The Angel and Skunky
Posted by Sports Snob on August 4, 2006
Sabatini: Latino Tennis Angel
Sabatini, ah Sabatini – Argentinian athlete of the century, the woman with a rose named after her (the first tennis player in history to have that!) An exotic name, such grace and a celebrity who had as much spunk and composure on the court as off it unlike some of the later tennis divas – Kournikova et al – whose celebrity status far outshone their meagre skills with a racquet.
She was among the top ten players in the world for ten consecutive years. Sabatini’s best years unfortunately coincided with those of ‘Fraulein forehand’ Graf. Later, Graf was surpassed by the young, grunting Seles and Sabatini, with a solid game but a weak serve was never a major contender at the grandslams but then neither was anyone besides Graf and Seles. Her only grandslam title came at the US Open in 1990, where she defeated Steffi Graf in the final.
Sabatini’s exit often led to attendance dropping in tournaments and organizers were praying for Sabatini to stay in the tournament long enough to keep some of the male spectators engaged.
Sabatini: the most beautiful woman I have ever seen wield a tennis racquet. Doesn’t she look beautiful in that pic?!
Rafter: Graceful Underperformer
Patrick Rafter is one of the few superstars that India got to witness playing (apart from a very old Boris Becker and a very young Rafael Nadal ofcourse!). Rafter won the second edition of the GoldFlake open at Chennai and his passage to the final was almost unnoticed as all the focus was on Becker.
He was among the few players of his generation who actually played the single-handed backhand, the neglected but infinitely more pleasing ancestor of the thundering power-laden backhand.
Rafter should have won atleast two more Grandslams; true, he was plagued by injuries through his career. But, I believe he should have won the Australian Open atleast once; Australia’s best bet in recent times outside the unimpressive, arrogant Hewitt.
The two US Opens he won were both brilliant performances. He played at close to his best and a joy to watch, beating Greg Rusedski and then fellow Australian Mark Philippoussis (another under performer) in the Finals.
The Wimbledon stories:
Sampras in 2000, need we say more. In 2001, he was up against the underdog, outsider, the wildcard Croat, Goran Ivanisevic. The finals was played on the people’s Monday.
There was enormous support for Goran- the man who was almost destined to remain a bridesmaid forever. Sampras had gone (defeated by a young Federer!) and after overcoming Henman in an emotional semi-final, Ivanisevic was in the final, facing Rafter. The stage was absolutely electric.
Ivanisevic won and Wimbledon got one of it’s best finals. The power and unpredictiablity of Ivanisevic matched by the delicate forehands, and the lobs of the Aussie. I remember Ivansevic being so nervous he couldn’t even lift his racket, let alone serve out the match. Eventually, he prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6 and 9-7.
Rafter would never come so close again and retired from professional tennis in 2002.
Recently, Sabatini and Rafter have been inducted into the tennis hall of fame. And this is a post that is dedicated to these wonderful players, being written a few weeks before the US Open, their happy hunting ground.
Some Trivia for you: (Courtesy Z!)
Connect George W. Bush and Patrick Rafter.
Ans: Bush’s cat and Rafter’s daughter share the same name- India!