I am quite certain that at some point today, Thomas Muster, Sergi Bruguera and perhaps a few other former Grand Slam champions all scratched their head upon hearing the news that Michael Chang officially entered the Tennis Hall of Fame.
They scratched their heads not at puzzlement over Chang’s entry, but likely of their own continued omission.
Now let me be perfectly upfront, I have nothing against Chang. I congratulate him for his entry and for his success on the tour. From my lazy-boy recliner vantage point I thought he was a terrific player, gave it his all, fought hard and he helped promote the sport especially in Asia.
But I have to ask how does he get in when a guy like Muster, who won more titles than Chang (44 to 34) and even reached No. 1 is still awaiting his ticket to be punched to Newport?
Popular support argument might be: “Yeah, but Michael was such an ambassador of tennis in Asia and we all remember his underhand serve while he was cramping against Lendl.”
To which I might respond, “Thomas Muster. Hitting forehands. Wheelchair. Look it up!”
Again, not Chang’s fault, it’s the system.
And in my mind even someone like Bruguera has a case. He won one more French Open than Chang or Yannick Noah did and Sergi reached another final, yet that’s not enough for the Hall voters and my guess is it probably never will be. Unfortunately for Bruguera he never had the persona and popularity of a guy like Patrick Rafter who got in with two Slams and fewer titles than Bruguera, though the Australian was No. 1 for a few weeks and more importantly, was in the hearts and minds of many. Had Bruguera been a popular American clay-court specialist, guess what? He’s already in!
Yannick Noah, by the way: One Slam, 23 titles, career-high No. 4? Pourquoi?
So it makes me wonder just what the minimum standards for Hall of Fame entry are. Based on recent inductees I don’t think they really have any, but I could be wrong. That said, here’s my criteria for HOF consideration:
Player must have ranked No. 1;
or, have won at least two Slams;
or, won at least 40 titles;
or, have reached the finals at all four Slams, winning at least one;
or, won a Slam after practicing groundies from a wheelchair with at least one limb in a cast.
If you can say “yes” to any of the above, then you can get nominated. If you can’t, keep practicing. Seems simple enough to me.
And if Chang or Noah or even a one-slammer like Gabriela Sabatini can get in, what about other “single slammers” like Albert Costa, Michael Stich, Richard Krajicek, Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Cash. They, too, may have a case. (Ok, only Stich and Goran really do!)
As for the current guys. Obviously Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal are direct in. I think Marat Safin, Lleyton Hewitt and the just-retired Gustavo Kuerten get in. Radek Stepanek gets in for his off-court skills. I also think Andy Roddick – Slam, Davis Cup, year-end No. 1 and he’s American! – is in, as is Juan Carlos Ferrero who is deserving with a No. 1 ranking, a Slam and a Davis Cup title. And under my system even Carlos Moya gets in. He was No. 1. allegedly.
With the women, Maria Sharapova, Justin Henin, the Williams sisters, Lindsay Davenport, Amelia Mauresmo, Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic can all book travel to lovely Newport.
Players I who I don’t think need to make any such bookings unless they plan on vacationing in Rhode Island include Thomas Johansson, Gaston Gaudio, David Nalbandian, Vince Spadea, Nikolay Davydenko and Anastasia Myskina. Of course they can all prove me wrong but right now I really don’t like their chances.
And that leaves just about everyone else is on that Hall of Fame bubble, scratching their heads.
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