Tennis is bestest

Sorry, I had dropped out of the line and was limping in back play for a while there. But after a hit of magic spray and a whack of benedine i'm back and ready to take on the big boppers of sport. Starting with....


I love the game. I played, watched and even ball boy'ed (quick side note: while on ball boy duty my mate Phil Clarke walked in on a naked Ivan Lendl holding court and telling dirty jokes to a locker room full of pros, but that's a story for another time) and after watching Rafa Nadal destroy Roland Garros and Wimbledon in quick succession i had to finally come to terms with the fact that i am a big fan of this Spanish 'Toro Bravo'. His all court genius, humble nature and no bullshit toughness are irresistible. But its been a struggle to get to this point of adoration. For a while there trying to choose a favourite out of Nadal and Federer was a lot like choosing between the stones or the beatles, or violet crumbles and crunchies. They are all world class and very enjoyable but you kind of have to have a preference. In the lolly machine at work, i seem to always pluck for the honeycomb goodness of the violet crumble. At home when choosing a record to fire up to i always seem to go for 'let it bleed' or 'sticky fingers' rather than 'sgt peppers' or 'revolver'. And in recent one on one battles between Rafa and Roger, its been the Spaniards running fore hand passes that I've been gunning for.

Thinking about this also gave me a convenient excuse to write yet another list, this one titled 'Kurtis Ousley's Favourite 5 (male) Tennis players of all time'. (my disclaimer in not including some of the games greats like Johnny Mac and Bjorn Borg is that up until 1984 i had little interest in tennis. However through constantly having to attend my mothers Saturday afternoon ladies comp games, i gradually came to enjoy my time hitting against the wall during their tea break/gossip sessions and developed an unhealthy obsession for the game.)

5. Miloslav Mercir - This guy is a freaking legend. Look at him, how stylish can ya get? Plus he had two awesome nick names: 'the big cat' because of how smoothly he moved around the court, while the French called him 'le conjuror' because of his seemingly magical ability to create shots. He was also the last man to use a wooden racquet in a grand slam final (1986 u s open). He was so enamoured with the old wooden whackers that he was the only guy who supported Bjorn Borgs decision to use one when he made a come back in 1992. Mercir won the 1988 Olympic Gold medal and is fondly remembered by both pros and spectators as one of the all time favourite players to watch. Like fellow bands watching the star act at a big rock festival, you would often see pros in their tracksuits crammed onto the side of the court hoping to get a peek at 'le conjuror' in action.

4. Yannick Noah - I remember first watching this mesmerising figure playing on a telly at Wimbledon in the late 80's. He got smashed by someone who went on to do not much (Brad Gilbert perhaps?) but that didn't bother me. I vibed on his style and how 'cool' he looked while playing. He was the quintessential French show man who entertained even when getting flogged by some dour American no body. I asked my mum who this stylish yet seemingly hopeless individual was. She informed me that his name is Yannick Noah and that he could in fact play, having won the French Open in 1983. I didn't care, from that night on i always had a special place reserved for Yannick. However he truly became a legend when, in the late 90's, he not only scored a top 10 French hit with 'mon eldorado' (youtube it, just like his tennis career you'll be suitably underwhelmed yet strangely entertained) but he also revealed that during his career he would regularly smoke a reefer or 2 prior to a match.

What? no picture of Yannick hitting a tennis ball?
Trust me, Yannick would prefer it this way.

3. Gustavo 'Guga' Kuerten - Speaking of reefer, how cool is Gustavo Kuerten. The hairy Brazilian known as 'Guga' was virtually unbeatable at the French Open in the late 90's (Guillermo Vilas, as he handed Guga his first French open trophy in 1997, told him to 'Get ready kid, its gonna rain women in your lap!').

Duuude! how Gnarly was that last forehand cross court?

Guga was not your regular run of the mill, grunt out loud, say nothing, tennis is everything clay courter. He famously scaled down his tennis itinerary so that he could spend more time living in the basement of his parents house and surfing the 'gnarly' Brazilian break that broke at its door step. He became world number 1, won grand slams, was universally loved as a nice guy of tennis and married a Brazilian super model. Legend? Sure!

2. Pat Rafter - Why oh why, Pat, did you retire when you did? The man with the best back hand volley since Edberg is possibly the best grass court player to never win Wimbledon (he lost in the final in 2000 and 2001), Rafter never the less was one of the most enjoyable players to watch, largely because his high risk serve and volley style meant that he was never fully in or out of any match. But there in lies his charm as a player. Pat could have been up 2 sets to love and a break and you would still feel his opponent was not far off coming back. Conversely he will be remembered for many stirring come from behind victories (notably against his nemesis Andre Agassi at Wimbledon in 2001). He became world number 1, won grand slams, was universally loved as a nice guy of tennis and married a Australian super model. Legend? Sure!
There really aren't enough
headbands in the modern game

1. Stefan 'best backhand in the history of tennis' Edberg - Seriously, this picture says it all.

You think Miranda Kerr is hot?
Give me this backhand any day.

The Christmas days between 1988 and 1994 are still my favourites. This is because my parents would buy me the new Stefan Edberg tennis tracksuit. I still have a VHS of the 1990 Wimbledon final which was a 5 set thriller against Boris Becker. Awesome!

Kurtis J Ousley

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