More stories

  • in

    Tennis, Everyone?

    Furi Sport, a new tennis equipment and fashion line, wants to do nothing less than change the game.The first time Erick Mathelier visited Greenwich, Conn., was an eye-opening experience.“The houses were humongous,” he recalled, sitting outside a Lower East Side cafe one morning in June. “I was like, ‘Wow, people live like this?’” To the eyes of a teenager from the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, Greenwich was a window to a different world, one where the houses weren’t just bigger, the dreams were.His first glimpse of this rarefied enclave on the Long Island Sound came through tennis, in a van on the way to an Ivan Lendl tennis club for a match.Tennis was a gateway for Mr. Mathelier. He recalled his first time on an airplane at age 14 for a trip to a tournament in Bermuda. “It’s funny, I was teased because I was so scared to fly, and by 14 most of my friends had flown,” he said. The sport was his ticket to a scholarship to a Division 1 college, Saint Francis in Brooklyn Heights. Two decades later, Mr. Mathelier, now 42, is a tennis professional — off the court.Last month, he introduced Furi Sport, an equipment — rackets, strings, overgrips and bags — and apparel line with his business partner Michelle Spiro. The idea behind the company is to break down the entry barrier to tennis, to shake off the elitist country-club flavor that insulates the world of Wimbledon and its all-white dress code.Black is the defining color of the Furi Sport T-shirts, hoodies, bags and rackets. At $199, the rackets are priced with inclusivity in mind, competitive with, yet slightly below, the top of the competition (Prince, Head, Wilson, Yonex, Babolat). Mr. Mathelier knows from experience that tennis can take you places, if you can gain access to it.How Others LiveMr. Mathelier grew up in a predominantly Caribbean neighborhood in Brooklyn, the only son of a single mother from Haiti. He was an active child whose first love was baseball. As a 10-year-old, he was one of two African American kids on a team in Sheepshead Bay.Then, in the summer of 1989, Yusef Hawkins, a Black teenager from East New York, was brutally murdered by a mob of white kids in Bensonhurst. As racial tension surged in the city, Mr. Mathelier’s mother pulled him out of baseball, fearful that Yusef Hawkins’s tragic fate would befall her son.“I was so sad,” Mr. Mathelier said. “I needed something to do.” Deeming himself too short for basketball, he set his sights on tennis. Why? He’s not sure. His mother told him to crack open the Yellow Pages and find a way to play, which led him to the Prospect Park Tennis Center.The tennis club, situated at the nexus of the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Little Caribbean and Crown Heights — which at the time was years away from being gentrified — drew a diverse bunch.“Just seeing how people lived definitely changed my perspective,” Mr. Mathelier said.Mr. Mathelier had no professional tennis ambitions until he met Ms. Spiro by chance at a fashion event in 2014. By then, he had hung up his racket to focus on a series of start-ups.Ms. Spiro, 53, spent 25 years in corporate fashion in increasingly senior buying and sales roles at Macy’s, DKNY, Polo Ralph Lauren Underwear and Calvin Klein Men’s Underwear — companies that were held by public giants like Sara Lee and Warnaco. By 2015, she had become intrigued by the street wear movement.“The luxury market was all about showing how much money you have through what you were buying,” Ms. Spiro said. “What I loved about street wear is that it was this exclusive inclusivity. The currency changed from cash to being in the know.”Mr. Mathelier’s teenage tennis journey resonated with Ms. Spiro, who observed that Supreme, Palace and A Bathing Ape were anchored in skateboarding. Moncler and The North Face grew out of outdoor recreation, and Carhartt and Timberland were backed by construction. Tennis had no street cred.Ms. Spiro called Mr. Mathelier and said, “I have this crazy idea.” How about a rare Black- and female-owned tennis brand, based in New York City and built on the idea of taking the sport out of the country club?The company’s clothing collection speaks to tennis’s off-court culture.via FURI SportThe vibe is more streetwear than country club.via FURI SportTennis for EveryoneHigh-quality, competitive equipment was central to the idea. But there’s a reason the sport is dominated by a handful of big brands. “Everyone is just stuck with what equipment that they’re used to,” said Mr. Mathelier, who was committed to Prince before founding Furi. “Even though they may complain about the newer version of their racket, they just play with it.”Then there’s the fact that what looks like a relatively simple piece of equipment requires navigating a byzantine network of Asian manufacturing cliques. Ms. Spiro and Mr. Mathelier enlisted his childhood friend from Prospect Park Tennis Center, Gerald Sarmiento, a pro-shop owner, coach and master stringer who knows the nuances of rackets better than his own backhand. He told them not to bother unless they came to the market with something that gives the player an “ooh-ahh feeling,” Mr. Mathelier recalled.When it came time to develop a racket, Mr. Sarmiento connected them with Yasu Sakamoto, a Japanese racket maestro with 40 years of experience consulting for companies including Wilson.Through several years of development, frustrating trials and errors, they landed on a proprietary design with energy return technology and vibration reduction technology that gave Mr. Sarmiento that special feeling. Two models, a lite and a pro version, are for sale on the Furi Sport website.The next challenge was recruiting other players. “People would be like, ‘Oh, that’s cute,’” Mr. Mathelier said of pitching Furi’s racket. Once, at the McCarren Park courts in Brooklyn, he approached a friend and her hitting partner.“He looked at me like I was a traveling salesperson with my trunk,” Mr. Mathelier said. “Well, now he plays with Furi.”For every dismissal, there was someone willing to help. A tweet sent to Caitlin Thompson, the publisher of the independent tennis magazine Racquet, led to a meeting. “We became hitting partners because I was really intrigued about the idea of new equipment in the space,” said Ms. Thompson, who has used the Furi rackets, grips and bags.She sees Furi’s opportunity in its positioning as a beginner-friendly option for recreational players, a rare direct-to-consumer brand (think of what Casper did for mattresses) in a market steeped in pro-shop culture.“So much of tennis is catered toward this notion of professional athletes,” Ms. Thompson said. “This is a racket that Roger Federer plays with. This is the racket that Serena Williams plays with.” She said that Mr. Federer’s racket is so heavy, most recreational players can’t lift it above their heads. Yet pro shops can’t keep it in stock because he plays with it.The Social ComponentFor Mr. Mathelier, Furi is a tool to reach kids growing up in circumstances similar to his own. Junior rackets will be coming for fall. Furi is sponsoring three junior tennis players — Carter Smallwood, Olivia Medrano and Bode Vujnovich — and donates grips, strings and rackets to youth programs, including Kings County Tennis League, which began in 2010, when its founder Michael McCasland posted a sign offering free tennis lessons on a dilapidated court near the Marcy Houses in Bedford-Stuyvesant. It has since grown into a tennis program for kids living in Brooklyn public housing that serves more than 200 people.“You can use tennis to get out,” Mr. Mathelier said. “It is really good at creating structure, building strategy. A lot of former tennis players end up becoming successful businesspeople.”The lifestyle portion of Furi Sport draws on Ms. Spiro’s expertise. Luis Santos, a designer who has worked for Christian Lacroix, Kenzo and Paco Rabanne, created a collection of clothing that is not performance wear — that’s still in development — but speaks to tennis’s broader, off-court culture. T-shirt dresses, shirts with cutout shoulders and wide-leg, tapered khakis and cargo pants can be worn by anyone heading to a post-match drink. Or anyone who wants to be in Furi’s club.A blue tennis ball with a smirk is Furi Sport’s trademark, “symbolizing the fierce energy and velocity that comes from within,” according to the company’s website. The name Furi was chosen partly because “fury” evokes an attitude of fire-in-the-belly grit essential to a sport in which every match results in one winner and one loser.“You have to be comfortable with losing,” Mr. Mathelier said. “We have a saying internally,” Mr. Mathelier said. “‘Dream big and let it fly.’” He directed attention to his forearm, where those words have been immortalized in a subtle, faded tattoo. More

  • in

    Wimbledon hero Emma Raducanu watches carnage of British GP at Silverstone after upgrading her ‘Sunday routine’

    SILVERSTONE welcomed Emma Raducanu to the British Grand Prix on Sunday amid the Wimbledon ace’s stunning rise.The Brit, 18, broke through to reach the fourth-round of this year’s tennis tournament – her first-ever appearance at a Grand Slam.
    Emma Raducanu was one of the many famous faces at Silverstone on SundayCredit: Getty
    The tennis ace detailed her day out on her Instagram pageCredit: Instagram @emmaraducanu
    And she joked that her routine had ‘slightly changed’ after being invited to go behind the scenes for the Formula One race.
    Raducanu sat on the Red Bull pit wall as part of her tour of the paddock, posing for photographs with the array of historic cars that took to the track ahead of the Grand Prix.
    After waving to the 140,000 fans at Silverstone while riding on the drivers’ parade, the teenager hopped behind the wheel of a McLaren supercar.
    Fellow celebs including Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang were snapped hanging out with Raducanu, with the likes of Tom Cruise and Prince Edward also present for Sunday’s spectacle.
    She wrote on Instagram: “A Sunday routine that slightly changed 😝.
    “Doesn’t get better than the F1 British GP.”
    Raducanu hopped behind the wheel of a McLaren during the eventCredit: Instagram @emmaraducanu
    Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang posed for photos with the Brit in the paddockCredit: Getty

    In the race, Red Bull were left furious by Lewis Hamilton’s first-lap collision with Max Verstappen.
    The Dutchman was taken to hospital for checks after hitting the tyre barrier at 180mph.
    A row has broken out between the two teams with Mercedes and Hamilton defending their actions.
    However, F1 was united in condemning the racist abuse targeted at the Brit, 36, in the aftermath of his victory.

    🏁 F1 2021 calendar: practice times, dates and racetrack info
    Max Verstappen groans in pain and shouts ‘argh, f***’ on Red Bull team radio after F1 star’s crash with Lewis Hamilton More

  • in

    Shirley Fry Irvin, Tennis Star of the ’40s and ’50s, Is Dead at 94

    The fastest player of her day, she played down her own ability but admitted, “Billie Jean King said I was her idol.”Shirley Fry Irvin, a tennis player who in the pre-Open era swept the singles and doubles titles in the four Grand Slam tournaments, died on Tuesday in Naples, Fla. She was 94. Her death was announced by the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where she was inducted in 1970.At a time when the players were amateurs, the rackets were made of wood and the championship surfaces were mostly grass, Irvin (who was known in her playing days as Shirley Fry) won the French title (on clay) in 1951, the Wimbledon and United States titles in 1956 and the Australian title in 1957. She then retired from tennis to raise a family.She was one of only 10 women to win the singles titles at all four of those championships.She also won 12 women’s doubles championships in those four tournaments, the first 11 partnered with Doris Hart and the 12th with Althea Gibson. In the annual Wightman Cup competition between the United States and Britain, she played six years, winning 10 of her 12 matches. At 5-foot-5 and 125 pounds, she was the fastest player of her day. But she apparently did not think much of her talents.“Billie Jean King said I was her idol,” she told The Orlando Sentinel in 2000. “That flatters me, because I really wasn’t that good of a player. I wasn’t a natural. I had athletic ability, I could run and I could concentrate. I excelled in running and concentration. I had no serve.”Hart, her frequent doubles partner, admired Irvin’s tenacity. “Shirley was one of the best runners I ever saw play,” she said in 2000. “She ran everything down.”Shirley June Fry was born on June 30, 1927, in Akron, Ohio. She was an athletic child, trying hockey, badminton, baseball, archery, ice skating, swimming and running as well as tennis. In 1999, she told The Akron Beacon Journal, “I wanted to play football, but once we got into junior high school it became the boys and the girls.”Irvin waves her hat in 2004 as 50 Hall of Famers are introduced during ceremonies celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I. She was inducted in 1970.Victoria Arocho/Associated PressTennis won out. At a Hall of Fame event in Newport, R.I., in 2004, she told the broadcaster and columnist Bud Collins that she had begun traveling alone to tournaments all over the nation when she was 10.“My parents would put me on a bus in Akron and off I’d go,” she said. “Usually, someone met me at the other end, but I would go to Travelers Aid if there was a problem. It built self-reliance, and it was fun.”When she was 11, she told The New York Times, “I traveled by train to a tournament in Philadelphia, and then, at my father’s suggestion, went on to New York. I took a train to Penn Station and then the subway to Forest Hills, where he had made a reservation for me at the Forest Hills Inn. Then I walked all the way to the New York World’s Fair.”In 1941, at 14, she played in the United States amateur championship, the youngest person to compete there until Kathy Horvath (who was a month younger) in 1979. In 1942, she became the youngest United States amateur quarterfinalist. For 13 consecutive years (1944-56), she ranked in the United States Top 10. She was No. 1 in 1956.She found time to earn a degree in human relations from Rollins College in Florida in 1949. After the 1954 season, she retired from tennis because of a nagging elbow injury and got a job as a clerk at The St. Petersburg Times in Florida, where she made about 75 cents an hour. As that newspaper recalled in 1989, “One of her first duties as copy girl was sending the story of her own retirement down to the composing room.”After a few months of recreational tennis, she entered two Florida tournaments in 1955 and won both, in one of which she beat Hart in the final. That summer, she quit her job and returned to full-time tennis.The next year provided her crowning glory at Wimbledon, where she beat Gibson in the quarterfinals, Louise Brough in the semifinals and Angela Buxton of England in a 50-minute final.“I play better when it doesn’t matter if I win or lose,” she told The New York Times about her victory at Wimbledon, which came on her ninth try. “After eight attempts at Wimbledon, I didn’t think I was going to win.” Her subsequent United States championship was her first at Forest Hills in 16 tries.Shirley Fry in 1951 in a semifinal match against Louise Brough at Wimbledon. She won, but lost in the finals to Doris Hart.Central Press/Hulton Archive, via Getty ImagesShe won the Australian title in 1957 and then retired again. That year she married Karl Irvin, an American advertising executive whom she had met when he was working in Australia and served as an umpire for some of her matches there.“During one match,” she told The Times, “I became furious over several of his calls and asked that he be removed and that he not work any more of my matches. Shortly after that, we were married and had four children within the space of five years.”Her husband died in 1976. She is survived by their children, Mark, Scott, Lori and Karen, and 12 grandchildren.Irvin lived in West Hartford, Conn., for 35 years before moving to Florida. She taught tennis for three decades, played in senior tournaments and, at 58, won the United States clay-court championship for women 55 and older. When her knees gave out at 62, she stopped playing tennis in favor of golf, which had become her favorite sport.She loved golf, but she was not that good at it, generally shooting higher than 100.“It’s a little embarrassing,” she said in 2000. “You say, ‘She won the Wimbledon tennis tournament?’ Then you see me playing golf and say, ‘How could she?’”Frank Litsky, a longtime sportswriter for The Times, died in 2018. Peter Keepnews contributed reporting. More

  • in

    Chasing a Grand Slam: It’s Rarer Than You Think

    Novak Djokovic has claimed this year’s Australian and French Opens and Wimbledon. Only the U.S. Open is left to be won. But no man has achieved a Grand Slam since 1969, and no woman since 1988.Most fans know about the tennis Grand Slam: winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in the same calendar year. More

  • in

    Watch Matteo Berrettini go wild for Italy at Wembley with girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic hours after losing Wimbledon final

    MATTEO BERRETTINI was left disappointed after being beaten by Novak Djokovic in four sets in yesterday’s Wimbledon final.But after a 13 mile jaunt north to Wembley Stadium, the Italian was in dreamland by the end of the day.
    Matteo Berrettini was jubilant as Italy won the shootout
    Wimbledon quarter-finalist Tomljanovic filmed her boyfriend’s reaction
    Berrettini, 25, lost 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to Djokovic in his first Grand Slam final – finishing a little before 6pm.
    After his media commitments were done, he and girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic – who herself reached the quarter-finals of The Championships last week by beating Emma Raducanu – raced off to Wembley for the football.
    Following his defeat, Berrettini had said: “I had a really great run during the two weeks, so I couldn’t ask for more… but maybe a little bit more!”
    And he was almost immediately granted his wish, as Italy came from behind to beat England on penalties in a tense Euro 2020 final.
    The world No8 was put through the ringer during the nerve-shredding match, with Tomljanovic sharing some of his emotional moments on her Instagram story.
    He experienced the highs and lows, before ultimate jubilation as Gianluigi Donnarumma saved Bukayo Saka’s penalty to win it.
    The Aussie had shown Berrettini nervously bouncing up and down before giving her a big hug.
    As he put his arm around her, he said: “Don’t make fun of me!”

    The Italian lost to Novak Djokovic at the All England Club earlier in the dayCredit: EPA
    Berrettini attended alongside Italian president Sergio MattarellaCredit: Rex

    Berrettini’s emotions veered in each direction as the drama unfolded.
    And as Donnarumma made his vital save, Berrettini let his full emotions out.
    The 6ft 5in star, who had played 3h 27m of gruelling tennis earlier in the day, jumped up and down and screamed to the heavens in triumph.
    He then even got to go on the pitch after the game, taking part in an interview alongside Donnarumma.
    Berrettini is now set for a fortnight off, before jetting out to Tokyo to represent Italy in the Olympics.
    Tomljanovic, 28, is also set to take part in the Games in Japan for Australia.
    Tomljanovic had nervously watched Berrettini from his player box at WimbledonCredit: Getty
    Berrettini won plenty of fans at Wimbledon in the last fortnightCredit: AFP

    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Watch Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci swig beer and Coca-Cola as he says ‘I’ll drink everything tonight’ after Euro 2020 win More

  • in

    Winning Junior Wimbledon Is ‘Crazy’, but It’s Still ‘Just the Juniors’

    This year’s boys’ final, which featured two American teenagers, represented a surprising success for U.S. tennis as the sport desperately seeks another top men’s player.WIMBLEDON, England — As Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini played the first set of the Wimbledon men’s singles final Sunday afternoon on Centre Court, two young Americans were wrapping up the boys’ singles final, 100 yards and also a world away. More

  • in

    Novak Djokovic Wins Wimbledon, U.S. Open is Next

    Djokovic, now with 20 career Grand Slam titles, suggested that the three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal could be broken at the U.S. Open.WIMBLEDON, England — The Big Three now have 20 apiece.It is a development that would have seemed unlikely to Novak Djokovic as he made his way onto the tour in the aughts with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal racking up Grand Slam singles titles. More

  • in

    Novak Djokovic Wins Wimbledon

    The world’s best player defeated Matteo Berrettini 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, tying him with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, and putting him one victory closer to a Golden Slam.Novak Djokovic won the Wimbledon men’s singles championship on Sunday, defeating Matteo Berrettini of Italy. More