Over the last year and a half, I’ve been writing a column in this magazine that I’m sure you have all been reading called “My Opinion.” During that time, I’ve given my many strong views on all things involving the sport of tennis. From “crazy tennis parents” to “who is the greatest to ever play the game” to “country club tennis.” I’d like to think that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to this wacky sport. This is because I’ve been associated with tennis, one way or another, for the better portion of my entire life, so I would like to think that I have a very good resume. I’ve competed at every level imaginable, and I’ve traveled the world, coaching junior and professional players. I’ve even worked at many tennis clubs in the summers of my youth as a hitter and instructor. Not to mention, I’ve also given countless lectures at universities all over the Northeast about the sport and also how to successfully get out of credit card debt. So, the bottom line is that I’ve been around …
Listen, I don’t know what the hell I’m writing here. The truth is that this article is due tomorrow, and I have no idea what to write about this issue. So, here I am, lying on my futon with my laptop balancing on my chest, just babbling aimlessly. Can you believe this … I had two months to think of something, and I did absolutely nothing. Seriously … it’s 10:34 p.m., and I’m totally exhausted. Plus, I think the Homewrecker Burrito I had for dinner from Moe’s tonight isn’t sitting very well in my stomach right now, and might actually live up to it’s name. So, because of all of this, I think I’m going to just speed this whole process along by cutting and pasting some e-mails that people have sent to me over last year and a half … sit back and enjoy.
I read your article about your pick of Oliver Rochus being the greatest tennis player of all time. It was a very interesting read. But seriously, you can’t really think that Oliver Rochus is the greatest tennis player ever to live. It’s Roger Federer … no doubt! Federer is the best of all time. He won the most titles, plus he’s such a great ambassador for the sport. I can only hope that kids today try not to just copy his technique but also his gentlemanly demeanor when he’s on the court. He’s a great sportsman and that’s an absolute pleasure to see nowadays!
—John from Manhasset
Well John, thanks for the e-mail, but I have to disagree with you. Yes, Roger Federer is a great player. Yes, Roger Federer seems like a great guy. Yes, Roger Federer is amazing for the sport. But this illusion that he’s this polite choir boy when he competes is something you, along with a lot of other people have all wrong. You would be surprised, but Roger Federer has gotten upset with himself and has been nasty to his fair share of chair umpires throughout his career. The reason why he has the appearance of this quiet, polite gentleman is because he’s always winning. Seriously, the guy has made it to the finals of every major tournament for the last decade, so he almost never has a reason to ever lose his cool. That’s the Roger Federer “good sport” illusion. In fact, go on YouTube and type in “Federer cursing … Federer breaks racquet … Federer chair umpire … Federer crying” and it’s all there. Sure, it might not happen a lot, because he doesn’t lose a lot … but it has.
I play every weekend with this guy and he takes our match way too seriously. He wants to win at all costs, and he takes our tennis together as if the all of mankind was depending on the outcome of our match. He screams, he cheats, he argues, he fakes injuries … it’s awful. He makes the whole experience not too enjoyable for me. And all I want to do is just have fun and get some exercise. What should I do?
—Joey from Islip
Joey, I’ve seen this many times when I used to work summers at country clubs on Long Island. There are a lot of people who play recreationally that take it way too seriously and then they use the simple excuse that they are “competitive.” It’s actually quite common. It’s not like they are playing in a league match or in a tournament for the USTA or anything like that. If they were, then I can understand this strong desire to win. I have noticed this “competitive” behavior is most common with middle-aged men who have this inner drive to win at all costs. The reason for this is quite simple … they are very insecure. They have this feeling where they have to show you and the people watching that they are some tough guy, alpha male. And tennis is one of the few ways for middle-aged, insecure men to show their dominance against another human being. They cannot go out there and wrestle or box to prove their masculinity because they are in their mid-40s … so what’s the only available venue left? Tennis!
Seriously, think about it … tennis is the only sport where you can still pretty much play right up until your daughter-in-law drags you through the doors of a nursing home. There’s nothing else out there that you can physically compete at one on one. The bottom line is you shouldn’t get upset when you play with this guy anymore because you now know he’s just really insecure and he’s trying to put on an act to the people around to hide his shortcomings from the world. My guess is that’s he’s the type of guy who yells at waiters or talks on his cell phone while ordering coffee at Starbucks or dresses casually like he’s 18 and he’s trying to get into a New York City club or drives really fast in reverse … you get the point. So I wouldn’t take all this that seriously Joey. Just go out there and keep having fun and enjoy this great sport for what it is, despite what that scrub does.
I’m pretty new to the sport and I’m starting to really get into women’s tennis. How do you think Serena Williams would do against the men?
—Barbara from Forest Hills
So you have been starting to get into watching professional woman’s tennis. That’s great. So you’re the one! Just kidding. That’s a great question you asked Barbara, because a lot of casual tennis fans might very well believe a top woman player can compete on the men’s tour. Ironically enough, this question has been answered years ago at the 1998 Australian Open.
The story goes like this … Richard Williams was in the players lounge at the tournament and he was saying that his daughters can beat any man who is outside of the top 200 in the world. Karsten Braasch, a German player who used to be top 50 in the world, was hanging around the lobby and overheard this. At this time, Braasch was towards the end of his professional career and was only playing in the doubles draw where he lost in one of the early rounds. With his current men’s ranking being 203 and having just played 18 holes of golf along with drinking a couple of beers, Braasch walked over to Richard and told him that he’ll play his girls. Williams accepted the challenge and took his daughters to the back practice courts at the Australian Open and they warmed up and played. Braasch proceeded to beat Serena 6-1 and Venus 6-2. During changeovers, Braasch would relax by toweling off, while smoking a cigarette in the warm Melbourne air.
This is a totally true story, and if you don’t believe me, look it up. The bottom line Barbara is that I would say that professional women couldn’t compete in any way against the professional men. The speed of the serves are different, the power is different, the versatility is different, and the endurance is different. I would put big money down on any professional man in the top 1,000 to beat any professional woman. I would even go so far to say that there are a ton of Division I men’s college players out there that would beat the number one woman in the world.
I read your article about why there are so many single, middle-aged tennis pros in this business. I couldn’t agree with you more. You were spot on about everything. I’m a tennis pro out in East Hampton and I’m married with three kids, so I guess I’m one of the rare ones. LOL. Your next article should be about why all our clients have no problem calling us whenever they want. A lot of the pros I work with joke about this all the time. Have you noticed this phenomenon?
—Steve from East Hampton
Steve … thanks for the advice. You make a great point. What is it about being a tennis pro that makes people think that we are all so assessable? Many times, I’ve woken up in the morning and have picked up my phone to see that I’ve gotten a text message at 2:00 a.m. from a woman I coach asking if I can do a make-up lesson today. Do people get in touch with their accountants or lawyers like this? Is this expectable behavior? Do they think that we have a belt full of pagers and cell phones just waiting for them to go off so we can run into a phone booth to change into our tennis clothes at a moments notice? I don’t have an answer for you Steve, but I agree with you totally. It wouldn’t surprise me if I was in Times Square on New Year’s Eve counting down the ball to drop, and then around when I scream out the number three, I get a call asking if I can change my Tuesday lesson to Wednesday. The only guess I can make is that maybe there’s a tennis pro button on landline phones right next to the police and fire department. Other than that, I don’t know?
You seem like a pretty sharp guy. I’m making dinner for this girl I’ve been out with twice. I’ve thinking about making lobster. What wine would you pair that with? I need your help!
—Tony from Middle Village
Tony … if you like this girl and she seems like she might be a keeper, I would definitely go with a 2000 Maison Louis Jodot Chardonnay. It was a great year for French wines and it has very good fruit concentration. Also, it has nice acidity and a clean finish. But if you think there really isn’t much of a future with her … I’d probably just go with anything from 7-Eleven. Good luck!