Tennis Prose



Players Who Shined Like Stars But Faded Away

Are you a die-hard tennis fan? Who doesn’t love the drama, athleticism, and camaraderie of professional tennis on the court? It can be thrilling to watch the greatest players in the world go up against one another. But what about those who strive for greatness but never quite reach their goals?

The ones at the bottom of their league who don’t make any headlines – we’re talking about some of the unsung and less celebrated players to grace a professional tennis game court! In this blog post, we’ll take an entertaining look at five of these oft-forgotten stars from across different eras who showed how hard it is to compete at the ultimate level with the greatest professionals.

By analyzing each player’s impressive accomplishments and shortfalls side by side, you might have a greater appreciation for where today’s top pros have come from. So sit back and enjoy discovering just how difficult playing competitively is!

John McEnroe

John McEnroe may be remembered as one of the most controversial tennis players of all time, but he was also one of the best in his prime. Known for his fiery personality on the court, McEnroe won seven Grand Slam singles titles and held the world’s No. 1 ranking in both singles and doubles.

He was known for his exceptional serve-and-volley skills and his ability to outwit opponents with his clever shot selections. McEnroe’s career was not without its fair share of controversies, including several run-ins with umpires and his infamous commentary while broadcasting matches.

Winner of seven Grand Slam titles but none after the age of age 25, McEnroe remains an icon in the world of tennis and a beloved figure among fans, thanks to his unmatched talent, colorful character and undeniable charisma.

Jelena Dokic

Jelena Dokic is a name that is well-known in the tennis world. Although she made a name for herself as a professional tennis player at a young age, her career was filled with controversy. Dokic’s journey started when she began training with her demanding father Damir, who soon became infamous for his controversial behavior. Jelena once said her father forced her to practice tennis in sub zero temperatures outdoors when she was nine years old!

Despite the hardships, Dokic became a force to be reckoned with and reached a career-high ranking of World No.4. However, in 2002, she made headlines when she accused her father of physical and emotional abuse, causing her to take a two-year hiatus from the sport.

After her return, Dokic never fully regained her footing on the court, but her impact on professional tennis cannot be denied. Her story serves as a warning and a call for change within the sport.

Facing Marat Safin

Marat Safin

Marat Safin, a former tennis player from Russia, was known for his flamboyant personality both on and off the court. His flashy explosive style served as a stark contrast to the calm and collected demeanor of many of his opponents.

Safin’s powerful serves and fierce groundstrokes helped him reach the top of the tennis world, winning two Grand Slam titles along the way. However, his career was short-lived, and he retired from professional tennis at the age of 29.

Despite his premature exit from the sport, Safin left a lasting legacy as one of the most entertaining and unpredictable players in tennis history. Though the former world no. 1 is rarely discussed today, Safin at his best was a tennis sensation and an unfulfilled potential.

Fabrice Santoro

When it comes to tennis, few players can match the creativity and flair of Fabrice Santoro. Nicknamed “The Magician,” Santoro was known for his ability to pull off incredible and unorthodox shots with his double-handed strokes from both sides that left both fans and opponents in awe. Whether it was a backward between-the-legs lob or a delicate drop shot from the baseline, Santoro always seemed to have an answer to every situation on the court.

But what made him truly special was the way he combined his shot-making ability with his strategic mind and almost unparalleled longevity. Despite being on the ATP Tour for almost two decades, Santoro never lost his passion for the game or his willingness to try new things.

As an inspiration to players and fans alike, it’s safe to say that Santoro’s legacy will be felt for many years to come.

Tim Henman

When it comes to discussing tennis greats, Tim Henman’s name doesn’t often come up. Despite his successful career that included eleven ATP singles titles, Henman, with his aggressive attacking style of play, had an unfortunate lack of success at Grand Slams, thanks largely to Pete Sampras who he could never beat at Wimbledon. It’s not that “Tiger Tim” didn’t have the skills or the drive; it just seemed like things never quite came together for him on the biggest stages. But despite his track record, Henman remained a fan favorite for his affable demeanor and his never-give-up attitude on the court. Whether he was taking a tumble or fighting tooth and nail for every point, it was hard not to root for “gentleman” Tim Henman.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · April 4, 2023 at 11:04 am

    It will always be curious and mysterious that such a great talent as John McEnroe never won a major after age 25, from 1985-1992, the last years of his ATP career, he never won a major title. he was runner up at 1985 US OPen and had 3 SF but his final Grand Slam win was US Open 1984.

  • Bill McGill · April 5, 2023 at 12:50 pm

    Re: McEnroe – I think it’s particularly difficult for players to survive through an important technological change. I think one of the reasons for Djokovic’s and Nadal’s duration at the top of the game is the relative lack of change during their era. Nadal and Djokovic grew up playing with composite racquets and played with poly strings as juniors. Court speed changes occurred in early 2000s. Probably the biggest changes in their professional playing lifetimes have been data analysis rather than actual playing changes. I think it makes Connor’s ability to stay at the top of the game through two technological changes all the more impressive.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 5, 2023 at 1:39 pm

    Good points Bill.

  • Cory · April 5, 2023 at 1:47 pm

    Very interesting about McEnroe. This was before my time watching but didn’t know that he was without the bigger fireworks post/25.

    I wanted to ask you Scoop, off course a bit, but can you name some players who were overall great players (or at least good, won some titles) who were atrocious at one particular surface but good/great on the others? Of course clay comes to mind (maybe grass) as being an Achilles heel for many. So i suppose the struggle wouldn’t be rare, but i guess who was REALLY poor at one surface?

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 5, 2023 at 2:19 pm

    Cory, what comes to mind first is the Spaniards skipping Wimbledon because they felt they couldn’t play on grass. Moya got past the second round at Wimbledon finally in his 7th try he made 4th round 2004 but that was his only time past second round, 3 2R and 3 1R losses. Corretja similarly was bad at Wimbledon. Muster never won a match at Wimbledon, he tried four times and lost all four times first round. Guga didn’t like grass either, lost first round in 97 and 98 but made QF in 99. Rafter was supposedly bad on clay but he made SF at French Open one year 97. Rios didn’t like grass either, he only played Wimbledon three times but he made fourth round one year. Both other times were 1R losses. Rios never returned to Wimbledon after 1998. Now the grass at Wimbledon plays like hard court, as Stefan Kozlov told me about eight years ago, the year he played the junior final vs Noah Rubin.

  • Bill McGill · April 5, 2023 at 5:23 pm

    Another one was Sergei Brugera. Won FO twice, finalist another time and SF another time. Never made a QF at any other slam Tons of 1st and 2nd round losses in both AO and US Open. Just one of his 14 titles (Bordeaux, 250 level) was a hard court.

    This topic reminds me of a funny TV presentation Boris Becker did years ago at the French Open. He was walking around the grounds of Roland Garros with some non-tennis sports commentary guy, explaining different things about tennis, talking about the RG clay etc. The other commentator asked what was so different about the clay, why was Boris Becker so bad on clay. Becker gave him such a withering look and said “I was not bad on clay. I was one of the best players in the world on clay. I made the semis here 3 times. I was just never the best on clay.”

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 5, 2023 at 5:49 pm

    Becker almost won a Masters title on clay ROme or Monte Carlo, he was up two sets on Muster but then Muster somehow came back and won in five. Corretja also beat Sampras in Davis Cup on grass in Texas, not long after losing that famous US Open match to Pete. Pete also made SF at RGarros one year and had those two Davis Cup singles wins in Davis Cup final vs Russia on clay. Hewitt also beat Kuerten on clay in Brazil in Davis Cup.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 5, 2023 at 6:07 pm

    One of my coolest memories from doing this site is when Al G Hill, a texas oil tycoon billionaire, contacted me by email because he loved the site.

    From: Joy Waller
    To: mrbiofile
    Sent: Fri, Jul 15, 2016 4:17 pm
    Dear Scoop,

    Hopefully you have received a copy of WCT the Road to Open Tennis DVD. If so, that should explain my interest in tennis. The dialogue and stories on your website are of interest to me.

    Thank you for being involved in the sport of tennis.

    Al Hill, Jr

  • catherine · April 6, 2023 at 2:27 am

    What interests me is how extremely difficult the Grand Slam is to achieve, even when 3 of the 4 tournaments were played on grass.

    Only Budge and Laver of men (Laver 2) and Connolly, Court and Graf of women.

    There was a time when not everyone played in Australia but that’s no longer true.

    It’s still the K2 of tennis. Through all the changes of surfaces, raquets, balls etc.

    I’m waiting.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 6, 2023 at 8:15 am

    Catherine, it’s mind boggling how hard it is to win all 4 Grand Slam titles in one year. One player stays healthy enough to beat 127 players at four major tournaments on four different surfaces. It may happen this year.

  • catherine · April 6, 2023 at 9:30 am

    Steffi recalled that by the time she reached the USO in ’88 the tension and anxiety was so extreme she felt she could hardly play. Her family and team tried to keep things normal but pretty impossible.

    Sabatini seemed to catch some of that and was never a contender. Steffi was alone on court.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 6, 2023 at 9:33 am

    Steffi ate pressure for breakfast. Nothing could bother her on a tennis court – other than Monica Seles. )

  • catherine · April 8, 2023 at 8:03 am

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 9, 2023 at 8:14 am

    Glad the gory details were spared. Several players should consider to hire Becker as a coach – Fritz, Brooksby, Coco come to mind.

  • catherine · April 9, 2023 at 12:32 pm

    Boris isn’t allowed to travel to the UK for 2 years I think, as a convicted felon, so that would limit his coaching choices for players with W’don ambitions.

    I’m not sure if he’s had any success as a coach in the past, as an individual rather than with the DTB.

    I was impressed by how quickly Becker assessed the heirarchical situation in prison and made sure he protected himself. Just a pity he couldn’t extend that kind of intelligence to his financial affairs.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 9, 2023 at 9:57 pm

    Catherine, BB Socrates will probably sanitize his jail memories for PG and G audiences and that’s a good thing. Nobody is interested in the dark side of his life, most importantly it sounds like he escaped the experience with his sanity intact and that’s fantastic.



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