Joe Lipsick is one of America’s preeminent academic researchers. At Stanford University, where he is a professor of pathology and genetics, his Lipsick Laboratory conducts cutting-edge studies of “the structure and function of chromosomes and chromatin in metazoans”. How exactly that connects to tennis, I’m not really clear. But, to me, he is a court god who walks among us. Why? Well, because this afternoon he told me, “I came to the Legends Week because of your blog.”
I found this out because Joe wound up with my 2011 doubles partner Rich Flisher this week. They’re doing pretty well—undefeated going into the Thursday matches—and the three of us found ourselves chatting in the morning, following singles play. He’d been told about the Legends by Stanford women’s coach Kathy Rinaldi, and his follow-up investigation took him to www.tennisresortsonline.com. “When I read about your experience, I thought it sounds perfect for someone like me. And I wasn’t wrong.” He laughed, and said, “You know what I heard on the court today. ‘Serve the effing ball, sh–bird!’” That probably wouldn’t play as well in Palo Alto.
In fact, the entire day was serendipitous for me. More good weather, featuring a bright sun and temperatures drifting into the upper 80s. And, given that we weren’t playing Newk, I was allowed to go on the clay. My opponent, English attorney Howard Rogg, was even close to me in age (a couple of years older, in fact) and we had a lovely time. At least I did, prevailing 6-4, 6-2 in a match that was closer than the final score.
Before the match began, at breakfast, teammate Marty Judge and I reflected a bit on line-calling and how a bad call or boorish behavior gets in your head. One of the pure pleasures of this week is the casual conversation over a meal or a drink with people you’ve just met, or only see once a year. They’re invariably interesting, informed, and thoughtful. Marty had recently played the men’s 60s singles at the National Grasscourt Championships at my home club, the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills, and while he hadn’t experienced any brutal calls there, he could remember tough calls from years earlier in USTA leagues. We spent 20 minutes thinking about “hose jobs.” It was as if he was prescient. A couple of hours later, after his morning match, he was fuming. He’d had five questionable calls he could specifically recall, including when they happened, where they landed, and how he reacted. “A match like that,” he said, “can ruin your week.”
The rest of the day, however, made mine. Our Dunnies team led Roy Emerson’s Wankers by one point at the mid-day break, and coach Stolle noted that we were 4-0 in supertiebreakers, we’d had two stirring comebacks, and that our afternoon doubles would make the difference.
A few hours later, the difference was made. We’d beaten Emmo’s team by three, and my partner Greg and I had taken out the experienced team of Jim Baumgarten and Bill, coming from behind in the first set, to win 7-5, 6-3. We’d even overcome the daunting moment—right before the first point—when Roy Emerson sauntered onto the court to tell my opponents how to beat me. “Really?” I said as he strolled past me, grinning, “Can you do this in a minute? It shouldn’t take any longer than that.”
To his credit, he threw me a complement later that evening. As did my Fantasy Doubles partner Brian Gottfreid, the great American all-arounder, a David Cup regular, who carried us to a 7-6 win over Murph Jensen and camper Rob Delman, a strong player in his own right. “My first win in six sets against Jensen,” Gottfried said. Murph just grimaced and tried to strangle me. Then he beat Brian again in the next set.
As evening wound down, Newk and Owen Davidson reminisced about the greatness of Rod Laver, both asserting he was—without a doubt—the best player ever. And then it was time for the Australian Boat Race, a chug-a-lug contest that included my doubles partner, the rocket scientist, and my nemesis, Rory Springfield, wearing his Giants shirt. No one seemed to be having a better week than Rory. So no surprise his team won.
I was happy to share the magic.