Saturday, July 17, 2010

Past Tense and the Spanish Inquisition

In the best news about these two all year, Nicole Vaidisova and Radek Stepanek are married. I may not be the biggest fan of either, but after the 2010 they've both had career-wise, it's really great that they've got something awesome to remember the year by now.

But as tennis gossip isn't my forte, let's use this to springboard into a discussion of their, you know, tennis.

So Stepanek is one of those creepy-dangerous players who lurks around and occasionally springs big upsets, in a manner not unlike someone jumping out of a cupboard and yelling 'no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!' It actually took me a really long time to realise that Stepanek was out injured, because he is permanently so under the radar when he plays anyway. Seriously, he has this way of somehow making it to about the semis of a tournament without drawing any attention. He did it in Brisbane this year, actually - I was there for the men's semis, and I didn't even realise Stepanek was in them, let alone expect him to win.

But when he's gone, you just don't notice it. He's not an epic force in tennis like Federer or Nadal, or even one of the guys who match him ranking-wise, like Hewitt or Isner. What he brings to the tennis table is good tennis, but it isn't memorable, and it hasn't moved the game forward. I guess what Stepanek has done in his career is make this a gift, because he gets forgotten about. A lot.

Vaidisova, on the other hand, was memorable... but not for the right reason. It's really galling to refer to someone in the past tense when they're only 21, but Vaidisova's career is emphatically past tensed. Though Stepanek has definitely got the better results over his career (and definitely the better mileage), even though Vaidisova reached a higher ranking, Nicole is going to be remembered for longer and remembered as one thing and one thing only: the ultimate headcase.

Not exactly the moniker you want. And Vaidisova played some great tennis in her career. Why it stopped, I don't know. But it will take a lot of work from the Ana Ivanovics of this world to ever eclipse Nicole's fall from tennis grace.

But whatever has happened in their careers, good luck to Radek and Nicole. (Awkward segue, much? 'Troubled careers! Fall from grace! Oh well, good luck!') Congratulations and maybe - who knows? - we'll see you back on the court someday. (You're only 21, Nicole!)

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