USTA Media Teleconference
An interview with:
JOE FAVORITO: Thank you, everyone, for joining us for this special
announcement today of the Heineken Challenge. On the phone with us today is
Arlen Kantarian, the chief executive, professional tennis, of the USTA, who
will be kicking this off. Also joining us today is Boris Becker, six-time
Grand Slam champion, and John McEnroe, seven-time singles champion, along
with Dan Tearno, who is the vice president of corporate affairs for Heineken
We're very excited about this announcement, and Arlen is going to
run us through what the gist of the announcement is.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Thank you, Joe. Thanks, everybody, for joining us
on this call.
As you know, as we've talked before, our goal for the US Open is to
make it one of the top sports and entertainment events in the world and also
to serve as a centerpiece to help promote the game.
As part of this effort, we've recently announced several new
initiatives, including the first Grand Slam final to be played in prime time
with the women's final now scheduled for 8 p.m. on Saturday night, September
Today, we're adding a new entertainment event for this year's Open,
and an added attraction for what's become known as Super Saturday. We're
pleased to announce today the addition of the Heineken Challenge, featuring
two of the game's greatest champions and most charismatic personalities,
John McEnroe and Boris Becker, in a winner-take-all challenge match which
will be played on Super Saturday night immediately following the women's
final. The match will be best-of-three sets with the third set consisting
of a ten-point tiebreak.
This is an event that we all feel represents an opportunity to add
some value for our fans and to our ticketholders to bring more entertainment
to The Open; and I think more importantly to welcome back two of the game's
greatest champions for a match that we think is going to be both competitive
Regarding our new Super Saturday lineup, the day session will now
feature the men's semifinals at 12 noon, and a separate evening session will
now feature the women's final at 8 p.m., followed by the Heineken Challenge
match. We're confident that with the first women's prime time final,
combined with the McEnroe-Becker challenge match, Saturday night under the
lights in New York is going to make for one of the biggest event days on the
tennis calendar this year.
Before turning it over to our two champions, there are a few people
I want to quickly thank for helping make this match possible. First is our
long-term US Open partner, Heineken, and Steve Davis, vice president of
marketing for Heineken USA. Heineken has been, as you all know, a leader in
sponsoring tennis, not only at the US Open, but around the world. We're
very grateful for their efforts to help promote this match and to promote
I also want to thank Gary Swain of IMG. Gary has been a tremendous
help in pulling this together, as well as Per Zeebergs of Boris Becker
International. And of course I want to thank Merv Heller, president of the
USTA, unable to join us today. I know he's very supportive and very excited
about welcoming back both John and Boris to the National Tennis Center.
At this point I want to turn it over to our friend John McEnroe, a
seven-time Grand Slam champion, and to Boris, a six-time Grand Slam champion
- an opportunity to even the score here, Boris. I know they have a couple
of quick comments, then we'll take whatever questions you might have. John.
JOHN McENROE: Just as people have heard me say this, as someone who
grew up in New York, who ball-boyed at the US Open, who obviously played for
many years at Flushing Meadows, and is now still hopefully somewhat a part
of what's going on there with the commentary work, and someone, if anyone
has listened to me, who believes that the "seniors of this world," the past
champions, could add a little flavor to a tournament like the US Open, I'm
very happy to be part of this event because I think we are going to be an
icing on the cake, I believe, to what will be a great night. I think that
we can add a little something to the event.
I hope that this brings something even bigger in the future, but
perhaps something I've been talking about, which is leading to perhaps a
singles event of some kind for the seniors.
Heineken, thank you very much. I've been working with Heineken many
years myself. I appreciate the effort you put into getting this thing
together. I very much look forward to taking care of Boris.
BORIS BECKER: I'm not so sure about that, John (laughter). I'm
calling from Spain. I'm actually in training camp just because I want to
give a great performance on Saturday night. It's been a couple of years
since I've played in front of the fans in New York. I was fortunate enough
in '89 to win the championship. It's been a while since I've been back on
this court. It's an opportunity for me to play in front of my American
fans, especially my New Yorker fans, against my old pal and enemy, John
McEnroe, which for the past, we had always the best matches. I just recall
our Davis Cup match in 1987 in Hartford where we played way over six hours.
Fortunately, though, we have only a best-of-three match, so maybe an hour
and a half match (laughter).
I just add a little bit to John's comment that I think it's going to
be a great Saturday night. It's great entertainment we're putting out
there. Also to the main sponsor, Heineken, especially after a match like
that, really the best afterwards is to have one or two Heinekens to
celebrate the evening.
I want to thank everybody who made this evening possible, the USTA,
and I hope to see you there in a couple of weeks.
JOE FAVORITO: Thank you, John and Boris. We will now take
questions. We ask that the questions towards Boris be limited to his tennis
and training. There have been a lot of things in the media recently that he
cannot comment on. We'd like to keep it as much to tennis and to this great
event as possible.
Q. Boris, what is your training going to be between now and the
match in late August, early September with John?
BORIS BECKER: This is not the only match I will be playing. I've
decided to go back on the tennis court and play special events, with the
seniors. I'm back in training for about six weeks. I'm playing with my old
guys I used to practice with on the men's circuit a couple of hours a day,
plus some gym work. I have another five weeks, six weeks to go. I think
I'm going to be in good shape then.
Q. Boris and John, with Goran Ivanisevic, can you say how much a
miracle victory it was for this guy?
JOHN McENROE: For me, it was very similar to what happened with
Agassi. I think he's inspired a lot of the older players still out there
playing, made them think that anything is possible. When he won the French
a couple years ago, I thought that was a longshot at the time. This one to
me was even more incredible because at least when Agassi won, he worked his
way back into the top ten, was beating most players, maybe not doing so well
in the Slams, but had won some tournaments.
Here was a situation, as far as I know, that since Goran had lost to
Sampras in the finals of the '98 Wimbledon, I believe he had lost more
matches than he had won in the last few years. He got to the situation,
from what I had heard, he was pretty much about to throw in the towel,
possibly retire, had been forced to play the qualifying of Australia, given
wildcards in virtually every tournament he played, including Wimbledon.
It is the ultimate irony for someone who had lost there three years
in a row that he beat two guys like Rusedski in the Round of 16 and
particularly Henman. I think when it rained in that match against Henman,
and he was down two sets to one at that time, I think it was 2-1 in the
fourth, that's when I thought someone up above is looking out for this guy,
he's going to actually pull this thing off.
It's one of those stories that transcends our sport. It's so
incredible. I think it got people's attention that weren't even necessarily
BORIS BECKER: I mean, I really agree there with John. I think it's
probably one of the biggest miracles that happened in tennis for a long
time. Sometimes they even compared it to my first Wimbledon. I think this
is even a bigger miracle because, as John pointed out, Goran was actually
ready to quit. I mean, he barely won a tennis match all year before the
tournament. He lost in the first round in Queen's. His shoulder was sore.
He had a pretty tough draw. For him to come out there and win the whole
thing, it's just an incredible miracle.
Talking about promoting the sport, this is really a perfect
demonstration for many fans around the world that really in the game of
tennis, anything is possible. The guy, 29 years old, losing three times,
being actually known to beat the best players, who never won Wimbledon, to
come out as a winner, it's great.
He's a friend of mine. I was very happy for him. But if there was
anybody before the tournament putting money on Goran, I would have put a
pound or two on him. I didn't see any chance at all for him to win.
Q. Boris, there's no doubt that you have a lot of New York fans.
Can you tell me your mental strategy for playing New York at night,
rambunctious crowd, especially against John McEnroe?
BORIS BECKER: That's the thing I really can't practice. I'm
practicing here in beautiful Spain, very quiet, not many people are
watching. That's probably the biggest hurdle I have to plan, to go out
there in front of 10,000, 15,000 people, to play a New Yorker, who loves the
crowd, who loves to do his thing or two on the court. That's probably the
biggest obstacle I have to climb. But I've done it before, and I think I
will do it again, John (laughter).
Q. Could both John and Boris talk about why the US Open has such a
different feel than the other Slams, maybe say what their best memory from
playing the tournament was over the years?
JOHN McENROE: The answer to me is what we saw at the Monday final
at Wimbledon, which was incredible energy from the crowds. That made to me
that match all the more memorable.
I believe the previous caller referred to the crowds being
rambunctious and loud. To me that absolutely would make it much more
exciting for both of us. I think it lifted Ivanisevic and Rafter when they
played. It brought the sport -- the energy that the crowd showed, and this
is 10,000 people for the entire match, I think it's amazing. I think the
closest it can be to duplicating it is there. I would request and ask for
the people to try to get anywhere near the type of energy there I believe
would make it so much more exciting for us as players, enjoy it so much
more. Frankly, winning or losing, to be part of something like that.
I'm hopeful that it will be like that. I think that's what does
separate this event, is the fact that it's got an energy. This is the
greatest city in the world.
BORIS BECKER: You're not a New Yorker, are you?
Talking from a German, who was brought up in a small town, that was
probably the reason why it took me so long to play well at the US Open
because I just wasn't used to that kind of atmosphere and that kind of
energy. People just went out there to have a good time, and not necessarily
watching tennis, but having a good time. That took years for me to get used
Now in the second part of my career, I've started to enjoy it,
because I finally understood the people. I was trying to give them a good
show for their money. You know, that also, at the end of the day, made me
But it took years of growing up and understanding that this is --
that we're in the entertainment industry and we need people who love the
sport, who were screaming, were really into a match. It took me long time
to adjust to that.
Q. Do either one of you remember a particular time when you were
playing there that is a quintessential US Open moment?
JOHN McENROE: To me, actually it was the first match that I ever
commentated on was when Connors played in a night match. He got the crowd
to like a frenzied pitch. I think it was when he was like 39, he got to the
semis that last time.
The thing that Connors did that I think all of us dreamed about or
tried to emulate was the way he brought the crowd into the match, brought
them up, quieted them down, no matter what he was doing.
To me, it was something even when I first started out playing, when
I saw how intense he was playing, it made me that much more intense and want
to like -- you try to utilize that energy, that it can be there,
The one that I'm probably most recognized for but innocent is when I
played Nastase in a night match. The crowd was like on the verge of total
chaos, which is exactly the way both of us liked it. It got to a stage
where it was almost out of control. But also it's what it's all about.
I think the USTA has done a -- I think it's a really shrewd move to
move the finals to a nighttime match and have I think New Yorkers at night.
I think the energy there is even better than it is during the day.
So I think, I'm hoping, I'm expecting, to feel an incredible amount
of energy that night, for the women and hopefully for the people that stay
to see us.
BORIS BECKER: Me, I actually never understood why the women's final
is sandwiched between two semifinals anyway. It's the championship match.
It ought to have a different place. There's nothing better than a Saturday
night, 8:00 women's final. John and myself, we can add something to the
evening. It will be fantastic.
Yeah, this is in a way, talking about the atmosphere, this is in a
way what tennis needs more. In a sense, it has gotten too quiet. You
talked about the personalities John and I have, sometimes gets us into
trouble in our private lives. But talking about tennis, this is I guess why
many people supported us. It's because, you know, we put our heart on the
court and we were not holding anything back.
You know, talking about matches I remember, most especially evening
matches, most were struggles, not necessarily with the opponent but with the
atmosphere, the people, actually many people rooting against you.
Therefore, it took a -- it was very hard, took a lot of energy to do it.
But afterwards, the rewards, the feelings you have inside after you
won are just so much higher.
Q. We spoke last week in a conference call that you would miss
Connors and Borg on the senior tour. I was wondering, do you feel, without
them, will you have to kind of carry the tour as the top-name player? Will
that fall on your shoulders at all?
JOHN McENROE: I'm hopeful that the people, like Boris specifically,
I think Boris is the person that would inspire me to actually get out and
train hard. There's a bit of difference in age between the two of us. It's
required me to work harder to try to make sure I'm ready for the type of
game that he plays.
BORIS BECKER: I work a couple hours a day.
JOHN McENROE: You better do that, yeah (laughter).
I've been out there playing, and playing well, for the past five
years on the senior circuit. But it's time to sort of up the challenge and
see what I'm capable of doing. This is exactly the person who I believe
would give that boost that we need.
This is like the start of what I hope will be, in the next year or
two, a number of matches or tournaments that we could play, and maybe
getting some of the other guys.
It's just like anything. If Connors and Borg aren't playing, then I
want -- frankly, I want to see these guys anyway. I'm glad Boris is
finally coming out. Bring the other guys out, whoever they are, Edberg.
People, if they think they can go and beat the top seniors player in the
world, I think there should be a real viable circuit where hopefully
Q. You'd rather not just have to do it by yourself? You definitely
want some others?
JOHN McENROE: In tennis, what makes it exciting, is people you look
forward to playing, a rival. To do it by yourself, that's not something I'm
interested in doing. Just having opponents, providing entertainment; I want
there to be competition, too.
Q. John, would you like to see Boris someday on the senior tour?
JOHN McENROE: Yes, absolutely. I believe for him it will be good
for him to get back, see where his form is. You can't substitute for
playing matches. He has youth on his side, but I have the edge that I've
played a lot more matches in the last few years. You can't, like Boris said
earlier, practice playing a night match in front of a bunch of people, the
energy. That can do weird things to like what you think your preparation
I think the edge is being in a situation that I'm used to playing
matches. I'm not used to playing guys that hit the ball as big as he did.
At the same time, I think, because I've played a lot over the course of the
last five or six years, that that will help me when the going gets tough.
I suspect that type of match will help me to offset that two-year
age difference there is between us (laughter).
Q. Boris, can you answer that? Would you be interested at some
point later joining the senior tour?
BORIS BECKER: I'm not talking later, I'm talking on what I'm
planning already. I have a couple exhibitions prior to the US Open, because
I haven't played in two years. I cannot start fresh with a John McEnroe
match, in his town, in front of 10,000 people. I couldn't probably live up
to the billing. Therefore, I'm serious into practicing, and also match
Talking about the next couple years, yes, I intend to play seriously
on the senior's tour. At the end of the day, John was winning most of the
tournaments he was playing. After a while, it's great, but we are
competitors, we live for it, it's important to play against the best. You
don't like to lose, but to give a good performance. I've decided in that
way to come back into tennis. I'm trying to convince my generation, the
Edbergs, Ivan Lendl.
JOHN McENROE: Get him off the golf course.
BORIS BECKER: But guys from my generation who are in their mid 30s,
who are still good enough to play. I know John carried the torch for the
last couple years, and I hope I can put some spice to the senior's tour.
JOE FAVORITO: Thank you, everyone.
JOHN McENROE: Thanks, guys. Talk to you, Boris.
BORIS BECKER: Talk to you, John.
US OPEN INFO
USTA NAMES JIM CURLEY US OPEN TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR
White Plains, N.Y., July 12, 2001 - Arlen Kantarian, Chief Executive,
Professional Tennis at the USTA, today announced that Jim Curley has been
named to the position of US Open Tournament Director. Curley, 42, is known
throughout the industry as one of the most accomplished tennis event
managers, and will join the USTA from IMG where he has spent almost 18 years
working for the world's largest sports representation and event marketing
firm. He will begin his position effective August 1, 2001.
"Jim's unique background and reputation throughout the tennis industry will
be a tremendous asset to the US Open," said Kantarian. "The Open is the
most highly attended annual sports event in the world and an incredibly
complex operation. Jim's expertise will help to take the event to the next
Curley's duties as US Open Tournament Director will include all aspects of
tournament operations, player relations and services, tournament scheduling
and event management. Additionally, he will work closely with Kantarian on
new professional tennis initiatives in an effort to further promote the
sport in the United States.
"The US Open continues to be the measuring stick by which most other
sporting events are measured," Curley said. "I am proud to be able to join
the USTA's Professional Tennis management team to help make this great event
The California native has been with IMG since 1983, and served as the
Tournament Director for the ATP Franklin Templeton Tennis Classic in
Scottsdale, Arizona and the WTA Tour estyle.com Classic in Los Angeles, as
well as overseeing the WTA Tour Bank of the West Classic in Stanford,
California. In addition, he helped to manage IMG's tennis activities
outside of North America and Europe, with a specific focus on Australia
(where he lived for more than three years), Asia and the Middle East.
Curley served on the WTA Tour Board of Directors and was a consultant to the
ATP Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles. His previous client management
relationships have included over a dozen professional tennis players
including Pat Cash, Pam Shriver and Andre Agassi. He has also organized
tennis and golf events in sites from India to Argentina.
Jim is a graduate of Harvard with an A.B. Degree in Economics and played on
the Harvard Varsity Tennis Team. Jim and his wife Roxanne have two
children, Scott 13 and Georgia 10, and will be relocating to the New York
The United States Tennis Association owns and stages the US Open and selects
the teams that compete in Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Olympic Games. The
USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in America and
is a non-profit organization with more than 600,000 members. It invests all
of its resources to promote and develop the growth of tennis, from the grass
roots to the professional levels.
US OPEN INFO
US Open Qualifying ... Day 2 Story ...
New Jersey natives Justin Gimelstob and Eric Taino led a group of nine
Americans that advanced into the second round at the qualifying rounds of
the 2001 US Open Wednesday at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing
Gimelstob, from Morristown, N.J., easily defeated 18-year-old Ytai Abougzir
of Boca Raton, Fla., while Taino, from Jersey City, N.J., struggled to
defeat Alexander Waske of Germany 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (4).
A veteran of two U.S. Davis Cup teams, Gimelstob is attempting to return to
form after suffering from back injuries for most of this season. Gimelstob
held a career high singles ranking of No. 63 in 1999, but has since dropped
to No. 175 and is unseeded in the US Open qualifying tournament.
"I wanted to get as many matches under my belt as possible and to compete as
hard as I possibly can down the line," he said. "I have two herniated discs
in my back that hurts really bad at times but it's off and on. I've been
taking yoga for about the last six weeks and it seems to help a lot so I'm
Conversely, Taino is enjoying his best career season in singles, holding a
career high singles ranking of No. 163 and winning Challenger singles titles
in Brazil and Japan in the last 12 months. A US Open junior doubles champion
in 1992, Taino has reached seven career ATP doubles finals including the
final at Queen's Club this year.
"I've been playing a lot of singles matches this year so my confidence is
very high," said Taino. "Obviously, I would like to qualify, but I'm not
looking too far ahead in the draw, just play one match at a time."
Other Americans advancing on Wednesday include Jeff Morrison of Huntington,
West Virginia, Mike Bryan of Camarillo, Calif., Paul Goldstein of Rockville,
Md., Michael Joyce of Los Angeles, Erika DeLone of Lincoln, Mass., Jamea
Jackson of Boca Raton, Fla., and Tara Snyder of Kansas City, Mo.
Play continues Thursday with second round singles matches in singles.
Players must win three matches to qualify for the main draw of the US Open.
US OPEN INFO