1. 2nd major tournament of 2010, second early exit by Maria Sharapova. This follows her round 2 loss at Wimbledon and round 3 at the US Open. At least she sounded a lot optimistic than I do right now.
“It’s just the mystery of the unknown.We can only do so much and work as much as we can. It’s a combination of both physically and mentally just getting stronger and little steps.
I think I’m doing a lot better than other people that have had shoulder surgery in their careers. Some people have never come back. What, I’m 13 in the world or something? That’s a lot better than some of the girls I’ve lost to in the last year.”
It’s a long long road back from injury and it’s a rocky one. Not of the confectionary kind.
The common feature in her losses to Zheng Jie, Oudin and Kiriklenko over the past 6 month has been that she’s hit more winners, unforced errors and double faults than her opponents. It’s not that these victors were counterpunching pushers waiting for her to ‘give away the match’. It’s about her game having too much black-and-white, hits-and-misses and not enough grey.
Yes, grey is neither her style nor her personality. But it wouldn’t hurt to see some minor tweaks in her game. Especially with a whole new generation of Baby Sharapovas coming up with more consistency albeit less mental fortitude than Sharapova.
Still. Hard to be mad at Zheng Jie when she’s such a cute little rubber duck.
2. Non-upsets of the day: Gisela Dulko tells the story of a typical journeywoman – beating Justine Henin one day, winning a grand total of one game against Aga the next.
Comebacks are all the rage on the WTA tour – Alicia Molik crushes Lena Balt 60 62 to advance to the third round of Indian Wells.
Greul grilled Monfils 16 62 63, Blake blitzed Ferrer 61 64. Melzer melted Nalbandian by the inverse scoreline of 64 61.
No Fedbandian quarterfinal then? Le sad.
3. Of course, we were almost denied of a Federer quarterfinal of any kind altogether as Victor Hanescu took a set in his 36 76 16 loss to a chili-red Roger.
The first set was over a flash as Roger got up an early break and lost only one point on serve. You can be forgiven for expecting the second set to be just as straight forward. After his hawk-eye successes at the Australian Open, the Fed reverted back to his love/hate relationship with our favourite birdy.
Hey genius, two things you can’t argue against in tennis – hawkeye for a bad call, and a wall for outhitting you.
But it seems that taking a set off Hot Papa was all that Hanescu could manage before a third set burn-out. Roger upped his service percentage and closed out the deal with a breadstick, and took a few more vases home for Mirka.
Baghdatis next. Fear for your knickers.
4. Ana Ivanovic fell to Sevastova in her first match at Indian Wells. With this loss, she’s set to tumble out of the top 50 for the first time since 2004. It’s depressing. It’s humiliating. It’s well-publicised … or perhaps more appropriately – badly-publicised.
It’s just a awful story.
So I’m going to stop talking about it.
5. Wisdom from Bodo.
Sure, players have bad days, and women players often have bad days for biologically-related reasons that are never discussed (it goes against the grain of both good manners and our general social philosophy) but loom at the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room.
6. I’m a little late on this thanks to the internet fiasco at home, but Hit for Haiti 2 turned out to be the unfortunate clash of personalities it promised to be.
Rafa looked overawed at times and wasn’t nearly as relaxed and quippy as he was in Australia with Nole. Fed was goofy and McDreamy, and really tried to make things about as pleasant as he could.
Andre and Pete? Fire and ice.
From the outset, it felt like Andre was trying to overcompensate the humor of the night. Depending on your view of AA, either he got too relaxed and loose-lipped, or he set out to bait Pete in the first place. It didn’t help that Pete not only took the bait but took it badly. It was shocking, inappropriate, embarrassing. It was the walking-in-on-nasty-Christmas-fights kind of awkward. It made me want to rewind back to the part of the night that was still cheery and playful.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Andre Agassi. The little kinks in his personality are what makes him one of the most intriguing characters in tennis. But this was no brainer – he said the wrong thing at the wrong time. He embarrassed Pete, who he knew wasn’t quick or sharp enough to tease back with the same sort of dark, edgy humor.
Not to mention: he did so at a charity match in front of 16,000 people. It killed the atmosphere and shifted the focus of the night from altruism to scandal.
When asked about the incident, Rafa said he didn’t understand it. Whether he was being genuine or just refusing to get involved we’ll never know.
Fed also downplayed the incident with a line I wish he used on the night to break the ice: “Now being a father I thought we had to give both guys a time out.”
Cracking dad jokes already are we?
7. To end on a positive note: bullying Roger? Bad idea.
Oh fine! We were all cute and impromptu, before you came along with your big targets and big names …
News out that there’ll be a second “Hit For Haiti” in Indian Wells next month, attended by Roger/Sampras and Rafa/Agassi.
The BNP Paribas Open, the most attended tennis tournament in the world outside of the four major events, to be held March 8-21, 2010, will hold a “Hit For Haiti” exhibition on the evening of Friday, March 12, that will feature former BNP Paribas Open champions with a combined total of 44 Grand Slam singles titles, and is expected to raise a minimum of $1 Million for Haiti relief efforts, it was announced today by Steve Simon, tournament director.
Larry Ellison, who recently purchased the tournament, decided to coordinate a second Hit for Haiti exhibition after seeing the success it had at the Australian Open, where hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised for Haiti relief efforts. The event will feature 44 Grand Slam titles on the same court with Roger Federer and Pete Sampras playing Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi. The event will be broadcast live on the Tennis Channel beginning at 7:30 PM PST.
The net proceeds from ticket sales to this session will be donated to the American Red Cross for their relief efforts in Haiti. Fans will also be able to donate to the relief effort through text messages and on-site contributions throughout the evening and event. In addition to these fund-raising efforts, Ellison will make a personal donation to this very special cause.
“When I saw the first Hit for Haiti event in Australia, I was very moved by the players coming together, on the eve of an important tournament, for such a worthy cause,” said Ellison. “I wanted to bring together an exceptional group of players, with an unprecedented amount of Grand Slam titles, at the BNP Paribas Open. Our goal is to leave a memorable impression on fans, while raising a substantial amount of money that will directly impact the needs of people in Haiti.”
In addition to the exhibition, the evening will begin at 7:00 p.m. with the annual Salute to Heroes ceremony, where the tournament will recognize veterans, military personnel, police, firemen and women, and Red Cross volunteers on Stadium Court for their efforts in the community and around the world. The ceremony and tennis exhibition will be followed by one main draw match.
Source: tournament website
While I applaud the thought, I must say – this one sounds like less fun: bigger targets, bigger names and … not a single WTA player or champion invited to attend. Still, if it gets people to keep on donating, I can’t complain.
Make it good boys/old farts.
If you’re anything like me, there’s a bit of a list-maniac in you. The wall around your desk, all your books, planners and diaries are covered with post-it notes: lists of your ideas, thoughts, inspirations, or just groceries and chores.
This guy knows what I’m talking about.
While the attraction of listing remains, lists come with limitations – they exclude as much as they define. So it is with some trepidation that I approach these “Players of the Decade”, “Matches of 2009” lists.
Players of the Decade, according to the ATP (clickey). What say you? For what it’s worth, my personal 5: (feel free to disagree/trash/rearrange like jigsaw puzzles)
1. Roger Federer: uncontroversial. Except that I join Ivan Lendl in saying that Roger has missed his last chance at the Grand Slam this year. NEXT!
2. Rafael Nadal: Equally uncontroversial. The real question is if Rafa will make it into the top 5 of the next decade. Moving along now!
3. Andre Agassi: 3 slams, US Open final in 2005, retirement in 2006, oldest No 1 in ATP history. Greatest comeback in tennis history. Defying odds on longevity. To top it off, he ended the decade with one of the finest and most controversial tennis biographies ever written.
Regardless of what you might think of Andre Agassi post-methgate, when he blew teary kisses at the crowd after his last match in 2006, we all stood up and applauded.
‘Nuff said. Hewitt doesn’t get to trump Andre on this.
4. Andy Roddick: I’d take Roddick over Hewitt despite their respective slam count for 3 reasons – a) 8 consecutive years in the Top 10, consistency second only to Federer and Nadal, b) still in contention for slams at the end of the decade, reached more finals than Hewitt, only to have a certain hairy monkey prevent him from actually winning any of them. But it’s not like Hewitt himself had much luck with the same guy.
c) Hewitt benefitted from a career peak while Roger Federer was still busy milking cows with Heidi in the Swiss Alps. Had he taken longer to mature as a player, he’d be in the running for the best player to have never won a slam.
5. Lleyton Hewitt: having said all that – 2 slams, 2 year-end No 1 trophies. The only player other than Federer to accomplish the feat. This puts him above Marat Safin and Pete Sampras, both also with 2 slams each.
My WTA personal 5:
1. Serena: 10 slams, 84 weeks at No 1. A quarter of the decade’s slams in her possession, Serena’s occupation of the top spot for the decade is about as irrefutable as Fed’s. Next!
2. Justine Henin: 7 slams this decade, the same as Venus, the difference is a whopping 117 weeks at No 1, astounding consistency at the top in the brave new world of Big Babe tennis.
3. Venus: Proof that the No 1 spot just ain’t what we make it out to be – Venus Williams only spent 11 weeks at the top. That’s less than Dinara Safina with her grand total of zero slams.
Venus to be No 3 on my list for more reasons than her 7 slams. The 2005 Wimbledon final was the greatest women’s match of my life time (so far). It lasted longer than Federer’s deconstruction of Andy Roddick that same year and featured some truly spectacular tennis. I still remember at the end of the match, Venus’s hands were fisted as she jumped up and down, her hair bouncing in the dying daylight…
Two years later, Wimbledon introduced equal prize money for men and women. Venus Williams, who played a key role in effecting change through her words and her tennis, became the first woman to benefit from our newfound equality.
No 3? You bet.
4. Maria Sharapova: 3 slams, 17 weeks at No 1.
Does anyone remember watching Maria Sharapova walk on court for her first grand slam final in 2004? I do.
Even as a teenybopper, I remember remarking immediately that she was the real deal. The 17 year-old looked like she was born on the big stage. Contrast with Ana Ivanovic’s wonky mess during her first slam final in 2007, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Sharapova’s grunts, her fight, her work ethics and mentality have changed very little since then, and they’ve allowed her to accomplish the commendable feat of winning 3 slams by the age of 22.
The challenge, given her age, is to stay healthy in the long run and become the player of the next decade.
5. Jennifer Capriati: She wasn’t around for most of the decade, but when she came back from the Moor of Lost Souls in the early noughties, she defined ‘comeback’.
7 straight grand slam semifinals, winning 3 out of 5 slams in her glorious stretch of consistency and dominance on all surfaces, despite all that, Capriati only totaled 17 weeks at No 1.
They say the WTA top spot has lost its credibility with the Jankovic/Safina/Serena merry-go-round. I say it didn’t have much credibility to lose in the first place.
Did I mention that lists exclude as much as they define? Some other players I considered –
- Kim Clijsters: 2 slams, 19 weeks at No 1. I crossed her out because she was on track to become the best one slam wonder of the noughties until she changed that by winning the very last slam of this decade out of nowhere. The Hot Mama set high standards, but she was never ‘dominant’ in the true sense of that word.
- Lindsay Davenport: an incredible 76 weeks at No 1, but ‘only’ managed to win 1 slam early this decade
- Amelie Mauresmo: 2 slams, 39 weeks as No 1. Momo’s dominance only really lasted for a year and the nosedive that followed was far too dismal
- Svetlana Kuznestova: 2 slams, 0 weeks at No 1 – let’s work on that last part.
- Special mention for Anna Kournikova, who in some ways, defined the image of women’s tennis this decade.
Sex sells. Who the hell do you think you are, Don Draper?!
So who are your ‘personal 5’? What lists have you been dying to make? Do spill!
Max, a naughty little boy, came home one evening dressed in a wolf suit. “I’ll eat you up!” He yelled, jumping mischievously in front of his mother.
Angry over his misbehaviour, Max’s mother sends him to bed without supper. In his room, a world of seas and forrest grew out of Max’s imagination and Max decided to sail to the and of the wild things.
The great Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure once declared that meaning is eternally deferred. We know we exist, but what does that existence mean? Andre Agassi’s autobiography “Open” depicts a man’s search for the meaning of existence, a pursuit that took him out of the comforts of his bedroom, shoved into the tennis world, and ultimately into a land where the wild things frolicked and he was king.
The son of a brutal Iranian immigrant, Agassi began hitting balls in preschool to satisfy his father’s ambitions of having a tennis player in the family. As the object of his father’s obsession, Agassi grew to hate tennis, yet see it as his responsibility. A responsibility that made everything else in life seem irrelevant – school, fun, rest, friends. At the core of a tennis obsession, winning is everything, so when Agassi won a sportsmanship trophy after losing in a tournament, his father smashed it to pieces. It was from this sort of background that Andre Agassi’s lifelong love-hate relationship with tennis began.
Max journeys deep into his imagination, “to where the wild things are”. The Wild Things are yellow-eyed monsters. Max conquers them “by staring into their yellow eyes without blinking once, and he is made the King of all Wild Things, partying with his monster-mates in a wild rumpus.
Cut to Andre, aged 13, living at the Bollettieri Academy, or “Lord of the Flies with forehands“, as Agassi himself describes. He was “the man”. A boy so special that he demanded the special attention of Nick Bollettieri himself. His tennis was growing in leaps and bounds, but his personal search for meaningful existence took a wayward turn: he drank hard liquor, smoked dope. He wore an earring and a Mohawk, played tennis in eyeliner and jeans.
And although he didn’t know it at the time, this would be the start of a long journey through the land of the wild things, where monsters came in all shapes and sizes – the media, Brook Shields, crystal meth, depression, and indeed, tennis itself.
What the press called rebellion was simply a search for identity, a belief that a Self can be found in a mohawk, short jeans or a pink shirt … A ‘wild rumpus’ of sorts with the yellow-eyed monsters in life.
And in the land where the wild things are, Andre Agassi was king of all wild things.
And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.
Then all around from far away across the world
he smelled good things to eat
so he gave up being king of where the wild things are.
In many ways, we all search for the meaning of existence and that “gap” between what we feel and what we say we feel. Max, wisely, took his time, went away to party with the wild things, and when he was ready, he came home to find supper still hot, left in his room by his mother.
But first, he must shed the wolf-suit.
Andre Agassi, like Max, tried to find identity amongst the wild things. He faced monsters. For a while, he became one of them – gentle, wild, and ultimately lonely.
As Agassi admits, tennis is the closest thing sport has to solitary confinement. It’s a lonely sport made lonelier by a racket, a net, and a distance that separates the competitor from his opponent, both only too aware that there can only be one man left standing in the end.
In such an existence, how can one stay true to himself? Or even know what the Self is? As the trajectory of the book shows, identity cannot be constructed through clothes, hair, or the number of grand slams a player wins. Image is everything. But Image is nothing. And “the Self” that Agassi spent most of his adolescent and adult life building cannot actually be built.
But the Self can be located. It can be reflected. It can look back on him in a compassionate, loving gaze. Cue “Team Agassi”, his eventual entourage featuring his body trainer and surrogate father Gil, brother Philly, best friends Perry and JP, coaches Brad Gilbert and Darren Cahill, and of course, his eventual wife Steffi Graf, mother of his 2 children.
Each of them flawed but loving and loyal, Agassi eventually found himself reflected in them, the people who unconditionally love him, forgives his desires and flaws and stuck by him through thick and thin. As the official anthem of angst goes, be my mirror, my sword and shield.
With that reflection comes acceptance and closure – shedding the wolf-suit, saying goodbye to the wild things, and coming home to hot supper.
There is poetry then in the fact that the book ends with a chapter on Agassi’s school – his real inspiration in life and vision for the future. The scene shifts to a public court, with Agassi and Graf playing tennis, a sport they both so hated but were driven to play. Only this time in retirement, Agassi embraced it as a part of his identity and made a conscious choice, “I want to play just a little longer.”
Ghost-written by JR Moehringer, a Pulitzer prize winner, “Open” is a beautifully structured book, full of subtle symmetries and humanity. By deliberately doing away with quotation marks for speech, the book exposes the readers to a voice unconstrained by verbatim, a stream of consciousness where the distinctions between utterance and thoughts, fact and recollection are rendered irrelevant.
The result is that ‘Open’ is so much more than a tennis biography. Tennis provides merely for an undercurrent of chronology in the book.
Ultimately, it is a book about the search for an identity, and a reminder that no matter how deep we journey into the land of the wild things, there is a way back. Back into your bedroom, perhaps even with hot supper waiting.
But first, we must shed the wolf-suit.
What’s that smell in the air, you ask? It’s the scent of freedom folks! And summer! Endless days of heat and sun and lounging around doing absoluf*ckinglutely nothing, but enjoying every minute of it.
And yes, tennis too! Doots is back in action and ready to frazzle over Hairy Roger and the group of Death-Eaters he’s landed himself with for WTF.
Must admit my frazzling skills have diminished since Wimbledon. I’ll need them in fine form for the Aussie circuit next year, gotta do better.
1. Has anyone seen this tennis article on the Telegraph website?
Rafael Nadal in full battle dress was a hell of a sight and tennis fears losing its heartbeat
Tennis lovers and tournament organisers from Majorca to Melbourne are joined in prayer this morning, pleading for a sign that tells them that the light is not fading in Rafael Nadal.
Umm … yes, let’s all form a prayer circle for Nadal.
2. Mentioning Nadal, it’s been strange reading a series of frank interviews with him in the English media, but I’ve enjoyed it. The latest from the Guardian was an insightful glimpse of the effect his injuries and his parent’s divorce had on him this year.
“My parents’ divorce made an important change in my life. It affected me. After that, when I can’t play Wimbledon, it was tough. For one month I was outside the world.”
Nadal looks terribly young amid that quiet admission. “I am OK now,” the 23-year-old says of his parents’ divorce, “but you need time to accept. And it’s more difficult to accept when you are outside home and don’t know what’s happening. At least the injury gave me time to be with my friends and family.”
But what struck me most about this interview was this passage:
“[The] year before I lost to Roger in the fifth set. It was hard for me to lose when I had three or four break points in that fifth set [which Federer won 6-2]. What killed me was that second break. If I lose 6-3 or 6-4 with one break I accept. But I was angry with myself to lose that second break. That made it seem as if I wasn’t ready mentally.”
What killed him about that match wasn’t the simple fact that he lost, but that he lost with a double break. Isn’t that exactly the sort of person that Rafa is?
And it seems that he’s softened his stance a little on Andre too.
His words contrast with Andre Agassi’s claims in his recent autobiography that, despite winning eight grand slams, he “hated tennis” and sought refuge in crystal meth. Nadal raises an eyebrow. “I think it’s impossible to be on the circuit 15 years and hate tennis. I always saw Andre playing with motivation and passion.”
Have Agassi’s confessions damaged tennis? “It’s a big thing for the ATP. I understand if he was depressed he might have taken something so I don’t want to criticise Andre for taking crystal meth. But everybody must be treated the same. Just because he is Andre Agassi he should not escape sanction. Tennis is a hard sport. There is a lot of competition all year and you play alone. Mentally and physically it is one of the toughest sports – but that’s no reason to take these products [drugs].”
3. Mentioning Andre, I’m reading his biography and lovin’ it.
I can’t help but feel that all the transformations we thought Andre went through from a rebel to an elderly statesman of the game was simply a media construct. This book itself is Andre’s final act of rebellion.
And in a perverse way, I admire him for it. Haven’t we all wanted to tell someone exactly what we think of them at some point in our lives? It takes a degree of non-fuckeriness to publish those thoughts in a book.
4. Pete Bodo wrote something nice about Roger without any of the usual machismo. On a scale of 1 to me-complimenting-Andy-Murray, this is pretty damn fair.
5. It sucks to be a Federer fan sometimes. But at some point in the days after Wimbledon, I realised that complaining about how much it sucks to be a Federer fan is a bit like being a millionaire and complaining about the interests being too low on your savings.
I mean, where does that leave Andy Roddick fans?
That’s the second year in a row that he’s had to pull out of the year-end championships. And that’s on top of drawing Isner third round at the US Open, and losing to Federer 4 times in a year, twice in slams, in two different ways.
By some order of divine injustice, the Tennis Gods won’t give the guy a break.
6. Besides the tweener, what’s your favourite Federer shot this year? I’m asking this because I have all the time in the world and a youtube account.
Excuse the intermittent blogging of late, I have 4 exams coming up in the next 6 days. Part of the deal with being a student is that you party, play, drink and procrastinate for the majority of the year, then comes every November, when life is a hell-hole and one that’s kicking your ass.
Never fear, if the exams were Novak Djokovic, then I’m Roger Federer – you win some and you lose some. As long as you win more than you lose.
Enough about me! Now tennis …
1. Simon Reed strikes again. For you West Wing buffs out there, post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
Follow my logic here:
# Andy Murray won Valencia.
# Therefore, Andy Murray is BACK.
# Therefore, Andy Murray is the No 1 player outside the slams.
# Thus Andy Murray is the favourite for London, because LONDON IS NOT A SLAM.
# Thus Andy Murray is not the favourite for the Australian Open yet, because THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN IS A SLAM.
That, my dear friends, is Dootsie’s Concise Guide to Simon Reedism.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc indeed. Simon Reed is CJ, and I’m the President of the United States. God bless!
…That’s what Andre referred to his autobiography as.
Try not to stare at his weird blink in this video.
Agassi will be on 60 minutes (US) this Sunday at 7 p.m ET/PT, and I’m assuming on youtube for the rest of the world within an hour thereafter.
Agassi got emotional when responding to the criticism from Martina Navratilova that Couric read to him, including that the former women’s tennis star compared him with Roger Clemens.
“Yeah…it’s what you don’t want to hear…I would hope…along with that would come some compassion that maybe this person doesn’t need condemnation,” Agassi tells Couric. “Maybe this person could stand a little help. Because that was at a time in my life when I needed help.”
“I had a problem and there might be many other athletes out there that test positive for recreational drugs that have a problem. So I would ask for some compassion,” says Agassi.
The former number-one tennis player in the world has no regrets about disclosing his methamphetamine use in his new book, “Open,” which comes out Monday. He’s not sure what impact it will have on his consideration for the Tennis Hall of Fame.
“I don’t know what the ramifications are….I had way more to lose by telling this story in its full transparency than I had to gain,” he tells Couric, ‘The price that that comes with is the cost that I’ve assumed and I’m okay because the part that I worry and think more about is who this may help.”
Whatever your views on Andre, he’s gotta be one of the most fascinating figures in this sport.
1. It’s official, Andy Murray has left Fred Perry for adidas.
It’s a pity, he had spent all those years wearing whatever potato sac Fred Perry gave him, and just when the designs got better this year, Mandy’s leaving.
In an official statement, adidas confirmed that Andy will wear the Competition line and the Barricade.
adidas VP Global Sports Marketing, Jocelyn Robiot says, “We are delighted to welcome Andy Murray in to the adidas tennis family. Andy is a young, dynamic player that embodies adidas’ pure performer qualities. He is a very driven and dedicated athlete and we look forward to working with him on developing our Barricade products and helping him achieve his Impossible in 2010.”
2. It’s “hello goodbye” for Adidas this week, as Sam Qurrey jumped ship for K-Swiss, the sponsor of Tommy Haas, Mardy Fish, and Jim Courier.
“We are very pleased to have Sam join the K-Swiss family,” commented John Tobias, BEST Tennis President. “It’s a company we are very familiar with and have done a couple of other deals with for top players Mardy Fish, Vera Zvonareva and Alona & Kateryna Bondarenko. We feel this is a perfect fit for Sam, and he is very excited about this new partnership with K-Swiss.”
3. Is Novak leaving Adidas or not? Is he joining K-Swiss, Head, or perhaps … a certain Chinese brand?
What can I say? Andre Agassi was an idiot, and he got lucky.
He got SO. FEEKING. LUCKY.
In 1997, Agassi was struggling with his game and with his decision to marry actress Brooke Shields. His assistant, identified as Slim, introduced him to the drug, according to the excerpt.
“Slim is stressed too … He says, You want to get high with me? On what? Gack. What the hell’s gack? Crystal meth,” Agassi recounts in the book. “Why do they call it gack? Because that’s the sound you make when you’re high … Make you feel like Superman, dude.
“As if they’re coming out of someone else’s mouth, I hear these words: You know what? F*** it. Yeah. Let’s get high.
“Slim dumps a small pile of powder on the coffee table. He cuts it, snorts it. He cuts it again. I snort some. I ease back on the couch and consider the Rubicon I’ve just crossed.
“There is a moment of regret, followed by vast sadness. Then comes a tidal wave of euphoria that sweeps away every negative thought in my head. I’ve never felt so alive, so hopeful — and I’ve never felt such energy,” Agassi says.
“I’m seized by a desperate desire to clean. I go tearing around my house, cleaning it from top to bottom. I dust the furniture. I scour the tub. I make the beds.”
Later, according to The Times, Agassi receives a call from a doctor working with the ATP, telling him that he has failed a drug test.
“My name, my career, everything is now on the line,” Agassi recounts in the book. “Whatever I’ve achieved, whatever I’ve worked for, might soon mean nothing. Days later I sit in a hard-backed chair, a legal pad in my lap, and write a letter to the ATP. It’s filled with lies interwoven with bits of truth.
“I say Slim, whom I’ve since fired, is a known drug user, and that he often spikes his sodas with meth — which is true. Then I come to the central lie of the letter. I say that recently I drank accidentally from one of Slim’s spiked sodas, unwittingly ingesting his drugs. I ask for understanding and leniency and hastily sign it: Sincerely.
“I feel ashamed, of course. I promise myself that this lie is the end of it.”
The ATP threw out the positive drug test and it did not surface until now.
In a story posted on People magazine’s Web site Tuesday, Agassi says: “I can’t speak to addiction, but a lot of people would say that if you’re using anything as an escape, you have a problem.”
In the posting on People’s Web site, Agassi says he “was worried for a moment, but not for long,” about how fans would react if they found out he used drugs.
“I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were always written on my face. I was actually excited about telling the world the whole story,” Agassi says.
He could’ve been suspended. The second half of his career could have never happened. He could’ve ended up with an addiction, behind bars. He could’ve ended his life. This shit is nasty, horrible stuff, and I hope that font colour conveys my general feelings towards it.
But instead, AA went on win 5 more slams, marry a goddess named Steffi Graf and steer clear of an addiction.
All this only came out voluntarily, 12 years down the track, when not even an act of supreme idiocy can destroy the respect and affections I have for this man.
But holy shit, how lucky can a person get?
Just take a look at Hingis and Gasquet.
So … I hate the GOAT debate. Can I say that? I hate it.
I don’t believe it exists. I think it’s a stupid title, and a terrible acronym. I hate the fact that we’re putting it on a player who’s career is not over. Can any player really be the greatest of all time?
But let’s humour all the GOAT debaters for a while …
It’s interesting to see the latest comment by Sampras on the matter, which primarily focused on Federer’s record against Nadal.
While Sampras himself has bestowed the GOAT on Federer, he suggested today Federer must find a way to beat Nadal consistently in order to truly be called the GOAT.
“Tough question to answer. I do understand the argument as being the best ever you have to be the best of your generation and he has come up short against Nadal,” Sampras said. “I can see the point and it’s hard to answer it. It’s not done yet. Roger’s careeer isn’t done yet and he has to beat (Nadal) and he’s got to beat him in the final of majors. In my book he is (the greatest of all time), but he has to figure this kid out. He has to beat him. You’ve gotta be the man of your generation. Roger certainly is the man of his generation, but he’s got to figure out how to beat Nadal.”
Recalling his rivalry with Agassi, Sampras said if Agassi had led their head-to-head series, it would have caused the 14-time Grand Slam champion to question his own status as his generation’s top player.
“It would bother me if I had a losing record against Andre in majors,” Sampras said. “Does it mean I was the greatest or not the greatest? The greatest of all time is (a label) we want to pin it on someone. With the numbers you have to give it to Roger; with (Federer’s) record against Nadal you might not give it to him. If I was 7-13 against Andre it would be hard to say I was the best of my generation. It’s hard to give a definitive answer when he’s not done yet. Roger knows he has to figure out this kid, but it’s a tough match up. Nadal is one of the few guys who believes he is better than him.”
Unfortunately, my gut tells me that Sampras was a bit set up here. The interviewer sounded like he was already looking for a particular answer before the question was asked.
Who cares? If the GOAT debate could be settled, then what would be the fun in it?
I’m quite prepared to accept the idea that to lay a strong claim to being GOAT, Federer needs to work more on that H2H with Nadal. 7-13 is abysmal, considering Sampras was 20-14 against Agassi.
Actually, I like that fact that Federer still has some unresolved H2H issues in tennis. With No 15 and the coupe des mousquetaires in the bag, what’s to stop him from just riding off into the sunset with Mirkabear and Babybear?
While I’m not naive enough to believe that Federer will turn that H2H his way, it does need some work. More specifically we need a few more wins.
On the other hand, I don’t believe the H2H issue is as big as it’s been made out to be. For the sake of fun, let’s delve into Sampras’s comments and toss out a few hypotheticals here:
Hypothetical 1: Imagine an alternative tennis universe where Federer wasn’t even the second best clay courter.
Imagine if Roger Federer had never made a clay court final between 2004-2008. What would’ve been his H2H against Rafa?
If we just took off all the clay court encounters from the current stats, it’s 5-4 Federer. Consider also the possibility that Nadal might not haven’t been in Federer’s head as much if Roger hadn’t lost to him consecutively on clay, it could’ve gone Federer’s way more.
And there lies the irony of the situation: if Federer had been anything short of the second most consistent player on clay, he might’ve avoided this H2H issue altogether. But would he have had a stronger claim to GOAT?
Hypothetical 2: if we were to draw analogies between the Federer/Nadal rivalry and the Sampras/Agassi rivalry, then we must be prepared to consider what Sampras and Agassi’s H2H would’ve been if more than half their matches were played on clay.
I’m biased, since Agassi had endeared me more. But I need no bias to predict this one: Agassi would’ve owned his clay court H2H against Sampras.
Hypothetical 3: following on from #2, consider also what Sampras or Agassi’s H2H would’ve been had Agassi been 5 years younger than Sampras.
Hypothetical 4: Back to Federer and Nadal – what would Fed and Nadal’s H2H be if they had been the same age? While Nadal’s 5 years younger than Federer, I think the “primes” of their careers were about 18-24 months apart. Of course, that’s not taking into account that Nadal is still well in his prime and could go on to have more fabulous years. Federer too could create a second spring for himself, not that 2008 was that much of a ‘winter’. This case is by no means closed.
Hypothetical 5: what would Federer and Nadal’s H2H be if they played equal number of matches on all surfaces?
Hypothetical 6: if we were to argue that Roger Federer cannot be the greatest of all time if he wasn’t the greatest of his time, then who is the greatest of his time?
Nadal? As good as Nadal’s H2H against Federer is, he hasn’t dominated the rest of the field as much as Fed has. Even with Federer supposedly in decline, it’s statistically easier to upset Nadal at a slam than it is to upset Federer.
My point being that Nadal’s H2H against Federer in itself isn’t enough to give him a better claim to being the greatest player of this particular time in tennis over Federer. Whether by statistics or a process of elimination, Federer remains the greatest of his time despite his record against Nadal.
More important than the GOAT debate:
who has the greatest ass of all time?
Consider lastly Federer’s unique situation here:
He was essentially in GOAT territory once he passed 10 slams. First we said he’s got to collect the French Open. As he amassed more slams, we decided he had to equal Sampras’ 14 slams to be considered. This year the guy did both in one go.
Then we decided he had to break it, get to No 15, which he promptly did less than a month later. Now we say he must fix his H2H with Nadal. Should he manage to do that (which I doubt)? We’d probably say “hey, but you’ve never won the Grand Slam like Laver.”
The more successful Federer turns out to be, the more specific the GOAT criteria becomes. Why? Because unlike other debates, the GOAT debate is one we inherently don’t want to settle.
For my money – I hate the concept of GOAT, but Roger Federer is the greatest player I’ve seen. That’s as far as I’m prepared to say at this point.
Should he finish his career with 17 slams or more, I am also quite prepared to toss my “there is no GOAT” defense out the window and make him tennis cattle, assuming Nadal doesn’t overtake Fed in the number of slams. Numbers, though not determinative, are pretty damn irrefutable. 17 is 6 more than Laver and 3 with a French Open more than Sampras, which weakens any remaining arguments against Fed’s GOAT candidacy.
All this verbal diarrhea is just an excuse for me to repost the Madrid pictures again. As compelling as the Federer/Nadal rivalry is, it’s also a ridiculously good looking one. Here’s one last eye candy, my personal fave:
BSing is my forte,