11/17/2010 1:00:00 PM
There are pet peeves that are just immediate: Fat jokes, cigarette smoke, the expression “amazeballs.” Then there are those that develop over time. Sure, your boyfriend chews loud, but it’s kinda cute. Next thing you know he’s your husband and you just wish he’d close his #$@% mouth, the mouth breather!
Now something at first benign has come to do the cha-cha on the dance floor that is my nerves, forcing me to want close people’s #$@% mouths for them.
The culprit, the “bold” pronouncement that a player is over.
How many times have you heard that a certain someone will never win a major? Or that a vet has peaked? Or that a young upstart, the minute they start to lose, was never all that? David Nalbandian, Dinara Safina and Nikolay Davydenko? They’ll never hoist a Slam trophy. Melanie Oudin? She’s the Queen of Hypesville. And can someone show Lleyton Hewitt and Patty Schnyder to the door before they hurt themselves for the love of God?
The practice of calling time of death on a player is unbelievably smug and, more often than not, embarrassingly uninformed.
But I didn’t always see it that way.
When I was little boy, I think it was around 2003, I’d hear people damn players to failure all the time and think, wow, these guys must be experts to be able to make such sweeping statements. Possibly even psychic! Best not speak up and betray my own ignorance or lack of magical powers. So I sat silently by when someone in the know told me, for instance, that Amelie Mauresmo would never win a Grand Slam. She was clearly far too weak-willed and easily overpowered, they said (and with such gravitas they might as well be speaking with James Earl Jones’s voice). When Amelie went on to win the Aussie in ‘06, I almost got the nerve to speak up when I was preemptively struck down by the obvious caveat that, duh, Amelie only won by retirement. So they were still right. When she won Wimbledon, I thought, huh. Maybe, just maybe, James Earl Jones can be wrong.
From that point on, I became the Great Debater. Whenever someone would say something like “Only Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal win majors, Novak Djokovic doesn’t have a chance!”, “Dinara Safina will never be a top 10 player!” or “Juan Martin del WHO?”, I was ready to throw down. I had my head-to-head stats at the ready, my scouting report by surface, what time of year they peaked, what they had for breakfast. In some cases, how that breakfast was processed. Oh I was prepared.
Never say never! Believe!
But lately a whole host of summary judgments are being dropped, and on some of the biggest names in the sport. Among those who will now apparently never win a major: Andy Murray, Robin Soderling, Caroline Wozniacki, Tomas Berdych and Jelena Jankovic. Andy Roddick, Ana Ivanovic and Juan Martin del Potro apparently better be happy with the one they’ve got cuz it ain’t happenin’ again. And are there any players more over in 2010, we’re now being told, than Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova and Venus Williams?
Are you kidding me? How do you even argue that?
You don’t. I don’t. I can’t.
I don’t have the time. I don’t have the patience. I don’t have a relative who’s a cop or lawyer who can get me out of what fisticuffs would be sure to follow.
Because here’s the thing. When you tell me something is a certainty in tennis, it tells me you know nothing about tennis. And then I want to hit you. When you tell me Federer will unequivocally never be No 1 again, or that del Potro will for sure never win another major, or that Venus is without a doubt tennis worm snacks, you’re telling me a whole lot more about you than you’re telling me about them.
Meanwhile, where are these experts now who just months ago were so quick to stick a fork in Ivanovic? Who said Andy Roddick would for sure end the year replaced as the top ranked American? Who, this very time last year, gleefully declared that the Rafa we knew was dead and buried? I’ll tell you where. Like a bad date at the end of dinner, they were the first to crawl out the bathroom window when the check came.
To those people, listen up, because I’m only going to say this once:
Andy Murray can absolutely win a major.
Robin Soderling can absolutely win a major.
Jelena Jankovic can absolutely win a major.
Vera Zvonareva can absolutely win a major.
Roger Federer can absolutely return to No 1.
Melanie Oudin can absolutely live up to the hype.
Juan Martin del Potro can absolutely return to the top.
Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin can absolutely win a Career Slam.
ANY ONE of the guys in the KILLER draw can win the World Tour Finals. And that includes you Tomas Berdych and David Ferrer.
Am I saying all these will happen? Or even any of these? Of course not. I’m saying you can’t know they won’t. That’s why we play. That’s why tennis is so effing awesome.
So shadap already, you’re ruining it for the rest of us. And that’s 100% for sure, without a doubt.
Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.