Hail Yogi: Tennis Turns Its Lonely Eyes to Yogi Berra

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Bill Simons

Today was supposed to be the most beloved day in American sports – baseball’s opening day. But a fastball down the middle struck us out – we’re stuck in our dugouts. So tennis has turned its lonely eyes to none other than that masterful guru of wordplay – the late, great New York Yankee Yogi Berra.

The quips of the former catcher and manager were knuckleballs that provided us with hilarious and curious twists on life. His sayings were mindbogglingly obvious, in the best tradition of Mark Twain and Will Rogers. Berra’s “Yogi-isms” were sage non-sequiturs on steroids – terse, ironic and whimsical. Here are some of Yogi’s immortal sayings and how they relate to tennis.

Yogi said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

While reflecting on Grigor Dimitrov’s career, Mary Carillo said, “As my great Uncle Frank used to say, ‘What’s holding up the delay?'” Broadcaster Bill Threlfall commented, “Miss Virginia Ruzici was absolutely committed to going one way or the other.”

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Wimbledon broadcaster Harry Carpenter noted, “We’ve had no more rain since it stopped raining.”… John Isner’s 70-68 Wimbledon win over Nicolas Mahut prompted a David Letterman Top Ten List that included these items:

“We’ve been playing for so long I’ve forgotten – am I Isner or Mahut?”

“Remember when I said I was exhausted? That was eight hours ago!”

“I’m going to lay back until 51-50, then I’ll make my move.”

“I don’t know [if they were men or women fans running naked across the field]. They had bags over their heads.”

After Melissa Johnson joyfully streaked across Wimbledon’s hallowed Centre Court just before the 1996 Wimbledon men’s final, a headline read “Streaker Puts Some Bounce into Stodgy Old Wimbledon.” Johnson, then a 23-year-old pizza waitress noted the obvious, saying, “I am a bit of a naughty girl and I definitely have a wild streak.”

“I usually take a two-hour nap from 1 to 4.”

Sloane Stephens said, “I got the college experience without going to college. When my friends are like, ‘I’m going to class,’ I’m like, ‘I’m going to take a nap.'”…Wimbledon official Dorothy Cavis-Brown fell asleep on match point during a 1964 Clark Graebner-Abe Segal match. Segal joked that his game was boring and, “people always fall asleep when I play.” Cavis-Brown never officiated at Wimbledon again.

“The future ain’t what it used to be.”

During the opening round of a long-ago French Open, broadcaster Pat McEnroe predicted Amelie Mauresmo would win. His brother John promptly informed him that the Frenchwoman had already lost on a back court.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”  

Once when the young Ivan Lendl was trying to catch a plane to Oakland, California, he almost ended up going to Auckland, New Zealand.

“It gets late early out here.”

Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis played until 4:23 AM at the 2008 Aussie Open.

“If the people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, nobody’s going to stop them.”

A 2009 Israeli Davis Cup match was played in a virtually vacant Swedish stadium because officials feared violence. Recently, Davis Cup matches in Italy against South Korea were played without fans.

“Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

Earlier this year Federer and Nadal drew over 50,000 fans to Roger’s fundraiser in Cape Town…The New York Daily News once said that the US Open’s Ashe Stadium was so big that fans could get a better view from Russia’s Soyuz-2 satellite.

 “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”

One of Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ outfits was described as having a “dimestore-cowgirl-meets-soccer-player” look.

In a speech to fans on Yogi Berra Night in New York, Yogi said, ”I want to thank everyone for making this night necessary.”

In his farewell speech, Andre Agassi told the US Open crowd, “Over the last 21 years, I’ve found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed, sometimes even in my lowest moments.

And I’ve found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on, to reach for my dreams, dreams I could never have reached without you…I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life.”

“Little things are big.”

Was, inch for inch, 5’5-3/4″ Justine Henin the best women’s player in history? Is inch-for-inch 5’6″ Simona Halep the best player now in the WTA? Ken Rosewall, Bill Johnston, Pancho Segura and Bobby Riggs were all 5’7” or under. David Ferrer and Diego Schwartzman are the best short players in recent ATP history.

“You should always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise, they won’t come to yours.”  

After his coach Tim Gullikson died, Pete presented his trophy from his first Wimbledon title at the funeral in remembrance of the man who guided him to that 1993 title. Wimbledon sent Sampras a replacement trophy because, “All of us felt it was such a noble gesture that he’d made.”

 “I think Little League is wonderful. It keeps the kids out of the house.”

Jon Wertheim contended that tennis was “less appealing to the USTA’s broadcast partner [ESPN] than Little League baseball games.”

“Half the lies they tell about me aren’t true.”  

Rafa Nadal confided, “I’m not gonna lie if it’s not 100% necessary.”

When Yogi was asked what he would like to have as his epitaph, he replied, “That’s easy: ‘It’s over.’”

“…After South Carolina’s Ed Vantright played tennis for 146 hours and 15 minutes to enter the Guinness Book of World Records, his wife Ann said, “I’m glad it’s over and if he does [it again], he’ll be doing it as a bachelor.”

 

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