Father, sons and the beautiful game

by   |  VIEW 8053
Father, sons and the beautiful game

Five days shy of the 20th anniversary of Petr Korda’s Australian Open triumph, his 17-year-old Sebastian gave him a birthday present to remember. He claimed the boys' singles tittle. “It's definitely special, including being here in Australia – I mean, my sister won her first title here as well,” said Korda, whose elder sister Jessica claimed the Australian Open golf title as an 18-year-old in 2012.

“My dad won his only Grand Slam title here, so it's very special". Tennis isn't ttruly a family game, however. It remains extremely rare to see fathers and sons follow the same successful path in the beautiful game.

In tennis, it has been stunningly rare for sons and daughters of top players to replicate the success of their parents. In other sports, the Bondses, the Griffeys, the Mannings, the Hulls or the Earnhardts created more easily successful dynasties.

In Formula 1 recently Max Verstappen wroke havoc and beat every record in terms of precocity, doing better than his father Jos, a former team-mate of Michael Schumacher at Benetton. According to the International Tennis Federation, only four father-and-son pairs have cracked the top 100 in the Open Era, which dates to 1968: Fred and Sandon Stolle, Phil and Taylor Dent, Leif and Joachim Johansson, and Christophe and Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

Though, none of them reached the same success as the Krishnans. The Krishnans - During the Sixties, Ramanathan Krishnan was the most renowned Indian figure abroad after prime minister Nehru, who once invited him for breakfast after seeing him beat the exile champion Jaroslav Drobny at Wimbledon in 1956.

Even before Krishnan was eligible for a driving license, his father presented him a Morris Minor, securing a special permission from the then Commissioner of Police for his son to drive around. His tennis, Lance Tingay wrote for the Telegraph, was “pure oriental charm”.

Two times Wimbledon semifinalist, he refused to become a pro. "I played for honor and pride, but I am a votary of professionalism. Like engineering, medicine, and law, sport is also a profession. I could have taken Kramer's three-year contract if I were allowed to play Wimbledon and Davis," he said.

Krishnan win 69 out of the 97 Davis Cup rubbers he played with his natural charisma and exuding simplicity. He often rated his 19-17 win in the one-set verdict against Neale Fraser at Chennai's Egmore Stadium in 1962 as one of his best matches.

His most recalled win, however, is the extraordinary comeback 2-5 15-30 in the fourth set against Thomas Koch of Brazil in the last day of the Inter-Zone Davis Cup final in 1966 in Calcutta. “I enjoy playing at Calcutta where everybody has been nice to me and the crowds were knowledgeable,” said Krishnan, who was coming back from an injury.

Expectations were high but Koch gained two sets to one lead when the match was stopped and the tie extended to the fourth day. The Brazilian raced to a 5-2 lead in the fourth set and people left quickly, accepting the inevitability of his defeat.

But under his relentless pressure, Koch's game collapsed. One of his son Ramesh's earliest memory was going to the airport to receive him after that win. In the final, Ramesh Krishnan and Mukherjea beat the Wimbledon champion Newcombe and Roche giving India the only point against Australia.

Ramesh played some of the most sublime and jaw-droppingly beautiful tennis to emulate his father as he stunned Wally Masur of Australia in the semifinals at Sydney to earn India a shot at the title, against Sweden in 1987.

Ramesh Krishnan, a junior champion at Wimbledon and Roland Garros, a three-time Grand Slam quarterfinal (Us Open 1981 and 1987, Wimbledon 1986), closed his career reaching the highest rank at No.23 and winning eight titles.

The Stolles - “Perhaps it is a prerequisite for most of the outstanding Aussies to add something larger than the sum of their achievements to the landscape of the sport, to spread their influence in other ways through character and leadership,” Steve Flink wrote to introduce a long interview to Fred Stolle for Tennis Channel.

Stolle, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1985, won his first major title at Roland Garros in 1965 beating Newcombe, Drysdale and Tony Roche in the final. “Clay wasn’t known to be my surface,” Stolle acknowledged in that interview.

“I was lucky that particular year that the weather was warm and we were playing with pretty light Slazenger balls. The courts were quick to the point where I served-and-volleyed pretty much every first serve”. Backhand was his best shot and he played a lot of forehand approach shots during the tournament before coming to the net.

He won only another Grand Slam singles title, in 1966 at Us Us Championships. At the 1966 U.S. Championships at Forest Hills, he was unseeded but managed to beat 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 No.2 seed Roy Emerson his doubles partner when he won his first French and U.S.

National doubles titles in 1965 and a third Australian Championships earlier that year. In the final, he plays John Newcombe, who had beaten Santana. Newcombe won the first set but Stolle was confident enough to switch the momentum.

On a big point towards the end of the second set, Newcombe played a lob that Stolle was able to recover hitting his favorite backhand passing shot winner. It was the breakthrough, He won 4-6, 12-10, 6-3, 6-4. Stolle won 31 amateurs titles and added further three during the Open era.

He clinched 10 of his 19 major titles playing men’s doubles and seven in mixed doubles, finished in the top 10 four times from 1963 to 1966), reaching No. 2, in the pre-Open era and No.30 after 1968. Davis Cup was his reign.

In 1964 final, he rallied back from being down a break against Dennis Ralston in Cleveland with the Aussies trailing 2-1. Harry Hopman, his mentor and Davis Cup captain, suggested him to return deep. The rest is history. In 1965 his father, who didn't appreciate Fred's game and rarely saw his matches, was on the stand for the curtain-raiser against Manolo Santana.

He left the stadium with Stolle down by two sets and came back in time to see him playing a marvelous forehand volley that gave him the victory 10-12 3-6 6-1 6-4 7-5. After the matches, Fred's father talked with the then Prime Minister Bob Menzies, whom he disliked too.

“‘Son, Bob Menzies is not a bad bloke after all,” he said Fred at dinner. After a last us Open semifinal in 1972, he coached Billie Jean King, di Virginia Wade, di Phil Dent, Vitas Gerulaitis. His son, Sandon, reached a career high at No.50 in singles but came as high as No.2 in doubles.

He won the 1998 Us Open playing alongside Cyril Suk, beating Knowles and Nestor. “Tennis is a game of inches,” he said after the match. They saved two match points as Knowles put a reflex volley an inch wide and Nestor hit the net.

But he can't compare to his father. “He'll probably give me just as much of a hard time”. Stolle lost three further major finals, at 1995 Us Open, 2000 Roland Garros and 2000 Wimbledon, always facing the “Woodies”, Woodforde and Woodbridge.

The Roger-Vasselins - “Roger-Vasselin, a man in possession of three names, two passports—his father being a Frenchman; his mother is from Putney outside London, where Roger-Vasselin was born—and one puffball backhand, which he undoubtedly copied out of a 1930s instructional guide”.

Curry Kirkpatrick offered this insightful portrait of Christophe Roger-Vasselin. Once famous only for having played with the controversial spaghetti racquet in 1977, at 1983 Roland Garros he came back from two sets down to beat Heinz Gunthardt in the third round, beat Jimmy Connors in one of his greatest performances ever in the quarterfinals to face Yannick Noah in the last 4.

They were the first Frenchman in the semifinals at the Roland Garros since 1972 when Noah's brother-in-law, Patrick Proisy moved to the final losing to Andres Gimeno. Noah went further and became the last Frenchman to win a Grand Slam singles title.

“Thirty years ago, being a top 100 was much easier than today” he admitted to the French paper Le Figaro, Cristophe followed his son, Edouard, when he was aged 15 to 17. He reached his best results in doubles, he won the Roland Garros in 2014 with Julien Benneteau and thanked his father who taught him not to lose his self-confidence and to give his best in every situation.

Moved by the death of his close friend Mathieu Montcourt in 2009, they were on holiday the previous summer and were going to go to Bahamas in few months, that year he beat a top 20 for the first time, defeating Juan Martin Del Potro in Tokyo Two-time singles finalist: 2013 Delray Beach (d.

Isner, l. to Gulbis) and 2014 Chennai (l. to Wawrinka), in those years he spent 30 weeks in top 50 in both rankings. The Johanssons - Leif Johansson had a short tennis career in the early 1970s, which ended successively from 1975 due to right knee injuries.

He won no titles and reached his highest rank at No.51. The 1972 and 1976 Swedish doubles champion, featured in the Davis Cup only during the 1974 campaign. Sweden beat Poland and the Netherlands to face Italy in the European Zone final in Båstad.

He failed to win any of his two singles, losing to Adriano Panatta and Paolo Bertolucci who came out as the winner after an exhausting five-setter that gave Italy their first away win in the competition since 1961. His son, Joachim “Pim Pim” Johansson, a former boyfriend of Leyton Hewitt's sister, reached the Us Open semifinals in 2004 and won three career titles.

A top 10 in 2005, he was forced to retire plagued by shoulder injuries. From the 2005 Australian Open to the 2009 Roland Garros he held the record for most aces served in one match as he aced Andre Agassi 51 times in the 4th round, still losing the match in four sets.

Ivo Karlovic broke the record with 55 aces against Lleyton Hewitt in the first round in Paris but lost in five sets. The Dents - Phil and Taylor Dent created a tennis dynasty in the name of serve. Phil, the son of a taxi driver, had no much to do when he was young.

So he decided to pick up a tennis racquet and when he was 16, he was aggregated to the Davis Cup team as a hitting partner. Roy Emerson asked him to serve to his forehand for three straight hours. That kind of serve improved a lot and Dent matured a good weapon.

He won three singles titles, in Sydney in 1971 and 1979 and in Brisbane in 1979. At 1974 Australian Open, he stopped Bjorn Borg's only main draw appearance Down Under losing to Jim Connors in the final. Next year he won the doubles title and in 1977 was part of the Davis Cup winning team, although he and Alexander lost to Adriano Panatta and Paolo Bertolucci who gave Italy the only point of the final.

His son Taylor became one of the best servers in his generation. He hit the fastest serve ever recorded at Wimbledon, 148 mph in 2010. Born in Bradenton in 1981, he broke into the top 100 in 2002. In 2003 he won three titles in Bangkok, Memphis and Moscow moving into the top 50.

After a dramatic loss to Fernando Gonzalez in the bronze final at the 2004 Olympics, in 2006 he had to suffer two back surgeries. A fervent Republican-Reaganian, he had to endure a year of almost complete immobility. He came back showing the same peculiar serve and a physical condition far from the standards of a professional athlete.

However, he won five matches in a row in Miami before losing to Federer missing eight break points. His epiphany came in 2010 on the Grand Stand in a night session at the Us Open. He beat the Spaniard Ivan Navarro Pastor in a match that featured 255 net points combined and a 7-minute interruption because one of his booming 138 mph serves had broken the net. “You guys are unbelievable” he shouted bringing the chair umpire's microphone.