Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quote For The Day

“If you think about it, Rafa’s got as good a chance to win double digits as anyone. I think Roger’s going to break this record over the next couple of years. I think Rafa, he could win some more Frenchs, he could win a couple more Wimbledons. He could have 10-12 majors when he’s done, if not more.” -- Pete Sampras

7 comments:

tangerine said...

Sampras also said he doesn't think another crew of Americans will dominate the way his generation did: "It's going to take maybe five, 10, 15 years for another crew of really good young Americans. It might not happen for 40 years -- it's hard to say.''

Roddick and Co. get a bum rap. They are considered "average" by American standards but by any other country's standard they'd be hailed as national heroes, with stamps, books, parades, and movies made in their honor. Big fishes in little ponds. Living in the shadow of the Federer/Nadal era doesn't make it any easier for them. People are so spoiled by those two that we've actually lost perspective on what it takes to be an elite player and to stay at the top.

Sometimes I wonder if this group of guys will be known as the last of the great American players?

I don't see any prospects on the women's side either. USA tennis is in dire shape.

Craig Hickman said...

There's a swinging door in elite tennis that if you walk through it, say, by winning a Slam, you have to get by the door fast enough so that when it swings back, it doesn't slap you back across the threshold with it.

Andy Roddick and Svetlana Kuznetsova immediately spring to mind as two players who were slapped back. Andy had enough game at the height of his powers, after his Slam win and his short stint at No. 1, to beat his nemesis at least once to win another Slam, he just couldn't get it together in his head to do so. Sveta had enough game at the height of her powers, after her Slam win, to beat her nemesis at least once to win another Slam, she just couldn't get it together in her head to do so.

The multiple Slam winners stay beyond the threshold of that swinging door until their bodies fail, their interest fades, the game simply surpasses them, or all of the above.

Savannah said...

Craig I agree with what you're saying about Andy and Sveta but they also suffered from the "hype machine" although in different ways.

Sveta was not treated as a "golden girl" by the WTA. She was based in Spain not Russia so while she was loyal to her country there could've been some conflict there. She was deemed "unmarketable" by the image makers. All of that plays into a woman's psyche and can wear her down.

Andy's problem is a little more complicated. The powers that be in US tennis blew him up as the inheritor of the mantle of Sampras, Agassai et al and thought their dream of hard court dominance would continue. Andy was encouraged to get rid of his coach who wasn't from the proper ethnic group and hire one of the anointed. He was surrounded by people who told him he had made it, that he had won a Slam.

One of the most telling comments I've ever heard Justin Gimelstob make was when he was calling a TMC match that maybe Djokovic was playing. I say Djokovic because of what he said, and I'm paraphrasing here. He said that winning a Slam had only made him more hungry. He then went on to say that once you've won a Slam most guys can relax. Gimselstob may be many things but he reflects a certain mindset among the Untied States tennis establishment. I was stunned by the comment. This may be what happened to Andy who is only now realizing that despite his staying in the top ten for so long the game has passed him by and that he needs to change his mentality if he wants to be mentioned as one of the big boys.

As for the state of US tennis anyone with eyes to see saw this coming. The lack of emphasis on basic tennis, the teaching of how to properly construct a point, how to think on court, that was all ignored as the school of hit hard and harder dominated in the States. They're trying to reverse course now but it takes a long time and a lot of effort to turn a big ship around.

MMT said...

I still think Roddick's problems are technical. He doesn't dictate points on his FH like you'd think he should, and the errors he committs when he does go for it make him more conservative, which really brings down the quality of his whole game.

I also think he lacks the tactical awareness to approach the net at the right times, and this could also be down to his volleying technique. His volleying isn't great, but it doesn't have to be if he's approaching on good shots, and not his typical kamikaze forays.

As for Blake, his problems are also technical - unable to volley correctly, he has no choice but to try to finish off all his points from the baseline, and as a result, he too committs a lot of errors when he goes for it. Once in a while it all works out for him, but to win consistently you have to have a plan B, and he never has.

Curiously, of the big 3 americans, Fish has the most complete game - good serve, good ground strokes and a good volleyer - much better than Blake and Roddick. He's just not steely enough to get the job done with consistency - in short he lacks the stomach for tough wins.

At the end of the day, I think the current crop of the best Americans get exactly the credit they deserve, which is to say, not much.

tangerine said...

Savannah: "Andy was encouraged to get rid of his coach who wasn't from the proper ethnic group and hire one of the anointed."

I doubt very much that Andy dumped Benhabiles because of ethnicity or race, as you're implying. Andy needed help to take that next step into the grand slam circle and Brad Gilbert could definitely help get him there.

I am also certain that Gimelstob's comment about relaxing after winning a slam doesn't apply to one as hyper-competitive as Roddick. Many times Andy has gone on record saying he wants more after winning his first slam. His quote: “I could probably coast and not train and be a top-10 player and kind of have a cushy lifestyle and be set for as long as I need to be set for. But I don’t know if that appeals to me. I don’t know if I’m satisfied with that.”

What does Gimelstob know about winning slams, anyway?

MMT: "At the end of the day, I think the current crop of the best Americans get exactly the credit they deserve, which is to say, not much."

LOL, see now that's funny because on the messageboards I'm always seeing comments from some complaining about how overhyped they are. Honestly, I can't remember the last time Roddick was hyped. He IS our top male tennis player but nobody's calling him the next Sampras as far as I know. And I defy anybody who thinks Roddick is overhyped to name me another American male right now who is most likely to win a slam, other than Roddick.

kraa said...

IMO Roddick has done very well considering his obvious technical limitations (weak backhand, average movement). Sure he could have been more lucky on few occasions and being at his peak during Safin-Guga-Hewitt era instead of Federer-Nadal no doubt would have helped too. Sveta's problems on the other hand are mostly between ears...

If they both retired tomorrow I would classify Roddick as overachiever and Kuznetsova as underachiever.

Blake simply isn't GS winning material.

I don't think medium terms future is all that bleak. There are some good juniors particularly among girls and I haven't written Donald off yet either.

MMT said...

I will say this - I do think we Americans under appreciate James Blake because we see more potential in him than results.

I was amazed at how an English commentator was lavishing praise of big match experience and rising to the occassion as he played Jo Willy Tsgona in Paris. I actually found it refreshing, because I'm so accustomed to thinking so little of him.

He has, after all, been a top 10 player almost (almost) as long as Roddick has, and even surpassed him breifly last year. And whoever said most countries would be delighted with our two top-10 players is correct...

The thing is, we're Americans, and when you've been spoiled by the likes of Sampras, Agassi, Courier, McEnroe, Connors, Ashe, Smith, Gonzales, Kramer...it's very hard to think that two players milling about the top 10 for 5 years is a good thing.

But if we were Canadian, we'd be throwing them a parade.