Vantage point

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Wanted - Great Tennis Rivalry

For years now, the tennis world has been starved of any great rivalry. There has been either a pool of half a dozen players doing well or one player dominating the game for a period, but no rivalry that would fuel imaginations and polarise crowds.

How do I define a great rivalry? A great rivalry is between two people. Both these players should be among the top 4 ranks, preferrably the top 2, exchanging the top rank between them. They should be top two contendors in grandslams, with by and large equal success. And this scheme of things should last for a good half decade or so, with the rivalry beign played out.

Now using this definition, which is the last great rivalry in tennis - men's and women's? Don't say Sampras-Agassi, because though both players were great and both of them played some pretty exciting matches, there never really was a proper period when the two were at their peak at the same time and trading blows. Sampras dominated the second half of the nineties, a period during which Agassi might as well have retired from tennis. can't blame him really....he was with Brooke Shields then...ahhh...Brooke Yes, so coming back to the point, they werenever trading blows at the same period. Agassi rediscovered himself 2000 onwards, by which time Sampras was on the wane.

The last three years or so have been a mess in terms of rivalries in men's tennis. The 10 Grand Slams since 2003 have been won by 7 different men!

Women's tennis has fared little better,with each Slam won by a different woman in 2004, and the trend sure to continue this year.

To recall the game's last great rivalry, we must throw our minds back to the early 90s, when the grunting fiery Yugoslav Monica Seles was challenging the reign of Queen Steffi. In the years 91, 92 and 93, no one except for these two women won a grandslam tournament! The rivalry would surely have continued had the homicidal Graf fan Gunther Parche not stabbed the life out of it.

Tennis craves, begs and pleads for another rivalry like Graf-Seles. Or Lendl-Becker. Or Navratilova-Evert. Or Borg-McEnroe.

Or else, an entire generation will grow up thinking that what Sampras-Agassi had, was a great rivalry.