Work in Sports
A first trip to the winner's circle
Posted: Friday January 28, 2000 04:51 PM
By Jon Wertheim, Sports Illustrated
Yet some of the sweetest moments in tennis occur when lesser-heralded players win less-heralded titles -- when those we don't know on a first-name basis get to emerge from the agate type to pose with a trophy. On center court Friday afternoon here, Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs beat Hingis and partner Mary Pierce 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to win the women's doubles title. Had Hingis won, she would have taken the trophy for the fourth straight time -- albeit with four different partners. She would have smiled her Chucky smile, pocketed prize money that would seem negligible given her vast earning potential, and promptly begun to focus on tomorrow's match against Davenport. It would have been like Warren Buffet winning the Pick Six.
For Raymond and Stubbs, on the other hand, the match meant everything. Both are talented veteran players who make a fine living on the tour; they even entered the tournament as the top-seeded team. But it's not every day that they're competing in the finals of a Grand Slam. In fact, in four tries last year, they made it past the quarterfinals only once. "Even though we won five events last year," says Raymond, "we weren't able to put it together for two straight weeks.'
This time they did. Combining a simple game plan -- "hit it to Pierce" -- with some deft poaching and shotmaking, Raymond and Stubbs played first-rate doubles. And when Hingis drove a nervous return wide on match point, they got to experience the unalloyed joy of winning all the marbles. Stubbs, an animated Australian, dropped to a Borg- like kneel to celebrate the biggest win of her career. Raymond, an affable American, wore a dazed smile a full hour after the match. A novice at delivering victory speeches, Stubbs choked up quickly when given the center-court mike. That she and Raymond are best friends off the court only served to make the moment more emotional. "To win my own Grand Slam in my own country with my friend watching," Stubbs said afterwards. "I can't think of anything better to happen." Neither can we.
Wonder if John McEnroe's reconsidering this whole Davis Cup business? Last night, cappy Mac was eating dinner when he got a call from Pete Sampras informing him he wouldn't be making the trip to Zimbabwe on account of a hip-flexor injury. Suddenly, the powerhouse team for the millennium may well be reduced to an Agassi/ Jim Courier singles lineup. ... After the women's doubles final, Hingis spent five minutes in the locker explaining to an incredulous Raymond and Stubbs how badly she had played. "It's hard for these players sometimes to give their opponents credit," says Stubbs. "It's so annoying." What did Stubbs say to Hingis in return? "Now you know how the humans feel." ... Mark Philippoussis, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt might have gone home prematurely for the locals' likes, but a full 20% of Australians watched Thursday's Sampras-Agassi classic.
Sports Illustrated staff writer Jon Wertheim will file daily from the
Australian Open. Don't forget to submit a
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