Tennis Prose



Was Marcelo Rios A “Great Player”? A Poll

Was the former ATP #1 ranked player and Australian Open finalist Marcelo Rios a “Great Player”?

What do you think?


  • Scoop Malinowski · September 22, 2012 at 12:17 am

    I think he was a great player. Nearly everyone who I talked to in my books said Rios was a great player, a great talent. Thomas Johansson said he could make you feel like a beginner. Safin said Rios had the talent to win 10 majors. Mike Agassi said in some ways he was better than his son Andre. Gambill, Jensen, Michael Joyce, Berasetagui, Nick Bollettieri, Wilander and so many others called Rios great. Even Roger Federer says Rios was one of his favorite players to watch, he was a “big admirer” of Rios’ unique talents. Santoro said when Rios won Indian Wells and Key Biscayne back to back, it was some of the finest tennis he’s ever seen. This is all in my book. Rios absolutely was a great player. Bill Norris said you don’t have to play great tennis for a long time or win a lot of majors to be a great player, he said Rios played great tennis. He did. He was great. One of the great ones this sport has ever seen.

  • Martin G · September 22, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Interesting player, yes. Great – no, by my opinion.

  • Harold · September 22, 2012 at 8:46 am

    You look up “million dollar talent, 5 cent brain and shitty attitude” in the dictionary and you’ll find a pic of Rios.

    That being said, anyone that gets to 1 in the world has to be considered great.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Don’t agree with you, Harold. Although I like your pithy bon mots. Would you call Moya a great player? How about Chang or Corretja, who reached No. 2? I wouldn’t say any of these guys were great players.

  • Mitch · September 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Great player, but not a great champion? Maybe the same for Moya and others?

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Dan if you watched again the entire Miami final of 1998 or the Grand Slam Cup final also later in ’98 I think you’d eat your words as fast as you can eat a salmon crepe while on all fours.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 22, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    Actually, I’m more partial to the chicken crepe at the Open. But I think Mitch makes the distinction necessary in this argument/debate. Rios might’ve been a great player, but he wasn’t a great champion. Rios wasn’t a champion at all if you want to use the strict definition of a “champion.” He didn’t win a slam. He played in only one slam finals. How many slam semis did he even reach?

    How big was Rios? Can you be a great player after the 1970’s standing 5-8 or 9? There certainly aren’t any today. I wouldn’t call David Ferrer great.

  • Harold · September 22, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Ferrer is a grinder, Rios refused to grind..If Rios had half of Ferrer’s fight, he might have stayed on top a little longer. If Ferrer had more of the natural talent that Rios had, he might have won a slam or two..

    Chang and Ferrer might not be considered great players, but you have to admit, they have had great careers.

    Moya might be another that achieved number 1 and not considered great like Rios, but who knows what might have happened if his back didnt break down..

    Everybody here goes GAGA over Kuerten, was he a great player or a great clay court player? What was his best result outside of Paris in a Major?

    Scoop, did Rios ever come back from 2 sets down? Started going through his matches, man, he took a lot of bad losses to much, much lower ranked players

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 22, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    Rios was a fighter and grinder at times in his career. He gutted out some tough matches with Alberto Berasategui from two sets down. I will check his record to see if he had others. Unfortunately I think there were more tank jobs than dig out of a deep hole comebacks. Guga’s best result was winning the ATP Tour finals in doors in Lisbon beating both Sampras in the SF and Agassi in the final. Did you see those matches Harold? Those were two of the best performances of the decade, amazing wins by Guga, serving aces to all four corners and ripping backhand winners up the line and cross court. He was in some kind of zone that week, he would have beaten any player from history that week. Strangely he never quite was able to to play that well again on a non-clay surface but those matches were very special. If you never saw them, try to get the DVD or check it out on you tube.

  • Steve · September 23, 2012 at 3:28 am

    He wasn’t a great player he was a MIND BLOWING player. One of the greatest talents ever. Great is a low threshold. I think the question is how far down the list of all time legends is he. I’d say pretty far down. Off the top of my head it would be easy to put 40 players ahead of him. Obviously he’s better than some players that have a single slam or at least their equal.

    From Websters online:
    10a : remarkably skilled

  • Steve · September 23, 2012 at 3:33 am

    Chang & Ferrer are definitely considered great unless the OP meant All-Time Great. Like top 20 in history or something.

  • Thomas Tung · September 23, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Absolutely a great player, absolutely not a legendary champion at the top level (no Grand Slams). Always lacked the consistency. Too much of the classic, “artistic” temperament to succeed in a sport where you tend to be judged by your last major win or major loss. Lack of consistency is the great sin in tennis, and Marcelo was guilty of that more times than now … still, wonderful to watch when he was:

    1)Willing to fight to the end
    2)Opponent was also willing to fight to the end, and who also had the chance/ability to hurt Rios

    I was fortunate to watch such a match with Rios at the US Open a number of years ago; early round match, where Rios and his opponent, Markus Hipfl (Austria), engaged in a four-set dogfight that ended sometime close to 2am (it was in the Grandstand). Rios eked out a win, but only just, and they were both playing some lights-out tennis that day …

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Thomas Rios had the consistency in the first half of 98 and a lot of 97 too. But he never was a dominant player like Nadal or Federer or Sampras. Just wasn’t strong enough physically and he didn’t have a huge weapon to be dominant, but what a great player he was without a huge serve, forehand or backhand. But he could play better tennis than anyone. If he had a huge weapon and a little more physicality, Rios might have won 25-30 majors. Okay Dan, shoot me!

  • Steve · September 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I thought his forehand was a weapon. His take back on the back hand side looked a little like Borg’s.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 24, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    I will shoot you, Scoop, for saying such an inane comment. 35-30 majors! How about winning one first, just one. That’s like saying that if Monfils had any more of a work ethic and heart he’d win 20 majors. The guy just didn’t have it. You can analyze strokes, bemoan his heart, his commitment, but Rios just wasn’t that good. It’s a simple as that. You can’t call a pro player great in tennis unless he wins at least one slam. Rios didn’t come close. He lost to Petr Korda like 2, 2, and 2 in the only slam final. I don’t care if Korda was Barry Bonds-ing, that’s a poor showing.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 24, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Well, Dan Marat Safin said Rios had the talent to win 10 majors. With more physicality and a big weapon, I think you could at least double that number. Rios was a marvel.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Agree Steve it was a weapon but it was like a middleweight weapon not a HWT weapon. Rios has the nicest two handed backhand I ever saw, others that looked very aesthetic – Safin, Fish, Murray, Djokovic, I like Nadal’s too.

  • Stee · September 25, 2012 at 12:36 am

    Since Safin keeps coming up…The best tennis I ever saw played was by Safin when he beat Sampras in the Open final, 2000. No one has come close the that level since. He hit as hard as he could and hit the lines at every turn. AND Sampras wasn’t playing badly. Not the prettiest tennis but the best.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 26, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    Steve Safin made Sampras look like a qualifier that day. And Sampras was in fine form then, having won six matches in a row to make that final. Safin had the uncanny talent to make great players look sometimes almost helpless. Rios had that talent as well.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 27, 2012 at 12:52 am

    Rios on why he did not win a major: “I think it was pretty tough to focus for two weeks. It was too long a tournament and I also think I maybe had a little bit of bad luck. There were better players than me back then as well.”

  • Dan Markowitz · September 27, 2012 at 3:00 am

    Scoop, please, Rios was not a great player, not even close. He lost both matches he played Sampras, in straight sets at the French! He did beat Agassi two out of three times, but never in a major.

    Of the 26 slams he played, only once did he reach the semis and the finals and that was in the 1998 Australian Open, where he beat No. 21 Albert Berastegui in the quarters and No. 81 Nicolas Escude in the semis. Can you say, “Sweet draw?” He played another slam recluse, Petr Korda in the finals and lost 2, 2, and 2.

    Please, how can anyone possibly say the guy was great? Only twice, did he ever beat a top-10 player in a slam, No. 9 Tomas Enquist at the French and Enquist was a bad clay court player, and No. 8 Sergei Bruguera at the USO, and Bruguera wasn’t much of a hard court player. That’s a worse record than Spadea, who off the top of my head, beat No. 7 Kafelnikov and No. 4 Kraijcek both at the Open.

    Rios retired at 27. Give me a break. The guy is a streaky, one-shot-in-a-pan player. We’ve seen numerous like him, only Rios was nuts and Chilean.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 27, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Yes Rios lost as a teenager to Sampras in Paris 67 67 46 and later in 2002 in three sets to Pete indoors in Stuttgart. Those are the only two times they played but he later played Pete in an exhibition in Chile where he “killed” Pete. Rios was forced to quit early because of accumulated injuries. We have not seen numerous shot in a pan players who dominated the sport and became numero uno. Rios was deceptively great and also just flat out great, most all the players I spoke to who actually played against him will attest to it though there are a few half-baked tennis pundits out there who still refuse to believe it!

  • Dan Markowitz · September 27, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Half-baked, why wait until I get my hands on you. If anything, I’m full-baked.

  • Steve · September 27, 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Rios def. had a HWT forehand. It can be viewed here against Courier.

    As you know, you can make up for lack of size with timing and hitting the ball on the rise.

  • Steve · September 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    So Dan, achieving #1 in the world means you’re not great? Losing your slam final to someone on roids means you’re just an average pro? What exactly is your standard? Gaston Gaudio has a slam. Do you truly believe he was “greater” than Rios?

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 27, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    Rios absolutely toyed with Courier that match. Lobo said Rios played some of his best tennis in Singapore that week. Rios was 3-0 vs. Courier, not a lot of players could dominate the Rock like that, only a great player could.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 27, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    No, but I wouldn’t call Gaudio a great player by any extreme. How long was Rios #1? When did he ever beat a great player in a big slam match? Those are the questions I ask when evaluating if a player is great or not. Getting to No. 1 in my book, doesn’t guarantee you’re a great player. Is Wozniaki a great player, Dinara Safina?

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 28, 2012 at 12:12 am

    Rios beat Agassi in five sets in the Grand Slam Cup final, that was as big a match as one could ever play as far as cash prize for the winner. Of course half baked pundits might try to diminish that victory as some kind of minor win in an exo.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 28, 2012 at 2:04 am

    I would call Gaudio’s French Open win one of the most exciting, miraculous comeback wins in grand slam final history. He may not have been a great player for most of his career but for three sets in that final (after playing horrendously the first two sets) he was indeed a great player. I remember John McEnroe calling it the most magical miraculous final he’s ever seen on the air on NBC moments after it was over.

  • Steve · September 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    “Is Wozniaki a great player, Dinara Safina?” Yes they are great. You have to understand that to beat Serena you have to be astounding like Henin was. And #1s on the Men side are just that much more of an elite club. Look at the #1 Men’s list in the Open era. You don’t get there by accident.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 28, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Safina and Wozniacki both are indeed great players, the #1 that will always be affixed to their legacies confirms it. I think achieving the #1 ranking in the world is more impressive than winning seven matches at a major, not to diminish how grand it is winning a major in any way.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 28, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    Well, Steve and Scoop, you’re both nuts. Wozniaki and Safina are not great players. Serena’s been beaten by a lot of just good players over the years, including Stosur. You sincerely can’t tell me Rios or Gaudio or Moya are great players. They’re just not. Rios made one semis/finals of a slam. One, how good can the guy be. He beat Berastegui and Escude to get to that slam finals. Please, if you know anything about tennis, that’s not greatness.

    Gaudio, look, he had one great tournament. Moya, ditto. I liked Moya’s game, great-looking guy and strong game, but we’re talking greatness, here, not very goodness.

    Look, I’ll break it down for you simply from players of my childhood. Arthur Ashe was a very good player, showed flashes of greatness, but he wasn’t great. The same holds true for Nastase and Smith. Rod Laver was great. Tony Newcombe was great. Jimmy Connors was great.

    Alright, nod your head if you understand now.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 28, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Excuse me, that should read John Newcombe. I always mix him up with Tony Roche because they were doubles partners.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Dan you make it seem like making a slam final is not great. Anyone who makes a final is a historic player in my book, even Martin Verkerk, Chris Lewis, Mariano Puerta, Arnie Clement, Corretja, Todd Martin, Safina, Zvereva, these are all great players. It’s easy to forget how great they were as the media and fans only remember you if you won a major. Like Jan Michael Gambill told me for my Rios book, he thought he had a very good career but they only remember you if you won a major. That’s just not right. I saw Cedric Pioline play amazingly great tennis in MOnte Carlo one year, the year he won. He was another great player who just didn’t win the big one.

  • Dan Markowitz · September 28, 2012 at 11:21 pm

    Then it’s as simple as that, Scoop, that we have different standards of greatness. Of course, they are all great players, but within the sphere of great players of the top players, I don’t think guys like Clement or Gambill or Puerta are great players. Certainly, Rios is much closer to that level of greatness, but in my book, he’s not one of the greats of the great.

  • Steve · September 29, 2012 at 10:50 am

    With Rios you can throw the stats out (though his achievements are impressive) because if you know tennis you only need to watch him play to know he is great. Again Dan go and watch him destroy the great American champion Jim Courier with ease. I’ll always compare Rios to Iverson. Iverson never won a championship either but you only needed to watch him play despite getting the MVP & scoring titles.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Good point Steve, great players don’t always win championships in any sport. Phil Niekro was a great pitcher but he never did anything in the playoffs, Nolan Ryan never made it to the World Series either. Dan Marino. Raymond Bourque got his Stanley Cup at the very end with Colorado. Andrew Golota in boxing. Jim Kelly. The list goes on…

  • Dan Markowitz · September 29, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    The Rios/Iverson comparison might be apropos except for the fact that in team sports, less so in basketball because there’s only five guys on the court, you can’t hold a player totally culpable for not winning a slam. In tennis, you can, in fact, it’s the best way to evaluate players. I don’t remember thinking that Rios was a tennis genius, but if I watched more of his matches, I’m sure I’d be impressed. Still, he didn’t win any slams or even contest to win any beside his rather lucky run to the Aussie finals.

    Iverson single-handed took a sub-par team to the finals and even won one game against the Lakers–all by himself. Also, Iverson was still a very good player into his 30’s while Rios’ career just went kaput.

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 30, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    To see how Rios could just dominate and toy with Agassi, especially from the baseline, is enough to show that he was special great player. There’s you tube video of the 02 SF in Miami titled one of the best sets of tennis. Anybody who doubts Rios was a great player should watch that highlight reel. BTW I looked up and Rios, if I read every scoreline correctly, never won from two sets down though he did come back from 0-2 down to level at 2-2 to eventually lose in five several times.

  • Steve · September 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Don’t underestimate the Mutombo finger wag! 🙂

  • Mitch · September 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Does Lukas Rosol’s performance against Nadal make him a great player? Certainly not. It’s about the body of work as a whole

  • Scoop Malinowski · September 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Yes Mitch I say Rosol was a great player for a few hours that day he beat Nadal. Similar to how I think boxer Andrew Golota was the best heavyweight boxer on earth for about 30 minutes on the night he was pounding and brutalizing Riddick Bowe in Madison Square Garden before he DQed himself with repeated low blows.

  • Dan Markowitz · October 1, 2012 at 3:45 am

    Being great for a short period of time doesn’t make you great. Look, Rasol couldn’t qualify for the US Open. He’s clearly not a great or even a good player. You’re the only guy I ever hear talk about Andrew Golota. Now maybe you got to see him fight in some big bouts and he impressed you, but in boxing annals, the guy isn’t considered great. You’ve got to judge pro players on a higher level than just a match or two.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Mark “the Bird” Fidrych was great for a short time. As were Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas, Andrea Jaeger, The US Olympic hockey team in 1980 and the music groups “Men Without Hats” and “Flock of Seagulls.” : )

  • Simon · October 4, 2012 at 4:55 am

    Well, what is great, what is the definition? It means different things to different people. If it means a player you want to watch when you have a choice of watching all the best in the world, then yes Rios is great. If it means a player that could make ANY other player look like an amateur (Agassi, Becker, etc) who just picked up a racket last week, then yes Rios is great. If great means that many kids and adults want to emulate his style, then yes Rios was great. If great means that he raised the profile of tennis worldwide, then yes Rios is it. But if great means he won X number of slams or has a X:Y head to head against Chang or other players, then Rios was not great. If great means he could play the same monotonous robotic tennis day-in day-out ala Sampras, then Rios was NOT great.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, hence why we have such arguments over Rios.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    Well said Simon, beauty and rating tennis greatness is in the eye of the beholder indeed. Many people adore the Rios style while some others abhor it. I think the bottom line is Rios did it HIS way. He played tennis how he wanted to. LIke Patrick McEnroe said after the first set of the 2002 semi vs. Agassi in Miami, “that was some of the best and worst tennis I’ve ever seen.” That was Rios, in a microcosm. He could hit two of the worst drop shots in a row which don’t even reach the net, then suddenly strike a “genius” jumping two handed backhand crosscourt winner at 5-5 in the tiebreak and then win the set with a magnificent touch volley. Is that greatness? Depends on the eye of the beholder. Welcome to the site Simon and thanks for your comments.

  • Steve · October 5, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I think Simon summed it all up nicely.



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