SI should have named Giscafre, Chang, moved Venus up
SI should have named Giscafre, Chang, moved Venus up
Pan Am coach Graham: Rewrite Capriati rule; Carillo gets Evert's old gig
By Matthew Cronin
Sports Illustrated is still the nation's best publication on pro sports, but its recent cover story on the 101 Most Influential Minorities in Sports seriously erred when it came it including tennis folks.
Sure, Serena was named the third most influential minority, but how did Venus finish No. 40 behind 35 or so other folks including Notre Dame coach Ty Willingham (first year on the job), MLB senior VP Jimmie Lee Solomon and CFO Jonathan Mariner, and Baltimore Ravens' VP Ozzie Newsome? You want influence, please take a look at Venus, who in this writer's opinion, is the most important woman of color in the history of tennis (surpassing Serena) and arguably top-five in the history of sports. How SI forgot that it was Venus who blazed the path for Serena is beyond us, how it is Venus who has become a leader amongst her countrywomen and who is arguably still a bigger draw than the entertaining Serena.
But at least Venus was named, which can't be said for SI's most overlooked person of color, Raquel Giscafre of Promotion Sports. For the past two decades, Giscafre and partner Jane Stratton of Promotion Sports have been running the largest, independently owned women's tournament in the US, the $1 million Acura Classic at La Costa resort in San Diego County, Calif. Not only is the July 26-Aug. 3 tournament one of the players' favorite stops, it is one of the best run events in the sport.
Don't think it's been easy for Raquel and Jane to hold on to the tournament when powerhouse agencies such as IMG and Octagon have been scooping up events left and right. California hosts five women's' tournament s annually, and only one isn't at least partially owned by an agency – the Acura. Former Wimbledon semifinalist Giscafre was born in Argentina, but she has lived in San Diego most of her adult life.
"We started with nothing," Giscafre said a few years ago..
"There have been cycles. "here were times when we were challenged, mainly by not having a sponsor. It's not automatic that you open the ticket windows and you sell tickets. You work 12 months a year. The challenge is to get the funding to put into the production." Their production remains first rate and was regrettably overlooked by SI.
CHANG BLAZED ASIAN-AMERICAN TRAIL
There were a number of other tennis people that could have been tabbed, but how SI placed Yao Ming No. 6 and didn't even include Asian-American trailblazer Michael Chang in the top 101 is beyond us. The last time we looked, the super-influential Michael drew in five thousand Asian-Americans or so to his match against Andre Agassi in San Jose, despite that fact that as a player, he's been a non-factor for two years.
Other tennis folks who may have deserved the nod over the likes of Rutgers coach Vivian Stringer, Tennessee State AD Teresa Phillips and the Atlanta Falcons' Warrick Dunn are the USTA Men's Tennis Director Rodney Harmon, Fed Cup coach and USTA board member Zina Garrison, ESPN analyst Mary Joe Fernandez and SCTA executive Director Henry Talbert.
We should note that this is no criticism of ******************** friend and tennis aficionado Richard Deitsch of SI, who did a bang-up job in writing 94 profiles and likely didn't make the calls of who was picked. ... While we're still on the subject, I'd like to put on my wife and kids' Mexican-American hats for the moment and wonder why Anaheim Angels owner Arturo Moreno ended up No. 4 behind No. 1 Robert Johnson, who just bought the rights to the NBA Charlotte franchise and doesn't even have a team yet. At least Moreno is already out there.
Pan Am coach Graham: Rewrite Capriati rule
The USTA will field a team of Olympic hopefuls to compete at the '03 Pan American Games and has named Eliot Teltscher and Debbie Graham as the US men’s and women’s coaches. The Pan American Games will take place August 1-16 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The tennis competition will be held on hard courts at the Santo Domingo Tennis Center August 4-10.
"I'm really excited. I love team competitions," said Graham, a former Fed Cup player and touring pro who was ranked as high as No. 28 in singles and No. 9 in doubles, winning five doubles titles. "I'm looking for young, enthusiastic players."
The USTA will name its team by July 1. A maximum of three men and three women can play. Women candidates likely include Ashley Harkleroad, Laura Granville, Jill Craybas and Sarah Taylor. At the '99 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, the United States claimed a record five Pan American medals led by Paul Goldstein, who won the lone gold medal for the United States, defeating teammate and silver medalist Cecil Mamiit in the men’s singles final. In women’s singles, Tara Snyder claimed a silver medal while Alexandra Stevenson won a bronze medal. In men’s doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan earned the bronze medal.
Graham, a resident of Newport Beach, Calif., is also one of eight USA Tennis High Performance Coaches for women’s tennis and will soon be working out of the new Home Depot Training Center in Carson, Calif. when it opens on July 1. Unlike many players, Graham tried the non-tennis business world when she retired in '99, working with a dot.com in network security sales until the company imploded.
"I hated it," Graham said. "I'm not persistent enough for sales and didn't' believe in the product anyway. I still loved to play and would play matches on weekend. I was still really competitive. When Eliot asked me to come and help him with his Friday afternoon area-training clinics in Costa Mesa, I knew I had found something I loved to do. I love helping kids take the next steps in the their game and helping them achieve their goals."
Graham has worked with a number of standout juniors, including top national players Alexa Glatch (who just won the Easter Bowls 14s), Logan Hansen, Vania King and Anne Yelsey (who won the Easter Bowl 18s). She will be taking a team of 14s to Europe in a couple weeks time.
As good as the new kids on the block are, Graham isn't convinced today's top players are any better than her generation. That comes as no surprise, considering that when she was a hot-shot SoCal teen, her peers included Pete Sampras, Chang, Lindsay Davenport and Rick Leach.
NEW PLAYING STYLES
"The game's changed, I would say that," she said. "It's evolved with more open stance on the forehand and is away from the classic step-into-the ball style that I played. I would say the depth is better now, but the great players don't stand out like they used to."
Graham, who served on the WTA Board of Directors from 1998-2000 and on the USOC Board of Directors from 2000-02, isn't happy with the WTA Age Eligibility Rule, which restricts the number of tournaments young teens can play. She believes that the superior US juniors are being left wanting without out enough playing opportunities at home and forced to travel abroad to get topflight competition.
"The rule should be looked at again and changed so players can be reviewed on a case by case basis," she said. "The rule was passed essentially because of what happened to Jennifer Capriati, but you shouldn't make a rule based on what just happened to one person. Look how Tracy Austin turned out and she started very early."
STANFORD STILL STRONG
A former standout at Stanford, Graham won the '90 NCAA singles title as a junior and was member of three NCAA championship teams (1989-91).
Speaking of her old school, Stanford's 20-1 women's team begins defense of its back-to-back NCAA Women's Tennis Team Championship on Friday at home. The legendary Cardinal will be in search of their third consecutive NCAA team title, fifth in the last seven years and are a serious favorite with a standout lineup that junior Lauren Barnikow, sophomore Erin Burdette and freshmen Alice Barnes and Amber Liu. San Diego's Liu, ranked No. 4 in the country, enters the weekend with a 24-10 overall record.
Props go out to Stanford coach Lele Forood, who after serving as an assistant and associate head coach at Stanford for 11 years, has made the most of her two full seasons as head coach, guiding them to back-to-back NCAA titles. ... While some folks think the male Fighting Illini will go all the way, I like UCLA to pick up its first title under Billy Martin. More on the NCAAs overall after the Regionals are completed this weekend.
Carillo gets Evert's old gig
Top-flight analyst Mary Carillo will join NBC as an analyst on the network’s Roland Garros and Wimbledon coverage, replacing Chris Evert.
Tickets are now on sale for the US Open. and can be purchased at usopen.org, by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866-OPEN-TIX, at all Ticketmaster outlets or at the USTA National Tennis Center box office.
While in Rome, Max Mirnyi went to see a Placido Domingo concert and invited the tenor to the matches at the Foro Italico. While Domingo had to leave Rome immediately after the concert, he said he would accept an invitation to Wimbledon.
The four finalists for the U.S.-Italy Fed Cup quarterfinal site are: Washington D.C. (7,500 outdoor); Shreveport, LA (8,000, indoor); Boise, ID (5,500, indoor); St. Paul, MN (18,000, indoor). The USTA must select a site by May 12.