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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Evert: No apologies to Serena
By KEITH NIEBUHR
Published April 18, 2006
Chris Evert respects Serena Williams .
In fact, she calls her the "greatest talent I've ever seen."
But that didn't keep the retired legend from challenging the oft-injured Williams to rededicate herself to the game in an open letter that appears in the May issue of Tennis Magazine . Since word of the column hit last month, its content has caused quite a stir in the tennis community.
And that's just fine with Evert.
"I don't care (what the response has been)," she said. "I'm not writing for a popularity contest."
Besides, Evert said, "Everybody is thinking it."
To refresh, Evert, among other things, said Williams' off-the-court life (i.e. acting, modeling) was ruining her focus and thus helping tarnish her legacy.
Evert, now 51 and living in Boca Raton, said she isn't judging Williams, but simply offering her point of view. Because they don't speak or have any sort of relationship, as Evert confessed during her recent trip to Tampa for the Mercedes-Benz Classic, she hadn't heard what Williams thought about her comments.
"Hopefully, I'm just making her think," Evert said.
ON HIS WAY? Last year was the kind Tampa's Mardy Fish would like to forget. After entering the season with his sights on the top 10, a left wrist injury resulted in two operations and limited him to three tournaments after the French Open. For the first time since 2001, Fish dropped out of the top 100.
After a slow start to 2006, the former Olympic silver medalist decided to refine his game and regain his confidence where Tampa resident James Blake did when he was returning from injury: In lower-tier events.
What worked for Blake, now ranked a career-best No.7, apparently has worked for Fish. After winning a recent event in Tallahassee, he went straight to Houston and promptly claimed the U.S. Clay Court Championships on Sunday. Behind that effort, Fish's ranking skyrocketed from 212 to 121.
"It's rewarding to know a lot of hard work paid off for me on a surface that's not even close to my best," Fish said.
Fish, 24, had four wins in Houston, which equaled his ATP Tour season total. He also collected a $52,000 winner's check.
A HELPING HAND: Doubles standout Liezel Huber spent the latter part of 2005 on her couch because of a knee injury, but she made the most of her time. After watching Hurricane Katrina's devastation, the Houston resident decided to help and has since donated time, money and other items to those in need. She also started a private non-profit foundation called Liezel's Cause (www.liezelscause.com)
"If tennis means that I'm able to help these people, then, you know, that's awesome," Huber said.
BY THE NUMBERS: 27-3: Doubles record this year for former Florida Gator Lisa Raymond , who has earned $315,762 in 2006. ... 2: Career singles titles for Fish. ... 5: Current ranking for Family Circle Cup champion Nadia Petrova , a career best. ... 12: Consecutive years (1989-2000) Conchita Martinez , who retired last week, finished a season ranked inside the top 15 in singles. ... .864: Rafael Nadal 's career winning percentage on clay entering this week's ATP Tour event in Monte Carlo. That's the highest among all active top-100 players.
LAST WORD: "No matter what happens out there - how badly I play or how badly I feel - I still can find the strength in me and win it. I will remember it forever, of course, and when I have a difficult time on the court again, I'll probably remember this final." - Petrova, who battled sore legs to defeat Patty Schnyder on Sunday and now has four tour victories, all in the past six months.