The Chief ends up coaching film stars


HOLD THE BACK PAGE:WHAT NUMBER links Henri Cochet, Bill Tilden, Sid Woods Jnr, Vic Seixas, Roy Emerson, John Newcombe, Bjorn Bjorg, John McEnroe, Suzanne Lenglen, Louise Brough, Mo Connolly, Margaret Smith, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf together?

They have all won Wimbledon singles titles on today’s date, July 3rd.

It’s an impressive grouping in terms of talent and contains some of the greatest names to have graced the courts of the All England Club but there is one other who achieved that feat, Alejandro “Alex” Rodríguez Olmedo, the first South American to win a Slam singles title.

His victory was significant for another reason as the man he beat in the 1959 Wimbledon singles final, was the Rockhampton Rocket, Rod Laver, the Australian playing in his first Slam tournament singles final.

Laver would go on to win 11 Grand Slam singles titles – it’s important to note he didn’t play in the four Slams between the time he turned pro in 1963 and the start of the Open era, 1968 – and in 1962 (amateur era) and 1969 (professional), he captured the Grand Slam of Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open Championships.

Olmedo, known as “The Chief” and born in Arequipa, Peru, first picked up his father’s tennis racquet at seven years of age and by the time he was 17, he was given $700 by a number of tennis patrons to fund a journey to America.

In 1954 he took a boat to Havana, a plane to Miami and a bus to Los Angeles, got a job in tennis, studied English by night and then attended University of South California (USC) for three years.

It was while at USC that he was picked for the American Davis Cup team in 1958 – he qualified on a three-year residency rule – playing a major part in defeating Australia in the final.

His selection for the USA team caused a fair degree of controversy at the time, with New York Times columnist Arthur Dailey writing: “This would seem to be the saddest day in the history of American tennis. A few more such rousing victories and the prestige of this country in tennis will sink to a new low.”

Olmedo didn’t take out US citizenship and was embroiled in another Davis Cup row the following year when reluctant to return from England to face Australia on clay at Forrest Hills in a final the Americans lost.

The Peruvian won just one singles and was accused of going through the motions.

He explained in an interview some years later: “Everyone blamed my personality but they didn’t pay attention to the facts. I had been playing in England. I didn’t want to return to the States to play on clay.

“I needed to rest before my Davis Cup defence. But the USLTA wanted to make money, and it forced me to come back and play.”

That same year Olmedo, despite tearing a stomach muscle in the first round, had won the Australian Open singles, beat Laver at Wimbledon and lost in the US Open final to Aussie Neale Fraser, whom he had beaten in the Australian final of 1959.

Although he turned pro the following year he never enjoyed anything like the same success and eventually took a position as the teaching professional at the Beverley Hills hotel.

Among those whom he tutored were film stars Katherine Hepburn, Robert Duvall and Chevy Chase.

Isner serves up scripted recall of match

JOHN ISNER’S 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (3), 70-68 win over Nicolas Mahut in the first round of Wimbledon singles, a contest that took place over three days and lasted 11 hours and five minutes is unlikely to be usurped in the history books, but the American would rather relegate it to a footnote in his tennis career.

He’s seen his singles ranking rise from 150th in the world to 19 in the last 14 months.

In the aftermath of a remarkable contest Isner admitted: “I am striving really hard and want to be among the list of top-10 players in the world.

“My first priority is to grab a Grand Slam title in the near future.”

He’ll have to wait as less than 24 hours after beating Mahut, the American lost 6-0, 6-3, 6-2 to Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker in just 74 minutes; so for the time being he’s going to have to trade on his marathon victory, something he was content to do when appearing on the David Letterman chat show in a regular segment of the show called “Top 10”.

Isner, reading from autocue, listed 10 things that went through his mind during the Mahut match, or more appositely 10 thoughts with which the Letterman script writers accredited him.

10 “I’m exhausted.”

9 “We have been playing so long I have forgotten whether I am Mahut or Isner.”

8 “Remember when I said I was exhausted, that was eight hours ago?”

7 “Wonder if I will be sore tomorrow?”

6 “I’m going to lay back until 51-50 and then make my move.”

5 “I’m asleep.”

4 “Why couldn’t I have played (Roger) Federer. It would have been over in 15 minutes.”

3 “Cramp.”

2 “Honestly I don’t care of I win or lose. I just don’t want to die.”

1 “Larry King has had marriages that didn’t last this long.”

Press vent anger over England antics

IT SEEMS the England soccer team and management didn’t get things right on or off the pitch at the World Cup in South Africa.

Prior to Sunday’s quarter-final against Germany, the English press conference was limited to five minutes with selected questions from British journalists.

There’s little surprise in learning that some of the world’s media didn’t take kindly to the whole situation, branding the exercise as “arrogant”.

In excess of 250 journalists and 30 television crews turned up at the Free State stadium to quiz England manager Fabio Capello and team captain Steven Gerrard about the upcoming game against the Germans.

Apparently, the English FA’s head of media, Adrian Bevington, only took eight questions from a selection of hand-picked reporters, which didn’t endear him or the process to the masses of the fourth estate.

Reuter’s agency canvassed the opinions of a number of angry journalists, who vented their frustration both verbally and in a litany of global publications.

La Gazzetta dello Sport’sGiancarlo Galavotti pointed out: “That was typical. They do not seem to appreciate this is the World Cup, with the emphasis on the word: “World”.

“The idea that the English set-up is not the friendliest among the top teams is reinforced by this sort of arrogance: this despite the coach being able to answer in three languages, Italian, English and Spanish.

“The FA does not seem to think the rest of the world is important.”

This view was echoed by Jorge Luiz Rodrigues (Brazil’s O Globo newspaper): “That was bad. This is the World Cup. This guy doesn’t know what the World Cup is. He only asks for questions from his friends. This is not professional. If you go to Brazil you will have questions in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.

“All the journalists have the same opportunity. And Brazil is five-times champions, not once.”


Bevington argued that England had complied with Fifa regulations but it didn’t do anything to soothe the assembled non-English media, who, judging by the headlines and text, didn’t little to hide their delight at the subsequent victory by the Germans.

Johnson lands top job

F I N A L S T R A W:TEMPLATES ARE all very well and good until a typesetter is distracted.

Just ask the guy who was working on the programme for Australia’s recent rugby international against Ireland in Brisbane. The Aussies played England the previous week and obviously the format for the double-page spread containing the two teams and managements remained the same.

The person in question made the requisite changes except for one forgetting to remove Martin Johnson’s name (England head coach) and replace it with Declan Kidney (Ireland head coach). Tiredness might have played a part although it’s only in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere season.

Trying to establish what stage of the season it is in the Northern Hemisphere rugby scene is a little more difficult as while the Ireland squad that toured New Zealand and Australia went on holiday last Monday, the four Irish provincial squads begin pre-season training this Monday. The Ireland players will be given a four-week break while the Ospreys have allowed Tommy Bowe six weeks down time.

English officials whistle same tune

THE PERFORMANCE of the England soccer team at the World Cup in South Africa has been largely abject, but the same certainly could not be said of the other English team, referee Howard Webb and his two linesmen, Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey, who have made some outstanding calls in matches over which they have presided.

The English men are enjoying an excellent year having already officiated at the Champions League final between Inter Milan and Bayern Munich in Madrid.

They’ve had to make some big calls in the tournament in South Africa and got most of them spot on, leaving the trio – especially with the England side gone from the tournament – in pole position to take charge of the World Cup final at Soccer City, Johannesburg, on July 11th.

A key to their success has been an ability to work as a unit. Webb concurred: “It’s not just about the referee, it is the officials who make up his team as well and I’m lucky. Sometimes things are impossible to see. There is almost telepathy about the way we work together. I can trust my colleagues.

“When there are 70,000 people in the stadium, and all that noise, it can be a lonely place but I’ve got two mates in my ear, helping me and giving me advice.”

Interestingly all the officials are billeted in the Pretoria University campus and next door to the Englishmen are the Uruguayan officials who ruled out Frank Lampard’s goal against Germany.

There seems to be solidarity amongst the officials as Cann observed: “You have great sympathy (for Mauricio Espinoza). There’s no rivalry.

“We felt disappointed as officials because we want to see everything correct but we feel sorry for our Uruguayan colleagues as well as the England team.”

Diplomatically done.