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Interesting article!

Stephen Bierley
Tuesday May 13, 2003
The Guardian

Cream is supposed to float to the surface. Unfortunately in men's tennis there is increasing evidence that it is the dross that is rising to the top. This was underlined by Felix Mantilla's win in Sunday's Italian Open. The Spaniard is an extremely nice chap, and was understandably thrilled by his unexpected triumph. Unfortunately he is as boring a clay-court tennis player as has ever come out of Iberia.

It did not help that Switzerland's Roger Federer, who has talent oozing from every pore of his body, played like a novice. Federer, you may remember, took Pete Sampras to the cleaners in the fourth round of Wimbledon two years ago, which at that time was only Pistol Pete's second defeat on the centre court in nine years.

The 21-year-old has the natural ability to be a huge star on any surface, and plays the sort of attacking tennis that can thrill the most stolid of audiences (eg centre court), yet he continues to drive his most ardent admirers into fits of the screaming abdabs with his profligacy.
OK, that's sport. And Britain has produced any number of Federers, notably in football and cricket, who have either wasted their God-given talents or failed to apply them to the fullest extent within the context of a team game. We curse them and berate them, yet we also retain vivid memories of them - say a Rodney Marsh shuffle, or a Stan Bowles dribble, while one sumptous, waftingly casual cover drive by David Gower was always, just always, worth more than any of Sir Geoffrey's hundred hundreds.

Every generation bemoans the lack of flair-filled individuals, but it has to be a real concern to any sport when those who are winning or getting to the finals of its key events are nothing more than journeymen or, at best, journeymen de luxe. And this is currently happening far too often in men's tennis for its own good. Or for it to be a coincidence. Something is wrong. Something needs to be changed.

Of last year's four grand slam events only the US Open was truly memorable, and that was because it involved Sampras and his greatest rival, Andre Agassi. And as Günther Bosch, the former coach of Boris Becker, remarked: "Anyone who revives history beats to death the future."

In the other three slams, Sweden's Thomas Johansson won the Australian Open and Spain's Albert Costa the French Open, journeymen both, while the Wimbledon final threw up the extremely ordinary David Nalbandian. And as if that wasn't enough, this year's Australian Open saw yet another artisan, Germany's Rainer Schüttler, reach the final where, mercifully, he was dispatched post haste by Agassi.

And yet the ATP, which governs men's professional tennis, insists the game is stronger than it has ever been because - and read and digest this very carefully - anybody in the top 100 can beat anyone else. This is the ATP's mantra, one which the brainwashed players dutifully chorus, and it is a complete nonsense.

It may be true, but it is meaningless. For the simple reason that nobody cares. The artistry has been gutted out of the game by a racket technology that has led to a slug-fest, and attempts to slow play down by tinkering with balls and surfaces have merely laid the dead hand of sameness on concrete, carpet, clay and - last year - grass. A baseline final at Wimbledon? It was virtually unheard of until Argentina's Nalbandian and Australia's Lleyton Hewitt locked ground strokes, and mightily, mightily boring it was too.
Radical measures are needed. A strong caucus favours cutting down the size of racket heads, thereby reducing the sweet spot, and returning the skill factor. Others have suggested reducing the size of the service box. My own view is that all double-fisted shots, both forehand and backhand, should be outlawed, which if nothing else would restore the aesthetic pleasure of the game.

But above all the calendar must be restructured. Too much tennis is being played, with too many of the talented youngsters burning themselves out. And when this occurs the mediocre men who place physical fitness above talent take over. And it's happening. The evidence is clear.
 

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Tart with a Heart
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What is he talking about? Banning double handed backhands!?

And yes, its truly unforgivable that lots of players are capable of winning events. Ridiculous. Mens tennis is much more enjoyable than the other leading tv sports (footie, formula 1 for example) for exactly that reason.

Must've been a very slow news day.
 

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Sounds like a writer who is bitter that:
a) His country doesn't have enough promising young talents
b) His favourites aren't winning enough

Not to mention his twisting of facts:

Federer, you may remember, took Pete Sampras to the cleaners in the fourth round of Wimbledon two years ago, which at that time was only Pistol Pete's second defeat on the centre court in nine years.
Um? Did we watch the same match? The match I watched had Federer just edge Pete out, 7-5 in the fifth. Since when does that call for this comment? Furthermore, Pete lost on court two last year, no? Thus that is STILL only Pete's second loss on center court, no?
 

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This article makes me feel ashamed to come from the same country. What a load of predictable crap. The only good point he makes is about reforming the schedule - with the number of injuries occurring to top players, that has to be addressed urgently. But come on - having a dig at Mantilla just because he triumphed unexpectedly and wasn't one of the favourites for the title? Hell, Federer's my favourite player, I wanted him to win that final, but I wouldn't take anything away from Mantilla or try and pour scorn on his achievement.

Eliminating double-handed shots smacks of idiotic traditionalism - presumably the writer would prefer a return to wooden rackets, a la Johnny Mac. And his diatribe about "journeymen" winning big events is exactly the kind of arrogant, offensive tripe that I always loathe in any posts about the failures of "Generation N" and the "nobodies" on the tour. It's just revolting to read that kind of nonsense.

Hmm, time to take my medication now...
 

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I *completely* agree with the reporter (but you guys know that;) )

Also, this is the general consensus of most tennis reporters and is the consensus on other boards I've visited. The posters on this board seem to be in the minority of views, based on what I've seen and heard.

Mags, since you posted this, what is your take?
 

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Majority view doesn't mean it's right. Unless one's not certain about his belief and needs to be in the majority to feel secure.
 

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Reducing racket head size seems to be a good idea. I think it would have to be phased in over a several year period though.

Tennis should have taken step 20 years agon though, and I think it will be very difficult to put restrictions on any kind of equipment. Also, one might think about doing some extensive drug testing on the tour... along the lines of what happens at the Tour de France... but, of course, players would never put up with that.
 

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Kudos to Sjengster for a great post. :worship: The best I could muster was a swear-word and an obscene finger-issuing smiley but then I decided against it. ;) But really, what a piece of dribble. Even a somewhat flattering description of Federer is truly gross. Does any self-respecting writer really describe at length how someone's talent oozes out of his pores? Eugh! I know it's an expression, but it's quite a disgusting one, thank you very much. Does he really think his piece of crap is colourful? Go watch wrestling or something, you dinosaur! See, I couldn't help myself afterall. :p
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Tennis Fool said:
I *completely* agree with the reporter (but you guys know that;) )

Also, this is the general consensus of most tennis reporters and is the consensus on other boards I've visited. The posters on this board seem to be in the minority of views, based on what I've seen and heard.

Mags, since you posted this, what is your take?
Tennis Fool -
It is strange - people moan that women's tennis is boring because you have two sisters who can blast away all the competition and yet when we have a variation of winners in the men's game some people are still not happy!.

The suggestion seems to be that you make changes so those with the talent rise to the top and you stop having these unknowns winning major tournaments - surely if a player is talented they should rise to the top irrespective of racket size and court area. Also if these changes were implemented, the players would eventually adjust (as would racket technology), and would it not be long before we come back to the same equilibrium?.

I first got into tennis when Boris Becker won Wimbledon, I didn't know much about serve and volley then, but I remember watching the final and being enthralled by the his shot making, the way he would do the Becker Dive - and the Becker Boogie was pretty good too;) . Nothing is more enthralling than watching players producing impossible shots from all areas of the court irrespective of whom is playing. I do miss this aspect in many matches today (I sound really old :eek: ), however changing the sport to minimise finals with 'unknowns' who are thought by some to have minimal skills seems a bit dodgy to me!.

ps - Following on from banning the double handed shots, the plan is to ban all foreign players from Wimbledon - we in the UK are sick and tired of all these foreign players coming over and winning our most prestigious tennis tournament!. :p
 

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Tennis Fool said:
I *completely* agree with the reporter (but you guys know that;) )

Also, this is the general consensus of most tennis reporters and is the consensus on other boards I've visited. The posters on this board seem to be in the minority of views, based on what I've seen and heard.

Mags, since you posted this, what is your take?
I'm very surprised to see that the majority of people here completely disagree with Bierley. I don't think he used a very good example - Mantilla has had consistent top 20 results in the past, and he was always going to be a danger on clay; this is a surprise, but hardly one to roll your eyes at Federer over. But really, I would have thought it obvious that the most talented people on the ATP - Agassi and, by and large, Hewitt aside - are falling week in week out to far inferior players. Not on the odd occasion, a la WTA, but in at least a quarter of the tournaments they play each year. Not, usually, because the lesser players played the match of their lives, but because the elite player turned in a substandard performance/decided that whatever was under their feet wasn't their surface/was thinking about the blonde hotties in their players' box/sheer couldn't be bothered. At every Slam, the majority of the favourites inevitably slump to dispiriting defeats. None of them seem able/willing to step up their games at the right times, whether during a match or in a Slam. This, above everything else, is the reason I don't follow the ATP as closely as I do the WTA.

The idea of outlawing double-handed shots is fucking ridiculous, though.
 

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I'd also like to ask people who can read in other languages; *most* of the articles I read like this are from bitter Brits who want the serve and volleyers to come back or from Americans who are pissed off that the game is about to be taken over by a bunch of guys who speak Spanish. Do they bitch about this in Germany, France, Russia, etc. as well?
 

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Rebecca said:
Perhaps the ATP players dont' "step up" as well at the slams as their WTA counterparts because the guys ranked lower are so much better.
Or maybe they just don't want it as much..

It's not as if there is a whole lot that separates number 1 skill wise from number 50 skill wise, on the ATP.
Are you trying to say that Agassi, Safin, Federer, Ferrero would not be beating ATP #50 9 times out of 10 if they really wanted to?
 

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Rebecca said:
Perhaps the ATP players dont' "step up" as well at the slams as their WTA counterparts because the guys ranked lower are so much better. It's not as if there is a whole lot that separates number 1 skill wise from number 50 skill wise, on the ATP.
Yes there is. I've seen Federer, Kuerten, Safin etc. do things with the ball which virtually no one outside the top 20 could dream of, and create points in a way which really marks them out. Sure, there are the talented shot-makers like Santoro or Arazi, but they're the ATP equivalent of Serna or Schnyder - an upset artist who knows their place.
 
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