Sunday, 8 February 2009

No More Tears...

Not to drag out the whole crying-thing, but after the emotions of the Aussie Open Final, I thought it might be worth revisiting some of the more watery on-court moments of the past; or at least the one's I remember.

We all love players that display vulnerability; it isn't after all that often, and when they do shed a tear (or two), it's truly a measure of how frayed their nerves are - a class above IMO some of the more narcissistic exhibitions of Oscar Acceptance territory.

There'll be no more talk of tears here.

(As an aside, aren't you relieved that Kate Winslet managed to deliver a composed acceptance speech at her BAFTA win yesterday? So far removed from her Golden Globes breakdown - which was suffered very badly here - as was the whole "and who!? (Jolie, that's who)" moment.)

Jana Novotna (v Steffi Graf, 1993 Wimbledon Final)

Dubbed by some as the best double act tennis has ever seen, the image of Novotna with her head slumped on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent remains one of the more enduring images of Wimbledon.

I wasn't, let's say as avid a follower of Women's tennis during this period - I got more involved towards the middle of the nineties; but I was sure never to miss a
Graf match (the relentless nature and power of her forehand seemed to me to be ahead of its time), and this image caught not just my eye, but everyone in the country it seemed. It also gave us a very brief glimpse into a less priggish and certainly more humane Wimbledon.

Pete Sampras (v Jim Courier, 1995 Melbourne Quarter Final)

"Do it for your Coach Pete!". I hadn't seen this one in full until recently, and didn't realise how protracted the whole thing was (the sobbing that is). Anyone not comfortable with public displays of emotion will not like this one bit. Sampras is seen wiping his eyes, intermittently throughout, but it all comes to a head at 1-1 in the final set (at 6:57 in the video) when someone yells out that infamous line. Courier, at 30 all (out of genuine concern it seems), yells over the net, "We can do this tomorrow, you know!". Sampras serves two aces to close out the game (bet you wish you'd kept quiet Jim!).

Just goes to show what a great bond the coach-player relationship really is - and how laughably ineffective it makes the pic'n mix arrangement favoured by Ivanovic and the rest of Team Adidas seem. Speaking of which, the coachless
thing for Ana didn't work out at Melbourne. Maybe she should appoint a proper coach for a change - not a hot-desker, but one that's with her full time I mean. I'm beginning to think that kind of set up would favour her less stable disposition.

Andre Agassi (v Goran Ivanisevic, 1992 Wimbledon Final)

He couldn't believe he'd won it, it seemed. I understand he entered the event hating the grass. He burst into tears almost immediately on winning the match and fell to his knees, but the image that stayed with me ever since (sorry Andre) was the sight of Ivanisevic consoling him on his side of the court.

Goran was very much THE 'angry young man' of that era (Marat was still around 7-8 years away) and his serve was like nothing I'd ever seen (or
have ever seen for that matter); but watching him exhibit a more tender side only made official what I had felt coming on for a long time: I was a fan.

Martina Hingis (v Steffi Graf, 1999 Roland Garros Final)

Scary stuff. An absolute orgy of neuroticism. Steffi must have wondered what she'd done to deserve opponents who all freak out on her. We all know what happened, but I'm sure these are the kinds of tears we'd prefer not to see. Martina's period of dominance was over, the Williams sisters had arrived and though she continued to perform well over the next few years (four further appearances at the Aussie Open Final and a Hopman Cup win with one Roger Federer), would never see the glint of a Slam trophy again.

I was glad to see her return to the game in 2005 and back to something like her best when she qualified for the SEC in 2006. It was also very evident however just why she was prone to being overpowered not just by the Williams Sisters, but most any strong baseliner that had risen up the rankings over the past few years.

Goran Ivanisevic (v Pat Rafter, 2001 Wimbledon Final)

An absolute fairytale; and tears of joy are not at all out of place in fairytales. The story of the loveable Croat winning his first Wimbledon Title (and only Grand Slam) as a Wildcard at the ripe old age of 29, with the odds seemingly stacked against him made him a celebrity in the UK - though having made the final three times in the past, most of the crowd had already warmed to him and many would have thought this title well overdue - even at the expense of Tiger Tim (and Pat Rafter).

Jose Acasuso (v Marat Safin, 2006 Davis Cup Final)

I don't know what it is about Acasuso - but I want good things to happen for him. He's got all the makings of a big player and yet something in his psyche holds him back. If there's one criticism I have of him, it's that he appears a little too laid back. Like he's just out there to have a good time.

But none of that was in evidence in the post match footage of that Davis Cup final of 2006, that showed Jose inconsolable with his head slumped down. This man cared very much it seemed.
I'd like a little more of that zeal when he's not playing for his country.

Novak Djokovic (v Rafael Nadal, 2008 Olympic Games)

This is the stuff that'll get people to love you Novak: Natural, unaffected displays of heart. The tears were so natural in fact that he walked off court a little too quickly. If he'd spent a moment or two longer in his chair, he might have realised just how much the fans appreciated his efforts - mind you that's exactly the kind of thing he's a little too conscious of.

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