Magazine article The Spectator

Gentlemen and Athletes

Magazine article The Spectator

Gentlemen and Athletes

Article excerpt

I was happy to see two Spaniards win the French tennis, although I would have preferred Monica Seles for sentimental reasons. I hate her grunting, but she did get a raw deal when a German in love with Steffi Graf knifed her in the back. Very un-German, that. I'm madly in love with Steffi's body, but even I wouldn't stab someone for it. Mind you, the way Venus Williams and her sister go around trying to intimidate their opponents, someone soon will draw a knife. I sometimes think the last black professional American athlete to act like a gentleman was Jesse Owens, and he was an amateur.

In the American Basketball League, as revealed by Sports Illustrated, a cheer-leader type of magazine, there is an out-ofwedlock child for every player. One black multi-millionaire, Shawn Kemp, has seven with six different women, while Latrell Sprewell - he's the one who tried to strangle his coach, was suspended, but had the suspension judged illegal by the courts had three kids with three different girls before he was 20.

Go figure, as they say in Brooklyn. But back to tennis and the Spanish Armada. The French were very disappointed not to see Cedric Pioline in the final, but his road to the semis had been too tough for him to make it through. Pioline is a nice guy, as many French tennis players tend to be. It is a funny thing. The French have a reputation for being an arrogant and difficult people, yet their tennis players are extremely nice. When I was on the circuit, Pierre Darmon, Pierre Barthes, Robert Haillet were all close buddies. Jean-Noel was a pig but then he had Thierry Roussel as a nephew. Marcel Bernard was the last real Frenchman to win Roland Garros, which he did in 1946. I say real because Yannick Noah, who won in 1983, was born in Cameroon and discovered by Arthur Ashe. Another Frenchie won the first postwar Wimbledon, Yvon Petra, playing in long trousers. Petra was very genial, but the double French victory on clay and on grass had Gardner Mulloy mumbling `while we were fighting they were training . . ', type of thing.

The Queens' finals are this Sunday, and I shall be attending as a guest of Frank Lowe, the man who sponsors it. Although I love tennis and still compete in the veterans tournaments, I shall be going there for social reasons. …

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