Nadal's Near Feat; Doha Leftovers
Kudos to the Nadal-less but balanced Spanish squad for pulling out a 3-1 away upset over favored Argentina in the Davis Cup final. Had the injured and exhausted Rafael Nadal competed, he would have joined an elite group of men that have finished the season No. 1 and led their country to a Davis Cup championship in the same year (a fact noted by the ATP a few weeks ago). The last to do so was Pete Sampras in 1995 (vs. Russia). Only two others in the last 35 years, Jim Courier (1982 vs. Switzerland) and John McEnroe (1982 vs. France and 1981 vs. Argentina), have achieved the feat. And all Rafa would have had to do is sit on the bench after compatriots Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez notched all three of Spain’s points. It may not be Spain’s strongest team ever, but surely it’s best looking.
No. 1 Players To Reach Davis Cup Final (atptennis.com)
Year-End No. 1 Grand Slam Titles Davis Cup Result
2001 - Lleyton Hewitt 1 lost to France
1997 - Pete Sampras 2 lost to Sweden
1995 - Pete Sampras 2 defeated Russia
1992 - Jim Courier 2 def. Switzerland
1988 - Mats Wilander 3 lost to Germany
1984 - John McEnroe 2 lost to Sweden
1982 - John McEnroe 0 defeated France
1981 - John McEnroe 2 defeated Argentina
This isn’t breaking news, but I’m told that the ATP is now down to a short list of candidates to fill departing Etienne de Villiers’ position. The ATP board met with headhunting firm Spencer Stuart in Shanghai and they are conducting in-depth interviews. Because of the far-flung geography of candidates, there’s a good chance the search won’t be completed by year-end, though that remains a possibility. My guess is that the new ATP leader will be voted on at the Australian Open in January and will be in place by the first 1,000 Series event at Indian Wells, Calif., in March.
Here is some news: I’m also told it’s likely that de Villiers’ two roles, chairman and CEO (otherwise known as executive chairman), may not be split up after all. The thinking has been that combining the two positions gave ex-Disney exec de Villiers too much power because he could cast the deciding vote when the board, made up of three player and three tournament reps, was deadlocked. But the flipside is that it’s hard to find person willing to take on the chairman role that isn’t full time considering the demands of the job. Then again, many Fortune 500 companies manage it that way. And it may be hard for any incoming CEO to wield that much power at present in light of the de Villiers’ strong-arming legacy.
--Among the extra tidbits from my trip to Doha earlier this month was Australian Rennae Stubbs ripping the Prop 8 vote in California, which in its passage denies same-sex couples the right to marry. Stubbs, who came out in the Melbourne Age three years ago and is rarely at a loss for words, compared the passage of 8 to another proposition on the Nov. 5 ballot that provided soon-to-be-slaughtered animals (such as chickens) more space in which to move in their cages.
“It's nice to know that people care more about caged animals than human beings,” derided Stubbs. “(The people of California) are telling the defenseless pig and chicken that (they) want them to be free, but yet (they) are saying to another human being, ‘You have to stay in the box because we don't want you out roaming the streets holding hands and wearing marriage bands.’ That's what's sad. It's just ignorance.”
Doubles specialist and Tennis Channel commentator Stubbs is confident that the ban will eventually be overturned. “It's going to get turned around anyway because it will end going to the same courts where it was approved,” she said.
--I ran into Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley who was gearing up for another Aussie Open. During our wide-ranging chat about the tournament, the ATP’s tumultuous year, the economic slump’s effect on tennis, he told me that he had been in discussions with the USTA for the elite development job that ultimately went to Patrick McEnroe. Tiley was a highly successful coach at the University of Illinois, where he took a little-known program and turned it into an NCAA champion in 2003. He was also named NCAA coach of the year that season.
Interestingly, his wife, Ali, is a former political consultant and in fact worked for president-elect Obama when he was in Illinois.
Speaking of national federations, Tiley told me that Tennis Australia had hired former top-10 player Felix Mantilla of Spain to run a training facility in Barcelona for its promising players. TA already has a site in London. Maybe the USTA should think about setting up a clay-only satellite center overseas where players could train.
--After Serena Williams' unseemly performances in her final two press conferences - one in which she trashed her play after losing to older sister Venus, the other when she mocked a reporter who questioned her responsibility to the tournament after withdrawing with a strained stomach muscle -- I asked a WTA staffer if there wasn't an effort to prepare her beforehand so that she didn't come off as dismissive and disparaging. "She's uncoachable," was the response.