10sBalls.com • TennisBalls.com

Misprints, Mistakes and Misunderstandings – Journalism at its Best By Alix Ramsay

Photo by Rolex Monte Carlo Masters via Twitter

It’s been a funny old week at Ramsay Towers. Waiting for the clay court season to get into full swing (Monte Carlo starts next week), there has been little to fill the coffers of the penniless freelance. So, to try and cobble together a story, said freelance did a quick internet search for some tennis news.


The mighty interweb is a wonderful resource, packed tight with information and facts. But when it spat out a story headlined “Roger Federer: ‘I have missed a couple of fights in my life’”, the interest was seriously pricked. The suave and sophisticated Rodge may be many things to many people but none of us had him down as a bruiser. And even if he was only a watcher of the noble art, he had kept this mighty quiet over the past 20 years. It was time to investigate further.


We will not name the author of this story nor the website that published it. It would simply not be fair. You see, there was a typo in the headline and the story was actually about our Roger missing a couple of flights – not fights – in his time.


More used to travelling by private jet (where, if you are late, the pilot just waits for you to turn up) the old GOAT had missed a couple of scheduled flights over the years, scheduled flights where the pilot has the hugely annoying habit of sticking to the timetable and leaving without you should you be running late.


Federer misses flight shock. Hold page 32. Move on, Ramsay, move on. So Ramsay did move on, on to another story by the same author on the same website.


In this, our hard working hack had taken a snippet from the great Rene Stauffer’s book on Federer and turned it into a little feature about Fed’s birth. Providing precise detail, the website scribe informed the world that the newborn Federer “weighed 3.710 grams and was 54 centimetres tall. ‘He had gigantic feet,’ recalled Lynette.”


To put that into real money: 3.710 grams is a little over a tenth of an ounce. And 54 centimetres is just over 21 inches. Now, it is true that many women say that whole business of pregnancy, childbirth and new motherhood messes up their thought processes for a while but the idea that Lynette, a sharp and intelligent woman, could only remember that her new son had big feet when, in fact, she had just given birth to a drinking straw, does seem a little wide of the mark.


Our author, though, is nothing if not prolific and churning out copy at speed often results in mistakes. Grams, kilograms – they are easy to mix up. By the way, 3.710kg is a smidgeon over eight pounds, two ounces, a far more realistic start for a tennis legend.


The fact that newspapers, magazine and websites get published at all is something of a miracle. So much copy to turn around, so many people involved and so little time to get it all done – mistakes, cock-ups and misunderstandings are just par for the course. Like the apocryphal tale of the Irish newspaper that ran the story of the death of Pope John Paul I (he died after only 33 days in office and only 53 days after the death of his predecessor) under the headline “The Pope is dead again”. Well, it fitted the space available and it did sum up the story…


But none of this was paying the bills. Time to consult the oracle: the ATP website. They must have some factoids upon which to hang a decent yarn. Alas, no amount of trawling through the pages provided a scoop. However, we did learn a thing or two like the remarkable tale of Bernardo Alonso Cruz Sanchez from Mexico and his tennis career.


According to the ATP’s records, Mr Cruz Sanchez is “inactive” which presumable means that he is now retired. Then again, the 25-year-old from Mexico seems to have been pretty “inactive” during his playing days.  His career-high ranking is listed as zero, his career stats show that he neither won nor lost a single match in his playing days and yet, remarkably, he still managed to earn a total of $54 in prize money. That in itself is an achievement of some note. Good on you, Bernardo.


The WTA website could almost match that. Bernadette Bayani, America’s very own, did actually play a match. Just the one. In doubles. And lost. The pain of her defeat (6-4, 6-1 to Bruna Colosio and Anne Smith, in case you were wondering) presumably persuaded her to call it a day. She walked away from tennis having earned $50. Given that she was losing with Julia Hodes of Germany, she must have had to split that and so ended up with $25 to show for her professional career. That would be the gender pay-gap for you.


And then the ATP outdid itself by presenting us with a certain Mr Coggswell. The venerable website lists our hero as a man of mystery, a man with no name. Well, no first name at any rate. Logged in the annals of tennis history as Unknown Coggswell, the only record of him ever playing was in the 1881 US Championships, held at that time in Newport, RI.


He opened his account with a win over Unknown Congdon (there is no proof that the two Unknowns were actually related), grabbing victory by the slightly unconventional score line of 6-4, 6-5 but then was blown away 6-0, 6-0 by Edward Gray.


At least Unknown Coggswell had a match win to keep him warm at nights. Pity poor Unknown D’Invilliers. He, too, only seems to have played just the once, and only at the US Championships. Or not, as it turned out.


There he was in 1886, listed on the draw sheet, another Unknown with freshly pressed flannels and a wooden bat. But when the time came for him to take to the court against Unknown Robbins, he pulled out, handing the walkover to his rival. The reason for his withdrawal? Unknown, natch. No matter, the ATP clearly takes this moment very seriously and carefully lists the outcome of the fixture: “This Event Points: 0, ATP Ranking: 0, Prize Money: $0.”


But history will remember you, Unknowns all. Always and forever.


In the meantime, we await the start of Monte Carlo where, we hope, normal service will be resumed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *