Across The Net: Last Stand of the Lost Generation
Posted by Dan Martin on 03.05.2007
Carlos Moya, Tommy Haas, and Gustavo Kuerten are worth watching throughout 2007.
The Sampras-Agassi generation showcased a set of talented and accomplished players. Jim Courier, Goran Ivanesevic, Michael Chang, Michael Stich, Sergei Bruguera, Thomas Muster, and Richard Karjicek all won at least one Grand Slam title. Sampras set many all time records and Agassi won the career Grand Slam when he captured the French Open in 1999.
All of this success left the generation that followed with scant accomplishments. If Patrick Rafter is placed in the Agassi-Sampras generation and if Gustavo Kuerten is placed in the "New Balls" generation, then Yevgeny Kafelnikov's 1996 French Open title, 1999 Australian Open title, brief stint at #1 in 1999 and 2000 Olympic Gold Medal place Yevgeny as the most accomplished player of his generation. YK's career is indeed impressive, especially if one adds his multiple Grand Slam doubles titles, but it pales when compared to Jim Courier's career numbers of four Grand Slam titles and finishing 1992 at #1 in the world. Courier was the 3rd most decorated player of his generation. Thus, the lost generation did not set the world afire with Grand Slam titles or lengthy reigns at #1.
won the 1998 French Open and was runner-up at the 1997 Australian Open. Moya spent a few weeks in 1999 at #1 and recovered nicely from career threatening injuries by finishing in the top ten from 2002-2004. Had Moya not been hurt in 1999, he likely would have won more Grand Slam titles. Moya is a big guy who moves incredibly well. He was coming into his own when the injury bug hit his career hard. He is 6'3" and has a big serve for a back court player. Moya also has one of the best forehands I have ever seen live or on television. King Carlos helped Spain win the Davis Cup in 2004 and finished the year ranked #5 in the world. Since that time, Moya's results have declined, but he is still considered to be one of the most charismatic players on tour. At thirty years of age, his best tennis is behind him, but Moya has reached two tournament finals (including a runner-up finish this week in Mexico) and one semifinal in 2007. Given that he finished five different years ranked in the top ten in the world, it would be fitting if Moya could have a strong clay court season and make a solid showing at the French Open.
along with Nicholas Kiefer were expected to step into the big German tennis shoes that Boris Becker, Steffi Graf, and Michael Stich left. Haas has struggled with shoulder injuries his entire career. Haas was trained by Nick Bolleteri, but instead of reflecting the Bolleteri trend of bog forehand, two handed backhand players that started with Jimmy Aires, Aaron Krickstein, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier. Haas has one of the best one handed backhands in recent memory. Haas reached #2 in the world (somehow) in 2002. Haas has likely played his best tennis since January 2006. He pushed Roger Federer to five sets at the 2006 Australian Open, reached the quarterfinals of the 2006 U.S. Open, won three events in 2006, reached the semifinals of the 2007 Australian Open and dominated the event in Memphis last week. Haas won the title without facing a single break point. Andy Roddick, Haas' victim in the Memphis final, stated that Haas could realistically win a Grand Slam title. Haas charged into the semifinals at Dubai this week to take on another guy with a great one handed backhand who speaks German. The result: Roger Federer d. Tommy Haas 6-4, 7-5. Haas may be playing the second best tennis in the world in 2007, but his chances of going further and capturing a Grand Slam hinge on his ability to beat Federer. That may never happen, but Haas has the best chance of the lost generation to add one more Grand Slam to their collective accomplishments.
, if counted among the lost generation, is their standard bearer. Kuerten won the French Open in 1997, 2000 and 2001. Kuerten, known as "Guga", finished 2000 ranked #1 in the world and beat Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi back-to-back in order to claim that ranking. At Indianapolis in 2001, Guga was fresh off of a masterful victory in Cincinnati and looked to be solidly #1 in the world. Guga reached the Indianapolis final and looked to be a legitimate contender for the U.S. Open despite his clay court-only reputation. Due to weather, Guga had to play the semifinals and finals on the same day. He had done the same thing one week earlier in Cincinnati. Guga defeated 2001 Wimbledon champion the semifinals and faced Patrick Rafter in the finals. Guga hurt himself early in the first set and defaulted. Still he headed into the U.S. Open as the #1 seed with many good hard court results under his belt. Kuerten worked his way through to the quarterfinals of the 2001 U.S. Open, but struggled to do so. In the quarterfinals, Yevgeny Kafelnikov dominated a listless Kuerten. News slowly emerged that Kuerten had a bad hip. Such injuries are deadly in tennis due to the torque one produces by rotating the torso when hitting both forehands and backhands. Guga has had multiple hip surgeries and tried to come back several times. Despite beating Marat Safin at the U.S. Open in 2002, winning the 2002 Brazil Open and defeating Roger Federer at the 2004 French Open, the result of each comeback has always been negative in the long run. Recently, Kuerten won his first ATP level match in over 12 months. If Guga can rediscover his old form, he could be a major factor in Paris. This will likely take over one year of consistent tour play. If Guga can stay healthy and build confidence in 2007, look for him to make one last run on clay in 2008. Like Moya, Guga is charismatic and a fan favorite. It is good to have him back, but one must wonder what his career would have looked like had his hip not broken down.