Tennis, Italian Style

BOB MARTIN/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

ANYTHING GOES: Tommasi, left, and his partner Clerici talk about the birds, the bees and tennis

In the first round of the U.S. open in New York City, Pete Sampras was steamrolling Spain's Albert Portas. A dozen or so rows behind the court, Rino Tommasi was pondering the merits of mixed doubles. "It's pointless," he said. "I wish they would abolish it." Seated next to him, Gianni Clerici disagreed: "Mixed doubles has helped to grow the sport." Tommasi laughed. "Yeah, but only when the man and the woman got together after the match and conceived a tennis-playing baby."

It would have been an unremarkable exchange, if only the two men hadn't been live on the...

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