by Miska Ruggeri
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Lendl, McEnroe, Borg keep on challenging each other on court. On March 20th also “Jimbo” Connors comes back. And the big show is still granted.
Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe at the 2010 Trophée Lagardère in Paris (photo Tennis-Buzz)
While the greats of world tennis, 8 of the top 10 led by Djokovic and Federer, challenge each other on the hard courts and under the sun of Dubai, Delray Beach staged the first tournament of the 2012 ATP Champions Tour, the circuit that puts the legends of the racquet together, all former number ones or Davis Cup and Slam winners, from McEnroe to Borg, from Sampras to Rafter, from Muster to Rios, for a dive into nostalgia.
In Florida Carlos Moya won, the man from Spain, better, from Maiorca like Nadal, beating Ivan Lendl in the final, with the score of 6-4 6-4. A foreseen result, given the age difference: just 35 the winner, retired since November 2010; 52 next week the runner-up, struggling since 1994 with golf clubs in the (failed) attempt to become a star on the green as well, before seriously getting back to tennis, as Murray’s coach.
But, as Moya himself said, after the ritual compliments («Ivan is still a great player. He’s been 16 years out of tennis and this has been a great effort for him. His forehand is still really good, especially down the line»), the aim of champions tournaments is primarily not agonistic, but hedonistic.
It’s the emotion of watching the youth idols again, the protagonists of the tennis that once was, the spell today disappeared under tons of muscles. And also the unprecedented clashes among representatives of different generations. That’s why the crowds are big at every latitude, in Chile as in China, and enjoy themselves. Often much more than to watch a boring match between the hitters-and-runners infesting the "real" ATP Tour.
Swedish date with Edberg and SuperMac
In Stockholm, from March 13th to 16th, there’ll be John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander and Goran Ivanisevic, while in Zurich, from March 20th to 24th, also Jimmy Connors will be back. The show is granted. Because, obviously, even heroes grow old (and, unfortunately, the pictures in this page say more than any word), get paunchy and put up love handles, get stuffy in their motion, lose brilliancy, reflexes dim, the ball is not as fast as before… Anything you want. Nevertheless, their hand is always kissed by the gods, their touch is still superhuman.
Tell me I’m sick with longing, nostalgic with old times gone, but no forehand drive by Nadal can compete with a stop-volley by McEnroe. Mind, today’s McEnroe, not the one of the 1984 blessed season. Just because it’s still the same. A timeless gesture, that fools around with time. That hypnotizes and shows what genius, not only “the Genius”, is.
Still someone finds pathetic these old men who don’t want to give up (and stop gaining and chasing notoriety), but, before judging, you have to admire them live. And maybe ask yourself how the 2012 top ten, who use science-fiction equipment to produce the maximum top spin, would get off with the wooden racquets of the Seventies.
Old glories, of course, but what glories. Borg’s two-handed backhand, Edberg’s advancing volley, Becker’s dives, Ivanisevic’s lefthander serve, Noah’s smash, Korda’s changes of rhythm, Cash’s aggressiveness, Leconte’s touch, Kafelnikov’s early ball, the legerdemains by Bahrami (the circuit’s wild card), with 21 tennis balls in one hand…
The old fashioned drop-shot and today’s death bore
All things that have simply disappeared today. Today all the players, except His Majesty Roger, play the same way. Bum-bum close to the lines, very high rhythms for hours and hours and lucky he who got excited for the last Australian Open final. If it were football: throw long and run. A death bore… The seniors, instead, or at least the most of them, go to the net (even Lendl himself does, now!), try to volley after the serve, go for the winner, use the drop-shot (which has almost disappeared today, killed by the explosive legs of players made to run, to reach any ball), try the impossible shot. They want to win, obviously. But, most of all, care for the show and want to take this sport back to the glory of the Eighties, when the stars were tens and not just four.
So the answer is clear. Yes, the ATP Champions Tour is real tennis. For sure more real than women’s WTA tennis. In deep crisis, since the number one, whoever she is from a week to the next, wouldn’t win a game against Moya. Even if they get the same prize money as Djokovic. But this is another issue. Let’s cheer up with a running forehand by the once unpleasant Lendl!
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