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TENNIS / THOMAS BONK : At Times, Gilberts Can't Be a Close Family

August 04, 1991|THOMAS BONK

When Brad Gilbert plays in the Volvo/Los Angeles final today, a familiar figure will be sitting high up in the stands at UCLA: his father, Barry Gilbert.

"I put him up in the Bob Uecker seats," Gilbert said.

Down in the comfortable box seats near the court will be Gilbert's mother, his wife, his son and his coach--but not his dad.

The problem is that Barry tends to get too uptight during matches, Gilbert said. And if Dad gets uptight, son could get uptight, too.

"He sits in the top row and I lost my serve against (Javier) Frana (in a first-round match) and I still could hear him whacking his knee," Gilbert said.

Fortunately, Barry Gilbert, a former high school teacher in Hayward, doesn't take the seating chart personally.

"This is something he started in the juniors," the elder Gilbert said. "He just never liked his father sitting very close to him (because) he had a tendency to look at his father."

Brad's version is that his father tends to become overly critical, yet there was little to criticize after Saturday's three-set victory over Stefan Edberg, was there?

"Well, it makes me feel good," Barry Gilbert said. "Now Bradley is 4-9 against Edberg . . . but he's still 0-19 vs. (Ivan) Lendl."

King of New York: According to Brad Gilbert, the player who wins the U.S. Open identifies himself as the best on any continent.

"You've got to be the best player in the world to win there," Gilbert said.

"To me, I think the best tennis of the year is at the U.S. Open. There's a lot of boredom at the French. At Wimbledon, it's two big guys serving and that's it. There's no tennis. The U.S. Open is by far the fairest surface. You can win if you stay back and you can win if you come in."

Talk show: Imagine Jimmy Connors' surprise last week during a Strings' TeamTennis match at Sacramento when he received a warning for delay for speaking with the spectators.

"What are they doing?" Connors said. "Are they trying to make TeamTennis as boring as regular tennis?"

Give and take between players and spectators is supposed to be part of TeamTennis' charm, Connors reasoned, but he got a warning from the chair umpire for talking too much.

"Maybe I do talk too much, but I'm too old to hold it in," Connors said.

What was the topic when he got the warning?

"Pee-wee Herman," Connors said.

Actually, Connors came up with a suggestion for the chair umpire right after he received his warning. He urged the chair umpire to give a warning to the crowd, too.

"They were talking just as much I was," he said.

Family Ties II: Usually too nervous to see him play, Pete Sampras' mother and father broke with tradition this week at the Volvo/Los Angeles tournament.

Georgia Sampras had never seen her son play since he turned pro in 1988, and Sam Sampras stopped watching Pete play after he traveled with him in Europe early in 1988.

Sampras explained why his parents were in the stands: "They haven't seen me for a while."

After he won the U.S. Open last year, Sampras moved out of the family house in Rancho Palos Verdes and moved to Bradenton, Fla. He stayed at the tournament hotel this week, not with his parents.

No panic: Two weeks of second-round losses for Michael Chang might drop him as low as No. 25 when the computer rankings are released Monday, but the news looks even bleaker.

Next week, Chang risks 70 computer points at Cincinnati, where he reached the quarterfinals last year, which means another early loss might drop him out of the top 30.

What's more, Chang almost certainly will be unseeded at the U.S. Open, meaning his chances of meeting a top player in the early rounds are higher.

The upshot of all this is that Chang, while uninjured, is in more trouble than ever before in his pro career. But his father, Joe Chang, said it's too early to start panicking.

"There are a lot of good players out there and the rankings are very volatile," the elder Chang said. "They change so much every week. We have a lot more tennis to play the rest of the year and Michael is going to work very hard. He's going to be OK."

Joe Chang said Michael accepted a wild card into the Volvo International in New Haven, Conn., the week after playing in Cincinnati.

"We need to get some matches in before he plays the Open," Joe Chang said.

Tennis Notes

The Southern California Sectional championships of the USTA league program will be held Aug. 23-25 at Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley. . . . Nominees for the Billie Jean King Service Award, which will be announced during the upcoming Virginia Slims of Los Angeles, are Zina Garrison, Tracy Austin and Rosie Casals. . . . The third Kristy McNichol celebrity tennis tournament is scheduled for Oct. 12-13 at MountainGate Country Club and will benefit the H.E.L.P. Group, a nonprofit agency helping children with special needs.

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