ok, don't get me wrong - this is not supposed to be a thread about politics.
i was talking to an acquaintance of mine the other day about the rise of eastern europe concerning all kinds of sports, football (soccer), hockey, athletics and of course tennis as well. he mentioned something interesting that got me thinking: tennis itself has been a pretty "soft" sport until 1990. competitors were less in shape, the pace was slower and the overall game was just, let's call it, "nicer" (and i don't mean the mcenroe-like bad ass kind of nastiness; that's been just a show for the tennis snobs ever since anyways).
the big bang in 1990 let a bunch of fierce competitors out, bit by bit of course, that led to a complete upgrade within the game. sadly, that guy didn't really know much about tennis and was basically just judging from the bits and pieces he watches over the course of the years - but anyways, maybe this sort of "macro perception" makes even more sense to some extent than the opinion of guys who're following tennis all the time.
i'm not old enough to be able to judge but i do think there have been massive changes in the way players approch the game over the last 15 years. what do you guys say? what did and do the eastern european guys bring to the table that challenges the rest of the pack? is it just willpower or is there something else to it?
follow-up question: is there going to be another upgrade in the making once china seriously enters the competition?
Eastern European players began reaching the top echelons well before the fall of the Iron Curtain, although it is true that they were rarely Russian. Some of them are actually remembered as legends of the game: Navratilova, Lendl, Seles, Nastase. Seles played primarily in the early 90s, of course, but she obviously trained in the 80s and perhaps even late 70s. We could include Ivanisevic here as well, who obviously trained many years before Communism fell.
As someone else pointed out, the big change has been the surplus of Russians at the moment, especially in women's tennis. In the past, it was the Czechs that "dominated" the Eastern European contribution, but now it's the Russians and to a lesser degree the Serbs. Many now think that the Poles and Romanians will be next.