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Day Seven: Bestowing the Doubles Crown and Some Awards
by Christopher Gerby

E Ferreira/Leach vs. B Black/W Ferreira
Doubles: Semifinal
Court 1

As Ed Toombs mentioned in his report last night, this semifinal doubles bout featured two unrelated Ferreiras and was suspended by rain, with 5th seeded "Team Ellis" leading 6-3, 6-5. The resumption was scheduled for 12:30 Sunday afternoon, but it turned out to be another miserably rain-soaked day in Montreal. The doubles match was moved to Court 1, to avoid further dealying the singles final in the stadium. Team Ellis arrived first, sporting a new look -- identical blue shorts, replacing the identical orange shorts they wore on Saturday night. The world's biggest Byron Black/Wayne Ferreira fan had a new look of her own. She showed up early for the resumption (of course) and was wearing her hair down today, not in the long braid we've come to know and love. There's no question it was her, though. She got a front row seat right behind the player chairs and said "Good luck, guys" to her team of choice when the match was finally about to get underway again. Ed had the singles covered, so I settled in at Court 1, using a few sheets of my Corel WTA Tour notepad (probably a collector's item now that Corel is no longer associated with women's tennis) to dry off a seat of my own.

E Ferreira/Leach may have been up a set and a break, but this was a very tricky stage at which to be picking up a match, with Leach facing double break point. 18 hours after getting down 15-40 on his serve, Rick buried a low forehand volley in the net, immediately sending the second set into a tiebreak. A winning return down the line by W Ferreira was good for an early 2-0 lead. At 3-1, Black hit an apparent ace which was ruled a fault on a very, very late call. "Why didn't you overrule right away?", Byron asked the chair umpire, quite rightly wondering why the umpire said nothing when the serve first seemed to be ruled an ace. That looked like a turning point when Leach drilled a winning return of the second serve, getting the mini-break back at 2-3. "Hang in there, guys," the Black/Ferreira fan pleaded. At 3-3, Black hit a volley right at Ellis, getting the mini-break back at 4-3. Wayne then held both of his service points for a big 6-3 lead. E Ferreira rallied with a forehand down the line and a service winner for 5-6. However, he sent a forehand long on the third set point. Much to their fan's delight, Byron Black and Wayne Ferreira were still alive, having won the second set tiebreak 7 points to 5.

Each player's next service game was an easy one. Black's was the last and the best -- he served a pair of aces in a love hold for 2-2. Ellis was pushed to deuce twice in Game 5, but held on a service winner. Black closed out Wayne's next hold with a volley off the other Ferreira's foot, but Leach held his own serve again for a 4-3 lead in the final set. The singles final was into a second set by now, so there were only four fans in the stands (if you don't count people wearing badges: ushers, ball boys, coaches). The "Team Wayne" fan is vocal enough all by herself, though, and her words seemed to ringing in Ellis Ferreira's ears. He had one heck of a scowl working throughout the set, but had reason to be happy in Game Eight. W Ferreira missed a volley for 30-40 and Black double faulted, giving away the set's first break. The #5 seeds now had a winning lead at 5-3. Team Wayne did not give up, though. Black came up with a running, two-handed forehand pass down the middle, taking a 0-40 lead and earning an ecstatic cry of "Oh, awesome!" from their #1 fan. Facing triple break point, E Ferreira sent a volley wide, let loose with a very angry scream, and threw his racquet at his chair. All of a sudden, the final set was back on serve at 5-4.

Wayne hit an ace in an easy hold for 5-5, then delivered a beautiful lob and a smash in taking a 15-30 lead against Leach. Rick missed a volley for 15-40 and put up a bad shank early in the next rally. W Ferreira clobbered that ball, breaking serve with a winning smash. Leach bellowed, "MIS-HIT!!!" and stormed to the changeover, his team now down a very late break at 5-6. Could this match possibly have another swing of momentum? Yes. Black double faulted and netted a backhand on the last two points of a love break. This wild, intense, two-day match was going to be decided in one more tiebreak.

After opened the tiebreak with an errant forehand volley, Ellis turned around and slammed a ball against the back fence. Leach got the mini-break back two points later, returning a first serve for a down-the-line winner and a 1-2 score. Wayne shanked a return for 2-2, but jumped high to drive home a smash for 3-2. An E Ferreira return clipped the tape and fell back, so he and Leach changed sides with a 2-4 deficit. Service winners from Black and Ellis made it 5-3. E Ferreira put a backhand into the net, getting down triple match point. Wayne Ferreira then pounded a service winner, clinching the 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3) victory. Ellis Ferreira viciously slammed his racquet to the court and had to cool off a bit before shaking hands with the winning team. Team Wayne's fan, meanwhile, was absolutely thrilled. She talked her guys into sheepishly posing for a picture after their see-saw semifinal win.

Overcome by curiosity, I approached the Black/Ferreira fan to find out what the heck her story is. She was still beaming after the close, exciting match and remarked at how fortunate her guys were to get that rain delay last night. "It was, like, a prayer. It's unbelievable, unbelievable, because I really thought they were gonna lose, like, yesterday had they continued." I asked if she had just discovered Byron and Wayne this week. Byron Black and Wayne Ferreira
"I knew who they were before, but I never really saw any of their matches. Just by chance, I saw Ferreira playing Woodforde earlier in the week and I noticed he played really, really well. So I started following his -- and then their -- matches and I'm very impressed!" As we parted company, she said, "I'm so happy! I'm really, really happy" and called a friend on her cellular phone with the good news about Team Wayne's win.

Bjorkman/Rafter vs. B Black/W Ferreira
Doubles: Final
Court Central

By the time I finally got out of the Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Thomas Johansson press conferences, the doubles final was in a first set tiebreak. The 6th seeded team of Jonas Bjorkman/Patrick Rafter and the unseeded Black/Ferreira partnership switched sides at 3 points all. Ferreira popped a volley long, falling down a mini-break at 3-4. He also missed a lob, making it 3-5. Rafter and Ferreira exchanged half-volley misses for 6-4 and Patrick failed to covert the set point, hitting a backhand return in the net. A Bjorkman serve on the second set point was too much for Ferreira to handle, though. He netted the return, wrapping up a first set win for the reigning Australian Open champs. It had to be a crushing blow for Black and Ferreira, considering how much tennis they'd already played this afternoon.

The opening game of Set 2 included one very entertaining rally -- Bjorkman made a jumping save of a Ferreira smash, but Wayne's second smash skied past Rafter, who playfully lobbed his racquet at it. Ferreira was pushed to deuce twice before holding. A Rafter smash ended Bjorkman's hold for 1-1. With Black trailing 15-40 in his service game, Rafter ripped a cross-court forehand; Byron lunged for it, but his volley landed in the net, giving the #6 seeds the first break of the match and a winning lead at 7-6, 2-1. Easy service holds from each player took the set to 4-3. Rafter's second consecutive love hold gave himself and Bjorkman a solid 5-3 lead in the second set, but Ferreira stayed alive with a hold for 4-5. A great rally ensued at 30-15 in the set's 10th game, but Bjorkman ended it by putting away an overhead. Rafter then ended the match with a smash of his own. It was a very, very solid finish for Bjorkman and Rafter, who claimed their third title of 1999 by a 7-6, 6-4 count. Bjorkman lobbed a ball into the stands after the 74-minute contest, then collected the customary trophy and check with Patrick.

In the post-match speech, Rafter thanked the fans for staying out there to support doubles (an ironic comment, coming as it did from a guy whose own commitment to doubs is on the wane). There weren't many reporters expressing interest in the doubles final, so the teams were not brought into the interview room for formal press conferences. Instead, the few of us who wished to have some words with them were led into the player lounge. Now I know why the players rave about the facilities here in Montreal. Their lounge is a spacious paradise, replete with fountains, fake palm trees, TV screens, video games, and obscenely comfortable chairs.

Wayne Ferreira wandered off when ATP Tour rep Greg Sharko tried to get his attention, but I was happy to let Byron Black speak on behalf of the team. I asked if, having played so well with Wayne over the past two weeks (they won the doubles title in Los Angeles right before coming to Montreal), he planned to partner with him for the rest of the season. "No, this might be our last tournament, actually. We've had a good couple of weeks. It's funny -- it often happens like that when you start winning a few matches, everything starts clicking, and you keep rolling. We've been playing with a lot of confidence. You know, it's funny, we could have lost first round at this tournament, but -- like I said -- when you're on a roll, you just sorta pull through. We just came one short today. We were lucky to get through the semifinals, actually." Of course, I had to ask about the infamous fan. "Yeah, yeah, we've had that supporter. Yeah, she drove a few people crazy, I think -- a few of our opponents. We don't really know the lady. She just came and fancied us and really supported us hard."

Jonas Bjorkman came over to us next. I asked him if there was a little extra motivation, teaming up with Rafter for the last time this summer. He didn't really comment on that, but said, "It's always nice to win the big tournaments, like Grand Slams and Super Nines. So, it's a great week for us." I mentioned that he and Patrick had probably earned enough points to qualify for the year-end World Doubles Championships in Hartford, but Jonas admitted they're likely to skip that event again. "It probably looks very tough. Unfortunately, we have the doubles Masters the week before the singles... I still think that I'm not gonna make it to singles, but I think Pat would have a good chance. That (Hartford before Hannover) is not a good preparation for him, so that's just the way it's gonna be, unfortunately." Jonas also said that he and Rafter will be getting back together for the indoor season, so there don't appear to be any hard feelings over Pat choosing to take some time off from doubles.

Patrick Rafter was having his shoulder iced again and also had to take a drug test, so there was a wait of about 15 minutes before he turned up. I asked him if this win was a satisfying end to his summer doubles campaign. "Yeah, it is. I mean, Jonas is starting to play very good doubles and we're playing well together, but it's just too difficult, considering the state of the body. It's a hard, very grinding circuit, the North American hard court tournaments. You know, we have to sort of be at the top of our game and my priority is singles. Doubles is great -- it's good for matches and things -- but I think it's time to hang it up." I asked if Bjorkman's hunch that the two would next play together in Ostrava sounded about right. "Umm, I don't know about that. I haven't really spoken to him about the indoor season yet. Indoor courts are very hard on your body, so I may give him a miss. I don't know yet." When it became clear that the interview was winding down, he good-naturedly sent us off with, "Move on now, people. Move on to Cincinnati." Sorry, Pat -- that's one trip On The Line won't be making this year. However, you can take a couple of my week-summarizing awards with you...

Chris G's 1999 du Maurier Open Awards

MATCH OF THE WEEK: Nicolas Kiefer d. Patrick Rafter -- No match in this year's Nicolas Kiefer
tournament took up more lines in my notepad, which is a credit both to the length and quality of this 6-3, 6-7, 7-6 quarterfinal clash. An enthusiastic capacity crowd lent an extra dose of atmosphere as Kiefer used his deadly ground game to chip away at Rafter's potent serve-and-volley attack. Momentum swings, breathtaking rallies, daring shot selection, a pair of nail-biting tiebreaks -- this match had it all.

UPSET OF THE WEEK: Sebastien Lareau d. Richard Krajicek -- Ranked 116th in the world, Lareau had to be considered a long shot at best to bump off 5th seeded Krajicek, particularly on a fast court which perfectly suited the big-serving Dutchman. The Court Central crowd had faith, though, and so did Lareau. This was neither a fluke nor a tank job; Sebastien had to come up with great shots under big pressure to finally oust the '96 Wimbledon king 4-6, 7-6, 6-4.

CONTROVERSY OF THE WEEK: The ATP Tour's soon-to-be-enforced rule making the Grand Slam and Super Nine tournaments mandatory for the Top 50 players (with no exceptions made for injuries or even funerals) was bandied about this week and is sure to bubble up into a major point of contention soon. However, my favorite bit of intrigue involved a "tattle-tale" linesman helping Jim Courier get nailed for unsportsmanlike conduct (see my Day Five report). Jim's expecting a hefty fine for his abusive language, but was content with having "won the verbal war." Runners-up: Guillaume Raoux arguing incessantly with chair umpire Norm Chryst on Tuesday; Andre Agassi apparently trying to hit Michael Chang with a shot on Thurdsay.

POINT OF THE WEEK: Nothing brought back more vivid memories than the heart-stopping Thursday night rally which featured Andre Agassi running Michael Chang all over the court. Scrambling from sideline to sideline with rabbit-like quickness, Michael got to at least two or three balls the average player wouldn't even bother making a step toward. Agassi finally buried a groundstroke in the net, losing that battle of wills before ultimately winning the match in straight sets.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK: Yevgeny Kafelnikov d. Andre Agassi -- I didn't Yevgeny Kafelnikov
expect to see a more impressive showing than Patrick Rafter's downright hegemonic 6-0, 6-2 second round drubbing of Alex O'Brien. However, that was just a warmup for the main event: Kafelnikov's incredibly comprehensive dismissal of Agassi. "You played like Stradivarius, the first violin at the symphony orchestra," one reporter effused after the 6-1, 6-4 upset. Honorable mention: Byron Black was an athletic, fired-up volleying machine in the second round of doubles, teaming with Wayne Ferreira to topple #2 seeds Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor.

CHOKE OF THE WEEK: You could make a very good argument for giving this award to Jan Kroslak, who held a 7-5, 5-3 lead over Michael Chang before completely self-destructing. However, an even uglier display in the clutch came from Magnus Larsson at the end of his first round match. The hard-hitting Swede hacked up a double fault, five unforced errors, and a semi-forced error to lose a third set tiebreak to Guillaume Raoux, 7 points to 1.

FAN OF THE WEEK: The thousands of fervent Canadians who helped carry Sebastien Lareau into the third round definitely made their mark on this year's tournament, but no individual stood out more than the Byron Black/Wayne Ferreira supporter. This vocal blonde could be heard screaming in delight after nearly every point her doubles team of choice won this week. She even got a Court Central seat right behind Byron and Wayne's chairs for the doubles semifinal. When a rain delay hit that match, she simply popped open an umbrella and stayed put, grooving to Ricky Martin music until the match's resumption was officially postponed. For sheer enthusiasm and dedication, this woman was the tournament MVP.

BEST INTERVIEW: Jim Courier -- Nobody generated a higher rate of memorable quotes than this articulate, quick-witted, mischievous American. Only Courier would think to compare Montreal and Toronto by mentioning that he's "gotten drunk in both cities." Whether the topic was serious or frivelous, Jim filled the notebooks with bon mots. Speaking of "bon mots," Courier deserves extra credit for his impressive ability to field questions in French.

WORST INTERVIEW: Jim Courier -- Yes, the redhead gets both prizes. He's not as stand-offish with the press as he was for a few years, but Jim sure does enjoy making the media wait. He was extremely, inexplicably late for all four of his post-match interview sessions this week, to the point where reporters adjusted to Jim's personal time zone and knew not to expect him until long after a match. This would have been fine if Courier specified in advance (through the ATP Tour reps) that he'd be a while, but he apparently preferred to keep us is suspense. He pulled that same act here in '97, arriving so late that reporters who'd given up and headed off to dinner had to scramble back out of the media dining room to speak with him.

CLASSIEST MOVE: Marcelo Rios was, very surprisingly, an early contender Marcelo Rios
for this honor. To his credit, Rios stuck around for Monday night's Court Central ceremony even though he had dropped out of the tournament with an injury. Michael Chang put in his bid for the award on Thursday night, following his spirited match against Andre Agassi. Chang probably wanted to get off that court as quickly as possible, but he waited patiently at his chair while Agassi was being interviewed by Canadian TV. Rather than walk off to an Thomas Johansson
interview-interrupting ovation, Michael waited and left at the same time Andre did, allowing them to share the considerable applause. Chang refused a post-match interview, though, so the class award goes to Patrick Rafter taking questions in the training room after following his epic singles loss with a tough doubles win on Friday night. It was a very long night for an ailing Rafter, but he graciously made himself available nonetheless.

No award for Thomas Johansson, but he can console himself with $361,000 and his first Mercedes Super Nine title. His surprise win over Yevgeny Kaflenikov closed out what was, all in all, a memorable week. Unlike the eternally busy Kafelnikov (who's about to embark on four more tournaments in a row), yours truly will now be resting up for the U.S. Open. See you then.