To Whom It May Concern. . .

by: Peter Bodo | October 21, 2009

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Yesterday afternoon I had a call from John P. McEnroe, who begat the brothers, John, Mark and Patrick. And I suppose I ought to tell you that Patrick and I are working on a book in which he'll tell stories about, and render opinions on, an array of subjects and personalities spanning his 30 years in tennis. And trust me, Pat has some riveting stories. . .

Anyway, Papa Mac was having technical trouble posting comments. He wanted to respond specifically to comments posted by ManuelSantanaFan and our much-favored Ms. Rubin. I thought the story he had for MSF was too interesting to be buried in the Comments, so I asked him to email that portion of his comment, for posting here. He wrote (of the infamous1979 US Open match between John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase that became known as the Monday Night Massacre):

"That night match between John and Nastase, during which poor Frank Hammond was removed from the chair after very properly defaulting Nastase, was memorable for more than one reason.  

"First, Bill Talbert, then the Tournament Director at the U.S. Open, decided that the nighttime crowd (which was pretty liquored-up) was possibly going to riot. So he chose to placate them by removing Frank, who appeared to have lost control of the match, from the chair. He replaced Hammond with the Tournament Referee himself, Mike Blanchard.

"Second, John never said a word during the whole brouhaha with Ilie. He actually took a seat in a linesman's chair at the back of the court and watched the entire episode resulting in Ilie's disqualification (and subsequent re-instatement). After  Mike took over the chair and sent Nastase back out, the rest of the match was played without incident - with John winning rather easily.  When the match ended, I asked my middle son (Mark, the "normal" one, the lawyer), a strong 6'3" and in good shape - to go on court and escort John to the locker room. Who knew what some crazy fan might do?

"Frank Hammond was never the same after this match, which effectively ended his career.  He died not long thereafter, a dejected man. John has suggested he (Hammond) be posthumously elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame - not because of that match and how he was made the fall guy, but because of his ability and long years of service as an internationally-known and respected chair umpire.

"Finally, you probably will be surprised to know, after the match Ilie and John went to a local watering hole on Northern Boulevard in Little Neck called Patrick's Pub, where they enjoyed a few beers, hamburgers, and laughs, together."

As I wrote yesterday, I sometimes miss those days. The other interesting bit of correspondence I had came from my fellow journalist and good friend, Ubaldo Scanagatta, proprieter of the popular weblog, It seems that Pennetta, who missed out qualifying for the Dough-ha championships in order to attend the funeral for ATP pro Frederico Luzzi, finds herself in a comparable if less tragic bind: Here's partly what Ubaldo wrote:

"Dear Peter:

"I have read your story about Flavia. Well done and thanks for quoting me. Do not know if you are interested, but here's more:

90414136 " Chances for Flavia to reach Doha no longer exist, but what is really unfair is that WTA scheduled an event, the Master B in Bali, the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions ($600,000 prizemoney, 600 WTA  point for the winner, 240 for the runner up, 90 for each round won in the round robin, and 12 players competing) in the same week of the Fed Cup final, Italy vs USA (7-8 November in Southern Italy, Reggio Calabria).

"Which means that while other players will be able to collect WTA  points for the year-end rankings (particularly important for personal pride and commercial reasons, endorsements, sponsorships, etc.) at least two Italian players who could have played in Bali, Pennetta and Vinci, will have no chance to to compete unless they pull out of Fed Cup. It is a huge prejudice for both of them.

"Pennetta could end in top-ten - or not - because of this. Vinci could have made a big jump on her rankings, and she will not. If any American player (Oudin more than Serena and Venus...) would have been asked to compete in Southern Italy and were also in the Bali's field, would WTA have reacted differently?

"And even if we all know that it is money that pushes WTA to organise Master A in a location like Doha, and Master B in a location like Bali, still shouldn't this calendar's conflict between a Fed Cup final and a major WTA event been avoided? I know thata Stacey Alaster, to my precise question, said that this will not happen again (and this one was more a mistake of the WTA of Larry Scott),  but at least a sort of points compensations should have been thought of, and awarded to Pennetta and Vinci."

I'm with Ubaldo on this one. It's refreshing to see how much Fed Cup means to the Italian women, and Italian sports fans in general (wonder how all those finger-wagging, Anglo-style feminists make of that). Like I've said many times, Americans really miss the boat when it comes to events like Davis Cup and even some Europeans are puzzlingly indifferent to Fed Cup. Hey, to each his own, but those events are crown jewels of the game, and ought to be a great excuse for international celebrations and camaraderie.

I'm glad that for some tradition-minded players that's just what Davis and Fed Cup are. And I can honestly say that, purely as a fan, I am much more interested in the narratived and outcome of the Fed Cup tie than I am in the pending events in Dough-ha. That's just how it is, make of it what you will.

Please treat this as an on-topic post. . .

-- Pete

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