Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mosquito Man

Wow. So Juan Carlos Ferrero is 30 now. Who knew? How time flies.

When we talk about people not fulfilling their potential, it's typically Safin we talk about (if we're talking tennis in the noughties, anyway). Only two Slams, all that talent. Early retirement. Scatty. Sketchy. Inconsistent. Flawed genius. And yes, Safin is all those things. But he's been such a dominant non-fulfiller that I think we forget JCF a bit.

To preface this - I don't necessarily think JCF is an underachiever. But his numbers are pretty similar to Safin's. One of the leaders of the New Balls generation. Slam winner. And for a brief period in the early noughties, damn near unbeatable.

It seems so long ago - and so laughable now - that JCF was thought unbeatable. His nickname is 'Mosquito' and it's for a reason - he plays annoying tennis, the kind of tennis that unsettles his opponents, rather than relying on big weapons. In that respect, he's quite similar to Hewitt, an overachiever - though I suppose you could say that Hewitt had speed as a weapon. When you look at the top ten now, there is no room for a mosquito.

But if you look at the early noughties, mosquito tennis was what was winning. Mosquitoes were at the top of the game. And the antidote to it at that time was Safin and Safinesque playing.

And then Federer happened and the whole game changed, but that's not really what I'm talking about today. If things had gone a little differently, then JCF could be one of those players that we talk about as the greats of the decade. However, it is not to be. The mosquito got swatted eventually when people figured out the key.

I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with this - I certainly didn't intend to end up in a comparison of counterpunching and, um, 'punching' tennis - but the fact remains that once, Juan Carlos Ferrero was the most awesome dude in the game. And now he's definitely not, and he hasn't been for a while, but he keeps going, and keeps playing, and he still, on occasion, wins some stuff. Even if the numbers say he's an underachiever who never went on from a sparkling start to his career.

And that's pretty cool. Kudos, Mosquito.

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