It was way back in 1987 June when i watched any match of Tennis in my memory. It was Wimbledon and Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova were fighting in the finals for the title. One of them was already a legend, the other one was into making history. I could not understand much of tennis that time but from the next year onwards, we three brothers started watching semis and finals of Wimbledon and French Open. I am quite thankful to Doordarshan to bring such a high quality telecast in those days of minimum TV presence in India.
The Mens' tennis stars those days were Ivan Lendl (who couldn’t win Wimbledon anytime), Stfean Edberg, and Boris Becker. I personally liked the zeal of Becker, Class of Lendl but Edberg impressed me the most with the least show-off and the best results. Those were the starting days of Graf, Sanchez-Vicario, Seles, Capriati, Sabatini, Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Stitch mature days of Becker, Edberg, ending days of Navratilova, Chris Evert, Borg, McEnore, Connors, Lendl and the greatest stars like Sampras, Ivanisevic, Krajicek, Hingis, Novotna, Conchita Martinez were not even in picutres.
Lendl Beckar Edberg
The game started drifting to unknown players in the start of 90s by Courier winning one grand slam with a big show and then drifting to the glories of not making anywhere in later days. He is always remembered for his great show that time but he couldn't maintain it. Ivanisevic was busy in pumping the flood of aces to the opponents and Sampras still managing to defeat him in straight sets in the finals. Agassi defeated him in his first Wimbledon finals in 1992, Samprass in straight sets in 1994, four setters in 1998 but he finally managed to make it to the record books in 2001. Philippousis was known for his height, strength and fastest serves with very high first serve percentage, but he was not like the legends to keep the returns right. Patric Rafter was a man of excellent serve but Sampras, Ivanisevic, Agassi all had enough class to not to let the beauty of game to drift towards the power of shots. Sampras had not been my personal favorite in his initial days. His indifference and controlled temperament gave a sense of arrogance somewhere to me. But as he grew in tennis, his calmness showed the humbleness and the noble dedication for his dreams. He played classis games to defeat each and every powerful opponent every time. Thus he made the world record of 14 grand slams titles. He had pushed behind two of his own ideals of his tennis; Borg and Rod Laver. The era was ending with Agassi managing to settle with the lady luck (Steffi Graf) and making a history of winning all grand slams. I always considered him as a cool headed, focused bloke.
Courier Agassi Ivanisevic
Shades of Sampras’ 14 Grand Slams
In the end of 90s and start of new millennium, I was starting to believe that the top position in the mens' tennis doesn't give the flavor of watching them in the finals of grand slams. Every now and then the top players did some silly thing and the grand slam finals were between two not-so-great players of the time. To break my silly belief came the era of Federer, Nadal, Hewitt, Safin, Roddick and Djokovic. Federer and Nadal are among the greatest players of the history of tennis. In any era, there had not been two so confident, consistent, focused, dedicated, hard working players. Federer had been so consistent that my belief that the top players do not make it to the finals, was totally shattered by him. 6 years and finals after finals he can be seen there. His performance in finals has been great. He has been focused in defeating with confidence, getting defeated with pride. Sampras, Lendl both couldn't convert the four grand slam myths, he did it. He made it to the rank 1 for the highest no of consecutive weeks. Just like Sachin, he has all shots. His forehand, backhand, drop shots, line shots, serve and volley, smashes, aces, returns, intelligence to choose shots, stamina, consistency, level headed confidence, perseverance and not-giving-up attitude are all worth watching. Nadal has power, strength, stamina, line shots, athletic body and not-so-cool temperament which can shake the opponent anytime. These two are living legends. Both of them prove every time they enter to the court. They have the drive to win each and every match. Djokovic is also super class. It’s amazing to see these three greatest players of all time. Had Djokovic been to any other era, he would have won many grand slams till now. But, surely Fed and Nadal do not allow any other to pitch in their desires. Once in an interview DJokovic had said that he was very delighted to be at third place and Fed is like God of Tennis of current era and defeating Nadal is equivalent to defeating Hercules.
Personally I like Fed the most. The match that he played yesterday was a classical example all time great matches played at the center court of Wimbledon. I totally agree that Roddick was better in two. He played like a winner. Fed was defending himself many a times but Roddick was not making mistakes. He made just three mistakes in the entire match: one in the second set, second in the final set when he had two break points and the last one in the end. But all of them were the mistakes which were handled well by Federer given his experience, class, belief in himself and dedication towards record making performance.
Federer and Roddick before the Wimbledon Finals 2009 official Photo
When the last mistake was done by Roddick, Fed jumped like a small kid who has just won the musical chair competition. He was jumping with joy and this time he had no tears like French Open. There were all smiles of his. The happy man had achieved the most awaited, deserving world record. He has made this record at the age of 27 only. I believe he has some 3-4 years still left in Tennis. I wish that he makes it to 20 grand slams soon. In the ending ceremony, Roddick said to Sampras that he tried to let Fed not break Sampras' record but Fed was just perfectly good to make a new record. Roddick was inches closer to disallow his third defeat at Wimbledon Finals and that too by Fed only. All his sadness was on his face. He was flustered. But the day was on the name of Fed who had the dream to break the record of Sampras in front of the man himself and Sampras, as always the super gentleman, fulfilled Fed's dream. In the end, Laver, Borg, Sampras and Fed had gone for a small chit chat and a photo shoot. That was an amazing scene for all the tennis fans of the world.
Borg, Sampras, Federer, Laver (from L to R)
I am really happy for Fed today: Super legend.
I would cover my opinions on Ladies Tennis journey from 1987 till 2009 in my subsequent posts.
[Source of All images: Wimbledon official site, Google Image Search, Getty Images]