Who should be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame?
Justine Henin and Marat Safin will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame next month. It will be held at the Newport Casino, also the venue of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. This ATP World Tour 250 series tournament is played on grass courts, also the site of the US Open during its early years. It houses a vast collection of artifacts and memorabilia, which highlights the history of tennis. Thus the inductees have made an impact on the sport.
Henin's seven Grand Slam singles titles included four French Open trophies. She was the year-end top player of 2003, 2006, and 2007. Safin, on the other hand, was the first Russian professional to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He had a checkered career, which was caused by injuries. He was at the top of the ATP singles rankings from November 2000 to April 2001. Winning the 2000 US Open and the 2005 Australian Open were highlights of his career. (Safin beat Pete Sampras in Flushing Meadows. He had a dramatic victory over Roger Federer in the semifinals of the Australian Open before defeating Lleyton Hewitt in the finals.)
The criteria for naming the inductees would be any fan's guess. And the total number of majors won't be a factor. (Michael Chang would be remembered for his unforgettable run to the finals at Roland Garros in 1989. He reached the finals of a Grand Slam tournament three more times.) Come to think of it, who would be the former players that should be included in this esteemed company? Here are five:
Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Some would think that Kafelnikov's record at the major tournaments were more impressive than Safin's. Two Grand Slam singles titles. Four major doubles titles. Olympic gold medal (Sydney, 2000). He was also one of the few male players to win the singles and doubles titles on the major tournament on the same year. Last but not the least, he reached the top of the ATP rankings on May 3, 1999. So why he was passed up? PR image might be the main reason. (Safin was a charismatic figure.) It would be unfair, but the selection could be subjective. Perhaps he would be considered for the Class of 2017.
Mary Pierce. She won the Australian Open in 1995, and then the French Open in 2000. She was as gifted (and powerful) as Jennifer Capriati, who was inducted in 2012. It could be the case of being overlooked (in favor of her more popular colleagues). There would be a next time.
Conchita Martinez. She won her only major singles title at the All-England Club, which would be significant for three reasons. She was the first Spanish player to win the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. The Spaniards are renowned for their prowess in the clay courts, which made her victory more special. Apart from Rafael Nadal, there might not be another one who would lift the Venus Rosewater Dish. (Some believe that GarbiÃ±e Muguruza will be triumphant at the All-England Club. But it might take years before her run to the finals last year will be repeated.) Martinez is currently the captain of Spanish Fed Cup team and the Spanish Davis Cup team (as well). Billie Jean King would be proud of her.
Carlos MoyÃ¡. The 1998 French Open champion was an all-around player. He reached the finals of the Australian Open in 1997. He lost to Alex Corretja in the all-Spanish finals of the 1998 ATP Tour World Championships. He was the top-ranked player in the ATP Tour in 1999. He had success in the hard courts. (He won the 2002 Cincinnati Masters.)
Michael Stich. He played under Boris Becker's shadow, but he had a fine career. He beat Becker to win the 1991 Wimbledon Championships. He defeated Sampras in the finals of the 1993 ATP Tour World Championships. He was a finalist at the 1994 US Open and 1996 French Open.
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