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James Blake, Our new Tennis Ambassador

Vic Braden

by Vic Braden
Contributing Tennis Writer

On January 10th, my wife and I arrived in Sydney, Australia, when I read a statement made by David Davydenko that actually angered me. Davydenko has just retired from the Sydney International tournament and media writers had asked why he thought so many players were pulling out of the event. Davydenko?s response was: ?Because it?s a small tournament, so I don?t think nobody care about here.? Not the greatest English but that is not the point nor the criticism, just the way he said it. Congratulations to the ATP Chairman, Etienne de Villiers, who immediately fined Davydenko $10,000 for demeaning the event and other players.

Roger Federer
James Blake (6th) is the second-highest ranked American in the World, behind #3 Andy Roddick.
Any tournament that has Kim Clijsters, Leyton Hewitt and James Blake is a tournament that the tennis world is following. Tennis fans were looking for someone to make sense out of all of this and ATP tour player?s council vice-president, James Blake, came to the rescue. Blake said, ?If Davydenko says it?s not a big deal, he shouldn?t play here. Davydenko needs to show more respect to the fans and tournament, especially considering the money he makes from the game.? He added that it would be wise for Davydenko to show respect to the fans because they are the ones that are making you (meaning Davydenko) a millionaire.

Further, some professional tour players could use a history lesson. There are many players who aren?t even aware of the history that eventually has earned them big bucks. As a member of Jack Kramer?s management team for the four player world pro tour in the 1960?s, the amateur leaders fought us tooth and nail telling the world that the game would be ruined if we opened the door to professional tennis. As a result, the most famous players in the world had to play in dimly lit gymnasiums and often play on canvas courts covering ice in hockey arenas. I witnessed, time and again, how Jack Kramer tour players, Aussies Frank Sedgman, Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall, would give up their family life to keep professional tennis alive while playing one night stands around the world. Their efforts finally paid off in 1968 when The French and Wimbledon officials relented and declared that their events would welcome professional players.

That?s what made me angry when I read Davydenko?s statements after landing in Sydney. Every time Davydenko goes to the bank with his big paycheck he should say a prayer to the Aussie players who helped make him rich. Davydenko often makes ten times in one event what the pioneer pro players made in a year. Davydenko, while in Sydney, should have a photo of Sedgman, Hoad and Rosewall in his hotel room. Instead, he chose to demean the event and the players.

Let?s hope that David Davydenko is spending some time attempting to understand the anger generated worldwide by his statement. Maybe it?s just a case of a slow maturation cycle, or perhaps it?s just that we have failed to provide an appropriate history lesson for our tennis heroes. I find it difficult to believe that David Davydenko could be so insensitive, so I will be watching, and listening, to David in the media room.

Comments? Contact Vic Braden at vicbraden@vicbraden.com.


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