The Late Breakthrough

2011 is being a very pleasant year when it comes to young guns starting making their names among respectable and top-flight pros. However, at the same time we’re amazed by Dolgopolov’s exotic yet so amazing playing style, Milos’ powerful bombs and the Dimitrov resemblance with Federer in his 20s, we should also be amazed by two veterans who only after more than a decade in the business are feeling the glory to be one of the ten best people in their job.

My eyes see Jurgen Melzer’s history very similar with Robin’s. They were both top-30 players, to whom that glorious no.27 seemed to be the further they would live to be, without big achievements (Soderling’s was best known for his feud with Nadal and Melzer’s biggest feat by then was, maybe it still is, depends, dating Dominika “Thighs” Cibulkova).

The guy in white won. I KNOW, OK? Photo: Yahoo! Images

But both had a Roland Garros in the middle of the way. And while the Swede still stands as the only brave hero to beat Nadal at the French Open, Melzer’s signature run included beating a top-5 player, who wasn’t on his best form, but still performs a signature exhibition. Jurgen rallied past Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals – and he had already beaten David Ferrer, who had had an outstanding clay season by then – despite being two sets and one break down to reach his first ever Grand Slam semifinal – it was also the first time Melzer had gotten past the 3rd round at a Major event.

28-year old Deutsch Wagram resident life’s then only got up. He was no match for Rafa, but who is? But when you put in perspective and see that Jurgen was only halted by Federer at both Wimbledon and the US Open – but no-one could stop him and Petzschener in the Gentlemen doubles – defended his Vienna title, made the finals at the former-Masters Hamburg and has two Masters quarterfinals (Paris and Shangai) featuring on his “Rankings Breakdown” page, you definitely gotta admit he earned it.

Today, after beating clay-specialist Nicolas Almagro, who had compiled a 15-1 record on clay in 2011 prior to Monte Carlo, Melzer walked another step on the rankings (he was already safe at no.8 before even getting on court, but don’t take the literacy out of it) and helped and welcomed another veteran in the select group called “the top-10”.

Mardy Fish, 29, 11 as a pro, five titles, three finals at Masters Series, many more injuries, some comebacks. The US-born player which cumulated more points in the past 52 weeks – in other words, the no.1 American (I have another article for that, if you want to check…).

"Hey, you, top-10!" "Who? Me?" // Yahoo! Images

It could have been at Houston, but a young Japanese denied it to him. It could have been Almagro, and I unbiasedly (or whatever you say it, lol. Tell me in the comments) state he deserves to be there someday, but Melzer said ‘no’. And he said it with a breadstick and a rain-interrumpted-6/4. For me, it’s like Melzer said “No, Nico! I MUST beat you, because somewhere, an unknown tennis fan wants to write a piece about me and Fish reaching new career highs inside the top-10 in the same week”.

I am thankful for that. Hope you’re too.

Back from the digression. Back from the dead. Mardy Fish. After another injury that sidelined for a while in 2009 and indirectly caused him to leave the top-100 after Delray Beach the following year, Mardy started an impressive comeback.

Because he was slimmer. And after falling from no.55 in January to no.108 in the first week of March (a place he hadn’t been to since 2006), Fish had nowhere to go but up. And that’s exactly where he went. Mardy Fish won more titles and in any other year of his pro career to finish the year with a great 40-14 record, sitting on his new career high, one position above of the previous, as no.16.

What happened next you can check on my “Cheers Mardy” piece, a few posts below. Will not repeat what I once again (even though you might have a little déjà-vu reading this) and it’s about time to close this one out.

The same way we applause when the future generations get the big wins, like Dolgo over Sod and Raonic over Verdasco and Fish (twice… against both!) we should give a standing ovation to the veterans who finally find their way on the pro circuit.

It’s true they can’t dream with more than this. But nevertheless, congratulations to the new no.8 Jurgen Melzer and the newest top-10 of the block, Mardy Fish. They had the chances. They made it. And they proved it’s never too late to shine.

Spray the champagne!





Yahoo! Images

Jurgen Melzer did this.


About Pete S. Liguori
Pete was born in São Paulo, Brasil. Loves sports - pigskin fanatic, tennis lover. One of his most famous quotes is "I'm no Tolstoi, but I love the Dallas Cowboys" His favorite quote of all time is "I'll keep playing", unknown author.

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