Tennis Prose



Harry Cicma Revives Pro Tennis In Bradenton

Since the virus pandemic, pro tennis has been for all intents of purposes, dead … or if that term is too dramatic, in a state of suspended animation. All the pro tournaments on the 2020 calendar have been put on ice, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Indian Wells, Wimbledon, etc.

But without any fanfare and hype, pro tennis actually has returned this week, very quietly and under the radar.

With a red light within view and a 7-11 convenience store in walking distance, pro tennis has resumed at a private court in a middle class neighborhood, at a location I cannot reveal. All I can say is it’s about a mile from IMG Academy.

The brainchild of Harry Cicma has been a resounding success with the players, who are looking for reps, seeking match play, to stay sharp for the eventual return of the ATP World Tour, whenever that may be.

Cicma is a former player himself, he had ATP points and played some ATP events like Newport, Forest Hills, San Jose after his Division 1 collegiate career at Rutgers University in NJ. The Providence, Rhode Island native also has a TV production background – he’s a TV sports producer and a sports anchor for NBC Channel 4 in New York City. Perfectly qualified to invent and pull off such a complicated endeavor as a pro tennis tournament.

With his catalogue of contacts, Cicma assembled the event like a puzzle, locating a private quarantined court, obtaining support from sponsors like SportED.TV and Dunlop Tennis (provider of balls).

“The players are struggling a lot. This is about getting the players reps and income,” said Cicma. “The objective is to help the players.”

The players have not seen a paycheck since early March. And that’s taken a toll on ATP journeymen ranked outside the top 100 and outside the top 30 in doubles.

Finding players to compete was the easy part. A wide range of player types have congregated here, such as Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi, 38, who now lives in nearby Sarasota, where he relocated two years ago from Rome. Former no. 1 junior Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria is also here. Along with 18 year old prospect Preston Brown, doubles veteran Jamie Cerretani, Evan King, Michael Ray Pallares, former tour player who competed at Alabama and reached a career high of around 800 before quitting about a year ago.

The format is simple. Play starts at about 9. Quick sets to 4, no ad scoring and net cords on serves must be played. The next match starts immediately, with one of the players staying on to play again. Players can play three short set matches in a day. No linesperson or chair umpire, players call their own lines. So far there was one dispute between a teen and a veteran but the players police themselves and worked it out.

ESPN3 is livestreaming the action each day. It’s pure tennis. No announcers, no fans, no media, no autographs, just pure tennis. Each player gets paid approximately four figures to play all week. In essence, the players are getting paid to practice.

I find the action intriguing because it’s such a unique situation. It’s real pro tennis, hard fought points, each player trying to win though there is no pressure or extra incentive, no pressure to defend points, to win to stay here instead of flying somewhere to the next event.

With all the talk now of the movement to help the struggling lower ranked pros, this mini tour, called the International Tennis Series, could be the foundation for a future minor league tour.

Cicma is planning to try to extend the ITS to 16 weeks, to be played at various sites. But the potential of this series could be greater.

One player told me he loves the security of this tournament. Being paid to practice without any pressure to protect a ranking. The uniqueness of Cicma’s ITS could be a seed plant for a minor league circuit in the future.

Perhaps if the ATP super elites donate millions and other sponsors and the ATP match those donations, a fund would be available to create a Cicma tour where journeyman players play a one week event at local clubs around the world, promoting pro tennis up close and live in non tour cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, LA, San Jose, Phoenix, Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis, Tampa. And perhaps cities around the globe.

Tennis clubs could promote these mini events and the players could do pro ams with members. Priceless experiences and promotion for the sport. Who does not like to see pro tennis up close? Who doesn’t like to meet and talk with pro players in a relaxed environment?

After watching today’s action live, I got the sense this could be a monolith moment in the evolution in professional tennis. And the pioneer Harry Cicma may have sparked a much needed change in the structure of the sport.

Scores today? Andreev beat Cerretani. Lorenzi beat Brown. Brown beat Pallares and then Lorenzi battled Andreev, who he sat with together and watched all of Brown vs Pallares.

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  • Andrew Miller · April 26, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    Thiem is welcome to his own opinion. As I said I think less of him because of his approach to Muster, Mladenovic and now the tour in general. He has shown some fine form but I’m not going to root for him anytime soon. I reserve that right as well, and as it is I’ve thought I need to expand well beyond the top players and remember trench tennis where players are battling for something other than a nicer set up.

    I’m not anti Thiem. I just think he puts his foot in his mouth. I don’t think he has it in him to play the bad guy, but I have seen in Thiem something other than generosity and I’m sorry it’s on display. He could do worse than get out of his way. If he wants to motivate other players, he’s well on his way.

    As said before players need other players. This isn’t an exhibition sport and even if a few players ultimately hoist the trophy they still need to show they are better than the competition. The last decade with only a few champions has put forth an illusion that there can only be a handful of champions, and that’s not normal in tennis and won’t be in the future. I’d like to believe Thiem knows his time in the spotlight is likely short lived given this is an absurd era where a few players dominated. I don’t think he’s Thiem the dominator, just Thiem the Austrian Gasquet.

    As to Gauff-mania, the award isn’t a big deal and it’s a shared thing so maybe go ahead and take the award and ask that other players get it in the future too. It speaks more to the PR machine or magazine editors grasping for things to appreciate, Gauff had no play here. It won’t affect her one way or the other, other than to maybe appreciate that she’s had some serious success at a very young age.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 26, 2020 at 9:18 pm

    Gauff is getting an award she does not deserve. Its phony baloney and it’s a bad thing to do to a kid though it’s well intentioned. Its just more unnecessary pressure and hype on a kid trying to be a kid. Another horrible agenda driven decision by the media. Did simona Halep or Naomi Osaka or bibi Andreescu get any consideration for this award? They actually won something.

  • Andrew Miller · April 26, 2020 at 9:33 pm

    No disagreement from me. It’s still not a big deal. Gauff didn’t pick up a racquet to be in People Magazine. Cory Gauff didn’t raise her to seek media glory. And everyone well knows that tennis as far as glory is concerned cares only about whether a player gets their name on a slam trophy or not. That’s the way to the hall of fame. Otherwise it’s sorry the sport doesn’t have any space in Newport for you.

    I wish all players luck on that one! It’s a tough challenge and you either need an amazing run or a lot of luck. Otherwise you’re Lendl at Wimbledon: trying hard but hapless.

  • Andrew Miller · April 26, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    Anyone else intrigued about the US open at another venue possibly? It’s an earth shattering kind of play. I thought Australia should consider alternate venues for the Australian especially given it calls itself the slam of Asia Pacific (though you can’t hold it anywhere but Australia and shouldn’t – but rotating it could be cool, maybe like a Rogers Cup deal).

    The US Open could totally reinvent itself. That said I don’t think it will. It will always be in New York much as Wimbledon is always in the village of Wimbledon and Roland Garros isn’t moving a centimeter from where it is.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 26, 2020 at 10:16 pm

    Indian wells us open seems very possible. Unless billie jean king can pressure trump and democrats to end the shutdown.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 26, 2020 at 10:21 pm

    Overexposure helps no one but the profiteers. Ask Capriati viele seles Elvis Gary Coleman Emanuel Lewis and Michael Jackson how much they liked being overexposed.

  • catherine · April 27, 2020 at 4:14 am

    I don’t mind Gauff -she’s pretty good for her age. What does grate are those faux philosophical comments she spouts which sound silly coming out of the mouth of a teenager who has zero experience of life as yet and are clearly coming from her parents/agent.

    Coco sounds like Naomi’s older sister sometimes – weird.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2020 at 5:00 am

    Gauff also to be installed as miss America, miss universe, and sports illustrated sportswoman of the decade. Hasn’t been announced yet.

  • Jon King · April 27, 2020 at 8:53 am

    The Gauff camp has bigger issues than that award. On Behind the Racquet she said she was depressed for about a year and needed to start playing tennis for herself and not others. Then dad went crazy, calling NY Times to say she was not medically diagnosed with depression. Gauff also said she was holed up in her house and not practicing. We live 8 miles away from her and none of our girls has missed a session. Plenty of courts available if you look. CoCo also said she was planning to go to the prom this year with her friends until it was cancelled.

    She sounds like a kid who has zero interest in being the greatest ever like dad says. Good for her, play tennis for yourself not dad. If she just wants to be another decent player and not sacrifice to be great, its her call.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Burnt out by 16 might be a new record. Sofia zhuk the former junior Wimbledon champ has hung it up. Just 21.

  • Jon King · April 27, 2020 at 9:11 am

    Sure sounds like burnt out by 16. I remember when she showed up with dad to South County Regional Park at age 7. She would work with Sly Black and his daughters, Hurricane and Tornado. Ladder drills, footwork. By 8 she was winning junior matches and by age 9 her dad and her would tell everyone that she would be the best ever. She won all things juniors by age 13-14. Pro at 15. Looking for a reset at age 16.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2020 at 9:25 am

    Sounds like the father wants it more than she does. A memorable quote I was told about Sharapova and her father by insiders at IMG who knew them in the early days…”Maria always wanted it more than her father did.”

  • catherine · April 27, 2020 at 10:19 am

    Zhuk – Quite a few W’don junior champs have not made it, male and female.

    Barty has but she took a break soon after.

  • Jon King · April 27, 2020 at 10:21 am

    True, Pova’s dad went off and drove his cab once she got taken in at IMG. He also stopped even attending her matches a few years after she became a pro. He was not court side with a ‘Call Me Pova’ tshirt on.

    And I highly doubt Maria had a clue what a prom even was at age 16. She was laser focused on being a killer.

    If thats not CoCo, no problem. She has to decide for herself if she has that focus to be a great player.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2020 at 10:50 am

    The rush to install a 16 year old to play the role of the second coming of Serena Williams and the next superstar savior of a sport very much in need of new superstars to sell to the public is something that should be handled very delicately and carefully. There is far more to life than hititng a tennis ball. Maybe Dominic Thiem has enough courage to say something about this, nobody else does.

  • catherine · April 27, 2020 at 12:01 pm

    I’m watching Madrid. Hysterical. Some of them are playing much better than in real life ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Might be more people watching this silly video game tennis than real pro tennis on espn3 in bradenton florida. don’t know whether to laugh or cry? For Catherine of all people to be enjoying video game tennis from madrid, who would have believed that?

  • catherine · April 27, 2020 at 2:02 pm

    Scoop – I didn’t say I was taking it seriously, and I certainly can’t get espn3 where I am, probably not alone there – Madrid is a bit of a joke but it’s raising money for charity. I’ve lost the stream now anyway.

    I never watch or play video games BTW. They’re for kids.

  • catherine · April 27, 2020 at 2:22 pm

    Stream returned and Bertens wiped Kerber 3-0 and nerds were all complaining about the quality of the brand of game – not looking at the ‘tennis’. I don’t think Angie is much of a gamer actually. Kiki looked in good form ๐Ÿ™‚

    Rafa strained his back.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    For kids but some ATP guys over 21 play hours and hours.

  • Andrew Miller · April 27, 2020 at 8:21 pm

    Hard for me to think about players that don’t have some resentment – I think Tomic, etc is an extreme case, where he plays awful to spite everyone for his life. But he’s a version of it – precocious talent, does well, makes money and far more than break even, then resents things.

    Nadal, lives for the sport, grateful – he’s rare.

    I can’t speak for Gauff, but I am sorry there’s so much stigma associated with depression, even mild forms. I’d say she’s a teenager and there’s quite a rollercoaster of emotion. There is at many ages, but usually because of life experiences later on rather than because of age. For teenagers it’s 100 percent their age.

    My guess is they are still figuring all of this out. I think a few tennis parents have done it better, but I don’t think I’d handle it well if I were being written about as a tennis pro and then read about myself.

    Roddick was FAMOUS for blowing up when he didn’t like what was written about him. Jon Wertheim has a nice anecdote about it which he put up on his tennis mailbag. He writes a piece on Roddick, maybe somewhat negative. Roddick tells him you and I have to talk. They go into an empty room and have at it, no hold barred heated discussion, tons of cursing, gloves off in terms of colorful language.

    Years later, no big deal, they talk.

  • Andrew Miller · April 27, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    I’d express I care when a player I like that’s unsung decides to leave the tour. Derrick Rostagno did that – he was really good and had a nifty game. No one mentions his name today, or Mario Ancic for that matter. The sport goes on. But it’s a graveyard for champions too – the fact Cherkasov gets a half a comment shows that a player’s career usually has a short half life’s over before you know it and then few care unless they remember you.

    Cherkasov was very good. Chesnokov was a lot of fun to watch – somewhat boring but if he had the match-up it was a good show.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 27, 2020 at 11:35 pm

    Andrew, Jan Mike Gambill said it best in my Facing Hewitt book, if you don’t win a major, nobody remembers your career even if you had a very good career, no majors means no one remembers. I disagree because I remember all good players who played great tennis even if they did not have great results. Cherkasov had some great results, won the first and second Kremlin Cups, beat Sampras out of the Olympics from two sets down, great results but only QF at majors (3). Salzenstein also said it very well in different words…”When Becker or Lendl decide to end their career, they retire. When players like me decide to quit, we just “stop playing.”

  • Jon King · April 27, 2020 at 11:46 pm

    Good news, Palm Beach County reopens tennis courts on Wednesday. That means lots of players, Gauff included, can start training again. And we no longer have to drive a hour into the country to hit, although we will miss the cows.

  • catherine · April 28, 2020 at 12:33 am

    No one likes what’s written about them. And if it’s good writing by a decent journalist, they shouldn’t.

    Also, it’s a bad idea for writer and subject to have any discussion about the article, or whatever it was, afterwards. It’s done. If you’re in the public eye you’re going to be talked about and outside libel, all’s fair.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2020 at 8:02 am

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2020 at 8:03 am

    Good news Jon. Looks like this false flag op is losing power to scare the people and sheeple.

  • catherine · April 28, 2020 at 8:47 am

    Scoop – whatever you think, and the virus does have a life outside the US, it’s looking more and more likely that tennis may have to start up again without spectators if the pro game is to survive.

    Life in Florida must be nice but it’s not remotely the same as the situation in many other countries where the
    outbreaks have not peaked and large gatherings for many sports will not be permitted.

  • catherine · April 28, 2020 at 8:51 am

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2020 at 8:58 am

    Catherine, I think it’s all another manufactured event. Syria failed. Gun grab failed. Attack Iran failed. Russia failed. Destroy Kavanaugh failed. Impeachment failed. And this corona one is failing now too. Their last card play is the fake alien invasion. They will stop at nothing to get rid of Trump, their own survival is at stake. Trump is closely guarded by military at all times so they won’t lay a finger on him. General Flynn is going to be exonerated. Major reversal. He knows where the bodies are buried. He will start talking soon. Deep state tried everything to destroy General Flynn but they failed. It’s almost over. Tennis will return soon.

  • catherine · April 28, 2020 at 9:34 am

    Sigh (again). Before I run from this topic I’d like to know why the rest of the world has to suffere because someone wants to get rid of Trump ? Seems a bit unfair.

    And why didn’t Trump tell his buddy Boris Johnson that he was about to be invaded by that nasty corona ? Although buffoon Boris has bounced back again like those dolls with lead weights in their feet you used to get as prizes at fairgrounds in my youth.

    And yes tennis may be back but the crowds won’t for a while.

  • Jon King · April 28, 2020 at 10:28 am

    catherine, do not think all Americans are this silly. About 25% of our population is under the voting age and 40% of the adults do not vote. So the actual Trump supporters are only about 22% of our total population. They are just really loud.

    But in reality, almost 80% of Americans either think Trump is an idiot or don’t really care enough to register an opinion. So we are not quite as dumb as Trumpers would lead the world to believe.

    Do not fear, not all of us tried to inject ourselves with bleach to “clean” out the virus!

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Jon gets his information from the media. The same media that wants him to hate Trump. The media protects elite pedofiles and rapists. Remember the ABC reporter whining about how she had all the pedofile evidence on Esptein and Clinton three years ago but they killed the story, “We had it all.” So whoever trusts the mainstream media agenda is unfortunately a zombie. WC Fields said it best, “There’s a sucka born every minute.”

  • Andrew Miller · April 28, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    Catherine great quote. “No one likes whatโ€™s written about them. And if itโ€™s good writing by a decent journalist, they shouldnโ€™t.” I think that’s right – Pete Bodo has said this before. Some players don’t talk to writers/reporters when they write something they don’t like. It’s good when they do – Roddick hates what was written about him, but at least he told them and didn’t then write them off – he kept the lines open just let reporters know he didn’t like it. It almost has to be adversarial.

    I think we have said this before, I think. There’s a price to pro tennis – exposure. You want the trophies and the good life? Well, then you have to take the whole you’re fair game, when your forehand is wobbly and someone writes about that, you can’t control that – it’s part of the game.

    I think we have also talked about how, in today’s social media saturated coverage, players can disappear and put up a smokescreen if they choose to. I am sure to some extent they have to. But the other part of it is that they have to do media, and like it or not they give up the right to control what’s written about them. That’s just the way it goes. (And it’s not because reporters have to eat to make a living. But come to think of it, they are only as good as their last byline also).

  • Andrew Miller · April 28, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    Appreciate the Salzenstein quote, thanks for posting that. He’s right on retirement. I hope he and other former players share their lessons. I always hold out that some players will read what they say or take the lessons to heart so that they develop as better players. Almost always I am disappointed ๐Ÿ™‚ Today’s players make the same mistakes as those of yesteryear.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 28, 2020 at 8:22 pm

    No tennis writers today try to belittle or insult any players. No serious true tennis journalist would do that. To write about tennis, he or she should have played or plays it to fully understand all the factors and emotions involved. Or be a Pete Bodo who has been around the sport for about a half century. I can’t think of one writer who has intentionally done a hatchet job on any player. I did hear about one former no. 1 player who said he would pay $25,000 to take one certain writer into a room and beat the you know what out of him. This player is mentioned here frequently. My course is iron clad legit. Salzy’s quote was “Players like Becker and Edberg retire. Guys like me just stop playing.”

  • Andrew Miller · April 29, 2020 at 1:20 am

    Yeah. Spadea retirement was amazing. Just walks off the court. No ceremony. No nothing. Just walks off court.

    I do make an issue of players meaning something even if commenters are ready to stick a fork in them. Even Yuki Bhambri deserves some ink.

    I find it amusing to say players are replaceable. Even Djokovic is well aware that once he hangs up his racquet there’s nothing left of the best parts of his job. The sports world will be quick to move on. It left Sampras behind, it will leave everyone and hopefully stay loyal to the spirits of competition.

    There are many good players that aren’t talked about today. And won’t be. Sampras retired eighteen years ago. He’s as relevant as a busted tennis ball.

  • catherine · April 29, 2020 at 1:25 am

    Andrew – yes, people in the public eye, whatever they do, have given up the right to control what’s written about them – within reason of course, and the gutter press do go beyond that as we know. I used to interview players when I first started, long ago, but I gave it up because I wasn’t very good at it and I was bothered about what my subjects thought. So that wasn’t for me. I wasn’t thick skinned, or professional enough really.

    You don’t have to be a player yourself to write about tennis, any more than a dance critic has to be a dancer – just knowledgeable and committed to the craft. And a good writer.

    In Britain there used to be a journalist called Lynn Barber who wrote very good profiles of people across a wide range and in fact she was so good that in the end she ran out of subjects because she objected to the intrusion of PR flunkies wanting to control interviews – she thought that was bad journalism and she was right.

  • catherine · April 29, 2020 at 2:01 am

    I’m finding Madrid somehow addictive – that’s gaming for you. On the men’s side Tsitsipas could win, with Nick K cheering from his home of course – thanks Stef for revealing my phone number ๐Ÿ™‚

    Bertens looks like replicating her real win last year – seems to have her fingers on the right buttons. Woz reached the qf, despite having no prior experience of fake tennis, but Kerber turned out not to be a natural – she was buzzing around like a wired up bumblebee, squeaked Bouchard who later opined ‘Angie wasn’t very good’.

  • catherine · April 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 29, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Countless economic victims of this invisible ruthless enemy.

  • Andrew Miller · April 29, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    Catherine’s point on the surrender of narrative makes sense to me. If you sign up for the tour you also sign away your story. Story or glory: choice is yours.

    Also why so much bad ink for Noah Rubin? He doesn’t deserve the smackdown he gets so often. He’s pretty good, better than I could ever have been, beat everyone out there to get his Wimbledon junior championship, and his BTR blog probably provides players with more therapy for their issues than most sports psychologists that just promote visualize and you’re all set.

    I’ve met those sports psychologists. Some are good and some are terrible.

    Plus Rubin probably has a future after tennis (but within tennis) so good for him for recognizing the inevitable, that a player career is short.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 29, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    You find any negative words here for Rubin. He’s a fine player, still a developing player, and during his pro tennis career he has managed to create one of the best media outlets for the sport. I read his BTR profiles a lot more than tennis magazine or the wta site. Actually now that I’m thinking about it, I read his BTR more than every tennis site outside of mens tennis forums and atp and of course this site. I always enjoy the comments of all our readers even good old Harold when he’s not in a militant frame of mind. Rubin is a good player and he can get better. I watched him play Nishioka in Delray, though he got trounced, he looked good. Bishioka is the best sub 5-10 player in the world right now aside from Schwartzman.

  • catherine · April 30, 2020 at 2:12 am

    Madrid so thrilling ๐Ÿ™‚ Men play more games than women and it shows I think. Funny how players identify with their avatars. You can pick the players who’ve been practising or have played games before. Woz and Bertens are doing well – someone says Kiki ‘plays’ just she does in real life. I don’t know why Angie entered, she’s older than the others and sounded as if she hadn’t practised at all. Her mind didn’t seem right for it – maybe something to do with the way she functions mentally on court.

    Most of the others, men and women, seemed able to see the whole thing as both a joke and a serious game.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 30, 2020 at 9:32 am

    Funny how fake pro wrestling tennis is being watched and real pro tennis in Bradenton Florida every day for over a week is being completely ignored by the media. Fake over real. Makes no sense. But who is surprised?

  • catherine · April 30, 2020 at 10:43 am

    I can’t watch tennis from Florida Scoop, and maybe some other people can’t either. Don’t see that it matters. It’s a novelty to pass the time, and raise some money. I’m certainly not going to feel guilty about it. And I’ve never seen tennis games before, so it’s interesting.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 30, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Catherine, sounds like it’s entertaining. Sounds like you are enjoying Madrid. Maybe the ATP or some entrepreneurs will create a fake pro tennis tour, like fake pro wrestling. People like fake things. Maybe the majority of people prefer fake things than reality.

  • catherine · April 30, 2020 at 11:57 am

    I think you’ll find that when real tennis comes back there’ll be no need for the virtual. And as far as ‘fake’ goes, fiction is ‘fake’ isn’t it ? Should we stop reading novels ? Or watching movies ?

    Re Madrid – Bianca complained that her virtual avatar wasn’t playing the way she was supposed to – taking over ? There’s a spooky story – during a tennis game the virtual players turn into humans and are trapped forever behind a computer screen.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 30, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Real tenis is back and it is being played daily in Bradenton and next week the women’s tournaments start in Tampa in saddlebrook.

  • catherine · April 30, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    I’m sure it is Scoop, but it can’t be watched the world over so where I am we’ll have to wait awhile.

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