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  1. #1
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    Under Achievers in the ATP

    Occasionally I have an opportunity to watch Professional Tennis for the pure enjoyment of the Game and not as a Coach looking to analyze a Player's Game Strategy in order to pass various tidbits unto my Students.

    In the past week my second most favorite Clay Court Tournament, the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open has been non-stop action for both the Men (ATP) & Women (WTA) who are preparing for that little contest at Roland Garros known as the French Open.

    There's a term I've often used to describe the majority of participants in the Main Draw, which is 'Draw Fillers' which refers to those who everyone knows has absolutely zero chance of not only winning but most likely not even getting to the Rd of 16. Every once in awhile one Player may slip through depending on which top level Player gets injured or defaults before the Tournament starts (Lucky Losers) as they are called but 'Draw Fillers' are basically there to do just that, fill up the draw and provide Theater for the true Contenders in the Tournament.

    But what about those that were considered Contenders at one time, never accomplished the heights that we thought they would and now are merely hanging around for the pay check?

    How many Professional Players in the ATP can you name that never lived up to there potential? If you don't agree with my list please tell me why

    In my opinion a few that come to mind are:

    Tommy Robredo
    Tommy Haas
    James Blake
    Marat Safin
    Mario Ancic
    Robby Ginepri
    Rainer Schuettler
    Mardy Fish
    Fernando 'Gozo' Gonzalez
    Ivo Karlovic
    Richard Gasquet
    Nicolas Lapentti



    This list makes up basically Players who are currently active. I'm not saying your List of names has to be current Players although. As far as the WTA, I have a ton of names that fit this description.

    The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
    It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.

  2. #2

    Talking Two

    James Blake has a curved spine which probably limited his potential.
    Ivo Karlovic only really had a serve for a long time plus he has a stutter. Which not being unkind would cause some mental issues.This would hinder his tennis.
    I dont know the answer to the question but i know that a lot of players work their heart out and never get to the top for whatever reasons.
    Watching Mauresmo play today is an example. Fine Workhorse great talent butchokes. Jana Novatna also comes to mind. Is it their fault?. Or is it part of their gene pool. RAFA is a great example but, he is a freak of nature. The next million players to play the game are not going to equal him. So is it just natural selection plus hard work?. I am leaning towards that view.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by haretrigger View Post
    James Blake has a curved spine which probably limited his potential.
    Ivo Karlovic only really had a serve for a long time plus he has a stutter. Which not being unkind would cause some mental issues.This would hinder his tennis.
    I dont know the answer to the question but i know that a lot of players work their heart out and never get to the top for whatever reasons.
    Watching Mauresmo play today is an example. Fine Workhorse great talent butchokes. Jana Novatna also comes to mind. Is it their fault?. Or is it part of their gene pool. RAFA is a great example but, he is a freak of nature. The next million players to play the game are not going to equal him. So is it just natural selection plus hard work?. I am leaning towards that view.
    Not to be unkind but when someone mentions Mauresmo, it makes me laugh at the controversy she caused during her coming out year. Here was a young lady who told the World she was Lesbian and because she mounted a few impressive wins over very good Players, I literally heard & read people making claim that she shouldn't be allowed to play on the WTA Tour because she was built like a man in the eyes of some and it would be unfair to the rest of the ladies on Tour.

    They were actually afraid of Mauresmo's power and compared it to a man, thinking she will win just about everything, not realizing that her emotional state was as fragile as a Fawn. I truly believe at times Mauresmo is afraid to win. I've never seen a woman fight so hard to lose a Match. When she's ahead, that's when the unforced errors begin to come i buckets from her racquet.
    The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
    It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.

  4. #4
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    There's another point you make HT that I've debated in the past without resolve.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hare Trigger
    Watching Mauresmo play today is an example. Fine Workhorse great talent but chokes. Jana Novatna also comes to mind. Is it their fault?. Or is it part of their gene pool. RAFA is a great example but, He's (Nadal) a freak of nature. The next million players to play the game are not going to equal him. So is it just natural selection plus hard work?. I am leaning towards that view.
    When you look at someone like Rafael, Agassi, Sampras, Federer, Graf, Navratilova, Seles and others and wonder each of them had mental & physical training like every other player on the circuit. Many had the same Coach as another Player on the Circuit so therefore what is it that makes one standout above the rest?

    You question their generics and logically so, as do most others. I mean, there really can't be any other explanation for it. Their 'genes' of course that's the answer. Somewhere along the lines of their heredity the matching of genetic codes probably does not produce a sort of Super Person but maybe something more mainstream like a mental state of mind that makes them more determined to succeed than normal or maybe those codes have given them a greater sense of hand/eye coordination than what is typical in most humans.

    Maybe it's something physical like a slightly larger heart or enlarged veins that enable more blood to flow through their blood than what is normal and this enables them to sustain longer than most. And we generally call them Champions.

    I wrote a Post several months ago regarding the difference between being a great player and being a champion level player. When you think about the average Tennis Player that is able to amount 1, 2 or maybe even 5 Grand Slam victories in their career and compare that to the other side of the fence where the double digit wins are owned by these few Players, Steffi Graf having 22 Grand Slam victories. 22 Grand Slam Titles is extraordinary when compared to your average excellent Tennis Player.

    What does Rafael Nadal have that is so different than the rest of the Field? His shot selections are shot selections like any other. He uses the same equipment as others and I'm quite certain his Uncle Tony didn't sit down with him one day and say, "Rafa I'm going to teach you a very different way of striking the ball that will make you the best in the World".

    Like myself, I was shown the basic forms & positions to play the game. How I interpreted those forms & positions then became a matter of how they best fit my way of moving, seeing, running, etc.

    You can't say it's the coach because look at Brad Gilbert, he took a Player that had fallen to 144 in the World and convinced him that he was better than anyone in the Field when he was on his game and ushered him all the way back to #1. But that same Coach, Brad Gilbert, then tried to work with Mary Pierce, Andy Roddick and Others with nowhere near the same results.



    The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
    It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.

  5. #5

    Talking Talent in all forms

    My sister-in law had a 3 yr lay off from tennis. The first time she came back to hit she was mis hitting the ball a lot.
    There after you would not be able to tell she had missed a weeks worth of tennis!
    She played high level tennis in Australia and overseas in the 60,s
    So is what she was makes the game of tennis easy? Or is it her predisposition that enabled her to achive what she did and, allow her do do what she does now?
    I dont know how many people can leave the game for 3 yr and, after one hitting session hit so well. I know i could not.
    Anybody have any thoughts?

  6. #6
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    Yikes, I was the hitting partner for a few of those guys and gals.

    Most people don't realize how much off the court drama goes on with tennis players. The ones who can stay out of it tend to be able to focus on the task at hand. Remember when Agassi was the underachiever? He wanted to have fun, but his extreme athleticism helped him to stay at the top even when his mind was on a rock concert or something else. I was Hingis' hitting partner for a while while coaching at Saddlebrook and she went the opposite way. Her mother kept her focused early on and then finally, the desires to have a "normal" life kicked in and being the best was no longer a priority. Saddlebrook is a very laid back place and many of the pros listed train there. (I used to hit with James Blake and Mardy Fish) Part of it is their personality and part of it is that they have other things on their minds. One other thing too. Players like Federer, Agassi, Sampras, etc. are able to win giving 60%-75% in most matches. They then turn it on for the final rounds and the better opponents. Players like Hewitt, Blake, Fish (players without big weapons) have to play at nearly 100% most every match. It takes its toll over the years when you have to play every match like it is a championship final. I played professionally for 3 years and I would have been quite happy being called an underachiever ranked in the top 25 like many of these "underachievers".

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by tennisking1 View Post
    Most people don't realize how much off the court drama goes on with tennis players. The ones who can stay out of it tend to be able to focus on the task at hand. Remember when Agassi was the underachiever? He wanted to have fun, but his extreme athleticism helped him to stay at the top even when his mind was on a rock concert or something else. I was Hingis' hitting partner for a while while coaching at Saddlebrook and she went the opposite way. Her mother kept her focused early on and then finally, the desires to have a "normal" life kicked in and being the best was no longer a priority. Saddlebrook is a very laid back place and many of the pros listed train there. (I used to hit with James Blake and Mardy Fish) Part of it is their personality and part of it is that they have other things on their minds. One other thing too. Players like Federer, Agassi, Sampras, etc. are able to win giving 60%-75% in most matches. They then turn it on for the final rounds and the better opponents. Players like Hewitt, Blake, Fish (players without big weapons) have to play at nearly 100% most every match. It takes its toll over the years when you have to play every match like it is a championship final. I played professionally for 3 years and I would have been quite happy being called an underachiever ranked in the top 25 like many of these "underachievers".
    Yeah, i agree. calling Blake an underachiever isn't accurate. The part i don't so much agree with.. "the top players not giving 100%" as an extreme example, i'll mention Nadal. But even players like Sampras, I believe. never walked on the court without the intention of beating their opponent as effectively as possible.

  8. #8
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    I'm not against you. However, I do think that Mardy Fish and Tommy Haas can't be called completely 'Under Achievers in the ATP'. I mean compared to some other players they have a fair bit of reasonable achievements. For example Mardy Fish defeated current top 10 player Djokovic in the 2007 (or 08) Lucy Hopman's cup.

  9. #9
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    Question

    Correct on all accounts. Now, to explain what I meant about not giving 100%. In the early rounds, most players try to conserve themselves. Federer's 80% is usually good enough to beat the 100% effort of other players. Let's say that Federer had to play Agassi, then Sampras, then Edberg in consecutive rounds at the U.S. Open. He would be giving 100% the whole time. He would be exhausted by the time he got to Edberg, if he even got that far. Now, take James Blake. He has no big weapons and so he has to expend a ton of energy every match. So, it isn't so much effort as it is energy and mental power % that I am talking about. All of those guys are great players, but some (like Agassi, Sampras, etc.) have a weapon that comes so easy to them, it makes their life a little easier during a match. Without that big weapon, one has to really work hard during a match. By the way, physical stature helps as well. You guys remember Jimmy Arias? I have hit with lots of pros, and that guys forehand is absolutely the biggest I have ever seen. He literally warps the ball he hits it with such pace. However, he was 5'8" tall and 140 lbs. on a good day when he was playing and #4 in the world back in the early 80's. It wore him out. He started developing arm problems. But, because of his size, even with a huge weapon, he had to give 100% effort every match. Let me tell you, that guy had a seriously monster forehand!!! So, many of the underachievers are plagued by off-court problems and nagging body injuries and soreness.

  10. #10
    I think we may have to soon add Gael Monfis and Tomas Berdych to the list of current underachievers...of course, they are cursed with playing during the time of Federer and Nadal, but still, not enough Grand Slam semis and finals reached for players with that kind of physical skill.

    ...just my 2 cents

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnH View Post
    I think we may have to soon add Gael Monfis and Tomas Berdych to the list of current underachievers...of course, they are cursed with playing during the time of Federer and Nadal, but still, not enough Grand Slam semis and finals reached for players with that kind of physical skill.

    ...just my 2 cents
    Ha ha! I like Monfils, but he reminds me too much of Marat Safin. Lot's of talent, but I don't think he believes in himself as much as we might think. He can have a great match and then go out there and look like he needs to have the ball fed to him. I'm waiting on the day when Berdych has the nuclear meltdown and breaks every stick in his bag. He comes across as a very uptight guy with lots of ability. He stays mad about bad calls and such for way too long. Both excellent choices for an underachieving ESPY.

  12. #12
    The weird thing with both Monfils and Berdych, is that off-court they are very easy going guys. Seriously. My wife has met them both (through work assignments), and says especially of Berdych, that he is one of the nicer guys on the tour. Only on-court does he get uptight...

    And yah, good call on picking Monfils as the next Safin. Now he just needs to win 2 Grand Slams!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnH View Post
    The weird thing with both Monfils and Berdych, is that off-court they are very easy going guys. Seriously. My wife has met them both (through work assignments), and says especially of Berdych, that he is one of the nicer guys on the tour. Only on-court does he get uptight...

    And yah, good call on picking Monfils as the next Safin. Now he just needs to win 2 Grand Slams!
    It's funny. The very talented players just can't pull it together. Safin should have won 7 or 8 Grand Slams. He just loved the nightlife too much. I worked with Dimitri Sitak for a while back in '99 and '00 and he had just turned pro. I noticed that Russian players tend to absolutely love the nightlife. If you coach a Russian player and he disappears, you'll find him at the local dance club or at the karaoke bar. I have a feeling Monfils is probably the same way. He went from being the gawky French tennis junior to a big name professional tennis player. Women throw themselves at him and he has the money to throw back. I think he may have distraction problems. When Berdych gets a coach that can help him put it all together, he is going to be pretty darn good. He needs a Jose Higueras or a Brad Gilbert. Someone to just get him to relax on the court.....

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