by Bobby Chintapalli
MEMPHIS—You could feel Brad Gilbert’s presence around The Racquet Club of Memphis the past few days. He was physically here, but it was more than that.
As a two-time winner (he won the title in 1986 and 1989), Gilbert has a reserved parking spot just outside the front entrance (see picture below). Walking into the club, you can see the reserved sign next to those of Sam Querrey, who Gilbert is currently working with, and Sofia Arvidsson, who’s also a two-time Memphis winner now. And in the hallway leading to the stadium his picture (see at right) hangs alongside those of other past winners, guys like Bjorn Borg (1977), Jimmy Connors (1978, 1979, 1983, 1984), Andre Agassi (1988), Pete Sampras (1996), Tommy Haas (1999, 2006, 2007), and Andy Roddick (2002, 2009, 2011).
People who like tennis get excited about this man who loves tennis. During a changeover in the doubles semifinal between Max Mirnyi/Daniel Nestor and John Isner/Sam Querrey, a fan, maybe in his late 40s, walked over to his friend and exclaimed, “That’s Brad Gilbert sitting over there!”
I caught up with Gilbert earlier this week for a general feature to come later, but I did get in a few odds-and-ends questions for today.
I understand you’re working with Sam Querrey on a trial basis and this is your second tournament together. How’s that going?
I just started. I don’t know where it’s going. We’re doing a little consulting, and that’s about it.
You seem to have pretty different personalities. How are your personalities jelling?
Every coaching gig that I do I always say—and I learned this from my coach—you go in with a blank canvas and you don’t try and make the player conform to your style. You gotta conform to their style, because you’re trying to make them become a better player. And in the early stages a lot of times you need to observe what their habits are.
How’s TV commentary going?
I don’t take myself too seriously. I just try to be me; I try not to be somebody else. I do different positions, and you have to realize when you’re on court it’s a different situation opposed to being in studio or booth. So, yeah, you just have to learn that.
How are you liking Twitter? Have you learned anything about tennis from the fans?
Yeah, there’s a lot of Monday morning armchair quarterbacks. Especially like if my grammar’s off I have some people that will give it to me hard. Or give it to me about opinions. Or some people like my nicknames, 90 percent, some hate them. Man, it’s like their quickest way to get right back at you.
What comes through about you on TV and on Twitter is that you really love tennis…
Well I’m 50, and I’ve been playing tennis for 47 years. I started at 3. I still got a lot to figure out, but it’s a game for life. I love it, and I have to pinch myself that I get to do this.