Flach and Seguso spell doubles trouble for Masters tennis foes
Flach and Seguso. Flach and Seguso. Hmmm . . . . A stakeout team on ``Miami Vice''? A bright young comedy act? Co-authors of a new book on dieting?
No, No, No. Ken Flach (pronounced ``flak,'' as in don't give him any or he'll give it right back), and Robert Seguso are the leading (if too little known) doubles team in tennis.
They are top seeded here this week in the annual Masters tournament at Madison Square Garden, where most of the attention is riveted on the world's best singles players.
Flach and Seguso may not be as famous as singles specialists Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Jimmy Connors, but they're gaining -- and they made more than $350,000 each last year when they won seven doubles championships. Their most important victory was the US Open, their first Grand Slam title.
The Masters is either the grand conclusion to the 1985 season or the grand beginning of the '86 schedule. It is intended to be the former and will take a welcome step in that direction after this event by being played in the same calendar year as its season-long series of qualifying tournaments. That means there will be another Masters late this year, confusingly enough.
Flach and Seguso can confuse all but the most ardent tennis followers with their similar background and foreground and forehand. They've been together the past several years more than most twins.
Both are 22-year-old Midwesterners whose favorite leisure activity is listening to Bruce Springsteen. In fact, Seguso's brother traveled with ``the Boss'' for a while as his road manager, and Robert and Ken once skipped a big tournament to attend a Springsteen concert.
The two joined forces at Southern Illinois University, where they won the NCAA Division II doubles champion-ship. Flach won the Division II singles crown three times, beating Seguso in the finals the third year.
They turned professional in 1983 with no clear intention of concentrating on doubles, but soon found themselves doing just that.
``We decided to team up at the Taipei International and ended up in the finals,'' says Seguso. ``Then we won the 1984 Italian Open. Pretty soon we were pointing toward doubles all the time. Maybe we should take a year off to improve our singles rankings. But right now doubles keeps us very busy.''
Those rankings are down around 50th to 60th place. But in doubles, despite some other pairs with strong credentials (i.e., Wimbledon champions Heinz Gunthardt and Balazs Taroczy, who just annexed their third world title in London last weekend, and Australian Open winners Paul Annacone and Christo Van Rensburg, who reached the finals of the world championship event), Flach and Seguso are still a solid No. 1.
So how do you tell Flach and Seguso apart? Seguso is taller and more powerful, more the put-away man. Flach, the one with the two-handed backhand, is more the aggressive playmaker; he loves to zip across and poach at the net.
They mesh superbly as a team.
``We complement each other well,'' says Flach. ``We play a good style of game for doubles. We return so well, which is a key. In college our serves were comparatively weak, but they're better now. We both have quick hands at the net. We knew the first time we walked on the court we were going to be a good team, and maybe that's why we stayed together.
``A good doubles team has to learn to think as one out there. You have to anticipate where your partner is going to move so you can move with him, up and back,'' Flach continues.
``We use signals before we serve every time so the net man will know what's coming and can be prepared. If I'm at the net and I put my hand behind my back and point to the right, Bob will serve it over there. If I clench my fist, he'll serve it at the receiver.''
``We do everything together -- practice together, travel together, eat together. It's hard to spend that much time together and not get on one another's nerves, but we've developed a way of kidding and jiving each other that keeps the relationship relaxed.''
Seguso occasionally entertains Flach with his electric guitar. But although it was Robert's brother who traveled with Springsteen, Ken jokes that he has to be the road manager for the tennis duo.
``Bob's too busy watching old `M*A*S*H' reruns on TV,'' he says. ``I'm just glad we finally can afford separate hotel rooms.''
Seguso retorts, ``You're just jealous of my musical talents.''
Flach groans theatrically.
If Flach and Seguso slip as a doubles team, which doesn't appear imminent, they might make it as a bright, young comedy act.