“Those top guys own the sport”

It’s been said pro tennis is a star driven sport and the big stars call the shots. When they want to play, they play, when they want a match stopped because they are losing, they create a reason to stop it.

Some examples:

Boris Becker was losing in the second week at Wimbledon to Tim Mayotte, round of 16 in 1985. The German was down two sets to one, 63 46 67. He stopped playing because of some kind of alleged injury and even said, “I quit.” The match was delayed for over ten minutes as officials and Ion Tiriac hovered around Becker. Mayotte stood around waiting, not knowing what was going on, did he win by retirement? Would the match resume. Yes, after the long delay, the match resumed and Becker won the fourth and fifth sets 76 62. Becker went on to win Wimbledon that year. This was his first Wimbledon title.

Working on my next book Facing Guillermo Vilas, a former pro player told me how the big star players dominated the practice courts at tournaments. At one tournament, Vilas and Bjorn Borg got to use one of the two practice courts for five hours. While all the rest of the players had to share the other practice court, four at a time per hour.

Another player in the 1990s also shared this story of his Wimbledon match with Ivan Lendl.

“In 1991 or 1992 I played Ivan Lendl at Wimbledon. Third round. And the match was on a Saturday. And I lost the first set and came back and won the second set. And had some real momentum. And Ivan…there was probably hour or hour and a half left of light…and he called Alan Mills, who was the referee there at Wimbledon. Called him on the court. And said he refused to play any longer. There’s no way the match is gonna finish. I’m stopping. So Alan Mills – that being Ivan Lendl – said, Okay we’re going to stop the match [laughs]. So not only did they suspend it for one day but for two days. Because they don’t play on middle Sunday. So that was odd. Being in a good position in the match and then all of a sudden they suspend the match, you don’t play the next day. And then you come back on the fourth of July and play on a Monday. Ended up losing the match in four sets. But that was interesting. Pretty early in my career to learn some other lessons.”

The player continued: “Yeah, there’s a lot of politics in the sport. It’s tough to get to the top because those guys own it. They get to practice when they want, where they want. Everything is kind of catered to those top ten guys. So it’s much more difficult to break in than to stay up there. In my opinion.”

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