Your Personal Hall of Fame (10 allowed)
Here's mine. There's a few rules:
-No more than 10 are allowed, otherwise we could all name a ridiculous amount.
- They must have played in YOUR lifetime, and more than that, you have to have a clear memory of them. e.g Chris Evert played in my lifetime, but I never saw her play at her peak - only in videos. I never felt the emotion of her 1985 RG win, or admired her career as a contemporary. So, I can't include her.
- They must be suitably famous. I'll leave individuals to decide what that means, but if people are putting in Tanasugarn, Frazier, Raymond, or even Majoli (useful players though they are), then really it makes a mockery of "Hall of Fame". They don't have to be slam winners, but prominent in respect of either their charisma, style or achievements, and of an era.
- Write just a little about what they mean/meant to you.
One thing's for certain, there'll never be another Monica Seles. Since 1990, there have been many reminiscent in hitting style, grunting decibels, ferocity, intensity, etc. They continue to roll off the conveyor belt, and from around the world: Europe and America. But watch the Monica of the early 90s and you'll see that there emerged a truly unique phenomenon, a player who changed the style of women's tennis. Seles' nerves were like steel, her timing and accuracy pin-point, her spirit indomitable. Her fearless resolve to "hit-out" under the most enormous of pressue has become legendary.
When we see so many players victims of their own success through injuries, never quite recapturing the form of old, it reminds us just how strong Seles has been. Had she not returned, perhaps her record of near invincibility would have secured her a higher place in the history books. But to come back to top-level tennis, to even show glimpses of her old self, and leave us with yet more poignant moments, shows her strength. Not many could have achieved such feats having missed almost 3 years from the mental and physical effects of a stab wound. Six months out with athletic injuries is enough to interrupt most careers these days.
And lastly, Seles was the only player to ever consistently hold the edge over Steffi Graf. The eminent German dominated Evert, Navratilova and Sabatini in the late 80s, and Sanchez-Vicario in the mid-90s before injuries set in. She then returned in the late 90s with wins over the Williams', Hingis, Davenport - most of the next generation.
Seles was the only player Graf ever feared, and that was because Seles had the mental edge over her in major tournaments - something nobody else ever really achieved. When we consider that Graf is arguably the greatest player of all time, that fact certainly raises Seles' name in the all-time list, particularly in light of why that run was brought to a halt.
Much of my admiration for Steffi Graf lies in the above paragraphs. While she played I loathed her, yet with grudging admiration. There was an aura to Graf that was incomparable. It was one of efficiency, positivity, perfection, athleticism, power, grace, speed, dignity. She was almost God-like. If ever there was a Goddess of tennis, Steffi Graf possessed the striking countenance, physical shape and illustrious list of triumphs to be that very woman.
And as with Seles, Graf (for different reasons) suffered more injuries than any of today's players. She was fraught with a body that, at times, appeared to be falling apart. In light of the difficulties those types of injures cause today's players, and considering Graf never lost any of her speed, athletic prowess, not to mention formidability, that was an extraordinary achievement. The mark of the truly Great Champion, a term that's often bandied about.
Aranxta was the most tenacious player I've ever seen. When she ran hell for leather across the court for a lob or a passing shot, you'd commonly hear a husky noise that sounded like a roar ("Vamos", I think it was). Sanchez-Vicario had the heart of a lion on the court, a true warrior, and that was because unlike Graf or Seles, Aranxta's success owed nothing to pounding drives or deft natural touch, but to one simple philosophy: surrender never.
I'm not of the opinion that had Seles not been stabbed, Aranxta would never have blossomed. By 1993 she was becoming an increasing threat to Graf and Seles. In 1994 she inflicted some nasty stings on Graf, and claimed what was perhaps the jewel in her crown, the U.S Open (as well as the French Open). Toward the end of 1992 Seles had lost to Aranxta for the first time in Canada, and I see no reason why there wouldn't have been other occasions in major tournaments when Aranxta could have frustrated Seles as much as she did Graf in the mid-90s. If one thing is for sure, however many times she may have been beaten by Graf, Seles or anybody, Aranxta never gave up. Like a punch bag, she just kept coming.
Words can't convey the respect I have for Sanchez-Vicario. She helped define an era with her spirit, her charisma and her smile, and if Graf and Seles go down as all-time greats, then surely Aranxta will be remembered as one of their main obstacles in some truly epic matches. As Graf was quoted as saying in tribute to Aranxta on her retirement in 2002, "She helped make history".
A few more...
There's something about contrary Mary. Her game, when it's on, is like blitzkreig warfare. Surely some of the most destuctive, dominating performances of all time have come from her racket. But more than that, she's another one who carries a unique aura. The fiddling with the hair, the earnest pout before each serve, the statuesque walk, the stretching poses, the ghastly, inexplicable errors, the nervous smile, the cumbersome movement, the sheer unpredictability -- all these traits are the make up of Mary Pierce. Unforgettable.
Coetzer, much like Sanchez-Vicario, and possibly even to a greater extent when you consider she was just 5'2 with a very workmanlike array of shots, was a great over achiever, who could so easily have been a middle ranked player for most of her career. But Coetzer's hunger for success, to keep pushing herself, never ceased, and with wins over Graf, Seles, Sanchez-V, Novotna, Sabatini, Davenport, Venus Williams and Hingis, Amanda earned great admiration from fans as a tremendous fighter, and from opponents as a force to be reckoned with despite her limitations.
There couldn't be a greater role model for players whose careers are in the depths of despair. By 1998, it seemed that surely Jennifer's career was all but over. By 2000 she'd regained some respect as a player by reclaiming her place in the top 20, but few ever dreamed she'd then reach new levels. Capriati demonstrated to everybody that if you keep dreaming, and refuse to accept your lot in life, eventually things can come right for you. As a player, she's also one of the most exciting to watch, each shot hit crisply, with powerful, instinctive movement that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Her career seems to be gradually winding down, and she'll be a big loss for the tour.
She moved like a cat. Just glided around the court, hissing with every slice, leaping as she slammed away each volley. Had Jana Novotna won Wimbledon in 1993, her career may have never reached the late 90s. But her determination to live what seemed, with her immense talent, to be her destiny, kept her going. And as with Jennifer Capriati, it was inspirational to see somebody who didn't have success fall at her feet achieve what she undoubtedly deserved.
Hingis played probably the most beautiful tennis I've ever seen, and had she been born in an era with wooden rackets I've no doubt she would have been near invincible. The game still has a void without her, not only because she's still young enough to play, but when a player with her talent, beauty, intelligence and charisma graces the courts, they will be missed forever more. Her tussles with the Williams sisters and Davenport were definitive of an era, and she'll go down favourably in the history books for fighting such a brave and admirable, if ultimately forlorn, series of battles.
Lindsay Davenport is, to me, a perfect example of how positive thinking, even when it's not natural to you, can bring success. Lindsay is at heart a pessimist, always cautious of the future, and doubtful of her own potential. Yet something has kept Davenport at the top of the game longer than any of her earlier contemporaries, despite enduring as many career threatening injuries as anybody. She has the ability to take the rough with the smooth, and as long as she knows she's doing her best, she can put bad losses behind her and keep hoping that, despite herself, things will fall into place. And in 2004, things certainly have done when she could so easily have accepted, as I think many of us did, that her days were numbered.
She'll always be remembered for her intelligence, articulacy and honesty. Her haul of titles, including majors and prize money will make her sit nicely in the all-time list, too.
Unfotunately, I only caught the last few years of Gabi's career. I must include her because it was her grace and beauty that drew my interest in women's tennis, and had she been less of a human being and more of a competitor, she may well have achieved even more than she did.
Last edited by Steffica Greles; Nov 17th, 2004 at 03:50 PM.