Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The World Below The Surface

It's rather hard to write about tennis when there's no tennis to write about. I'm going to have to think about how to manage Tennis From The Backseat while we're in the off-season - it seems a little extravagant to write about tennis every day when there's no tennis to write about! But the blog will keep going strong into the New Year, bringing us back to where we started - the Australian tennis summer, my favourite swing of the tour (for obvious reasons.)
Tennis Australia has also realised the dearth of stuff to write about now everyone's on holiday - but instead of writing about the Davis Cup final like normal people, they've done a list of how the Australians have been doing this week. No one's been playing on any of the major tours, but in Challengers and stuff there've been quite a few active. Let's have a look at the men's singles highlights (this list had no women on it anywhere. Are there just no women's events this week? We don't suck that badly.)
*Chris Guccione reached the semifinal at the ATP Challenger event in Jersey, Great Britain.
*Carsten Ball was a quarterfinalist at the ATP Challenger event in Champaign, USA.
*Steven Goh qualified and reached the quarterfinal at the ITF Futures event in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
*Zachary Van Min qualified at the ITF Futures event in Queretaro, Mexico.
*Matt Reid reached the quarterfinal at the ITF Futures event in Honolulu, USA.
*Isaac Frost qualified at the ITF Futures event in Honolulu, USA.
Reading lists like these, it makes you realise just how hard tennis is, particularly for the kids starting out. There's this whole tennis pantheon of celebrities - your Federers and Nadals and Safins and so forth - but underneath it all is this seething mass of people dying for a chance. Chris Guccione is ranked in the top hundred and he's still losing in Challenger events. That top echelon is really pretty damn small, when you think about it. Imagine if you play all your life and you get to about #200. Out of three billion or so people, #200 is pretty damn good - but in tennis terms, that's nothing of anything. Some minor Challenger or Futures victories, maybe... a lifetime on the pro circuit. You're good, but not quite good enough.
Tennis isn't like music - it's not like lurking down in the #300s is some brilliant player who simply has to be discovered and will shoot straight to #1, winning umpteen Aria awards or whatever along the way. The guys in the top echelon are genuinely the best - because they beat everyone else. If there's one thing you can say about tennis, it's that the people at the top genuinely deserve to be there. (Except maybe Djokovic. Because I don't like him. The last two years have been a massive fluke, mark my words.) It must be so incredibly tough to be one of the little guys, schlepping away in Challengers and Futures, knowing that there is no quick fix. There's only hard work, a lot of it - and even then, you might not still be good enough. The guys ahead of you are just that little bit more talented, have those few extra shots... and though you can get a long way by hard work, sometimes it's just not enough.
Taking that into consideration, it's amazing that the guys at the top aren't total tosspots with egos the size of Mt Isa (apparently the biggest city in the world in terms of space. Just so my imagery makes sense.) They are the best of the best of the best - because there are a whole lotta tennis players, and they've beaten them all. So congratulations, Roger and Rafa, for being genuinely nice guys.

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