1. Who is the G.O.A.T.?
I love Roger Federer and I admire Rafael Nadal, and at this moment, there is a strong case for either to be called the G.O.A.T. of men's tennis.
Roger, however, is unlikely to add another major and Rafa looks like he might be losing a step or two and it's hard to imagine that he has more than one great major run left. Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, could add five or more majors to his total of 20. He might also win the Grand Slam this year with a U.S. Open victory. Does Novak represent the sport with the grace and integrity of Roger and Rafa? Not likely. However, love him or hate him, Novak will earn a record that will undeniably place him at the top of history.
Is Novak the G.O.A.T.? Maybe not yet for sure, and it's hard to say anyway because we may define the term "greatness" by many metrics. Without regard to who is the greatest player ever, will Novak be regarded as the best player ever after he, Roger and Rafa have retired? Defiantly.
I made the mistake of leaving the sound on during the Wimbledon broadcast and heard a few of the "expert" commentators proclaim that this is Serena's tournament to finally break through and win another major. My first thought was, who were they watching?
Maybe it was wishful thinking because while Serena is a great player and perhaps the G.O.A.T. of women's tennis, at the present moment she just cannot cover the court very well. She is slow and off balance. Serena still strikes the ball amazingly and has the heart of a champion so it would be unwise to underestimate her future. She could revive her career and win more majors but it is unrealistic to watch her currently and expect that she is a strong title contender.
3. Open Draws
For as long as I can remember, local USTA players, coaches and parents have complained that some clubs who host junior tournaments "fix" or manipulate the draws to give the players who play at their club an edge. No need to name names, everyone knows who the suspects are. This credibility gap is not good for the sport but there is an easy address.
The USTA rules state the draws shall be made in the open but good luck finding a club that will accommodate your request to watch the draw being made. Even if they were to cooperate, such an undertaking would be needlessly inconvenient.
Why not require tournaments to post the draw selection on Facebook Live. This would ensure fairness and put questions of integrity to rest. Transparency would grow the game and ensuring a fair draw could be just a click or two away.
4. Greatness and goodness gone
Dick Zausner, President and Owner of the famed Port Washington Tennis Academy, passed away at 87. I couldn't list his accomplishments in a single article and not have it become a book but I do have a story to share that represents my memory of him.
Many years ago my club hosted a beginner’s Boys’ 10 and under tournament. When one of the boys in his first tournament started crying uncontrollably right as the match began, he left the court. A pro at my club consoled him for a brief moment out of kindness and the boy returned and continued. The parents of the other boy complained that this was against the rules (which in all fairness, it was.).
Dick Zausner, who at the time was the head of the rules committee, was called and said the following: "These children are just nine-years-old, and for crying out loud, use common sense and compassion. Let them just enjoy playing."
As a post note: both boys went on to have very successful playing careers and Dick Zausner’s wisdom at that critical moment I'm sure played a huge part. Common sense, compassion and a love of tennis and the people who play it. That's how I will remember Dick Zausner.
He was a great and good man.
5. You can have it all
Photo courtesy of USTA/Getty Images
Many players have to choose between prioritizing academics or athletics but not newly crowned Junior Wimbledon Champion Samir Banerjee (pictured right) who will be attending Columbia University.
He will play for Coach Howard Endelman who has helped elevate 4-star recruits to the ATP tour while getting an Ivy League education. It's scary to think how good this young man will get under Coach Endelman's guidance. As a junior I remember Howie as a hard-worker. As a highly-successful businessman, Howard worked even harder. Today, Coach Endelman is tirelessly demanding that each member of his team outwork him. He has created a culture of excellence on the court and off and it works.
Samir has made a great choice by picking Columbia because he will have it all.
Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.