GRACIOUS, BRILLIANT, INEVITABLE: WHY NADAL IS THE SPORT’S GOAT

When Rafael Nadal first burst onto the scene by winning the French Open in 2005, the consensus was he was another in the long line of great claycourt players, men who could dominate on the red surface of Roland Garros but were often vulnerable on faster surfaces.

Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander, truly great clay (and hardcourt) players, never won Wimbledon. On the flip side, Hall of Fame players like Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg could never quite figure out the red clay.

Bjorn Borg, who won in Paris six times, also won Wimbledon five times – but never the US or Australian Open. Rod Laver won on grass and clay and no doubt would have on hard courts had majors been played on them during his career. Laver could have won playing on an iceskating rink – or any other surface. Sampras won 14 major titles but never got to the final in Paris. Before Sampras came along, Roy Emerson held the record for men’s Grand Slam singles titles at 12.

On Sunday, Nadal won one for the 14th time in Paris. His record in French Open finals is now 14-0 after his crushing 6-3 , 6-3 , 6-0 victory over Casper Ruud. Ruud, who is 23, actually led 3-1 in the second set before Nadal simply took his game to another level, winning the final 11 games of the match. The Norwegian didn’t play poorly the first two sets, but he had no chance.

Nadal winning in Paris on the tournament’s final Sunday is as absolute as summer rain in London. It is inevitable. This time around, Nadal’s toughest match came in the quarterfinals , where he won a four-hourplus classic over fellow all-time great Novak Djokovic. That match clearly should have been played in the final , but that’s not alway how it turns out. And so Nadal, who has missed time with injuries this year, was the No.5 seed, because God forbid anyone should fail to follow the rankings.

Seeding Nadal fifth is roughly the same as telling Tiger Woods to go play the AAA Korn Ferry Tour after he won his first Masters by 12 shots. Nadal, in any case, long ago proved he was far more than a claycourt specialist. His victory was his 22nd Grand Slam title, putting him two in front of Djokovic and Roger Federer.

If you held a final vote for greatest player of all time today, Nadal, who turned 36 on Friday, would have to be No. 1. Statistics are overused, but a handful of Nadal’s numbers go beyond breathtaking. He is 112-3 at Roland Garros (what?) , but he has won eight majors off the red clay: two Australian Opens; two Wimbledons and four US Opens.

That’s as many majors as icons Connors, Andre Agassi and Lendl each won total, and one more than McEnroe. What’s most fascinating about all this is that last year the title of greatest player ever had been more or less ceded to Djokovic. He had beaten Nadal on his way to winning in Paris in June and had gone on to win at Wimbledon in July, putting him in a three-way tie with Nadal and Federer with 20 major victories.

Federer turned 40 in August and had lost in the Wimbledon quarters to Hubert Hurkacz in straight sets, including 6-0 in the third. He then announced he needed knee surgery, again, and hoped to play again in 2022. He still hasn’t played and, as McEnroe noted on Sunday, there’s a good chance we will never see him again in a major championship.

After his semi-final loss to Djokovic at Roland Garros, Nadal had pulled out of Wimbledon and the US Open with recurring foot issues . Many wondered if his career might also be over. Thus, Djokovic’s path to a 21st major victory and the record in major wins appeared clear. He was 34, healthy and going for a calendar Grand Slam in New York. His two great rivals were older and injured. But then Daniil Medvedev whipped him in the US Open final and his refusal to be vaccinated in the midst of the pandemic got him deported from Australia before the Australian Open. Nadal then came from two sets down in the Australian final against Medvedev and became the first man to get to 21 major wins.

Sunday, he got to 22 and, apparently , at 36, is still counting. He’s now halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished on the men’s side since Laver did it in 1969 at a time when three of the four majors were still played on grass.

Djokovic, who has won at Wimbledon six times, will no doubt be poised to take him down there. And, although Nadal won one of the two greatest matches of all time (along with McEnroe-Borg in 1980) in the 2008 final at the All England Club, grass is still his toughest surface because he can’t wear people down the way he does in Paris, and to a lesser extent in New York and Melbourne , over shorter rallies and shorter matches. That is a discussion for another day.

Sunday was a day to revel in Nadal’s extraordinary career, his ability to come back time and again, whether from injury or from a point in which his opponent appeared to be in control. That’s the greatness of Nadal: You can get him down, but it is almost impossible to get him out. Nadal has now heard his anthem played on a French Open Sunday 14 times. The emotion on his face made it clear that he still revels in every victory. As we all should.
The Washington Post

Tennis has an anger-management problem, and it’s getting worse | Washington Post

PARIS — On an obscure court at Roland Garros, in a women’s singles match that drew scant attention, 63rd-ranked Irina-Camelia Begu thrust herself into the global spotlight as the latest example of the ugly, potentially injurious on-court outbursts plaguing pro tennis in recent months.

Irked over losing her serve in a pivotal moment, Begu, 31, tossed her racket on the French Open’s red clay, and it ricocheted into the stands and toward a small child, who burst into tears. The chair umpire summoned the supervisor to adjudicate, but Begu was allowed to play on, later cited for unsportsmanlike conduct, despite the fact that her racket “brushed” the child, according to a statement from the tournament director.

Just two days earlier, Andrey Rublev, the French Open’s seventh seed, also got a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct after he smashed a ball in a rage that almost hit a groundsperson.

……

Most pros at the top of the sport, however, come to realize that controlling their anger is ultimately in their interest.

For Rafael Nadal, a five-time recipient of the ATP’s sportsmanship award, behaving on court is something he learned as a child.

“My uncle, my family, never allowed me to break a racket, never allowed me to say bad words or give up a match,” Nadal once explained. “

Probably when I was a kid, they didn’t care much about winning or losing. Of course, all the parents and family, my uncle [who was also his coach] wanted me to win every single match. But probably that was not the most important thing.

The most important thing was the education and the fact that I grow with the values, with the right values.”

For second-ranked Daniil Medvedev, who is still haunted by an epic meltdown he had as a 14-year-old junior, it has been a process.

“At one moment, I understood that it can negatively affect your tennis,” Medvedev said. “But I definitely didn’t understand it [at 14]. It was much later. …

I’m still learning because I have some tantrums, if it’s the right word, sometimes on the court. Usually I’m not happy about it.

The most important is either to know how to react or, better, how not to do them and just stay focused on the match.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2022/05/26/tennis-angry-outbursts-french-open/

Joker joins 1000 club

Novak Djokovic Wins 1,000th Career Match at Italian Open

Novak Djokovic, the No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, added yet another impressive accolade to his resume Saturday following a dominant showing in the Italian Open semifinal.

Djokovic defeated fifth seed Casper Ruud of Norway in straight sets, 6–4, 6–3, to earn his 1,000th career win and advance to his fourth straight final in Rome. The Serbian great will face fourth-seeded Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday as he looks to extend his record ATP Masters 1000 title count with a 38th victory.

Djokovic, 34, now joins Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl and Rafael Nadal as the only members of the 1,000-wins club, making him just the fifth men’s player in the Open Era to accomplish the feat.

“Thanks to the tournament and the crowd for celebrating the milestone with me,” Djokovic said after the match, per ATP Tour’s official website.

“I’ve seen Roger and Rafa celebrate those milestones in the last couple of years and I was looking forward to get to that 1,000 myself. I’m really, really blessed and privileged to have that many victories on the Tour. It’s been a long time, ever since I won my first match on the Tour. Hopefully I can keep going and many more victories to come.”

Djokovic’s landmark moment also inspired a special, emoji-laden response from his wife Jelena, who took to social media to express her excitement for his latest accomplishment.

Djokovic’s upcoming clash with Tsitsipas marks the pair’s first meeting since “The Djoker” notched a dramatic comeback victory over the 23-year-old at the 2021 Roland Garros final. Djokovic owns a 6–2 record over Tsitsipas all time, including a 4–0 mark on clay—the same surface they’ll be competing on Rome.

For the year, Djokovic has posted a 10–4 record, with his last outing prior to Rome ending in a historic semifinal defeat at the hands of Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz at the Madrid Open.

si.com/tennis/2022/05/14/novak-djokovic-wins-1000th-career-match

SUPER SENIOR WORLD TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS, FLORIDA 2022

Palm Beach Gardens, FL April 23, 2022

Women’s 65, Kitty Godfree Cup

Women’s 70, Althea Gibson Cup (scroll down to see draws once posted)

Women’s 75, Queen’s Cup (scroll down to see draws once posted)

Women’s 80, Doris Hart Cup

Women’s 85, Angela Mortimer Cup

Men’s 65, Britannia Cup

Men’s 70, Jack Crawford Cup

Men’s 75, Bitsy Grant Cup

Men’s 80, Gardnar Mulloy Cup

Men’s 85, Lorne Main Cup (scroll down to see draws once posted)

 

ATP Statement On Decision To Ban Russian & Belarusian Players

Russian and Belarusian players will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under neutral flag

We strongly condemn Russia’s reprehensible invasion of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the millions of innocent people affected by the ongoing war.

Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments based on the ATP Rankings. We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game. Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings. Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils.

It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under a neutral flag, a position that has until now been shared across professional tennis. In parallel, we will continue our joint humanitarian support for Ukraine under Tennis Plays for Peace.

https://www.atptour.com/en/news/atp-statement-wimbledon-british-grass-swing-april-2022

In Tennis, Racket Smashing Gets Out of Hand | NYTimes

 

After blowing a golden opportunity to break his opponent’s serve late in the second set of his match on Monday at the Miami Open, Jenson Brooksby, the rising American star, whacked his foot with his racket several times in frustration.

It was progress for Brooksby, who earlier in the tournament had escaped an automatic disqualification that many tennis veterans — and his opponent — thought was justified after he angrily hurled his racket to the court and it skittered into the feet of a ball person standing behind the baseline.

A week earlier, Nick Kyrgios, the temperamental Australian, narrowly missed hitting a ball boy in the face when he flung his racket to the ground following a three-set loss in the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. The ATP punished Kyrgios with a $20,000 fine and another $5,000 for uttering an obscenity on the court, but he was allowed to play a few days later in Miami.

Kyrgios was at it again on Tuesday during his fourth-round match against Italy’s Jannik Sinner. He threw his racket to the court on his way to losing a first-set tiebreaker, prompting a warning and a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct as he shouted at the umpire, Carlos Bernardes. Then, during the changeover, he battered his racket four times against the ground, earning a game penalty.

“Do we have to wait until someone starts bleeding?” an exasperated Patrick McEnroe, the former pro and tennis commentator, said recently when asked about the flying rackets.

Racket-smashing tantrums have long been accepted as part of the game. Like hockey fights, they are a way for players to blow off steam. But as the broader culture becomes less tolerant of public displays of anger, and with an increasing number of close calls on the court, racket smashing suddenly no longer seems like an entertaining idiosyncrasy.

Mary Carillo, the former player and longtime commentator, said the tantrums have never been worse, especially on the ATP Tour, calling them “the most consistently uncomfortable thing to watch.” But chair umpires still resist meting out the most serious punishment.

“The reason for conspicuous leniency is that they have to somehow keep a match alive; there are no substitutions,” Carillo said of the chair umpires. “Tennis players, especially tennis stars, know they have incontestable leverage over the chair.

Like most people in tennis, McEnroe was stunned when the ATP recently handed down a suspended eight-week ban to Alexander Zverev, who repeatedly beat on the umpire’s chair at the end of a doubles match at the Mexican Open in February, coming within inches of cracking his racket into the official’s feet.

Psychologists have found that expressing anger physically tends to hurt performance and can encourage subsequent outbursts. In an oft-cited 1959 study by the psychologist R.H. Hornberger, participants listened to insults before being divided into two groups. One group pounded nails. The other sat quietly. The group that pounded nails was far more hostile to those who criticized them.

And yet these days, racket smashing feels contagious. There was Naomi Osaka’s display during her third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez at the U.S. Open last year. Novak Djokovic’s during the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics. Even Roger Federer has had his moments. Rafael Nadal, by contrast, is famously gentle with his equipment and has said he never will smash his racket.

Even Andy Roddick, the former world No. 1, got cheeky on the subject, taking to Twitter last week with a tongue-in-cheek tutorial on how to safely smash a racket and whack a ball without endangering anyone.

Smashing and throwing a racket, not to mention swats of the ball — that hit, or nearly hit, and possibly injure people on the court or in the stadium — fall under equipment abuse in the sport’s rule books. To the frustration of some of the biggest names in tennis, those codes are more gray than black and white.

Martina Navratilova, the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion who is covering the Miami Open for Tennis Channel, expressed the sentiments of many after Brooksby’s racket made contact with the ball person.

“If it hit the ball boy, they need to disqualify him,” she said.

Brooksby and Kyrgios lost in Miami on Tuesday, but Zverev advanced to the quarterfinals and has a good chance of winning one of the top titles on the ATP Tour, even though some in tennis believe he should be on the sideline serving a suspension.

A spokesman for the ATP, which does not publicly discuss individual penalties, said Brooksby received a $15,000 fine, $5,000 less than the maximum $20,000 a player can receive for an incident from tournament officials. That amounted to less than half of the $30,130 he guaranteed himself by winning the match, not to mention the $94,575 he ultimately collected for making it to the fourth round.

Kyrgios was fined $20,000 for nearly hitting the ball boy after his loss to Nadal at Indian Wells, where he collected nearly $180,000 for making the quarterfinals. He, too, will earn $94,575 in Miami, less whatever fines he receives for his behavior on Tuesday.

Zverev, who has earned more than $30 million in career prize money, had to forfeit his earnings from the Mexican Open, and the ATP fined him $65,000, but the suspended ban has allowed him — in less than two tournaments — to more than triple in prize money what his outburst cost him.

The ATP is considering whether, given recent increases in prize money, an increase in fines could deter players. Fines for racket abuse on the ATP Tour begin at $500, compared with $2,500 on the WTA Tour.

Other than that, the codes for men and women are similar: No violently hitting or kicking or throwing a racket — or any piece of equipment, for that matter, and no physical abuse or attempted abuse against ball people, umpires, judges or spectators.

Still, tennis officials have a somewhat ambiguous understanding of when disqualification is warranted. It goes sort of like this: If you throw a racket or whack a ball at someone intentionally in an attempt to hit or intimidate them, you are automatically disqualified, whether you succeed or fail. But if you throw or smash a racket or whack a ball without consideration of its direction, and it ends up hitting someone, then tournament officials have to assess whether an injury has occurred.

If someone is indeed injured, as when Djokovic inadvertently hit a line judge in the throat at the 2020 U.S. Open, the player is automatically disqualified. But if no one is injured, as when Brooksby’s racket skittered into the ball person’s foot, the umpires will assess a penalty and tournament officials will fine the player — no disqualification necessary.

Brooksby and Zverev quickly posted apologies for their actions on social media and personally apologized to the people involved.

“I was grateful to have a second chance,” Brooksby told Tennis Channel on Monday.

Kyrgios is a repeat offender. In a news conference after the Indian Wells match, he berated journalists who questioned him about the racket toss that nearly clipped a ball boy’s head, and was unapologetic.

“It most definitely wasn’t like Zverev,” he said. “It was complete accident. I didn’t hit him.”

Only after an avalanche of criticism on social media did Kyrgios issue an apology. The next day, he posted a video of himself giving the boy a racket.

After his match on Tuesday, Kyrgios played the victim, criticizing Bernardes for speaking to the crowd while Kyrgios was trying to serve. He seemed not to understand why the ATP had come down so hard on him for the incident at Indian Wells, given, he said, that Denis Shapovalov had inadvertently hit a fan with a ball and received just a $5,000 fine. In fact, Shapovalov hit a chair umpire and was fined $7,000.

“I can throw a racket at Indian Wells,” Kyrgios said, “didn’t even hit anyone, and I’m getting 25 grand.”

Matthew FuttermanMarch 30, 2022

Rafael Nadal Wins the Australian Open, His 21st Grand Slam Title

Novak Djokovic overshadowed the first Grand Slam of the year before it began, but Nadal pulled off an epic comeback over Daniil Medvedev that broke his tie with Djokovic and Roger Federer in men’s singles major career victories.


Rafael Nadal won the men’s singles final at the Australian Open.

Credit…Alana Holmberg for The New York Times

MELBOURNE, Australia — The Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal shook his head, as if in disbelief. Then he moved to the net to shake the hand of his opponent, Daniil Medvedev, and it was then that it seemed to sink in. Nadal stood alone in the record book with 21 career Grand Slam men’s singles titles, one more than his rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

Suddenly, Nadal punched the air like a prizefighter, flexing his arms like a bodybuilder, pumping his fists overhead, then dropping to his knees as tears flowed.

Nadal’s five-hour-and-24-minute triumph, after being down by two sets, thrilled a raucous crowd on a warm Sunday night at Rod Laver Arena. It came just a day after Ashleigh Barty of Australia won the women’s singles title, the first home court win at the Australian Open in 44 years.

But if the final weekend of the first major sporting event of the year ended in singular fashion, the beginning was anything but.

read more

 

Ash Wins Australian Open Women’s Singles Title

The top-ranked Barty defeated an American, Danielle Collins, to become the first Australian to win the Grand Slam singles title there since 1978. “I’m so proud to be an Aussie,” she said.

By Christopher ClareyJan. 29, 2022

MELBOURNE, Australia — The 44-year drought was over in Ashleigh Barty’s sunburned country. Barty, often inscrutable on a tennis court, had just finished letting her guard down with a full-flex howl of delight that could almost be heard above the roars in Rod Laver Arena.

Now, Barty, Australia’s first Australian Open singles champion since 1978, was motioning to someone on the other side of the deep blue expanse, beckoning with both hands and a relaxed smile.

Casey Dellacqua emerged from the sidelines. They have been close for a decade — since Barty summoned the moxie at age 15 to ask her to play doubles — and it seemed appropriate on this fulfilling Saturday night that Dellacqua, now retired, be the first to embrace her.

“She brought me into the sport again,” Barty said.

Dellacqua supported Barty’s decision in September 2014 to leave the tennis tour. Barty, just 18, was depressed, lonely and desperate to live a more normal life than that provided by hotels and practice courts. And when Barty had spent more than a year away from the game, playing professional cricket and leaving the jet lag behind, it was Dellacqua who invited her out for a hit and helped her realize that she did indeed want to fully explore her prodigious tennis talent.

Barty returned to the tour in 2016 with no ranking but full commitment, and Saturday’s 6-3, 7-6 (2) victory over Danielle Collins of the United States was the latest proof that she made the right decision, for herself above all, but also for her sports-mad country.

“She knows how proud I am of her,” Dellacqua said as she sat next to Barty on the set of Australia’s Channel Nine on Saturday. “Everybody thinks I have done a lot, but I cannot explain what Ash has done for me.”

For a tennis nation like Australia, home to Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall and to grass courts in country towns and fancy clubs, it beggars belief that it would take 44 years to win any tournament, much less their own. But the drought was real in Australia, as homegrown champions like Patrick Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt and Samantha Stosur won major singles titles abroad but came up short in Melbourne.

Barty, now 25, has solved the riddle — aced it actually — by not dropping a set in any of her seven matches at this year’s Australian Open.

Born and raised in the steamy Australian state of Queensland, Barty has been ranked No. 1 for more than 100 weeks and has become a hugely popular figure in her home nation. Her matches during the Open this year have attracted large television audiences.

But until now, her most significant triumphs also have come far from Australia. She won her first Grand Slam singles title in 2019 at the French Open and won Wimbledon last year when most Australians were unable to travel because of coronavirus restrictions.

Read more

ITF SENIORS TOUR

The ITF Seniors Tour is a global tennis Tour that provides players aged 30 and over with a high quality and enjoyable competitive experience. 2019 saw 27,500 registered players and 502 tournaments take place across 70 nations.

ITF Seniors tournaments range from Grade S1000 (aimed at elite players) to Grade S100 (aimed at recreational level), featuring singles, doubles and mixed doubles events for each five-year age increment from 30+ to 90+.

Read more –>

Cameron Green @ Homebush

Cameron Green has been a hitting partner this week at Homebush for some of the Tour pros: including Kyrgios and Andy Murray.
Source: Lisa Green

How Staying Physically Active May Protect the Aging Brain | NYT

Simple activities like walking boost immune cells in the brain that may help to keep memory sharp and even ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

Staying physically active as we age substantially drops our risk of developing dementia during our lifetimes, and it doesn’t require prolonged exercise. Walking or moving about, rather than sitting, may be all it takes to help bolster the brain, and a new study of octogenarians from Chicago may help to explain why.
The study, which tracked how often older people moved or sat and then looked deep inside their brains after they passed away, found that certain vital immune cells worked differently in the brains of older people who were active compared to their more sedentary peers. Physical activity seemed to influence their brains’ health, their thinking abilities and whether they experienced the memory loss of Alzheimer’s disease. The findings add to growing evidence that when we move our bodies, we change our minds, no matter how advanced our age.
What these findings suggest is that physical activity may delay or alter memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease in older people, partly by keeping microglia fit, said Kaitlin Casaletto, an assistant professor of neuropsychology at the U.C.S.F. Memory and Aging Center, who led the new study.

Vale: Darlene Hard – Winner of 21 Grand Slam events was partner to King, Laver

The most underpublicized, underappreciated, possibly underrated tennis player of the last half-century died Thursday at Northridge Hospital.  Her name was Darlene Hard, and she would have turned 86 on Jan. 6. 

If you have never heard of her, you are in the majority. That isn’t an age thing. Her name draws a blank even from tennis fans in their 60s and 70s. 

In her prime , she ranked with the best in the sport. She left Montebello, where her mother, Ruth, had taught her to play, after their relationship soured because Darlene, at age 15, started beating her mom. Darlene traveled the world, won big tournaments and shook hands with Queen Elizabeth, who handed her trophies. At one Wimbledon champions dinner, she sat next to Prince Philip and chatted him up. That was easy for somebody so full of life and so at ease with herself. “He was interesting, not stuffy at all,” she recalled a few years ago.

She returned home long enough to pursue a degree in pediatric medicine at Pomona College. While there, she won the first women’s intercollegiate national singles title. That was 1958, and she was already ranked No. 2 in the world. “I quickly saw that playing tennis was easier than studying to be a doctor,” she said. 

Hard won a national hardcourt title with Billie Jean King , and also the deciding match of a Federation Cup win over Australia with King. King, perhaps the biggest name in the sport in the last 50 years — whose name is on the largest tennis facility in the world at the U.S. Open — spoke Friday with fondness, even awe about Hard. “She was amazing, one of my heroes,” said King, who is eight years younger than Hard. “She was a great doubles player, had quick hands and was a great athlete. I was 13 years old when she asked me to play the national hardcourts with her. We won, but I was so afraid I was going to let her down.”

In 1959, Rod Laver , who is 83 now, got to the finals of the Wimbledon men’s singles, doubles and mixed doubles. That year, he won only the mixed doubles. His partner was Hard. Laver, whose tennis legacy matches King’s and who is the only male player to win all four major tournaments in the same year — he did that twice — spoke Friday of Hard as if she were the star of their pairing. “I’d go out onto the court with her and I’d tell the other team that I wouldn’t have to hit any overheads. Darlene would hit them all,” he said. “They’d start hitting hard shots at her at the net and she would get them all back. Pretty soon, the word was out. You better hit the ball at Laver.” They played the Wimbledon mixed doubles again the next year and won again. “She was just a great doubles player, maybe one of the best ever at mixed,” Laver said.

She wasn’t bad in singles, either. She won two U.S. Open titles, one French and lost twice in the Wimbledon final. In total, she won 21 Grand Slam event titles in singles, doubles and mixed, had a record of 14-4 at the French, 29-7 at Wimbledon and 43-9 at the U.S. Nationals (now the Open). And her best title was her last.  Hard had retired five years earlier and begun teaching tennis at facilities she owned in the San Fernando Valley. She promised one of her students that, if she made it through a qualifier event, she would play doubles with her at the U.S. Open. This was 1969, the second year of tennis’ Open Era, when players could actually be paid for winning. To that point, all of Hard’s tennis successes had brought her a total financial payout of $200.20. That was seven years of expense money — $28.60 a year — given out at Wimbledon. But in 1969, she wasn’t allowed to play with her student, an amateur player, because Hard was a pro. A teaching pro. “I never thought about that,” she said, when telling the story years later.  Left to hang around with no partner, she ran into an acquaintance from her years of hitting with the guys at the L.A. Tennis Center. The acquaintance put her together with another player whose partner had jilted her.  “Darlene Hard, meet Francoise Durr,” said Pancho Gonzalez.

Durr, a veteran from France with a high international ranking, played soft angles and served little lollipops that she courageously followed into the net. Hard served bullets, charged the net and popped hard-angled volleys. They were tennis’ odd couple. They made it to the final. Their opponents were Margaret Court and Virginia Wade, both veterans and big-time winners. Soon, Hard and Durr trailed 0-6, 0-2. Hard told Durr that they better get at least one game on the scoreboard to avoid total embarrassment. They won 12 of the next 17 games and the title. Hard got $1,000, bringing her grand total of career tennis winnings to $1,200.20. Hard returned full time to Los Angeles and to her tennis teaching job, disappearing from a sport that was just beginning to gain national and international popularity and attention. And she couldn’t have been happier about that. As outgoing and colorful as she was on the court, Hard was private off it. She became even more so over the years. The self-promoting athlete disgusted her, and she said so when asked. The thing is, she was seldom asked. Nobody knew where she was.

One of her tennis students was Mona Cravens, who was then, and still is, head of student publications at USC. One day, at her lesson, Cravens noticed a 3-by-5-inch card advertising tennis lessons. The card said that the teacher was “a two-time national champion.” In those days before Wikipedia, Cravens had to go to the USC library and look up this Darlene Hard. Sure enough. She had taken dozens of lessons from her and Hard never mentioned being a Grand Slam event champion or being No. 2 in the world. Cravens admired Hard’s work ethic, and soon, when a job opened up in the USC publications department, Cravens offered Hard a job — assuming all along that a tennis champion would not enjoy sitting in an office 40 hours a week. She was certain the answer would be no. She was wrong. That was 1981. Hard, in part fearing some bouts she had had with skin cancer, took the job. She did everything from designing USC yearbooks to doing internet searches of stories about USC. With a few bouts of illness interrupting the run, she stayed in that position until recently, when she had a fall and went into a coma from which she never awoke.

Around USC, she was known as “Darlene in publications,” not “Darlene, famous tennis champion.” There may be hundreds of USC faculty and students who will read an obit about her and be stunned that Darlene in publications was actually Darlene Hard, who for four or five years in the late ’50s and early ’60s, was the best women’s tennis player in the world. Her achievement of anonymity would make Darlene happy. Once she put tennis in her rearview mirror, that’s the way she wanted it.