In a new weekly feature, I will use the weekends to take a look back at some of my favorite tennis writing of the week. Here’s a link to last week’s list.
My Top 5 Tennis Reads of the Week:
1. “Ross Hutchins on Andy Murray’s friendship and fighting cancer” by Donald McRae of The Guardian.
In this in-depth and inspirational interview, Hutchins talks about his progress with chemo, his friendship with Andy Murray, and his plan to get back on the court. It was particularly moving to hear how he broke the news of his cancer to those closest to them, and how solid his support systems seems to be. I’m amazed by how positive he seems to be remaining.
Cancer had been in his body, secretly, for 18 months. “It had been loitering in my back and then, when it started hurting so bad, it was saying, I’m going to hurt you so you know I’m here.”
He looks up. “But then you get good news. The bone marrow is clear. The first scan after chemo said it had reduced a lot. You build on that hope. You feel stronger.”
Has he thought about death? “Yes. Absolutely. But your mindset has to be about survival. As soon as it comes into my mind, I say: ‘No Ross, you’re not going down that route. You have to trust the people at this amazing hospital.’
“I look at it as a tennis match. The cancer is my opponent and I have to beat it. I think I’ve handled it well, and if I come through this it will be the thing I’m most proud of – how strong I’ve tried to stay.”
2. “The Rally: The life and legacy of Brad Drewett” by Steve Tignor and Pete Bodo of Tennis.com.
As the tennis community continues to reel from the passing of Brad Drewett, this back-and-forth between Tignor and Bodo provides invaluable insight into who he was as a player, a leader, and a person. I particularly appreciated that they both confessed they had doubts about Drewett when he first took over as ATP CEO, but he managed to prove them both wrong.
Some insiders who knew Brad better than I did said to give him time, that he would surprise us, and boy were they right. The fact that he was a former player and ATP lifer turned to be just what the tour needed. Drewett quickly realized the opportunity he had with today’s top players, that the Big 4 wielded unique power and leverage, and that they were willing to use that leverage to help the rest of the tour. And that’s what happened in the series of pay raises that Drewett and the players negotiated with the Grand Slams over the last year. I think Brad trusted the players and helped give them a voice, and the combination worked. Sometimes being a company man helps, because you know your company better than anyone.
3. “For tennis phenom, fame comes with strings attached” by Stan Grossfeld of The Boston Globe.
At the end of last week, the Sloane Stephens interview with ESPN Magazine was the talk of the town, and rightly so, as she was very candid–probably too candid–about her current feelings about Serena. But I enjoyed her interview with Grossfeld, who spent a day with her during Indian Wells, even more. I thought it captured her personality, insecurities, and pressures just perfectly.
Her day begins with a 4 a.m. wake-up call. Sloane Stephens won’t drink coffee because it might stain her million-dollar smile. By sunrise, she has already begun 36 consecutive satellite TV interviews, hawking US Open tickets and lying through her pearly white teeth about her so-called idol Serena Williams.
Then there are hours of tennis and training. By 8 p.m., she is slathered in Johnson’s Baby Oil, dabbed in Diamond Dust glitter, and dressed as a Greek goddess for yet another photo shoot.
But it is not easy being in her Jimmy Choo shoes. Everybody wants a piece of her. Everyone asks her about beating Serena. Many people think she and Serena are good friends because Stephens has said that in the past. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I have no friends on the tour,” she says bluntly before going on an off-the-record tirade a few days before the BNP Paribas Open in March. But still she smiles and says all the right things on TV.
4. “Rages of Tomic Sr cause a fiery exit” by Chip Le Grand and Courtney Walsh of The Australian.
As news broke this week about John Tomic’s assault on Bernard’s hitting partner, the tennis world all expressed concern for the safety–both mentally and physically–of Bernard and his sister Sara. This piece in The Australian gave the most detailed and disturbing look at the history of discord within the Tomic family, and also touched on how hard this cycle is to break.
Guiney coached Tomic from the age of seven until he joined the professional tour. Through those years, navigating the unpredictable, volcanic temper of John Tomic was a constant workplace hazard. Tomic Sr can be a warm, charming man, as anyone who has been treated to a meat-laden, Balkans buffet at his Gold Coast home would attest. He can also swing into a rage with almost no warning.
Guiney says he never saw John Tomic hit his son but verbal abuse was frequent.
“There is a fear factor in all these relationships,” Guiney said. “Bernard was a boy and he was a great big dad. It is all he knows. He is used to his dad yelling at him and screaming. I guess it becomes normal.
“It is just the abuse that comes out of all this. One minute he reckons he is going to be a champion and the next minute he is hopeless. You just can’t work that way.”
5. “Bethanie Mattek-Sands on the rise with new diet, studious preparation” by Courtney Nguyen of Sports Illustrated.
On a brighter note, it was fabulous to get caught up on an American player (back) on the rise, Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Mattek-Sands often gets overlooked due to the Williams or the next-best-thing younger generation, but her results recently prove that she should be getting a lot of attention of her own. In this fun profile, she dishes to Nguyen about her new diet, her revamped fitness, and how she keeps it together mentally.
Mattek-Sands also credits her turnaround to an improved commitment to the mental side of the game. She now spends more time scouting opponents and herself, watching YouTube highlights of her matches to see which shots are working. Late last season, she began writing in a journal after every practice and match to keep track of what she worked on and where she improved. Those logs have allowed her to remain positive and maintain a proper perspective when things get tough.
“Sometimes you feel like you’ve working on things for years and you think, Why haven’t I got over this yet?” she said. “Writing it down lets you see your own progress because it’s right in front of you.”
She added: “Everyone talks about the game being 90 percent mental now. But does everyone spend 90 percent of their time on the mental side? No, not really. Everyone is on the court working on skills. So I tried to work more on the mental side. My goal at the start of the year was to be the mentally strongest player on tour. I think that’s a goal I can reach.”
Pictures I Can’t Stop Staring At:
Dimitrov and Sharapova were finally photographed together, and it is precious and sweet and also a little bit weird. Also, pants.
Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi get drawn against each other in the first round of Rome. Then they fist-pump.
Tweets I Loved:
— Álvaro Rama(@alvarorama) May 8, 2013
— Anna L (@anna_tennisfan) May 6, 2013