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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: June 9, 2010

6/9/2010 2:00:00 PM

 

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Archive |

 The backlash has begun. 


As we rightfully celebrate the glory of Rafael Nadal's French Open performance and the furious straight sets path he macheted toward hoisting his seventh Grand Slam trophy, there's an entirely different odor wafting above the victory of women's champ Francesca Schiavone.

 

While Francesca thrilled in the final, winning hoards of new fans (quite an accomplishment for a woman who's been on the Tour since the Renaissance), there are those already putting her win in a giant stink box. The name on said stink box, "fluke."  Others think they're being more kind by calling her what are in fact three of the dirtiest words in tennis: One Slam Wonder.  And it sucks.

 

I'm not going to sit here and argue that I think Francesca has another crack at a Grand Slam. Realistically, her age (she turns 30 in two weeks), caliber (a fighter, but no real weapons) and prior success at majors (crickets) imply that Saturday was the crowning achievement of her career rather than the beginning of a new one.  But to suggest that her major title, or anyone's major title, is null and void because it was obviously some happy one-time cosmic accident is not only unbelievably dismissive, it's flat out bull.

 

More than a "one slam wonder"

If everyone could win a Slam, they would.  As it stands, only the strong survive, be it only for two weeks. But two weeks is all that's required of you.  Don't be fooled, it's a vicious two weeks.  You need to be tough physically, you need to be tough mentally. You need to brave a psychological funhouse populated with injuries, gamesmanship, rain delays, bad calls at crucial junctures, hostile crowds and Beyonce staring back at you when you're trying to serve. You need to overcome pressure that only builds exponentially with each passing round.  And you need to battle it out with opponents who want exactly the same thing you do, and only want it more and more as you near the finish line.  Sure, you need a bit of luck – the kindly net cord, not having a Williams sister in your path - but why does that component become the only component when talking about people who've only managed to seal the deal once? 

 

Of course, Franny isn't the first player to get their parade pooped on with the derogatory One Slam Wonder tag.  She comes from a long line of Grand Slam hit and runners. Take Anastasia Myskina and Gaston Gaudio, who played the two weeks of their lives in Paris in 2004 and have remained, inexplicably, Grand Slam punch lines ever since. Also eliciting yuks (or yucks) in the overachieving department, Thomas Johansson ('02 AO), Iva Majoli ('97 FO) and Albert Costa ('02 FO).

 

But you don't have to be perceived flashes in the pan to get a pan in the face.  Do the words Michael Chang mean anything to you?  How about Jana Novotna, or Conchita Martinez, or Gabriela Sabatini?  Their lone Grand Slams are for many not marks of success, but badges of failure. They're to be lived down, not up. Could they have achieved more? Absolutely. Could they have achieved less?  99.999% of players have.

 

Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Marcelo Rios, Dinara Safina, Andy Murray, Mary Joe Fernandez, Nikolay Davydenko, David Nalbandian... These players' entire careers are defined not by what they've achieved, but by what they haven't. That elusive Slam win. And yet when someone does pull it off, we scoff.

 

Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic have each won one, but they're not truly successes until they back it up, right? And what about Andy Roddick? There's almost a special place in H-E-double hockey sticks reserved for a guy who's had so many bites at the apple only to have Roger Federer leave him with just one sad little trophy. God what a loser.

 

Thank the lord Kim Clijsters won another or she may have been tarred and feathered.

 

Being dismissed as a One Slam Wonder is like getting spit on for only writing one great novel (sorry Harper Lee), or creating one amazing CD (sucks to be you, Lauryn Hill), or delivering one Oscar-winning performance (grab some wood there, Morgan Freeman). Instead of taking a wrecking ball to someone's major feat, we should be celebrating it.  I've never won a Grand Slam, have you? 

 

Not every major winner needs to be Roger Federer, Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal to count.  So One Slam Wonders, it's time to take back the term. Say it loud and say it proud. That goes for you Myskina, and Ivanovic. And for you Gaudio and Chang.  And for you Goran Ivanisevic and Carlos Moya, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Yannick Noah. And for you A-Rod.  

 

And for you Francesca. 

 

You were charged with kicking everyone else's butts over two weeks, outwitting, outplaying and outlasting the competition, and you did it. You are Grand Slam champions. And no matter how hard they try, no matter what they say, no one can take that away from you.

 

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.