Before being summarily dismissed by China’s Jie Zheng in the 3rd round of this year’s Wimbledon, soon-to-be-former-but-still-current No. 1 Ana Ivanovic’s claim to fame was the miraculous netcord that saved her while match point down against Natalie Dechy in the prior round.
Several ESPN pundits were all over the potentially perfect reference: the 2nd round of the 1989 US Open, when Boris Becker was down match point to Hollywood’s own Derrick Rostagno.
Up a match point in the fourth-set tiebreaker (the first of two match points), Rostagno served and volleyed; Becker’s passing shot — which Rostagno was well in place to knock off — hit the net cord and took a severely angled bounce well over Rostagno’s head. Becker went on to win the tiebreak, the match, and marched all the way to the championship over Lendl. Becker was 21 at the time, so we could give Ivanovic, at just 20, a bit longer to come into her own.
And what about Mr. Rostagno? He rode his VW bus around to tournaments in the West (an RV in the East), and wore puka-shell necklaces. Often referred to as a “free spirit,” he was perhaps lucky in that there wasn’t anywhere near as much dug up on players as there is today. But there is some additional lore with Rostagno that has lingered: in 1986, he was in Mexico City on a flight layover before returning back to the States. At the last minute, he decided to stay in Mexico and play in a satellite tournament there. The MEX to LAX leg of the flight crashed in Cerritos, Calif., killing everyone on board and then some.
Another recollection features Michael Joyce — now famed as Maria Sharapova’s coach — back when he was struggling to move up through the challenger circuit. Joyce had just taken the players’ bus to the event where he was entered, when who should pull up than none other than Mr. Rostagno, driving a Porsche no less; here’s a fellow American who’s made it, drawing Joyce’s admiration and envy.
Rostagno has since gone on to get an MBA, work in leveraged buyouts, gone to law school, and passed the California bar. The latest report mentions him following his father into litigation. No one said life after tennis is pretty.
Michael Shaw writes about tennis and other subjects for the Los Angeles Times and is also an artist. He can be reached at michaelshaw_sar AT yahoo DOT com. Read his previous posts for TSF here.