Wimbledon: The Sacred Trust—An Interview With Genie Bouchard’s Longtime Coach Nick Saviano

By Bill Simons

So, does Eugenie Bouchard have a shot at winning this Wimbledon title?

There is nobody in the world she can’t beat on a given day, period. All we focus on is the match she’s playing, and the other person. We know their tendencies, but there is very little emphasis on the other person.

That was another great performance today by Bouchard. She plays with such a sense of urgency.

The goal is for her to play every point, every shot, as well as she can, with absolutely no errors.

You have seen the mentally tough greats of our game—Chrissie Evert, Monica Seles, Serena, Sharapova. Compare Genie, and talk about where her toughness comes from.

She is a determined, hard working, committed, world-class athlete. She is determined to be the best she can be. She’s relentless in that pursuit, and that’s something we naturally cultivated. More »


Wimbledon: Just Say Bouchard on Manic Monday

By Bill Simons

THE LOUDEST VOICES EVER HEARD IN THE WIMBLEDON PRESS ROOM: French writers yelling at the top of their lungs for their World Cup team. (And whoever had the audacity to say journalists should be impartial and not root for athletes?)

JUST SAY BOUCHARD: A star in the making, Eugenie Bouchard is a winner. She was a Wimbledon junior singles and doubles champion, and the WTA’s 2013 Newcomer of the Year. She’s  the only woman to reach two Grand Slam semifinals this year, and she has a bundle of gutsy wins over top 20 players. Her play at Wimbledon has drawn plenty of praise on BBC from none other than Martina Navratilova. The all-time great said the Canadian has her priorities straight, and is “blinkered”—playing with a great sense of urgency, and for all the right reasons.

Bouchard has great presence on court, and it’s hard to tell which is better, her forehand or backhand. She hits with power close to the lines, and is a fighter who knows how to lift her game. Her good looks only mean that she’ll be able to add another zero to the total on her endorsement checks. Aside from all of that, the Canadian doesn’t have much going for her. Many are asking if she will win a Slam soon—maybe this one. More »


The Wimbledon Tea Room: A Haven and Tennis Heaven Like No Other

By Bill Simons

Don’t you dare call it a sports cafeteria!

It is a gathering spot like no other, a hang out you can only imagine, and it offers the best tennis view this side of Monte Carlo.

It’s Wimbledon’s formerly-named “Competitor’s Restaurant” or, to you and me, it’s simply “The Tea Room.” It’s an enclave that buzzes with excitement, the celebrated place where Wimbledon gathers.

After all, there’s Roger Federer, right in the middle of it all, dreamy hair, calm demeanor, laid back and quietly holding court. This is a man who commands, so comfortable in his skin.

Three tables away from our game’s Superman is the game’s super mom, Oracene Williams, who now knows well the boulangeries of Wimbledon village and the finer hangouts in tennis. Who else has sat through so much tennis: Venus, Serena, singles, doubles, rain delays, triumphs and crises? For decades, this (weary long-ago) lady has been a witness like no other.

But the Tea Room is not about a single star or parent. It’s about the mindset of the whole game: family and fraternity, a moveable feast. Hordes hover on a dreary, drizzly day, or on a sunny afternoon, or at dusk, when England’s clouds go pink. From a distant corner of the fourth floor tea room, there is a lofty and singular tennis view. You gaze out at the magical horizon and all of tennis seems to be at your feet.

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Wimbledon: The Serena Slam Slump Continues—Williams Crashes Out to Cornet

By Bill Simons

After scoring the biggest win of her career and the biggest shock upset of this Wimbledon, a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Serena Williams, Alize Cornet kissed the soft grass of Court 1, while Williams—the No. 1 seed, and prohibitive favorite—kissed away her third straight Grand Slam opportunity.

Why?

Why has Serena Williams been slumping?

She’s the dominant player of our era. Some say she’s the best player of all time. She has power and ‘tude and 17 Slams.

She only considers it a good year if she wins two Slams a season. But now she seems a bit sluggish, and her confidence and ability to bring it at crunch time appear to have waned. She lost to Ana Ivanovic in the third round of the Aussie Open. Well, anything can happen in the first Slam of the year, said some. Then she lost to Spain’s, big hitting youngster, Garbine Muguruza in the 2nd round at the French Open. Well, clay still is not her best surface.

But here on the grass at Wimbledon, where she has won five times, it would be a different story. One of the greatest motivational players ever, she would be dialed in and determined, and  there’s nothing like a motivated Ms. Williams eager for blood and todayafter a four-hour rain delay, Williams wasted no time sprinting to a domineering 6-1 first-set win.

Ho-hum.

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Wimbledon: Mollycoddling Can Be Dangerous to Your Tennis Health

By Bill Simons

LI NA—ALTERING OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORLD:Andy Murray,” noted writer Simon Barnes, “knows all about being a British success when he wins and a Scottish failure when he loses—well, Li Na is a national darling when she wins …  But [when] she loses, she is a bad-tempered, non-patriot with a tattoo. Li takes all this in her stride.”

But she doesn’t exactly take her losses in stride. Tears can flow, anger can flash. This year, the woman with the brief name—20 letters shorter than that of her  third-round opponent , Barbora Zahlavova Strycova—had as brief a run as possible at Roland Garros, losing in the first round. And today, despite her wondrous Aussie Open triumph, she got bounced by the Czech Zahlavova Strycova, losing 7-6(5), 7-6(5) .

On one level, the loss made no sense at all. Twice before, Na has beaten Zahlavova Strycova. Twice, she’s won Grand Slams (at the 2011 French Open and this year’s Aussie) She was seeded No. 2.

Na is the first Chinese player to win a Slam, she’s No. 1 when it comes to tennis players recently making the cover of Time Magazine, and of course, she outdistances everyone in pro tennis when it comes to laughter. She’s the queen of comedy. But while Na cracks everyone up, she often cracks at Slams. Unfortunately, she’s also No. 1 when it comes to elite champions who are completely erratic.

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Wimbledon: Lightning Never Strikes Twice—Rafa Rolls Over Rosol

By Bill Simons

In Paris, they say that the hardest thing to do in tennis is beat Rafa Nadal at Roland Garros. In London, tennis folk claim the toughest feat in the game is to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back—of late, only Roger Federer (in 2009) and Nadal (in 2008 and 2010) have done it.

And from Reno to Rishikesh, many claim that lightning just doesn’t strike the same place twice.

There was no way that the less-than-distinguished Czech Lukas Rosol could again take down the best player in the world, Nadal, a second time. Then again, Rafa’s last few Wimbledons have been misfires. Since 2011, he hasn’t gotten past the second round. Besides the marathon physical demands, winning the French Open  is also an emotional drain, and it cuts down on your prep time for grass.

Plus, this year, the draw was most unfriendly. Yes, Rafa’s great Roland Garros nemesis Robin Soderling has long been sidelined. Belgium’s Steve Darcis, who shocked Nadal last year, didn’t make it out of qualifying. And incredibly, Rosol, the man who beat Rafa in five sets in 2012 to score what many call the greatest shock upset in Wimbledon history, would once again be Nadal’s second-round foe.

But don’t worry, lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice.

More »


Wimbledon: In the Footsteps of Pope Francis and Other Notes From Tennis Heaven on First Wednesday

By Bill Simons

THIS COULD BE TENNIS HEAVEN: It’s 8:47 p.m. Dusk is beginning to gently descend. It kisses the sky. Still, clouds are just beginning to gather their gentle pastels, friendly puffs floating free. The British crowd on Court 2 is proper and dignified. The bells of St. Mary’s Chapel, up the gentle hill on Church Road, chime a traditional sing-song Christian melody, which is completely ignored by a burly Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, as he battles LA’s lanky Sam Querrey deep in the fifth set. As the aces fly and fans cheer, the umpire, in his cream pants and purple blazer, says “4-all.” And you think alright, this is alright. Tennis heaven may just look—and sound—a bit like this.

A WONDERFUL BUT FAR FROM WACKY WEDNESDAY: How many times has a quirky individualist or uppity rebel been dressed down by some puffed-up authority figure: “Imagine, if everyone did it your way, there would be chaos, pure chaos. Don’t do that again!”

Well, imagine tennis fans, if every first Wednesday at Wimbledon was as wild and weird as last year’s Wacky Wednesday. Tennis would be unfathomable, a landscape devoid of form, pattern, or reason, an odd helter skelter world.

After all, last year on the first Wednesday at Wimbledon, Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky shocked Roger Federer. Victoria Azarenka, Marin Cilic, and Jo-Willie Tsonga all pulled out with injuries, and qualifier Michelle Larcher de Brito shocked No. 2 seed Maria Sharapova.

This year on first Wednesday, there was plenty of drama:

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Stanford’s New Hire: All That Was Gould’s is Now Goldstein’s

By Bill Simons

It was the greatest dynasty in the history of college tennis. Maybe one of the greatest legacies in all of college sports. But, for whatever reasons, the glimmering legacy left by Stanford Coach Dick Gould—with its 17 NCAA Championships —was tattered and in disarray.

Forget McEnroe—John or Pat. Forget the Bryans, Bob or Mike. And don’t even mention the Mayers —Sandy or Gene. The glory days of Maze, Mayotte, Tanner, Stark, Goldie, Grabb, O’Brien, Palmer, and Wolters were but a distant memory. The mighty Casey had long ago struck out. Jeez, this year, Stanford didn’t even get to the playoffs.

Stanford men’s tennis was no longer as good as gold, or Gould. But now, after the recent retirement of John Whitlinger, enters another golden guy: Paul Goldstein, named today as Stanford’s new men’s tennis coach.

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Wimbledon: Sweet Vicky, Mashing Masha, and Federer Knows Best

By Bill Simons

VICKY DUVAL—LITTLE GIRL, BIG FUTURE: While most all of Britain gathered around TVs in pubs from Manchester to Portsmouth; while much of Wimbledon gathered in Centre Court to watch Serena Williams demolish another overmatched foe; and while American Taylor Townsend went down quickly in a tearful match on Court 17, a cadre of six American writers and one Brit crowded into a tiny interview room the size of a Texas closet to chat with “yesterday”‘s hero, eighteen-year old Vicky Duval, the US Open darling who shocked Sam Stosur last summer.

The small room was packed. “You’re popular,” said one writer.

“I know,” replied Duval, but it sounded more cute than vain.

Duval has a high-pitched voice and a high-level game.

Some feared that her win in New York would prove to be a one-hit wonder. But Duval has hit the practice court, grown to be 5′ 10″, and now seems to be thriving. Never mind that she is now “just” coached by her mom.

Of course, many recall the tale of her father who, though he remains paralyzed, survived a killer hurricane in Haiti. More to the point, Vicky recently survived the killer competition of Roehampton qualifying. There, she says, “You just don’t know where the ball is going.”

Now, after scoring yet another first-round Grand Slam upset over a seeded player, it’s clear where the No. 115 player in the world is trending: upward. Her win over Romania’ s Sorana Cirstea out on court 16 was yet another rung on an intriguing ladder which might reach stardom.

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Wimbledon: Vika and the Art (or Not) of Tennis

By Bill Simons

A SMALL COMMENT ON A BIG MAN: Asked about chatting with Shaquille O’Neal, Andy Murray said, “He’s a big boy. He’s very entertaining.”

VICTORIA AZARENKA AND THE ART OF TENNIS: Vika Azarenka recently revealed that during her months on the sidelines she discovered she loved to paint. So we asked the former No. 1 about the joy of art. “Painting came to me … all of a sudden,” Vika responded. “I just wanted to try it. I feel it’s one of the best ways to express your emotions. I don’t look at it [like] I’m going to sell the painting or make money out of it.

I’ll tell you a funny story. I start painting. I don’t know what in the hell I paint. I was like, ‘Okay, I feel very emotional right now. I am just going to put [in] all the colors.’ I started doing it with my hands. I didn’t want to wash my hands, so I just did like that on my shirt.

Then I forget. It dried out. I put the shirt on. I walked outside because I was lazy. People were like, ‘Wow, that’s such an amazing shirt, where did you get it?’

I was like, ‘Really?’

They [said], ‘It’s so cool.’

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