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Sports Then and Now

Queens of the Court 1

Posted on January 15, 2010 by Marianne Bevis

Helen Wills Moody

Helen Wills Moody

Our Queens of the Court Series spans about 100 years, from someone who was born in 1884, to someone who was stabbed on court in 1993.  Below please find links to the Queens of the Court series:

Queens of the Court: Monica Seles, What If? 2

Posted on January 10, 2010 by JA Allen
It is hard not to wonder just how great Monica Seles could have been were it not for the attack in ?????.

It is hard not to wonder just how great Monica Seles could have been were it not for the attack in Hamburg.

Monica Seles, a former world No. 1 tennis player, released her memoir Getting A Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self on April 21, 2009.

The autobiography details her bout with depression and her subsequent food addiction after being stabbed in a tennis tournament in Germany.

It also describes dealing with her father’s cancer diagnosis and eventual death, which devastated a daughter who was very close to her dad. Finally it follows her journey back to the game and her aim for a life beyond tennis.

Later on July 11, 2009, Seles was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, drawing attention to her story by a generation of tennis fans who may have missed her extraordinary rise to the top of the women’s game in the ’90s.

The Early Years

Monica Seles was born in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia on Dec. 2, 1973 but she became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1994. She started playing tennis when she was five years of age.

Her father, Karoly Seles, coached her and was the one who helped her develop her unique two-handed style with both the forehand and the backhand. He also contrived special moments that made the day-to-day practices fun for the little girl.

She was one of many tennis talents discovered and developed by Nick Bollettieri, training in the Bollettieri Tennis Academy for two years. Read the rest of this entry →

Queens of the Court: Martina Navratilova, Lifting The Game To New Heights 11

Posted on January 04, 2010 by Marianne Bevis
Martina Navratilova dominated women's tennis for more than a decade.

Martina Navratilova dominated women's tennis for more than a decade.

Her achievements on the tennis court are almost without parallel.

Her energy in supporting the rights of others has been a constant.

Her passion for the sport that she says “gave her a soul” is unquestioned.

Yet it is one particular interview, following one particularly unlikely event in this tennis icon’s life, that throws as much light on her character as any of those achievements.

Martina Navratilova was a surprise participant, and a surprisingly popular finalist, in the 2008 television show “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here.” And in an interview for the U.K.’s revered Times newspaper, she admitted it was simply the challenge that made her sign up.

“I want challenges, whether cerebral or physical…If you never push yourself, you won’t know what your point of failure is. People always said I was so competitive. Not with other people, with myself.”

This gets to the heart of what made Navratilova one of the most successful women ever to pick up a tennis racket: the need to prove to both herself and the world what was possible.

However, there is a second quote that gets to the heart of what makes her such an enduring, respected, and important woman beyond the tennis court.

“If I feel strongly, I say it. I know I can do more good by being vocal than by staying quiet. I’d have a whole lot more money if I lied, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed spending it.”

This is the story of a courageous, feisty, and generous woman who also happened to challenge political repression and personal prejudice on her way to becoming one of the world’s greatest living athletes.

“You can’t live in the past.”

Navratilova was born in October 1956, in Prague, Czechoslovakia, but her ski-instructor father and her mother divorced when she was still very young.

Tennis ran in her family. Her grandmother had been an international player and, when her mother remarried in 1962, her stepfather became her coach.

By the age of eight, Navratilova reached the semifinals of her first tournament, and her talent began to attract the attention of the Czech authorities.

In 1972, age 15, Navratilova won the Czech national tennis championships. The next year, she reached the quarterfinals of the French Open and the third round of Wimbledon. Read the rest of this entry →

Queens of the Court: Chris Evert, Never Count Out The “Ice Maiden” 4

Posted on December 20, 2009 by JA Allen
Always keeping her eye on the prize, Chris Evert won at least one major for 14 straight years.

Always keeping her eye on the prize, Chris Evert won at least one major for 13 straight years.

As half of one of the greatest sports rivalries of all time, Chris Evert is probably the “half” less appreciated today.

Her battles with Martina Navratilova grew to legendary status as they met so often in the finals of majors. The fact that Navratilova’s career extended years beyond Evert’s is the reason the Czech-American is better known today.

Evert was a powerful baseline player and Navratilova had the ultimate serve and volley game. They battled during an era when these two playing styles clashed on tennis courts around the world.

But there was something else different between these two champions—their on court demeanor and individual personalities were as opposite as night and day.

The one thing they did share in common was an ultimate drive and a fervent determination to be the No. 1 tennis player in the world.

Knowing her, you have to believe that when Christine “Chris” Marie Evert was born on Dec. 21, 1954, she must have come into the world with a tennis racket clutched in her tiny little hand. Thank goodness her mother never had to endure such a handicap. Mom simply had to contend with family members whose lives revolved around the sport. Read the rest of this entry →

Queens of the Court: Steffi Graf, A Golden Champion 4

Posted on December 13, 2009 by Claudia Celestial Girl
Seven of Steffi Graf's 22 career Grand Slam titles came at Wimbledon.

Seven of Steffi Graf's 22 career Grand Slam titles came at Wimbledon.

“Will you marry me?” someone called from the stands.

“How much money do you have?” was Steffi’s gravely delivered response, eyes fixed upon her opponent across the net.

The crowd erupted in laughter.  It was Wimbledon, and a crowd, and player, not given to much jocularity.  She’d been dating race car driver, Michael Bartels, for years, with no indication that anything more serious was coming out of it.  It was an impertinent question, an improbable response, and so hugely funny at the time.

For me as a casual spectator (watching it on TV, from the horizontal position on the couch, no less), it was the first indication that the serious, un-smiling, un-’gamine,’ Steffi Graf might be  interested in more than crushing  opponents with hard-core resolve; be more than merely stoic in demeanor.

Stefanie Marie Graf.  Born June 14, 1969.  One of a few well-beloved living legends of this, or any, sport.  Arguably the greatest woman’s champion of all time.  She turned pro at age 13, at age 19 she completed one of the feats of all sports, a Golden Slam – a calendar year Grand Slam of tennis majors and an Olympic Gold medal (1988 – Sydney), that is only a part of her legend.

She retired in 1999, after almost 17 years in the sport, with a total of 22 major titles, second only in history to Margaret Court’s astounding 24.

What distinguished her (see summary at the end of the article), was ability on all surfaces.  Some tennis players are grass court specialists (with a minor on hardcourts), for example. Not Steffi.  She had terrific ability on all surfaces.

Read the rest of this entry →

Queens of the Court: Evonne Goolagong, A Luminous Star 5

Posted on November 15, 2009 by Claudia Celestial Girl
Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong claimed seven Grand Slam titles during her career.

Evonne Goolagong can be described in mathematical terms.

Parallels and angles. Circles and singularities (a situation that is completely unique). Chaos versus The Metronome.

She will be forever remembered as a seven-time Grand Slam winner: four Australian Open, two Wimbledon, and one French Open title(s).

She was a contemporary of Jimmy Connors. (Jimbo was born Sept. 2, 1952, Evonne on July 31, 1951), and her career paralleled his in its dramatic jump-start.

In 1970, at age 18, Connors recorded his first significant victory in the first round of the Pacific Southwest Open in Los Angeles, defeating Australian tennis legend Roy Emerson.

Goolagong came out of nowhere to win the 1971 French Open at the age of 19 and then shocked the world again a month later when she routed her idol, fellow Australian Margaret Court, 6-4, 6-1, to win her first Wimbledon title.

1971 was the year that Love Story was No. 1 at the box office (in the US at least) and “Joy to the World,” by Three Dog Night was the No. 1 song. It was also the year that the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times and Apollo 14 landed on the moon.

1968, three years before, was a seminal year in the annals of tennis. It was the moment (March 30) that saw the birth of the “open” era, where professionals were allowed to compete in the majors—the beginning of modern tennis.

Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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