Posts Tagged Pete Sampras

Playing Sports Until You’re Too Old

Gardnar Mulloy at 95—2008

Maybe he looked like this when he taught me to play tennis in 1953

Tuning into the Tennis Channel, I saw an old man being interviewed. Turned out he is 98, was a doubles champion, and he taught me to play tennis at a clinic when I was 11 and 12 years old. I actually won the clinic’s first place and runner-up those two years. Wish I had stayed with the sport, but dropped it for…who knows why?

Gardnar Mulloy (born November 22, 1913) is primarily known for playing in doubles matches with partner Billy Talbert. The pair won the U.S. men’s doubles title in 1942, 1945, 1946, and 1948. He also won the Wimbledon doubles with Budge Patty in 1957 at age 44. Mulloy was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1972. He won over 127 national championships and 25 international titles in over 75 years of playing and achieved #1 U.S. singles ranking in 1942

What was most poignant was hearing him say, “I’d like to play, but all I can do is sit against the wall and fall down.” It reminds me of when my father was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and yelled out one day, “Throw the damn thing out. All it does is sit around all day and do nothing.” Of course he was referring to himself.

My father and I saw Gardnar again around 1994, when we visited Miami’s Fisher Island, where Mulloy was running the tennis club. Astonished to bump into him after 50+ years, I told him about our earlier connection. I also spoke to Pete Sampras, who was practicing serves just prior to the Sony Ericsson tournament only a few miles away.

Growing so old—or becoming so infirm—that you can’t play tennis is a sorry state. I am not looking forward to it, and am playing as much as I can, while I can. The other day was a sad moment. I had just been invited to join a threesome that had lost a long-time fourth who had moved away. It was a strong group that I had subbed in last year. After a game and a half during the first time we all played, one of the players took a break, said he had twisted his leg a bit. But he then decided that he couldn’t continue and apologized for disappointing us. No big deal. We played round-robin singles.

But later in the week, I heard that the fellow who had dropped out was through with tennis forever. He was hanging up his racket. Not worth risking a major injury that could cripple him. Wow. There is a real finality about that decision. A bit scary for me to know that the odds of playing tennis into my 80’s and 90’s are low. Yet I’d like to keep on going. Friends describe with envy and admiration their buddies who died on the court.

Whatever happens to me, I will keep on pushing and staying in shape. I may not have a fabulous six-pack, but I sure feel good hitting those unexpected winners and volleys…

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Why I Admire Fabrice Santoro’s Tennis Game By Joe Marshall

Joe Marshall loves Fabrice Santoro’s ultra-unorthodox style, and many of Joe’s opponents have complained to me how maddening it is to play against him. It’s full of lobs, spins, surprise placements and drop shots, and a ball that lacks all the speed and force of what most modern power tennis is about. Maybe you’d find it works for you. In the video above, Fabrice is the guy who keeps returning the balls that the other guy just can’t seem to put away. There is another video that won’t embed. This is Joe’s fifth article in a series about winning tennis strategies for doubles.

The magician, Fabrice Santoro. He played for 22 years on the pro tour, the only man in the open era to play in four decades. His highest rank in singles was 17, yet he was as high as 37 in his mid-30’s, a year or so before he retired.

Fabrice beat more #1 players at some point in their career than anyone else (tied with Andre Agassi). He was 3-4 against Pete Sampras, 3-3 against Andre, 8-3 against Marat Safin, 1-0 against Jimmy Connors….he beat a total of eighteen #1’s. It was Pete who named him The Magician.

No one had more joy on the court, no one had a more original style (his main shot was his two-handed, cross handed, righty forehand slice, which he hit primarily with his left hand! Sound impossible? Watch the video).
In an age of power and more power, Fabrice hit the ball softly, neutralizing power, and using his opponent’s aggressiveness to confound him…..like Judo the way the monks invented it. He was a showman and a great sport, quick to compliment his opponent on a great shot with a bow or applause.

He could beat you many different ways….great defense, tricky spins, looped passing shots, drop shots, lobs, sneak attack volleys, and gentle but confusing approach shots….he was afraid of no one. He has the record for the most singles losses in the open era (more than 400), but he won more than he lost (more than 450 matches), and was a great doubles player, winning a couple of grand slam titles. He had the record for the longest match ever (beating Arnaud Clement at the French open in 6 hours and 40 minutes over two days) until it was eclipsed by the famous John Isner-Nicolas Mahut three day affair at Wimbledon. I doubt that they will let him on the senior tour….he would wear them all out…..Enjoy!

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