The year was 1987, and that was the last year that I competed in all three events at Wimbledon: singles, doubles and mixed doubles. I played doubles with Dan Cassidy, who played tennis at Auburn University. We drew the 10th-seeded team of Mike DePalmer and Kevin Curren in the first round. This was one of the first years that they played the first two rounds as a best of three sets instead of five, so our match was even shorter. We lost in two sets, 6-4, 6-4.
I played mixed doubles with Paula Smith who lived in San Diego. We had played together a few times before. Interestingly enough, the Grand Slams were the only tournaments that you could play mixed doubles. Paula’s father, Claude M “Tad” Smith was a great Ole Miss standout in football and baseball back in 1928. He was the Athletic Director from 1946-1970 and the basketball field house is named the Tad Smith Coliseum. Anyways, we lost first round to the seventh-seeded team of Donnie Visser and Rosalyn Fairbank 7-5, 5-7, 6-3. They were from South Africa and were always good doubles players. Fairbank’s reached as high of 12th in the world and Visser reached the #1 ranking in doubles in 1990.
Well, my last time that I would play in the main draw in singles at Wimbledon, I drew a gift in the first round. Wimbledon has eight wild cards that they can give to anyone for a direct entry in the draw. They usually give it to the highest-ranked English players, and I drew one of them named Stephen Botfield in the first round and had an easy time winning 6-1, 6-1, 6-2. Then I noticed my next opponent who would be Stefan Edburg had won 6-0 6-0 6-0. Boy, I was a little worried about that match and it turned out that I was rightfully worried.
Now, finally, I made it to the center court after all these years. I didn’t have to curtsy because there were no members of royalty in the box at the time. Well, you always get extra tickets if you’re playing on center court and I had no one with me at the time, so I had plenty to hand out. I had a buddy named Lem Lubin, who was in the music business in London, and he told me that he knew the manager of Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. I jumped on that fast and we called the manager and left two tickets for Roger Waters to watch Mel Purcell and Stefan Edburg at center court. It was a Wednesday match when we started and it began to rain and Waters never made it to the match.
Back in the locker room, Lem had dug up Roger Waters’ phone number and I called him up and talked to him. I said “Hello, Mr. Waters” and he just expressed his sorrow that they couldn’t make it to the match and wished me good luck. Of course, I said, “I wish you were here,” and laughed. That made my day, and we didn’t finish that match until Friday because of all of the rain. I eventually went down 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. I enjoyed my days there at Wimbledon, but I will take Paris and New York over it anytime.
This year in the men’s singles there are no surprises as the big three are showing off their power. Djokovic looked really good. His footwork is quick and he seems determined to catch Nadal and Federer for Gram Slam titles. The two clay courters Pella and Bautista Agut had a good match if you like to watch baseline tennis. Bautista Agut won and he will draw Djokovic next. Federer and Nadal both looked incredible and they have set up the match of the century. I am really excited about this match and I am picking Roger. Then on the women’s side, Simona Halep won her semi-final match over Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-3. And now she will face the incredible Serena Williams who disposed of Barbora Strycova 6-1, 6-2. Serena looked incredibly sharp and is moving well and is hitting with great power. And it looks like she will be ready to go for her 24th Grand Slam singles title. It’s going to be a great final Halep and Williams.
Thank you for letting me share some stories and tennis facts. I’ll return soon with some US Open stories from New York. My picks for the winners of the 2019 Wimbledon championships are Djokovic and Williams. Thanks for reading.