Tennis Prose



The Not So Serious Side of Tennis

By Scoop Malinowski

Some very funny moments happen in the world of professional tennis…

Magnus Larsson recalled the folly of almost losing his first prize money. “My first tennis paycheck, $2500. I lost. On the way back home to Stockholm. With my wallet. I had no money. I was calling my dad on the phone to tell him what time I come home. When I make the call, I found another wallet. I turned it into the info desk. Lot of money in it. Then when I got on the plane, I realize I left my wallet at the info desk! I had to run to get it back in time. But there was a few sweaty moments.”

Vince Spadea showed tennis is a game of love as he somehow managed to set up a date…while playing in a Tour match. “One time I got a phone number during a match. I was rappin’, pretendin’ like I was talkin’ to the ballkid. Hey, how’s it going? Maybe we’ll have a drink sometime. So then later the ballkid slipped me the number. Her name was Sunshine.”

When asked about a funny tennis memory, Xavier Malisse immediately thought of a former player he used to practice with. “Mose Navarra of Italy, I’ve never known a guy as crazy as him. We used to go out a lot. And I know how he acts, every time we go out my stomach would hurt from laughing. His remarks around people, not bad, just funny.”

Thomas Muster went all the way back to his childhood days of playing in Austria. The always passionate and demonstrative Muster was never shy about expressing himself in tennis, not even as a young boy. “When I was younger, I was trying to ask anyone and everyone to play with me. Anyone who was waiting for a friend or who just finished, I ask everyone to play. I think people were afraid to come early to the club because I was there.”

Nicolas Lapentti recalled an uncanny memory of his amazingly accurate shotmaking. “I was playing a tournament in Lima, Peru in 1995. And my coach at the time – Pablo Guzman – was sitting up, up in the corner. And I hit a serve wide and it hit something in the wall – like a wire or something – and the ball went straight up and took off his baseball hat. The ball went completely up – it didn’t touch him – just took off his hat. A hat like yours. Took it off. It was too much [smiles].”

Nicolas Kiefer remembered how he artfully dodged having to do tedious running drills in practice. “When I was younger, 9 or 10, in practice we used to run a lot because of fitness. Once I did not want to run and I closed myself in a locker room closet. And so I didn’t run. After, they come back and pick me up [laughs].”

Andy Roddick honed his competitive spirit as he used to play fantasy matches in his garage. “When I was growing up, we had this rebound net in our garage that I played on. And I used to pretend I was playing McEnroe, Sampras, Lendl, three out of five sets. My mom would come out and ask me the score. And I’d be like, I’m winning. She’d be like, Oh, that’s impressive. So that was my big thing when I was little, playing with that rebound net, being in my own little world.”

Arnaud DiPasquale summoned up an odd experience in South America. Unfortunately a poor bird met a violent fate. “One time, a long time ago, in Satellite in Uruguay. Just after juniors. I was practicing. There were a few birds on the baseline while we were taking a drink on the changeover. I just hit the ball to scare them away. And I killed one. I felt so bad after that. I feel like a killer [smiles]. I killed the bird. I took a picture of it too.”

Jim Courier reminisced about times at The Bollettieri Academy. “The times I was at Bollettieri’s Tennis Camp where we would sneak out in the middle of the night. The boys and the girls, we’d all sneak out, take our racquets with tennis balls at 2 a.m. and have like these tennis ball wars where they were building stuff. So we were like firing tennis balls at each other from close range. Of course, we all got caught and had to wash cars and pick the weeds the next day.”

I interviewed the great Don Budge at the U.S. Open a few years before he passed away. He retained a memory of a ping pong match. “We have a ping pong table at home. I took a fellow – a neighbor of mine – up there to see our game room. He said, Oh, do you play ping pong? I said, Yes. He said, You know, I’m a pretty good player. So I played him. After he said, Gee, you’re pretty good Don! I said, Oh, I play much better right-handed! I played him left-handed and beat him easily. And he was quite chagrined [smiles]!”

Richard Krajicek culled a memory of when he was only second-best in the Krajicek household. “I was six or seven, I used to play tennis with my older sister Lenka. She used to always beat me. She was 13. Then one day she played left-handed to make it fair. And she still beat me!”

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  • catherine · October 5, 2018 at 10:44 am

    That Kyrgios-new coach story was a joke. Is that a funny story ?

  • Hartt · October 5, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Nick has found a new way not to endear himself to the media.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 5, 2018 at 11:45 am

    Catherine, I didn’t find it funny. It’s just Nick toying with the media again and causing a commotion to get himself more attention while his on court exploits continue to fail. deMinaur is now the top ranked Aussie, which is astonishing news.



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