Tags: Tennis, Players, Left handed
From Charlemagne to Leonardo Da Vinci, the ‘left-handedness versus the right’ debate can be traced back deep into history. Left handedness has been the topic of a not-so-silent debate, one that has only recently ceased to be a liability. A journey through the pages of a Medieval text will show us that left handed people lived in constant fear of being branded as warlocks, burnt alive for practicing the deadly art of witchcraft. Though the general attitude towards left-handedness is significantly less hostile, the stigma still exists today in parts of Asia, despite the knowledge of how the epigenetic gene manifests in various people. However, there has always been an unconquested boon of being left-handed: Sports. Left handed people have an advantage in sports that involve aiming at a target, because their opponents are be more accustomed to a largely right-handed majority. The result? A large representation of left-handed sports persons, especially in interactive sports like tennis, football, basketball et al.
Here’s a list of a few left-handed tennis prodigies, who rarely miss, their names intangible from the loud cheers of a crowd after a game. We present to you- The Left-Handed Court.
1. Jimmy Connors
James Scott Connors, born September 2, 1952, is a retired American world No. 1 tennis player, often considered among the greatest in the history of the sport. During his childhood he was coached and trained in the sport by his mother and grandmother, both of whom were avid players. He played in his first U.S. Championship, the U.S. boys' 11-and-under of 1961, when he was nine years old. Connors won the Junior Orange Bowl in both the 12- and the 14-year categories and is one of only nine tennis players to win the Junior Orange Bowl championship twice in its 70-year history, which list includes tennis legends like Andy Murray and Monica Seles. He turned professional in 1972 and won his first tournament, the Jacksonville Open.
Connors won eight Grand Slam singles championships: five US Opens, two Wimbledon’s, and one Australian Open. He only played in two Australian Opens in his entire career, winning it in 1974 and reaching the final in 1975. In the open era, Connors was one of only six men to win three or more Grand Slam singles titles in a calendar year.In 1984 Connors had made both the finals of Wimbledon and the WCT finals with semifinal appearances at the French Open, the US Open, and the Master’s Cup. He finished the year as the No. 2 ranked player after McEnroe. In 1985 he made the semi-finals of the big 4 four events and finished number No. 4 for the year, a ranking he would again obtain in 1987 at the age of 35. Connors had shining moments against John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl, both of whom rose to prominence after Connors peaked in the mid-1970s. He would go onto compete against much younger players and had one of the most remarkable comebacks for any athlete when he reached the semifinals of the 1991 US Open at the age of 39. Today, Connors’ legend remains unmatched. Perhaps what truly sets him apart is the fact that he is the only player to win the U.S. Open on three different surfaces—a record that will never be broken.
2. Goran Ivanisevic
Goran Ivanišević, born 13 September 1971, is a former Croatian professional tennis player and current coach. He is the only person to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon as a wildcard. He achieved this in 2001, having previously been runner-up at the championships held in 1992, 1994 and 1998.
Ivanišević made his first significant impact on the tour of 1990, knocking Boris Becker out of the first round of the French Open men's singles; going on to reach the quarterfinals. At that year's Wimbledon, Ivanišević reached the semifinals, where he lost to Becker in four sets. Ivanišević also won his first tour singles title in 1990 at Stuttgart and helped Yugoslavia win the World Team Cup. He played in eight ties for Yugoslavia in the Davis Cup before quitting the team after the Croatian declaration of independence in 1991.
Ivanišević quickly became known on the tour for his strong, attacking style of play and for an extremely powerful serve. For several years, he had more aces than anyone else on the tour. He was also known for occasional on-court temper tantrums (usually directed towards himself) and the volatility of the standard of his play. Moving onto to win the Grand Slam in 1995, he was ranked the world no. 125, in the summer of 2001. The 2001 Wimbledon title was the last of Ivanišević's career. He temporarily retired in 2002 due to shoulder surgery. He returned to tennis sparingly in the following years but, in 2004, retired after a third-round loss to Lleyton Hewitt at Wimbledon, held on the Centre Court, the scene of his greatest triumph.
3. Rod Laver
Rodney George Laver, born 9 August 1938, is a former Australian tennis player. He was the No. 1 ranked professional from 1964 to 1970, spanning four years before and three years after the start of the Open Era in 1968.
Laver was a teenager when he left school to pursue a tennis career that lasted 24 years. He was coached in Queensland by Charlie Hollis and later by the Australian Davis Cup team captain Harry Hopman, who gave Laver the nickname "Rocket". In December 1962 Laver turned professional after winning the Davis Cup with the Australian team. After an initial period of adjustment, he quickly established himself among the leading professional players of the time. In 1969, Laver won all four Grand Slam tournaments in the same calendar year for the second time, sealing the achievement with a four-set win over Roche in the US Open final. He won 18 of the 32 singles tournaments he entered (still the Open Era titles record) and compiled a 106–16 win-loss record. Winning came easily to Laver, going onto take home coveted prices like the Italian Open and the Tennis Championship Classic trophies. In 1972, Laver cut back his tournament schedule, partly because of back and knee injuries and his tennis camp businesses, but he still won five titles. The intricacy of Laver’s play was because of the control he possessed over his left hand. His left handed serve was well disguised and wide swinging.. His stroke technique was based on quick shoulder turns, true swings, and accurate timing. His backhand, often hit on the run, was a point-ender that gave him an advantage. Laver was very quick and had a strong left forearm.
Laver's 200 singles titles are the most in tennis history. This included his all-time men's record of 10 or more titles per year for seven consecutive years (1964–70). He excelled on all of the court surfaces of his time: grass, clay, hard, carpet, and wood/parquet. The Laver Cup Tournament is named after him.
4. Henri Leconte
Henri Leconte, born 4 July 1963, is a former French professional tennis player. He reached the men's singles final at the French Open in 1988, won the French Open men's doubles title in 1984, and helped France win the Davis Cup in 1991. Leconte's career-high singles ranking was world No. 5.
Leconte first came to the tennis world's attention as an outstanding junior player who won the French Open junior title in 1981. He turned professional that year and won his first career doubles title at Bologna, and his first top-level singles title the following year, 1982, in Stockholm. Leconte played in the Davis Cup final for the first time in 1982, when France was defeated 4–1 by the United States. 1986 saw Leconte reach two Grand Slam singles semi-finals at the French Open and Wimbledon attaining his career-high singles ranking of world No. 5. Leconte also played on the French team that won the World Team Cup that year. In 1991, Leconte was involved in the Davis Cup final for a second time. France again faced the US, and this time Leconte defeated Pete Sampras in straight sets in a critical singles rubber, and also teamed with Guy Forget to win the doubles rubber. In total, Leconte played for France's Davis Cup team for a total of 13 consecutive years, compiling a 41–25 record.
Henri retired from the professional tour in 1996, having won a total of nine career singles titles and ten doubles titles. Playing on the ATP Champions Tour for over-35's, he formed a doubles partnership with the Iranian player Mansour Bahrami.
He is now the manager of an event company (HL Event) based in Belgium and opened a tennis academy in Fès, Morocco, in 2006.
5. John McEnroe
John Patrick McEnroe Jr., born February 16, 1959, is an American tennis player. He was known for his shot-making artistry and volleying skills, winning him several trophies throughout the course of his career.
As an 18-year-old amateur in 1977, McEnroe won the mixed doubles at the French Open with Mary Carillo, and then made it through the qualifying tournament at Wimbledon and into the main draw, where he lost in the semifinals to Jimmy Connors in four sets. It was said to be the best performance by a qualifier at a Grand Slam tournament and a record performance by an amateur in the open era. John McEnroe routinely makes the lists of all-time lefty greats, competing in the Wimbledon’s with great vigor and enthusiasm. In 1983, McEnroe reached his fourth consecutive Wimbledon final, and sweeping aside the unheralded New Zealander Chris Lewis in straight sets. He played at the Australian Open for the first time, making it to the semifinals before being defeated in four sets by Mats Wilander. He made the WCT Final for the third time and beat Ivan Lendl in an epic five-setter. He took the Master’s Grand Prix title for the second time, again beating Lendl in straight sets. He also won major events at Philadelphia, Forest Hills, and Wembley, enabling him to capture the year-end number one ranking once again.
McEnroe became the top-ranked singles player in the world on March 3, 1980. He was the top-ranked player on 14 separate occasions between 1980 and 1985 and finished the year ranked No. 1 four straight years from 1981 through 1984. He spent a total of 170 weeks at the top of the rankings. After retiring, McEnroe pursued his post-tour goal of becoming a working musician. McEnroe formed The Johnny Smyth Band with himself as lead singer and guitarist, began writing songs, and played small gigs in cities where he played with the senior tour.
6. Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova, born October 18, 1956, is a Czechoslovak-born American former professional tennis player and coach. In 2005, Tennis magazine selected her as the greatest female tennis player for the years 1975 through 2005 and she is considered one of the best female tennis players of all time.
Navratilova was world No. 1 for a total of 332 weeks in singles, and a record 237 weeks in doubles, making her the only player in history to have held the top spot in both singles and doubles for over 200 weeks. She was year-end singles No. 1 seven times, including a record of five consecutive years, as well as year-end doubles No. 1 five times, including three consecutive years during which she held the ranking for the entire year. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 major women's doubles titles and 10 major mixed doubles titles, marking the open-era record for the most Grand Slam titles won by one player, male or female. She reached the Wimbledon singles final 12 times, including for nine consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and won the women's singles title at Wimbledon a record nine times. Navratilova is also one of just three women ever to have accomplished a Career Grand Slam in women's singles and doubles, and mixed doubles, called the career "Grand Slam Boxed Set"; consisting of every senior Grand Slam title, a distinction she shares only with two others.
Navratilova holds the records for most singles (167) and doubles titles (177) in the Open Era. Her record as No. 1 in singles remains the most dominant in professional tennis to date. Over five consecutive seasons, she won 428 out of 442 singles matches, averaging fewer than three losses per year to 87 wins, for a sustained winning percentage of 96.8%. She recorded the longest winning streak in the open era (74 consecutive matches) as well as three out of the six longest winning streaks in history. Navratilova capped off her career by winning the mixed doubles title, her 41st major doubles title (31 in women's doubles and 10 in mixed doubles) and 177th overall, at the 2006 US Open with American doubles specialist Bob Bryan. At the time, she was only about a month shy of her 50th birthday and broke her own record as the oldest ever major champion (aged 49 years, 10 months).
7. Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal, born 3 June 1986, is a Spanish professional tennis player currently ranked world no. 1 in men's singles tennis by the Association of Tennis Professionals. Born in Manacor, Spain, Nadal idolized Barcelona striker Ronaldo as a child. Recognizing in Rafael a natural talent, another uncle, Toni Nadal, a former professional tennis player, introduced him to tennis when he was three years old.
Nadal has won 19 Grand Slam singles titles, the second-most in history for a male player, as well as a record 35 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles, 20 ATP Tour 500 titles and the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles. In addition, Nadal has held the world no. 1 ranking for a total of 207 weeks, including being the year-end no. 1 five times. In majors, Nadal has won a record twelve French Open titles, four US Open titles, two Wimbledon titles and one Australian Open title, and won at least one Grand Slam every year for a record ten consecutive years (2005–2014). Nadal has won 84 career titles overall, including the most outdoor titles in the Open Era (82) and a record 59 titles on clay. With 81 consecutive wins on clay, Nadal holds the record for the longest single-surface win streak in the Open Era. Nadal has been involved in five Davis Cup titles with Spain, and currently has a 29-win streak and 29–1 record in singles matches at the event. In 2010, at the age of 24, he became the seventh male player and the youngest of five in the Open Era to achieve the singles Career Grand Slam. Nadal is the second male player after Andre Agassi to complete the singles Career Golden Slam, as well as the second male player after Mats Wilander to have won at least two Grand Slams on all three surfaces (grass, hard court and clay). He has received the tour Sportsmanship Award three times and has been named the ATP Player of the Year five times and the ITF World Champion four times. In 2011, Nadal was named the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year.
Nadal stands alone in the Open Era as the player with the most clay court titles (59), and holds a record of 12 French Opens, 11 Monte-Carlo Masters and 11 Barcelona titles. He also stands alone with the longest single surface win streak in matches (clay courts, 81) and in sets (clay courts, 50) in the history of the Open Era. Due to these achievements, many have called Nadal "The King of Clay",and is widely regarded as the greatest clay-court player in history. His evolution into an all-court champion has established him as one of the best players of all time.
8. Marcelo Ríos
Marcelo Ríos, born 26 December 1975, is a former world No. 1 tennis player from Chile. Nicknamed El Chino (The Chines) and El zurdo de Vitacura (The Lefty from Vitacura), he became the first Latin American player to reach the top position on the Association of Tennis Professionals singles rankings in 1998.
He held the world No. 1 ranking for six weeks. He also held the top ranking in both juniors and seniors. He was the first player to win all three clay-court Master’s Series tournaments (Monte Carlo, Rome, and Hamburg) since the format began in 1990. He was also the third male in the history to complete the Sunshine Double, winning Indian Wells and Miami Masters in one year, which he achieved in 1998. Despite winning those five Masters titles, he is the only male player in the open era to have been world No. 1 while never managing to win a Grand Slam singles tournament in his career. He did reach the 1998 Australian Open final, losing to Petr Korda in straight sets.
He retired prematurely in July 2004, after being overtaken by a back injury. He played his last ATP Tour level tournament while only 27 years old at the 2003 French Open.
9. Monica Seles
Monica Seles, born December 2, 1973, is a retired professional tennis player, who represented Yugoslavia and the United States. An ethnic Hungarian, she was born and raised in Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. A former world no. 1, she won nine Grand Slam singles titles, eight of them as a teenager while representing Yugoslavia, and the final one while representing the United States.
In 1990, Seles became the youngest ever French Open champion at the age of 16. She went on to win eight Grand Slam singles titles before her 20th birthday and was the year-end world no. 1 in 1991 and 1992. However, on April 30, 1993, she was the victim of an on-court attack, when a man stabbed her in the back with a 9-inch long knife. Seles did not return to tennis for over two years. Though she enjoyed some success after rejoining the tour in 1995, including a fourth Australian Open title in 1996, she was unable to consistently reproduce her best form. She played her last professional match at the 2003 French Open, but did not officially retire until February 2008. During the height of her career (the 1990 French Open through the 1993 Australian Open), she won eight of the 11 Grand Slam singles tournaments she contested. With eight Grand Slam singles titles before her 20th birthday, Seles holds the record for most Grand Slam singles titles won as a teenager in the Open Era.
Regarded by many in the sport as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, Seles was named one of the "30 Legends of Women's Tennis: Past, Present and Future" by Time. Several players and historians have stated that Seles had the potential to become the most accomplished female player of all time had she not been stabbed. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.
10. Mark Raymond Woodforde
Mark Raymond Woodforde, born 23 September 1965, is a former professional tennis player from Australia. He is best known as one half of "The Woodies", a doubles partnership with Todd Woodbridge.
Adelaide born Woodforde joined the men's professional tennis ATP Tour in 1984. Woodforde won four singles titles, including his hometown Adelaide tournament twice. His best singles result in a Grand Slam was reaching the semi-final of the Australian Open in 1996, his 38th Grand Slam singles tournament, which remains a record for the longest time taken to reach a maiden semi-final. Woodforde is best known for his doubles success, having won twelve Grand Slam doubles titles in his career – one French Open, two Australian Opens, three US Opens, and a record six Wimbledon’s. Eleven of these victories came as a member of the Woodies, and he won the 1989 US Open doubles with John McEnroe. He also won five Grand Slam mixed doubles titles – one French Open, two Australian Opens, one US Open, and one Wimbledon; thus, making an overall total of 17 Grand Slam doubles titles. He reached the world No. 1 doubles ranking in November 1992. Woodforde's other career highlights included a gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, and a silver medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Woodforde played for the Australian Davis Cup Team in three Davis Cup finals, including teaming with Woodbridge to clinch the 1999 win over France in Paris to give Australia its first Davis Cup victory in 13 years.
Woodforde retired from professional tennis in 2000 after a Davis Cup final loss to Spain and was appointed the coach of Australia's Fed Cup team in 2003. He has since provided commentary for tennis on Fox Sports and ESPN. In January 2010 on Australia Day, the Woodies were inducted to the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame for their achievements in tennis. As a part of the induction ceremony, their bronzed statues were placed with other great Australian tennis players at Melbourne Park.