives you a peak into why he is where he is right now,” Roddick said.

 

 

 

 

Andy Roddick returns to grass for first time since 2012 Olympics as he plays in Hall of Fame exhibition

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Andy Roddick shakes hands with former US Davis Cup teammate James Blake following a PowerShares match. Roddick and Blake will compete in the PowerShares event on July 17 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame prior to the men’s final.  Photo courtesy of PowerShares Series.

 

By Leighton Ginn

Andy Roddick said one of the appeals of playing in the International Tennis Hall of Fame exhibition on July 17 is the opportunity to return to his favorite surface, grass.

Roddick was a three-time finalist at the most storied grass-court tournament, Wimbledon. But Roddick has not played on the surface since the 2012 Olympics, which was held at the All England Club, the home of Wimbledon. A few weeks later, Roddick would retire from the tour, but continues playing on the seniors’ PowerShares Legends Series, which is part of the July 17 event in Newport, R.I.

PowerShares Series

“There’s not a lot of grass court tennis available for retired players,” Roddick joked during one of two conference calls on July 13. “Grass was my favorite surface to play on, so any excuse to get back on that court and play on grass is a win all the way around for me. I’m excited about it.”

Roddick will join James Blake, Mark Philippoussis and 2016 Hall of Fame inductee Marat Safin in the exhibition. Joining Safin as an inductee will be Justine Henin. Two other honorees, Yvon Petra and Margaret Scriven, will be inducted posthumously.

It will be the first time Roddick will play in Newport, R.I., as he missed the ATP event during his career.

Although he never made it to Newport, Roddick is knowledgable of the history, which makes it appealing for him this weekend.

And grass is the perfect surface, as much of the history of tennis was played on grass.

It also helps that grass was one of the surfaces that suited Roddick’s game, featuring a rocket serve and power forehands.

“On some other surfaces, the slower surfaces, I had to make more adjustments than I did on grass,” Roddick said. “What I did well as a player translated well on grass, and it just made sense to me.”

Roddick’s shoes from his 2003 US Open title are on display in the museum. In the future, Roddick hopes more than his shoes will be displayed in the Hall of Fame.

In addition to his US Open title, Roddick was a former No. 1 and led the US to a Davis Cup title.

“That’s the goal of any tennis player because it’s the pinnacle achievement for what can happen to you post-career,” Roddick said. “I almost feel weird talking about it, because you feel undeserving when you look at the people who have been inducted. But it’s natural to think about. I certainly hope to be considered.”

 

 

 

Serena Williams has been so good that we take her greatness for granted

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By Leighton Ginn

We tend to forget Serena Williams is dominating the sport of tennis while on the brink of 35, out classing the swarm of talented millennials.

We tend to forget Serena Williams is doing things never seen on a tennis court. No player in the sport has the blend of power and finesse that she has.

We tend to forget that Serena Williams have beaten many of the sports all-time greats from various generations.

What we do know is that Serena Williams is the most dominating force the sport has ever seen, and we all set the bar extremely high. Sometimes it seems unrealistic what we expect from Serena Williams until we see how much she dominates the sports, beating players who were toddlers when she launched her career.

So when Williams captured Wimbledon for her 22nd Grand Slam title to tie Steffi Graf for the Open era record, it was almost ho-hum. Or maybe people shared my unfair opinion about it — It’s about time.

Williams fans will say we are unfair and we don’t appreciate what we see.

I do.

Williams has dominated the game like no other.

No other player has had two “Serena Slams,” or winning all four major titles at once.

No other player has dominated the sport like Williams.

So I expect a lot, because I’m sure everyone expects a lot.

Williams is so great, it would be a shame if she didn’t have the numbers to back it up.

She needed to win 22, or that makes it harder to proclaim her as the greatest ever.

You can argue Tiger Woods is the greatest golfer ever, but when he falls short of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles, then it’s no longer a valid argument.

The fact of the matter is, Williams has been that good, and she should have been better. Her numbers should have been grander.

Unfair expectations for other players, but reasonable for Williams.

Why is it reasonable?

Williams is just that good.

Andy Murray’s amazing year that people are starting to notice

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By Leighton Ginn

The bar has been set extremely high this year by Novak Djokovic, but Andy Murray’s season has reached cosmic highs that might be overshadowed.

Murray won his third major title when he captured the Wimbledon title for the second time in four years, and first this year.

This season, Murray has reached the finals of all three majors, losing to Djokovic in the Australian and French finals.

Any other year, Murray will be talked about as a possible player of the year winner.

But the fact is, Djokovic has played at a phenomenal level this year. Djokovic has been so good that it makes the No. 1 ranking and player of the year honors highly unlikely, even if Murray wins the US Open.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be awed by Murray’s year. His victory at the All England Club is something this country probably needed after all the Brexit news and uncertainty.

After winning Wimbledon in 2013, Murray had back surgery, and for a while, it looked unlikely he could reach the heights Djokovic has. It took him over a year to return to top-10 levels and until this year to reach elite status of the Djokovic and Roger Federers.

And don’t try to water down Murray’s title. Just because he didn’t have to face Djokovic or Federer, his finals opponent, Milos Raonic, has the classic power game that traditionally succeeds on the grass courts.

Murray dominated him.

It’s good to see Murray playing at this level, because he’s had bad luck with injuries. About 10 years ago, Murray appeared to be ready to make a breakout, but then he started to suffer ankle injuries while Djokovic started to ascend to the top levels.

And before Murray’s 2013 back surgery, he was right there with Federer, Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to create tennis’ fearsome foursome.

With Federer and Nadal hampered by injuries this year, tennis needs Murray to win majors to keep up this unprecedented level.

The next question for Murray is when he will be knighted. Two Wimbledon titles, as well as a US Open and Olympic gold medal, after no Brit had won a major since Fred Perry in 1936 and it’s inevitable we’ll be calling him Sir Andy.

Wouldn’t it be funny if it happened soon, so his opponents will have to call him Sir Andy at Wimbledon?

 

 

 

If Novak Djokovic wins Wimbledon, there’s no good reason for him to play the Olympics

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By Leighton Ginn

There’s no question that Novak Djokovic is a very patriotic person and cherishes representing his beloved Serbia whenever he can.

So the Olympics will be a huge goal for him.

But if I was advising him, I’d tell him to ditch Rio, especially if he wins Wimbledon.

More history on hand for Novak Djokovic as he heads into Wimbledon

The obvious reason is Djokovic will be one victory away from achieving the calendar-year Grand Slam, which has only been accomplished by two male players. He would be the first since Rod Laver in 1969.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment.

There’s no question that Djokovic’s heart is to compete in Rio and represent his country. In Djokovic’s previous two Olympics, he’s won a bronze in Beijing and didn’t medal in England, having lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the bronze medal match.

I’m sure he’s driven to win the gold, and he will be the overwhelming favorite. If Djokovic doesn’t play this year, he’ll be 33 by the time the next Olympics roll around, so the consequence could very well be never winning a gold medal.

It’s time to talk about Novak Djokovic as one of the greatest ever in tennis

At the French Open, Djokovic said it would be “unthinkable” to cancel the Olympics. But Djokovic was answering the question about the Zika virus, which is a good reason to avoid Rio.

This was before Djokovic won the French, to put him halfway to the Grand Slam. If Djokovic wins Wimbledon, then he should pull out of Rio immediately. I’m sure when he made his “unthinkable” comments, he wasn’t taking into consideration he would have a shot at the Grand Slam.

Naturally, Djokovic is a competitor. As well as he’s playing, he could do something only Steffi Graf has done, which is complete the Golden Slam if he could win the gold medal.

Keep this in mind with Graf. The Olympics came after the US Open, so there were no scheduling conflicts. And the Olympics was more an afterthought anyways.

Djokovic would have two weeks following the end of the Olympics and the start of the US Open.

It’s doable.

But you also have to consider that Djokovic will have the physical mileage of reaching the finals in just about every tournament he plays. Then you throw in the mental toll from the pressure he will face at each tournament.

The US Open is the toughest Grand Slam on the calendar and it comes at the end of a season, and the whole season is a grind already.

I’d have Djokovic look at the Golden State Warriors. They went after the regular-season record and set it at 73-9. A great accomplishment and a feather in their caps.

But they didn’t achieve their ultimate goal of winning the NBA title.

Kind of makes that 73-9 record an afterthought. And assistant coach Luke Walton admitted that going after the record took a toll on the players as they ran out of gas. And many of the pundits were speculating about it anyways.

Only time will tell if Garbine Muguruza will be the next great thing or next flameout

Now let’s get back to the Zika issue.

This is a major health risk. Djokovic has a chance to become the greatest ever.

You heard me, the greatest ever.

Zika is no joke and many athletes are struggling about going.

These are athletes who have spent their whole life training for the Olympics, which is the defining moment of various sports.

For tennis, it’s really just another tournament.

So Nole, just say no to the Olympics if you win Wimbledon.

 

 

 

 

More history on hand for Novak Djokovic as he heads into Wimbledon

 

By Leighton Ginn

As Novak Djokovic returns to the All England Lawn Tennis club, the world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player will have another historic opportunity.

By winning the French Open, Djokovic became the first player to win four consecutive majors since Rod Laver completed the Grand Slam in 1969.

If Djokovic wins a third-consecutive Wimbledon title, he will have won five consecutive major titles. That’s something that has never been done by a man in the open era.

The only man to win five consecutive major titles was Don Budge from 1937-38 when he won six consecutive titles, including becoming the first man to complete the Grand Slam.

If Novak Djokovic wins Wimbledon, there’s no good reason for him to play the Olympics

However, Wimbledon won’t be easy.

You can never count out Roger Federer, who has won seven titles at Wimbledon, tying him with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw for most titles.

And Andy Murray will be tough to beat. When it comes to tennis, Murray is the United Kingdom’s favorite son and would have a huge home-court advantage.

Murray’s only two major titles have come against Djokovic, and both were historic. Murray’s 2012 US Open title was the first by a British man since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray then won the Wimbledon title in 2013, the first win by a male Brit in the country’s greatest tournament since Perry in ’36.

Murray comes into Wimbledon reunited with Ivan Lendl, the man who led him to the US Open and Wimbledon titles.

It’s time to talk about Novak Djokovic as one of the greatest ever in tennis

While Djokovic is the greatest returner in the game, all the big servers have a puncher’s chance on the grass of Wimbledon.

And Djokovic will also have to deal with the mounting pressure that comes with his historic achievement of winning four consecutive majors.

Only time will tell if Garbine Muguruza will be the next great thing or next flameout

How someone deals with mounting pressure can be hard to gauge. Serena Williams will likely go down as the grestest women’s player of all time, yet despite her dominating play this year, she’s struggled in the final of the Australian and French opens.

And she’s admitted it’s been nerves.

Could that happen with Djokovic? Hasn’t bothered him yet.

And if Djokovic has shown us anything, it’s that he’s up for any challenge.