Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What happens to one-slam wonders?

This evening, I read a series of comments about whether it was right to induct Gabriela Sabatini into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and whether Kim Clijsters--if she doesn't win another Slam before retiring at the end of this year--should be inducted. The general results of the discussion were:

1. Sabatini should not have been inducted.

2. It was right to induct Sabatini because: a. she would have won more Slams if she hadn't been playing in the error of dominating tennis geniuses Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, b. she brought much more to tennis than just Slam competition, including c. her glamor and sex appeal.

3. Clijsters should not be inducted unless she hurries up and wins another Slam because, unlike Sabatini, she has not brought much else to the world of tennis.

Clijsters has won 34 singles titles and 11 doubles titles, including two Slam titles. Sabatini won 27 singles titles and 14 doubles titles, including one Slam title. Clijsters was a finalist in 4 Grand Slam events; Sabatini was a finalist in 2 Slam events, and she also won a silver medal at the Olympics. Clijsters has been an active Fed Cup team member, and--like Sabatini--won the WTA Year-End Championships twice. Clijsters, unlike Sabatini, has been ranked number one in the world.

Looks about even to me. Both are properly called under-achievers. Sabatini retired suddenly at age 26, and Clijsters is retiring (she'll be 24) long before her fans want her to.

On to glamor and sex appeal, but first let me first address the obvious sexism inherent in this consideration. To even suggest that a woman should or should not be inducted into the Hall of Fame on the basis of "glamor" is deeply offensive. In this case, it is also not fact-based. Sabatini is very glamorous now, but when she was on the tour, she was not. She did, however, have one of the most graceful and beautiful games of anyone I can recall. Clijsters, for her part, astounds fans with her athleticism, and especially with the Clijsters splits.

I personally think that a lot more should be considered than just Slam wins in the decision to induct someone into the Hall of Fame. Yes, there should be at least one Slam victory, but there are tour titles, Fed Cup, the Year-End Championships, the Olympics, and the consistency of a high ranking to be factored in.


Hi Diane,

Liked the blog entry, and want to chime in with my own thoughts. Before I do, I just want to point out, that Kim Clijsters has just one Slam title, and Sabatini played in three slam finals. Your right about Kim's statistics being very similar to Sabatini's. Personally, I do feel Sabatini belongs in the Hall of Fame, just as I feel Kim has the credentials to make it too.

But you make the point, that both are properly called under-achievers. Actually, you contradict yourself somewhat, because you list their accomplishments, while still referring to them as under-achievers. I can name many, many people who played the game who would have been thrilled to "underachieve" the way Kim Clijsters and Sabatini did. So I disagree with you on this point. How about Jana Novotna?. Was she an underachiever?. Jana, just as Sabatini, deserved to make the Hall of Fame, even though both have just one slam title.

I agree with your statement, that much more should be considered than just slam titles, when deciding to elect someone into the Hall of Fame. And that's exactly what the people who have a Hall of Fame vote were looking at. Both Jana and Sabatini were forces in womens tennis, and were consistently ranked in the top 10. Jana and Sabatini had to face the best who ever played the game, in Steffi and Monica. Both have their slam title, and both won year end championships(1 for Jana, 2 for Sabatini). You can bet, that the Hall took all these factors into serious consideration, when they elected Sabatini and Jana.

So based on your criteria, Kim deserves a spot in the Hall, just as Jana and Sabatini. People can have their own opinions and theories on why someone should or shouldn't be elected into the Hall of Fame. But the bottom line is, the Hall of Fame believed Jana Novotna and Sabatini were worthy of induction, and that's all that really matters. Will Kim make it?. I certainly hope so, because she deserves it just as much as Jana and Sabatini. I enjoyed your blog entry, and thank you for posting it.

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