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Greenberg, Evert Give Game Effort Before Falling Short at US Open National Playoffs

April 18, 2011 04:30 PM
Even in defeat, ESPN host Mike Greenberg had a dream come true: He got to play alongside childhood crush Chris Evert.
By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- Mike Greenberg's US Open dreams were shattered on Court 13 today, in the shadow of Arthur Ashe Stadium - and rightly or wrongly, he is going to get his fair share of ribbing at work for the foreseeable future.
Despite teaming up with 18-time Grand Slam champion - and six-time US Open winner - Chris Evert, the duo of radio jock and tennis hall-of-fame jock ended in defeat at the hands of Beatrix Bielik and Darrin Cohen 6-1, 6-4.
"Greeny," as he is affectionately known as on his nationally-syndicated ESPN Radio program, "Mike and Mike in the Morning," admitted that he didn't have much time to prepare.
"We met for the first time in person about 40 minutes before the match," said the Greenberg with a good-natured laugh. "At first I thought the match was supposed to be ceremonial - maybe I'd be facing off with Ryan Seacrest, or a combination like Regis Philbin and Martina Navratilova.
"(After looking at the draw) Then I see that we're playing a team with a girl that made the third round of the Open and an NCAA National Champion at Wake Forest (University) and… wow. I turned to my wife and said: 'Am I reading this right?'"
Bielik won the 2002 Women's National Singles title before advancing to meet Justine Henin at the 2002 US Open as a wild card. Her partner, Cohen, was a standout player himself in the ACC at the University of Virginia. 
Going against two twentysomethings with that sort of pedigree, the 43-year-old Greenberg and the 56-year-old Evert remained undeterred.
"Mike just asked me one question: If I would like to play, to help him as best as I could," said Evert, who admitted that her partner exceeded her expectations. "I like the opportunity to come back to play a match and support the USTA."
"Also, I'm impossibly charming," added Greenberg to Evert's point. "You know, she was my first love, Chris Evert. I'll come back every year and play in this event, provided I get to team with her."  
Normally, a tennis player trying to qualify for the US Open comes into the match confident, with a game plan for victory. Greenberg's goal was unorthodox: 
"Not to get posterized," said the Westport, Conn. native who plays singles at the club level admitting to broadcast partner Mike Golic hours before taking to the court.
And at first, it looked like it could be the type of day which would lead to endless antagonistic barbs by Golic, who played for nine seasons in the NFL and routinely pokes fun at Greenberg's athletic prowess.
Wearing Ray-Bans and shuffling his feet, Greenberg launched his first return three feet wide and roughly 10 feet past the baseline, followed by polite clapping from the crowd. 
By the next change-over, Greenberg had lost the shades and gained some confidence after firing an ace in his first service game.
"Great serve, Mike! Legitmately, great serve!" assured Evert.
A point later, controversy arose as the umpire called a foot fault on Greenberg, with the crowd roaring their disproval.   
"How do you call a foot fault on me? I should be serving way up there," said Greenberg with self-deprecating humor, pointing to a spot right below the net.
The celebrity pair would gain traction as the match progressed - at least as best as they could against a younger and stronger opponent. Greenberg's serve remained consistent through the match, and there were moments where his net play shined, not shying away from slammed returns and showing an ability to get back quickly on lobs.
When asked how long it would take to whip her partner into true US Open shape, Evert deadpanned: "Everyday?"
"What's today - Monday? I'm sure it can be done, but not before next Thursday," quipped Greenberg. "I would like to play much, much worse people next time. It was nice having the experience of playing against good people, don't get me wrong, but a 72-year-old would be the optimal opponent for me - I have the body of a 60-year-old.
"At the end of the day, competing is nice - but winning is better."

To hear more from Mike Greenberg & Chris Evert about their participation in the US Open National Playoffs and to watch exclusive highlights, check out USOpen.org's video of the event.


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