Wednesday, October 3, 2007

James Martin revives the Sabatini controversy

Some time ago, in another blog, I wrote about the controversy surrounding Gabriela Sabatini's induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Some thought she should not have been inducted; others thought the induction was justified. I am in that latter group.

First, a quick look at the highlights of Sabatini's career:

  • 27 singles titles, including the U.S. Open, in1990
  • 14 doubles titles, including Wimbledon, in 1988
  • finalist in two other Grand Slam singles tournaments
  • two-time winner of what is now called the Sony Ericsson Championships (Year-End Championships)
  • silver medal at the 1988 Olympics

There is no doubt that--if Sabatini had not wound up the filling in the Graf-Seles sandwich, she would have achieved much more. It was her misfortune to play during a period when these two spectacular champions played. She got as high as number 3 in the world, and was only one or two points away from becoming number 1. She could also have achieved more if she had stayed on the tour longer. In his column for, James Martin says that Sabatini "was inducted last year on the strength of, well, one Slam...."

But that is not the reality of the matter. A player is not inducted into the International
Tennis Hall of Fame based solely on how many singles Grand Slams she has won. First, that would eliminate from consideration all of the doubles specialists. Should we deny Lisa Raymond induction? How about Rennae Stubbs? Second, Hall of Fame inductees are chosen "based on their records of competitive achievement." Surely "competitive achievement" encompasses more than Grand Slam singles wins.

I understand what Martin is saying--that the International Tennis Hall of Fame needs to change its standards so that so-called "one-Slam wonders" are not eligible. But that would still not eliminate Sabatini, unless it were made clear that doubles achievements simply do not count. Besides, 41 titles and a silver medal are nothing to sneeze at.

How many Grand Slam singles titles would be enough to permit induction? What about players who led their teams to major victories in Fed Cup competition? Would their achievements count? Do the Sony Ericsson Championships count for nothing?

I realize that there will probably always be some controversy surrounding Hall of Fame induction. But I think it is narrow to judge players' careers based on how many Grand Slam singles titles they have won. Many a great player has won only one or two, and though they "should" have won more, they were still great players with outstanding careers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.