Kelli DeMario

  • The Lost Boys: tennis talent gone AWOL

    2009-07-15 10:13:22
    "No one here gets out alive..." - James Douglas Morrison (1943-1971)

    The above is a partial song lyric taken from the Doors tune "Five to One." More than 40 years after its release, the meaning of the words remain open to interpretation. As a devoted fan of the band, I've blasted the song hundreds of times. Every time I hear it, I think of things constant- death, taxes, the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, Nadal winning on clay, Federer winning on grass.

    Save two blips on the radar- Federer grappling with mono in 2008, Nadal and his uncooperative knees on the mend at present- we presume these two and other talented members of the ATP are certain to hang around until the very end of every tournament they enter. We assume they will turn in one top-notch performance after another, contesting an inexhaustible well of championship matches. We demand, and are often rewarded with, consistency.

    All well and good, of course, unless you harbor an adrenaline-junkie streak like I do. If you do, then you require a bit of unpredictability while you watch the sport to keep matters interesting. Notice I said a "bit" of unpredictability. Like running the risk of over-salting a bowl of your favorite soup, a little unpredictability goes a long way. When, then, does the very thing that excites you about your prized player cross the line into full-blown exasperation territory?

    Consider the names of the semifinalists at the Majors over the last five years. With a few exceptions here and there, the roster usually reads like a familiar short-list of the tennis elite. After the Nadal-Federer Australian Open final in January, I began compiling a catalogue of players whom I thought should regularly be seen during the business end of tournaments, but aren't. For whatever reason, these players haven't been able to string together a collection of decent matches and/or have fallen fast from peaks of former glory.

    I give you the "Lost Boys," numerically ordered, as you'd expect, from five to one.

    5) Novak Djokovic: "The Grand Slam Champ"
    Novak Djokovic I hesitated to include a decorated player like Djokovic, but with respect to the other members of the Big 4, his 2009 results belie a superior talent.

    Hot: 2008 Australian Open champion, 4 Masters Series shields, top 10 since 4/07
    Cold: no marquee-titles in 2009, 3rd round loss to Kohlschreiber in Paris, drops to #4 (5/09)
    Culprit: toxic cocktail made from early fame, family pressure and health problems
    Band-Aid: keep parents Srdjan and Dijana at bay, master the asthma and weather the storm
    Forecast: Sunny. With ambition, determination and drive to burn, Djokovic should be able to remain a competitive member of the Big 4.

    4) Thomaz Bellucci "The Newcomer"
    Thomaz Bellucci Some dubbed the 21-year-old Brazilian the "clay-court heir apparent" after pushing four-time champion Rafael Nadal to a 7-5 first set in the opening-round of the French Open in 2008.

    Hot: 2008 clay-court Challenger Tour hat-trick, Costa Do Sauipe finals in 2009, top 100 (5/08)
    Cold: no access into Monte Carlo 2009, return to cheap seats (World No. 141 in July), first-round losses in last three tournaments
    Culprit: high-risk game combined with pressure to fill the shoes of beloved superstar and countryman Gustavo "Guga" Kuerten
    Band-Aid: fix erratic groundies, train hard, procure a crackerjack promotional/marketing team
    Forecast: Calm. With plenty of time to develop, Bellucci should reach his self-appointed goal of cracking the top 50.

    3) Marcos Baghdatis "The Crowd Pleaser"
    Marcos Baghdatis Save one Rafael Nadal perhaps, the sunny Cypriot possesses the most recognizable asset on the tour- a megawatt smile that inspires and delights tennis fans worldwide.

    Hot: 2006 Australian Open runner-up, 2006 All-England club final four, World No. 8 (8/06)
    Cold: fall from grace (World No. 148 in July), semifinals drought (Marseilles 2/08)
    Culprit: career-crushing injuries and questionable commitment to fitness and training
    Band-Aid: monitor diet, training and fitness, take baby steps to ensure forward progress
    Forecast: Hazy. Baghdatis continues to battle a body ripe to quit on him, but two quarterfinal appearances in 2009 offer renewed hope.

    I hit a roadblock with the next entry. Ernests Gulbis remains a mystery to me- enviably appealing, supremely gifted and wildly inconsistent. If not for the recent extracurricular activities of Richard Gasquet, the 20-year-old would have topped this list.

    In short order, I realized I had but two options to ease my mental-itch over the mind-boggler that is Ernests Gulbis: 1) enlist the help of a chilled shot (or three) of Belvedere, or 2) consult an expert. I chose the latter. My colleague, Ricky Dimon, has followed the career ebb and flow of the Latvian since his tour debut in 2005. Please read his in-depth analysis below-

    2) Ernests Gulbis: "The Underachiever"
    Ernests Gulbis During the French Open, commentator Brad Gilbert called Gulbis "the most disappointing player on tour, male or female, in 2009." And why not? Gulbis has been nothing short of atrocious over the past 12 months, despite seemingly having it all; talent, money (probably too much for his own good), looks, and he even hangs out (probably too often) with WTA star Victoria Azarenka. What Gulbis doesn't have is a semblance of a consistent tennis game. Who knew one player's fortunes (or at least one writer's opinion of the aforementioned player) could change so much in just two years?

    Ricky Dimon's blog: Why I am Driving the Ernests Gulbis Bandwagon.

    Hot: 2008 U.S. Open fourth round at 19 years old, quarterfinals of both French Open and Cincinnati one year later
    Cold: this is not a misprint: has not won back-to-back matches since the 2008 Masters Series Cincinnati. That's right: 12 full months without winning two matches in-a-row. Owns a dismal 11-17 match record in 2009.
    Culprit: too much financial security, overconfidence from early success, no full-time coach since February
    Band-Aid: hire a full-time coach, don't hit every forehand as hard as possible, find a motivational tool
    Forecast: Scattered Thunderstorms. Gulbis has the talent to produce the occasional brilliant performance, but unless he becomes exponentially more consistent, he won't be back in the Top 40 anytime soon.

    1) Richard Gasquet: "The Natural"
    Richard Gasquet Simultaneously lauded for his flashy game, incomparable backhand and matinee-idol good looks, the 23-year-old Frenchman, christened "Baby Fed(erer)," possesses more natural talent than most of his contemporaries.

    Hot: 5 tour titles, 2 Masters Series finals, 2007 Wimbledon semifinalist, World No. 7 in 7/07
    Cold: a dozen early-round Grand Slam defeats, defunct since April (slipped to World No. 32)
    Jaw-dropper: facing a 2-year ban after testing positive for cocaine (5/09)
    Culprit: malicious mix of media scrutiny, expectation and wavering dedication to the sport
    Band-Aid: personal inventory, introspection and time
    Forecast: Stormy. With the possibility of tennis exile hanging over his head, Gasquet faces an uncertain future.

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Loved this, Kelli! Three of them are in my top 10 players, and it's sad they aren't achieving their full potential. Hey, maybe they'll read this and take your band-aids to heart!

Rafterfan , 7/15/09 3:48 PM

I would've placed David Nalbandian fifth instead of Djoker. Otherwise a fine article...

Maglor , 7/15/09 4:53 PM

i'm seein thing or what, but pick a buncha guys just on looks? gulbis & djoko are ok, tho i don't like djoko much. c'mon u put gasclown 1?!! why? what's he doin there?

trixxyfest , 7/15/09 5:19 PM

Excellent !

And I agree with Maglor re Nalbandian.

chlorostoma , 7/15/09 5:35 PM

Feliciano Lopez would be phenomenal if he had more confidence on court.

greenbean , 7/15/09 5:59 PM

OMG, OMG, OMG, Kelliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!
I'm so glad you're back :hug: :hug: :hug:

The article? I was so excited I don't even know well what you wrote, sorry :o

Wellcome back :)

acionescu , 7/15/09 6:15 PM

just announced today that Gasquet is not banned and can start playing again.

wow. big news.

RickyDimon , 7/15/09 6:44 PM

WOW.... Nice.... I hope he increase his body strength and mentality and benefit from this very lucky escape. He is supposed to replace Fed.

But alas, not everybody with variety is guaranteed success.

torres9 , 7/15/09 7:32 PM

from reuters>>The ITF said Gasquet's 'inadvertent contamination' in a nightclub the night before his scheduled match meant a 12-month suspension would be disproportionate and instead handed him a ban of two months and 15 days which expired Wednesday.

what's that mean 'inadvertant contamination'? sounds weird.

trixxyfest , 7/15/09 8:04 PM

I agree with the article, but I think Nole will stabilize soon. I expect him to go to the final for at the Open again this year. I agree that Nalby would have been a better choice. Poor guy is probably crippled though....

I'm relieved to hear Gasquet is back. I love his is so drool worthy. I think Wawarinka gives him a good run for backhand glory but Gasquet, if he can overcome mental hurdles, would seem to have a brighter future.

Recordbreaks , 7/15/09 9:53 PM

Hello and thank you for the responses, much appreciated as always. :)

Tackling these in the order received-

Thank you Rafterfan, I am glad you enjoyed the article. I had some help from Ricky as well, I hope you checked out his blog for more 411 about Ernests. I hope some of the guys do their best to improve- the ATP needs as many people to shine as possible.

Maglor, I wanted to list players under the age of 25 for this one. I would definitely put Nalby high on an unrestricted list for sure. Possibly at number one.

trixxyfest, that is not the case at all. I don't believe that Baghdatis was, at any time, considered to be a heartthrob type. To his lovely gf, perhaps, but not to me. I put him there for professional reasons.

Hello greenbean, thank you for stopping by. That's the first time anyone has ever hypothesized Lopez is suffering from a confidence deficit! I'm assuming you mean ON-court though, yes? ;) I agree, he has a great serve and a monster forehand. The backhand is a liability- perhaps he can commit to a fix.

A! If I had emoticons at my disposal, I'd use them all up. Thank you for the wb- it's really nice to see you. :hug: x100 I hope you and the Little One are well. I promise to come harrass you soon. :kiss:

Hello Recordbreaks, thank you for leaving a comment. Good news for all of us who like his game indeed. I confess I have no idea what "inadvertent contamination" is supposed to imply....either way, I am relieved he isn't suspended. Would have been a shame to put a thing of beauty on blocks for two years. ;)

Kelli , 7/16/09 2:40 AM

inadvertent contamination means kissing a girl who had taken cocaine earlier in the night!

RickyDimon , 7/16/09 2:56 AM

With regards to:

Nole - he's obviously still trying to find a way to be consistently at the top. Very talented and one of my favourites, Nole's problem to me is a combination of mental and physical?he struggles to win when under immense pressure (chances to take #2 from Rafa/Roger, beating Tommy Haas after a loss) and he slips and falls occasionally when he shouldn't (Ko-scrubber in FO). But he is a player with enormous talent and great shots, and I am sure he will find a way to remain consistent. Hopefully sooner rather than later!

Belluci - no comment as I am not familiar with him or his play.
Baggy - ohhh, Baggy :( I have to say I adore the man and his style of play as well as that infectious sunny grin. Seemingly an all-around nice guy with the worst luck when it comes to physical abilities and injuries. Peaked at 2006 and seemed to be free-falling soon after. Have to say I am pretty upset by his inability to bang into the top of the spots, because with his talent I believe he could make it. Baggy will probably not be able to achieve any sort of greatness in terms of multiple slams but really hope for him to return fit and at least give the Big 4 a run for their money.
Ernie Gulbis - his inconsistency is amazing to look at, it's as good as a roller coaster. Gifted, yes. Hardworking? No. Doesn't have the drive nor the hunger to really win either. And won't get to the top if he doesn't start working harder.

Baby Fed - Fast becoming "The One That Should Have" - bursted into the scene so talented and beautiful to watch and then slides into oblivion. Struggles with consistency, struggles with the ability to win with a kill (losing to Murray at Wimby08 despite 2 sets up and serving for match wtf), struggles, basically, with making any lasting impact. A pity.

I'll also add Nalbandian to the list, and to some degree Marat Safin. Immensely talented guys that could, COULD potentially be dominating world #1's or at least challenge Fed consistently for his ranking, but lacking also the innate WANT to really make it.

In the light of my comments, I really appreciate the consistency AND wonderful play of both Rafa and Roger :)

jyannis , 7/16/09 6:33 AM

gasclown was busted kissing a girl? he oughta pray largadere ain't the jealous type or else he gets a big pay cut :D

trixxyfest , 7/16/09 5:20 PM

Hello jyannis- thank you for the comment and a very thoughtful analysis. "The One That Should Have..." carries a sense of urgency with it. I hope that Gasquet will make the most of his second chance, now that his suspension is over.

trixxyfest- both Arnaud Lagardere and Richard went on record, categorically denying any romantic involvement with one another, just so you are aware.

Kelli , 7/17/09 2:18 AM

Wow, the woman scorned still hasn't recovered...amazing.....

Novak a lost boy...shows how very little you know about tennis....stick to media darlings....will you, can't go wrong there...

noleisthebest , 7/17/09 3:48 PM

I dont think novak is lost the way the other players are. he's had some good results this year but I think the losses to nadal have affected him deeply and he is not recovering from them as quickly as he thought he might, he said so himself. I will be expecting good results from him this summer on the hardcourts now that he has time to vacation.

sheila , 7/19/09 11:01 PM

Gasquet's picture should be next to the "lost" entry in the dictionary. That poor, poor boy. I surely hope he can pull himself together - but it just doesn't seem like tennis makes him happy. :(

cherylmurray , 7/20/09 12:34 AM

Novak a lost boy, am I dreaming or what, ????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????
What a people...

gordana , 7/20/09 9:47 AM

I may not be a fan of djokovic, but in my opionion, i think he should not be included in the list. he may not have his best performances in a GS, but atleast he has already won some titles this year, and he has also his own fair share of beautiful tough fights against top players. In my list, i will include Nalbandian or Fernando Gonzales..

jennyger , 7/20/09 12:12 PM

Nole lost boy?? U put him between these "no-names" comparing to him? ;))) Omg, U really made me laugh. :) This is so so so low... Ajde, Noleee! :)

OllyK , 7/20/09 5:27 PM

Nah, that wasn't a knock on Djokovic at all, which is why I wrote that I hesitated to include him at all. This was a relative list, not a by-the-numbers list. He's a GS winner, and although I'm not crazy about the term "no-name," he should be viewed as a separate entity rather than equal to the other four.

jennyger- I agree and would place both of those players on a list for those over the age of 25. Thank you for your comment.

Hello there VIP Muzz, much love for stopping by. Maybe with the ban lifted, Gasquet will fall in love with the sport all over again. Hopefully. :)

Kelli , 7/21/09 12:58 AM

After Simon's recent performances, I'm tempted to say that he should be on this list. IMO, he's currently the weakest top tenner.

faem , 7/21/09 10:05 PM

Oh, faem you are correct. Simon is playing horrible. He has been dead since the Davis Cup in the beginning of the year. I feel for him so much, hopefully hardcourts will keep him in the top 20 and he can redeem himself to an extent even with the drop in his rankings.

Recordbreaks , 7/22/09 2:14 AM

Hello faem and RB (again)- such a shame what is happening with Simon. Would be great if he could play top level tennis consistently...I am tempted to add a #6 to this list, sadly. We will see what happens after the hard court season begins.

Kelli , 7/22/09 5:53 AM

I'm reading this while watching the scores from Indianapolis ... I see that Dancevic is about to start playing ... now there's somebody who has not lived up to his potential ...

jer468 , 7/23/09 10:22 PM

this is a cool post.. !

amojos , 1/18/10 11:57 AM

...lost boys... AND NOVAK No 1????? realy making me laugh...ROFL...
...You have some more pearls of net like this Kelli???

zare , 1/18/10 12:57 PM


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