Saturday, December 29, 2012

REFLECTIONS: Another Christmas tennis surprise

Beginning page personalized

As originally appeared in NYTimes
Last year during this festive holiday season, I shared my thoughts about a wonderful gift received under the tree. This happened to be an authentic Wimbledon towel from none other than Christy in the U.K. Well, santa must have been doing some serious research this year to find a tennis gift to match, or even top, something as meaningful as that simple piece of cloth with green and purple. And he was successful. Just wait until you hear about this new level of tennis infatuation.

The box was rather heavy, very flat, and about the size of a frying skillet. What emerged amidst the the paper, tape and cardboard wrappings was definitely not for the kitchen however. I carefully slid out what appeared to be an atlas-sized hard back book. The burgany leatherette cover, emblazoned with the words "The New York Times: A History of the Men's US Open Tennis Championships", was exciting and intriguing. Upon closer inspection, as I turned the first few pages, I found a customized sticker that stated, "Presented to Ronald Miller, Christmas 2012." I gulped and moved on. The first three pages that followed listed the men's final combatants from 1925 to present beginning with a win by William T. Tilden and ending with Andy Murray taking his first Grand Slam title. This was history unfolding before my eyes as I viewed names such as Hewitt, Roddick, Stich, Rafter, Connors, Borg, Lendl and Gerulaitis. But in addition, I glanced at Ashe, Rosewall, Edberg, Roche, Kramer, and even Laver. I once again moved on.

Handsome hard-bound cover
What was in front of me was an authentic replication of primary source content from the New York Times. In essence, this beautifully bound book held the actual printed copies (not newsprint) of every U.S. Open Men's final since 1925. I was captivated. While I certainly have not lived long enough to have experienced all of these dates, with over 40 years on a court, I have seen many. The photos are as telling as the writing, and the ads that appear on pages as a part of this time capsule are precious. Who knew for example that in the same year that Fred Perry beat Don Budge for the trophy, one could get their spark plugs cleaned-while you wait-for 5 cents each at a registered AC Cleaning Station. The year was 1936.

US Open Champions at a glance
I have only begun to uncover the gems yet to be found in this compendium of tennis history, and in particular, US Open lore. But I certainly look forward to sitting with a hot cup of coffee, held far away from the book of course, and taking a time-machine trip that will no doubt inspire me for the coming tennis year. Earlier this holiday season, I blogged holiday gift ideas for the tennis player on your list. Guess what I will be including as a part of next years' recommendations.

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