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King Still Fights for Tennis Equality; Secret to Beating Tennis' Big Four; "Little Giant" Aims for Glory; "Golden Bear" on Tennis Love

Aired August 22, 2013 - 05:30   ET


PAT CASH, CNN HOST: We're in New York for the final grand slam of the year.

CASH (voice-over): Coming up on OPEN COURT, a celebration fit for Billie Jean King, the world's best women players pay tribute to their leader.

Plus John McEnroe and Jim Courier on the same New York court.

JOHN MCENROE, TENNIS PRO: Here comes the Nidal slice. You pick an egg off the line.

It's in!

CASH (voice-over): Now that was a tough day at the office.

And still to come:

JACK NICKLAUS, GOLF PRO: I have not done an interview I haven't had that question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't answer it.


CASH (voice-over): The question Jack Nicklaus wasn't expecting.


CASH: We begin at the site of the U.S. Open. It's called the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and it's called that for good reason.

Billie Jean King is one of the most influential tennis players of all time. Not only has she won 13 U.S. titles, but she's been awarded countless honors for a contribution to tennis and for the advancement of women's sports.


CASH (voice-over): Fame, fortune and millions in prize money, who do the best players in the world have to thank for making tennis what it is today?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ladies and gentlemen, Billie Jean King.


CASH (voice-over): Billie Jean King took center stage when the WTA reunited its past number ones in London.

SERENA WILLIAMS, WORLD NUMBER 1: Billie Jean has been one of my ultimate inspirations. She has told me so many things about being a champion, about staying a champion.

MONICA SELES, FORMER WORLD NUMBER 1: She's always so inspirational to see and just being around Billie, you feel better after talking to her.

BILLIE JEAN KING, WTA FOUNDER: The players today are living our dream. But we really stood together to form the WTA back in '73. And I think everyone's really proud of themselves now.

CASH (voice-over): The (inaudible) players took over the microphone and shared stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who did I look up to? I looked up to, of course -- sorry, Monica Seles -- I know you feel like everyone looked up to you, but you were like -- I started grunting because of you.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You were my idol, too, so.

(Inaudible) growing up, my mom was like, "I want you to play like Monica. Step in the court and hit it."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you cheating on Martina?

CHRIS EVERT, FORMER WORLD NUMBER 1: She's my longest relationship I ever had (inaudible).


(Inaudible) surpassed any husband I've ever had.

CASH (voice-over): Forty years ago, the mood was much more tense when Billie Jean called her competitors together for a meeting at a London hotel.

KING: June 20th, 1973, at the Gloucester Hotel, 63 of us got in a room. I had Betty Stovall (ph) block the door and I said, "Don't let anybody out." But she didn't. She's great. Betty's big and she crossed her arms and had a little twinkle in her eyes. And that -- at the end of that week, elected our officers, our committees. We really got it done.

CASH (voice-over): Before the WTA was formed, women competed for $2 million in total prize money. Today they compete for more than $118 million.

Billie Jean King was as driven on the court as she was off it. Her aggressive serve and volley style netted her 39 grand slam singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles. She beat Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova. But the one match she'll be remembered for is her victory over Bobby Riggs.

KING: He had been following me around for a couple of years, trying to get me to play for money.

CASH (voice-over): In 1973, 50 million people watched on television while thousands more packed the Houston Astrodome for a chance to witness the Battle of the Sexes. This summer a documentary was released detailing the match and all the hoopla that surrounded it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a planet gladiator that'll put down that Bobby Riggs.

KING: I'm glad he's enjoying himself. It's helping promote the match. But I tell you what, when you get on the court, all the talk in the world isn't going to help.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bobby Riggs today would be a laughing stock. But unfortunately he wasn't back then.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really think that this match should be the symbol of the women's struggle against men?

BOBBY RIGGS, TENNIS PRO: Absolutely. (Inaudible) gladiator. Billie Jean King for the women and Bobby Riggs for all the male guys, all over the world.

KING: (Inaudible). You know, I've been around long enough. All that hot air is just going to do -- make one visit.

RIGGS: (Inaudible) already. It's coming apart at the seams. Wait till I use my secret weapon. I'll wear Hai Karate after shave. That way she won't be able to concentrate.

CASH (voice-over): Billie Jean King had no trouble concentrating and won the match in straight sets.



CASH (voice-over): If you're looking for Billie Jean King during the summer, look no further than a Philadelphia Freedoms match.

KING: It goes fast and it's fun.

CASH (voice-over): She created World Team Tennis in the 1970s and has never looked back. Pro players team up to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles and the scoring is as simple as counting to five. The team format has caught the eye of U.S. President Barack Obama and his family.

KING: The first lady loves to come to the Castles matches in Washington, D.C., and she always brings the girls if they're not in camp.

CASH (voice-over): This year, Andy Roddick and Venus Williams accepted Billie Jean's invitation to be part owners.

KING: They're not celebrity owners. They've got vested interests. Their skins' in the game. And that's what we like.

CASH (voice-over): Eight U.S. cities host World Team Tennis teams and plans are underway to double that by 2020. It's all part of Billie Jean's master plan to grow the sport.

KING: (Inaudible) tennis matches see my philosophy online. It -- that is the ultimate. The way I want the world to look, men and women working together, championing each other. And I know I'm idealistic. I don't care.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good catch, Coach.

CASH (voice-over): Billie Jean King plans to cap off her busy summer at the U.S. Open and I suspect she'll smile to herself when the ladies' single champion is handed a $2.6 million check.

EVERT: She puts money in our pockets and she provides a living for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of women athletes. And I'm just happy that she was involved in tennis and not any other sport.



CASH: Well, it's great to see Billie Jean still so motivated after all these years.

Well, from one American legend to a bunch of others, I'm ready for a hit.

CASH (voice-over): I've met up with two American tennis legends, John McEnroe and Jim Courier. I want these greats to reveal the secret to beating the Big Four, Rafa, Roger, Andy and Novak.

CASH: Well, we know Novak Djokovic is an incredible defensive player and mover. Let's see if Jim Courier can explain exactly what he does.


JIM COURIER, TENNIS PRO: (Inaudible) the thing he does which is -- first of all, he's flexible, right? The guy gets the flexibility you can't see. But most of us, most mortals, when they play that kind of a shot, they have to play it this way.

He's able to play it this way and then he stops and he's already moving back. Even like Murray doesn't -- can't do that. Murray has to hit this shot. So he can make an offensive shot where no one else really can. Pretty crazy.

CASH: No one except you today.

COURIER: Maybe Rafa.


MCENROE: There it is. I can feel it coming. I can feel it coming. There it is.

COURIER: Did you see how I had to make an extra step because I would have broken my hip if I tried to do what he does.

CASH: All right, John McEnroe, we're going to give you the easy job. (Inaudible) a left-handed Rafa Nadal serve. Where he's -- that's a big improvement in his game.

MCENROE: Yes, his serve's much better than it was when he came on tour. I think that's part of why he was able to win the Open, big part, actually. He was serving a lot harder, but he's worked on the placement. He's got some nice-looking spin and lefties are so damn good-looking and --


MCENROE: What I'm going to try to do now is use that slice to pull off the court to open the court up so that I have an easier ball when I have to --

CASH: Well, what do you do to me? I'll be --


CASH: -- single-handed (inaudible).

MCENROE: Here comes the Nadal slice.


MCENROE: Open the court up.

CASH: (Inaudible) left-handed.

MCENROE: Here we go; one more. I'm going to give it a real can opener now, the real can opener.

CASH: Do it again.

MCENROE: You think it make off the line?

It's in!

CASH: Well, Roger Federer, he doesn't really have a weakness, does? It's not -- he's such -- got such a complete game.

COURIER: The thing that he does so well that's so different, Cashie, than the other players, is he's got that beautiful little short slice backhand that's not a drop shot. It's not a drive. It's meant to put you in no man's land.

And when you got a double-handed backhand, it's super awkward. That shot works against all the players very, very well. Doesn't work against a lefty like Rafa but that's a nasty shot that I want no part of.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the one.

COURIER: Because I have to try and pull the trigger and get lucky.

CASH: I got him, yes.


COURIER: That's my problem. You give me that place where I either have to hit a slice backhand that's going to be weak, or I hit a topspin backhand and you're going to pass me. He's pretty good, this Federer guy.


MCENROE: Andy Murray, Andy Murray has absolutely everything going for him, certainly right now. If there was a possible, possible thing that I could even think about attacking, it would be to try to take his second serve early and move in on it, which was my (inaudible).

CASH: They can drop short. I mean, that's -- nobody -- why doesn't - - why don't the players attack?

COURIER: I still think there's room for someone like you guys to attack these guys. No one's really doing that with regularity. But the element of surprise.

CASH: Well, my second set is pretty awful these days. So let's see if you can attack that.


CASH: If you can't attack that, you're not going to attack Murray's.

COURIER: I'm going to sit here and cheer.

No, want to watch Cashie go the second serve in there. It's his show. He's got to do the work.

MCENROE: Let me know when you're ready.

CASH: That was it.

MCENROE: That was it? Oh.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the one.

COURIER: Take that little slider second serve and bunt it down the line and get in.

MCENROE: That's -- that would be the plan.

CASH: This is the play that I copied as a kid. I watched John McEnroe and said, oh, I want to do this.


COURIER: I like to think Andy wouldn't have gotten that one. I think he may have, though.

MCENROE: I've got to quit on that note. Amazing stuff, guys. Let me know when Murray and Nadal need some practice.

CASH: Thanks, Mac.

MCENROE: Goodbye, CNN.


CASH: Ah, Jimbo, thanks, mate. It's a bit of an annual event in the -- coming and playing with you here. We got rid of McEnroe.

COURIER: We did. No, finally got the good-looking guys on the court --


CASH: We can talk common sense so thanks very much for spending some time with us and give us -- giving us your input on U.S. (inaudible) the game and the modern game.

COURIER: Thanks, Cashie, and cameras, you'll notice, one of us is sweating and one of us is not working that hard.

CASH: Oh, give me a hug.


CASH (voice-over): Jim Courier and John McEnroe will be competing in the Palacia's (ph) series next year. You can read more about the 2014 tour on our Facebook page.


CASH (voice-over): Still to come on OPEN COURT, there are water fights and then there are water fights. See why Sara Errani and her Italian teammates have tennis fans so fired up.



CASH (voice-over): Welcome back to OPEN COURT. Sara Errani is one of the smallest players on tour, but no one is looking past her. A year ago, she won the doubles championships right here at the U.S. Open. She returned to the Big Apple this year hoping to defend her title.

Here's Pedro Pinto.



JUSTINE HENIN, FORMER WORLD NUMBER 1: She's not as tall. She's not as strong as the others. But she believes she can do it. She really proves she's one of the top players in the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Her heart is bigger than everybody's out there.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sara Errani is best known in the tennis world for being a French Open finalist and grand slam doubles champion.

But to her closest friends, she is Poco Gigante, the Little Giant, a fitting nickname for the star who returns to the Big Apple this year in search of more grand slam glory.

PINTO: Throughout your career, who's the toughest opposite?

SARA ERRANI, SINGLES WORLD NUMBER 1: I think Williams. Certainly Serena is so strong.

PINTO: How can you find a way to beat her?

ERRANI: It's difficult; in U.S. Open, I was so focused to find resolution and try to find a way, maybe not winning, but just improving against that. Because when she serve better than you, (inaudible) better than you, (inaudible). But I just want to try to improve more and more to find a better way.

PINTO: Is her power incredible?


PINTO (voice-over): Born in Bologna, Errani first picked up a racket when she was 5. Her father introduced her to tennis and she's never looked back.

ERRANI: I was never watching who (inaudible) was in the morning of school and all the afternoon. I was doing tennis, basketball, football. I was playing everything when I was young. That was my life.


PINTO (voice-over): She spent more than a decade on tour and will soon pass the $7 million prize money mark.

PINTO: Favorite actor?

ERRANI: Denzel Washington.

PINTO: And actress?

ERRANI: Julia Roberts.

PINTO: Favorite movie?

ERRANI: "Matrimonio del Mio Migliore Amico."

PINTO: "The Wedding of My Best Friend (sic)"?

ERRANI: Yes, so (inaudible).


ERRANI: I know it word by word.

PINTO: Really? How many times have you watched it?

ERRANI: One hundred.


PINTO (voice-over): Sara's best friend in real life is Roberta Vinci (ph). The two grew up playing doubles and are now the top ranked team in the world. They've won every grand slam except Wimbledon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There it is. The Italians are the Fed Cup champions of 2009.

PINTO (voice-over): This autumn, they will leave the Italians in the Federation Cup final.

ERRANI: We are very good team because we respect each other. We have -- we love each other.


ERRANI: And we are very different each other. But we know how to stay together. We know how to have fun together.

PINTO: The favorite thing about your home country?

ERRANI: Eating good.


ERRANI: Everything is about eating.

PINTO: I know. I'm from Portugal and it's the same thing.

Maybe if we ate and drank less and worked more, our countries wouldn't be in such a financial problem.

Complete this sentence for me, please, "If I wasn't a tennis player, I would be."

ERRANI: Basketball player.


ERRANI: I love basketball.

But I'm not so tall.

PINTO: Well --


ERRANI: (Inaudible) 1 meter more but I love it.

PINTO (voice-over): We won't be seeing Sara slam dunk any basketballs anytime soon. But don't count her out when it comes to tennis. The sky's the limit for the star with a heart of gold.



CASH (voice-over): Still to come on OPEN COURT, he's got three grass tennis courts in his back yard. Golfing great Jack Nicklaus after the break.

CASH: Very nice to meet you.



CASH: Welcome back to OPEN COURT.

Well, he's the most successful golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus has won a total of 18 major titles. But what you may not know is that he's an avid tennis player. In fact, he's got three grass courts in his back yard. Well, I had the chance to have a good chat with him about tennis and a little golf.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An excited gallery tramples the Augusta National Golf Club fairways to watch Jack Nicklaus' bid to be the first man to win the Masters title two years in a row.

CASH (voice-over): Jack Nicklaus is highly regarded as one of the most successful golfers of all time. Over the course of his career, he won six times at Augusta and closed out his career with 18 major titles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: History in the making is what it is as Nicklaus sinks his final putt for a 70 to beat Jacobs by two strokes, the first man in 32 years of Masters play to get the emblematic Masters jacket in successive years.

NICKLAUS: How you doing?

CASH: How are you?

NICKLAUS: (Inaudible), Pat.

CASH: Really nice to meet you.

How did you get into tennis? I mean, was it something you started as a young man? Or was it something you picked up along the way?

NICKLAUS: No, I, as a kid, I played a little bit -- not much. My dad was a good tennis player. He was city tennis champion in Columbus, where we grew up, in Ohio. I remember as a kid he introduced me to every sport.

And so he taught me just enough about tennis to make me dangerous.

So I started hitting around, playing tennis, (inaudible) fiddling around and then I'd have an odd guy here and we'd start playing a little bit. And then pretty soon I got interested in playing a little bit more. And that was just about the time that I started combining Wimbledon and the British Open.

And I came over and I watched Newc win it over here. And so I started coming back to Wimbledon. And I really enjoyed it. I'm a weekend player. And I play -- I'll play Saturday and Sunday. I don't play a lot of golf anymore.

CASH: Who's your favorite player of modern times? I'll give you both, an older player that you've seen and the modern player?

NICKLAUS: Borg. I loved watching Borg play. Of course, I mean, you were my favorite, without question.


CASH: That's --


NICKLAUS: The -- but -- no, I really never had a favorite (inaudible). I really enjoyed Federer's career. I think he's handled himself very well. He's done a good job with the press. He's done a good job not getting into controversy. I think he's gone about his own business and done it very, very well. I have great respect for that.

I think Djokovic is -- what a terrific player this guy is.

Murray is -- I think Murray is just coming on the scene as you know. I mean, he's not done by any means. He's going to win a lot more tournaments.

CASH (voice-over): With a little help from doubles great Bob Bryant (ph), Jack won his annual back yard tennis tournament earlier this year. He's been a fan of the Bryant (ph) brothers and likes to watch doubles.

CASH: Doubles is exciting, isn't it? Those guys?

NICKLAUS: Frankly, I'd rather watch the doubles than the singles in many ways. I mean, I had dinner with Cliff last night, Drysdale, and he was saying, so you left? You left Murray and you missed the first part of Djokovic to watch doubles?

I said, well, I didn't come to watch a single individual play.

CASH: I've got to ask you a question I've been set up for this.

Do you think --


CASH: You're getting ready for this (inaudible).

NICKLAUS: You think he's going to break my record?

I have not been in an interview where I haven't had that question.

CASH: Don't answer it?

(Inaudible), he asked that.


NICKLAUS: Oh, no. I have no issue with it because Tiger's a going to player. And Tiger's got a great record. He's as competitive an individual as I've ever met. And he's as talented an individual as I ever met.

He's -- I've said that he hasn't won now in five years, a major championship. And I thought it was a lock cinch to break my record. I still think he'll break my record. I mean, he's only 37 years old. He's going to be very, very competitive, certainly through his mid-40s and through the next seven or eight years he's certainly got to win four or five more majors. But he's still got to do it.


CASH: Well, what a pleasure it was to meet Jack Nicklaus. I must say I was pretty nervous interviewing such a legend.

Well, that's all we have for this edition of OPEN COURT from New York City. For the latest news and headlines, please log onto our website or join us on our Facebook page. But for now, it's goodbye from the Big Apple.