Dec/19

7

Chilling With Andres Gomez

I saw the tennis legend from Ecuador, Andres Gomez watching some matches at the 2019 Eddie Herr Championships by a fence pole, seemingly unnoticed by anyone. At first I wasn’t sure if it was really him or Fernando Roese.

It was indeed the 1990 Roland Garros champion who bested Andre Agassi 63 26 64 64. I traded Gomez a copy of my Marcelo Rios: The Man We Barely Knew book for his memories of Facing Guillermo Vilas. And the conversation continued down a fascinating path.

Gomez said as a junior in Ecuador, the kids at his club knew the new copy of World Tennis magazine would arrive by mail at the club on Wednesday and he would get there when it came that afternoon and read it avidly, to see the pictures, the scores, etc. Back then, World Tennis printed all the scores for pro and big junior tournaments. And Andres would track the results of all the notable players, some world ranked juniors he could face later on. Seeing their results he could learn something just by scores in print. It was like homework and match preparation – anything for an edge. Some kids today don’t even bother to look up anything on their opponent and just walk on court knowing absolutely nothing about who they are playing, despite having a phone that can reveal past results on any player.

Vilas was a key inspiration for all South American junior tennis players as Vilas winning French Open and Australian Open in the 70s showed that more South Americans can do what Vilas did. And Vilas sparked sufficient inspiration in young Andres to believe he too could conquer the tennis world.

The dream came true for Gomez in 1990. He beat Muster in the semis – after having lost to Muster in Rome earlier that spring. Which was actually a blessing because no man had ever won Rome and Roland Garros in the same year at that time (Nadal later changed that history). Gomez said he actually played better vs Muster than in the final vs Agassi where he said he did serve and volley a lot actually, he preferred the serve and volley on clay than on hard court because he could slide into the volleys.

Next year will be the 30 year anniversary of the Gomez-Agassi French Open final and Andres is trying to invite Agassi to Ecuador to play an exhibition to celebrate the landmark achievement. So far, no reply yet from Agassi.

I asked Gomez what is the most important qualities for striving juniors and he said desire is first.

That same day I met a former player and current coach/director of tennis at University of San Francisco, Peter Bartlett, who played Agassi a few times as a junior and hosted Agassi’s pro training at his old club The Olympic in San Fran. Agassi, when coached by Brad Gilbert, would train there before flying off to majors and a ritual Team Agassi had would be to schedule (on Thursday) a final practice for Friday before the major. But Andre and Brad and Gil Reyes would never show up. It was a quirky ritual they did, schedule that last practice but never show up. Also, another standout out memory of Agassi practicing was how Gil Reyes would walk around the back court of the baseline behind Andre during the practice and speak encouragement and praise for the whole practice, ego pumping cheerleading phrases like You’re great Andre, You’re the best… That’s all Reyes would say, over and over and over, massaging Agassi’s ego with positive verbal reinforcement.

Surprisingly Gomez said he did not see the full version of the Nick Bollettieri documentary Love Means Zero, which his final vs Agassi is a prominent element. In three days at the Eddie Herr tournament I did not see Nick there once, which is a sign of concern that the 87 year old legend could be injured or ill.

But I did see plenty of pros training hard for 2020, including Nicolas Jarry with new coach Dante Bottini. Jarry was sparring with Australian Jordan Thompson on a court next to Michael Ymer and Chun-hsin Tseng and his new coach Dominik Hrbaty. One drill I saw them doing was Tseng in the backhand side half court only hitting slices up the line and cross court to Ymer who could hit anything back to Tseng’s backhand half (orange cones were set up down the middle). Apparently the drill was to strengthen Tseng’s backhand slice.

Sebastian Korda was training with his dad and mom, I saw him working on his serve. I talked with Petr briefly after and he said he got a lot of negative feedback about the article I did in a Chilean newspaper aSegundo about his memories of defeating Rios in the 1998 Australian Open final which I’m sorry about and it was not my intention to cause Petr any grief. Petr said he will never talk about Rios in the media again. But anything else is okay.

Nathalie Tauziat was also here. The former coach of Bianca Andreescu for three and a half years is now working with a 14 year old Canadian teen Kayla Cross. The intent is the same as for what she worked on with Andreescu, to broaden her game and dimensions and try to get her to move forward more and also to build up her physical strength.

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195 comments

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 7, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Tauziat’s girl Kayla Cross won the 14s today. Could be another Andreescu in the making. I also saw her in the doubles yesterday. She hit a slice lob winner over the head of the net girl. Tall skinny girl but has good ball control.

  • Hartt · December 7, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    I’ve heard of Kayla Cross, but did not know much about her. Nice to hear about the lob winner.

  • Hartt · December 7, 2019 at 7:12 pm

    It’s amazing what you can find on the internet. I did not expect there to be anything about 14-year-old Kayla Cross beyond the ITF player info (which is pretty useless), but there was even a brief video of her in a match, plus interviews with Canada’s junior Fed Cup team, of which Kayla is a member.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 7, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Cross is a big time prospect, she was invited to play in that WTA finals junior comp in China last month. Lan beat her earlier this year in Orange Bowl consolation draw 61 62.

  • catherine · December 8, 2019 at 5:32 am

    There’s a Youtube video of the 14 final at Shenzhen this year between Ngounque and Cross – full match. Clervie won. Kayla is so slight in build – she’ll have to bulk up considerably in muscle but she may be a late developer. Defensive game – doesn’t hit you in the eye.

    Clervie is good – looks like she’s reached her full growth. Could be another Gauff or plateau in her late teens.

  • catherine · December 8, 2019 at 5:37 am

    Coaching – Fognini to work with Corrado Barrazutti this season as his head coach.

  • catherine · December 8, 2019 at 6:07 am

    Scoop – off topic but…Joshua beats the butterball and avoids a rainstorm in the desert. Bizarre. AJ was trashed in UK after MSG but now he’s back in favour. Andy was watching I’d bet.

  • Hartt · December 8, 2019 at 6:26 am

    Catherine, I saw highlights of that Clervie vs
    Kayla match and was very impressed with Clervie.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 8, 2019 at 6:47 am

    First fight was a dive to set up this rematch and a third fight. Joshua earned $85m for this rematch.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 8, 2019 at 6:49 am

    Clervie grew in one year. Her feet are huge, maybe size 12. She got a lot bigger in one year. Cross is so slight still.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 8, 2019 at 6:51 am

    Yes Fognini dropped Davin and hired Barrazzutti, Hans gildemeister told me this last week when I asked him about his loss to a 15 year old davin. Somehow he knew.

  • Harold · December 9, 2019 at 2:26 pm

  • catherine · December 9, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    Hartt – I’m not sure what to say about this. 1980 was actually the first women’s final I covered at Wimbledon and I went back to read my article (I didn’t cover the men) and I have to say I can see few resemblances between what I saw and this story.

    However, as soon as I spotted the words ‘male gaze’ and something about heirarchies I knew which planet we were on and it isn’t/wasn’t mine.

    I can’t see how 1980 was especially ‘gendered’ compared to any other year. And BTW Martina’s personal life was actually fairly well known at this point although the publicity came later and it wasn’t a big story.

    Overall I can’t stand this kind of deconstruction – just seems to me an exercise in retrospective analysis to fit a certain perspective. Rather fascinating in a horrible sort of way. And it’s pretty clunkily written.
    Thank heavens I was a little old to encounter ‘theory’ in sport or anywhere else.

  • Hartt · December 9, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Catherine, I will have to read that article, I see that Harold posted a link.

    I have some positive news. Bianca was the unanimous choice for Canada’s Lou Marsh Award. It is probably our most prestigious sports trophy because it is open to all Canadian athletes, both pro and amateur. As you can imagine, winners are often hockey players or figure skaters. I think this is the first time a tennis player has won it.

    I am particularly pleased because this will get a lot of press, and will help to raise the profile of Canadian tennis yet again.

  • Harold · December 9, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    All the H’s look alike

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 1:05 am

    Don’t know why I thoght it was Hartt – apologies to both H’s. I must have been in a hurry.

    My opinion on the article hasn’t changed though 🙂

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 1:26 am

    Zverev has had his eyes fixed – laser surgery I’d guess – so he won’t be wearing those attractive glasses any longer.

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 1:36 am

    Angie has posted a morale-boosting replay of her 2016 US Open triumph (and her ascent to No 1) – no doubt a good psychological ploy ahead of the coming season. Lendl used to watch tapes of his best matches before important finals.

  • Hartt · December 10, 2019 at 7:40 am

    I suppose having the eye surgery made sense for Zverev, but I will miss seeing him in glasses – he looked great.

  • Andrew Miller · December 10, 2019 at 9:53 am

    Jarry, wow. Stefanki comments must have hit him hard. Stefanki was negative on him and Jarry went for a drastic coaching change. (Stefanki keeps tabs on all things related to Chile tennis – makes sense as he coached both Rios and Fernandez). I’m sure Garin’s success had something to do with it, as Garin’s had an excellent year and seems more committed to pursuing the bigger stage, and Jarry probably wants some headlines with his name in it that don’t say, “Garin, Jarry lose early at X tournament”.

  • Andrew Miller · December 10, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Surprising that Vilas inspired Gomez but Gomez, Rios, Del Potro with their slams inspired few. Maybe because they weren’t Vilas.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 10, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Vilas was a huge figure, beloved all around the world, Major star, very popular. Don’t forget about the third South American to win a major – Guga Kuerten. Also a very large popular beloved figure who didn’t spark Brazilian tennis so much. No disrespect to Thomas Bellucci, Andre Sa or Bruno Soares.

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Maybe because Vilas was the first really big South American star for a long time (ever ?) and he was hugely popular. And that in the 70s when tennis players were movie stars.

    (Oddly Gabriela Sabatini didn’t seem to inspire any women from Argentina – not that I can recall)

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Scoop – we obviously think alike on Vilas but I’d also add that Maria Bueno, from an earlier time, didn’t cause a tennis surge in Brazil among girls wanting to emulate her.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 10, 2019 at 10:54 am

    Catherine, do you have any personal memories or interactions with Vilas?

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Not really – I was pretty young when he was around and only doing menial tasks in the office. I didn’t have the contacts. Just bits of gossip, as in – he wasn’t very nice to some of his girlfriends. He did desperately want to win Wimbledon like Borg – they were quite close for a while but drifted apart. Didn’t have much in common.

    You probably remember the legendary quote from the blind Borges about Vilas’ poetry: ‘Imagine me playing tennis’.

    Tiriac had a very tight hold on Guillermo.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 10, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Did you know the story that Vilas and Princess Caroline ran off together after he won Monte Carlo, a vacation somewhere for a week but she abruptly cut it short and came back after two or three days.

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    No – I’ve heard many stories but not that one. I can believe it though. Vilas was always running off with lovely well connected ladies.

    I think he married quite late – had a son only a few years ago. But I don’t know much about his life after tennis. Richard Evans was the expert there, as in most things. Bodo also hung out with Vilas on occasion.

  • Hartt · December 10, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    There was a press conference with Bianca Andreescu, on her winning the Lou Marsh trophy.

    She said she is still rehabbing her knee, but the plan is to go to California for her pre-season training so she can get used to the heat before Australia. She realises she will have to train hard and to be stronger at the beginning of the season than she was last year.

    She is an ambassador for Right to Play, and she also talked about meeting young tennis players in Toronto and Montreal and answering their questions.

    Asked about her goals, she said long term goals were to be No.1 and win more Slams, as well as staying healthy. She and her team are trying to find ways to avoid so many injuries.

    Asked about how the other players react to her, she said Taylor Townsend is her good friend, and she likes to talk to other athletes. She added that everyone is pretty friendly, although everybody has their own path. She said she is “the new kid on the block.”

    Her parents were with her and, of course, Coco.

  • Andrew Miller · December 10, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Scoop, Guga, of course! Yes, Guga was a phenomenon, he did EXACTLY what a player should do, just go after a big title and don’t apologize for beating everyone else. I forget. Guga was truly excellent, and one of the more brilliant players of last twenty years. Real artist with a big game and a big heart. It was beautiful watching him hit the ball, I caught him at US open, he has a great release on the ball, nice flat wrist (sorry stroke doctor isn’t my forte). Beautiful technique, great control, great attitude.

    We have YET to see a Kuerten on the women’s tour. On the men’s tour I preferred Kuerten to a lot of other more famous one handers, and I’m afraid that includes our friend from Canada. Kuerten wasn’t as brilliant as Rios, but he was easier to watch because getting to see a Rios match became harder and harder.

    And yes Kuerten inspired no one. Probably some one, but no one from Brazil, no guy and no WTA star. No one has channeled that game. Brazilian tennis is nothing of note. And it pains me to say these things, it makes no sense to have a country that huge do so badly in tennis.

  • Andrew Miller · December 10, 2019 at 2:25 pm

    True Sabatini inspired zero players. I get that sense for Spain also with Nadal and the generations of very good Spanish men’s players, or Muguruza and female Spanish tennis players. There will ALWAYS be Spanish talent on tour. But it’s as if Muguruza, Nadal winning championships demand other players don’t try.

    Another reason to appreciate Medvedev and his disdain for waiting his turn to do well. Just that I’m not confidant he can find the magic he stumbled across this summer. He fizzled at the end of the year and has dropped back to earth. Nadal going 3-0 on Medvedev since the summer shouldn’t be seen as a step in right direction for Medvedev but a sign he hasn’t cracked any nut.

  • Andrew Miller · December 10, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    Rome 1990 tournament that the article references was an excellent tournament. Muster, Chesnokov, Cherkasov may have played, Gomez. Muster was on fire from Monte Carlo. Gomez certainly played like a man possessed in their French Open rematch, I thought Muster had it.

    I watched more tennis that year than I had before or have since. Seles breakout year, Capriati hit the tour, Lendl was seeking a Wimbledon title and lost in the semifinals. It was a year of eight different slam champions, which was rare at the time (now the WTA has different slam champs every year).

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Hartt – the Hawaii tournament starts on Dec 26th according to the site, so Bianca hasn’t got that long to train/rehab. Then she’s going to Auckland, then I hope to Melbourne to acclimatise I imagine.

    Holding my breath.

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Hawaii’s only and exhibition but there’s still travel and a couple of matches and then more travel.

  • Hartt · December 10, 2019 at 3:16 pm

    Catherine, I wonder if Bianca will actually play the Hawaii tourney. Asked about celebrating the holidays she muttered something about possibly getting back home for a couple days at New Years, and I can’t see that being even a remote possibility if she goes to Hawaii.

    She posted a pic showing her doing some upper body training, so at least she has been able to do that.

    Milos is scheduled for the Hawaii tourney as well, and I won’t plan on that happening until he is actually on the court.

  • catherine · December 10, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Hartt – sounds as if Bianca’s head’s all over the place. I wonder if she realises how much she’s taken on. The others in Hawaii are mainly experienced travellers – Sharapova, Kerber etc and they know their itineries months ahead but Bianca isn’t really there yet. And she’s had so much to do.

    Hope for the best.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 10, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    I see some of Guga in Tsitsipas, more so than Federer. Guga and Tsitsipas have that ropey loose limbed body. Guga was ruled by Rios in juniors but event

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 10, 2019 at 6:00 pm

    I see Guga in Tsitsipas. That ropey, loose limbed body. Guga was ruled by Rios in juniors but Guga turned those tables in pros and achieved more.

  • Franco · December 10, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    For info Adriano Panatta won Rome and Roland Garros in the same year , 1976 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 10, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Franco, brilliant first comment post, thank you for the correction and historical education 🙂 What a site we have here, a tennis scholar from Italy comes in and makes a major correction of a legendary player’s unforced error )

  • Harold · December 10, 2019 at 8:41 pm

    Who are the only two players that have winning records against Sampras, and Federer?

  • Andrew Miller · December 10, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Rafter and Kuerten?

  • Harold · December 11, 2019 at 9:17 am

    Hint: players with completely different games

  • Andrew Miller · December 11, 2019 at 10:03 am

    Baghdatis joins Team Svitolina. Wow.

  • catherine · December 11, 2019 at 10:40 am

    Elina getting serious ?

    Dimitrov ousts Stepanek and hires Christian Groh.

  • Andrew Miller · December 11, 2019 at 11:11 am

    Svito isn’t serious? Seriously good at making slam semifinals and seriously bad at winning them :). I like Svito.

  • Hartt · December 11, 2019 at 11:21 am

    The WTA announced its awards for 2019:
    Player of the Year – Ash Barty
    Doubles Team – Babos and Mladenovic
    Most Improved – Sofia Kenin
    Newcomer – Bianca Andreescu
    Comeback Player – Belinda Bencic
    Jerry Diamond ACES award (for promoting women’s tennis)-
    Kiki Bertens

  • catherine · December 11, 2019 at 11:38 am

    Andrew – that’s what I meant – Svito’s serious about winning things now.

    Hartt – I think the WTA should do reverse awards: Flop of the year, Worst Performance, Most hyped player, Worst match, Most disliked tournament, Least popular player, biggest ranking drop – I could go on. I’m sure we have our own lists.

  • Hartt · December 11, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Catherine, LOL. Go for it!

  • catherine · December 11, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    Oh I couldn’t Hartt – too cruel 🙂

    (But no prizes for guessing the Worst Performance.)

    Seriously, I think those awards are just fillers at the dead time of the year and often turn out a poisoned chalice for the winners. Eg, I like Ashleigh but I don’t see her sweeping all before her next year.

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