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Robbie.
Jun 16th, 2006, 08:14 AM
Waiting for a great player

Is greatness a FIGURE, can we just put down a number and say, OK, this is the definition of the great player and leave it at that? For instance, is that number, No. 1, asks ROHIT BRIJNATH.

This computer, which stands in judgement of women's tennis, chewing on a statistical diet of matches won and tournaments played and seeds beaten, then regurgitating a ranking list that every week we swear by, does it comprehend greatness?

Is greatness a figure, can we just put down a number and say, OK, this is the definition of the great player and leave it at that? For instance, is that number, No. 1?

Surely yes. Surely if the computer vomits out your name as numero uno among a thousand or whatever skirt-wearing racquet wielders across the planet, you must be great.

So which means that in this generation itself Lindsay Davenport is great, and Jennifer Capriati is great, and Maria Sharapova is great, and Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams and Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne and Martina Hingis and Serena Williams.

Because every one of them has been No. 1.

Maybe the computer requires urgent rewiring, and the players need to re-look the definition of dominance, and we need to abstain from exaggeration, for greatness has been reduced to a throwaway line, bestowed like some tin medal from a roadside shop, a meaningless label. It even, god forbid, arrives in different shapes and colours: there's great, really great, truly great, greatest French-speaking Belgian, greatest American on clay in past 15 years and 10 minutes, all-time great. Take your pick.

Mauresmo and Capriati and Davenport and Sharapova routinely have descriptions of them littered with great. Of course it's nonsense, an indictment of our vocabulary. At best, Capriati made a great comeback and Sharapova owns a great grunt. As players, they're attractive, tough, impressive, talented. In time, the Russian may become great. We shall see.

No, great is Graf. Let's put it this way. Graf has as many Australian Opens (four) as Henin had slams before arriving at this year's French; the German's French Open wins (six) equal the cumulative slams won by Davenport (3) and Capriati (3); her Wimbledons (seven) match the number of slams won by Mauresmo (1), Sharapova (1) and Venus (5). And we haven't even got to her US Opens (five) yet.

The purpose is hardly to belittle this gaggle of hard-working, forehand-smacking earringed warriors by cruelly comparing them to arguably the finest women's player ever. But modern sport especially, with its pretentious and pomposity, requires the occasional dose of perspective.

Of course, Serena (7 slams, No. 1 at one point for 57 straight weeks) and Hingis (5 slams, No. 1 at different times for 80 and 73 consecutive weeks) and Venus (5 slams) and Henin (5 slams) could play on, bodies and mind abruptly refreshed, and eventually, perhaps, qualify as great.

But up there with Margaret Court 24, Martina, 18, and Chris, 18, and Billie Jean, 12, and Seles, 9 (despite the stabbing), we're probably never going to put them. It's not just the numbers, it's the longevity, for greatness is not merely excellence, but sustained over time.

This era has been, in some ways, tennis' most colourful, but it's also an era absent of a single dominant player, the No. 1 ranking ricocheting from one to the other, titles won then torn swiftly from each other's grasp.

It has been fun, but sport is at its most captivating when it is led by a single champion, lifting the standard, courting history. One individual at the apex of the game, against whose skill everyone else's is measured, a champion revered, envied and chased. This was Becker and Edberg and Wilander chasing Lendl, as once Mac and Connors chased Borg, as later Agassi and his posse pursued Sampras.

For a while Serena shrugged her muscular shoulders, winning four slams in a row and five of six in 2002-03 but it was almost like the effort was too much. She has only won one slam since and we'll never know if she cared enough what might have been.

Still it seemed an exceptional run of form, and the same word might be applied to Hingis' 1997-98, when she reached six finals and two semi-finals in the eight slams she contested. So then what word suffices for Graf, who through 1987 to 1993, played 26 slams and reached 21 finals (won 14), the semi-finals three times, the quarters twice. Not once in that period did she lose earlier.

It has been 19 years since Graf, all flying feet and fearful forehand, grabbed her first grand slam title, and 18 years since California journeywoman Patty Fendick articulated what we all believed when she said: "Ninety-eight percent of the girls are scared to death to play her."

As time sprints by, appreciation of the fastidious fraulein grows; the more we see how difficult it is to take tennis by the throat, the more we are astonished by her feats. Perhaps also we wonder, is tennis not due another champion like her or Martina or Chris. After all, in contrast, men's tennis has been kissed by fortune. In the five-and-a-half decades since 1960, it has presented its four greatest players in succession, Laver, Borg, Sampras, Federer, with scarcely a break in between. It is like some divine gift.

It might be said the women's era is tougher, that Graf could have done her toenails at changeovers in early rounds, while these days young players ask top players impertinent questions from day one. It could be said the tour is unrelenting, the prizes they battle for more seductive, the strain on joints so unbearable, that too much is taken out of modern contenders, who flourish for a year and then slip into temporary decline. It is a sound argument, except men's tennis is a mirror of the women's, big field, long season, injury problems, yet Federer rules.

It could be argued that women's tennis is so overburdened with talent at the top, all preying on each other, that no one talent can shine through before the others conspire to defeat her. It is a nice theory. It does not work. Great players find a way to separate themselves, by definition they are distinctive, craving the spotlight for their special selves, accustomed to standing alone.

Perhaps it just tells us that greatness can't be organised like some PR stunt, can't be manufactured in some computer, it operates to some cycle beyond man's understanding, arriving without warning and then it is gone, and hopefully we remember to stop and appreciate it. When Sampras left, he suggested the next great player might be a young boy in a park nearby, not realising the next great player was already on the tour. The next great women's player might be one of the players we know, or a girl barely taller than her racquet kicking sand in Mexico. It does not matter. Because the women before us now are grand competitors, elegant in manner and eloquent with racquet. And because waiting for genius is part of the pleasure.

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The author makes some interesting points, but unfortunately the piece is peppered with the usual ATP worship, as if the ATP is a model of perfection, it's history even referred to as a 'divine gift', and the WTA a poor imitator. In what universe did Laver, Borg, Sampras, Federer follow from eachother with scarcely a break in between? Considering as Borg retired in 1982 and Sampras didnt really emerge until 1993 and considering as Sampras vacated the number one throne in 1999 and Federer didn't assume it until 2004, it's not like the ATP has not had a number of similar periods to this with no clear dominating player. The late eighties-early nineties and 2000-2003 on the ATP were very similar periods to what the WTA is experiencing as of now. In fact if either tour has been divinely gifted with a succession of great players it's been the WTA with Court giving way to Evert, who was eventually toppled by Navratilova who was ousted by Graf. That's an unbroken lineage from the beginning of the open era until 1999. Of course in those days, this was not seen as a strength of women's tennis, but an indictment on it's lack of depth.


Another problem of course is the threshold of greatness. If one has to reach Graf like numbers then ,of course, we are doomed for disappointment. I can comfortably call atleast the Williams Sisters and Hingis greats even if they are not 'legends' such as Graf, Navratilova, Evert and Court.

Still the point of the article is basically a good one. Just wished he would have made the point that it's a cyclical thing on both tours, and indeed in all individual sports, instead of pretending that the ATP had somehow been divinely exempted.

tennisjunky
Jun 16th, 2006, 08:59 AM
not sure what to think about the article. stupid using steffi graf as a limit test, everyone comes up way short. the whole article basically says that steffi was "great" and since she achieved a shit load more than the players of today, they cant be labled in the same category. players like serena, hingis, and justine should be called great because they have achieved what 98% of all other tennis professionals will never do. not a steffi graf fan, but she will never be labled just great. shes one of the best in the history of the sport. the author doesnt consider the quality of todays competition and figures since no one player is dominant like steffi they arent great. he's a retard.

give maria time to make her own tennis history!

Marcus1979
Jun 16th, 2006, 09:05 AM
did Cali write that article?

auntie janie
Jun 16th, 2006, 11:33 AM
Robbie, could you please give us a link, or at least name the source of the article: Author, date, what web site it's from.

FedExpress
Jun 16th, 2006, 11:49 AM
There won't be a next Graf. There's only one Graf :)

sky20748
Jun 16th, 2006, 11:50 AM
the depth of womens tennis is so much different than when martina n.and steffi g. and chris e.played.the ball is hit more harder the courts are much faster and everyone is more hungrier than the next.the williams sisters have set the bar and it has been met.now it is time for the williams sisters to take it to the next level.i love venus and serena and it pains me to see the god given gift that they have not being put into use.they have the ability.they have to realize that.they are a step above the rest.example.dont just keep hitting the ball back to the opponent take some time to set the point up and then go for the kill.u have girls on tour that are just willing to stay at the baseline and wait for errors.no that is the game of yesterday.today there is a new era.if martina hingis can get away with that weak serve that she uses.then tennis ladies wake up ok.it is not about bashing the ball.i respect the womens game and there are ladies on the tour that i am like whoa them girls are good.but women of tennis.there can be a leader and take the game by storm.how do u do that.by using ur mental.u have the ability now use ur mental and make it happen.just as men have nadal and federer and james blake on the rise.women we can have a strong nation as well.wake up strategize more and use ur mental and then see the difference it will make.women's tennis does not get the total respect men's tennis does but let's change that.now

sky20748
Jun 16th, 2006, 12:03 PM
not to take away from what the other women of tennis has accomplished but notice this.when the williams sister go out and play it's like a must that someone beats them.the opponent goes all out and play them so hard and so fast until it is crazy and if by chance they beat them then in the next round or two they get beaten themselves.people say the sister's have declined.i disagree i feel that there at a stale mate and i hate to see that.especially with so much raw talent still within them.there is still fire burning within there soul and i know that they still can take the game by storm.serena has taken the steps to try to correct the situation.i admire venus for wanting to stick with family.but nothing is wrong with outside influence.get a different voice in your ear.even davenport got a new coach.players get extra help when something is not working right.i do not like to see the sisters go out there and get beaten by themselves.cuz that is exactly what is happening.in the french open.venus hand wrapped that set to vadisova.early christmas present.not to take away from vadisova.but come on.with venus skills,her running ability.her experience.that french open could have seen a new winner.she was missing volleys that should have been hers.ok shoulda woulda coulda.mute point.but i hope that she takes away this.that she is still a helluva player and she has got to get the confidence and mental under control.she has hunger but she has to have that umpf that go to hell all of yall mentality.on court anyway.u have to go out head high and intimidate.serena is the queen of that.u have to show that i am the baddest chick and this is my house(court).try and stop me if u can.come on and give it ur all cuz at the end of the day i am the one still standing.plain and simple.and once they see they cant break the steely resolve of the sisters.then and only then will the itimidation factor return.oh it's still there 40%worth.but let's get it back to the 90% projectile.sisters.put in the work.stay injury free.pick ur tournaments wisely,strategize more,play doubles,practice harder,don't stay at the baseline as often,put some more pop on that serve,if the first serve don't work then nail that second serve and more importantly for both.kill the errors.oh there will be errors but not 70 in a match.no no.don't hand it to them.make them earn it.ur still an elite talked about pro.don't settle.never let them see u sweat.never let them see u sweat.

Sam L
Jun 16th, 2006, 12:12 PM
This article talks about a lot of numbers. Who's won what etc... And mentions names like Court, Graf, Evert, Navratilova, Seles and so on... But hang on, where's Helen Wills-Moody?

If we're going to talk about numbers. Wills is #3. No ifs, no buts. And yet, no one would hesitate to put her below Navratilova (or Evert). And herein lies the problem with stats and those who love stats. They claim some form of objectivity but they're really been subjective.

Greenout
Jun 16th, 2006, 12:38 PM
It's not the same. We have CNN, the internet. In the 90's, 80's and 70's- all they were concerned was talking to Bud Collins, NBC and the BBC.

The pressures are so much bigger, and greater. This is my theory why there's so many less repeat grand slam winners in this decade. It's really too much for 1 person to handle.

Robbie.
Jun 16th, 2006, 12:57 PM
Robbie, could you please give us a link, or at least name the source of the article: Author, date, what web site it's from.

http://www.sportstaronnet.com/stories/20060617010203900.htm

Gowza
Jun 16th, 2006, 12:59 PM
you never know what's going to happen. no one or not many expected federer to dominate the way he has with the level of competition on the mens tour and he's been in something like 8 out of the last 12 slam finals and won 7 of them. the way the tour seems to be going atm i don't think it would be too far fetched if henin was to get into a similar dominating situation like federer has. she's got to the final of all the slams at least once, she's won all of them except wimbledon. she may well win RG the next few years and her record for AO out of the last 2 she's played (missed 2005) she's been to the final in both and won one of them. wimbledon and us open will be difficult for her to reach the final or win consistently but say she does it every couple of years or reaches one of either of them each year, that could be 3 finals a year, and clijsters wants to retire young, davenport and capriati are getting old, the williams sisters aren't consistent, if henin went on for a few years after them her record could turn out very handy. she's not quite dominating yet but she's already been to 2 of 2 slam finals this year, the next 2 slams aren't the best for her but she has the potential to pull out a final at either of them so it will be interesting to see how she goes in these last 2 slams of the year.

Robbie.
Jun 16th, 2006, 01:08 PM
you never know what's going to happen. no one or not many expected federer to dominate the way he has with the level of competition on the mens tour and he's been in something like 8 out of the last 12 slam finals and won 7 of them. the way the tour seems to be going atm i don't think it would be too far fetched if henin was to get into a similar dominating situation like federer has. she's got to the final of all the slams at least once, she's won all of them except wimbledon. she may well win RG the next few years and her record for AO out of the last 2 she's played (missed 2005) she's been to the final in both and won one of them. wimbledon and us open will be difficult for her to reach the final or win consistently but say she does it every couple of years or reaches one of either of them each year, that could be 3 finals a year, and clijsters wants to retire young, davenport and capriati are getting old, the williams sisters aren't consistent, if henin went on for a few years after them her record could turn out very handy. she's not quite dominating yet but she's already been to 2 of 2 slam finals this year, the next 2 slams aren't the best for her but she has the potential to pull out a final at either of them so it will be interesting to see how she goes in these last 2 slams of the year.

I agree actually. That's why I said the point of the article is quite a good one, that is, I don't think to say that the tour has too much depth now for someone to dominate is an argument that is very convincing. That looked the case on the ATP between 2000-2003, and look what has ensued since. When the author says that "Great players find a way to separate themselves", I completely agree. As someone pointed out, this argument was put forcefully, sometimes to the point of madness, by Calimero. But it's one of the few things I agreed with him about.

I've always been sceptical of Henin's fast court credentials, and still am somewhat, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see her with around 10 slams by the end of her career....and that puts her in rarified company, no doubt about it. Serena isn't far away either, if she gets her act together.

auntie janie
Jun 16th, 2006, 01:08 PM
http://www.sportstaronnet.com/stories/20060617010203900.htm

:hatoff:

Greenout
Jun 16th, 2006, 01:23 PM
The thing is - this is by an Indian guy. They didn't even notice or follow Roger until he won at Wimbledon. I remember Roger as the tanker years ago. Wasn't Marat suppose to be the new Sampras at one moment in time.

Off course, there's no Graf. Is Roger the new Graf? What's so great about someone winning, and winning with no competition except racking up trophies. This was the Graf era. Hingis did the same in 1997. All this talk about moving up to the greatness is bullshit.

It comes down to this- if you happen to be a fan of the certain player- dominance is good. If you're not interested - then it's dull. For the WTA that's even a bigger issue since many people are attracted to players from their on court persona or off court persona.

Why can't people simply enjoy the wider variety, and the great standards now in the WTA? There truly is a player for every person to find something to like about now.

This writer comes off as a glory hunter- not a tennis fan. All real tennis fans realize the best matches are never the finals - it's elsewhere.

Greenout
Jun 16th, 2006, 01:28 PM
I know this writer! :haha:

He's the dope that writes articles for the TODAY paper in Singapore. Oh- damn. All this guy ever writes about every week are Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Lance Armstrong. He's hung up about champions, and greatness. Every week Roger, nadal, greatness, heroes.


This is not a tennis writer.


Here's the link to TODAY. GO ahead, and search for more articles by him. This man is obsessed with sports stars.
http://www.todayonline.com/

Robbie.
Jun 16th, 2006, 01:32 PM
I know this writer! :haha:

He's the dope that writes articles for the TODAY paper in Singapore. Oh- damn. All this guy ever writes about every week are Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Lance Armstrong. He's hung up about champions, and greatness. Every week Roger, nadal, greatness, heroes.


This is not a tennis writer.


Here's the link to TODAY. GO ahead, and search for more articles by him. This man is obsessed with sports stars.
http://www.todayonline.com/

Thanks mate It explains a lot.;)

Paneru
Jun 16th, 2006, 01:37 PM
I think this is stupid for
a number of reasons:

1. There is far more competition today!
2. A far more powerful game taking it's toll on bodies!
3. The landscape has changed! (i.e. With the way athletes are
treated these days and the host of opportunities open to them
their is far more going on to fill their lives besides tennis)

Yes, Steffi is great, but would she have
been "as dominant" in this era? I don't this so.

Yet, IMO comparing era's is pointless because
so many things change from one to the next.


And IMO, for as much as people love definite 1 & 2's in these types of
sports, their is much to be said as well for the field to be this deep and
talented at the top that nothing is a garunteed path to the trophy for
any of the players today.

Their are a few today that could "dominate" if healthy for a
long extended period(which is becoming more rare among the top players) and motivated even with such a deep talented field at the top, but IMO
the physical, mental, and emotional demands to do so are so draining.

These days with the deep talent pool, you aren't gonna have the days
when the top 2 seeds or so could just coast until atleast the SF's and then have to "play".

Just more stupid bitching IMO!
I think their is an aire of excitement and
mystery about the fact that at any given
Slam you have possibly 5-10 names that
could pull it off. :cool:

Billy Moonshine
Jun 16th, 2006, 01:38 PM
So then what word suffices for Graf, who through 1987 to 1993, played 26 slams and reached 21 finals (won 14), the semi-finals three times, the quarters twice. Not once in that period did she lose earlier.

The new signature for my avatar.

When put like this, it does make you wonder how we can bestow the word great on any of the Hingis/ Williams generation.
Their achievements pale in comparison.

Sam L
Jun 16th, 2006, 01:47 PM
I know this writer! :haha:

He's the dope that writes articles for the TODAY paper in Singapore. Oh- damn. All this guy ever writes about every week are Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, Lance Armstrong. He's hung up about champions, and greatness. Every week Roger, nadal, greatness, heroes.


This is not a tennis writer.


Here's the link to TODAY. GO ahead, and search for more articles by him. This man is obsessed with sports stars.
http://www.todayonline.com/
:haha: