The Four Horsemen (Part II)

An Interview With Chris Gambino and Drew Broderick

Q:  How is the game different today than it was when you first started playing!?  Is it different!?  How do you see the game changing in the next decade or so!?

CG:  There is a lot more depth in the game and a lot more athleticism. There are probably about ten teams who can beat anyone on a given day.

DB:  The only change I’ve noticed is that draws are getting deeper due to larger number of young tennis players who are committed to the game and travel to more tournaments.

Q:  What is your favorite team to watch and why!?  Do you have a favorite player!?

CG:  Arraya-Bancila are fun to watch because both players are very talented and either one can hit shots that very few can. David Caldwell and Brian Uihlein are also fun to watch because both can do things that are unique to the game. Right now, my favorite player is Drew Broderick.

DB:  Lubow- DeRose, because they go for every fun shot in the book and smile while doing so.
My favorite player is Jon Lubow.  Isn’t he everybody’s?

Q:  What’s your composite of the perfect player!?  Specifically, the perfect player has:

CG:  That’s a tough question.  I’ll give it a try but please note that I am only listing players that I know and have only seen at the peaks of their playing careers.
Whose serve-It is difficult to say who has the best serve-but if you can mix it up and keep people off balance as well as get it in of course, that is really all you need.
Whose forehand- Mansager, Uihlein, Estes, Ohlmuller, Cochrane
Whose backhand – Mark Parsons, Bancila, Broderick, Caldwell
Whose volleys- duRandt, Stulac, Fiedler, Bondurant, Marino
Whose overheads- Uihlein, duRandt, Bancila, Arraya, Milbank
Whose hands/touch- Ohlmuller, Goodspeed, Broderick, Johnson, Fiedler
Whose speed- Caldwell, duRandt, Broderick, Goodspeed, Cochrane
Whose overall athleticism- Broderick, Caldwell, duRandt, Parsons, Milbank
Whose competitiveness- Broderick, Mansager, duRandt, Ohlmuller, Fiedler, Bondurant
Whose patience and shot selection- Broderick, Mansager, Goodspeed, Estes, Stulac
Whose mental toughness- Mansager, Goodspeed, Ohlmuller, Fiedler, Broderick

DB:  Serve – no one in particular
Forehand – Gambino or duRandt
Backhand – Mark Parsons
Volley – DeRose
Overheads – Uihlein
Hands – Stulac
Speed – Cosimano
Athleticism – Caldwell
Patience/shot selection – Estes
Mental toughness – too many to choose from

Q: Who is your dream partner, past or present, excluding your current or former (steady) partners!?

CG:  Rich Maier

DB:  I know Ron Cummins’ dream partner for me is Steve DeRose and DeRose’s dream partner for me is Scott Estes Jr.  But I will keep my answer to myself – sorry!

Q:  What team or player you wish you could have played against!?

CG:  Hank Irvine or Rich Maier.

DB:  I would have probably liked to have played Rich Maier, Hank Irvine, or Steve Baird while they were in their prime.

Q:  Of all players whom you have seen play live, in their prime, who has impressed you the most and why!?

CG:  That’s hard to say. It is hard to say that one stands out because there are so many players that do so many things well.

DB:   Johan duRandt.  He made the finals at the Nationals on back to back years with different partners and has played the game for only five or six years.  He is not even in his prime yet.

Q:  Margins in matches are very small, win or lose, especially in the latter stages of tournaments.  What do you think is the difference maker!?  Playing ability, team history and communication, confidence, attitude, luck, or a combination of all these elements!?

CG:  I think the difference is tenacity, discipline and concentration. A little bit of luck never hurts of course.

DB:  All these elements are important to win a tournament.  Luck is the smallest factor, confidence is the biggest.

Q:  What do you enjoy most about platform tennis, other than winning!?  What do you like least about it, other than losing!?

CG:  I enjoy the competition at a high level. It is fun to test yourself against great players. I like the team aspect as well. It is fun to have a game plan and work together to make each other better. It is a sport where teamwork is essential. I like least the amount of matches that are played in a weekend. I honestly think the Nationals should be a 32 team draw where the 24 best get in and 8 qualify.

DB:  To me, the competition is great but the paddle community is greater.  What I like least? I’m obsessed with replaying matches over in my head.

Q:  What is your favorite tournament and why!?

CG:  I like the Charities, not just because it is close by, but because it is well run and organized. I have played well there for the most part.

DB:  Husband & Wife Nationals J

Q:  What has been your most rewarding PT win to date and why!?  It could be an individual match or a tournament victory.

CG:  My first Men’s Nationals title in 2001 with Dave Ohlmuller in New Jersey.

DB:  The semifinal match at the Indianapolis Open in 2010.  Chris and I came back against Scott Mansager and Brian Uihlein after being down 1-5, 15-40 in the third set.

Q:  What up and coming team or player you think will be the next big thing!?

CG:  Well, Johan duRandt has already made a big splash and could win many more titles but I am not sure we can still call him an up and comer.  I was very impressed with Jared Palmer given his limited paddle experience.

DB:  I honestly don’t know.  We will all have to wait and see.

Q:  How much of an advantage does having a solid to great tennis background give you in platform tennis!?

CG:  It’s a significant advantage as the strokes and feel is very similar. That being said not all good tennis players are good paddle players because there is a definite strategy and discipline to the game.

DB:   A solid tennis background is huge as long as you have the right people teaching you when you first start playing paddle.  I was fortunate to have big Ron Cummins teach me the game.

Q:  Would you change the game in any way, rules, rules, equipment, etc.!?  How so!?

CG:  I would make the draws smaller and I would loosen the screens. I would make the balls more consistent.

DB:  I’d like to see some indoor courts in the near future. I hate the cold!!!

Q:  How do you deal with a blatant bad call, other than of course trying to FYI the culprit as many times as possible for the rest of the match!?

CG:  You just have to get over it. Most people in paddle are sportsmanlike and it hasn’t been a huge issue for me.

DB:  I’ve learned to move on from a bad call and leave the rest to karma (like Pauli D!)

Q:  Drew, you are married.  Chris, you are in a serious relationship.  Without throwing her under the bus, how do you negotiate your tournament traveling schedule!?

CG:  Elizabeth is not only very understanding – she is also my paddle coach. Since she has started coaching me, I have not lost a match.

DB:  Juliet travels to most of the tournaments with me.  Come back and talk to me once we have kids though…

Q:  If you could give club/league players one tip to improve their game, what would that be!?

CG:  Be more patient – learn to not make mistakes initially and then work on your offense.

DB:  Eliminate lobs that miss long (past the baseline).  It’s the worst shot in paddle!

Q:  What advice would you give to a competitive tennis player who just started playing PT!?

CG:  Shorten up your strokes.  Lob better, it will help you learn the screens quicker.  Try to hit backhand volleys 95% of the time.

DB:  Even though it’s boring, lob every ball for your first year.  After that, you can incorporate the heat!

Q:  Name one thing that you admire about your partner, both on and off the court.

CG:  Drew is a great competitor, very talented, and a smart player.

DB:  Chris has been raised to believe that losing is for the weak! J

Q:  In your opinion, what is more important:  to be a great ad court player, a great deuce court player, or be very good on both sides!?

CG:  I think it’s important to be very good on both sides.

DB:  It’s important to play both sides.  You should not have any weaknesses in your game.

Q:  Do you have a set strategy against all teams, certain teams, or do you just try to impose your game on your opponents no matter what!?

CG:  We have a different strategy against all teams.

DB:  I have strategy against every individual player whenever I am at the net.  My baseline style however is to grind!

Q:  Do you believe that one single point (a let cord, a bad call, etc.) can change the outcome of a match or do you think that the better team should win no matter what!?

CG:  The better team should win. Let cords are part of the game and the same players tend to get more let cords than others.  Dave O is a great example of that, he actually aimed for them.

DB:  I think the better team should win no matter what.

Q:  How has your game change/evolve over the years!?

CG:  It actually has not changed much.

DB:  I’ve learned to see points evolve about five shots ahead and I feel that my patience gets stronger with every match I play.

Q:  Chris, you and Dave Ohlmuller are one of the three greatest teams in the history of the sport, along with Baird/Maier and Goodspeed/Mansager.  You are still in your prime and as good as ever.  Is there any difference being on top of the game now versus a decade ago!? How so!?

CG:  Thank you for the compliments. There are differences. Dave and I had a great run and I will never forget how much fun it was to compete with him and all that we accomplished. Now, it will be fun to see what Drew and I can accomplish. We are off to a great start and I think we really complement each other well. The biggest difference for me is that now I have to try to stay in reasonable shape since I am not a youngster anymore (physically).

Q:  Chris, you and Dave Ohlmuller had the greatest year in the history of the sport during the 2002-03 season.  You have lost only one set during the entire year (to Uihlein/Hough) and won everything in sight.  What do you remember about that incredible year!?

CG:  I remember that Dave O was the most intense player in the game by far and hated to lose even a point.  Sometimes he would go entire matches without missing a volley.  He was by far the best player in the screens and would intimidate with his forehand.  He was just incredible and I felt that if I just played steady and set him up good things would happen.

Q:  Chris, Gambino/Ohlmuller won six Charities and every other tournament on the face of the earth.  In a sport where you are judged by the number of National titles however, despite your two National titles together as well as your unparalleled success, I feel that the two of you underachieved as a team.  How far off am I with this assessment!?

CG:  I have heard that before and I would say there is some truth to it because of the way the sport is judged. Most of the importance seems to be placed on the number of Nationals that are won.  I remember my second year in the sport we were ranked #1 and the ranking committee put an asterisk next to our names because we didn’t win the Nationals. Dave and I definitely won a lot of tournaments despite our lack of fitness and our horrible diets.  If we made fitness and dedication to the sport a priority it is possible that our results could have been better but that being said we are still happy with our results.

Q:  Drew, what made you play the ad side as a lefty!? Do you think it is different for a lefty to play both sides compared to a righty!?

DB:  My return is so much stronger from the ad side.  Also, I love the fact that every player in the game wants to hit the ball to the ad side screen (in my wheel house)!  Since the game has more righty players than lefties, I think the lefty-lefty team combo could be ridiculously good!

Q:  Drew, is there an advantage to being a lefty in this game?

DB:  You bet it is, as long as you can get your partner on the same page.

Interviews conducted by Alex Bancila.  All rights to this article belong to Alex Bancila and