Saturday, September 12, 2015

Serena Loses

Dear Jon, 
I'm  glad to hear you witnessed first hand the U.S. Open yesterday.  So, let me tell you the rest of the story.

Back in the day, you went to Choate and I went to the tennis court. The house my parents bought had a tennis court and I played and I played and I played and I dreamed of playing professional tennis. I dreamed of beating Nastase. I remember that dream. Even now.  I went to the U.S. Open at the West Side Tennis Club when it was played on grass and I saw Ken Rosewall play and my backhand was often like his. The next year they switched to "har-true" courts - a slower surface similar to clay and I saw the final between Chris Everett and Evonne Goolagong (Chrissie won) and I saw what was probably the longest semi-final in history, every stroke, back and forth, five sets, an amazing come from behind victory when Monolo Orontes beat my hero Guillermo Villas - the match probably ended at midnight - oh, before that, we saw Jimmy Conners whip Bjorn Borg and Conners easily won.. And after the match dad and I grabbed a snack at the local deli and there was Mike and Flo Blanchard the famous umpires who had called the match and we had club house passes and the whole shibang and I remember talking with Bud Collins (the TV commentator) about Villas - boy was he good that year.  The finals the next day were Conners against Orontes - and Conners was favored. He had finished 2nd at  Wimbledon that year, losing to Arthur Ashe - who had ropy doped him with wide angle serves. Conners was at the top of his game but not invincible - because Ashe, a black man who now has his statue on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia along with Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson - had beat Conners and earned that spot among Richmond's famous. Dad and I went to Art's delicatessen in Westport the next morning and bought the famous Art's Italian combo (OMG, why am I not a heart patient now? - it must be the wine - that one sandwich had more meat than a Texas longhorn ) and a roast beast sandwich and we brought them to the matches and we sat right behind the players and watched them hit and return and drive and return and slam and return and Orantes would just manage to get the ball back and he managed to get everything back and then Conners would miss. And he missed again. And he missed again. Then Orantes hit a winner. And another winner. And Conners another miss. And he lost the match. Since then, I've been to the tennis at Roland Garros in Paris several times and I've walked on grass tennis courts in Australia (where I bumped into Rod Laver in a hot tub) and I've driven by the tennis complex in Melbourne and I've been on the tube in London and seen the stop for Wimbledon and it's on my bucket list and would you like to go for our 60th birthday or sooner since life is short? And when the USLTA dropped the L and the lawn from its name and changed the venue from the West Side Tennis Club where we used to get club house passes and built a new stadium near the Flushing Meadow Park I went there for the the inaugural match. Yes, I was there. And since those days, there has been marriage and kids and who has time for tennis and then there's the vineyard and the grapes and the wine. What was once the center of my life means nothing. But to know that on Sept 11th you were in New York and you went to the tennis - I'm glad to hear it. We picked the grapes today and there's a drought and the harvest was small and as Henry the Fifth said at Agincourt the fewer grapes the greater glory there shall be and our friends came and helped us pick them and then we stomped them and there's a heat wave and it's really hot and we had no sleep and the beer is cold and it's great to hear from you. On the anniversary of September 11th old friends should reconnect because who knows what's around the corner. Amen.

P.S. - About that wine I gave you.... You should drink it.

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