50 YEARS OF OPEN TENNIS: Crystal Balls and Phrases to Remember

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OH-SO-CLEAR CRYSTAL BALLS: Richard Williams predicts his daughters will revolutionize tennis and become No. 1 and No. 2 (and they do in 2002)…In ’82, Billie Jean King says, “You may not believe it, but there’s a scrawny little kid in West Germany who’s going to be our next No. 1. Her name is Steffi Graf.”…Nick Bollettieri predicts that 13-year-old Anna Kournikova will be making anywhere from $5 to $15 million a year by the time she’s 18. (In 2000, 19-year-old Kournikova’s net worth was approximately $475 million.)

NOT-SO-CLEAR CRYSTAL BALLS: Philippe Chatrier said, “It remains to be seen if blacks have what it takes to adapt to the rigors of tennis. We are always hearing about how blacks are so good at jumping and sprinting, but apart from [Arthur] Ashe and [Althea] Gibson, there hasn’t been any who [have] risen to the top. Maybe it has something to do with nature.”…In ’84, John McEnroe said, “It’s a new year and a new me. This year I’m really gonna behave.”… Jimmy Connors said “Oversized racquets are for women, old people and sissies.”… In ’91 the German Tennis Federation concluded that Becker had no potential and withdrew their support of the 15-year-old…In ’85, Ashe said, “I don’t see anybody in McEnroe’s or Connors’ class…The bottom is going to fall out at the top of American men’s tennis.” Sampras, Agassi, Courier and Chang soon emerged…Raisa Gorbachev, the wife of the Soviet leader, said “Tennis will bring people together.”…Brit David Lloyd said in ’99, “Agassi couldn’t beat my mum now. He’s finished.” Soon after Andre won the French Open…Kournikova predicted, “In about 10 years, every woman will play topless.”…Jana Novotna predicted, “In the future we will see younger players becoming No. 1 at an early age, but they will not last as long. They will retire when they’re 23 or 24.”…The San Diego Union-Tribune thought Martina Hingis was a shoo-in to win the Indian Wells final, contending, “The 21-year-old Swiss woman is far too wise and experienced to be extended by an 18-year-old from Slovakia playing in her first WTA final.” Daniela Hantuchova won easily.

“You cannot be serious.” – John McEnroe
“Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times.” – Gerulaitis
“Image is everything.” – Andre Agassi
“You’re the pits of the world.” – McEnroe
“The best doubles team is John McEnroe and anybody else.” – McEnroe
“You’re an abortion.” – Jimmy Connors to an ump
“This is what they want, this is what they’ll get.” – Connors
“Breakfast at Wimbledon” – Bud Collins
“Pressure is a privilege.” – Billie Jean King
“Impossible is nothing.” – Justine Henin
“A haircut and a forehand.” – Ivan Lendl on Agassi
“He’s a zen master.” – Barbra Streisand on Agassi
“I’m a tennis player – nothing less, nothing more.” – Pete Sampras
“New balls please”
“Winning ugly.” – Brad Gilbert
“Bounce, hit.” – Inner Game author Tim Gallwey


1. OLD SCHOOL PREPPIES: Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe, Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe and Cliff Drysdale are just some of the stylish, old-school players at the foundation of the modern game.

2. THE DISCO DEVILS: Brash, charismatic hunks like Jimbo, Mac, Borg, Vitas and Nasty are out there in the fast lane turning the game upside down – “You cannot be serious.”

3. EURO DUO: Inspired by Borg, Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg enjoy a brief window of domination and lay the foundation for the Europeanization of the game.

4. AMERICA RULES: Remember when Sampras, Agassi, Courier and Chang took up much of tennis’ oxygen? From ’89 to ’03, Americans win 28 of 59 Slams.

5. THE BIG FOUR (OR IS IT BIG 5) DOMINATE: Euros Roger, Rafa, Novak, Murray and Wawrinka dominate with an unblinking efficiency. All the while, many a Next Gen hopeful, such as Raonic, Nishikori and Dimitrov, have failed to summit.


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