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May 23, 2014
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Rafa, Serena, and Outlook for Garros 2014
by Ray Bowers
One year ago it was Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams who raised the singles trophies at Roland Garros 2013. Rafa had defeated Novak Djokovic in a five-set semi-final, then comfortably beat countryman David Ferrer. It was Rafa's eighth Garros crown in nine tries. Meanwhile Serena defeated final-round opponent Maria Sharapova amid severe rocketry by both, Serena closing out matters with a barrage of first serves. After their Garros triumphs, both Rafa and Serena went on to more glory including triumphs at U.S. Open 2013. Currently the two stand #1 atop the respective men's and women's official rankings.
Thus Rafa and Serena are the seeming favorites to capture the men's and women's singles crowns at Garros 2014. But their margins of certainty are very different. One of them faces a host of dangerous pitfalls -- opponents seemingly able and assuredly willing to take down the front-runner. Meanwhile the other seems firmly dominant against any rival. Curiously, it is the younger of the two -- the one closest to prime tennis age -- that is in the greater jeopardy.
The tests will come on the historic grounds not far from downtown Paris. The setting at Stade Garros is hardly recognizable from the forested one I remember from long ago. The original central arena, built in 1928, is now a modernized Court Chatrier, seating 15,000. Meanwhile Court Lenglen, built in 1994, seats 10,000. The already splendid site is being expanded and redesigned to enhance the openness and greenery. Plans call for two retractable-roof stadia including a rebuilt Chatrier.
The crushed-brick and porous-limestone, "red clay" courts provide good drainage, moderately good traction, and a bounce slower than that at the other Slams, though the difference in bounce speed is less than it was long ago. Still, there will be fewer service aces than on nonclay courts and fewer very short points along with more breaks of serve. Basic tactics among the topmost players will be broadly similar to those used on hard courts, with far more emphasis on offense than on clay in earlier times. Though their rocketry will be somewhat dulled, powerful servers will intend to achieve early dominance in points, and powerful ground-strokers will enjoy more time for shot preparation. Drop shots and close-in cat-and-mouse play will be enhanced by the low bounces. Net attack will be less frequent than on other surfaces, but if the opportunity is created, finishing points at net will be a winning tactic.
Here are data from the late rounds at recent Slams, where the numbers reveal the slower bounce at Garros:
Aces and Points Won by Servers (% of total points)
Wimbledon 2006-2013, aces 10.1%, PwSv 66.8%
U.S. Open 2006-2013, 7.4%, 63.4%
Australian Open 2006-2014, 7.6%, 62.8%
Garros 2006-2013, 5.5%, 61.8%
He is universally acknowledged the greatest clay-court player in tennis history, but for Rafa at age 27 and soon to turn 28, success in 2014 has been hard to earn. In January the powerful megastar reached the final at Australian Open, but he was then outplayed and defeated by an unexpected finalist, Stan Wawrinka. Two months later Rafa reached the final at Miami 2014 but then lost to Novak Djokovic. Then came quarter-final-round losses on clay to two players Rafa had habitually defeated -- Ferrer and Almagro. Next Rafa was strong at Madrid but had trouble in the final round against Japanese riser Kei Nishikori. Kei's accuracy and aggressiveness brought him the first set and a service-break edge through most of the second. Rafa was then able to step up his play, and Kei amid back pain later retired from the match. Then in Rome where for several days the players struggled amid swirling winds and clay dust, Rafa survived three-setters against Gilles Simon, Michael Youzhny, and Andy Murray, only to lose to Djokovic in a three-set final marked by stretches of magnificently aggressive tennis by Novak. It was Novak's fourth consecutive win over Rafa following Rafa's final-round victory over Novak at U.S. Open last year.
All these episodes -- the losses to Djokovic, the surges by Wawrinka and Nishikori, and the challenges by others to Rafa on clay, confirmed that despite Rafa's many years of dominance at Garros, serious barriers lie ahead in his current quest for a ninth Garros crown.
The Prime Opposition
The foremost protagonist, almost coequal with Rafa, is the superbly talented Serbian star, Novak Djokovic, now 27. Novak's prospects had been clouded by a damaged right wrist, which hampered Novak in a loss to Federer at Monte Carlo and sidelined him thereafter until mid-May. But on the clay at Foro Italico he advanced routinely through the early rounds and then overcame Raonic in three sets in the semis. In his remarkable final-round victory over Rafa, Novak's heavy artillery showed no concern for the recently injured wrist. Novak is at his best when receiving serve. (His game-winning percentage when receiving serve on clay is by far the highest among pros this year -- an astonishing 44%.) Novak has often done well at Garros, having reached the semis five times, the final once. He needs a Garros triumph to become the eighth in tennis history to complete the Career Grand Slam.
Roger Federer, 32, was Garros champion in 2009, has been runner-up four times, and last year reached at least the quarters for the ninth straight year. This year after reaching the final in Monte Carlo, Roger sat out Madrid upon wife Mirka's birth to a second set of twins. Reappearing at Rome, Roger lost his first match to Chardy amid difficult winds that made for many errors. Aside from that match in Rome, Roger has not competed since mid-April, so that although he may be rusty, he should be well rested for best-of-five-set matches at Garros.
Prominent among the other contenders is Stan Wawrinka, 29, the sturdy Swiss warrior, this year's champion at Australian Open and also at Monte Carlo. Stan defeated Djokovic, Berdych and Nadal in Australia, then Raonic, Ferrer, and Federer in Monte Carlo. He brings a powerful serve along with potent ground strokes, especially his backhand one-hander, which allow him to create and then exploit court dominance. His triumph on clay at Monte Carlo was achieved while losing serve only twice in 42 serving games. Stan is second to Federer in game-winning percentage in 2014 when serving on clay, at 87% vs. Roger's 89%.
David Ferrer, 32, has been Spain's second-best clay-courter for many years, applying a style built on determination and court-craft. He defeated Rafa at Monte Carlo this year, but before that David had lost their last 17 head-to-head clay-court matches going back to 2005. David's best result at Garros came in reaching the final in 2013, and he reached the semis in 2012. In both cases, he lost to Nadal in straight sets. David has a forcing serve and relentless ground strokes which are surprisingly potent for David's relatively small size. These weapons are backed up by a strong match temperament and fine mobility in defending. He does not accept defeat easily.
Rising in the rankings on all surfaces is Kei Nishikori, 24, who won Barcelona Open on clay in April. At Madrid, having just entered the world's official top-ranked ten, he was the only non-Spanish player to reach the tournament's final four, joining Ferrer, Nadal, and Bautista Agut. In a riveting semi-final, Kei showed plenty of resilience in overcoming tiredness and a troublesome lower back or hip problem to defeat Ferrer, where both men rallied relentlessly and aggressively throughout. Nishikori also defeated Ferrer earlier, in a three-setter at Miami. After Kei's high-level performance in losing to Nadal at Madrid, Kei was sidelined at Rome resting his back injury.
Andy Murray, 27, returning this year from back surgery in late 2013, showed in Rome that he too belongs on the list of Rafa's strong challengers. Andy commands blistering power, comfortably generated in all strokes, and is thus able to maintain severe pace in extended rallies. Against Rafa in Rome, for long stretches he was able to force Rafa to uncomfortable hitting positions, sometimes deep behind baseline. The rallies of the two in Rome were of breathtaking severity, both men driving with full power to the sides and corners relentlessly, where the slightest softness in rallying by either man usually resulted in fierce and often point-ending rockets by opponent. Murray won the first set behind near-perfection but then lost the next two behind only slight decline on his own part amid furious assault by Rafa.
The others currently ranked in the top twenty or so must be considered dangerous, but there are several whose improved recent results make them especially worth watching. Among these are Colombian Santiago Giraldo, who defeated Andy Murray in Madrid, the mercurial Italian Fabio Fognini, and Ernests Gulbis, whose strong play in 2014 had long been awaited. Fognini is quick, mercurial both in personal manner and in style of play.
Also to be watched is Grigor Dimitrov, who turned 23 soon after defeating Berdych at Rome. Grigor has the tools for success on any surface and made a strong run at Rome, reaching the semis. But there Grigor's power was contained by Rafa's defenses sufficiently for Grigor's errors to multiply. Even more powerful than Dimitrov is Canadian Milos Raonic, 23, who also reached the semis in Rome only to lose, albeit closely, to Djokovic.
For these prospective opponents, beating Nadal seems to require steady application of heavy power, aggressively directed, thereby neutralizing Rafa's dominance during points, meanwhile staying ready to exploiting any softness in a Rafa reply, avoiding long baseline exchanges.
Still out with wrist troubles is Argentine pounder Juan Martin del Potro.
Like Rafa, Serena won both Madrid and Rome in 2013, the main clay preliminaries to Garros, where she lost only one set in winning the tournament. She won U.S. Open 2013, again with loss of only one set, and she won the year-ending round-robin in Istanbul. No woman, it seemed, could answer Serena's extreme power in serving and stroking nor break down her athletic court coverage.
This year, Serena, now 32, lost in the fourth round at Melbourne Park, but in March she captured Miami 2014, defeating three top-tenners, all in straight sets, reestablishing herself as the sport's unofficial La Prima. She won three matches at Madrid while showing a heavily wrapped left thigh but then withdrew prior to the quarter-finals. A withdrawal at Rome the next week seemed likely, but she reappeared, capturing the tournament without thigh wrapping while losing only one set.
Serena's Prime Challengers
Serena's comfort at Garros will be enhanced by the withdrawal of Victoria Azarenka, world #2 at the end of 2013 but largely inactive since then with foot injury. Victoria had been runner-up to Serena in the final at U.S. Open, winning one of their three sets.
Taking Vika's place as the secondary favorite at Garros is Maria Sharapova, 27, whose success this spring recalls her fine run on clay last year when she reached the Garros final. Maria reached the semis at Miami this year, losing to Serena, and then won the clay-court crowns at both Stuttgart and Madrid. An unexpected loss to Ivanovic in her second match at Rome amid windy conditions followed. Thus Maria seems to have found a liking for clay, where the slow bounce improves her preparation time in unleashing her relentless power. Maria's screamers to the corners and sides stretch the opponent's mobility and often become outright winners or yield weak replies.
This year's Australian Open winner was Li Na, 32. Na had won Garros three years ago, so this was her second Slam triumph. Her strong play, now as world #2, continued in March 2014 when she reached the semis at Indian Wells and the final at Miami, losing to Serena in the latter event. At Madrid and Rome, she lost to Sharapova and Errani, respectively, in three-setters.
Rising Simona Halep, age 23 at height 5-6, joins our top tier of contenders. The Romanian star's climb has been remarkable -- from #47 at the end of 2012 to #11 one year later. Her present rank of #4 assured her a path to the semis at Garros without having to face Serena Williams. Simona has good power and aggressiveness to go with a varied defense-offense style -- sound in serving, stroking, movement, variety, and avoidance of error. In her final-round loss to Sharapova at Madrid, Simona won the first set but was unable to withstand Maria's stepped-up power and accuracy. At Rome, she withdrew with abdominal injury prior to her second match.
Serena stands as the sole member of our top tier of Garros warriors, and Sharapova, Li, and Halep compose the second, also joined by a strong clay-courter, Sara Errani. Sara's mobility, determination, and strong shot-making ability kept her close to Serena in their final in Rome. It had been a fine tournament for the Italian star, but a leg/hip injury late in the first set abruptly spoiled her hopes.
The third tier is much wider, including the likes of Radwanska, Kvitova, Kerber, and Jankovic. Recent risers bidding to climb into the group will be Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, Sloane Stephens of America, and Caroline Garcia of France, whose power game nearly unseated Agnieszka Radwanska at Madrid. Switzerland's Belinda Bencic, 17, schooled by the mother of Martina Hingis, has penetrated the world top hundred at an age that is unusually early for these times.
Our numerical indicators, discussed next, rest largely on playing results of the last year or so. The numbers, however, fail to identify each player's immediate physical readiness -- in recovering from recent injuries or illnesses and in avoiding fresh ones, for example. Because of such factors, our final predictions, though they are derived largely from the numerical indicators, are not required to follow them rigidly.
The design of our indicators have been adjusted slightly with growing experience in their use. Here are the leaders in the current calculations for predicting Garros 2014. (The top sixteen raw scores within each indicator are normalized to reach total of 100.)
1. Basic Indicator. Playing results of the last 15 months are weighted in accord with years of data measuring how well results at various predictor tournaments have correlated with results at succeeding renditions of Garros. Of the 24 predictor events used here in predicting the men's singles at Garros 2014, the heaviest weighted are Garros 2013, Monte Carlo 2014, and Italy 2014, in that order. Here are the leaders:
|-- Rafael Nadal, score 29.6 || ||-- Serena Williams, 24.7|
|-- Novak Djokovic, 21.4 || ||-- Li Na, 12.7|
|-- Stan Wawrinka, 9.5 || ||-- Agnieszka Radwanska, 12.3|
|-- Roger Federer, 9.0 || ||-- Maria Sharapova, 10.7|
2. Quality-Win Quotient (QWQ). Each player's weighted count of match wins in 2014 against top-level opponents are compared with the player's number of losses against all opponents.
|-- Novak Djokovic, 27.8 || || -- Serena Williams, 33.6 |
|-- Stan Wawrinka, 14.8 || || -- Maria Sharapova, 11.9 |
|-- Rafael Nadal, 14.0 || || -- Li Na 11.0|
3. Clay-Court Index (CCX). Success on clay courts during 2013 and 2014.
| -- Rafael Nadal, 36.4 || || -- Serena Williams, 22.5 |
|-- David Ferrer. 13.9 || || -- Sara Errani, 17.5 |
|-- Fabio Fognini, 11.05 || || -- Maria Sharapova, 13.8 |
4. Riser Index (RX). Each player's rank in 2014 results, which are weighted severely according to recency, is compared with the player's previous best-ever 12-month official ranking.
| -- Kei Nishikori, 17.1 || || -- Belinda Bencic, 28.6 |
|-- Dominik Thiem, 16.2 || ||-- Caroline Garcia, 22.5 |
|-- J.-L. Struff, 12.07 || || -- Jovana Jaksic, 10.9 |
Composite of First Four Indicators. In computing our numerical composite, the first three indicators are weighted equally, while the fourth, Riser, is given only half weight. Our fifth indicator, Head-to-Head results, is applied using subjective judgment when analyzing the likely match-ups in reaching the final predictions.
| -- Rafael Nadal, 22.8 || || -- Serena Williams, 23.1 |
|-- Novak Djokovic, 16.8 || || -- Maria Sharapova, 10.4 |
|-- Stan Wawrinka, 8.8 || ||-- Li Na, 6.8 |
|-- Kei Nishikori, 7.2 || || -- Sara Errani, 6.6 |
|-- Roger Federer, 6.9 || || -- Simona Halep, 5.3 |
(Note that last year in predicting Garros 2013, the most successful of the three indicators used was QWQ in the men's singles, Basic in the women's. The men's Composite scored equally well with QWQ, and the women's Composite scored better than any single indicator. Both the men's and women's Composite surpassed the seeded order as predictor, the men's by a considerable extent, the women's narrowly. Riser was not employed last year.)
THE PREDICTIONS -- GARROS 2014
Almost completed is the Garros qualifying tournament, where 128 men and 96 women are vying for places in the main draw. One of every eight will succeed, though nearly all of them will probably be knocked out early in the main tournament. Any young-riser qualifier who reaches the third round of the main draw is likely to claim considerably greater laurels in coming years.
Men's Singles, Top Quarter
This is the domain of Rafael Nadal, whose main dangers are two fellow countrymen -- Nicolas Almagro in the upper half of the quarter and David Ferrer in the lower. Both scored narrow clay-court wins over Rafa recently -- Almagro at Barcelona and Ferrer at Monte Carlo, breaking long-standing patterns. But Rafa is well ahead of both in our indicators, and with the security against disaster provided by best-of-five-set play, Rafa should be safe.
Ferrer faces a dangerous fourth-round opponent in rising Dimitrov, but David's clay skills and his long experience should bring him through comfortably. Thus in the quarter's final match, Nadal over Ferrer.
One of the main questions in the making of the Garros draw was Andy Murray's place. Andy's surgery-related absences in the last year meant that Andy, a long-standing member of the men's Big Four, would not be seeded in the top four.
Three of the top seeds breathed a little easier when the answer came. But for Stan Wawrinka, third-seeded after his unexpected triumph at Australian Open, there was no joy in now finding Murray in his quarter. Stan would earlier face a difficult opponent, the mercurial Fabio Fognini, whose shot-making ability and quickness produced several splendid performances in recent weeks. But Wawrinka's relentless power assures that though the affair could be grueling, the Swiss star will prevail.
Andy Murray will be a different story. Andy's easy power matches Wawrinka's best, and though Andy falls far behind in our indicators as a result of his inactivity, Andy has a narrow lead in their career-long head-to-heads, and showed close to best-ever form in his close loss to Nadal in Rome this month. Stan is the more experienced on clay, having more than twice the career wins on that surface. But Stan lost his recent third-rounder in Rome, and has indeed been disappointing ever since his triumph at Monte Carlo this spring.
In a verdict of painful difficulty, the evidence from tv-watching of Rome outweighs the message of the indicators. Murray over Wawrinka.
This is the domain of Federer, and Roger could hardly have hoped for a less-dangerous accompanying cast. He will have to tame a revived Ernests Gulbis and, in the quarter's final match, the powerful Czech star Tomas Berdych. Roger has the ability and know-how to answer both challenges.
There are several tantalizing possible match-ups here. Two of the sport's strongest recent risers -- Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic -- will meet in the upper half of the quarters, offering what should be a fascinating contrast of styles and strengths. Our indictors give us the answer. The powerful striker Raonic has the edge in Basic but the stylist and mover Nishikori prevails in both CCX, Riser, and therefore in Composite as well. Kei also won both their head-to-head meetings, where the most recent, in Madrid 2014, was settled in two tiebreak sets.
The lower half of the quarter belongs to Novak Djokovic, though he can expect strong opposition from Marin Cilic and then either Jerzy Janowicz or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Novak's superb abilities, especially in serve-returning, should carry Novak past any of these opponents. Then against Nishikori, Novak won their meeting at Garros in 2010 in straight sets, and he leads in our indicators except for Riser. In what could be a memorable affair, Djokovic over Nishikori.
Rafa's strong edge over Andy Murray in our indicators including career head-to-head meetings, requires his choice over Andy. Although Rafa's recent win over Andy in Rome was surprisingly, indeed impressively close, Rafa was after all the winner. Again, best-of-five-set matches at Garros work to the favor of the pounding and relentless overspin of Rafa, even against the physically powerful Murray. Nadal over Murray.
In the other semi-final, Federer and Djokovic resume their fascinating saga. Djokovic won three of their five meetings in 2012 and both meetings in 2013. But Roger has won two of three in 2014, including on the Monte Carlo clay. Djokovic won at Garros in 2012, Roger in 2011. In our indicators, Novak leads firmly in Basic and CCX, narrowly in QWQ. But Novak's six-year advantage in youth becomes more significant with every passing year, and Roger's need to pace himself in long matches has become evident. Djokovic over Federer.
Nadal and Djokovic.
How can one choose between these two magnificent champions? Nadal has the edge in Basic, Djokovic a slightly larger margin in QWQ, Rafa an even larger advantage in CCX. (Neither scores in Riser, as both have already held the top official ranking.) Rafa is thus ahead in Composite, albeit narrowly.
The Head-to-head margin is also close, where we make Djokovic the slight leader by weighting their outcomes of the last three years according to margin, recency, and commonality of surface. (See Appendix for details of this exercise.) Especially impressive, verifying that Djokovic has been the stronger player in recent months, is Novak's consecutive victories in their four meetings since U.S. Open.
It mainly comes down to the following:
1. Is Novak's injured right arm/wrist completely healed, leaving Novak totally free of concern in imposing his excellent, full-power attacking ability through a long tournament?
2. Has Rafa learned how to preempt or answer Novak's now-superior attacking style?
3. Can Novak summon the extreme heights shown in extended stretches in Rome and sustain them sufficiently to win in best-of-five sets?
We will learn the answers in the final match on Chatrier. Which man will find their best when it matters most? For now, the verdict here narrowly favors Rafa. Nadal over Djokovic.
The strong margins of Serena Williams in our numerical indicators as well as in head-to-head results against her leading rivals, compels choosing Serena to become a third-time Garros champion this year. The absence of her likely strongest opponent, Azarenka, strengthens confidence in the selection. Serena's strongest foe will be Maria Sharapova, when these two highest scorers in our Composite meet in the quarter-finals. From our indicators, here are the predicted late-round outcomes:
S. Williams over Sharapova, Serena has won their last fifteen meetings, including in the final at Garros 2013. But their two matches in 2014 have been close-fought.
A.Radwanska over Kerber in the tournament's weakest quarter.
Halep over Ivanovic. The indicators place Ivanovic ahead of higher-seeded Kvitova to reach the quarters.
Li over Errani. The indicators place Errani ahead of higher-seeded Jankovic to reach the quarters.
S. Williams over A. Radwanska.
Li over Halep, though the message of the indicators is weak.
S. Williams over Li. Serena has won their last ten meetings, including in straight sets at Miami 2014.
The gathering will bring forward scores of other dramas, involving competitors at all levels, for whom success is just as important as to the top few. We will look especially closely at those of our current watch lists, previously chosen as the most likely to move upward in coming months -- the likes of Bencic, Kiick, Bouchard, Schmiedlova, and Svitolina among the women. Bencic will face Venus Williams in the first round. Bouchard will be a strong contender in the second quarter, the weakest. Svitolina and Schmiedlova face daunting main-draw opponents early. Other selectees -- Konjuh and Duval -- have already lost in the qualifiers. Meanwhile members of the men's watch lists will be likewise tested.
We will also track the success of the various national contingents in accumulating match wins. Spain's Armada is most likely to prevail among the men, having led in the Garros tally last year and in seven of the preceding eight years. The French males were second at Garros last year and also led all others at Australian Open 2014. The American women won at Garros last year and are strong this year, again led by Serena. The U.S. success last year broke nine straight years of Russian domination.
In doubles, the dominance of the Bryan brothers has been chipped recently by the superb pair Nestor-Zimonjic. Last year's runners-up in women's doubles, Errani-Vinci, have been strong lately, winning in Madrid and reaching the final in Rome. A decision by the sisters Williams to enter the doubles seems unlikely. A bid by Serena to achieve a Garros triple -- singles, doubles, and mixed -- would be appealing but is probably out of the question.
With the superstars clearly interested in their ultimate places in tennis history, it should be a magnificent Garros 2014.
-- Ray Bowers, Arlington, Virginia, U.S.A.
APPENDIX -- Quantifying Djokovic-Nadal head-to-heads, last 36 months
In each case, the first-shown decimal stands for winning margin, the second for recency, the third for commonality of surface. The product of the three is the amount credited to the winner.
2014 Italy, won by Djokovic, .2 x .4 x .4 = .032
2014 Miami, won by Djokovic, .3 x .3 x .3 =.027
Totals for 2014, Djokovic .057
2013 Year-Ender, won by Djokovic, .3 x .3 x .2 = .018 for Dj
2013 Beijing, won by Djokovic, .3 x .3 x .3 = .027 for Dj
2013 US Open, won by Nadal, .3 x .3 x .3 = .027 for Nad
2013 Canada, won by Nadal, .2 x .3 x .3 = .018 for Nad
2013 Garros, won by Nadal, .2 x .3 x .5 = .030 for Nad
2013 Monte Carlo, won by Djokovic, .3 x .2 x .4 = .024 for Dj
Totals for 2013, Djokovic .069 vs. Nadal .075
2012 Garros, won by Nadal, .3 x .2 x .5= .030 for Nad
2012 Italy, won by Nadal, .3 x .2 x .4 = .024 for Nad
2012 Monte Carlo, won by Nadal, .3 x .1 x .4 = .012 for Nad
2012 Australia, won by Djokovic, .2 x .1 x .3 = .006 for Djok
Totals for 2012, Djokovic .006 vs. Nadal .066
2011 US Open, won by Djokovic, .3 x .1 x .3 = .009 for Djok
2011 Wimb, won by Djokovic, .3 x .1 x .2 = .006 for Djok
Totals for 2011, Djokovic .015
Overall totals, Djokovic .147 vs.Nadal .141
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This column is copyrighted by Ray Bowers, all rights reserved.
Following interesting military and civilian careers, Ray became a regular
competitor in the senior divisions, reaching official rank of #1 in the 75
singles in the Mid-Atlantic Section for 2002. He was boys' tennis coach for four
years at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Virginia, where
the team three times reached the state Final Four. He was named Washington
Post All-Metropolitan Coach of the Year in 2003. He is now researching a history
of the early pro tennis wars, working mainly at U.S. Library of Congress. A
tentative chapter, which appeared on Tennis Server, won a second-place award
from U.S. Tennis Writers Association.
Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ray by using this form.