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Old Jul 20th, 2014, 06:29 PM   #1
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90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

I followed tennis since 1988

Therefore, I´d a wide knowledge about the 80ies and 90ies players

But only the year-wise-career review at wtatour gives me an impression after so many years how careers of Fernandez, Sabatini or Sanchez ended

Today I interestingly stumbled about Sanchez´ final years 2001/2002 and rather disastrous results against players like Husarova or others, and I forgot about her and Mary Joe´s final years - were they injured? Did they loose focus?

Maybe we could discuss other players of that era
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Old Jul 20th, 2014, 11:46 PM   #2
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

Fernandez was slight of build and often was injured throughout her career. She had the game to be consistently in the top 5 and maybe win a Slam or 2, but her body just didn't hold up. Late in her career, her body failed her more. Her '99 USO match with Venus was typical. She won the first set 6-2 and slipped on the court (I think it was wet a little), she pulled something and lost the next two sets 6-1, 6-0.

Sanchez-Vicario was always a fighter. Two things hurt her later in her career. First, she had to deal with the change in the game that made power (Big Babe) tennis the rage. Davenport, Pierce, the Williams sisters and others just hit the ball so hard. Second, she was not quite as quick as she had been. This happens when players get older. Just like with Michael Chang, speed and tenacity had always been her greatest quality. And now she wasn't quite as quick as before. And because of that she couldn't defend as well against the big hitters.

Sabatini's failure to reach the top of the game and win a second Slam in the early 90s seemed to take the fire out of her. She lost matches against Graf and Fernandez in which she was very close to winning. Her confidence seemed to fade, and players like Martinez and Sanchez-Vicario moved past her. Then little by little, her ranking and results slipped.
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Old Jul 21st, 2014, 04:18 PM   #3
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They were all teen sensations.
They started playing full time on the tour at the age of 14. By the time they turned 26/27, they were already past their prime.

1) Mary Joe: Born in 1971, she turned pro and reached the quarters at Roland Garros in 1986 at the age of 15. In 1987 she was already a top 20 player. She peaked between 1990 and 1993 when she reached three Grand Slam finals and was a consistent top ten player. In 1994 slowly but surely her level started dropping, she was only 23, but she had been playing full time on the tour for 8 years already. She had great technique and solid groundstrokes but she was probably one of the poorest athletes of her generation. Between 1994 and 1999 she battled a few injuries, she still had some good results here and there but never regained the consistency to make it back in the top ten. That's why she retired at the end of 1999, "only" 28 years old but with a very long career in my opinion.

2) Arantxa: Born in December 1971, she turned pro and started playing full time on the tour in June 1985 when she was still 13 years old! She reached the quarters at Roland Garros in 1987 at the age of 15. In 1988 she was in the top 20. In 1989 she won her first Grand Slam and became a top 5 player at the age of 17. Between 1989 and 1996 she was one the best and most consistent players in the world, competing in a staggering 11 Grand Slam finals (winning 3 of them). Her game was based on incredible foot speed and tenacious court coverage. When 1997 came around, she was only 25 but she had already played 11 years on the tour. Her legs started looking weary in my opinion. Even though she recaptured her form and won the French Open in 1998, you could tell she was almost at the end of her career. The emergence of big hitters like the Williams sisters and Davenport definitely didn't help her cause. She should have quit around 1999-2000, she kept playing for a couple of more years because she still managed to have a couple of decent runs at the French.

3) Gaby: Born in 1970, she turned pro and started playing full time on the tour in 1984 at the age of 14. She reached the semifinals at Roland Garros in 1985 at the age of 15 and entered the top 20. In 1986 she became a top 10 player. In 1988 she reached her first Grand Slam final and became one of the favorites to win major titles. She peaked between 1988 and 1992, when she played in 3 Grand Slam finals (winning the US Open in 1990) and became the biggest rival of Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. At some point she had a 7-1 winning streak against Steffi. When 1993 came around, she was already past her prime... she was only 23 years old but already with 9 years of professional tennis in her legs. Her decline looked more mental than physical though. She looked mentally tired of practicing and touring around the world, she didn't have the desire anymore. Her talent kept her in the top ten for a couple of more years even though she wasn't a major contender anymore. She retired at 26 years old in 1996, now some people would say she was too young to quit playing. In reality at the time a lot of people felt she had been around for a long time (12 years!), she was considered a veteran.
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Old Jul 21st, 2014, 06:05 PM   #4
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

Some of my impressions:

MJF was born tired or something. To me, she was a "taught" player, not a "born" player. Even more unfortunately for her, she was taught to be an Evert-style work-the-point type of player. Hence, never mind the second or third generation power players at the end of her career, she was on the wrong side of Graf's late-80s "Pardon the interruption, I know you're trying to carefully construct this point and all, but I'm going to hit a winner now!" revolution and all the psychological baggage that comes with that. There were rumors ("I love rumors! Facts can be so misleading, where rumors, true or false, are often revealing.") of an eating disorder. And she really does take first prize for most chronically sick/injured "name" player of the era. I'll repeat my old joke: Mary Joe pulled out of as many tournaments as she actually played.

ASV, as mentioned, slowed down. And had wrist injury issues if I recall correctly. And had to be at least a little burnt out. Graf dropped her on her head 28 times! And she got right back up again 27 times! Give the poor woman a break! Also there was that crazy blink-and-you'll-miss-it first marriage, and undoubtedly some other odd stuff going on with la familia.

Sabatini was also born tired, but her anemia explains at least some of it. From the English-language perspective, it looked like she either had "motivation problems" even during her prime years or maybe just never really figured out what she should do on the court. And the serve... She was also on the wrong side of Graf's revolution. Steffi dropped her on her head 29 times! Give her a break! IIRC, she had an abdominal injury throughout most 1996, possibly even into 1995.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 02:48 PM   #5
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

Mary Joe to me never seemed to get any better from the time she first popped on to the scene. She was so frail---at a time when some of the men's players were calling the women too fat to be athletes, Mary Joe seemed to have the opposite problem. Maybe this led to her ungodly amount of injuries. Also she never really seemed to be the toughest mentally either.

Arantxa did improve from when she popped on to the scene. Unfortunately, for her, her first major injury came shortly after her 5th grandslam runner-up in a 7 slam period...2 of which were so tantalizingly close. Arantxa was a consummate optimist, but even she couldn't absorb the Wimbledon and Roland Garros losses in 95 and 96. Steffi had finally put a hole in the ship, and Arantxa began to sink. Many rumors of a small depression have floated around about her after 96.

As mentioned above, then her speed began deteriorating. She was plagued with a nagging thigh/hamstring injury late in her career, and just being a half of a step slower completely altered her game.

Additionally, she suffered from the same affliction that had allowed her to help beat Chris Evert (along with a bone spur on Evert's behalf)---She was no longer as patient as she was in her youth. In the early 90s, Arantxa would wait all day and all night if she knew it meant a win. Towards the end of her career she tended to try and end points much earlier than she used to.

Finally, the fact that power players started emerging everywhere has been mentioned, but I would argue that while thsoe players didn't help, Arantxa faired decently against them. She has a winning record vs Serena, played Venus well even into 2002, and pushed a peak Davenport in 2000. The true player that caused Arantxa's decline was NOT a power player. It was Martina Hingis. Arantxa would wind up 2-18 against Hingis, but she had a curse. I believe 9 times the two would meet in a grandslam (QF, 4th round, SF). Hingis won all of those, beginning with 96 USO. Hingis was just better than ASV.


Gabriela, like MJ, didn't seem to ever "peak". She was always competitive, but never seemed to have the fire in her belly to get herself to the top. Her shocking and painful losses to MJF and Kimiko Date seemed to really cause her to dislike the game. I think her heart wasn't in it late in her career and that was why she sort of floundered out.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 04:30 PM   #6
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ms. Anthropic View Post
ASV, as mentioned, slowed down. And had wrist injury issues if I recall correctly. And had to be at least a little burnt out. Graf dropped her on her head 28 times!
I think the rivarly between Steffi and Arantxa "felt" a lot closer than the 28-8 head to head count.

After their first 19 matches (1988-1992), Steffi was up 16-3. You would think that Steffi "owned" their rivarly, but it wasn't the case at all. The 3 matches won by Arantxa were HUGE Grand Slam matches:
1) 1989 French Open final: 17 year old Arantxa beat Steffi in one of the biggest surprises in tennis history. Steffi won 7 of the 8 Grand Slam tournaments in 1988/1989, she was considered unbeatable at the time.
2) 1991 French Open semifinal: Arantxa beat Steffi 60,62. Many experts and fans consider that match the darkest moment in Steffi's career.
3) 1992 US Open quarterfinal: after slipping to number 2 in the world, Steffi won Wimbledon beating Monica 62,61. She looked ready to regain her number one ranking... until Arantxa got in her way and surprised her at the US Open.

Between 1993 and 1994, even the numbers became closer, Steffi won 8 matches (including a semifinal and a final at the Australian Open) and Arantxa won 5 (including a US Open final).

Between 1995 and 1996, Steffi won 4 Grand Slam finals against Arantxa, but they were all extremely close matches.

Even when Steffi was at her best, Arantxa was one of the few players that could drive her nuts, especially in the big matches. So you never felt that Steffi owned Arantxa.




Quote:
Originally Posted by Joseosu19 View Post
Gabriela, like MJ, didn't seem to ever "peak".
I would disagree.
She peaked precisely between September 1990 and June 1991, when she was one match away from becoming number 1 in the world.
W US Open, def. Graf 62,76
F Zurich, lost to Graf 63,62
F Worcester, lost to Graf 76,63
F WTA Finals, def. Graf 64,64 / lost to Seles 64,57,36,64,62
Q Australian Open, lost to Sanchez 61,63
W Tokyo, def. Graf 46,64,76 / def. Navratilova 26,62,64
W Boca Raton, def. Graf 64,76
F Miami, def. Graf 06,76,61 / lost to Seles 63,75
W Hilton Head, def. Sanchez 46,64,63 / def. Meskhi 61,61
W Amelia Island, def. Sanchez 62,26,64 / def. Graf 75,76 (5th consecutive win against Steffi!)
W Rome, def. Seles 63,62 (that's when everybody started thinking GOAT Gaby owned both Steffi and Monica)
S Paris, lost to Seles 64,61

Had she won that semifinal against Monica in Paris, she would have become number 1 in the world. Gaby was 4-1 up in the first set and looked like she was going to dominate the match as in the Rome final. Then the rain came. When they resumed play two hours later, Gaby won only 1 game.

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Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 06:04 PM   #7
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

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Originally Posted by larryd View Post
Even when Steffi was at her best, Arantxa was one of the few players that could drive her nuts, especially in the big matches. So you never felt that Steffi owned Arantxa.
But this is precisely what made it so frustrating/painful for Arantxa, eventually. Especially since her competitive fuel was, as Jose says, her optimism. Sooner or later, being so close so often but still coming in second has to wear down an optimist. Wimbledon 1996 was her breaking point. No "she was more lucky," no "I'm sure one day I will get to hold the big trophy for real."
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Old Jul 22nd, 2014, 08:06 PM   #8
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

Interesting reads here...

I really thought Mary Joe was a very good player. Her ball-striking was so clean and crisp. She could really generate a great amount of power for such a thin frame. I think what hurt in the late 80s/early 90s was her inability to finish off a top ranked opponent. She had beaten Gaby in the famous comeback in the QFs and then trounced ASV in the SFs. IMO, she clearly outplayed Steffi and just didn't have the nerve to finish her off. She wasn't a weak player physically. She was prone to injury because of her build, but she had power.

I think the "peak" discussion about Sabatini is just that we never felt like we saw the best Gabriela for a period of time. That brief early window in the 90s made you think like she could have been truly great. After all, if she could rise to the top over Graf, Seles, ASV and Martina - wow, that's one of the most talented top 5's ever. Yes, she was somewhat like Goolagong - graceful and beautiful to watch - but the killer instinct was lacking. And she did have problems with nerves. The Wimbledon final was hers - and she lost it - then it was hers again - and she lost it - and so on. I got an ulcer watching her choke against Steffi.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2014, 03:32 AM   #9
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

I see some similarities between Mary Joe and Wendy Turnbull, at least in terms of their "role " on the tour. Neither were that talented, but both were very smart and able to pick on the weaknesses of their opponents while avoiding their own. Both reached #3 in the world and both reached 3 grand slam finals. But neither was ever that big of a threat to the top 1 or 2 of their time.

Gaby, for me, has a consistent yet lackluster record in the slams. To her credit, she made a ton of grand slam semis, but she was a terrible 1-19 vs. Graf, Seles, Navratilova, and Evert in the slams. There are players that never won a slam that have more wins against the greats of their era in slams.

We all bemoan the 91 Wimbledon final loss. But I always think about the 87 French semi. To that point neither Gaby nor Steffi had won a slam yet. I wonder what winning that match might have done to the mental dynamic of their rivalry?

And I still think the best match I ever saw Gaby play was her 92 French semi vs. Monica. But she lost that one too.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2014, 03:38 AM   #10
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

Quote:
Originally Posted by preacherfan View Post
Interesting reads here...


I think the "peak" discussion about Sabatini is just that we never felt like we saw the best Gabriela for a period of time. That brief early window in the 90s made you think like she could have been truly great. After all, if she could rise to the top over Graf, Seles, ASV and Martina - wow, that's one of the most talented top 5's ever. Yes, she was somewhat like Goolagong - graceful and beautiful to watch - but the killer instinct was lacking. And she did have problems with nerves. The Wimbledon final was hers - and she lost it - then it was hers again - and she lost it - and so on. I got an ulcer watching her choke against Steffi.
Yes, this is truly what I meant when I said Gabi didn't peak…she didn't hit the level that most expected from her.

As it was, I think Gabriela and Arantxa are a little under appreciated for their consistency. Gabi was a consistent threat to go deep throughout her career, and Arantxa is often said to have been lucky to get her slams, but you'll see that she was consistently putting herself in the position to go deep in those events. She had a bit of "Serena" in her---she seemed to peak at the slams.


The stat that really exhibits this to me is the fact that Gabriela reached 18! slam semifinals, despite winning just the one. This is pretty incredible considering the names of those who only reached 18 or fewer slam semis. She had by far the most slam semis of the one time winners---Novotna, I believe was second at 9.


Arantxa reached 22 slam semis! That's good enough to tie her for 5th most in the open era, alongside Evonne Goolagong. She is only behind Chrissie (52), Navratilova (44), Graf (37), and only two behind Serena (24).

Compare that with the players she's ahead of---Venus and Hingis (19 each), Seles and Davenport (18 each), Henin (17), Clijsters (16), and Mandlikova (14). Now she looks every bit as deserving of her four slams.



For comparison purposes, MJF reached 9 slam semis, tying her for the most in the slamless category with Dementieva and Pammy Shriver. Certainly not a bad crowd to be around.

Obviously those numbers are a bit skewed considering different generations had different focuses when it came to the slams, but overall those numbers suggest that all three players mentioned here had their fair share of success in their careers.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2014, 03:43 AM   #11
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

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She had by far the most slam semis of the one time winners---Novotna, I believe was second at 9.
Whoops--Turns out that 2nd place in the 1 slam wonder category actually goes to Conchita Martinez, who found herself in 12 grandslam semis. This is making me question my regards of Novotna a bit.
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Old Jul 23rd, 2014, 02:28 PM   #12
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Re: 90ies - Sanchez and others - final years´discussion

Mary Joe's problem was that she didn't like to lift weights in order to get stronger which was a bit of a reminiscence of Evert's first steps on the tour. A further reason was that her father interfered too much in her career. She was a promising player from her early teens and had done some noise even before she actually started playing a full schedule (she chose to focus on high school instead). Her poor shape meant that she could upset a top player here and there but that she was not going to get much further than that. In 1991 she had a nice Wimbledon run. She had started to work with Juan Bautista Avendaño and she defeated ASV pretty easily in the QFs but was no rival to Graf in the semis, as usual. Then came the US Open where she lost to Zrubakova in a match where she was constantly sweating and on the verge of passing out. She improved in 1992 and 1993 but she never was a real contender (except in that FO93). After that she wouldn't be able to play a full schedule again without getting injured. In 1997 she made some noise again when she won the German Open and had nice results both at the AO and FO but she faded away after that. Also, I remember her match against Venus at her last US Open: She had beaten Van Roost to get to the fourth round and was destroying Venus by taking advantage of her power. It started raining when MJ was leading 62 10 and the court wasn't dried properly. Mary Joe slipped and strained some muscles (thigh or shin, I don't remember) abd when they resumed play she had lost the momentum.

I believe that both Graf and Sabatini received the same amount of hype during their early stages. Up until early 1985 they both were considered as the leaders of the generation that would take Evert and Navratilova's spots in the elite (although Manuela Maleeva and Andrea Temesvari, among others, came first). Graf had had some interesting results prior to that year but it was Sabatini who caught the public eye when she reached the final at Hilton Head (which was on national TV back then). Some months later she reached the FO semis while Graf hadn't reached a major QF yet. So I guess Sabatini had all the pressure and Graf took advantage of that. She managed to improve while all the focus was on the Argentinian player. I don't think the outcome would've been different had the opposite happened. Sabatini sometimes seemed happy to reach the SF and wasn't as ambitious. Sometimes she had a pretty passive attitude which reminds me of Suarez Navarro's lack of fire. After she blew that 61 51 lead vs MJ at the FO she was never the same again.

I've always considered 1997 a weird year in tennis. It was a change of the guards that came with the power of a meteorite. Graf got her surgery after the FO, Conchita started having cervical problems, Seles had her father's health to care about and played a very limited schedule, Sabatini and Kimiko retired... It was noteworthy that some obscure players like Kimberly Po to mention one had a breakthrough year to disappear soon after that. Some players that had been knocking on the doors of the top 10-20 for some time also raised their level (Coetzer, Spirlea...) while Hingis dominated both due to her talent and to a lack of competition. Regarding ASV, I think it was a transitional year for her. First of all, she had a lot of points to defend and she wasn't getting easy draws anymore (she had to beat Werdel and McGrath to reach AO95 and WB96 finals respectively) since her ranking had dropped slightly after Hingis initial success. She had to face Martina in the French Open quarters which means that she had already slipped out of the top 4 even before she had to defend two straight Grand Slam finals. She came back to win Sydney and the French in 1998 but after that she was an average top 10 player until 2000. She gradually faded away in 2001 and by 2002 she was spent. I don't think the loss of her running abilities were the only reason to her decline. During those last two years she seemed actually burned out. Also, her personality didn't help. I bet she found it really hard (à la Baby Jane) to admit that her elite years were over.
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