Monday, December 28, 2009

Memorable Tennis Moments of the Aughts

It is the end of the year and this is my 200th column. As promised, I kept my resolution of writing 100 entries per year. Non-tennis spillover can now be found on my other blog. Yes I did cheat and made some last minute transfers. I am after all a wordy, opinionated chick.

This being my last entry for 2009, let me ask you in advance to please forgive its length. Instead of focusing only on the events of 2009, I thought that I would take a shot at summarizing the aughts (00's). The decade of the aughts is coming to an end and there seems to be a kind of reckoning taking place. There is a sense that things are not quite in balance, and that somewhere the Gods may be having a chuckle over our puerile humanity.

For instance, the best golfer ever is elected Athlete of the Decade even while his personal life continues to unravel with one whorish embarrassment after another. But Roger Federer is declared a distant third, behind Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong. I listened to the MP3’s (the Pitt brothers) give their chatty opinions about this on NPR. They dismissed poor Roger completely, treating him almost as if he had no business even being part of the conversation about greatness in sport. Sometimes tennis gets so little respect.

Some are still debating whether Serena deserved to be called the greatest female tennis player of the year, because she behaved so badly at the 2009 US Open. As far as I am concerned, she has been the best female tennis player of the decade, period. The NY incident highlighted the importance of picking the right people to be Chairs and line judges. A good umpire gets a feel of a match and uses the right tone to control players’ emotions. Mohamed Lahyani is widely respected as one of the best tennis umpires for exactly this reason. But a bad line call at the wrong time can completely ruin a match. Ent?

When Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi faced each other for the very last time at the 2001 US Open, it was declared the end of an era. But my most memorable tennis moment involving Sampras was watching him squirm at the 2009 Wimbledon as Federer erased his record. I also enjoyed Roddick’s desperate all-out efforts to keep history on American soil. Who knew Andy was capable of almost greatness?

I have enjoyed Agassi’s candid interviews as he takes responsibility for his life, admitting to past errors and transgressions. But the decade of the aughts has been characterized by few such admissions. Some were busted for using drugs. All claimed innocence. Hingis queried how could she possibly have done coke and gone out and played tennis. Gasquet said he kissed a girl with coke on her lips. Hingis has retired and is now riding horses (see photo). Meanwhile, Gasquet plays on.

The aughts saw the decline and rise of Davydenko. If anyone had predicted that a balding dude facing serious allegations of match-fixing would end up closing out the decade with one of tennis’ biggest accomplishments, I would have called them a wishful thinker. But that is exactly what Nicolay has done. I hope there’s more great tennis left in that skinny body. I’d like to see him be a serious Slam contender in 2010.

We said goodbye to some awesome tennis players during the 00’s. Amelie Mauresmo said that she had lost the fire. Marat Safin has other businesses he’d like to pursue. Anastasia Myskina climbed as high as #2, and then disappeared, but not before scandalizing all of Russia with topless photos and a fatherless baby boy. Jennifer Capriati came back from drug use, and then disappeared without saying a word. Monica Seles finally acknowledged that she was through long after this was clear to everyone. Tim Henman gave it his best but never made it past Wimbledon semis. Like many other players, he has found a new career as a tennis commentator. But Henman Hill has proven so far to be no Murray’s Mound.

Other players said 'goodbye' when they really meant to say 'hasta la vista'. Certainly there was no other return as triumphant as that of Kim Clijsters or as heart-warming as that of Kimiko Date-Krumm. Meanwhile Esther Vergeer continues to quietly make herstory.

On the men’s tour, the decade of the aughts (00’s) belonged principally to Nadal and Federer. Among the women, there is no question that the William sisters were dominant. And while Nadal and Federer carved out a rivalry from the get-go, the sisters initially struggled when facing each other. Serena has since decisively won the mental game against her sister. But it was Venus who stepped up bravely for equality of pay for men and women. Few even noticed or commented.

We saw three Olympics events during the aughts: 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens, and 2008 Beijing. Yevgeny Kafelnikov won men’s gold in Sydney. Venus Williams not only won singles gold but teamed up with her sister to win doubles. Nicolas Massu surprised everyone with his 2004 win over Mardy Fish. And Nadal and Dementieva became the king and queen of Beijing, while Federer unexpectedly won in doubles.

In the world of Davis Cup, Albert Costa and his Spanish Armada have become the force to be reckoned with. But the decade of the 00’s also saw charges of racism made by former USA Fed Cup leader, Zina Garrison. The worst part of this for me is that, despite this, the same people still seem to be in charge of tennis USA. Like Barack Obama seems finally, belatedly, to be appreciating, putting an African-American in a position of leadership is one thing. Supporting their efforts to do the job is quite another.

Happy New Year to all of my readers. I hope that 2010 brings you many things that you want and everything that you need. Thanks as ever for reading. My New Year resolution is to play more tennis and to remain just as opinionated. What's yours?Let me know in the comments below.


happygeek said...

Nice wrap-up. LOL @ "Monica Seles finally acknowledged that she was through long after this was clear to everyone."

"...the best golfer ever is elected Athlete of the Decade...Roger Federer is declared a distant third, behind Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong..." how on earth did he even get into contention for Athlete of the Decade!?!

anyhoo, congratulations on your 200th article! well done!

tennischick said...

which he, Lance or Roger? i agree, Lance has no business even being a part of the conversation. lol.

happygeek said...

Lance who? :-DD

(yes, that's who I was referring to.)

David said...

Pete Sampras' last US Open match against Agassi was in 2002, when he won the title in his last ever match, and not 2001.