Andrea Temesvari was in a snit, or, more precisely, she and her father, Otto, were snitten. She was playing Pilar Vasquez of Peru, an overmatched opponent, in the opening round of last week's U.S. Clay Court Championships in Indianapolis. Instead of forcing play by coming in to the net, Temesvari waited tentatively at the baseline, trading ground strokes. It took her until the seventh game to break Vasquez's serve. "Istenem, de rosszul jàtszom," Temesvari kept muttering. In Hungarian, that means, "Gosh, I play bad."
She sneaked a furtive glance at her coach, who scowled from the first row of the gallery, flailing away at the air in consternation. The coach was perhaps doubly upset because he is also her father. He looked like a demonic conductor whose orchestra was playing Béla Bartók when he wanted the Hungarian Rhapsody. He flung his wrists to his mouth in mute horror. He slapped his forehead. He sputtered a goulash of Magyar exclamations rarely heard on the tennis courts of America. "Nem sz√ºkséges," said Otto. (Translation: Not necessary.)
"Nem gondolkozol, miel≈ëtt cselekszel!" (You don't think before you act!).
When Andrea again failed to come to the net, he growled, "Unbelievable!" (Unbelievable!), which seemed to be an all-purpose punctuation to his tirade.
August 14, 1983
Papa Otto's concern was premature. Andrea won the game, the match and the tournament, beating Zina Garrison 6-2, 6-2 in the finals. Her success may not be unbelievable, but her rise in the rankings is one of the more remarkable stories on the women's tour. Only 17, Temesvari was the top seed at the Clay Courts. In January 1982 she was ranked 146th in the world. She's now 11th.
During her ascent, Temesvari has achieved some remarkable results. In May she won the Italian Open with the loss of but one game in the semifinals and finals. Last month she beat the reigning NCAA champ, Beth Herr, 6-0, 6-0 in a $100,000 tournament in Hittfeld, West Germany, which she also won. At Indy, Temesvari cruised past defending champion Virginia Ruzici 6-2, 6-2 in the semis before routing Garrison. Temesvari has defeated Tracy Austin in three sets, and at Hilton Head this spring she nearly knocked off Martina Navratilova before falling 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
Tour consultant Ted Tinling, who has observed women's tennis since the days of Suzanne Lenglen, thinks Temesvari is the only young player with star quality. "Someone could tell me that she's Zsa Zsa Gabor's granddaughter, and I'd say, 'Why, of course,' " says Tinling. "Andrea sustains my faith in grace and beauty in the future of tennis."
Women players in their teens often look as if they're being swung by their rackets instead of swinging them. But Temesvari has a commanding presence. She's 5'10", 125 pounds, strong, supple and full of silvery propulsion. She flashes along the baseline, a blonde ponytail whipping behind her. Temesvari may be the best natural athlete to emerge in women's tennis since Navratilova. She's a willful, imperious golden girl, bedecked with gold bracelets, earrings and chains. Her father bestows them on her when she does well in tournaments. "He knows he can give me anything he wants," she says, "as long as it's gold."
Her fingernails and toenails are painted cherry-blossom pink. She accidentally ripped off one of her toenails when she stubbed her toe on some stairs during last month's Federation Cup in Zurich. She carries the nail as a keepsake in her makeup case. Otto thinks this is all very silly, but he goes along with it anyway.
The Temesvaris are the toughest father-daughter act to hit the pro tennis circuit since Roland and another Andrea, Jaeger. Roland, a former boxer, is the prototypical tennis father pounding the game into his daughter, but he says, "Otto is worse than I am." Otto is tanned and hulking, with hair the color of iron. He looks like an aging power forward. In fact, he was a forward on the Hungarian Olympic basketball team that lost 107-63 to the U.S. in the first round of the 1960 Games in Rome. That's hardly a disgrace, considering that the U.S. squad included Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Jerry Lucas and Walt Bellamy. Temesvari had to cover Robertson, who sank his first seven shots. "I had never seen anyone who could dribble the ball behind him," says Otto. "Unbelievable!"
In 1971 Otto moved the family to Algiers, where he coached the Algerian national basketball squad and started playing tennis. Andrea first got her hands on a racket at nine, and, says Otto, "She was, how you say, not bad, the first practice ever." He wanted her to play the way Bjorn Borg did—tough, with plenty of topspin. "Andrea, you play topspin because it's bad for everybody," Papa told her. "You must play like a man." But Algiers was short on tennis coaches, so Otto became her mentor. He eventually gave up his own coaching career to concentrate on making her a star. The Temesvaris relied on Otto's savings for her first year on the tour. But now they live off Andrea's earnings—$119,001 in 1983, not counting endorsements—which also support her mother and her nine-month-old sister back in Budapest.
Having your father as coach does have its pitfalls. "Even if I win 6-0, 6-1, he'll say to me later, 'Why did you miss that one?' " says Andrea. "And I'll say, 'But I only lost one game the whole match,' and he'll say, 'Yes, but you missed your first drop shot.' "
Lenglen, who also was coached by her father, used to say she lost only when she didn't listen to his advice. He died shortly after she turned pro, and her game was never the same. The Temesvaris may avoid the traps of the father-daughter relationship. Otto's rein looks very tight, but as one player says, "Andrea has a good time. Don't let her fool you."
"O.K.," says Otto with a small shrug. "Andrea wants to be alone. That is something difficult for me to understand, but I understand. Andrea is really a woman in spirit. She can cry when a ball goes out. A really professional woman can't cry."
"He means I'm too nice," says Andrea. "I play the game because it's beautiful."
"I hope she stays this sensibility," he says. "But she must get harder mental."
To harden Andrea's mental, Otto practices with her nearly every day. His relationship with his daughter is like their hometown: He's part Buddha, part pest. She worships him; he badgers her. He runs her all over the court, and most every return gets a rigorous critique. She has to hit an exceptional shot to get praise. "If I can play with him 40 minutes in practice, I can play three hours in a match," says Andrea. "I never know where he's going to hit the ball."
"I don't know me, too," says Otto.
Andrea usually takes Otto's advice, but like any teen-ager she occasionally challenges her father. "My topspin was short," she said after beating Vasquez. "And when I'm short...pffff."
"I am sorry," said Otto, "but you played O.K. Pilar playing so bad that sometimes you was angry or surprised."
"That's a first," said Andrea. "Usually, I say I played good, and you say bad."
"O.K.," said Otto. "You don't playing well, but Pilar playing good." He then backhanded a compliment to Vasquez as she slouched to the locker room. "Good match, Pilar," he said. "It was good warmup for Andrea."
Indeed, as her scores suggest, Temesvari has hardly broken a sweat this summer. When she is at her best, only three or four players in the world are her equal on clay, where she has plenty of time to position herself to pummel forehands into the corners. On faster surfaces, however, Temesvari is more vulnerable. Witness her loss at Wimbledon to the game's other starlet, Carling Bassett, who's ranked 22nd. To succeed on grass and on the hard courts at the upcoming U.S. Open, Temesvari needs to gain more confidence in her net play—"One foot wants to come in, the other wants to stay back," she says—and that should develop with experience and more work with Otto. Unlike many baseliners, she has the equipment—namely, exceptional height and athleticism—to become a first-class volleyer.
However, penetrating ground strokes laden with wicked Borg-like topspin will continue to be her primary weapon. "No woman has a heavier topspin than Andrea," says Bonnie Gadusek, who was Temesvari's 6-1, 6-0 victim in the Italian Open finals. "She hits the ball consistently deep, like Chris Evert Lloyd, but the topspin makes her shots twice as difficult because the ball bounces so high. Andrea's father has found something in women's tennis that no one else has. Now the other players will have to figure out how to counteract it."
Gadusek hasn't yet. "Next time," she says, "I may hit overheads or try to catch her shots before they land or maybe, just maybe, I'll play her on stilts."