BONUS Episode: Luke Jensen

1993 ATP French Open Doubles Grand Slam winner Luke Jensen tells the story of what it was like for him and his brother, Murphy Jensen to win the men’s doubles event at Roland Garros.

Shaun Boyce USPTA: [email protected]

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Transcript
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where you can also find deals on equipment, apparel, and more.

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In this clip, Luke Jensen tells the 1993 French Open story.

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Have a listen, let us know what you think.

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So tell us one thing always curious.

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Obviously, number one is a junior.

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The grand slam, we always hear the players say they want to be peaking by the finals.

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Let's go back, 93, that French Open experience.

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How does it start?

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How do you maintain the intensity?

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Now we're getting close.

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We might actually pull this off to keep it all level, to actually pull it off.

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Yeah, my answers get long.

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Just cut me off because I can get going.

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The reality was is that I'm two and a half years older than Murphy.

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I turned pro in '87 after two years at Southern Cal.

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Then Murphy joined the team in '88, '89, and then transferred to Georgia in '90.

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That's when the whole Jensen clan moved to Atlanta when Murphy transferred to Georgia.

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Atlanta is obviously the number one tennis city in the world.

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It has at every level, every facility.

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You can just stay here and just become a grand slam champion.

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Just by training out of the facilities here, the knowledge, the coaching out of here.

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So I turned pro in '87.

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So I had a couple of year head start working through the minor leagues of the game.

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And I teamed up with a guy from Australia, Laurie Warder, in '91 and '92.

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And we jumped in the top 10, two years straight.

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And my dream and Murphy's dream, we were always kind of,

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we always wanted to play doubles together at the pro level,

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since we were kids that we were going to be a doubles team.

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And then he turned pro after is in '90, after is junior year at Georgia.

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So he turned pro and started working his way up.

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And I would bounce down from time to time and play those smaller tournaments with him.

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But then go back up with the money was and play in '91, '92.

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With Laurie Warder, we made the World Championships a couple of years.

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And then it was Murphy got into the top 100.

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And I was top 10.

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And it's like, his ranking was high enough where we could slide into these Australian open, Sydney, San Jose.

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I mean, yeah, San Jose, all these tour level events.

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So Laurie went to play with another guy.

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They ended up winning the Australian.

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And Murphy and I kind of did well.

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We got to the, I think the semis are finals of Sydney.

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And then we had some first round losses, but we have semis of San Francisco and then a couple of early losses.

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And then the tournaments Murphy couldn't get in like Indian Wells.

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I'd final with an old college teammate, Scott Melville, or like Madrid.

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We got to the finals there.

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So it was just kind of fine where Murphy and I could get in the tournaments.

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But there was a point in the after Miami Miami open.

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We got into like a losing streak, Murphy and I.

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And it was eight weeks in a row, first round.

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And it was, it was one of those gut check things because I'd reached the quarters the year before

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in the French, John Welling, third round of Wimbledon.

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So I had a lot of points coming up.

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I think finals of Rome, the Italian open,

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want a smaller lead up event to the French. So I was top 10, but the gold standard as a pro is not

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the cash. That's a byproduct of your winning and hard work.

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It's the point you get to get you into the bigger tournaments, the point you win,

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that sustains you out there.

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And it's a 12 month deal.

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I mean, you've got to back that sucker up the next year.

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You're only as good as what you can defend.

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And every player knows what's coming up.

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What points are coming up? They know, especially now you could figure it out in the

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math in the old days because the rankings would come out every Monday, 52 weeks a year.

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Now it's live ranking. I know if I'm going up or going down, what will happen if I do go down.

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So it's a different pressure for the players now.

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But after we lost our eighth tournament in a row, first round.

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And this was that was at the German open in we're in Hamburg.

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Three sets and we lost matches every which way possible.

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Really bad. We had match points.

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Three sets, two sets every which way.

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And Murphy was really feeling it.

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You know, he was like, listen, you got all these points coming off.

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If you, you know, I don't know if this is going to work out, you know, it's like kind of another

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defining moment and a kind of a fork in the road like, what are we going to do?

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And I really had no doubt.

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This is what I wanted to do. It's what I always wanted to do.

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So I has the big brother and, you know, I said, listen, we're going to make it.

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You know, I believe in you and I really do believe he's six foot four left handed serves one

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thirty huge shot maker.

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But this was his, you know, wasn't even his first full year.

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He was like just six months on the real tour.

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That's where the real players are.

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You know, then the people that are playing pro tennis.

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That means people that are playing pro tennis, but they're not making any money.

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You know, professional means you are making money as a mechanic, as a drywaller.

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Like you're making a living.

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Same thing in pro tennis.

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If you're in the top 100 for the most part, you are at least breaking even

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in the higher you rank, you're making some more money.

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And that's a professional tennis player.

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And, um, and Murphy was just six months into that, where everyone's playing for their scratch.

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And they're cash.

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And it's, it's a different type of animal that can really survive that jungle.

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And so I said, you know, I believe in you, I don't care if we dropped to a thousand in the world

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and we're playing in some, you know, future satellite in South America or South Africa.

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We're going to do this.

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We're going to figure this out and we're going to get it.

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And it was like, that was the confidence or that was like the reassurance.

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Maybe he needed because the next week, you know, we got in the dog fight with the team that

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it was the number one seed at the Italian Open, Werenrome, playing at night.

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It's an unbelievable experience playing in Rome at night.

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The fans are whistling and throwing coins at you.

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And it's, it's just a, it's crazy.

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And it was Mark, uh, Mark Rossay and Yacoblastic did one of the French

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the year before they played Davis Cup for Switzerland.

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We'd beaten them the US in the, in the US Davis Cup win in 91.

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Now I was on that team as a practice partner.

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It was Mac and Rose Samperous, Agassi Courier Chang.

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And so I knew them very well.

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Murphy Murphy had never played against them or anything like that.

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We win that in three sets.

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And it got a little chippy, you know, and, you know, we, we always played with a lot of intensity.

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And we tried it all the time like make it a brawl.

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And high fives, chest bumps and things like that.

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And traditional tennis, they didn't like that.

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And so, you know, they'd take a couple of shots and, you know, that's where we wanted.

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We wanted that kind of match.

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So we win that, get to the semis and then get to the next week,

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which is blowing itally, which is a warm-up tournament.

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And we get to the finals.

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So great. We're on kind of a roll and we get to, uh, to Paris on that, uh, Monday.

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And, uh, and Murphy's, I'm sorry, take that back.

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So they always finish the, the week of the Saturday before the major start is when those warm-up tournament

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finishes. So we got like a Sunday practice and, um, back then, the day before was really quiet.

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No one was really there. Players were kind of done.

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We were getting like the last, late afternoon practice.

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And I sat with them and I said, you know, Murphy, we could win this tournament.

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And he's like, what do you, he'd never been to Paris before?

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What, what are you talking about?

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We, uh, no, seriously, like, we could win this tournament.

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And, uh, he just thought we were nuts.

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I said, we just have too many weapons.

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We just go out there in every single match.

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And so it really started.

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We were unseated, unproven.

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There wasn't anything to say that like we, we're really like a proven team at all.

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We had once a match and had a nice little run.

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But I always feel like when you, in this sport,

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specifically, the players, I, I don't think they understand it enough.

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Um, they talk about, I need confidence.

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I need to play with confidence.

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You don't have confidence.

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You can't play in that rare air.

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You're done.

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Like you, you're confident or you're not.

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And you better be confident when you're getting your teeth kicked in,

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you're down to set in a break or you're in the fifth set and you got nothing left in the tank.

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You better have something.

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And that's a choice.

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Confidence is choice.

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And I tell kids that all the time and they have a tough time understanding that.

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Just gives you when a bunch of matches doesn't mean you're confident.

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That means you've got some momentum.

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And that's exactly what we had.

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We had some momentum going into the French open.

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Um, because the last three weeks, uh, I'm sorry, two weeks at the Italian

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and then this warm up tournament in Bologna.

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And then really how it started is that we, we really competed well as a team.

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And we win the first, uh, match 12, 10 and a third.

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We're down match points.

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I hit a return.

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I break a string.

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They go back to me.

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I make a decision.

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Another defining moment.

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Do you love it or do you rip it?

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I rip it.

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We end up winning.

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You know, that ball could have just still been flying today.

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But, you know, the tennis gods blessed us and it went in.

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We win that match.

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Next round, we win 12, 10 and the third.

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Um, the, uh, down match points win that one.

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So now we're in the third round.

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And, um, we're down five, three and the third.

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And Murphy and I are fighting with each other.

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We used to compete really hard against our opponents.

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But we used to compete really hard with each other.

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And throughout the match, we would be going at each other like siblings do.

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And so fortunately, our mom was there who's the boss, the agent and everything.

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And she would just happen to be at the tournament.

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And during this ring, the like, I'm in the players lounge.

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And I'm nowhere close.

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I have no idea where Murphy is.

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I'm honestly on the phone with United Airlines.

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And I'm looking at my watch and I know this rain delay is going to be over in like 40 minutes.

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They have covers on the court.

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They're going to pull the covers back.

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We're going to lose one game and I can be on a 730 flight back to the United States.

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I can be fishing tomorrow for salmon and Lake Michigan.

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And I can, you know, I'll be, you know, getting ready for Wimbledon.

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All of a sudden, there's a pull on my, on the back of my shirt.

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And there's Murphy and it's my mom holding both of us like Mama Bear does.

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And bang in our heads together, you two worked together.

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You know, it was like we're with juniors all over again.

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Bang in our heads together, start working together, start communicating and stop fighting.

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Yes, mom, you know, in front of all the other players.

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Saboteenies there, hot, hot baves on the WCH.

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So it was really embarrassing, but it kind of like woke us up.

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We ended up winning 7-5 in the third.

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It's fantastic.

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Now we're in the second week.

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We're in the fourth round.

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And, which is quarters.

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And we get to play even a civich and LaCont.

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LaCont's big French omen and everything.

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And every time when we warmed up, it was in the old number one court called the Bullring.

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And the fans were right on top of you.

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They've now taken that court away, but it was a special environment,

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especially when you play a Frenchman or a French player.

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And every time in the warm-up, we would hit the ball.

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They would boo us.

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And when they would hit the ball in the warm-up, they would cheer.

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Ah, I got it.

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You know, 5,000, 6,000 people doing this.

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So in the warm-up.

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So it was a unique environment.

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We end up winning.

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And there's another caveat, another area of the story, which is fun, but it's too long.

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So we win that match.

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Get in the semis.

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Win the semis over Edberg in Peter Corta.

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Sammy Corta's dad.

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And they'd won Monte Carlo earlier that year.

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And so, after the third round, someone said in the locker room,

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one of the fellow players said, "If you win this, what are you going to do for your celebration?

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Board used to go to his knees, Pat Cash went up into the players box,

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never known ever done that before at Wimbledon.

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But everyone has, like, the unique thing.

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And so for whatever reason, I said, if we win this thing, you know, and Murphy's like,

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"Win this thing, what are you talking about?"

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We just won like three matches by the skin of our teeth.

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I mean, like, all three matches could have went the wrong way.

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And I said, "Well, if we win, I'm going to body slam Murphy on the court."

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Like, it will be the most memorable celebration of all time.

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So now we're in the finals.

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And when I said that, it was like,

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five days ago. So we get the finals is on a Saturday after the Mergeo Fernandez

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Stephie Graph match. And we're sitting in the locker room.

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And the one thing when you get to these majors is it's filled.

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The locker room is filled with players and coaches and bags.

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That first, like, three or four days with doubles players, with singles players.

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You're on top of each other. But by the time you're at the end of the major,

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everybody's gone. It's honestly you. And in this case, my partner and then it was our opponents.

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And that's it. We didn't have a coach. They had a coach.

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We played these two Germans. It was a Golden-Prinosal.

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And they spoke perfect English. And they were honestly 10 feet away.

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Normally, like, graph wins in like, under an hour.

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So you kind of anticipate your warm-up. You anticipate everything.

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And it's just a magical experience because this is your moment.

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Like, you may never get there again. And that's the one thing that kept...

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I've never played a match where I felt if I don't win now,

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I may never get this opportunity to give. And being known as a French Open finalist,

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compared to a French Open champion, that's a different, that's a completely different

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area code, zip code, parking lot, all together. And I definitely knew that going in. And so I was...

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We're waiting in the locker room to... this match ended up going three sets. So there's extra time to

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sit there. Okay. Like, we're, you know, constantly worried about the game plan. We're... Should I eat now?

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Should I not eat now? Should I stretch? And I knew Patrick McInero since the juniors.

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And I got to play with them in doubles and hang out with them, which meant I got really good

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connections with Johnny Mac. So I practiced with Johnny Mac a ton when I was at college in LA.

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He would live in a Malibu. It's the practice from out there. And then playing them a few times

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on the tour before Murphy and I teamed up. Now, it's on the Davis Cup team with him in 92. And so he

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walks in because he's calling the match with Bud Collins. Our doubles match. He's not calling the

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women's final. And it's just honestly like the Germans off to the side. And then Murphy and I

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are sitting there just waiting and Mac comes in. And he gives us... gives us this like general pattern

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speech. Like, I want you... It's the day before the 49th anniversary of D-Day. And it's a huge deal

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in France. Huge celebrations in France is liberated and everything like that. So it's kind of...

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you... As an American, you notice it. And you know it in the French. It's a big deal. But

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Mac and Ro just starts going off. I want you to take these Germans and I want you to take them back

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to the beaches and I want you to do the... And I'm just like just the coolest thing. It's like... It's

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like my football, you know, my... There's like Binslam party. Like Mac and Ro is going off

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getting us fired up. And the thing I'm thinking to myself is these Germans, they speak perfect

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English. They weren't even alive when D-Day was going down. And Murphy's saying, "Why is John

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Mac and Ro screaming at me?" And it was like the pep talk we needed. It was like this... Like you go out

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there and you're here to kick some serious, but you're an American tennis player, an American competitor.

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And this is what we do. And this is what Conor's does. And this is what Jack Kramer did. And that's

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what all... You know, Chris Everett, this is what we do. And it just kind of got us kind of focused

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on going out to kick butt. So we get out there when the first set, lose a tie-breaker in the second.

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Murphy is like all upset and not in a changeover that I've blown the tournament. And I'm so... He's

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sorry that, you know, we could have won or we haven't lost it. We've been down in every single one of

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these matches. And he just kind of loses it for a while and we get down 3-0. And I'm serving at

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0-3. And that's... It was the biggest moment in my tennis life because I know if we go down double-break,

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we're done. And that moment just to keep us relevant, just to keep us within just striking distance.

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And I end up holding the most important service game in my life. It wasn't that hard, but it wasn't

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routine just because what really wasn't the balance. What... What if I drop that game, we're done.

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So we get the 3-1, we break. And then Murphy holds, we start trade and we finally break at 4-0.

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And Murphy's serving for it. Now Murphy, I'd never played a French open. You know, he played one

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major earlier the year in Australia. We lost, I think, first or second round. He's serving for the

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match in John McRown, you know, calling the match. I mean, it's perfect. So he goes out there,

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big serve, 15 love, another big serve, 30 love. Fantastic. And if you see doubles today,

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the team's huddle, the real good team's huddle, to be on the same page of where the serve's going to go.

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What does the net player do? Even the return team, where they're trying to return him things. So

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Murphy and I huddled forever. And it was always business. Our entire lives is always where the

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serve's going, where, you know, where does the server want the net player to go? So Murphy's the

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quarterback of the team when he's serving. He's calling the shots, calling the plays. So he comes up to me

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at, you know, 5-4-3-3, 30 love. And he goes, whatever you do, don't hurt me. And I'm like, what are

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you talking about? And he says, don't be stupid. I know you can do something stupid. And just don't

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hurt me. I go, dude, we haven't won anything. There's celebrations coming. Yeah, celebrate. Yeah,

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so double-falt, brick, volley, 30 all things are getting really dicey. So I know at this point,

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as soon as he gets the bone, the box, I've got to cross. I've got to go, like as soon as possible

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and cross. So he gets the serve in. And I leave so early, the opponent, Golnir couldn't believe he

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had this opportunity. A freight train could have, like, just, he could have thrown the ball for a winner

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because I was already committed and he missed it to give us match point. So we get the match point.

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Murphy gets it in. I try to poach. I can't get there. Murphy gets the volley back. So they start

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lobbing. So it's basically underneath Murphy. And he should take it. But at the last second, he goes

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yours. So I have to scramble. And the one thing that I always feel when you're up match point,

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you can't miss the ball. Like it, because at least if you lose the match, you can sleep for the

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rest of your life and say, you know what? At least I didn't choke or blow it. So I massage it back

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down the middle. I don't push it, but I definitely, definitely didn't go for a winner. I was definitely

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going to put the ball in down the middle. They lob again. I hit another one down the middle. And the

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guy backed deep behind the baseline. Cornice still like rips it and misses it. We win the French open.

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Unbelievable. Like crowds going nuts. I go to embrace Murphy. He goes to embrace me. I come up from

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the from up below. And I clock him with a forearm. He's going down the hug me. I'm coming up. I

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get him with the forearm. I think I gave him a concussion to I break his jaw. I break. He can't feel his

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face. He can't, he like, he like, he's kind of like dizzy a little bit. And he starts swearing at me

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the more the obscenities that you wouldn't believe. He's ripping me, ripping me as we're going to shake

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hands with our opponents. These these German guys are looking at us going, what is wrong with these

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guys? There's something wrong with these Jensen brothers. So Murphy's all ticked off, pissed off. He

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grabs his gear and starts walking off the court. The tournament director goes, "Monsun Murphy,

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much more V." But he's like, "What? What? What?" He must pick up the trophy. He slams his bag down.

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And they don't do it this way anymore. But back in the day, there was like it put steps in a red carpet

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from the chair umpire all the way up to the the president's box. And it was always like the the

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musketeers from France. There's always these famous tennis players up there. So Murphy walks up like he

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wins the singles. I'm with the Germans. Like I just lost. Get up there. And there's a trophy that stays

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at Roland Garibas. And that's the same with the singles, doubles, mixed doubles, juniors. And it's a

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bigger one. And then they give you smaller replicas. So Murphy takes it and they as they hand us the winning

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us the winning trophy, Murphy takes it from my hands, holds it up like he just won the singles tournament.

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And the only picture I have with this trophy, I have, I outreach this high as I can reach because he's

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taller than I am. And I got three, I got a, I got two fingers and a thumb. I got three like digits on

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this trophy is the only picture I have holding somewhat the front trophy. And then they put it back in

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the trophy case until you either win it again or you get to see it from afar. You never get to touch

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that trophy again. So Murphy, the Germans, you know, they get a nice little you know, played or whatever.

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And he won't talk to me. So Murphy's face, he can't say anything. There's blood. There's no blood or

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anything. You can't really talk as is Jaws broken, but he's holding that trophy. So proud and so high in

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the thing that, you know, to answer your question, how do you get to that moment? And it's just

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chopping the wood step after step moment after moment and things are going to happen where you have

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to figure it out. And in my career, I tell juniors all the time, I played one perfect match and I nearly

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lost it. And everything else was a battle. I wasn't one of these players that could, oh, I'm going to be

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in the semis this week, where I'm going to there's a guaranteed paycheck, you know, when I get to the

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finals or maybe win this tournament, every match was a battle. And I think every practice and every

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tournament that ever led me to that moment prepared me to win that tournament. I love it when you say

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confidence is a choice, but winning matches is momentum. Because that was that question of peaking

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at the right time. In that case, it wasn't necessarily peaking. It was a lot of things that came

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together, even the John McEnroe. Oh, yeah. And then the mother, the mother smashing you boys back

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together, right? It's you always give credit to others as well, which I really appreciate. You

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got to have those good people around you. And thankfully, you've got Patricia Jensen and John

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McEnroe evidently helping you helping you win matches. And let me get a 30 seconds to in the quarters

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when we're playing LeContin, even as a bitch, even as a bitch, one of the biggest servers in the

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history of the game, Un-acing machine. And the day before we were practicing this guy Dennis

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Ralston who played at USC one Wimbledon doubles at 18 in the Hall of Fame and everything. He

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was working with Gabby Saboteini, one of the hottest tennis players in the history of sport.

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And he's going, Hey, I can't warm her up. Can you guys warm her up? Absolutely. We can definitely warm

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up Gabby Saboteini. So we get out there and back in the day, we used to call it hitting approach

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shots. So when you go and talk to a girl and want to ask her out, we call it, okay, you got to hit

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approach shots. Got to stick that, you know, got to stick that approach shot, you know, and coming to

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the net. And she had really good passing shots. So, you know, Murphy and I in this warm up are

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trying to ask her out and she's trying to warm up her match and everything. And so after we act

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like a couple of knuckleheads, Dennis says, Hey, you guys played even a switch in the caught tomorrow.

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Why don't you guys play both backs on Goren's serve? He's not a real good volunteer. This ball doesn't

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come back that often. So he's not really good when the ball gets back on him. And if you play both

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back, give yourself a little bit more space and time in the defensive in the first and second serve.

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I've done it on the first before, but we've never done it on the second. And it's another

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example of the right person at the right time. If we hadn't been chasing Debbie 17y, you know,

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like this is a strategy. And you know, it's just being open and looking for opportunities

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and to pay it off.

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Well, there you have it. We want to thank rejuvenate.com for use of the studio and be sure to hit that

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follow button for more tennis related content. You can go to Atlanta tennis podcast.com. And while

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you're there, check out our calendar of tennis events deals on equipment, apparel and more.

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And you should feel good knowing that shopping at Let's Go Tennis.com helps support this show.

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You can also donate directly using links in the show notes. And with that, we're out. See you next time.

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