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Archive for the ‘ATP’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Family, Friends, and Hall of Famers Celebrate Charlie Pasarell’s Ring Ceremony

Charlie Pasarell and the rest of the Hall of Famers in attendance.

Charlie Pasarell and the rest of the Hall of Famers in attendance.

Charlie Pasarell Celebration

As tournament director and managing partner, Charlie Pasarell was instrumental in helping to build the Indian Wells tournament into the world-class event it has become.

So it was more than fitting that he received his official International Tennis Hall of Fame ring last night on the Stadium court, in front of an adoring crowd, before the start of the evening session.

Charlie was inducted into the Hall of Fame last summer. But the HOF has a wonderful tradition of presenting the ring at a home location that affords the best opportunity for the inductee to be surrounded by as many family and friends as possible.

The stadium ring ceremony was a public affair. The celebration dinner afterward, emceed by Pam Shriver, was much more intimate; attended by some Charlie’s immediate family, as well as his extended family in the tennis community.

Also on hand were several other Hall of Fame members, many of whom spoke glowingly about their friend and fellow-inductee. Those in attendance included Hall of Fame President Stan Smith, Donald Dell, Bud Collins (pants as colorful as ever), Butch Buchholz, Brad Parks, Rosie Casals, Billie Jean King, Roy Emerson, and Mark Woodforde.

Charlie, with his father and son looking on, was just as moved by this moment as he was at his official induction in Newport. After an encore viewing of his video tribute, and hearing the touching tributes of his friends, it was obvious to see how touched he was by this moment.

Looking out at the familiar faces, his voice at times struggling to control his emotion, Charlie offered a simple, “Thanks to all my friends who are here today. I’m touched by all the support.”

(Click thumbnail for a larger image)

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PostHeaderIcon James Blake on a Roll as the Champions Shootout Comes to Sacramento

James Blake  (courtesy www.powersharesseries.com

James Blake
(courtesy www.powersharesseries.com

World-class men’s tennis returns to Northern California tonight with the Champions Shootout: the next stop on the PowerShares Series 12-city tour.  Featuring a roster of tennis icons and legends, the PowerShares Series combines the best of competitive tennis and fan appreciation in a condensed format that’s fun for both the players and fans alike.

The last PowerShares visit to the Bay Area saw Jim Courier, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Todd Martin battling it out for supremacy (and rankings points) in San Jose. This time around, Sacramento is the battleground. And stalwarts Courier and McEnroe are joined by Pete Sampras and series newcomer, James Blake.

McEnroe currently leads the rankings, followed by Courier and PowerShares newcomer Andy Roddick. Blake, however, is quietly making a run for the top spot after picking up his first PowerShares title with a 7-6 (5) win over McEnroe in Salt Lake City.

It’s hard to believe that Blake only just retired from the pro ranks this past fall at the ripe old age of 28. Hard to believe, maybe, but understandable given the toll that injuries have taken on his body over the years.

After struggling in qualifying rounds through most of the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Blake made his official retirement announcement at the 2013 US Open, after a first-round loss to Ivo Karlovic.

With pro tennis seemingly behind him, Blake looked ready finally enjoy some quality time with his wife and young daughter. But the lure of competition proved too strong, so five months later he’s back on the courts: hitting blistering forehands as though he never left, and having a good time with his old friends.

Blake’s first outing in Denver ended in a finals loss to Andre Agassi. His second was another finals loss to his good buddy Roddick in Houston. The third time definitely proved to be the charm, however, with his win in Salt Lake City. At this rate, McEnroe had better watch his back in Sacramento!

The Champions Shootout begins at 3PM with a special “Play with the Pros” on-court hitting session with Sampras and Blake, followed by a second session featuring McEnroe and Courier at 4PM. Semifinal match play begins at 6PM, with the winners advancing to the finals immediately afterward.

Hope to see you there.

PostHeaderIcon Steffi Graf and Lindsay Davenport in the SAP Open Press Room (AUDIO)

DSCN0633Now that I’ve finally recovered from both my Hawaiian vacation and a weekend of provisional umpiring (that finished my volunteer requirement… YAY), I’m closing the book on this year’s SAP Open with an audio clip of Steffi Graf and Lindsay Davenport.

The clip was recorded during their post-match press conference after (an entertaining) mixed doubles exhibition match with Andy Roddick and Justin Gimelstob. Please accept my apologies in advance for the quality of the recording, and the incessant clicking of cameras any time that Steffi opened her mouth to speak. I was blocked from the front row by unruly photographers. You’ll have to turn up the sound at times to hear them.

The voice next to me is Bill Simons of Inside Tennis. He’s a great guy and a very knowledgeable tennis source. We made a pretty good team. If you have any questions on their responses, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to fill in the blanks.

(click the arrow to play the audio)

PostHeaderIcon Tennis, Love, and Overcoming Adversity: A Chat with Alan Chin, Author of Match Maker

Back in college, I read a book that had a profound effect on me: both positive and negative. The book was The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren.  At its’ core, The Front Runner is a story about the love affair between a coach and a runner.  And back in an era that was rife with tragic stories of what happened to gay men who attempted to love and be happy, I was swept away by this seemingly positive narrative.

Sadly, my sense of happiness was short-lived. One of the primary characters, the runner, was shot and killed as he surged toward the finish line ahead of his rival. After two days and many tears, I was finally able to finish this bittersweet tale of yet another tragic gay love story.

It’s against this backdrop that, almost thirty years later, I received a copy of Match Maker from its’ author Alan Chin.  Match Maker is the story of an ex-pro/tennis coach who takes on the job of coaching a talented, but undisciplined, player in the hope of helping him reach the top of the professional game.  Though Match Maker is set against the backdrop of professional tennis, I immediately drew parallels between the two books because of the relationship between the gay coach (Donald) and his star-athlete tennis player (Connor).

There are, however, several major differences between the two books.  Unlike Harlan, the gay coach in The Front Runner, Donald is partnered, albeit in a troubled relationship with a borderline alcoholic ex-professional tennis player (Jared).  And Connor is a straight tennis player, who is conflicted by his own desire to be a doctor and his father’s desire for him to be a top professional player.  Also, Connor is Asian, which adds other cultural layers on top of an already unconventional storyline.

Even with those differences, I still prepped myself for the moment when tragedy would befall their crew because of the sexuality issue (because that’s what usually happens).  Sure enough, the moment came when Donald was shot and paralyzed at a tournament as the crew was heading to practice courts amid frenzy surrounding their participation at the Miami Masters. As memories of my collegiate The Front Runner experience came flooding back, I hoped that this wouldn’t become another gay man overcoming tragedy “in spite of” story.

Happily, it wasn’t!

Match Maker turned out to be an inspirational story of how the attack caused everyone to reflect on their lives, loves, and choices. And inevitably, how they overcame and moved beyond such a horrific event.  The road getting to that point wasn’t easy, and there were a few unexpected turns along the way.  But the net effect was still positive in this story of love and of working through life’s toughest circumstances.

I emailed Alan to give him my impressions of the book (I liked it) and also to ask a few questions on Match Maker and discuss the parallels between it and The Front Runner.


Q – First item: should I use the Amazon link for purchase, or do you have a special link that readers should use?

A – Yes, the Amazon purchase link is good. If readers don’t like dealing with Amazon, they can go directly to my page at Dreamspinner Press.

(Author’s Note:  Links are at the end of the article)

Q – Before I begin I must tell you that it brought a smile to my face every time I saw familiar names of our mutual friends in the GLTF.  My initial question is one that I think I know the answer to regarding your inspiration for writing this book.  Was it inspired by The Front Runner?

A – My inspiration for writing Match Maker was two-fold. The first was a love of the game and a desire to write about it. The second reason was I had just finished reading The Front Runner for a second time, and I wanted to strangle Patricia Nell Warren. I hated the fact that The Front Runner, like most the other gay-themed books I’d read to that point, made the gay characters silly drag queens or gave them a tragic ending. I wanted to write a gay sports story where the gay guy hit rock bottom, but found the strength to overcome all odds and win in the end.

Q – Were you hesitant about writing this book given the obvious comparisons?

A – I wasn’t hesitant about comparisons with The Front Runner at all. I wanted readers to see the vastly different way I handled the story.

Q – Was the primary story behind Match Maker that of Donald and Jared, their story of love and redemption, or did you initially set out to focus more on Donald and Connor?

A – Yes, the A story is a story of love between Daniel and Jared, and their road to redemption. The B story is the symbiotic relationship of how Daniel and Connor help each other, give each other what they need to move on with their lives.

Q – What kind of research did you do, or first-hand knowledge did you have about the dealings with agents and such? This is a novel, but I’m sure you had some basis for the character of their agent J.D., yes?

A – The only first-hand knowledge I had about dealing with agents was from dealing with literary agents. I have never known a sports agent, and really know nothing about them. I simply tried to make JD an interesting character. Funny thing was, he turned out to be one of my favorite characters of the book. The old lady in Spain was another favorite. I really fell in love with her.

Q – I liked the unexpected way in which the story unfolded for both Connor and Jared. Especially given Jared’s early struggles with alcohol, this was really a story of redemption in many ways.  That’s a theme I tend to prefer in narratives such as this.

A – Yes, most of my stories are stories of redemption. It’s a favorite theme of mine.

Q – Also, it’s rare that I cry while reading a book. (Author’s note: slight spoiler alert) But I did cry when they unveiled the chair for Donald.  It was so unexpected and touching.  You really pulled one over on us.

A – I still cry when I read certain parts of it. So don’t feel alone.

Match Maker is available direct from the publisher (Dreamspinner) or on Amazon at the links below:

Dreamspinner:  http://tinyurl.com/7mxkeut

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Match-Maker-Alan-Chin/dp/1615815872/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1337582004&sr=8-2

PostHeaderIcon Excerpts of Andre Agassi & Peachy Kellmeyer’s Hall of Fame Induction Speeches

I was looking for video from the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony last night but couldn’t find anything posted online until today. I hope you enjoy it, and I also hope that it resonates as much with you now after the fact as it did when I watched him do it live.


PostHeaderIcon The Agassi Effect

I met Andre Agassi. But it’s not exactly what you might be thinking.

After getting my copy of "Open" signed by Andre AgassiHe came to San Francisco for a book signing at Books, Inc. to promote his autobiography ‘Open’.  There was a long line when I got there about an hour and a half before Andre was scheduled to arrive. I didn’t mind waiting though. For a chance at seeing Andre up close it was a small price to pay.  There was one stipulation to the signing that was a major bummer. No picture-taking was allowed.  It’s like being told you can see the tree fall in the forest, but you can’t record the sound. Still, it was a chance to meet one of the greatest tennis players that has ever swung a racquet.

Andre was a little late because of bad weather and traffic across the Golden Gate Bridge, but we didn’t mind.

The line moved pretty quickly once he got settled in. After 30 minutes or so I rounded the corner past the initial rows of books in the store… and there he was. About 20 people were still ahead of me at that point so I had a few minutes to think about what to say to him as he signed my book. And really, what can you say to someone of his stature who you’ve idolized for so many years? I’ll put it this way: the end result was not the quality I expected. I got up to the table, looked at him with those large eyes I had seen so many times on TV staring down Pete, Roger, Goran, et al. Around his neck was the beaded necklace his son had given him years before (and which I’d also seen so many times on TV). And it hit me like a rock. HOLY CRAP IT’S REALLY ANDRE AGASSI! After all of that I think I said something along the lines of “Thank you so much for all you’ve done, and I’ve always wanted your backhand”. Pretty great, huh?

Instead of focusing on that embarrassing utterance, however, I’d like to focus on the much more eloquent words Andre used in his Hall of Fame induction speech today. He is well aware of the effect he has on people like me, and everyone else. From his younger days as a punk kid to now being the elder statesman, he has come to realize the role he can have in shaping our world for the better, using his power and influence to help and inspire others. Having just read his book (which outlines his profound transition from punk to elder) the week before that signing, the only words I could think of to say to him were “Thank you… thank you for being so open to us, showing us your highs and lows and your ultimate redemption”.

Today he proceeded to tell us all “You’re welcome” and a host of other things including:
“If we’re lucky in life, we get a few moments where we don’t have to wonder if we made our parents proud.”
“They (nurses and teachers) know already what it took me decades to find out: To shine in secret, and to give when there’s no one applauding,”
“It’s not to late to be inspired. It’s not too late to change. It’s not too late”

Congratulations Andre. And thank you for the inspiration of the backhand way back when AND for the continued inspiration to keep on the path of doing good and helping others.

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