It is, perhaps, a curse of big money.
Along with inflated purses and publicity in professional tennis have come inflated egos. If he's a premier player, you can bet he's a prima donna.
By that standard, Kelly Jones of San Diego is an oddball. Jones is not only approachable, he's affable. A regular guy.
"It's very frustrating," Jones said of those who carry the prima-donna tag. "A lot of players don't care about anything but themselves. It's not getting any better, but, hopefully, with the ATP tournament, we can turn things around. . . . I consider myself to be a lot different. Thank goodness for the handful of really down-to-earth, nice tennis players."
Jones is participating in the Assn. of Tennis Professionals Adopt-A-Player program held this week during the Volvo/Los Angeles tournament. Seven main-draw players, including Jones, Dan Goldie, Todd Witsken and former Pepperdine standout Andrew Sznajder were "adopted" by players from the Penn Junior Tennis Program, which is designed for novice to intermediate players in Southern California. Two juniors randomly were assigned to each pro. The program allows the juniors the opportunity to watch their pro's matches, and perhaps pick up an autograph.
Stacey and Keith Lipp of Simi Valley, aged 15 and 10, respectively, had the good fortune to be paired with Jones, who has, predictably, gone well beyond the program's call of duty. Despite disappointing losses in the first round of singles and doubles, Jones has taken the Lipps to lunch, talked with them extensively and even hit with them.
He even fielded a midnight call from Stacey, shook off his sleepiness and spoke for 20 minutes.
"It's really been wonderful," Stacey said. "I don't think I could have asked for more. I knew that I was going to get at least an autograph, but I had no idea it was going to be going to lunch, hitting with him, talking to him like he was my best friend."
Jones' effort comes as no surprise to Mark Winters, the director of special activities for the tournament.
Said Winters, "Players like Kelly Jones make people realize that everyone has to do just a bit more in order to make the game become the best it can."
Coming soon: Currently, the plan is about as fuzzy as a new tennis ball, but something big is brewing at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks.
Roscoe Tanner, tennis pro at Sherwood, and Stan Smith are planning a charity tournament tentatively scheduled for next spring to coincide with the opening of the club's tennis program.
The tournament, which has yet to be named, will have a main event including many of the world's top touring pros and a Hall of Fame event in which Tanner, Smith and other retired tour players will participate.
"I'm excited about the prospects," Tanner said. "It's going to be a unique event with some very good prize money and some great players."
The bottom line: Famous for his fireball serves, Tanner frequently is approached by players hoping to add heat to their delivery.
One philosophy dictates that the server toss the ball high and strike it at the apex of the swing. Balderdash, Tanner says. Power is tough to generate when a player stands on tiptoes.
Want the lowdown on serving? Get the ball low and down.
"The basic thing people need to do to improve their serve is very simple," Tanner said. "You've got to think of tossing as if you were throwing a baseball. You should be hitting the tennis ball at about the level you would release a baseball. You want it out in front of you--an 18-inch to two-foot toss."
Tuneup: A fund-raiser that combines rock music and tennis personalities will be held Sept. 13-16 and headquartered in Westlake Village.
The festival, sponsored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences and the ATP, will include a tournament at North Ranch Country Club and a concert at Saddleback Ranch in Malibu. The event will benefit City of Hope, MUSICARES and Grammy in the Schools.
Participating tennis pros will include Brad Gilbert, Eliot Teltscher, Tanner, Pete Sampras, Derrick Rostagno, Rick Leach and Jim Pugh. Members of such bands as Rush, REO Speedwagon, America, Kansas, Saga, Survivor, and The E Street Band are expected to perform.
Juniors update: Darren Potkey of Ventura won both boys' 18 singles and doubles titles last weekend in the Thousand Oaks Racquet Club Junior Open.
Potkey defeated Mike Bannister of Ventura, 7-6, 6-2, and teamed with Gary Potter of Thousand Oaks to beat Bannister and Ronnie Arbaugh of Upland, 6-4, 6-3.