John Wertheim's 2003 Baggie Awards
He does separate things for both ATP and WTA which is nice... I posted it all
The 2003 Baggie Awards
Posted: Monday December 15, 2003 1:41PM; Updated: Monday December 15, 2003 1:41PM
Andy Roddick lived up to the hype and not only won the U.S. Open but finished the year at No.1. Justine Henin-Hardenne confirmed, yet again, that size isn't everything, taking a pair of Slams and closing out 2003 as the top-ranked womens' player. Roger Federer won both Wimbledon and countless admirers with his buttery, poetry-in-motion game. Kim Clijsters reached the semis or the finals at all four Majors. Juan Carlos Ferrero won the French Open and -- no clay court specialist, he -- reached the U.S. Open final. Serena Williams added two more Slams to her haul, but, racked by injury and family tragedy, didn't play a match after Wimbledon. The ageless wonder that is Andre Agassi won yet another Slam in his 30s. The greatest player (arguably) ever to draw a breath, Pete Sampras, formally announced his retirement. Martina Navratilova won seven doubles titles -- none of them on the seniors' tour.
A splinter group of male players tried to "unionize" against the ATP, which is supposed to be a union. The WTA Tour CEO, Kevin Wulff, held a press conference to announce he hadn't been fired ... only to quit two days later. It was determined that ATP trainers had inadvertently plied players with banned substances. An alleged match-fixing scandal is currently under investigation.
All of which is to say that in 2003, tennis provided its usual swirl-cone mix of sublime and ridiculous.
To recall the year that was, we present the sixth annual Baggie Awards. But first, a quick lapse out of sarcasm mode to sincerely thank you 'Bag readers for another swell year. It's been a pleasure working with you. Keep the thoughtful, insightful, funny, offbeat -- even the confrontational -- mail coming, and let's do this thing again in 2004.
The envelopes please:
MVP, women: Henin-Hardenne. Quite apart from the style points she earns for that liquid backhand, the diminutive Belgian won the French and U.S. Opens, a half-dozen lesser titles, and finished ranked No.1. Plus, alone among her colleagues, she played fearlessly against Serena Williams. Runner-up: Clijsters, who finished atop the rankings and won the year-end Championships, but failed to meet the moment at the Majors.
MVP, men: Roddick. For once the exuberance wasn't irrational after all. Hailed, at least in the U.S., as the Best Thing Since Sliced Sampras, Roddick lived up to his clippings, winning the U.S. Open and finishing 2003 as the inhabitant of the rankings penthouse. Runner-up: the ubertalented Federer, who won Wimbledon as well as the year-end Masters Cup.
Newcomer of the Year, women: Maria Sharapova. A blond, pulchritudinous Russian, she invites the inevitable comparisons to Anna Whatsherface. Sharapova, however, would sooner be on the right side of the top 10 than the right side of the velvet ropes. Only 16 and still subject to a restricted playing schedule, she is already ranked No. 32.
Newcomer of the Year, men: Rafael Nadal. Tennis' El Nino not only played with the maturity to match his power -- but he did so on every surface. He was also the first 17-year-old male in more than a decade to finish in the top 50.
Match of the Year, women: Henin-Hardenne d. Jennifer Capriati, 4-6, 7-5, 7-6, U.S. Open semifinals. Yes, Capriati led 5-3 in the second set and 5-2 in the third. But is it really choking when your opponent simply elevates her game?
Match of the Year, men: Roddick d. Younes el Aynaoui, 4-6, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, 21-19, quarterfinals, Australian Open. The longest match in years was also remarkable for its quality: 484 points yielded just 86 unforced errors. A filibuster on hardcourts, this epic will be recalled as a coming-of-age moment for Roddick. But it also introduced the delightful el Aynaoui to the masses.
Doubles team of the Year, women: Clijsters and Ai Sugiyama. Clijsters may have whiffed in singles competitions at the Majors, but she was half of the winning team at the French Open and Wimbledon. (Too bad the team has apparently split.)
Doubles team of the Year, men: Mike and Bob Bryan. The Californian twins finished the year at No.1, winning the French Open and the Masters Cup. Can the obligatory Doublemint endorsement be far behind?
[Ed note: As we noted last year as well, it's more important that we stop smoking, cut back on our fast food intake, fill out that organ donor card, quit golf cold turkey, and stop letting our New Yorkers pile up. But somewhere on our list of New Year's resolutions, we ought to vow to do a better job supporting doubles.]
Most Improved, women: Nadia Petrova. Fully healed from an assortment of injuries, she moved up nearly 100 places during the year (from No. 111 to 12) and might well be the best of the Soviettes -- which is saying something.
Most Improved, men: Mardy Fish. The delight of pun-lovers everywhere, Fish, 21, is the reel thing. He scaled his ranking from No. 81 to No. 20 this year, filleting players including Carlos Moya, Rainer Schuettler and David Nalbandian. (OK we'll stop now.)
Quote of the Year, women: Venus Williams. When asked for her thoughts on the army of up-and-coming Russian players, Williams responded: "I have to learn how to pronounce some of their names, especially the ones with the consonants together."
Quote of the Year, men: James Blake. The former Harvard undergrad had this take on sources of intellectual stimulation on the tour: "There are some pretty intelligent players out here, such as, well, Todd Martin and [pause]... Let me think of a few more."
Quote of the Year, men, runner up: Marat Safin. When asked whether he was disappointed at having to pull out of the Australian Open with a wrist injury, Safin replied: "Yeah. Kind of."
So long, farewell: Sampras, Richard Krajicek, Michael Chang, Jeff Tarango, Karim Alami, Fernando Meligeni, Francisco Clavet, Neville Godwin, Magnus Larsson, Caroline Vis, Nicole Arendt, Martina Hingis, Pat Rafter, IMTA (?) Goran Ivanisevic(?), Marcelo Rios (?), Yevgeny Kafelnikov (?)
Coolest move (tie): No. 1: el Aynaoui beat Germany's Christopher Koderisch in Halle, and, as the players shook hands at the net, Koderisch received a rousing reception from the local fans. Figuring Koderisch might want to soak up a bit more of the atmosphere -- and besides, he could use the additional grasscourt play -- el Aynaoui suggested they remain on the court and play an additional set. And so they did, to the delight of the crowd.
No. 2: When her regular partner Leander Paes was diagnosed with a brain lesion (that turned out to be benign), Martina Navratilova declined to enter the U.S. Open mixed doubles draw with another partner -- though it may have been the final time she would play the event.
FINALLY, IN A shameless co-opting of Esquire's Dubious Achievement Awards, here are some of tennis' more bizarre moments from 2003.
But she played a great fourth set
After taking a 6-2, 5-3 lead over Daniela Hantuchova at the U.S. Open, Tamarine Tanasugarn, confused about the score, jumped and danced on the baseline and pointed gleefully at her cheering section, thinking she had won the match. (To her credit, moments later she closed out Hantuchova for real .)
On the other hand, had it been the previous year, they might have thrown octopi on the court
Pranksters blared Enrique Iglesias music as they drove past Anna Kournikova's match at a USTA Challenger event in Charlottesville, Va.
"To paraphrase Descartes....."
After the Cincinnati TMS final, Fish was asked about his intimate familiarity with opponent Andy Roddick. Fish's response: "Sure. I know, and I think that I'm sure he knows that, you know, I know him a lot better than everybody else does out here, and you know, I think that he knows that he doesn't scare me. And you know, I definitely respect his game, but you know, I definitely think that I can beat him, and I know that he doesn't scare me, and I think he knows that as well."
And she graciously thanked Citibank for its support
At the U.S. Open trophy ceremony, women's winner Justine Henin-Hardenne was introduced as "Christine" by Bill Harrison, an executive of tournament sponsor J.P. Morgan Chase.
But the tennis cognoscente in the Chase executive suite were quick to report the error
On the massive draw board at the U.S. Open the name of top-seed Kim Clijsters' name was spelled "Clijters."
And after they got back from the commercial break, Al Campanis joined Ted Robinson in the booth to share his thoughts on the dearth of black players
During a U.S. Open broadcast on the USA Network Tracy Austin offered the following insight on the dearth of Asian players: "I do think it's because of that lack of power. Your consistency and mental toughness are going to get you so far, but you need that huge weapon to finish things off with."
"We consulted Iraqi Minister of Information Saeed al-Sahhaf and he said 'go with it'"
When it was learned that the ATP trainers had inadvertently plied players with banned substances, the ATP issued a damage-control press release titled: "ATP Strengthens Practices to Combat Threat of Supplement Contamination."
They called Mr. Costanza, who got to the bottom of it
Chinese players Sun Tian-Tian and Li Ting turned up at the Australian Open accreditation office only to find that tournament had no record of them. Somehow, they finagled a last-minute wild card.
Unfortunately, they couldn't find a recording of Philadelphia Freedom
Before Capriati took the court at the Nasdaq-100, she demanded that Outkast's Bombs of Over Baghdad be played from loudspeakers, overriding objections from Tour and tournament staffers who deemed the song offensive.
And then he asked Todd Martin to pull his finger and put a "Kick Me" sign on Agassi's back
When a gaggle of American pros posed for photos with George Bush Sr. during the Houston claycourt tournament, the 41st President playfully made rabbit ears behind the players' heads.
New Balls Please, Warden
An Italian bank robber escaped from a Paris prison by blowing a window out of his cell using explosives hidden in a tennis ball.
On the plus side, there was no subsequent paternity suit
In his recent autobiography, Boris Becker recalls having endured a panic attack while trapped in a stalled elevator with tenors Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras.
Happy Holidays and 2004, everyone!