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Holiday Edition of OPEN COURT; Secret to Beating Tennis' Big Four; Tennis Baby Takes to Twitter

Aired December 19, 2013 - 05:30:00   ET


PAT CASH, CNN HOST: Happy Holidays from London. We're looking back on a tennis season to remember.


CASH (voice-over): Coming up on the show, the Big Four, Rafa, Novak, Andy and Roger, reflect on the highs and lows of 2013.

Plus --

JOHN MCENROE, TENNIS PRO: I'm going to give it a real can opener now.

CASH (voice-over): It's one of our greatest hits of the year. See what happens when we get Johnny Mac and Jim Courier on court.

And the tennis Twitter sensation. See why Micaela Bryan is attracting the biggest names on tour.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of the players, they want pictures with her now. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CASH: The biggest named dominated men's tennis again this year. Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open; Rafa Nadal won the French and U.S. Opens and Andy Murray won his home slam at Wimbledon. Led by Roger Federer with 17 Grand Slam titles, this group has won 38 over the last decade.



CASH (voice-over): The wait paid off for eager fans, hoping for an autograph from Rafa Nadal. The 2013 U.S. Open champion proved that his delicate knees were strong enough to beat Novak Djokovic.

RAFAEL NADAL, TENNIS PRO: It's (inaudible) when you are coming back after the low moments, victories are more special, more emotional. The most important thing is I am able to play with no limitations and that's everything.

CASH (voice-over): When OPEN COURT met up with Nadal on a photo shoot in late February, he was cautiously optimistic about his return to the tour.

NADAL: I still have some pain in the knee. So I need more time to be 100 percent content that everything will be right, will be perfect.

CASH (voice-over): Since that day in the sun in Mexico, The Matador won 10 titles, including a record eighth French Open crown.

NADAL: I think all my career since was a kid I worked hard, I practiced every day with the highest intensity possible.

When I was a kid, I had my coach and my uncle told me, let me practice every day with a lot of pressure, a lot of intensity. And because of that, probably today of days, I have in me a lot to love and the passion for the game is still the same.



NOVAK DJOKOVIC, TENNIS PRO: I want to enjoy competing and keep on playing well. And I know the rankings and the results will follow.

CASH (voice-over): Novak Djokovic has clearly forgotten how to lose. The World number two is on a 24-match winning streak and he's sending a message to his competitors.

DJOKOVIC: I try to use my chance and find that extra motivation to really perform well and to build a platform for next season.

CASH (voice-over): First up for the Serbian star, defend his Australian Open crown. Then he'll focus on trying to avenge a couple of bitter defeats.

DJOKOVIC: I did have a turbulent summer, ups and downs. I just, you know, managed to find the right focus after the U.S. Open last year, which definitely hurt me and especially the one in Roland Garros earlier this year against Nadal.

CASH (voice-over): Clearly Novak has Rafa Nadal in his sights, but only time will tell if he's able to recapture the number one ranking.


CASH (voice-over): Andy Murray finally did what no other British man has done in 77 years: he won Wimbledon.

ANDY MURRAY, WIMBLEDON CHAMPION: I'm just relieved to have won that match, especially after the way the last game went. I think when I get to take a step back, I'll realize it was a big, big day in our sporting history.

CASH (voice-over): The Wimbledon victory over Novak Djokovic earned him a visit to Downing Street and then to Buckingham Palace. It was a win that would have made Fred Perry proud. He was the last British man to claim the title in 1936.

JOHN BARRETT, WIMBLEDON HISTORIAN: Well, I was a regular friend of Perry. I think he would been the very first man to be out on the court to congratulate Andy on his win.

He's always said that he hoped one day he'd be here to see a British player win.

CASH (voice-over): Murray's banner season came to an abrupt end in September when he underwent back surgery. He's now returning to the court, preparing for the Australian summer.

MURRAY: For the last couple of years I've been playing in quite a bit of pain. And I'm just looking forward to getting back on the tennis court and not having to be in pain when I'm playing.

CASH (voice-over): As the 2014 season gets underway, Murray will be asked about his recovery and if he'll be fit enough to bring a second Wimbledon crown home to Britain.


CASH (voice-over): A back injury also took its toll on Roger Federer's season. The man who will spend more weeks at number one than any other men's player in history saw his rankings slip to number six in the world.

ROGER FEDERER, TENNIS PRO: It's been a tough, long season, you know, with some ups and downs. But I did also have my better moments.

CASH (voice-over): Federer didn't win a slam this year, but many are convinced he's far from finished.

PAUL MCNAMEE, TENNIS ANALYST: He could keep playing another five years and still play very well. And get to a semi of a Slam five years from now. No problem at all. He's that good. He's just that brilliant.

CASH (voice-over): Even his greatest rivals think he'll be a force in the new year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's an unbelievable player. I'm sure that he will be bag again to the -- to a very high level (INAUDIBLE) the best of (INAUDIBLE). I have no doubt.

CASH (voice-over): Federer is clearly focused on the future and giving his fans a new reason to cheer.

FEDERER: I quite know already what I need to work on in the off season but then also I'm really eager to attack again in 2014. I hope to make it a better year than this year.


CASH: Well, how do you beat the Big Four? What are their weaknesses?

Well, I went to John McEnroe and Jim Courier in New York City, hoping to find some answers.


CASH (voice-over): I 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: 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.


JOHN MCENROE, TENNIS PRO: 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 of showing us the 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: Unfair advantage for the left-handers.

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'll 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 game (ph).

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.


COURIER: That's the one.


COURIER: That's the one.

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 (voice-over): Jim and John will both be competing on the power shares (ph) tour. You can read all the details on our OPEN COURT Facebook page.

Still to come on OPEN COURT, Davis Cup domestic: The Czechs stage an encore performance, after the break.




CASH: Welcome back to the program to our holiday edition of OPEN COURT.

Well, as you may know, Davis Cup is a competition that's near and dear to my heart. I was part of a winning Australian Cup team twice. Well, back then, it was the Aussies, the Americans and the Swedes that were dominating.

But now it's teams from Eastern Europe that are building a legacy of their own.


VLADIMIR SAFARIK, CZECH REPUBLIC CAPTAIN: Radek is really one of a kind.

TOMAS BERDYCH, 2013 DAVIS CUP CHAMPION: Radek is definitely the leader. He's creating the action even of his own court off-court.

GORAN IVANISEVIC, 2001 WIMBLEDON CHAMPION: Last year, unbelievable. (INAUDIBLE) this year in Belgrade.

CASH (voice-over): Thirty-five-year-old Radek Stepanek always believed he could bring another Davis Cup trophy home to the Czech Republic.

RADEK STEPANEK, 2013 DAVIS CUP CHAMPION: It was partly straightaway, but it's something magical, working for this my whole career, getting there at the age of 34, 35 twice in a row.

You know, I've been dreaming about this trophy my whole life, my whole career, you know, and suddenly it happens twice.

CASH (voice-over): Stepanek paired with Thomas Berdych to lead the Czech Republic to victory inside Novak Djokovic's hometown arena.

Djokovic won both of his matches.

DJOKOVIC: With crowd support that is incredible, I mean, a full arena. This is definitely the nicest feeling you can experience as a tennis player (ph).

CASH (voice-over): But in the end, the Czech duo took control of the tide.

STEPANEK: I think that for the small countries it's something really special, for example, for us we don't have a tournament in Czech Republic where our fans can see us, where they can get in touch with us and only Davis Cup is there. So it means for the country, for the fans and for us players, very special moment, very special competition with a huge tradition.

CASH (voice-over): The Davis Cup competition has had a rich history in the United States, Australia and Sweden.

But over the past four years, there's been a geographical shift. East European countries have won the last three out of four Davis Cups.

CASH: There's a lot of players from that area sort of dominating Davis Cup now.

IVANISEVIC: It's another rich area, another rich federation. It's just we are good with the balls, the sports and here everything is given to you in the other countries. There, you have to work for everything.

CASH (voice-over): In 2010, Novak Djokovic led Serbia to its first Davis Cup title.

CHRIS BOWERS, TENNIS WRITER: I think it's very difficult for Old World tennis nations to really understand some of the determination. And when I look at someone like a Victoria Azarenka or even Novak Djokovic, I see people for whom the determination is greater than perhaps some of the great names of the sport.

The competition really is fierce now. So I don't think we'll see any one nation dominate the way the U.S. and the Australians did in Davis Cup.

CASH (voice-over): Armed with noisemakers and draped in flags, Czech fans who grew up hearing about Ivan Lendl -- and they are paying tribute to Stepanek and Berdych, they're back-to-back Davis Cup wins.

STEPANEK (voice-over): We wanted to be the same heroes for the next generation as they've been for us. And you know, we are still writing the history even after the -- after the first win last year. We made it twice. We made it twice in a row.

So it's really, really amazing.


CASH (voice-over): Still to come, move aside, Rafa, Andy and Novak. There's a new kid on the block.



CASH: Welcome back to a festive edition of OPEN COURT. Well, Bob and Mike Bryan are ringing in the new year in familiar territory. They are the World number one doubles team yet again. But believe me, that's only part of this story.



CASH (voice-over): Meet the greatest double act in tennis history, Bob and Mike Bryan, the identical twins whose records may never be matched. They won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.

MIKE BRYAN, 2013 WIMBLEODN DOUBLES CHAMPION: We want to win a few more titles. We love that we're getting to the twilight years of our career and we're still playing strong at 35.

And I think the ultimate goal is to keep playing, and that's to Rio. I don't know if Bob wants to go that far, but definitely I am going to be pushing him.

CASH (voice-over): What is more remarkable is they are still dominating the game, despite a recent new off-court commitment.


CASH (voice-over): Meet Micaela Bryan, Bob's 1-year-old daughter and perhaps the youngest member of the World doubles tour.

MIKE BRYAN: We love having her on the road. That was the only way Bob would do it, and he wants to see her develop and grow up, and we've seen her first steps. We saw her roll over for the first time.

And I'm a good babysitter. It's been a blast. She doesn't care if we win or lose, so after tough losses, keep things in perspective pretty well.

CASH (voice-over): And it is clear the best tennis players in the world like having her on tour, too. They regularly pose for photos with Micaela. The family have been tweeting them out with captions, creating a social media sensation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every one of her tweets is kind of like a cartoon strip.

MICHELLE BRYAN, BOB BRYAN'S WIFE: Every time Novak sees her, it's really funny. He cracks me up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's funny, a lot of the players, they want pictures with her now, they want to be legitimate.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a big thing to have a picture with Micaela, and now she's got 10,000 followers, and her Twitter page is blowing up.

CASH (voice-over): I figured it was my turn to get into the act, so I set up a meeting with Micaela in London. First impressions die hard, and she wasn't too sure about my rock 'n' roll headband.

CASH: Yes, I do the same when (inaudible).

CASH (voice-over): We eventually made amends. And I sat down with the brothers for some two-on-one time.

CASH: All right, give me an outline. Micaela's Twitter account: she's been with all the superstars.

BOB BRYAN, 2013 WIMBLEDON DOUBLES CHAMPION: Yes, my wife kind of masterminded it. She got Micaela Bryan, @MicaelaBryan, before she was born.

And I didn't even know about it. And then we got this picture with Nadal in Miami, and he kneeled down, took a picture with her, and just as a joke, we were like, oh, let's put it on her Twitter account.

And we put it on, woke up the next day, she had something like 750 followers. And so it was kind of born right then, and we were like, now she has all these fans. We've got to keep them happy.


CASH: There are some funny captions going on here. Who writes the captions?

MIKE BRYAN: Bob is the brains behind the operation. He and Michelle get together and they come up with the funny captions.

BOB BRYAN: Yes. She weeds out anything that's too vulgar.

CASH: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga?

BOB BRYAN: This tweet is in French, to appeal to her French fans. You know, can you read that, Micaela? I don't think so.

CASH: Of course you have Roger Federer.

BOB BRYAN: Roger, yes, Roger kind of a play on -- he's blessing her with his eternal R.F. power, which is what everyone wants, a little bit of his magic. So he kind of baptized her that day.

Here is actually a funny one. Murray was playing the U.S. Open final, and Murray took a picture with her, and me actually, did a little Photoshop, painted her green kind of like Yoda.

And she was giving words of wisdom to him, how to win his first Grand Slam title. It was something like "Use the force," or something like that. And it worked, he won it.


BOB BRYAN: Oh, yes, this is -- occasionally when we're a little bored and we don't have that much material, I'll get in one of her tweets, and there's a sort of crying, we're lying in bed, you know, she's crying, she wants to watch her cartoons. And Dad wants to watch CNN.





CASH (voice-over): Micaela eventually dried her tears and figured I couldn't be all that bad. She decided to tweet a photo to her 11,000 followers, but I must say the pleasure was all mine.


CASH (voice-over): We've made it easy for you to see Micaela's photos, log on to our OPEN COURT Facebook page.

It's been a lot of fun hitting with some of the biggest names in the game this year. We've made a special section on our website for those hits. Log on to COURT.

CASH: From all of us at OPEN COURT, I'd like to wish you a Happy New Year and we look forward to seeing you in Melbourne for the first Slam of 2014.