Photo : TennisAbstract.com
Hashing over the list of the greatest of all time is every fan’s favourite hobby. But anyone who partakes in establishing the G.O.A.T. ranking eventually hits a wall.
Beyond the impressive pedigrees of Williams, Graf, Seles, Hingis, Evert, Navratilova, King, Court, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Sampras, Connors, McEnroe, Rosewall and Laver, the exercise to compare humans who played in different eras will always be (quite) haphazard. Different people, different means, different settings, different equipment, etc.
That said, there’s no reason to deny ourselves the pleasure and try to get to know some of the pioneers in this great sport.
In early February, author and software developer Jeff Sackmann embarked on a personal quest and tremendous task that will benefit any tennis fan who wants to discover, or find out more about, some of the leading athletes of tennis past: Tennis 128.
According to Sackmann, major episodes in the history of tennis have been lost, forgotten or caricatured: underrated champions, local heroes and players who were larger than life. Now, he’s made it his job to tell us the real stories, especially those from the pre-Open era, prior to 1968.
He’s writing pieces for each of the 128 names that are part of his project. Where did he get 128? You guessed it: the 128 players in a Grand Slam draw.
Sackmann went back 100 years, to the period he believes is the right one to achieve his goal.
The texts themselves are long and constitute impressive abstracts of players’ careers, with everything from stats to photos and videos.
Here’s the page on no.126 Jean Borotra, one of the famous Mousquetaires of French tennis.
Jeff Sackmann publishes three bios a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. If everything goes according to plan, he should complete his prodigious overview in December 2022.
On February 12, when he posted no.112, Sackmann sat down to talk with the man who inspired him: Joe Posnanski, author of a number of books including The Baseball 100.
Alternating players past and present, Sackmann got to no.100 and gave the spot to 1930s UK tennis star and three-time Grand Slam champion Dorothy Round.
These snapshots by Women’s Tennis Colorization whisk us back 90 years.
The Round text also features black and white archives that emphasize how the game has changed in nine decades.
It’s a huge research project that breathes life into the career highlights of players like Dorothy Round.
At no.101, just behind Round, is a woman who’s been in the headlines of late: Ashleigh Barty.
There’s a lot to read between now and this summer.
After six months away, Bianca Andreescu will make her official return to competitive tennis on the clay courts in Stuttgart, at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix that gets underway on April 18. Her comeback had been in the air for the past few weeks, but the tournament confirmed the news on April 7.
Bianca hasn’t played since October 11, 2021, in the second round of the one and only fall edition of Indian Wells, where she fell in two to Anett Kontaveit.
Currently ranked No.119, the Canadian was awarded a wildcard in Germany.
Over the past few weeks, Bianca has posted photos and videos from her clay court training and practice sessions at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca and IMG Academy in Florida. She seems very happy to be back, to say the least.
Meditation has become an important part of Bianca’s life. During her months off, she enrolled in the Wisdom and Well-being program at Blue Spirit Costa Rica and shared part of her experience on Instagram.
She also found time to start an entirely new career as an author. With Mary Beth Leatherdale, she co-wrote a picture book entitled Bibi’s Got Game: A Story about Tennis, Meditation and a Dog Named Coco to share her story and how meditation—and her dog Coco—keep her focused and inspire kids to follow their dreams. It will be officially released halfway through Roland-Garros, on May 31.
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In the pages, a new generation of kids will discover how Andreescu took the world by surprise in 2019. Between January and September, she rose 102 places in the rankings, from No.107 to No.5, and won the titles in Indian Wells, Toronto and New York City at the fourth and last Grand Slam of the season, where she overpowered living legend Serena Williams.
After so many exciting episodes, she’s far from the heights she reached in Flushing Meadows and that No.5 ranking.
The subsequent athletic and media shock, pandemic and introspection all followed in swift succession.
Let’s hope her return to the game is a bit mellower, without any expectations and all the joy she felt on her magical ride three years ago.
Arantxa sets the record straight
The Academy Award winning film King Richard on how tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams got their start received a lot of praise from a lot of people, but Spanish champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario isn’t one of them.
Appearing on El Larguero radio show, she set the record straight on some of the inconsistencies in the film, specifically with respect to the scene in which she faces a 14-year-old Venus in her first professional tournament.
“It wasn’t played outdoors, it was played indoors. And it was the end of the season before the women’s Masters tour,” Sanchez Vicario explained.
The film makes it seem as if the behaviour of the World No.2 and no.1 seed was unsporting, as she’s down 2-6 and 1-3 against the young teenager who, of course, steals the spotlight. After leaving the court in an effort to unsettle her opponent and stop her momentum, the four-time Grand Slam champion returns after an abnormally lengthy break and gets things back on track to win the next 11 games.
“First of all, it’s impossible for me to leave the court at 3-1. You never leave at events. In that case, I would have had to leave at 3-2. Then, there’s a time limit: when you go to the bathroom, there’s a time limit. I would have been penalized if that had been the case. But that gives importance to the film. There’s no other way it’s relevant. Then, I won 11 straight games. That says it all. I ended up winning the singles and doubles tournaments,” she explained, conceding that it takes a good story to make a good film.
Still, Sanchez Vicario doesn’t feel any resentment towards the pro who played her in film.
“She’s blonde, and they dyed her hair to make her look more like me. But I don’t know her, and I can’t say anything bad about her,” added Arantxa.
The player/actress is 28-year-old Mexican ace Marcela Zacarias, who’s currently ranked No.205 and competes in W15 to W80 tournaments. Her best result was a second-round appearance in Monterrey (won by Leylah Fernandez) earlier this season.
While most of us were following the action in Charleston, where four of the Top 10 were competing in the WTA 500 event, a more impressive tennis story was being written at the WTA 250 tournament in Bogota, Colombia.
It’s actually a story about two major wins.
In the final, two qualifiers went head-to-head. Tatjana Maria of Germany go the better of Laura Pigossi of Brazil at the outcome of three sets (6-3, 4-6, 6-2) to secure the second title of her career. Ranked No.237, Maria became the lowest ranked player to win a WTA event since Margarita Gasparyan (No.299) triumphed in Tashkent in 2018.
Tatjana Maria, 34 years old, also happens to be the first mother of two to win a title THIS CENTURY.
The final points of the match and celebrations that followed are pretty touching.
In April 2013, Tatjana married her coach Charles-Edouard Maria. Their first child, Charlotte, was born later that year, and their second daughter Cecilia was born just 12 months ago.
Maria’s amazing week in South America will boost her ranking from No.237 to No.114.
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