Sunday, June 29, 2008

China Airlines

China Airlines, Limited is the flag carrier of the Republic of China on Taiwan. The airline is not directly state owned. However, it is owned by the China Aviation Development Foundation which in turn is owned by the government of the Republic of China. Unlike other state-owned companies in the Republic of China, the chairman of China Airlines does not report to the Legislative Yuan.
The airline, based at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and with headquarters in Taipei, currently flies to destinations in Asia, Europe, North America and Oceania. Due to current politically-motivated prohibitions on the Three Links, the airline do not operate regularly scheduled flights between Taiwan and mainland China. All flights serving this market are thus concentrated at Hong Kong, where it has operated since 1967. It is the airline's most profitable market, generating 13.3% of its NT$121.9 billion (US$ 3.7 billion) revenue in 2006 with over 140 flights flown a week between Taipei, Kaohsiung and Hong Kong.
The airline's main domestic competitor is EVA Air. China Airlines is expected to become a full member of SkyTeam in late 2008. Talks between the airline and the alliance started in Fall 2007.


Transport, founded by General Claire L. Chennault and Whiting Willauer in 1946. The other two were joint ventures by the ROC government with Pan American World Airways, and Lufthansa. As a result of the Chinese Civil War, the Communist Party of China took control of mainland China, and only Civil Air Transport moved along with the Kuomintang-controlled ROC government to Taiwan.
With a fleet of 2 PBY Amphibians, China Airlines was established on December 16, 1959 with its shares completely held by the ROC government. It was founded by a retired air force officer and initially concentrated on charter flights. During the 1960s, China Airlines was able to establish its first domestic and international routes, and in October 1962, a flight from Taipei to Hualien became the airline's first domestic service. Growth continued and on December 1, 1966, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (then Saigon, South Vietnam), became the airline's first international destination. Trans-Pacific flights to San Francisco were initiated on 2 February 1970.
The next 20 years saw sporadic but far-reaching growth for the company. Routes were opened to Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris, among others (China Airline's first European destination was Amsterdam). Jets were acquired, and China Airlines employed such planes as the Boeing 747 in their fleet. Later, the airline inaugurated its own round-the-world flight : (Taipei-Anchorage-New York - Amsterdam-Dubai-Taipei). 1993 saw China Airlines listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.
As the flag carrier for the Republic of China, China Airlines has been affected by disputes over the political status of Taiwan, and under pressure from the People's Republic of China was barred from flying into a number of countries maintaining diplomatic relations with the PRC. As a result, in the mid-1990s, China Airlines subsidiary Mandarin Airlines took over some of its international routes e.g. Sydney and Vancouver. Partly as a way to avoid the international controversy, China Airlines unveiled its "plum blossom flower" logo, replacing the national flag which had previously appeared on the tail-fins, and the red-white-blue national colors on the fuselage of its aircraft, from October 7, 1995.
Throughout the 1990s, the airline had the practice of employing many ex-ROC Air Force pilots. Due to the company's poor safety record in the 1990s, China Airlines began to change its pilot recruitment practices. The company also began to actively recruit civilian-trained pilots with proven track records. In addition, the company began recruiting new university graduates as trainees in its own pilot training program. The company also modified its maintenance and operational procedures. These decisions were instrumental in the company's improved safety record, culminating in the company's recognition by the IATA.
Taiwan's political status proved to be a blessing in disguise for China Airlines in Japan. As Japan does not recognize Taiwan's independence, it did not allow China Airlines to use Narita International Airport. Instead China Airlines used Tokyo's domestic Haneda Airport (which is much closer to Tokyo city), until April 18, 2002 , when flights were transferred to Narita.
In recent years, some pro-Taiwan independence activists have sought to rename the airline "Taiwan Airlines", arguing that foreigners have in the past confused the airline with Air China and that "China" is not a representative name for an airline that has no scheduled flights to mainland China. In late 2004, President Chen Shui-bian proposed the renaming of all state-owned enterprises bearing the name "China" to "Taiwan." Many consider his act as one of desinicization. This was opposed by the Pan-blue coalition, the opposition parties in the Taiwan legislature. The airline also voiced concern over its international operations, codeshare agreements and other commercial contracts. The issue was dropped after the 2004 Legislative Yuan election when the pro-Chen Pan-Green Coalition failed to win a majority. In 2007, however, the issue resurfaced with the renaming of several state-owned companies such as Taiwan Post and CPC Corporation, Taiwan.
China Airlines has been reported to be in talks with the SkyTeam airline alliance regarding full membership. While neither the airline nor SkyTeam have made any official announcements, it is expected that China Airlines will join the alliance sometime in 2008. China Airlines would be the alliance's twelfth full member airline.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Philippine Airlines

Philippine Airlines, Inc. (abbreviated PAL), also known historically as Philippine Air Lines, is the national airline of the Philippines. It is the first commercial airline in Asia and the oldest of those currently in operation, with a long and distinguished history spanning over sixty years. Out of its hubs at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila and Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu City, Philippine Airlines serves eighteen destinations in the Philippines and twenty-six destinations in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, Canada and the United States.
Formerly one of the largest Asian airlines, PAL was severely affected by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. In what was believed to be one of the Philippines' biggest corporate failures, PAL was forced to downsize its international operations by completely cutting operations to Europe and eventually Southwest Asia, cutting virtually all domestic services excluding routes operated from Manila, reducing the size of its fleet and terminating the jobs of thousands of employees. The airline was placed under receivership in 1998, gradually restoring operations to many of the destinations it formerly serviced. PAL exited receivership in 2007 with ambitious plans to further restore services to its previously-serviced destinations, as well as diversify its fleet.
Philippine Airlines is the first and only airline in the Philippines to be accredited with the IOSA (IATA Operations Safety Audit) by the International Air Transport Association and has been awarded a 3-star rating by Skytrax.

Early beginnings
Philippine Airlines was founded on February 26, 1941, making it Asia's oldest carrier still operating under its current name. The airline was started by a group of businessmen led by Andres Soriano, hailed as one of the Philippines' leading industrialists at the time, who served as its general manager, and former Senator Ramon Fernandez, who served as its chairman and president.
The airline’s first flight took place on March 15, 1941 with a single Beechcraft Model 18 NPC-54 on daily services between Manila (from Nielson Field) and Baguio. On July 22, the airline acquired the franchise of the Philippine Aerial Taxi Company. Government investment in September paved the way for its nationalization.
PAL services were interrupted during World War II, which lasted in the Philippines from 1942 to 1945. Upon the outbreak of the Pacific War on December 8, 1941, the two Model 18s and their pilots were pressed into military service. They were used to evacuate American fighter pilots to Australia until one was shot down over Mindanao and the other was destroyed on the ground in an air raid in Surabaya, Indonesia.
On February 14, 1946, PAL resumed operations after a five-year hiatus with service to 15 domestic points with five Douglas DC-3s and a payroll of 108 names. Philippine Airlines returned to its original home, the Nielsen Airport in Makati. The airport, heavily damaged during the war, was refurbished and modernized by PAL at a hefty cost of over one million pesos, quickly becoming the official port of entry for air passengers into the Philippines. The airport was operated by Manila International Air Terminal, Inc., a wholly-owned PAL subsidiary.
On July 31, 1946, PAL became the first Asian airline to cross the Pacific Ocean when a chartered Douglas DC-4 ferried 40 American servicemen to Oakland, California from Nielson Airport with stops in Guam, Wake Island, Johnston Atoll and Honolulu. A regular service between Manila and San Francisco was started in December the same year. It was during this time that the airline was designated as the country’s flag carrier.
PAL commenced service to Europe in 1947 with the acquisition of more Douglas DC-4s. By 1948 PAL had absorbed the only other scheduled airlines in the Philippines, Far Eastern Air Transport and Commercial Air Lines. Following the government's decision to convert Nichols Field in Pasay City, the site of a former U.S. Air Force base, into a new international airport for Manila, PAL was required to move its base of operations and passenger terminal there from Nielsen Airport. The transfer was accomplished over a five-month period from January 31 to June 28, 1948, with PAL investing an additional P600,000 in ground installations and improvements to Nichols Field.
In 1951, PAL leased a DC-3 named "Kinsei" to Japan Airlines, which led to the founding of the country's own national airline. In 1954, the Philippine government suspended all long-haul international flights, only to resume five years later, when the government decided that it was a matter of national policy. In three years, PAL started services to Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Taipei using Convair 340s that would later be replaced by the Vickers Viscount 784, which brought the airline into the turboprop age.

First expansion and modernization
In the 1960s, PAL entered the jet age, initially with a lone Boeing 707 that was later replaced with Douglas DC-8 aircraft leased from KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The aircraft were used for long-haul international flights to Europe and the United States. The DC-3 remained the mainstay of domestic services as it expanded to a total of 72 points as airports were improved or opened, but most of the airline's rural air service was later stopped in May 1964. Two years later, PAL commenced its first turbojet services to Cebu, Bacolod, and Davao using the BAC1-11. In addition, PAL was also privatized, as the Philippine government relinquished its share in PAL after Benigno Toda, Jr., then-PAL chairman, acquired a majority stake in the airline.
When President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he implemented a one-airline policy. PAL was the lone surviving airline, absorbing Air Manila and Filipinas Orient Airways. On March 10, 1973 PAL was re-designated as the national flag carrier. PAL continued its expansion with the arrival of its first Douglas DC-10 in July 1974. Three years later, the Philippine government re-nationalized PAL, with the Government Service Insurance System holding a majority of PAL shares. In 1979, the Boeing 727, the Boeing 747-200 and the Airbus A300B4, dubbed the "Love Bus", joined the PAL fleet, while the PAL DC-8 fleet was retired.
Between 1979 and 1981, as part of a comprehensive modernization program led by then-President Roman A. Cruz, PAL built a series of mammoth aviation-related facilities around the periphery of the MIA. These included the PAL Technical Center, the PAL Inflight Center, the PAL Data Center and the PAL Aviation School.
On April 2, 1982, a PAL Boeing 747 arriving from San Francisco via Honolulu became the first aircraft to dock at the new 800-million peso Terminal 1 of Manila International Airport. PAL would later strengthen its cargo-handling capability by building a dedicated cargo terminal building adjacent to the MIA passenger terminal and installing cargo-refrigeration equipment in 1983. The new facilities, which catered mainly to international cargo services, enabled PAL to become a fully equipped cargo handler. Services to Paris and Zürich began in November 1982.
Following the 1986 EDSA Revolution, Dante G. Santos became PAL president. He launched a massive modernization of the domestic fleet with the acquisition of the Short 360, nicknamed the "Sunriser", in May 1987, the Fokker 50 in August 1988 and the Boeing 737-300 jet in August 1989.
As the Manila domestic passenger terminal outgrew its capacity and ramp aircraft parking space became more scarce, PAL leased the hangar of the Philippine Aerospace Development Corporation and converted it into the PAL Domestic Terminal 2. The terminal, which opened in October 1988, exclusively served passengers flying to destinations serviced by PAL's Airbus A300s: namely, Cebu and Davao, with General Santos and Puerto Princesa added later on. At the same time, PAL also expanded and improved the existing terminal. The opening of the new facility cleared out the old terminal and provided greater convenience to passengers.

Re-privatization and second expansion
PAL was privatized again in January 1992, when the government sold a 67% share of PAL to a holding company called PR Holdings. However, a conflict as to who would lead PAL led to a compromise in 1993, when former Agriculture Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez was elected PAL president by the airline's board of directors. The fleet of BAC1-11s were retired in May 1992, following completion of the deliveries of Boeing 737s, and the Short 360s in September. In November 1993, PAL acquired its first Boeing 747-400. The new aircraft arrived at Subic Bay International Airport and was carrying then-President Fidel V. Ramos, who was headed home from the United States after an official visit. The 200-ton aircraft, one of the world's largest and most popular long-range aircraft continues to be the mainstay of PAL's trans-Pacific services and its flagship aircraft. A new service between Manila and Osaka, launched in 1994, brought to 34 the number of points in PAL's international route network.
The PAL Domestic Terminal 2 was refurbished in 1995, with a number of facilities being added or improved, including a renovated Mabuhay Lounge, an exclusive check-in counter for Mabuhay Class passengers, an Express Counter, refreshment bar, a medical clinic, an expansive waiting lounge and two baggage carousels in the arrival section. PAL facilities at NAIA were also renovated. The total cost for the renovation of the domestic terminal (1 and 2) reached P33.15 million while the NAIA renovation totaled P125 million.
In January 1995, Lucio C. Tan, the majority shareholder of PR Holdings, became the new chairman and CEO of the airline. The delivery of the carrier's fourth Boeing 747-400 in April 1996 signaled the start of an ambitious US$4 billion modernization and refleeting program that aimed to make PAL one of Asia's best airlines within three years. The centerpiece of the program was the acquisition of 36 state-of-the-art aircraft from Airbus and Boeing between 1996 to 1999. The refleeting sought to give PAL the distinction of having the youngest fleet in Asia and allow the expansion of its domestic and international route network. The 36 orders of PAL during its refleeting program were for eight Boeing 747-400, four Airbus 340-300, eight Airbus 330-300 and twelve Airbus 320-200. The refleeting program enabled PAL to be dubbed the first airline in the world to operate the full range of new-generation Airbus aircraft.

Asian financial crisis
In 1997, PAL rebranded itself as "Asia's sunniest airline" to cap its new marketing and advertising thrust. In addition to its refleeting program, PAL commenced service to New York City (using Newark Liberty International Airport) via Vancouver. However, this caused the airline to be financially unstable, having acquired too many aircraft while matching them to unprofitable routes. The refleeting program was about halfway through when the full impact of the Asian financial crisis struck the airline industry early in 1998. By March 31, 1997, at the end of the 1996-1997 fiscal year, PAL had reported its largest annual loss of P8.08 billion.
PAL's financial difficulties were compounded by a series of labor disputes that began when the pilots' union staged a three-week strike in June 1998. This was followed by a strike by the ground personnel union on July 22, which ended four days later with the signing of a deal between the union and management. However, PAL's lingering financial troubles continued to take their toll and on June 19, 1998, the company filed for receivership with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which then appointed a committee to oversee the rehabilitation of the flag carrier. Services to Europe, under the helm of General Manager Heinz van Opstal, were discontinued, with staff dismissals and the closure of PAL's European offices. The airline downsized its operations as the Asian financial crisis dragged the region's once-vibrant economies into recession in 1998. The PAL fleet was reduced from 53 to 22 aircraft with the elimination of all turboprop aircraft, eliminating its rural air service and causing the dismantling of its Cebu City hub. With massive lay-offs also taking place, disputes between the airline’s owners and the employee’s union led to a complete shutdown of PAL's operations on September 23, 1998, the first Asian airline to do so and one of the largest corporate failures in Philippine history. Cathay Pacific temporarily took over PAL's domestic and international operations during its fourteen-day shutdown, with Cathay Pacific also showing interest in acquiring a 40-percent stake in PAL during this period. However, no agreement was reached.
PAL flew once again on October 7, 1998 after an agreement between PAL employees and top management, reported to be facilitated by then-President Joseph Estrada, was reached, with services to 15 domestic points out of Manila. On October 29, the flag carrier resumed international services with flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco, with other international services being restored three weeks later. Asian services resumed on November 11 with flights to Tokyo and Hong Kong. PAL gradually expanded its network over the next two months, restoring services to Taipei, Osaka (via Cebu), Singapore, Fukuoka, Dhahran, Riyadh and Seoul. With the aviation industry still in the doldrums, PAL continued to search for a strategic partner but in the end, it submitted a "standalone" rehabilitation plan to the SEC on December 7, 1998. The plan provides a sound basis for the airline to undertake a recovery on its own while keeping the door open to the entry of a strategic partner in the future. PAL presented the new proposed rehabilitation plan to its major creditors during a two-week marathon meeting that started on February 15 in Washington D.C. and ended on March 1 in Hong Kong.
In 1999, PAL submitted its amended rehabilitation plan to the Securities and Exchange Commission that comprised a revised business plan and a revised financial restructuring plan. The plan also required the infusion of US$200 million in new equity, with 40% to 60% coming from financial investors and translating to no less than 90% ownership of PAL. That same year, with the unprecedented boom in air travel, PAL operations were moved to the new Centennial Terminal 2 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, located at the site of the old MIA terminal building. On August 9, 1999, PAL moved selected domestic flights to the P5.3 billion terminal. Full domestic operations operated from the new terminal on August 10, while international services followed soon after, thus consolidating PAL's flight operations in one terminal for the first time.

Receivership and rehabilitation
In 2000, PAL finally returned to profitability, making some P44.2 million in its first year of rehabilitation, breaking some six years of heavy losses. On September 1, 2000, PAL formally handed over its ownership of its maintenance and engineering division to German-led joint venture Lufthansa Technik Philippines (LTP), the world's largest provider of aircraft maintenance services in accordance with the provisions of its rehabilitation plan, which mandates the disposal of the airline's non-core assets. In August of the same year, PAL opened an e-mail booking facility. In 2001, PAL continued to gain a net profit of P419 million in its second year of rehabilitation. In this year alone, PAL restored services to Bangkok, Taipei, Sydney, Busan, Jakarta, Vancouver and Ho Chi Minh City, while launching new services to Shanghai and Melbourne. A year later, PAL restored services to Guam and Tagbilaran.
The Mabuhay Miles frequent flyer program was launched in 2002, combining PAL's former frequent flyer programs, PALSmiles, Mabuhay Club, and the Flying Sportsman (now SportsPlus) all into one. The PAL RHUSH (Rapid Handling of Urgent Shipments) Cargo service was also re-launched during the same year. An online arrival and departure facility and a new booking system was then launched in 2003. In December, PAL also acquired a fifth Boeing 747-400.
In 2004, PAL launched services to Las Vegas to mark its 63rd year of service. PAL also returned to Laoag and started services to Macau on codeshare with Air Macau. The airline also saw its return to Europe with the return of the airline to Paris and Amsterdam on agreements with Air France and KLM. Service to Paris, however, was inevitably cut due to the formation of Air France-KLM. PAL also continued an overhaul of its fleet with the arrival of two new Airbus A320s and continued modernizing its ticketing systems with the launch of electronic ticketing. For the first time in Philippine history, the airline flew President-elect Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Vice-President-elect Noli de Castro to their inauguration in Cebu City. Arroyo rode a chartered PAL Airbus A330-300, while de Castro was aboard a separate Airbus A320.
In March 2005, PAL started services to Nagoya and restored scheduled flights to Beijing after a 15-year hiatus. In response to rival Cebu Pacific's increasing domestic market share, mainly due to its massive re-fleeting program and the its own aging Boeing 737 fleet, PAL signed an agreement for the purchase and lease of up to 18 brand-new Airbus A319s and A320s from Airbus and GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) on December 6, 2005.
The first brand-new, GECAS-leased Airbus A319s were delivered to and inaugurated by PAL and President Arroyo in October 20, 2006. It is the first aircraft in the airline's history to offer AVOD-capable inflight entertainment. Later in December, the airline initiated its wide-body re-fleeting program by signing a deal with Boeing in Honolulu for the purchase of two Boeing 777-300ER aircraft to be delivered in 2009, with an option to purchase two more planes in 2011. PAL also signed a separate agreement with GECAS to lease another two Boeing 777-300ER aircraft for delivery in 2010. The purchase of the new 777s effectively canceled previous orders for new 747-400s, ending the production of said aircraft.
In February 2007, PAL became the country's only airline to meet the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). IOSA is the first global standard for airline operational safety auditing. Later, on June 27, 2007, PAL announced its interest in opening a new hub at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Angeles City by committing a $50 million investment on airport infrastructure, as well as proposed routes from Angeles City to Korea, Japan and China. The future PAL terminal at the DMIA would be able to accommodate the Airbus A380. While construction is scheduled to start in January 2008, it is unclear whether or not construction is underway.
On July 2, 2007, PAL purchased two of the three Bombardier Q300 aircraft ordered by its subsidiary Air Philippines for delivery in November the same year. This move was caused by competition among Philippine carriers to service flights to Malay, home to the tropical island of Boracay. PAL later signed a memorandum of understanding that opens the way for the introduction of flights to the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing. Service to Chongqing began on March 14, 2008, while service to Chengdu commenced on March 18.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, on October 4, 2007, ordered the release of PAL from receivership. This move came nine years after coming within proximity of liquidation amid mounting bills due to the Asian financial crisis. Moments after PAL’s formal exit from rehabilitation, the airline announced plans to attract foreign investments through an international road show to tour around Asia, Europe and North America.
Philippine Airlines was named "Airline Turnaround of the Year" for 2006 and 2007 by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation for its "strategic contribution to the aviation industry through a significant transformation by successfully restructuring its operations through innovative cost-cutting measures resulting in operating profits".

Post-receivership and contemporary history
Despite PAL's successful exit from receivership, with the downgrading of the standard of Philippine aviation by the United States Federal Aviation Administration from Category 1 to Category 2 in January 2008, PAL president Jaime Bautista stated that as a consequence of the downgrading, its 2008 growth targets would be lowered. The FAA decision prevents PAL from increasing its flights to the United States from 33 per week or from switching the type of aircraft used unless the airline undertakes a wet-lease agreement with a different carrier. This is in spite of PAL efforts to expand its presence in the US market by opening new service to San Diego and restarting service to Chicago and New York City, as well as Saipan.
On March 31, 2008, PAL announced that it had ordered nine aircraft from Bombardier Aerospace: namely three 50-seater Bombardier Q300 and six 78-seater Bombardier Q400 aircraft at an estimated value of $150 million, all in preparation for the launch of PAL Express, its new regional subsidiary, which was unveiled on April 14, 2008. Using the recently-ordered fleet, PAL Express will primarily fly intra-regional routes in the Visayas and Mindanao from Cebu City, as well as secondary routes to smaller airports in island provinces that are not able to accommodate PAL’s regular jet aircraft. The launch of PAL Express is a ground-breaking step for PAL as it not only marks the first time it is launching a sub-brand in its history but also marks the return of turboprop aircraft to the PAL fleet since the Asian financial crisis. PAL Express operations began on May 5, with eight flights daily between Manila and Malay. Hub operations from Cebu City commenced on May 19 with flights between Cebu and five points in the Visayas and Mindanao, while service to other destinations, including many destinations formerly served by PAL prior to the Asian financial crisis, are scheduled to begin in June and July.


Friday, June 27, 2008

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King (née Moffitt) (born November 22, 1943, in Long Beach, California) is a retired tennis player from the United States. She won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. King has been an outspoken advocate against sexism in sports and society. The tennis match for which the public best remembers her is the "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, in which she defeated Bobby Riggs, a former Wimbledon men's champion who had been one of the leading male players in the 1930s and 1940s.

Personal life
Billie Jean King was born Billie Jean Moffitt. She was born into a conservative Methodist family, the daughter of a firefighter father and housewife mother. Her younger brother Randy Moffitt grew up to become a professional baseball player, pitching for 12 years in the major leagues for the San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, and Toronto Blue Jays.
King attended Long Beach Polytechnic High School. She then attended California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA) because her parents could not afford Stanford or UCLA. Even at CSULA, King had to work two jobs to pay her way.
She married Lawrence King in Long Beach, California on September 17, 1965. In 1971, she had an abortion, which was revealed to the public in a Ms. Magazine article in 1972 by Lawrence without consulting Billie Jean in advance. King said in her 1982 autobiography that she decided to have an abortion because she believed her marriage was not, at that time, solid enough to bring a child into her family. Billie Jean and Lawrence divorced in 1987.
By 1968, King realized that she was interested in women, and in 1971, King began an intimate relationship with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett. King acknowledged the relationship when it became public in a May 1981 lawsuit, becoming the first prominent professional female athlete to admit she was gay. King said that she had wanted to retire from competitive tennis in 1981 but could not afford to because of the lawsuit. "Within 24 hours [of the lawsuit being filed], I lost all my endorsements; I lost everything. I lost $2 million at least, because I had longtime contracts. I had to play just to pay for the lawyers. In three months I went through $500,000. I was in shock. I didn't make $2 million in my lifetime, so it's all relative to what you make." King said in 1998 that Martina Navratilova was not supportive when King was outed, resulting in their relationship having a "very bad five years." Speaking about the lawsuit in 2007, 26 years after it was filed, King said, "It was very hard on me because I was outed and I think you have to do it in your own time. Fifty per cent of gay people know who they are by the age of 13, I was in the other 50%. I would never have married Larry if I’d known. I would never have done that to him. I was totally in love with Larry when I was 21." Concerning the personal cost of concealing her sexuality for so many years, King said,
I wanted to tell the truth but my parents were homophobic and I was in the closet. As well as that, I had people tell me that if I talked about what I was going through, it would be the end of the women's tour. I couldn't get a closet deep enough. I've got a homophobic family, a tour that will die if I come out, the world is homophobic and, yeah, I was homophobic. If you speak with gays, bisexuals, lesbians and transgenders, you will find a lot of homophobia because of the way we all grew up. One of my big goals was always to be honest with my parents and I couldn't be for a long time. I tried to bring up the subject but felt I couldn't. My mother would say, "We’re not talking about things like that," and I was pretty easily stopped because I was reluctant anyway. I ended up with an eating disorder that came from trying to numb myself from my feelings. I needed to surrender far sooner than I did. At the age of 51, I was finally able to talk about it properly with my parents and no longer did I have to measure my words with them. That was a turning point for me as it meant I didn't have regrets any more.
In 1999, King was elected to serve on the Board of Directors of Philip Morris Incorporated, garnering some criticism from anti-tobacco groups. She no longer serves in that capacity.
King appeared as a judge on Law & Order, one of her favorite television shows, on April 27, 2007.
King currently resides in New York and Chicago with partner Ilana Kloss.

Playing style and personality
King learned to play tennis on the public courts of Long Beach, California. She was an aggressive, hard-hitting net-rusher, with excellent speed. Chris Evert, however, said about King, "Her weakness is her impatience."
Concerning her motivations in life and tennis, King said, "Any time you're satisfied with mediocrity, any time you take away incentive from human beings, you've blown it. I'm a perfectionist much more than I'm a super competitor, and there's a big difference there.... I've been painted as a person who only competes. ... But most of all, I get off on hitting a shot correctly. ... Any woman who wants to achieve anything has to be aggressive and tough, but the press never sees us as multidimensional. They don't see the emotions, the downs...." In a 1984 interview just after she had turned 40, King said, "Sometimes when I'm watching someone like Martina [Navratilova], I remember how nice it was to be No. 1. Believe me, it's the best time in your life. Don't let anyone ever tell you different. But then I think about the emotional and physical effort it takes to be No. 1, and I realize it's not there anymore. I know that, and it's OK. It's part of the process. My only regret is that I had to do too much off the court. Deep down, I wonder how good I really could have been if I [had] concentrated just on tennis."
Julie Heldman, who frequently played King but never felt close to her, said about King's personality, "One of the reasons I've never gotten close to Billie Jean is that I've never felt strong enough to survive against that overwhelming personality of hers. People talk about me being the smart one. Let me tell you, Billie Jean's the smartest one, the cleverest one you'll ever see. She was the one who was able to channel everything into winning, into being the most consummate tennis player." Kristen Kemmer Shaw, another frequent opponent of King, said, "For a time, I think I was as close to Billie Jean as anyone ever was. But as soon as I got to the point where I could read her too well, she tried to dissociate the relationship. She doesn't want to risk appearing weak in front of anybody. She told me once that if you want to be the best, you must never let anyone, anyone, know what you really feel. You see, she told me, they can't hurt you if they don't know." King once said, "Victory is fleeting. Losing is forever."
Concerning the qualities of a champion tennis player, King said,
The difference between me at my peak and me in the last few years of my career is that when I was the champion I had the ultimate in confidence. When I decided, under pressure ... that I had to go with my very weakest shot - forehand down the line - I was positive that I could pull it off ... when it mattered the most. Even more than that; going into a match, I knew it was my weakest shot, and I knew in a tight spot my opponent was going to dare me to hit it, and I knew I could hit it those two or three or four times in a match when I absolutely had to. ... The cliche is to say that ... champions play the big points better. Yes, but that's only the half of it. The champions play their weaknesses better....
In a May 19, 1975, Sports Illustrated article about King, Frank Deford noted that she had become something of a sex symbol and said, "Billie Jean cackles when the matter of her being a sex symbol is raised. 'Hysterical! Hysterical! Me, with these little short legs!' But she is practical enough to realize that a guy who buys a ticket to look at the girls has bought a ticket as sure as the guy who buys a ticket to look at the girls' forehands. ... Billie Jean herself not only thinks that sex is a dandy thing to have lurking around sports, but she also employs sex as sort of the ultimate gauge of equality between women's and men's athletics. This may be described as the Get-It Quotient.... 'There's a lot of ugly fellas among the male athletes, but just because they're athletes they get it all the time, don't they? Now, never mind prize money and publicity and all that. When we reach the point where all the women athletes are getting it, too, regardless of their looks, just like the fellas, then we've really arrived.'"

Furthering the tennis profession
Before the start of the open era in 1968, King earned US$100 a week as a playground instructor and student at Los Angeles State College when not playing in major tennis tournaments.
In 1967, King criticized the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) in a series of press conferences, denouncing what she called the USLTA's practice of "shamateurism," where top players were paid under the table to guarantee their entry into tournaments. King argued that this was corrupt and kept the game highly elitist. King quickly became a significant force in the opening of tennis to professionalism. King said this about the amateur game,
In America, tennis players are not people. If you are in tennis, you are a cross between a panhandler and a visiting in-law. You're not respected, you're tolerated. In England, you're respected as an artist. In Europe, you're a person of importance. Manuel Santana gets decorated by Franco. The Queen leads the applause. How many times have I been presented at the White House? You work all your life to win Wimbledon and Forest Hills and all the people say is, "That's nice. Now what are you going to do with your life?" They don't ask Mickey Mantle that. Stop 12 people on the street and ask them who Roy Emerson is and they're stuck for an answer, but they know the third-string right guard for the Rams. I'd like to see tennis get out of its "sissy" image and see some guy yell, "Hit it, ya bum" and see it be a game you don't have to have a lorgnette or a sash across your tuxedo to get in to watch.
When the open era began, King campaigned for equal prize money in the men's and women's games. As the financial backing of the women's game improved due to the efforts of World Tennis magazine founder, publisher and editor Gladys M. Heldman, King became the first woman athlete to earn over US$100,000 in prize money in 1971; however, inequalities continued. King won the US Open in 1972 but received US$15,000 less than the men's champion Ilie Năstase. She stated that she would not play the next year if the prize money were not equal. In 1973, the US Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women.
King led player efforts to support the first professional women's tennis tour in the 1970s called the Virginia Slims, founded by Heldman and funded by Joseph Cullman of Philip Morris. Once the tour took flight, King worked tirelessly to promote it even though many of the other top players were not supportive. "For three years we had two tours and because of their governments [Martina] Navratilova and Olga Morozova had to play the other tour. Chris [Evert], Margaret [Court], Virginia [Wade], they let us do the pioneering work and they weren't very nice to us. If you go back and look at the old quotes; they played for the love of the game, we played for the money. When we got backing and money, we were all playing together – I wonder why? I tried not to get upset with them. Forgiveness is important. Our job was to have one voice and win them over."
In 1973, King became the first president of the women's players union – the Women's Tennis Association. In 1974, she, with husband Larry King and Jim Jorgensen, founded womenSports magazine and started the Women's Sports Foundation. Also in 1974, King helped to found World TeamTennis. She became league commissioner in 1982.
King is a member of the Board of Honorary Trustees for the Sports Museum of America, which is expected to open in the spring of 2008. The museum will be the home of the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center, a comprehensive women's sports hall of fame and exhibit.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova (Czech: Martina Navrátilová; born October 18, 1956, in Prague, Czechoslovakia) is a former World No. 1 woman tennis player.
Billie Jean King said about Navratilova in 2006, "She's the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who's ever lived." Tennis writer Steve Flink, in his book The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century, named her as the second best female player of the 20th century, directly behind Steffi Graf. Tennis magazine has selected her as the greatest female tennis player for the years 1965 through 2005. ranks her as 19th on the list of the 20th century's hundred greatest North American athletes.
Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women's doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She reached the Wimbledon singles final 12 times, including 9 consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and won the women's singles title at Wimbledon a record 9 times. She and King each won 20 Wimbledon titles, an all-time record. Navratilova is one of just three women to have accomplished a career Grand Slam in singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles (called the Grand Slam "boxed set"). She holds the open era record for most singles titles (167) and doubles titles (177). She also recorded the longest winning streak in tennis history (74 consecutive matches) and three of the six longest winning streaks in women's tennis history. Navratilova, Margaret Court, and Maureen Connolly Brinker share the record for the most consecutive Grand Slam singles titles (six). Navratilova reached 11 consecutive Grand Slam singles finals, second all-time to Steffi Graf's 13. In women's doubles, Navratilova and Pam Shriver won 109 consecutive matches and won all four Grand Slam titles in 1984. They also tied Louise Brough Clapp's and Margaret Osborne duPont's record of 20 Grand Slam women's doubles titles as a team.
Originally from the former Czechoslovakia, she lost her citizenship when she defected to the United States in 1975 at the age of 18 and became a U.S. citizen in 1981. On January 9, 2008, she requested and had her Czech citizenship restored. She has stated that she has not renounced her American citizenship nor does she plan to do so and that the restoration of her Czech citizenship was not politically motivated.

Tennis career

Navratilova was born Martina Šubertová in 1956. Her parents divorced when she was three, and in 1962 her mother Jana married Miroslav Navrátil, who became her first tennis coach. Martina then took the name of her stepfather (adding the feminine suffix "ová"), thus becoming Martina Navrátilová.
In 1972 at the age of 15, Navratilova won the Czechoslovakia national tennis championship. In 1973, aged 16, she made her debut on the USLTA professional tour but did not turn professional until 1975. She won her first professional singles title in Orlando, Florida in 1974 at the age of 17. Navratilova first lived with former Vaudeville actress, Frances Dewey Wormser, and her husband, Morton Wormser, a major tennis enthusiast, when she first moved to the United States.
A left-handed serve-and-volleyer with superb volleying skills, Navratilova raised the women’s game to new levels with her power and aggression. She struggled with her weight in the early years of her career and was at one point unflatteringly labelled the "Great Wide Hope" by journalist Bud Collins. Her determination, however, to reach the top of the game saw her embark on a punishing routine to get herself into shape, assisted by basketball player Nancy Lieberman. Eventually, extreme levels of fitness and conditioning were hallmarks of her game.
Navratilova was a finalist at two Grand Slam singles tournaments in 1975. She lost in the final of the Australian Open to Evonne Goolagong Cawley and in the final of the French Open to Chris Evert. After losing to Evert in the semifinals of that year's U.S. Open, the 18-year-old Navratilova went to the offices of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York City and informed them that she wished to defect from Communist Czechoslovakia. Within a month, she received a green card.
Navratilova won her first Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 1978, where she defeated Evert in three sets in the final and captured the World No. 1 ranking for the first time. She beat Evert in the final again to successfully defend her Wimbledon title in 1979.
In 1981, Navratilova won her third Grand Slam singles title by defeating Evert in the final of the Australian Open. Navratilova also reached the final of the U.S. Open, where she lost a third set tiebreak to Tracy Austin. Navratilova won both Wimbledon and the French Open in 1982.
Following adoption of Lieberman's exercise plan and using graphite racquets, Navratilova became the most dominant player in women's tennis. After losing in the fourth round of the first Grand Slam event of 1983 - the French Open - she captured the year's three remaining Grand Slam titles (the Australian Open was held in December at that time). Navratilova’s loss at the French Open was her only singles defeat during that year, during which she established an 86–1 record. Her winning percentage was the best ever for a professional tennis player. During 1982, 1983, and 1984, Navratilova lost a total of only six singles matches.
Navratilova won the 1984 French Open, enabling her to hold all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously. Her accomplishment was declared a "Grand Slam" by Philippe Chatrier, who was the president of the International Tennis Federation. Many tennis observers, however, insisted that it was not a true Grand Slam because the titles had not been won in a single calendar year. Navratilova extended her Grand Slam singles tournament winning streak to a record-equalling six following wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She entered the 1984 Australian Open with a chance of winning all four titles in the same year. In the semifinals, however, Helena Suková ended Navratilova's 74-match winning streak (a record for a professional) 1–6, 6–3, 7–5.
The left-handed Navratilova succeeded in winning all four Grand Slam women’s doubles titles in 1984, partnering right-handed Pam Shriver, a tall and talented player whose most noted stroke was a slice forehand, a shot that is virtually unheard of in the game today. This was part of a record 109-match winning streak that the pair achieved between 1983 and 1985. (Navratilova was ranked the World No. 1 doubles player for a period of over three years in the 1980s.)
In the three years from 1985 to 1987, Navratilova reached the women’s singles final at all 11 Grand Slam tournaments held during those years, winning six of them (and extending her run of triumphs at Wimbledon to a record six consecutive).
A new threat to the 30-year old Navratilova's dominance, in the form of 17-year old German player Steffi Graf, emerged on the scene in 1987 when she beat Navratilova in the final of the French Open, whipping forehands and sliced backhand passing shots out of Navratilova’s reach. Navratilova beat Graf in the 1987 Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals (and at the U.S. Open became only the third player in the open era to win the women’s singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles at the same event). But Graf's consistent play throughout 1987 allowed her to obtain the World No. 1 before the end of the year. (Graf eventually broke Navratilova's records of 156 consecutive weeks and 331 total weeks as the World No. 1 singles player but did not break Navratilova's record 167 singles titles as Graf reached 107.) In 1988, Graf won all four Grand Slam singles titles, beating Navratilova 5–7, 6–2, 6–1 in the Wimbledon final along the way. In 1989, Graf and Navratilova met in the finals of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, with Graf winning both encounters in three sets. Despite the significant age difference between the two players, Navratilova won 9 of the 18 career singles matches with Graf and 5 of the 9 Grand Slam singles matches with her.
Navratilova's final Grand Slam singles triumph was in 1990. Graf lost in the Wimbledon semifinals that year to Zina Garrison. In the final, the 33-year old Navratilova swept Garrison 6–4, 6–1 to claim a record-breaking ninth Wimbledon singles crown. Though that was her last Grand Slam singles title, Navratilova made two further major finals in the years that followed. In 1991, she lost in the U.S. Open final to the new World No. 1 Monica Seles, after defeating Graf in a semifinal. And then in 1994, at the age of 37, Navratilova reached the Wimbledon final, where she lost in three sets to Conchita Martinez. Soon after, she retired from the singles tour. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000.
In 2000, Navratilova returned to the tour to play doubles events, while rarely also playing singles. In her first singles performance in eight years, at Eastbourne in 2002, she beat world number 22 Tatiana Panova and lost in the next round to Daniela Hantuchova in three sets. In 2003, she won the mixed doubles titles at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, partnering Leander Paes. This made her the oldest ever Grand Slam champion (aged 46 years, 8 months). The Australian Open victory made her only the third player in history to complete a “boxed set” of Grand Slam titles by winning the women’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles at all four slams. The Wimbledon win allowed her to equal Billie Jean King’s record of 20 Wimbledon titles (in singles women's doubles, and mixed doubles combined) and extended her overall number of Grand Slam titles to 58 (second only to Margaret Court, who won 62). Despite being criticized for receiving a wildcard, Navratilova decisively won a singles match in straight sets at the first round of Wimbledon in 2004, aged 47 years and 8 months, to make her the oldest player to win a professional singles match in the open era. She also won the first set of her second round match, but lost the match (to Gisela Dulko), and later noted that the angle of the sun, as the evening match progressed, made it very difficult to serve and volley.
Over the course of her career, Navratilova won 167 top-level singles titles (more than any other player in the Open Era) and 177 doubles titles. Her most recent title in women's doubles (a Tier I event) came on August 21, 2006, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Canada, where she won the women's doubles event partnering Nadia Petrova. Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles titles during her career: 9 at Wimbledon, 4 at the U.S. Open, 3 at the Australian Open, and 2 at the French Open. Her overall record in 67 Grand Slam events was 306–49 .862 (120–14 at Wimbledon, 89–17 at the U.S. Open, 51–11 at the French Open, and 46–7 at the Australian Open). She won at least one tour event for 21 consecutive years and won the singles and doubles at the same event a record 84 times. Her career singles match win total of 1,442 is the most during the open era.
On July 5, 2006, Navratilova announced that Wimbledon 2006 would be her last and by the end of the 2006 season, she would retire from doubles play. On July 6, 2006, Navratilova played her last ever match at Wimbledon, losing in the mixed doubles to the titleists, Israel's Andy Ram and Russia's Vera Zvonareva, in the third round. Earlier on the same day, Navratilova lost her women's doubles quarterfinal match against Chinese fourth seeds Zi Yan and Jie Zheng, also the titleists. Navratilova capped off her career by winning the mixed doubles title at the 2006 U.S. Open with Bob Bryan, her 41st Grand Slam doubles title (31 in women's doubles and 10 in mixed doubles) and 177th overall. At the time, she was just over a month away from her 50th birthday. The only Grand Slam mixed doubles title that eluded her since her return was the French Open.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chris Evert

Christine Marie "Chris" Evert (previously Chris Evert-Lloyd) (born December 21, 1954) is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player from the United States. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, including a record 7 at the French Open. She was the World No. 1 female singles player for seven years.
Evert's career win-loss record in singles matches of 1,309-146 (.900) is the best of any professional player in tennis history. In tennis writer Steve Flink's book The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century, he named Evert as the third best female player of the 20th century, after Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova. Evert never lost in the first round of a Grand Slam singles tournament, her earliest exits being in the third round. In women's doubles, Evert won 3 Grand Slam titles.

Tennis career
Evert began taking tennis lessons when she was five years old from her father, Jimmy Evert (a professional tennis coach who had won the men's singles title at the Canadian Championships in 1947). By 1969, she had become the No. 1 ranked 14-under girl in the United States. Evert played her first senior tournament in that year also, reaching the semifinals in her home town of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, losing to Mary Ann Eisel 7-5, 3-6, 6-1. (For many years, this set the record for the furthest a player had reached in her first senior level tournament. That record was broken when another Floridan, Jennifer Capriati, reached the final of the tournament in Boca Raton, Florida in 1990 at the age of 13.) In 1970, Evert won the national sixteen-and-under championship and was invited to play in an eight player clay court tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 15 year-old Evert defeated Françoise Durr 6-1, 6-0 in the first round before defeating Margaret Court 7-6, 7-6 in a semifinal. Court was the World No. 1 and had just won the Grand Slam in singles. These results led to Evert's selection for the U.S. Wightman Cup team, the youngest player ever in the competition.
Evert made her Grand Slam tournament debut at the 1971 US Open, aged 16, receiving an invitation after winning the national sixteen-and-under championship. After an easy straight-sets win over Edda Buding in the first round, she faced the U.S. No. 4 Mary Ann Eisel in the second round. Evert saved six match points with Eisel serving at 6-4, 6-5 (40-0) in the second set before Evert went on to win 4-6, 7-6, 6-1. She made two further comebacks against Durr (2-6, 6-2, 6-3) and Lesley Hut (4-6, 6-2, 6-3), both seasoned professionals, before losing to Billie Jean King in a semifinal. This defeat ended a 46-match winning streak built up through carefully selected participation in senior tour events.
Evert was the runner-up at the French Open and Wimbledon in 1973. A year later, she won both those events to claim her first Grand Slam singles titles and won 55 consecutive matches. Her fiancé at the time, Jimmy Connors, won the Wimbledon men's singles title that year and media attention surrounded the "Love Match" of tennis that summer (although the relationship proved to be short-lived).
Connors and Evert were also finalists in mixed doubles at the 1974 US Open, although Evert rarely played that event. As time went by, Evert played women's doubles less frequently, preferring to devote her energies to singles tournaments.
For the next five years, Evert was the World No. 1. In 1975, she won the French Open again and the first of four straight US Open titles by defeating Evonne Goolagong Cawley in a three-set final. She also won Wimbledon again in 1976, again beating Goolagong in a three-set final. In all, Evert won 21 of her 33 matches with Goolagong. Evert's domination of the women's game and her calm, steely demeanor on court earned her the nickname of the "Ice Maiden" of tennis.
A new rival to Evert's dominance emerged on the scene in the later part of the 1970s in the form of Martina Navratilova. Though good friends off the court, their fierce on-court rivalry is remembered as one of the greatest in tennis history. Evert had the best of their earlier encounters, with Navratilova eventually gaining the upper hand during the 1980s.
Though successful on all surfaces, it was on clay courts where Evert was most dominant. Beginning in August 1973, she won 125 consecutive matches on the surface, with a loss of only 7 sets, a run which continues to stand as the record among both men and women players. The streak was broken on May 12, 1979, in a semifinal of the Italian Open, when Evert lost to Tracy Austin 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(4) after Evert lost a game point to go up 5-2 in the third set. Evert said after the match, "Not having the record will take some pressure off me, but I am not glad to have lost it." Evert then won 72 consecutive matches on clay before losing in a semifinal of the 1981 French Open to Hana Mandlikova. Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling had a similar run of clay court dominance from 1935 through 1939, winning the French Championships three consecutive years (not playing there the other two years) and incurring only one loss on clay during that five year period.
Evert won the French Open singles title a record seven times. Two of her victories came in three-set finals against Navratilova. In 1985, Evert prevailed 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, a win that saw her capture the World No. 1 ranking for the fifth and final time. And, in 1986, the 31 year-old Evert won her last Grand Slam title by beating Navratilova 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Evert retired from the professional tour in 1989. During her career, she won 157 singles titles and 8 doubles titles. Her record in finals was 157-72 (.686). She reached the semifinals in 273 of the 303 tournaments she entered. Evert won the WTA Tour Championships 4 times and helped the United States win the Fed Cup 8 times. Evert's last match was a 6-3, 6-2 win over Conchita Martinez in the final of the 1989 Fed Cup.
Evert won at least one Grand Slam singles title each year for 13 consecutive years, from 1974 through 1986. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles during her career: 7 at the French Open, 6 at the US Open (3 on clay and 3 on hard courts), 3 at Wimbledon, and 2 at the Australian Open (both on grass). She reached the finals in 34 and the semifinals in 52 of the 56 Grand Slams events she entered. Between September 1971 (her Grand Slam debut at the US Open) and June 1983 (her twelfth visit to Wimbledon), Evert never failed to reach at least the semifinals of the 34 Grand Slam singles events she participated in. This is an unparalleled record of consistency in the world's biggest tournaments. This record ended in the third round at Wimbledon in 1983, when the All England Club refused Evert's request to delay her match with Kathy Jordan to recover from food poisoning. This defeat also ended her attempt to be the holder of all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously. (Evert was then the holder of the Australian, U..S and French titles.)
Evert's overall record in Grand Slam events was 297-38 .887 (72-6 at the French Open, 94-15 at Wimbledon, 101-13 at the US Open (most singles match wins in history), and 30-4 at the Australian Open). She reached the finals all 6 times she entered the Australian Open. Evert faced Navratilova in the final of 14 Grand Slam events, with Evert losing 10 of those encounters. (Navratilova defeated Evert at least once in the final of each of the four Grand Slam events, whereas three of Evert's four wins were at the French Open and the fourth was at the Australian Open.) However, Evert defeated Navratilova in the semifinals of the US Open (1975), Wimbledon (1976 and 1980), and the Australian Open (1988).
During her career versus selected rivals, Evert was: 40-6 against Virginia Wade, 37-43 against Martina Navratilova, 26-13 against Evonne Goolagong Cawley, 24-0 against Virginia Ruzici, 23-1 against Sue Barker, 22-0 against Betty Stove, 22-1 against Rosie Casals, 21-7 against Hana Mandlikova, 20-1 against Wendy Turnbull, 19-7 against Billie Jean King (winning the last 11 matches with a loss of only 2 sets), 19-3 against Pam Shriver, 18-2 against Kerry Melville Reid, 17-2 against Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere, 17-2 against Helena Sukova, 17-3 against Andrea Jaeger, 16-3 against Diane Fromholtz Balestrat, 15-0 against Olga Morozova, 13-0 against Francoise Durr, 9-4 against Margaret Court, 8-9 against Tracy Austin, 7-0 against Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-3 against Gabriela Sabatini, 6-5 against Nancy Richey Gunter (winning the last 6 matches), 6-8 against Steffi Graf (losing the last 8 matches), and 2-1 against Monica Seles.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Steffi Graf

Stefanie Maria Graf (born June 14, 1969, in Mannheim, West Germany) is a former World No. 1 ranked female tennis player from Germany. Graf is widely considered to be one of the greatest female tennis players in history. Graf won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, second among male and female players only to Margaret Court's 24. She also won 107 singles titles, which ranks her third on the list of most singles titles won during the open era, behind Martina Navratilova (167 titles) and Chris Evert (154 titles). In December 1999, Graf was named the greatest female tennis player of the 20th century by a panel of experts assembled by The Associated Press. Tennis writer Steve Flink, in his book The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century, named her as the best female player of the 20th century.
In 1988, Graf won the Olympic gold medal in singles and all four Grand Slam singles titles that year, becoming the first and only player to win the "Golden Slam."
She was ranked the Women's Tennis Association's No. 1 player for a record 377 total weeks – the longest of any player, male or female, since rankings began – and is the only player to have won all four Grand Slam singles tournaments (Wimbledon, the US Open, the French Open, and the Australian Open) at least four times each. Graf also holds the record (eight) for most years as year end number one.
A notable feature of Graf's game was her versatility across all playing surfaces. She won six French Open singles titles (second to Evert) and seven Wimbledon singles titles (third behind Navratilova and Helen Wills Moody). She is the only singles player to have achieved a Calendar Year Grand Slam across all three types of tennis courts, as the other Calendar Year Grand Slams won by other players occurred when the Australian and US Opens were still played on grass. Graf reached thirteen consecutive Grand Slam singles finals, from the French Open in 1987 through the French Open in 1990, winning nine of them. She played in 36 Grand Slam singles tournaments from the 1987 French Open through the 1996 US Open, reaching the finals 29 times and winning 21 titles. Her 22nd and last Grand Slam title was the French Open in 1999. She reached 31 Grand Slam singles finals, third overall behind Evert (34 finals) and Navratilova (32 finals).
Graf retired in 1999 while she was ranked World No. 3. She is married to the former World No. 1 men's tennis player Andre Agassi.

Early career
Steffi was introduced to tennis by her father Peter Graf, a car and insurance salesman and aspiring tennis coach, who taught his three-year-old daughter how to swing a wooden racket in the family's living room. She began practicing on a court at the age of four and played in her first tournament at five. She soon began winning junior tournaments with regularity, and in 1982 she won the European Championships 12s and 18s.
Graf played in her first professional tournament in October 1982 at Stuttgart, Germany. She lost her first round match 6–4, 6–0 to Tracy Austin, a two-time US Open champion and former World No. 1 player. Austin remarked of the then-thirteen year old Graf that "there are hundreds of girls like her in America." Twelve years later, Graf defeated Austin 6–0, 6–0 during a second round match in Indian Wells, California, which was their second and last match against each other.
At the start of her first full professional season in 1983, the 13-year-old Graf was ranked No. 124. She won no titles in the next three years, but her game improved consistently and her ranking climbed steadily to No. 98 in 1983, No. 22 in 1984, and No. 6 in 1985. In 1984, she first gained international attention when she almost upset the #10 seed, Jo Durie of the United Kingdom, in a fourth round Centre Court match at Wimbledon. In August, she represented West Germany in the tennis demonstration event at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and won the event.
Graf's schedule was closely controlled by her father, Peter Graf, who limited her play so that she would not burn out. In 1985, for instance, she played only 10 events leading up to the US Open, whereas another up-and-coming star, Gabriela Sabatini of Argentina, who was a year younger than Graf, played 21. Peter also kept a tight rein on Graf's personal life. Social invitations on the tour were often declined as Graf's focus was kept on practising and match play. Working with her father and then-coach Pavel Slozil, Graf typically practiced for up to four hours a day, often heading straight from airports to practice courts. This narrow focus meant that Graf, already shy and retiring by nature, made few friends on the tour in her early years, but it led to a steady improvement in her play.
1985 and early 1986 saw her emerge as the top challenger to the dominance of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. During that period, she lost six times to Evert and three times to Navratilova, all in straight sets. She did not win a tournament but consistently reached tournament finals and semifinals, with the highlight being her semifinal loss to Navratilova at the U.S Open.
On April 13, 1986, Graf won her first WTA tournament and beat Evert for the first time in the final of the Family Circle Cup in Hilton Head, South Carolina. She never lost to Evert again, beating her a further seven times over the next three and a half years. She then won her next three tournaments at Amelia Island, Charleston, and Berlin, culminating in a 6–2, 6–3 defeat of Navratilova in the final of the latter. At the French Open, Graf was the third seed but was seen by many as the tournament favorite. However, she caught a virus and lost to Hana Mandlikova in the quarterfinals 2–6, 7–6, 6–1. The illness caused her to miss Wimbledon, and an accident where she broke a toe several weeks later also curtailed her momentum. She returned to win a small tournament at Mahwah just before the US Open where, in one of the most anticipated matches of the year, she encountered Navratilova in a semifinal. The match was played over two days with Navratilova finally winning after saving three match points 6–1, 6–7, 7–6. Graf then won three consecutive indoor titles at Tokyo, Zurich, and Brighton, before once again contending with Navratilova at the season-ending Virginia Slims Championships in New York City. This time, Navratilova beat Graf easily 7–6, 6–3, 6–2.

Breakthrough year
Graf's Grand Slam breakthrough came in 1987. She started the year strongly, with six tournament victories heading into the French Open, the highlight being at the tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida, where she defeated Martina Navratilova in a semifinal and Chris Evert in the final and conceded only 20 games in the seven rounds of the tournament. In the French Open final, Graf defeated Navratilova, who was the World No. 1, 6–4, 4–6, 8–6 after beating Gabriela Sabatini in a three-set semifinal.
Graf then lost to Navratilova 7–5, 6–3 in the Wimbledon final, her first loss of the year. However, in the Federation Cup final in Vancouver, Canada, three weeks later, she defeated Evert easily 6–2, 6–1. The US Open ended anti-climactically as Navratilova defeated Graf in the final 7–6, 6–1.
Because Graf had lost to Navratilova in two of three Grand Slam finals in 1987 but had a superior record elsewhere (ten titles to Navratilova's four), the Virginia Slam Championships in November was expected to decide the World No. 1 for the year. Navratilova, however, was upset by Sabatini in the quarterfinals, and when Graf defeated Sabatini in the final, she clinched the top ranking in the eyes of most observers, finishing the year with a 74-2 match record.

"Golden Slam"
Graf started 1988 by winning the Australian Open, defeating Chris Evert in the final 6–1, 7–6. Graf did not lose a set during the tournament and lost a total of only 29 games.
Graf lost twice to Gabriela Sabatini during the spring, once on hardcourts in Boca Raton, Florida and once on clay at Amelia Island, Florida. Graf, however, won the tournament in San Antonio, Texas and retained her title in Key Biscayne, Florida, where she once again defeated Evert in the final. Graf then won the tournament in Berlin, losing only twelve games in five matches.
At the French Open, Graf successfully defended her title by routing Natalia Zvereva 6–0, 6–0 in a 32-minute final. That was only the second-ever double bagel in a Grand Slam final, the other being in 1911. Zvereva, who had eliminated Martina Navratilova in the fourth round, won only thirteen points in the match. Graf lost a mere twenty games in the tournament, setting a record for the French Open in the open era.
Next came Wimbledon, where Navratilova had won six straight titles. Graf was trailing Navratilova in the final 7–5, 2–0 before winning the match 5–7, 6–2, 6–1. She then won tournaments in Hamburg and Mahwah (where she lost only eight games all tournament).
At the US Open, Graf defeated Sabatini in a three-set final to win the Calendar Year Grand Slam, a feat previously performed by only two other women, Maureen Connolly Brinker in 1953 and Margaret Court in 1970.
Graf then defeated Sabatini 6–3, 6–3 in the gold medal match at the Olympic Games in Seoul and achieved what the media had dubbed the "Golden Slam."
Graf also won her only Grand Slam doubles title that year – at Wimbledon partnering Sabatini – and picked up a women's doubles Olympic bronze medal.
At the year-ending Virginia Slims Championships, Graf was upset by Pam Shriver, only her third loss of the year. She was named the 1988 BBC Overseas Sports Personality of the Year.

New challengers and personal challenges
Speculation was rife at the beginning of 1989 about the possibility of Graf winning another Grand Slam. Some noted observers, such as Margaret Court, suggested that Graf could achieve the feat a couple more times. And the year began as expected, with Graf extending her Grand Slam winning streak to five events at the Australian Open, defeating Helena Sukova in the final. Her 6–3, 6–0 defeat of Gabriela Sabatini in a semifinal was described by veteran observer Ted Tinling as "probably the best tennis I've seen".
Graf followed this with easy victories in her next four tournaments at Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Texas, Boca Raton, Florida, and Hilton Head, South Carolina. The Washington final was notable because Graf won the first twenty points of the match against Zina Garrison. In the Boca Raton final, Graf lost the only set she conceded to Chris Evert in their final eight matches.
In the subsequent Amelia Island final on clay, Graf lost her first match of the year to Sabatini but returned to European clay with easy victories at Hamburg and Berlin.
Graf's Grand Slam winning streak ended at the 1989 French Open, where 17-year-old Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez Vicario beat Graf in three sets. Graf served for the match at 5–3 in the third set but lost the game at love and won only three more points in the match. She had struggled to beat Monica Seles in their semifinal 6–3, 3–6, 6–3 after being affected by food-poisoning the day before that match.
Graf, however, recovered to defeat Martina Navratilova 6–2, 6–7, 6–1 in the Wimbledon final after defeating Seles 6–0, 6–1 in a fourth round match, Sanchez Vicario in a quarterfinal, and Chris Evert in a semifinal.
Graf warmed up for the US Open with easy tournament victories in San Diego and Mahwah. In her semifinal match at the US Open, Graf defeated Sabatini 3–6, 6–4, 6–2. In the final, Navratilova led 6–3, 4–2 before Graf rallied to win 3–6, 7–5, 6–1 for her third Grand Slam singles title of the year.
Victories at Zurich and Brighton preceded the Virginia Slims Championships, where Graf cemented her top-ranked status by beating Navratilova in the final 6–4, 7–5, 2–6, 6–2. Graf ended 1989 with an 86-2 match record and the loss of only twelve sets.
In 1990, Graf defeated Mary Joe Fernandez in the final of the Australian Open, which was her eighth Grand Slam singles title in the last nine she contested. Her winning streak (unbeaten since the 1989 French Open loss to Sanchez Vicario) continued with victories at Tokyo, Amelia Island, and Hamburg. At Berlin, she extended her unbeaten streak to 66 matches (second in WTA history to Navratilova's 74) before losing the final to Seles.
While the Berlin tournament was being played, the largest-circulation German tabloid, Bild, ran a story about Graf's father allegedly having an affair with a former Playboy model. The subsequent paternity suit brought by the model, Nicole Meissner, was covered extensively in the tabloids for the next two months. The difficulty of answering questions about the matter came to a head at a Wimbledon press conference, where Graf broke down in tears. Wimbledon authorities then threatened to immediately shut down any subsequent press conferences where questions about the issue were asked. The blackmail scheme eventually failed when DNA tests proved Peter was not the baby's father. Whether this scandal affected Graf's form is open to debate. In an interview with Stern magazine in July 1990, Graf stated, "I could not fight as usual."
Graf again lost to Seles in the final of the French Open 7–6, 6–4, with Seles saving four consecutive set points in the first set tiebreaker. At Wimbledon, Graf was beaten unexpectedly in the semifinals by Garrison. After victories at Montreal and San Diego, Graf reached the US Open final, where she lost in straight sets to Sabatini. Graf won four indoor tournaments after the US Open, but lost again to Sabatini in a Virginia Slims Championships semifinal. Even though Graf won only one Grand Slam singles title in 1990, she finished the year as the top ranked player.
A mixture of injury problems, personal difficulties, and loss of form made 1991 a tough year for Graf. Seles established herself as the new dominant player on the women's tour, winning the Australian Open, French Open, and US Open and, in March, ending Graf's record 186 consecutive-weeks hold on the World No. 1 ranking. Graf briefly regained the top ranking after winning at Wimbledon but lost it again after her loss to Martina Navratilova at the US Open.
Graf lost a 1991 Australian Open quarterfinal to Jana Novotna, the first time she could not reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam singles tournament since the 1986 French Open. She then lost to Sabatini in her next three tournaments before winning the U.S. Hardcourts in San Antonio, beating Seles in the final. After losing a fifth straight time to Sabatini at Amelia Island, Graf once again defeated Seles in the Hamburg final. Following her tournament victory in Berlin, Graf suffered one of the worst defeats of her career in a French Open semifinal where she won only two games against Sanchez Vicario and lost her first 6–0 set since 1984. Graf did, however, win her third Wimbledon title, defeating Sabatini in the final. Navratilova then defeated Graf 7–6, 6–7, 6–4 in a US Open semifinal, the first time she had beaten Graf in four years. Graf then won Leipzig, with her 500th career victory coming in a quarterfinal defeat of Judith Wiesner. After winning two more indoor tournaments at Zurich and Brighton, she failed once again in the Virginia Slims Championships, losing her quarterfinal to Novotna. Soon after, she split with her long-time coach, Pavel Slozil, stating that she wanted to work on her own.
A bout with German measles forced Graf to miss the first major event of 1992, the Australian Open. Her year continued indifferently with losses in three of her first four tournaments, although she did win unconvincingly at Boca Raton. Victories at Hamburg and Berlin (beating Sanchez Vicario in the finals of both) prepared her for the French Open, where she defeated Sanchez Vicario in the semifinals after losing the first set 6–0. She then renewed her rivalry with Seles in the final, which Seles won 10-8 in the third set. At Wimbledon, after struggling through early-round three-setters against lowly-ranked Marianne de Swardt and Patty Fendick, she easily defeated Natalia Zvereva in a quarterfinal, Sabatini in a semifinal, and Seles in the final 6–2, 6–1, with Seles playing in almost complete silence because of widespread media and player criticism of her grunting. Graf then won all five of her Fed Cup matches, helping Germany defeat Spain in the final by defeating Sanchez Vicario 6–4, 6–2. At the Olympic Games in Barcelona, Graf lost to Capriati in the final and claimed the silver medal. At the US Open, Graf was upset in a quarterfinal by Sanchez Vicario 7–6(5), 6–3. Four consecutive indoor tournament victories in the autumn improved her year, but for the third consecutive year, she failed to win the Virginia Slims Championships, where she lost in the first round to Lori McNeil.
In 1993, Seles beat Graf in three sets in the final of the Australian Open. The burgeoning rivalry between them was then cut short. During a quarterfinal match between Seles and Magdalena Maleeva in Hamburg, Seles was stabbed between the shoulder blades by a mentally ill Günter Parche. He claimed that he committed the attack to help Graf reclaim the number one ranking. More than two years elapsed before Seles competed again.
The indirect effects of Seles's injury on Graf's career is the subject of frequent speculation. Seles was number one at the time of the attack. In head-to-head matches, Graf never had a losing record versus Seles at any point in her career, and prior to the year the blackmail scandal first broke, Graf was undefeated versus Seles in three encounters. Seles, however, won four of the seven matches they played from 1990 through 1993, including a 3–1 advantage over Graf in Grand Slam tournaments. From the start of 1991 until the April 1993 Seles stabbing (i.e., the period of Seles's dominance), Graf lost nineteen matches but only two of these were to Seles (while defeating her three times). Graf retired with a 10-5 lifetime record over Seles, including a 6–4 winning record versus Seles in Grand Slam singles tournaments and a 3–2 winning record versus Seles while Seles was ranked #1 in 1991-1993.

Second period of dominance
In the absence of Monica Seles, Graf won three of four Grand Slam events in 1993 to re-establish herself as the dominant player in women's tennis. It took some time, however, for Graf to separate herself from her challengers, with four losses in her first six tournaments of the year – two to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and one each to Seles and the 36 year-old Martina Navratilova. She struggled through Berlin where she lost a 6–0 set to the unheralded Sabine Hack before defeating Mary Jo Fernandez and Gabriela Sabatini in arduous three-setters to claim her seventh title there in eight years. Nor was she at her best at the French Open but still managed to win her first title there since 1988 with a three-set victory over Fernandez in the final. The win elevated Graf to the #1 ranking for the first time in 22 months.
Her fifth Wimbledon title was aided by a celebrated meltdown in the final from Jana Novotna, who had a point on serve to go up 5–1 in the deciding set before losing the next five games. Graf had an injured right foot during that tournament (and for the next few months), finally resulting in surgery on October 4.
In the meantime, she lost surprisingly to Nicole Bradtke of Australia in a Fed Cup match on clay before winning San Diego and Montreal in preparation for the US Open. She won there, beating Helena Sukova comfortably in the final after eliminating Sabatini in a three-set quarterfinal. She won Leipzig yet again the day before her foot operation, losing only two games to Novotna in the final. Graf lost to Conchita Martinez in her return tournament a month later in Philadelphia. However, she finished her year with a highlight, winning her first Virginia Slims Championships since 1989 by beating Sanchez Vicario in the final despite needing painkillers for a back injury.
Seemingly free of injury for the first time in years, Graf began 1994 by winning the Australian Open, where she defeated Sanchez Vicario in the final with the loss of only two games. She then won her next four tournaments easily. In the Key Biscayne, Florida final, she lost her first set of the year – to Natalia Zvereva – after winning 54 consecutive sets. In the Hamburg final, she lost for the first time in 1994 after 36 consecutive match victories, losing to Sanchez Vicario in three sets. She then won her eighth German Open, but there were signs that her form was worsening as she almost lost to Julie Halard in a quarterfinal. Graf then lost to Pierce in a French Open semifinal and followed with a first-round loss at Wimbledon to Lori McNeil, her first loss in a first round Grand Slam tournament in ten years. Graf still managed to win San Diego the following month but aggravated a long-time back injury in beating Sanchez Vicario in the final. She then began to wear a back brace and was unsure about playing the US Open but elected to play while receiving treatment and stretching for two hours before each match. She made it to the final and took the first set there against Sanchez Vicario. Her back injury, however, flared up and she lost the next two sets. She took the following nine weeks off, returning only for the Virginia Slims Championships where she lost to Pierce in a quarterfinal.
Injury kept Graf out of the Australian Open in 1995. She came back to beat Sanchez Vicario in the finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon. The US Open was Seles's first Grand Slam event after the 1993 attack. Seles and Graf met in the final, with Graf winning 7–6, 0–6, 6–3. Graf then capped the year by beating countrywoman Anke Huber in a five-set final at the season-ending WTA Tour Championships.
In personal terms, 1995 was a difficult year for Graf as she was accused by German authorities of tax evasion in the early years of her career. In her defense, she stated that her father Peter was her financial manager, and all financial matters relating to her earnings at the time had been under his control. As a result, Peter was sentenced to 45 months in jail. He was eventually released after serving 25 months. Prosecutors dropped their case against Steffi in 1997, when she agreed to pay a fine of 1.3 million Deutsche Marks to the government and an unspecified charity.
In 1996, Graf again missed the Australian Open due to injury and then successfully defended the three Grand Slam titles she won the year before. In a close French Open final, Graf again overcame Sanchez Vicario, taking the third-set 10-8. Graf then had straight-sets wins against Sanchez Vicario in the Wimbledon final and Seles in the US Open final. Graf also won her fifth and final WTA Tour Championships title with a five set win over Martina Hingis. She was unable to participate in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta because of an injured left knee.

Final years on the tour
The last few years of Graf's career were beset by injuries, particularly to her knees and back.
These injuries caused Graf to miss much of the tour in 1997. She lost the World No. 1 ranking to Martina Hingis and failed to win a Grand Slam title for the first time in ten years.
After missing almost half of the tour in 1998, Graf defeated World No. 2 Hingis and World No. 1 Lindsay Davenport en route to the Philadelphia title. At the first round of the season-ending WTA Tour Championships, Graf defeated World No. 3 Jana Novotna to become the first player to defeat each of the top three ranked players in four matches.
At the 1999 French Open, Graf reached her first Grand Slam final in three years and fought back from a set and two breaks down in the second set to defeat the top ranked Hingis in three sets. Graf also became the first player in the open era to defeat the first, second, and third ranked players in the same Grand Slam tournament by defeating second ranked Davenport in the quarterfinals and third ranked Monica Seles in the semifinals. Graf said after the final that it would be her last French Open, fueling speculation about her retirement.
Graf then reached her ninth Wimbledon singles final, losing to Davenport 6–4, 7–5. In mixed doubles at Wimbledon, Graf briefly partnered with John McEnroe.
In August 1999, Graf announced her sudden retirement from the women's tour. She was ranked third in the world at that time. Graf said, "I have done everything I wanted to do in tennis. I feel I have nothing left to accomplish. The weeks following Wimbledon [in 1999] weren't easy for me. I was not having fun anymore. After Wimbledon, for the first time in my career, I didn't feel like going to a tournament. My motivation wasn't what it was in the past."

Summary of career
Graf won 107 singles titles and 11 doubles titles. Her 22 Grand Slam singles titles are second only to Margaret Court, who won 24. Graf won 7 singles titles at Wimbledon, 6 singles titles at the French Open, 5 singles titles at the US Open, and 4 singles titles at the Australian Open. She is the only person to have won at least four singles titles at each Grand Slam event. She is also the only person to have won a combined total of at least 13 singles titles at Wimbledon and the French Open. Her overall record in 56 Grand Slam events was 282-34 (89 percent) (87-10 at the French Open, 75-8 at Wimbledon, 73-10 at the US Open, and 47-6 at the Australian Open). Her career prize-money earnings totalled US$21,895,277 (a record until Lindsay Davenport surpassed this amount in January 2008). Her singles win-loss record was 902-115 (88.7 percent). She was ranked World No. 1 for a total of 377 weeks during her career, the record in both men's and women's tennis. She was ranked World No. 1 for 186 consecutive weeks (from August 1987 to March 1991), which is still the record in the women's game.

In an interview with ESPN Classic's SportsCentury series, Chris Evert said, "Steffi Graf's the best all-around player. Martina won more on fast courts and I won more on slow courts, but Steffi came along and won more titles on both surfaces." Evert also has said that Graf's forehand was "the best in women's tennis". Billie Jean King said in 1999 that she considered Graf to be the greatest female tennis player ever. Navratilova said in 1996, "Steffi is the best all-around player of all time, regardless of the surface."


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Monica Seles

Monica Seles (born December 2, 1973) is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player. She was born in Novi Sad, Serbia (then Yugoslavia) to ethnic Hungarian parents but became a naturalized United States citizen in 1994. According to published reports in Canadian and Hungarian news media (including two newspapers of record), she also received Hungarian citizenship in June 2007. She won nine Grand Slam singles titles, winning eight of them while a citizen of Yugoslavia and one while a citizen of the United States.
She became the youngest-ever champion at the 1990 French Open at the age of 16. She was the dominant player in the women's game during 1991 and 1992, but in 1993, she was forced out of the sport for two years following an on-court attack in which a spectator stabbed her in the back with a knife. She enjoyed some success after returning to the tour in 1995, including a singles title at the Australian Open in 1996, but was unable to consistently reproduce her very best form.
Seles played her last professional match at the 2003 French Open, but her official retirement announcement was not issued until February 2008.

Early years
Seles began playing tennis at the age of six, coached by her father, Károly Szeles. Her nickname was "Mala Mo" or "Little Mo". She won her first tournament at the age of nine, despite not fully understanding the scoring system of the game and having only a vague idea of whether she was leading or trailing her opponents during matches. In 1985 at the age of 11, she won the Orange Bowl tournament in Miami, Florida, and caught the attention of tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. In 1986, the Seles family moved from SFR Yugoslavia to the United States, and Seles enrolled in the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where she trained for two years. In her early years, a famous singer Đorđe Balašević helped her by building a tennis court in his backyard where she could practice. She attended Sonja Marinkovic elementary school in Grbavica, Novi Sad.
Seles played her first professional tournament in 1988 at the age of 14. The following year, she joined the professional tour full-time and won her first career title at Houston in May 1989, where she beat Chris Evert in the final. A month later, Seles reached the semifinals in her first Grand Slam singles tournament at the French Open, where she lost to World No. 1 Steffi Graf, 6–3, 3–6, 6–3 . Seles finished her first year on the tour ranked World No. 6.

Seles won her first Grand Slam singles title at the 1990 French Open. Facing World No. 1 Steffi Graf in the final, Seles saved four set points in a first set tiebreaker, which she won 8–6, and went on to take the match in straight sets. In doing so, she became the youngest-ever French Open singles titlist at the age of 16 years, 6 months. She also won the 1990 year-ending Virginia Slims Championships, defeating Gabriela Sabatini in five sets. She finished the year ranked World No. 2.
1991 was the first of two years in which Seles dominated the women's tour. She started out by winning the Australian Open in January, beating Jana Novotna in the final. In March, she replaced Graf as the World No. 1. She then successfully defended her French Open title, beating the former youngest-ever winner, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, in the final. Instead of playing at Wimbledon, however, Seles took a six-week break, blaming shin splints. But she was back in time for the US Open, which she won by beating Martina Navratilova in the final to cement her position at the top of the world rankings. She also won the year-ending Virginia Slims Championships, defeating Navratilova in four sets.
1992 was an equally dominant year. Seles successfully defended her titles at the Australian Open, the French Open, and the US Open. She also reached the final at Wimbledon but lost to Graf in the final 6–2, 6–1. Some observers, however, attributed her lop-sided loss to her decision to remain silent throughout the match, resulting in less penetrating shots. Two opponents (including Navratilova in the semifinals) had strongly complained about Seles's grunting.
From January 1991 through February 1993, Seles won 22 titles and reached 33 finals out of the 34 tournaments she played. She compiled a 159–12 win-loss record (92.9% winning percentage), including a 55–1 win-loss record in Grand Slam tournaments. In the broader context of her first four years on the circuit (1989–1992), Seles had a win-loss record of 231–25 (90.2% winning percentage) and collected 30 titles. Only Chris Evert had a better first four years in terms of winning percentage (91.1% from 1971 to 1974) and titles (34) in the open era.

Turning point: The 1993 stabbing
Seles was the top women's player heading into 1993, having won the French Open three consecutive years and both the US Open and Australian Open in consecutive years. In January 1993, Seles defeated Graf in the final of the Australian Open, which to date was her third win in four Grand Slam finals with Graf.
Everything, however, changed following an incident that shocked the tennis world on April 30, 1993. During a quarterfinal match with Magdalena Maleeva in Hamburg in which Seles was leading 6–4, 4–3, a 38-year-old deranged fan of Graf, Günter Parche, ran from the middle of the crowd to the edge of the court during a break between games and plunged a boning knife between Seles's shoulder blades. She let out a piercing scream and was quickly rushed to a hospital. Her physical injuries took a few weeks to heal, but the psychological scars from this incident apparently left a much deeper impression on Seles. She did not return to competitive tennis for over two years.
Parche was charged following the incident but was not jailed because he was found to be psychologically abnormal and was instead sentenced to two years' probation and psychological treatment. The incident prompted a significant increase in the level of security at tour events. Seles vowed never to play tennis in Germany again. "What people seem to be forgetting is that this man stabbed me intentionally and he did not serve any sort of punishment for it.... I would not feel comfortable going back. I don't foresee that happening."
Seles became a United States citizen on May 17, 1994.

Seles returned to the tour in August 1995 and won her first comeback tournament, the Canadian Open, beating Amanda Coetzer in the final 6–1, 6–0. Many believed that Seles would soon be dominating the circuit again in the way she was before the 1993 stabbing incident. The following month at the US Open, Seles lost the final to Graf 7–6, 0–6, 6–3 after Seles failed to capitalize on a set point in the first set.
In January 1996, Seles won her fourth Australian Open, beating Anke Huber in the final. But this was her last Grand Slam title. Seles struggled to recapture her best form on a consistent basis. Her difficulties were compounded by having to cope with her father and long-term coach Károly being stricken by cancer and eventually passing away in 1998. Seles was runner-up at the US Open to Graf again in 1996. Her last Grand Slam final came at the French Open in 1998 (a few weeks after her father's death). She defeated world No. 3 Jana Novotna in three sets and World No. 1 Martina Hingis in straight sets before losing to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the three set final.
After becoming a U.S. citizen in 1994, Seles helped the U.S. team win the Fed Cup in 1996 and 2000. She also won a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

Period of hiatus
In the spring of 2003, Seles sustained a foot injury that sidelined her from the tour after the 2003 French Open. She never again played an official tour match.
In February 2005, Seles played two exhibition matches in New Zealand against Navratilova. Although Seles lost both matches, she played competitively and announced that she could return to the game early in 2006; however, she did not do so. Seles played three exhibition matches against Navratilova in 2007. On April 5, Seles defeated Navratilova in Houston, Texas on clay 7–6(1), 2–6, 10–1 (tiebreak). On September 14, Seles defeated Navratilova on an indoor court in New Orleans, Louisiana 6–2, 6–4. On September 16, Seles defeated Navratilova on clay in Bucharest, Romania 3–6, 6–3, 10–7 (tiebreak).
In December 2007, Seles said to the press that Lindsay Davenport's successful return to the tour had inspired her to consider her own limited comeback to play Grand Slam tournaments and the major warm-up events for those tournaments. However, on February 14, 2008, Seles announced her official retirement from professional tennis.

Playing style
With punishing, sharp-angled two-fisted forehand and backhand shots and a dominating return of serve, Seles is considered by many to be the first "power player" in the women's game, paving the way for players such as Venus and Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, and Maria Sharapova. She was also well-known for grunting loudly on court. On a few occasions, her opponents claimed that the grunting was distracting and prevented them from hearing the ball make contact with her racquet.
A remarkable aspect of her style, the two-handed forehand, was expected to make her reach shorter, but she managed to compensate for the shorter reach by being able to hit balls much harder, with more top-spin, allowing her to hit sharper angles. Also, she had very fast feet, allowing herself to run down balls and get into a position to return a shot.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Arantxa Sánchez Vicario

Aránzazu (Arantxa) Isabel Maria Sanchez Vicario (born December 18, 1971, in Barcelona, Spain) is a former World No. 1 professional tennis player from Spain. During her career, she won 4 Grand Slam singles titles and 6 Grand Slam doubles titles.


Sanchez Vicario started playing tennis at age four, when she followed her older brothers Emilio Sanchez and Javier Sanchez (both of whom became professional players) to the court and hit balls against the wall with her first racquet.
Sanchez Vicario surprised the tennis world in 1989 when, as a 17-year-old, she became the youngest winner of the women's singles title at the French Open, defeating World No. 1 Steffi Graf in the final. (Monica Seles broke the record the following year when she won the title at age 16.)
Sanchez Vicario quickly developed a reputation on the tour for her tenacious fighting spirit and willingness to scamper around the court, refusing to concede a point. She was the ultimate counterpuncher. Affectionately known as the "Barcelona Bumblebee," she "stung" some of the major competitors of her era.
Sanchez Vicario's most successful year as a singles player was 1994, when she won both the French Open and U.S. Open singles titles. She won eight tournaments that year.
Sanchez Vicario was a singles finalist at least twice in all four Grand Slam singles events. Her win-loss record in Grand Slam singles finals was 4–8 (3–7 against Graf and Seles). Her fourth and final Grand Slam singles title was at the 1998 French Open.
Sanchez Vicario was the World No. 1 singles player in 1995 for 12 weeks. She was the first woman since Martina Navratilova in 1987 to simultaneously hold the No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles.
Sanchez Vicario won six women's doubles Grand Slam titles, including the U.S. Open in 1993 (with Helena Sukova) and Wimbledon in 1995 (with Jana Novotna). She also won four Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.
In 1991, Sanchez Vicario helped Spain win its first-ever Fed Cup title, defeating the United States in the final. She was a member of Spanish teams that won the Fed Cup four additional times in 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1998. Sanchez Vicario holds the record for the most singles and doubles wins by any player in Fed Cup competition, with 72 victories. She also holds the records for most ties played (58) and most years played (16).
Sanchez Vicario was also a member of the Spanish teams that won the Hopman Cup in 1990 and 2002.
She represented Spain in five events at the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games, winning two silver and two bronze medals.
Over the course of her career, Sanchez Vicario won 29 singles titles and 69 doubles titles. She married in August 2000 to sports journalist Joan Vehils, but her marriage lasted only 10 months. She separated from her husband in May 2001, then announced her retirement from the game shortly after. She attempted a return to the tour in 2004, playing in selected doubles events.
In 2005, TENNIS Magazine put her in 27th place in its list of 40 Greatest Players of the TENNIS era.
In 2007, Sanchez Vicario was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She was only the third Spanish player (and the first Spanish woman) to be inducted.