"It is a miracle coffee." It’s in these words, with a smile, that Serena Williams explained, her first victory of the year on the 5th of January. Indeed, while she was playing against Flavia Pennetta in the Hopman Cup, the World No. 1 was having a hard time getting into her first match, to the point of ordering a coffee... that she drank on the court! Between cigarettes and awkward fathers, We Are Tennis goes back on ten weird requests of tennis players on a court. For whom desires are often orders.
Richard Gasquet and the winning ball
It is well known, many players are neurotics, crippled with OCDs and superstitions. Richard Gasquet's thing: he likes to reuse the little yellow ball with which he successfully scored a winner. A habit that led him to fall out with a spectator during a match against Nikolay Davydenko at the US Open 2010. Following a long rally won by the French, the ball went in the direction of the stands, and a man in the audience rushed to retrieve the precious memory. Gasquet asked the man for the ball, who refused at first. But the player didn't give up, and after a thirty-second argument, eventually won the case. And the match in three straight sets.
Bernard Tomic and his cumbersome father
Miami Open, March 2012. The young Australian, plagued by a latent conflict with his authoritarian father, was on the court to play a second-round match against David Ferrer. His father was in the stands, and instead of encouraging his son, he was screaming, gesticulating, losing his temper... During a change of sides, Bernard Tomic decided to talk to the chair umpire, distraught: "my father is bothering me,” he explained. “I want him to leave, but how is this possible?" And to suggest: “If you see him trying to coach me then you should tell him to calm down." The umpire understood and addressed a warning to the player, forcing the bad daddy to leave.
James Blake and the spectator
James Blake against Gael Monfils: a match to serve hot. At the French Open 2006, the American decided to stop the match on a disputed foul called for the French. He supported his decision by drawing a mark on the clay for the umpire Carlos Ramos, who approved it. Yet, in the stands, a spectator contested. His name was Pascal Dugenne and Blake decided to invite him on the court to take his responsibilities. The man didn’t fluster and proposed another mark within the limits of court. The umpire still remained on his first estimate and gave the point against Monfils... who eventually won the match.
Novak Djokovic and the ball boy
Still at the French Open, this time during the last edition in 2014. Novak Djokovic was playing his first round match against the Portuguese Joao Sousa when it started to rain, forcing the umpire to interrupt the match. Then, Malo, 14, a ball boy, remembers: "Djoko sat on the bench. I went to hold his umbrella. He realized that the rain wasn't stopping and that his break would last longer than expected. So he asked me to join him. (...) I hesitated for a moment and thought it might be a joke. I finally joined and he initiated the conversation. (...) Then he told me to take something to drink and we clinked glasses." Cheers!
Karsten Braasch and the cigarette
In 1998, the Williams sisters weren't the queens of the WTA yet, but only rising stars with a mischief that could sometimes turn to arrogance. So when the cheeky girls decided that they would be able to beat the male players of the top 200, one of them decided to take it seriously and took the challenge. His name was Karsten Braasch and at 31, his modest career was on the decline. World 203rd at the time of "match", he first beat the youngest Serena 6-1 in the first set, before slapping the eldest 6-2 Venus in the second. All this with a single service ball and the authorization to smoke a cigarette during a change of sides, just to push the humiliation and provocation!
Arthur Larsen and his Black Eagle
Drinker, smoker, womanizer and lobs and drop shots lover, Arthur Larsen, one of the best American racquet of the 1950s, is remembered as a fantastic player, haunted by strange visions. Only survivor of his section at the Omaha Beach assault in 1944 during World War II, he would have kept psychological damage. As in a third round match at Forest Hill in 1950, when he asked for the giant eagles in light marble that overlooked the court to be covered by a tarp. The reason? These sculptures were disrupting the sensitivity of the imaginary black eagle, which, according to him, was living on his shoulder and acting as his guardian angel. A few days later, he won the tournament after a five-set final against his compatriot Herbert Flam. He then said after the match: "It irritates me, this black eagle... Now he follows me in the locker room."
John McEnroe and his baseball team
As a kid from Brooklyn, John McEnroe has been a supporter of the New York Mets baseball team since the 80s. In 1982, during a doubles match with his compatriot Peter Fleming, in San Francisco, he asked the umpire to keep him informed of the score of his favourite team that was playing at the same time than him. The umpire complied and asked for updates on the match with his walkie-talkie and informed McEnroe at each change of sides. The New York Mets eventually lost, unlike the American pair. A moral?
Martin Emmrich and his marriage proposal
A bit of love in this cruel world. In June 2014, during the ladies' tournament of 's-Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands, the German player Martin Emmrich took advantage of his girlfriend's victory in the first round (the Dutch tennis player Michaella Krajicek), to make her the most beautiful proposal... in marriage! "I felt that the moment was magical, said Emmrich, on his knees. One year ago, I had no idea that this would happen between us. But now, after ten months with you, falling asleep with you, waking up in your arms, watching those beautiful Bambi eyes, I know that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. (...) Will you marry me?" In response, "Bambi", very moved, walked toward her boyfriend and kissed him. With a standing ovation, of course.
Nicolae Mishu and the sense of disqualification
Despite his war injury, Nicolae Mishu, Romanian player of the twenties, always had an unusual sense of the show. As an old Dadaist trickster, he couldn’t help but to serve with his back to the net, getting into the service box to return the ball and moaning at each little problem. To the point of, during a third round match at Wimbledon 1924, asking for the disqualification of his opponent, the American John Richardson. The reason? The latter had hit the band of the net for the third time of the match. "I don't want to play against such a cuckold." Request refused, unsurprisingly. In protest, Mishu left the court, getting himself disqualified, and left his racquets and cloths in front of the umpire's chair. He left London within the day, before offering a little present to Richardson to apologize a few months later: cigarettes!
Fabio Fognini and the double Hawk-Eye
Indian Wells, California, March 2014. No, Mohamed El Jennati was definitely not having the easiest tournament of his career. Already guilty of an arbitration mistake against Denis Istomin in the first round, he was in trouble, again, because of the impulsive Fabio Fognini. On a drop shot of his opponent, the American Ryan Harrison, the Italian hit a faulty backhand and called on the Hawk-Eye. Harrison did the same. Rare situation: two players asking for video assistance at the same time. On the slow motion, it seems clear that the ball is on the line, but the umpire asked for the point to be replayed, explaining that the two players requested video arbitration simultaneously. After, the show Fognini began: "This is my point, you're doing the same shit than with Istomin yesterday [...] Call the supervisor." Mohamed El Jennati: "He asked me the same time, it's my decision." "I don't give a shit about your decision [...] "You made a mistake yesterday. This is the second time in two days." Tough.