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On The Line's Second Annual Tennis Awards for 1999
by Ed, Chris, Peter, Daisy and Connie


Once again this year, some of the On The Line staffers got together to distribute tokens of our appreciation - or lack of appreciation - of the deeds and words of the tennis stars. A memorable year, to be sure! Your judges, juries and executioners are: Ed Toombs, Chris Gerby, Peter van Mierlo, Daisy Aye and Connie Fields.


Player of the year
Newcomer of the year
Comeback of the year
Most improved player of the year
Flop of the year
Match of the year
Most memorable moment in broadcasting
Nice moment of the year
Not so nice moment of the year
"Farewell, you'll be missed" award



Player of the year
Ed T.

Andre Agassi

Martina Hingis
Chris G.

Andre Agassi

Martina Hingis
Peter v. M.

none

Lindsay Davenport
Daisy A.

Andre Agassi

Martina Hingis
Connie F.

Andre Agassi

Steffi Graf



Consensus: It's not unanimous, but #1 ranked Agassi and Hingis are our consensus choices here.


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: It looked like 1999 was going to be like 1998 for Andre Agassi, when he came up with another lackluster showing at the Australian Open and was swept out in the third round by Vince Spadea. But in Paris Andre reversed his trend of poor performances at the majors, winning the French Open with a series of stirring five-set victories, a tribute to his improved fitness. He continued the season in style with wins at the US Open, the Paris Open, the season-ending number one, and successfully wooing Steffi Graf!
   Women: Martina Hingis survived some mid-season trauma - breakdown against Graf, brief separation from her mother/coach - to put together a solid, consistent season and take the #1 ranking going away. But 2000 might be a much stiffer challenge if Davenport can stay injury-free and the Williams sisters play a full schedule.
Chris G.:
   Men: Andre Agassi looked like his old self for much of the 1998 season, but continued to fall short in Grand Slam competition. In '99, on the other hand, the 29-year-old left no doubt that his return to prominence was complete. Agassi added a pair of Grand Slam titles to his trophy case and slugged his way to another Wimbledon final. Less than two years after finding himself out of the world's top 140, the man from Las Vegas was as fit and determined as we've ever seen him.
   Women: It certainly was a turbulent summer for Martina Hingis, who suffered two absolutely devastating losses in a row. She looked hopelessly out of sorts in a 6-2, 6-0 collapse against Jelena Dokic at Wimbledon, a performance which fueled speculation that Hingis was in the throes of a major personal crisis. Yet, when the dust settled at the end of the season, there was the "Swiss Miss" once again solidly atop the WTA Tour's singles and doubles rankings.
Peter v.M.:
   Men: Unlike my colleagues, I think there is doubt that Andre Agassi was player of the year. Interestingly, Agassi himself agrees with me, saying in Hannover that unless he won that tournament, he would not feel like number one. Even though Agassi by all means had an impressive year, he kept losing to Sampras when it really mattered, in both the Wimbledon final and the World Championship final.
   Women: Steffi Graf managed to be almost unbeatable in the Grand Slam tournaments she played, and combined that with what strikes me as a shot at real happiness once she retired. It's a shame that her performances in singles had to be marred by her lack of commitment to her doubles partner at Wimbledon. Martina Hingis, like Graf, won one Grand Slam and was runner-up in another one. Sadly, she showed an even more stunning lack of respect for her doubles partners, dismissing Jana Novotna for being "too slow and too old", and then dismissing Anna Kournikova for being injury prone. Lindsay Davenport won the biggest slam, Wimbledon, clinched the doubles title there as well, and also won the Chase Championships, the biggest tournament after the slams. She won as many titles as Hingis, without the antics, as well, and she is my pick for player of the year.
Daisy A.:
   Men: I hate to sound repetitive but there's no doubt Andre Agassi was the man in 1999. The race to number one was very close throughout the summer making it difficult to predict who'd win the fight to the top. Exciting as it was, Agassi has ended the year number one far ahead of Kafelnikov, Sampras and Rafter.
   Women: She's been through many experiences this year but Martina has managed to hang on to her number one ranking. She means business so much of the time when it comes to tennis, I think people admire her and recognize that what she's accomplished so far has not been easy.
Connie F.:
   Men: The choice for Agassi is obvious ... not long ago Agassi was losing challengers. This year he's hoisted the trophy in two grand slams, and made it to the final of the third. All this AND he got the girl.
   Women: 999 was without a doubt the Year of Graf. She stunned those who had denounced her as being "too old" by winning the French Open, and just when we got used to having her back, she stunned the world with her retirement. Ask almost any tennis fan what they'll remember most about 1999 and the answer will have something to do with Steffi.
That's why I pick her as my player of the year.


Newcomer of the year
Ed T.

Juan Carlos Ferrero

Kim Clijsters
Chris G.

Juan Carlos Ferrero

Kim Clijsters
Peter v. M.

Wayne Arthurs

Kim Clijsters
Daisy A.

Lleyton Hewitt

Kim Clijsters
Connie F.

Nicolas Lapentti

Justine Henin



Consensus: Belgian hotshot Clijsters gets the near unanimous nod on the women's side, while we lean slightly toward the Spaniard Ferrero on the men's. ....


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: Spain's Juan Carlos Ferrero showed the stuff of a future champion in 1999. The slightly-built 19-year-old jumped from #346 into the top 50 in his first year, and broke through with a tournament win in Mallorca in September.    Women: A tough call here, but I give the nod to Belgian teen Kim Clijsters. Strong, quick and determined, the daughter of former Belgian national soccer star Leo Clijsters played only 11 events, but did well enough to crack the top 50, win the Luxembourg tournament in September by crushing veteran countrywoman Van Roost in the final, and come very close to shocking eventual champion Serena Williams at the US Open.
Chris G.:
   Men: We haven't seen much of him yet in the United States, but the Spanish tennis community is already talking up young Juan Carlos Ferrero as "the next Carlos Moya." If his meteoric rise through the ATP Tour singles rankings is any indication, the sky's the limit for this teenager.
   Women: Alexandra Stevenson, Jelena Dokic, and Kim Clijsters all came through the qualifying event at Roehampton on the way to spectacular success on the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon. While Stevenson and Dokic got most of the attention at the time, it was Clijsters who had the most impressive rookie season overall. The aggressive, demonstrative young Belgian has powerful strokes and "the eye of the tiger." Watch for even bigger things from her in 2000.
Peter v.M.:
   Men: Not really a new player on the tour, arguably a candidate for most improved player of the year, had Australian Wayne Arthurs really been heard of before 1999? And yet during the grasscourt season Wayne went on a rampage, winning 7 straight matches without ever getting his serve broken. It took a rampant Agassi to accomplish that feat, in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. Arthurs followed up this remarkable run by beating Kafelnikov in the Davis Cup semifinals. Kafelnikov may have thought that the court on that occasion resembled a potato field, but aren't potatoes more of a Russian than an Australian thing?
   Women: Kim did indeed come close to beating Serena Williams at the US Open. It was actually disappointing that she did not win, since she served for the match at least once, twice if memory serves. Like Daisy I am anxious to see if Jelena Dokic can keep going. I'm afraid Alexandra Stevenson has had her fifteen minutes, and I expect precious little from her in the future.
Daisy A.:
   Men: I had not heard much about Lleyton Hewitt in 1998 except that he had a lot of promise. Now it is no longer just a rumor, he has officially arrived on the scene. He's finished in the top 25 this year and every player is aware of how dangerous he could be.
   Women: I first saw Kim Clijsters at the US Open playing against Serena Williams. I can't believe I've ever been that impressed with a newcomer. She gave it all she had in that match and one knew it by those extreme splits she did to get back shots. I'm also looking out for Alexandra Stevenson and Jelena Dokic, in part to see if the hype surrounding these two had reason to be.
Connie F.:
   Men: Okay, so Lapentti isn't really a newcomer. But hey, if Andrea Bocelli can be nominated for a best new artist Grammy despite the fact that he's been singing for years, Lapentti can be my choice here. Besides, it's only since this year that he's really come into his own, starting with his Australian Open semifinal run and ending with his spectacular leap into the top ten. Not to mention the fact that he's pretty darned cute.
   Women: As a wild card, Henin became only the fifth woman to win a debut professional tournament when she clobbered top seeded Sarah Pitkowski in Antwerp. She followed that up by nearly upsetting Lindsay Davenport in the second round of the French Open. Justine has been overshadowed by compatriot Kim Clijsters (whom she incidentally beat 6-1, 6-2 in an ITF tourney earlier this year), as well as Jelena Dokic and Alexandra Stevenson, but with her talent and backhand, that's bound to change next year.


Comeback of the year
Ed T.

Jim Courier

Jennifer Capriati
Chris G.

Chris Woodruff

Steffi Graf
Peter v. M.

Pete Sampras

Jennifer Capriati
Daisy A.

Gustavo Kuerten

Jennifer Capriati
Connie F.

Gustavo Kuerten

Jennifer Capriati



Consensus: Jennifer Capriati is our women's choice, while it's a dog's breakfast on the men's side. ...


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: We wondered, when Jim Courier struggled with a "dead arm" and found himself ranked in the 70s this time last year, if we might be seeing the end of the career of the former number one. But the feisty redhead came back with more consistent performances to claim a ranking of 35, and his inspirational performance in England rocked the highly-touted Henman-Rusedski tandem out of the Davis Cup tournament in the first round.
   Women: Out of the sport for two years while she was exploring her "dark side", Jennifer Capriati's initially promising comeback foundered badly in 1997 and 1998, and she was relegated to a triple-digit ranking. Finally deciding to commit her energy to working hard at her sport again, Capriati's efforts and the wisdom of (coach Harold) Solomon propelled her to titles in Strasbourg and Quebec, and a return to the top 30.
Chris G.:
   Men: As recently as February, Chris Woodruff -- an unassuming chap dubbed "Country" by his peers -- had a grand total of one point on the ATP Tour computer. Knee surgery following a freak accident in '97 had put the Tennessee native's career in jeopardy. However, he made a remarkable comeback in '99, climbing more than 1500 spots in the rankings. Woodruff forced himself to adopt a serve-and-volley style at the Hall of Fame tournament in Newport and it carried him all the way to his second career singles title. It was the culmination of Woodruff's comeback and his reaction was one of pure, unbridled joy. Following match point, Woodruff leaped into the air, threw his hat skyward, and staggered around the court with a stunned smile on his face.
   Women: How can I give this award to Steffi Graf for the second year in a row? Because the comeback she started in '98 wasn't truly completed until '99. As the season got underway, Graf was still ranked just #10 in the world and hadn't been past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam since 1996. Then "Fraulein Forehand" made one last glorious run, claiming her sixth French Open crown and ousting Venus Williams on her way to the Wimbledon final. The last comeback of Graf's injury-plagued career seemed to be her most satisfying and emotional. With nothing left to prove, the consummate perfectionist bid the sport a fond farewell.
Peter v.M.:
   Men: Having been out with a back injury for months, and still suffering from assorted other ailments (I believe a hip injury was the choice this time), Pete lost dismally to world number one Andre Agassi in the round robin stage of the ATP World Championships. He showed true comeback quality, however, when he left Agassi without a chance in the final. I like Daisy's choice a lot, too.
   Women: Daisy and Ed are absolutely right to pick Jennifer as comeback player of the year. Many have described her little speech at the US Open as a bad move, pointing out that asking the media to drop the past is about as counterproductive as it gets, but that potentially poor move does nothing to detract from the fact that Capriati is back. Now if she can only leave Dad at home.
Daisy A.:
   Men: I will not go with an obvious choice. I pick the Brazilian who decided to get a fresher start by shaving his head earlier this year. Reminiscent of his performance at the French Open in 1997, he has been breathtaking to watch in 1999, especially during the clay court season.
   Women: That smile of hers has returned to delight fans. Jennifer is back and she's improved tremendously because of the renewed commitment she's made to tennis. She's come a long way this year and already she's become very fit and ready to compete, so watch out for her next year!
Connie F.:
   Men: Ranked #23 at the beginning of this year, Guga came back and showed everyone what he could really do.
   Women: Could it be? Could Jenny Cap really be back? With 3 tournament wins and round of 16 finishes at the French and US Opens, it sure looks like it.


Most improved player of the year
Ed T.

Nicolas Lapentti

Serena Williams
Chris G.

Lleyton Hewitt

Barbara Schett
Peter v. M.

Nicolas Lapentti

Barbara Schett and Nathalie Tauziat (tie)
Daisy A.

Nicolas Lapentti

Serena Williams
Connie F.

Tommy Haas

Barbara Schett



Consensus: "Nico" Lapentti is our men's choice, while Serena and "Babsi" Schett share the women's honours.


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: Ecuador's Nicolas Lapentti gave few clues in his young career that he would be a top ten talent, but Nicolas rocketed out of nowhere with a solid and versatile season which saw him win two titles, and achieve the noteworthy feat of reaching finals on clay, hard courts and carpet.
   Women: Serena Williams continued her meteoric ascent with a leap from 20th to 3rd this season, and, to the surprise of many, winning a major tournament before her older sister Venus. She has quickly become one of the most feared players on tour: not only by opponents, but also, because of her repeated questionable withdrawals, by tournament directors of events in which she is supposed to compete!
Chris G.:
   Men: Lleyton Hewitt began the year at #104 in the world, but the cocky young Aussie wouldn't reside "down under" the Top 100 for long. His fast feet and fiery manner carried him to four singles finals, but his most prestigious showings came in Davis Cup. Hewitt opened the quarterfinal tie in Boston with a sterling win over Todd Martin and closed out the semifinal against Russia with an emotional upset of Yevgeny Kafelnikov. The Cup's return to Australia can be largely traced back to Hewitt's precocious heroics.
   Women: Barbara Schett had been known for a few years as one of the WTA Tour's most tantalizing enigmas -- a player with major weapons who just couldn't quite break through against the top players. It wasn't until 1999 that the engaging Austrian truly found the confidence and maturity to match her powerful strokes. Wins over the likes of Novotna, Kournikova, Sanchez-Vicario, Tauziat, and Martinez helped Schett finish at a career high #8 in the world.
Peter v.M.:
   Men: As mentioned above, Wayne Arthurs might have been a pick here too. However, "most improved player" in my mind would require more consistency than "newcomer", and I am not sure Arthurs will be able to show consistency on anything other than grass. Hopefully he will surprise me as much as Lapentti did this year. Nicolas took his clay court stamina, and outlasted people on hardcourts and even indoors.
   Women: Barbara Schett and Nathalie Tauziat: Who would have picked these two to be in the top ten at the end of the year?
Daisy A.:
   Men: Nicolas Lapentti started the year off with a blast, reaching the semis at the Autralian Open. He was ranked 91 then and he's now finished the year at number 8! Lapentti is a player who struggles hard during a match, that's his style. He has great tenacity and I believe it'll keep him among the top players.
   Women: What a huge difference a year has made. Serena Williams has matured out there from tournament to tournament right in front of everyone. I didn't think she could win a grand slam before her sister but she proved me wrong. She is dedicated and extremely focused on court. Currently, at her highest ranking of number 4, it shows that her efforts have paid off.
Connie F.:
   Men: Tommy Haas should have no complaints about 1999. Not only did he win his first professional tournament, he reached the semifinals of the Australian Open (losing to eventual champ Kafelnikov) and the finals of the Grand Slam Cup.
   Women: I agree with Peter and Chris on this one. A year ago we'd have been saying Barbara who? She can only get better in 2000.


Flop of the year
Ed T.

Alex and Carlos

Patty Schnyder
Chris G.

Thomas Muster

Patty Schnyder
Peter v. M.

The Spanish Armada

Martina Hingis
Daisy A.

Goran Ivanisevic

Patty Schnyder
Connie F.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov

Martina Hingis



Consensus: The unhappy Patty Schnyder is the clear women's flop, while we were less than impressed with the seaworthiness of the Spanish Armada...


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: While Spanish tennis still has depth - 12 players in the top 100 - the top players finished the season in disarray. Alex Corretja, who was fighting for number one in January, slipped to #26; Carlos Moya, who actually did reach #1 briefly in February, wound up at #24. Granted there were illness and injury problems at times, but even when healthy they underachieved, and ended the year by helping to depose the legendary Manuel Santana as Davis Cup captain in a clumsy players' revolt.
   Women: Patty Schnyder, who was a budding star last year, made her only impact in the tabloids and not on the court, thanks to a bizarre relationship with a shady German "guru". This young woman has too much talent to fritter away.
Chris G.:
   Men: The '99 season saw Michael Chang, Goran Ivanisevic, and the Todd Woodbridge/Mark Woodforde doubles team all mired in the most troubling slumps of their careers. However, those veterans are still showing signs of life, which is more than can be said for Thomas Muster. "The Moo Man" was still a dangerous floater in 1998, but he went into complete freefall in '99. The defiant Muster never officially retired, as far as I know. After losing 9 of his last 10 matches, he simply stopped playing.
   Women: One might be tempted to "honor" Anna Kournikova with the flop award, since the tour's pin-up queen went another year without a singles title. However, "Special K" was at least able to record some easy wins over Patty Schnyder. "The other Swiss Miss" had a strange, mostly dismal year both on and off the court. Let's hope the gifted lefty enters the new millennium in a better frame of mind.
Peter v.M.:
   Men: Pushing for number one at the end of 1998, even making number one for a week or two in 1999, both Carlos Moya and Alex Corretja have gone freefalling down the rankings.
   Women: On a professional level, that performance from Martina Hingis at Wimbledon must rank as a contender for flop of the decade. On a personal level, the way she managed to drop not just one, but two doubles partners defies description. Some reports claim she did not even have the decency to tell Anna Kournikova in person that she was being replaced for someone "less injury prone". Interestingly, Kournikova finished the year the number one doubles player.
Daisy A.:
   Men: Maybe Goran Ivanisevic never recovered from his Wimbledon loss in 1998. He tumbled all the way down to number 62 in the world. Dismal year for Bjorkman, Chang, Corretja and Moya as well.
   Women: I hardly saw Patty Schnyder at all this year. She has so much talent but where is she? Outside of the top 20 now, it shows that she's gone in the wrong direction. She certainly does not belong there, I'm hoping she'll soon get a wake-up call.
Connie F.:
   Men: I'm sure Yevgeny isn't purposely trying to have the personality of a pickle ... but it's hard to tell when he goes off on rants against Australians and their potato fields, er, I mean tennis courts.
   Women: I've tried to give Hingis the benefit of the doubt this year, but she's made it awfully tough. From her homophobic comments in Australia to her insensitive dumping of doubles partner Jana Novotna (you gotta wonder what she thinks about the Kournikova/Hingis split) to her temper tantrum at the French to her tank job at Wimbledon ... well, you get the picture.


Match of the year
Ed T.

Kafelnikov-Krajicek,
US Open

Graf-Hingis,
French Open
Chris G.

Courier-Rusedski,
Davis Cup

Zvereva-Coetzer,
Eastbourne
Daisy A.

Pioline-Kuerten,
US Open

Graf-Hingis,
French Open
Connie F.

Krajicek-Kafelnikov,
US Open

Capriati-Huber,
Wimbledon



Consensus: The emotional Graf-Hingis French Open final strikes us as the women's match of the year, while there is no clear choice among the men's matches.


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: In an enthralling contrast of styles, Yevgeny Kafelnikov outduelled Richard Krajicek, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 1-6, 7-6 (7-5) in the US Open quarterfinal. The big Dutchman kept bombing ace after ace - a record 48 in total -- and ripping solid volleys, but the counter-puncher Kafelnikov finally prevailed in a riveting duel. If only Yevgeny always played with that intensity...
   Women: The Graf-Hingis French Open final is best remembered for Martina's histrionics, but for the first two sets both women played a remarkable brand of luminous and intense tennis.
Chris G.:
   Men: This season had plenty of epic contests capable of keeping even a casual fan glued to the edge of his or her seat. The granddaddy of them all was the topsy-turvy, do-or-die Davis Cup shootout between Jim Courier and Greg Rusedski. Seemingly every factor was weighed against Courier: a younger, higher ranked opponent who serves bombs; a fast, indoor court which didn't suit his game; and a capacity crowd of nearly 10,000 sreaming British fans. However, "The Rock" loves a challenge. Calling upon seemingly bottomless reserves of energy and competitive fire, the scrappy redhead kept battling back against Rusedski, who was playing breathlessly high quality tennis in his own right. Both players gave their all, but it was Courier who finally came away with an unforgettable 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 1-6, 8-6 triumph.
   Women: The Eastbourne semifinal between Natasha Zvereva and Amanda Coetzer was a classic in terms of both quantity (clocking in at 3 hours and 28 minutes) and quality. This battle had it all: swings in momentum, changes in strategy, disputed line calls, top notch rallies, down-to-the-wire tension, and a dizzyingly eclectic array of shots. Zvereva threw everything but the kitchen sink at Coetzer, who ran down every ball in sight with her trademark determination. You had to expect "the Z Woman" to finally tire out and give up...but it never happened. Summoning up all of the feisty dedication she usually saves for doubles, Zvereva held her nerve and finally served out a 6-7, 7-6, 10-8 victory.
Daisy A.:
   Men: Pioline's win over Kuerten in the US Open quarterfinal is my pick, but not because John McEnroe said it might've been the best match he'd ever seen. The match provided so much entertainment that's why it was very memorable. These two men have beautiful but contrasting styles which kept it interesting. When they played, it seemed to be more than tennis, maybe art?
   Women: Graf-Hingis at the French is the match that first comes to mind. It had everything. We saw all the shot making and excitement that tennis can offer. To have the best player from the older generation meet the best player of the younger generation is something. Watching them, I felt like it was a real battle because they both seemed to want so much more than only winning. It was as though there was more at stake. This French Open was full of emotion!
Connie F.:
   Men: 49 aces, excellent volleying and Krajicek STILL lost. This match further proves that fifth set tiebreaks are bad, bad, bad.
   Women: Not even Graf v Hingis can top the "anything you can do I can do better" tone of this match. It was almost as if they were competing to see who could blow the most break/game points.


Most memorable moment in broadcasting
Ed T.

Gimelstob interview, US Open
Chris G.

John McEnroe's guided tour, US Open
Peter v. M.

Simon Reed, Eurosport, gets it right!
Daisy A.

John McEnroe's guided tour, US Open
Connie F.

Evert & Co. finally learn ...



Consensus: John McEnroe's unique and personal tour of the US Open grounds on the USA Network caught our fancy this year.


Comments


Ed T.:
   Michael Barkann interviewing Justin Gimelstob, USA Network, US Open: One of the most astonishing on-court interviews in history, which featured an obviously disoriented Gimelstob, having just finished an extenuating five set match, coughing, spitting, heaving, and pulling his shorts beneath jockstrap level. I still haven't figured out whether this segment was refreshingly authentic or more than I really needed to see....
Chris G.:
    Whether you love him or hate him, you've gotta hand it to John McEnroe -- his on-air antics could fill the top 10 spots in this category. Johnny Mac was at his most bizarrely audacious on Day 5 of the US Open, taking USA Network viewers on an irreverent tour of the grounds. He sampled some food, smoked a cigar, and attempted to cover a Chris Woodruff match on Court 7, where the only camera able to provide footage was the one on the blimp. McEnroe finally climbed to the very top of Arthur Ashe Stadium and admired the view. It was enough to drive a tennis purist insane, but it most definitely qualified as memorable.
Peter v.M.:
    One is tempted to pick "any time Patrick McEnroe tries to pronounce Gustavo Kuerten's name". What's with the kuerTEN, Patrick? I do believe Eurosport commentator Simon Reed actually managed to get one or two predictions right, this year, so he gets my vote for most memorable moment in broadcasting. After years where nothing could make a player lose a match faster than Reed's assessment that he was a dangerous contender, this was quite the turn-around.
Daisy A.:
    John McEnroe sitting in the bleachers at the US Open. He gave the crew such a hard time running after him. It surely caught the attention of viewers though, to have him try and find a seat without annoying spectators. To me, it seemed as though I was also roaming the grounds of Flushing Meadows. Nice feeling.
Connie F.:
    It's about time they realized Anna is pronounced AH-NA, not AN-YA. Now if Pat McEnroe could lose the Kuer-TEN bit, everything would be perfect.


Nice moment of the year
Ed T.

Gustavo Kuerten,
US Open

Venus Williams,
Key Biscayne
Chris G.

Andrei Medvedev,
French Open

Larisa Neiland,
Chase Championships
Peter v. M.

No pick

Steffi Graf,
French Open
Daisy A.

Andrei Medvedev,
French Open

Steffi Graf,
French Open
Connie F.

Kuerten,
US Open

Davenport,
Wimbledon



Consensus: We liked Andrei Medvedev's run to the French Open final, driven as it was by the power of love. Steffi Graf takes the women's nice moment, also at the French, for her inspirational title.


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: During an excellent US Open quarterfinal match between CÚdric Pioline and Gustavo Kuerten, Pioline made the shot of the tournament when he hit a diving backhand winner from the baseline. In a gesture of appreciation, Kuerten ran over to the fallen Pioline to shake the hand of the astonished Frenchman!
   Women: We were hard on the Williams sisters in last year's review, so let's give Venus her due. After a tough early round win over Colombia's determined young Fabiola Zuluaga at the Lipton, where Venus also had to battle a noisy Latino crowd, the American not only warmly congratulated her opponent but insisted she participate with her in a post-match interview and prize giveaway for local youngsters. It was a classy tribute to a great effort by her underdog adversary.
Chris G.:
   Men: You couldn't help but enjoy Andrei Medvedev's surprise run to the French Open final. Just a few weeks after contemplating retirement, "The Bear" was back in vintage form, blowing away the likes of Pete Sampras and Gustavo Kuerten. The nicest moments of all came in his post-match press conferences. Once again filling notebooks the way he had as a carefree teenager, Medvedev credited the success to his rekindled romance with Anke Huber. "When there is love," mused Medvedev to the reporters, "you're inspired, you can write poems, you can write music, you can play good tennis..." In a sport where the primary inspiration often seems to be money, these were the year's most refreshing sentiments.
   Women: For a woman who won nearly 70 doubles titles and was once among the world's Top 15 in singles, Larisa Neiland went largely unnoticed and underappreciated throughout her long career. That made it all the nicer when the retiring Latvian got one last afternoon in the spotlight, teaming up with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario to reach the doubles final at the season-ending Chase Championships. It was a losing effort, but when the Madison Square Garden crowd was informed that it was the final match of Neiland's career, they gave her a surprisingly long, rightfully enthusiastic ovation. Neiland tended to be pretty stoic on the court, but this occasion moved her to tears.
Peter v.M.:
   No comments...
Daisy A.:
   Men: Andrei Medvedev went all the way to the finals at the French Open and that being in itself a great moment, his speech was even more touching because of how much in love he looked. Inspiring the way love inspires!
   Women: It was a nice moment to witness, the French crowd and their support in seeing Steffi Graf win at Roland Garros. She was overwhelmed with emotion, she admitted that she never had a crowd like that behind her. It was a very special farewell.
Connie F.:
   Men: Kuerten surely is following in the footsteps of Edberg and Corretja. When Pioline hit a great shot, Guga didn't just tap his racquet in appreciation - no, he went over to shake his hand. Is it any wonder why everyone loves him?
   Women: It was nice to see Lindsay's reaction upon winning. It's not often that a player looks so truly stunned after match point, making it all the more touching.


Not so nice moment of the year
Ed T.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov,
entire season

Martina Hingis,
Wimbledon
Chris G.

Yevgeny Kafelnikov,
Davis Cup vs Australia

Steffi Graf,
Wimbledon
Peter v. M.

Andre Agassi's
change-over trot

Williams sisters
jumping around
Daisy A.

US Open crowd booing
Rafter, US Open

Mary Joe Fernandez
injury, US Open
Connie F.

Booing New Yorkers,
US Open

Hingis meltdown,
French Open



Consensus: On the men's side, Yevgeny Kafelnikov succeeded in ticking us off. There was no women's not-nice moment that struck our collective fancy.


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: A supremely talented player, Kafelnikov was also supremely annoying in 1999. It all started at the Australian Open when he said he'd win the final because Enqvist would choke; his springtime reign as number one featured six first round losses, some of which appeared to be evident "tanks"; after losing to Johansson in the Montreal final he accused his victor of faking a groin injury (which was legitimate and forced the Swede to abandon a match at Cincinnati tournament the following week); during the Davis Cup semifinal he whined about the court conditions and belittled Australian opponents Arthurs and Hewitt, both of whom wound up beating Kafelnikov.
   Women: Martina Hingis could be cited on several counts, but her 2-6, 0-6 loss to Jelena Dokic at the first round of Wimbledon was the most lax, unprofessional effort I've ever seen from a top seed at a major tournament. Granted she was distracted by the criticism of her French Open misbehaviour and a rift with her mother, but really....
Chris G.:
   Men: First of all, let's give Yevgeny Kafelnikov his due as a player. He's a marvelous striker of the ball who plays a grueling schedule and can adapt to any court surface. The reigning Australian Open champion earned the #1 ranking fair and square. However, Kafelnikov tarnished that ranking with a series of apathetic losses in the spring. He spent the rest of the season conducting himself like a graduate of the Marcelo Rios School of Etiquette, making surly, arrogant proclamations and often failing to back them up. Kafelnikov was at his worst in the Davis Cup semifinals, roundly dissing Wayne Arthurs and Lleyton Hewitt before (and even after) being trounced by them.
   Women: The unlikely mixed doubles coalition of John McEnroe and Steffi Graf gave the Wimbledon fans some great memories before turning incredibly sour. After swearing to McEnroe that she wouldn't bail out on him, Graf withdrew from the event before their semifinal match. Johnny Mac had been thoroughly enjoying his return to Grand Slam glory and was characteristically livid when he got the news secondhand. "Steam's comin' out of my head...I was the last to find out," McEnroe declared on national television. Regardless of where your sympathies lie, I think we can all agree that the Graf/McEnroe partnership came to a "not so nice" end.
Peter v.M.:
   Men: Making for a whole collection of not so nice moments, any time Agassi for some reason feels the need to run-not-walk to his chair on a change-over makes me want to commit bodily harm. I'm not sure if he is trying to psyche his opponents out, but he sure looks like an idiot doing it.
   Women: Williams sisters winning a match: Less jumping around is more, girls!
Daisy A.:
   Men: To see the two-time defending US Open champion Patrick Rafter have to exit the way he did in the first round was disappointing. It was quite unfair that some fans had booed him off the court because in fact his shoulder turned out to be a serious injury which resulted in surgery later in the year.
   Women: Indeed, it has been a year plagued with injuries. At the US Open, Mary Joe Fernandez was to be the underdog in her match against Venus. But she started the first set firing away. It looked like Venus was to be demolished but a rain delay had interrupted the one-sided affair. When they resumed play, Mary Joe slipped and injured her left leg. She continued the match but her movements were so limited, it wasn't before long that Venus took control. Painful to watch.
Connie F.:
   Men: The booing that Pat Rafter received when he retired his match with Pioline was inexcusable. What was he supposed to do? Play until his arm fell off?
   Women: Causing French people to have a near riot is never a nice thing to see. Remember the revolution?


Farewell, you'll be missed
Ed T.

Petr Korda

Steffi Graf
Chris G.

Boris Becker

Jana Novotna
Peter v. M.

Boris Becker?

Steffi Graf
Daisy A.

Malivai Washington

Steffi Graf
Connie F.

Thomas Muster

Jana Novotna



Consensus: We wave goodbye to the great German champions Graf and Becker (we think....).


Comments


Ed T.:
   Men: OK, so maybe Petr Korda was a drugs cheat, or maybe he wasn't. But it was sad to see a brilliant player and Australian Open champion finishing his career ostracized by his fellow players, shunned by the tennis establishment, and sliding deeper and deeper into Slavic melancholy. The final insult came when his request for a Wimbledon wild card was denied (the invitation was instead extended to Marcelo Filippini), and his career sadly ended with a loss in qualifying to Danny Sapsford. And if the ATP and ITF think they've licked the doping problem by isolating one man, they're not fooling anyone. Marcelo Rios was quoted this summer as saying that doping was a "normal thing", and Guy Forget has also expressed his concern in recent months....
   Women: Steffi Graf, one of the sport's great champions, went out at the top of her game, with a French Open title and Wimbledon final, after a long and sometimes painful, but ultimately successful, comeback from serious knee surgery.
Chris G.:
   Men: The ATP Tour lost a number of likeable, classy gentlemen in 1999, including MaliVai Washington, Arnaud Boetsch, and Carlos Costa. However, the player I'll most miss having around is none other than Boris Becker. Sure, the big serving German had already been semi-retired for quite a while, but he didn't call it quits for good until after one last run at Wimbledon. Turning the clock back at his favorite tournament, Becker kicked talented youngsters Nicolas Kiefer and Lleyton Hewitt out of his Centre Court "living room" before falling to Patrick Rafter. "Boom Boom" could be a churlish, baffling malcontent at times, but he was a charismatic star who rose to the big occasions and will be missed.
   Women: "She cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent..." may be the first line of Jana Novotna's tennis obituary, but her story is not without its counterpoint of vindication and jubilation. Last summer, Novotna became the oldest first-time Grand Slam champion in the history of women's tennis, finally dismissing her "choke artist" label with a stirring victory at Wimbledon. Late in her career, surrounded by trash talking teenagers, Novotna came to stand out as a mature, intelligent woman with a sly sense of humor. A four-time Grand Slam singles finalist and one of the best doubles players of her generation, the athletic Czech deserves to be remembered for her countless victories, not just her most crushing losses.
Peter v.M.:
   Men: Boris Becker? The question mark is there for several reasons:
- will he really not be back? It seems that Becker has been making almost a full time carreer out of retiring for the past several years, so who knows, he may decide to make another run for it. Meanwhile he is already back on TV promoting AOL.
- will he really be missed? One of the sorest losers the game has ever seen, perhaps it's just as well that he has called it quits.
   Women: Considerably helping the fans, who would otherwise miss her too much, by hooking up with Andre Agassi, thus making sure she will keep making regular television appearances, Graf's presence on court will surely be missed by many. At least now we will not have to scream at the television anymore for her to come over her backhand.
Daisy A.:
   Men: Malivai Washington was a real gentleman on and off the court. He is a great role model for young kids and it is quite unfortunate to hear that his knee has made him decide to call it quits. Hopefully, he continues to stay involved in tennis and influencing the sport.
   Women: Steffi Graf just retired a few months ago, yet she's already created a void in women's tennis. I suppose, we just got used to her always being there. After all, Steffi has had a place among the elite tennis world for 17 years. Her long list of accomplishments is so long. But, I will always remember that she played tennis because she loved the sport. She showed that more than she ever did in her last years.
Connie F.:
   Men: Muster has done everything but make it official. He ruled on clay and surprised people with his hard court prowess ... his grunts and never-say-die attitude will be sorely missed.
   Women: The news of Jana's retirement played out somewhat like her career - overshadowed by Steffi Graf. Nevertheless, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't cry when she won Wimbledon in '98. What I'll remember, and miss the most is her biting wit. No one could make those subtle digs like Jana!


On The Line wishes its readers a happy holiday season. Please join us again, and often, in the year 2000!