On a Wang and a Prayer

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From former first lady Michelle Obama to many new found fans, it was a Coco fest for Gauff in DC.

THE GREATEST UNDERSTATEMENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE SPORT: Serena confided, “I know how to play tennis.”

NO IMITATING IT: Federer said Rafa’s game is so unique that he can’t find a practice partner to replicate it.

RAFA’S SECRET SAUCE: Nadal’s Uncle Toni said the key to his nephew’s success “is commitment…[It] is the most important thing…The inspiration has to be in the work. It’s the same for a painter, a sportsman, a journalist – for everyone.”

MAMA MIA: In the final of the 1994 Athens ITF tourney, Julia Apostoli, Tsitsipas’ mother, beat Alexander Zverev’s mother Irina.

NO PRESSURE, NAOMI: There is plenty of pressure on Naomi Osaka to defend her US Open title, but that’s nothing compared to her winning gold in a year at the Tokyo Olympics.

RELEARNING THAT FUN FEELING: Since winning the Aussie Open, Naomi Osaka has struggled on court and off. She said, “Unexpectedly, the worst months of my life have also had some of the best moments ‘cause I’ve met new people…I probably haven’t had fun playing tennis since Australia and I’m finally coming to terms with that, while relearning that fun feeling.”

THE LEO LINK: What do Federer, Bjorn Borg, Vika Azarenka, journalist Simon Cambers and Leonardo da Vinci’s father all have in common? All have sons named Leo.

WHICH WAY? The naming of a boulevard in Richmond, Virginia after Arthur Ashe prompted New York Times writer and former collegiate player Kurt Streeter to note, “Richmond is checkered with bronze and stone tributes to the Lost Cause. At a time when this country is at a crossroads, this will become an intersection where the sordid, sinful and divisive past meets an inclusive, hopeful vision for the future. Symbolically, it will ask the question: Which way are we going? Which way, Richmond? Which way, America?” 

JUST WONDERING: Has anyone since Steffi Graf paced around the court with such ferocity and intent as Sonya Kenin…What’s cooler, that during the Atlanta Open, winner Alex de Minaur won 94% of his first serves, never faced a break point or that he was the youngest to ever prevail?

WHAT BABE RUTH AND ROGER HAVE IN COMMON: Post-Wimbledon critics noted that Federer has lost 22 matches when he’s had match points. Roger’s defenders countered that that’s like saying Babe Ruth struck out 1330 times and for five years led the league in strike-outs. Similarly, Federer may have lost 22 times when having match points, but he’s won 1,122 times. Let’s see, that’s a 1,122-22 record when he’s had match points and that ain’t too bad.

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SHE’S AHN FIRE: Kristie Ahn’s nice run in San Jose was a boon for headline writers who had plenty of options such as “Mission Ahn-Possible” and “Kristie’s Ahn Her Game.” 

BEST NEW NICKNAME: McCoco – that would be Katy McNally and Coco Gauff – who won the Washington doubles title.

GO FIGURE: Roger and Rafa have met 40 times, but never at the US Open…Rafa bites his trophies, Nick Kyrgios bites his towels… Rafa said he sorts his bottles on court in order to retain his focus…Russia’s two-time Slam winner Svetlana Kuznetsova applied for a visa for entry into the US in February, but it didn’t come through. She won the DC tourney last year, but had to withdraw this year…There are plans to build a museum for Novak Djokovic in Belgrade. 

GENDER GAP: There are more than twice as many active women Slam winners (15) as men winners (7): Serena, Venus, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Kvitova, Azarenka, Muguruza, Kerber, Ostapenko, Stephens, Halep, Wozniacki, Osaka, Stosur and Barty; Roger, Rafa, Nole, Murray, Wawrinka, Cilic and Delpo. 

AMERICAN WOMEN: Ted Robinson said, “I don’t remember a more optimistic time for young American women.” No kidding. Coco Gauff was a Wimbledon sensation. Amanda Anisimova became the first player born in the 2000s to reach a Grand Slam semi and is now No. 22. Sonya Kenin beat Serena and Ash Barty. Caty McNally won the Washington doubles. Among the very young there are many others, including Whitney Osuigwe and Hailey Baptiste. All the while, five American women not named Serena, Venus or Sloane have won titles this year. 

THERE ARE NO TACTICS IN AMERICAN TENNIS – RIGHT? Toni Nadal took a swipe at tennis in these parts, saying, “This absence of [tennis] tactics, maybe it’s what America likes, but it’s not what I like.” But Brett Haber put things in a different perspective when reflecting on John Isner. He said Isner’s coach “has really reinforced the tent poles of John’s strategy. Impose yourself on the opposition, play big man tennis. Big serve, big first ball after the serve, take your rips on second serve returns.” 

THE ALTHEA-SERENA CONNECTION: Serena and Althea Gibson are not only fierce athletes and cutting-edge pioneers who both won back-to-back US Opens and Wimble- dons, they both met Queen Elizabeth and their images were on Wheaties boxes. The US Open is put- ting up a statue of Gibson. Someday, will they do the same for Serena and Venus?

HELP A HERO – VIC SEIXAS

Wikipedia

Before Arthur Ashe, before Jimmy Connors and Stan Smith, there was Vic Seixas. He was the leading light of American tennis. A Davis Cup hero, No. 1 tennis player in the land and 15- time major champion, he emerged from Philadelphia to lead us to the 1954 Davis Cup championship. He entertained thousands. Long a fixture at Mill Valley’s Harbor Point Club, the former pro and Hall of Famer, who is now 95, is now in dire need of home care. Vic’s fate is similar to many who excelled before tennis was a pro sport and found themselves impoverished late in their lives. There was Gussy Moran in LA. And when word got out about the grinding poverty Althea Gibson was suffering, tennis gathered and provided funds for her medicines and dental work. Seixas’ backers have now started a GoFundMe page, and some like Stan Smith and Pam Shriver have stepped up. But much more is needed. Please help this great man and a legend of American tennis. To donate go to gofundme.com/vic-seixas

ON A WANG AND A PRAYER

At the core of Mary Pierce’s poignant Tennis Hall of Fame acceptance speech were her comments about how religion transformed her once problematic life. She noted that early in her career, despite all her triumphs and fame, something was always missing. She felt an emptiness. She couldn’t figure it out. Then she found Jesus and everything changed…Coco Gauff said that before matches she and her dad pray for the safety of her and her opponent…Indian Sania Mirza said, “I’m not a perfect Mus- lim…none of us are perfect…I do the five pillars of Islam, I pray five times a day…It’s between me and my God.”…Michael Chang is the most deeply religious tennis star we know of…Novak Djokovic said, “Religion and faith should be something that comes from the free choice of a person. We are all the same in the end, [the] same people that have the same origin of love and life…We basically pray to the same energy, but in a different way…I’m not framed by any religion or anything else. I respect the freedom of choice, and all people should. If all the people in the world thought like this…it would be a much better place to live.”…On a much lighter note, Italian Raffaella Reggi said, “I have to learn how to serve someday. I have no clue. I just try to keep the first serve in and pray to God.”…Mary Carillo noted, “These days in the player’s box you see a coaching team and physio. With Nick Kyrgios you look up there and it’s not a team, it’s more like a prayer circle.”…When commentating on the problematic approach shots of No. 85 Jimmy Wang, the BBC said the Taiwanese player was coming to net “on a Wang and a prayer.”

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