At each Olympics ago there is often an outsider who crashes the party. Every four years the International Tennis Federation invites a few champions from smaller countries to rub shoulders with the lords of the ATP Tour. For the most part they get smashed. The best of the worst...
1 / Christophe Pognon, soundly beaten by Kuerten - Sydney 2000.
The Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten, world number three, against the Beninese Christophe Pognon, not even ranked by the ATP. The joke lasted for 38 minutes, not a second more, the time it took for Kuerten to romp to a 6-1 6-1 victory. But this unranked player, then registered in France, said that he would never forget that moment. "When I entered the court I was a little shy. At the end, Kuerten told me I played a good match!" The three-time winner at Roland Garros left him here and there what is called “courtesy game”. It was well worth a picture - in a surreal scene, the loser actually asked to be photographed with his conqueror on the court at the end of the match.
2 / Diego Camacho, left on the side of the road by Tarango - Sydney 2000.
Same tournament - and the same situation as between Kuerten and Pognon. Except that this rascal Jeff Tarango, the man who once bared his bum in front of a bemused Tokyo crowd and who, on another day at Wimbledon, left the court hurling insults at the referee, couldn't care less that the poor Bolivian Diego Camacho didn't appear in the world rankings. He did his job, end of story. And if the American let a game go at 6-0 4-0, it wasn’t out of kindness. He was just annoyed for he just had been censured for his non-regulatory outfit.
3 / Orlando Lourenco, torpedoed by Forget - Los Angeles 1984.
It was written in bold letters on his business card: "competed at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles". It was 28 years ago and the Zimbabwean, now a tennis teacher in Tennessee, is one of the few to remember it. Sad. That day, Guy Forget, then ranked 109th in the world, beat Orlando Lourenco, unranked in the pros, 6-3 6-1 in the first round. The one and only line on the tournament CV of this expat, also colour-blind, which allowed him to live his Warholian fifteen minutes of fame. As for the Frenchman, when asked today what he remembers of it, he pretends to have forgotten. It must be said that in his career, he must have had so many encounters with colour-blind Zimbabweans...
4 / Neyssa Etienne, crushed by Talaja - Sydney 2000.
Coached for a while by Laurent Lamothe, the current Haitian Prime Minister and pretty good player in the BNP Paribas' Davis Cup, Neyssa Etienne received a nice boost in 2000: an invitation to the Olympics. A Mary Pierce fan, despite being nowhere to be found in the WTA rankings she wasn’t afraid of bold statements: "I play like her actually, I play from the baseline, and I have a thundering forehand and a good backhand." Always watch what you say... In Sydney, she was sent home right away by the Croatian Silvija Talaja, 6-1 6-0. It was her first big tournament. It was also to be the last.
5 / Bong Soo Kim, not that bad against Leconte - Seoul 1988.
They still laugh about it in the Land of the Morning Calm. It was Henri Leconte who gave Korean tennis its sole claim to fame. Arriving at the last moment in Seoul after a long hesitation, Mr I-can-do-the-best-or-the-worst hit a wall in the second round against a modest player invited just because he was in the area. Bong Soo Kim, world ranking - 361 (!), was supposed to be a dispatched with ease, but instead he is, to date, the only player who came from nowhere to have surprised a big name at the Olympics.