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Courtside report: Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Charity Event

November 21, 2000

It seemed like the best of all possible worlds: Tennis by Pete; Poster of Anna. (For those who didn't see the earlier post, Anna was supposed to be the star attraction, but some problem arose and Pam Shriver had to substitute Todd Martin and Pete on short notice.)

The best? Not quite. Martin 7-6(7-5), 6-3. The poster was more predictable; if Anna has ever taken a bad picture, I haven't seen it.

At this point, an astute analysis is called for, but I'm afraid I can't deliver one. My experience of top level tennis has been on a TV screen, and the real thing is quite different. It was all I could manage to follow big serves, far from being able to analyze their exact spin, placement and relative pace the way the McEnroes can. So, here are some impressions.

There were many more rallies than we ordinarily see from these players. Usually the long ones ended with someone hitting a winner by adding pace or painting a corner, rather than working for advantage and taking the net. Pete started with two or three doubles in his first game, and it was the fourth game of the match before anyone held serve. There were a few angled drop shots by both players, usually successful. All this might indicate that court coverage was not up to par, but I don't want to say that because my eye is not practiced enough. It did seem fairly clear that Pete didn't get to the net fast enough on his first volley many times. Todd does have a good return, and on several occasions he did the same thing I've seen him do when on a good day against Scud or Rusedski -- just tee off on a first serve and seemingly send it back faster than it came. One of those hit Pete at ankle height (I couldn't tell whether it bounced off him or his racket) and went sailing over his head.

There were pleasanter moments. Pete entertained the crowd with two or three moderate-height Sky Sampras shots. On at least one, it seemed to me that Todd, not in good position to win the point, decided to put one up where Pete could hit a crowd pleaser. Along that line, both players did a little mock protesting of calls, chatting with the audience, etc. I don't think either revealed a talent for show biz. After he warmed up a bit, Pete hit a number of aces. Todd did a few. There was one moment of concern when Pete chased after a sharply angled shot and was suddenly a step away from a pile of gear near the umpire's stand. He skipped over them nimbly, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

A word about the setting. The Baltimore Arena is a modest hall, which also hosts the Blasts (indoor soccer). The brown surface said Premier on it, if that tells any of you experts how fast it was. There was an opening pro set of doubles with the Jensen brothers pairing with Kathy Rinaldi and Lori McNeil. Mildly entertaining tennis, and some clowning by the brothers. They sent some lobs almost to the arena roof and landed them. After the main match, Pete and Todd were to pair up with Brady Anderson and a second baseman named Hairston, I think (both Baltimore Orioles baseball players). I didn't stay, because I had to drive back to Washington, write this, and hit the sack for a 6 a.m. call tomorrow.

Originally posted on the messageboard on Nov. 21, 2000


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