Thursday, 11 November 2010

Golden Oldies Downunder

John McEnroe and Pat Rafter are the ying and yang of the tennis world but both are in Sydney this week for the Champions Downunder – Sydney.
McEnroe won seven grand slams during his illustrious and somewhat controversial career.

His flamboyant hair, the tantrums and abuse thrown towards umpires pulled in the crowds and deemed him as the bad boy of tennis.

On the other hand, you have Rafter.

With his wholesome good looks, likeable personality, suave playing style and good boy persona, the iconic Australian introduced a new crowd to the sport.

Both players can pull a crowd for their flair, ability and passion for tennis.

McEnroe usually comes to Australia once a year for the Australian Open, where he commentates, but the 51-year-old American has made an additional trip, this time to Sydney to partake in the Champions Downunder tournament, an event of the ATP Champions Tour.

Any chance of a salivating match-up between America’s bad boy and Australia’s good guy is short-lived as the players are in opposite groups, but may possibly meet in the finals which are played on Sunday.

The round robin tournament splits players in to two groups over the first three days, with a finals day on Sunday featuring all eight players – the winner of each group plays for the Champions Downunder – Sydney title. All players will feature in at least three matches.

McEnroe has been drawn in a group that boasts fellow seven-time grand slam winner Mats Wilander, Australian 1987 Wimbledon singles champion Pat Cash and South African Wayne Ferreira.

The other group comprises of dual US Open winner Rafter, Croatia’s 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, Frenchman Henri Leconte and Sweden’s Thomas Enqvist, the current rankings leader on the tour.
Rafter will look to avenge his heartbreaking 2001 five set Wimbledon defeat to Ivanisevic while Pat Cash will face Wilander once again in a repeat of their epic 1988 Australian Open final.

The one question McEnroe scratched his head about at the press conference Wednesday was ‘why doesn’t Australia have a men’s player in the top 50?’.

Australia has relied on Lleyton Hewitt to perform well at the Grand Slams, but with the player dipping into 56th position on the ATP tour, it looks like Hewitt’s glory days are over.

“When I grew up I idolised (Rod) Laver and when Harry Hopman was around, he was my inspirational leader. I heard all these war stories about all these incredible (Australian) players,” McEnroe said.

“It’s unbelievable to think there’s not even one guy in the top 50 right now. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
McEnroe doubted Hewitt could add any more to his trophy case.

“It will be interesting to see how much longer he wants to go on. I’m sure he’s not the type of person that is happy being 56 in the world.” he said.

Australia was a tennis powerhouse in the 1950’s. The men won the Davis Cup a staggering 15 times from the years 1950 to 1967 with players such as Ken Rosewall, Frank Sedjman, Roy Emerson, Lew Hoad and Ashley Cooper, whereas this year, Australia missed out on qualifying for the World Group.

The country’s success continued into the 1960’s with Rod Laver, Fred Stolle and John Newcombe making names for themselves on the professional circuit.

Rafter has been named as Australian Davis Cup captain to try and relive the glory days. It’s an appointment that pleases McEnroe.

“I think Patrick Rafter is a fantastic appointment, absolutely first class. There’s not a single guy that doesn’t like this young man, he’s a mate’s mate as you say in Australia.

“I think he’s going to do a great job.”

Courtesy: SBS

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