Mauresmo deserves Hall honor
No one tells the French Open story of
I wonder if anyone views her as a future Hall of Famer.
If you find the notion absurd, you probably aren't familiar with the International Tennis Hall of Fame. I've only begun to really examine it, but as someone who has cast a baseball Hall of Fame vote for the past 20 years, I can say with assurance they have nothing in common.
Baseball's Cooperstown standard is rigid and unforgiving. I've found myself not voting for pitchers who won 300 games, players who won batting and home-run titles, perennial mainstays who forged massive statistical resumes. Players of true genius who made only fleeting impressions --
The best way I can sum up the tennis Hall of Fame, by way of contrast, is that
Not that either would ever be confused with the all-time greats, but that's where baseball and tennis part ways. There's only so much glory to go around in tennis, and when certain athletes are overwhelmingly dominant --
So concessions are made. Sweet memories are recalled. Lesser categories take on relevance. The tennis Hall of Fame doesn't stoop so low as to welcome "a good ol' gal" or "one heck of a trooper," but it places a premium on longevity, excellence and certain bursts of magnificence.
There's another element to take into account, as well: pure celebrity. "A good number of ballots come from other countries," one voter told me, "and in a lot of foreign lands, they take the 'Fame' part very seriously You've got a pretty good chance if you were famous."
We shouldn't forget that Sabatini was a fine player, winner of the 1990 U.S. Open, 26 other singles titles, and often on even terms in her head-to-head battles with
So where does that leave the more pedestrian types? Out of luck, most likely. The cold facts say that Sabatini won just one major and never was ranked higher than No. 3 in the world. As such, she really doesn't have much on solitary-Slam winners
Would you believe that
Among contemporary players and the recently retired, you can be sure that
The men's side has had its share of intriguing developments. Several players won a single Grand Slam event, then essentially vanished:
Unfortunately, a somewhat dubious standard has been set on the men's side. Along with Noah and Chang, the Hall includes
And what of
All of which brings us back to Mauresmo, and perhaps some Hall of Fame perspective you didn't have before. Mauresmo won two majors, the 2006 Australian and Wimbledon later that year, beating the formidable Justine Henin (who retired in Melbourne) each time. She was ranked No. 1 in the world for a spell in 2004 and again in '06. She played absolutely beautiful tennis, the essence of an all-court game so sadly absent on today's tour, and her style spoke to fantasy and romanticism -- the first such female champion at Wimbledon since
I saw Mauresmo up close many times at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open over the years, and I always found her surprisingly trim, almost petite -- formidably broad-shouldered but resembling the prototypical Olympic swimmer. None of this stopped the twittering chipmunks. Whether it was a player, a tour official or a journalist, people began insinuating she was "on" something, such as steroids or muscle-building supplements. Thankfully, that campaign died a natural death. Her primary sponsors never bailed out, and the flight continued without turbulence. I'd like to think Mauresmo stands as tall as any retired player, man or woman, on that most envious of combinations: talent and integrity. A Hall of Famer in the world of tennis, and a long way from Cooperstown.