As flags fly over Beijing, ESPN takes a look at the 10 greatest nations in tennis history...
By Joel Drucker, ESPN
The nation no longer exists, but its tennis heritage is proud, distinctive and revolutionary. Back in the '20s and '30s, Karel Kozeluh was one of the top pros in the world, on a par with fellow Hall of Famers Bill Tilden and Ellsworth Vines. Later in the '70s came "the bouncing Czech," three-time Slam winner Jan Kodes, another Hall of Famer. But Czechoslovakia's major contribution came in the form of Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl. Overcoming early doubts in their respective careers, each greatly upped the ante in defining what it meant to be a professional tennis player. Navratilova was the pioneer, the first to conduct the off-court fitness and nutrition regimen that's since become de rigueur for all pros. Lendl rapidly followed. To these two champions -- winners of a combined 26 singles Slams -- the motto was simple: In the pursuit of excellence, leave no stone unturned.
US Presswire / The tireless Ivan Lendl won eight Grand Slam titles in his nearly two-decade career on tour.
Lendl and his golfing daughters, left to right, Marika (17), Isabelle (16) and Daniela (14)
Father yields stage to golfing daughter
Lendl, Korda's mentor, introduced him to the game
By Jim McCabe Boston Globe Staff / July 3, 2008
Globe-trotting to exotic ports at a time when he had youth and money, Petr Korda would be urged by his mentor and fellow Czech, Ivan Lendl, to unwind and get away from the tennis grind.
"Come play golf," Lendl would say, but Korda would shake his head.
"I thought golf was for dead people," said Korda.
He laughs at the memory, because my, how times have changed. Tennis is ancient history to Korda; golf is his life. Ask him if he isn't the same Petr Korda who won the 1998 Australian Open and lost to Jim Courier in the final of the 1992 French Open and he'll offer a slight smile, then a qualifier.
"Those are good memories, but now it is her stage. She has to enjoy it. My stage is over."
He refers to 15-year-old Jessica, the oldest of his three children, and last week she indeed had a stage on which to perform. Having been medalist at a sectional qualifier, Jessica Korda played in the 63d US Women's Open at Interlachen Country Club and while she appeared to be a sweet and cute blonde who was going to be overwhelmed, looks were deceiving.
The young woman put on a show in Sunday's final round. The only player in the field to break 70 - she shot 4-under-par 69 - Jessica Korda finished tied for 19th. It earned her an exemption into the 2009 US Women's Open, which is surely going to be used. After all, Jessica Korda is committed to golf and Petr Korda is committed to being there for her every step of the way. He caddied for her at Interlachen and when all those lessons and junior tournaments roll around, "I'm the designated driver," he said.
He appears lean and trim enough to take on the challenge of a five-set Wimbledon match, but at 40, Korda shakes his head. He never plays tennis and doesn't even have time for golf. He concedes that his life is devoted to Jessica and the sporting interests of his son, Sebastian (tennis), and younger daughter, Nellie (golf). That is why all these years later, Lendl remains a mentor and close friend.
Lendl, too, is a former tennis champion devoted to being a golf father, at least for three of his five daughters.
"We're very close. He lives next door to me [in Florida] and I knock on his door to get his advice," said Korda, who is eight years younger than Lendl. "It's good to know I can turn to him, to know what I should expect."
Lendl directed Korda to the Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla., which certainly served its purpose for several years as the Lendl girls and Jessica honed their games, got acclimated to national and international competition, and satisfied their thirsts for the sport. Had you offered odds last summer, they would have favored a Lendl girl making it into the US Women's Open field before Korda.
Not that Petr Korda is getting all that worked up about it. He said it was all about showing his daughter what this competitive atmosphere is like, to help her make a decision in years to come as to what she wants to do. Will she be a teenage pro? Or will she go to college?
"I'm not riding her life," said Korda. "She will make her own decisions, and we will support it."
Korda remembers full well that time in his life when wife Regina and daughter Jessica sacrificed for him. It was during his pro tennis days and while most of the time it involved a lot of travel that got old quickly, there is one memory that remains priceless. It was after he defeated Marcelo Rios in Australia and into the stands ran Korda - to hug Regina and Jessica, then 5 years old.
She remembers her father giving her a hug, but Jessica concedes that the rest of the day was a blur. "I was more interested in my coloring book," she said.
For a few years, Korda tried to get Jessica interested in tennis, "but she didn't like to sweat." She doesn't deny that, but puts a different spin on that. "I didn't have a love of the sport. I liked to be out where I could see the trees."
At Interlachen, she saw the trees, but only on those walks to her ball in the fairway or up on the greens. In other words, she played very well and made the cut on the number with a clutch putt on her 36th hole, the par-4 ninth. But from a tie for 60th through 36 holes, Korda stormed up the leaderboard, thanks to a 75-69 weekend while so many players twice her age fumbled their assignments and tumbled down the leaderboard.
It was a good effort and Petr Korda said he never had a fear that he was putting his daughter into a situation that would be too much for her to handle.
"Sometimes," he said, "I think it's good to burn your fingers."
NEW YORK (March 10, 2008)-- Ivan Lendl made his debut in the sports promotion industry as a partner in this evening's NetJets Showdown as World # 1 Roger Federer battled 14-Time Grand Slam Champion Pete Sampras, for the first time on U.S. soil, in a battle for tennis history.
Lendl and StarGames joined forces and put on the sold-out event to a crowd of 19,690 at Madison Square Garen, the World's Most Famous Arena. The Showdown, which sold-out in only two months, was the first time MSG had promoted tennis in eight years. For more information on the NetJets Showdown take a look at StarGames Events section.
"Thanks to his longtime agent, Jerry Solomon, Lendl is his own blossoming corporation. He has a regular gig on the Tennis Channel, endorses analgesic creams and wristbands that are supposed to generate positive energy for the wearer, is back making appearances for adidas and represents some Taylor Made golf equipment. Solomon also is planning a movie for 2009, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Lendl's first Grand Slam title, the 1984 French."
Seventeen years after his last Grand Slam victory, Ivan remains visible in and out of tennis.Lendlís commentary (Perspectives) on The Tennis Channel was developed by StarGames to serve as an anchor for sponsor exposure on TV and broadband (www.stargamestv.com). A Lendl model Trion:Z bracelet, commercials for Topricin and the Tennis Channel along with real estate deals and a sports academy in Florida and Europe will be part of Ivanís portfolio in 2008.
The Lendl brand, which once was associated primarily with adidas, is now a growing one that should endure for many years to come.