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Old 07-28-2008, 04:31 PM   #445
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Default Re: Magnus Norman

I found this old article about Magnus and thought to post it

Normal Norman attitude bores through US Open opponents

Sunday Herald, The, Sep 3, 2000
by Richard Bath

For dour Swede Magnus Norman, tennis is no laughing matter. Even among his fellow pros, the 25-year-old Scandinavian's, er, excessive normality is something of a joke. But it really has come to something when the man contesting the world No 1 slot is famous primarily because he's disgustingly, outrageously boring.

After being beaten by Norman, Russian Andrei Medvedev kicked off a recent press-conference with an impassive, boot-face impression of his victor. "This is a Magnus Norman press conference," he quipped. "Playing very good. My forehand good. Backhand good. That's all. Thank you for coming."

On a break from this week's US Open, the ice hockey-mad Swede visited the Ice Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. Despite being accompanied by a camera crew, not one person in the sports-obsessed crowd recognised him. Put simply, for the world's sports fans, Norman holds all the allure of William Hague for the folk of Govan; all the profile of the Invisible Man.

Even though sport's most boring star is the top men's seed left in the US Open, following the meek departures of Andre Agassi and Gustavo Kuerten earlier in the week, he is singularly failing to set pulses racing in a town where tennis desperately needs personalities.

After dispatching French journeyman Cyril Saulnier in straight sets on Friday (6-3, 6-4, 6-3), the third seed seems certain to progress to the fourth round when he meets Max Mirnyi of Belarus at Flushing Meadows this afternoon. There now appears a distinct lack of candidates with the ability to stop him winning his first Grand Slam tournament.

It is perhaps a supreme irony that Norman's off-court persona is so at odds with the fare he sometimes serves up with racquet in hand. This summer at Roland Garros, for example, he took part in what many regarded as the greatest grand slam final of all time. Surviving 10 match points against the flamboyant Brazilian Kuerten, he finally succumbed after a marathon 95-minute fourth set, losing the tie- break 8-6 after being 6-3 down.

Blond and good-looking, the world No 2 has everything but charisma. Prodigiously gifted, rich beyond the normal man's ken - he's already earned over #1m in prize money this year - he also has the tiresome responsibility of fluffing up the pillows on Martina Hingis' bed.

There is, however, an almost universal perception of Norman as an automaton. So fed up is he with his boring-as-a-wooden-stake persona, that he has started launching pre-emptive strikes on anyone who tries to probe the depths of his dullness.

When he played against Armenian Sargis Sargsian in the third round of the French Open, he was put out on the furthest court. "Short of putting me in the Bois de Boulogne, there's little more they could have done," said Norman to a journalist who had simply asked him whether he believed he would win his first Grand Slam title in Paris.

Even his own Swedish media show similar disinterest. Offered an exclusive interview with the best home-grown tennis star of his generation, they said they would rather take a few words off the internet instead.

"The Swedish press are bad," said Norman. "If they start to write something, we have to win a Grand Slam. I made the semi-finals in Australia and the final in France, and they start to compare me to Borg, who has won 11 Slams."

Comparisons with the giants of Swedish tennis - Borg, Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg - are a trifle premature. Yet for many making the link, it is undoubtedly his imperturbability rather than consistency of play that informs comparisons.

While Norman may be the very vision of even-temper these days, it wasn't always so. As a junior, he was almost as successful at racquet- chucking as he was at tennis, once comically having to withdraw in tears from a tournament when he unintentionally threw his racquet up a tree only to find a string had gone on his replacement.

These days, though, Norman seems resigned to accepting his lot. Playing against Marat Safin in the French Open, Norman's self- control was in evidence as the Russian broke three racquets. What he was not prepared for, however, was the fact that the European crowd were behind Safin, not him, as they were later to cheer for Kuerten in the final.

"That hurts, but I have to accept that crowds like players like Marat, who can serve an ace, and then break his racquet on the next. The tour needs players like those, not boring men like me who don't show emotion."

In many way, he is doing himself a disservice, for he is quite capable of cursing and spitting with the best of them. But he insists keeping his temper under control has been the key to his progression from 22 in the world two years ago to contesting the No 1 spot with Kuerten this summer.

In truth, it's a status which many fellow pros do not believe he deserves. Medvedev referred to him as the "so-called world number one", before insisting that the locker room placed Sampras, Agassi, Kuerten, Kafelnikov and even Pioline ahead of him.
In his typically reasonable fashion, it is an assessment Norman is loathe to contest. He has, as he reminds everybody, yet to win a Grand Slam. That is something he wants to change in New York. And he doesn't need to say it with a straight face for us to know he isn't joking.

It's no laughing matter, finds Richard Bath, when a stultifyingly serious young Swede closes in on his first Grand Slam victory

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