Palm Beach Post – May 24, 2005 – Charles Elmore – PARIS â€? Here, truly, is a clash of the old world and the new. Albert Costa won the 2002 French Open. He grew up on clay courts in Spain. He likes to play cards, and supports soccer teams in Lerida and Barcelona. His favorite movie is Ben-Hur.
In his path today stands Vince Spadea, ranked No. 41, who came of age on the hard courts of Boca Raton. Along the way, Vince acquired the occasional urge to bust a rhyme.
Spadea offered this Roland Garros rap by e-mail in response to a request from The Palm Beach Post:
“Ladies and gents will be jumping the fence to catch a glimpse of Vince at the French, he’s so intense, doesn’t give you an inch!
I went from sitting on the bench with a dollar and fifty cents, to a corporate account at Merrill Lynch,
But let me know what yous think, when you see them dragging me off the links, at Roland Garros,
‘Cause Spadea will break you down, like a broken arrow, a golden pharaoh, fighting to be the hero at Roland Garros,
I’m tennis’s Robert DeNiro, and I’m representing South Florida, champagne pouring out, that don’t rhyme?
Shore it does, trying to keep up with the Joneses like Norah does… “
Sure, Costa knows how to slide on clay.
But can he hip-hop?
Spadea has advanced as far as the third round in Paris three times.
He offered this breakdown of today’s first-round matchup with Costa: “He’s a clay-court specialist who has been on tour for as many years as I have. No doubt there are better draws out there, but at the same time, he has dropped his ranking and performance a great deal from his win at Roland Garros, has showed signs of apathy, injury and inconsistent results on all surfaces, including clay. I see this as a good opportunity for me to see how well I can play against a well-established clay-courter. I know I’ve made improvements in the past year, and I welcome this challenge.”
Costa has won two of three times they met, but interestingly, Spadea won the last one, in the same year Costa won the French Open, 2002. Spadea triumphed on hard courts during the round of 64 at Tennis Masters Canada 6-3, 6-1.
Shoulder tendinitis kept Spadea out of action recently for about three weeks. He has packed plenty of Fig Newtons and Balance bars to keep his energy up.
“My biggest challenge going into clay-court events, especially Roland Garros, will be the grueling physical and mental demand it places on me,” Spadea said. “There are no free or easy points on clay. The three out of five sets at Roland Garros forces your fitness level to be at the highest standard. It’s just a war of attrition on clay. Difficult to win pretty. A strategy adjustment I need to make is to hit my strokes with more topspin for consistency and play percentage tennis, and use angles and drop shots to win extra points.”
A new Web site, vincespadea.com, features photos and updates on all matters Spadea. Among the links is one to sports performance psychologist John F. Murray of West Palm Beach, who has worked with Spadea.
This is the sort of advice Murray says he gives athletes looking to regain confidence after an injury: “Adapt your style to the injury. Set difficult, yet realistic, goals on how you want to play the upcoming match based on the possible effects of the injury. For example, if your shoulder is hurt and you cannot serve hard, you might plan to play a gritty match with many long points and win the battle of attrition. If the injury affects your forehand but your serve is fine, you might plan a more aggressive serve and volley game where you end points sooner. “
Another way of putting that might be: break you down, like a broken arrow, a golden pharaoh, fighting to be the hero at Roland Garros.
Costa is ranked No. 72 but holding every former champion’s suspicion that he has one more title in him.
By this time tomorrow, one of these two men, representatives from the old world and the new, will be tapped out or rapped out in Paris.
“Peace out, I gotta start jump roping, before I leave Paris without the crown at the French Open… â€?spadea”
Because at the end, only one man can be Le Shizzle.
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.