Lurking Through the Tournament
Posted: Thu July 2,
Frank Deford is working his third Wimbledon as a commentator and essayist for HBO Sports. Check out HBO's coverage of the women's semifinals today from 5-8 p.m. ET.
One of the great unsolved mysteries of tennis is why some playersgood players, champions evenget no attention whatsoever. Lindsay Davenport, for example, shhh, so quiet. The No. 2 seed, an American, she might as well be a stealth bomber for all the visibility she has received.
And Richard Krajicek? This man not only won Wimbledon two years ago, but many experts tip him as the best player in the men's draw right nowready to win again. So, the tournament stuck him out on Court 13 yesterday, out in the south 40 with the junior girls and mixed doubles. He says, "I think it helps me in a way. Because I can quietly work my way, I hope, into the finals." Krajicek is so cursed with uncelebrity that it didn't even make him controversial when he called women pros "fat, lazy pigs." He and Conchita Martinez, who won here in 1994, prove that not even victory guarantees the spotlight.
Doug Smith believes, "You have to win more than once particulary to get the attention of the American fans." Bud Collins has seen it: "I don't know if it's their personal hygiene or what. But there are players I call skulkers and lurkers and they are among those. They move along in the draw. Nobody wants to pay them any attention as you suggest. And then they do something."
A few players start off popular, then slip back into that anonymous status. Goren Ivanisevic, for example, went from matinée idol to obscurity. Mark Philippoussis was an instant hit. Then he became know as Silly-ppousis and disappeared. But some suddenly blossom. The best thing that ever happened to Jana Novotna was choking in the '94 Wimbledon final. She's not quite a star, but the sympathy vote moved her up over the Davenport-Krajicek line.
"There are some of the younger upcoming players who always get a little bit more attention than the other players," says Novotna. "But I always say to myself, 'I'm here to play tennis. So I should do my job on the court and if I do it well, then I will get all the attention I need."