Top 10: 15 minutes of Olympic fame

Aug 7, 2012, 3:59:17 PM

If this year in London, in both Ladies and Men’s draws, all the best (or almost) were there in the semi-finals, this has not always been the case. During the Olympics, outsiders often shoot to prominence to...

If this year in London, in both Ladies and Men’s draws, all the best (or almost) were there in the semi-finals, this has not always been the case. During the Olympics, outsiders often shoot to prominence to experience worldwide fame the Andy Warhol way. A quick review.

  Nicolas Massu (Chile, Gold medal, Athens 2004) The greatest thief. The ultimate opportunist. The Chilean had not won four matches on hard-courts that season and yet he won Olympic gold in Athens in 2004, both in singles and doubles with his compatriot Fernando Gonzalez to take home the first two gold medals for his country. Federer had just emerged, Nadal was still a junior and Djokovic was still at school. With a place in the last sixteen at the U.S. Open his best-ever Slam performance, Massu took advantage of the tiny breach to be at the right place at the right time...   Jordi Arrese (Spain, Silver medal, Barcelona 1992) With a little luck in the fifth set (lost 6-8 against Rosset, editor's note), the humble journeyman of the tour, Jordi Arrese, could have surpassed Massu in the kingdom of thieves. To become, at his home in Barcelona, the herald of a whole nation. A forerunner of Bruguera (winner at Roland-Garros in 93 and 94), Moya (98), Costa (2002) and Ferrero (2003) before the reign of the ogre Rafa.   Taylor Dent (USA, 4th place, Athens 2004) This son of an Australian top 20 player from the 70s and of a great American doubles player, Taylor Dent had genetics on his side. He didn't do much with it. Apart from a devastating service and four titles in minor tournaments, this native of Newport Beach, California, let pass a chance to etch his name in eternity at the Athens Olympics. After a victory in the quarter-finals against Tomas Berdych, Dent lost to Massu in the semi-finals and 14-16 in the third set against Gonzalez in the match for third place...   Jelena Dokic (Australia, 4th place, Sydney 2000) There will always be the Jelena Dokic mystery. An exceptionally gifted junior world champion in 98, the fourth in the world at nineteen in 2002, she never realised the great things that were expected of her. Blame it on a tyrannical father, on uncertain roots somewhere between Serbia and Croatia, and on a chaotic journey: she fled the former Yugoslavia with her family at ten years old before returning to Europe in the early 2000s to finally go to the Aussies, her "true country". Her best memory? Neither her semi-final at Wimbledon, nor her quarterfinals at Roland Garros but this unlikely fourth place at the Sydney Olympics, at home. Dementieva defeated her in semis, then Seles for the bronze...   Andreï Cherkasov (Russia, Bronze medal, Barcelona 1992) A quiet lad. Thirteenth in the World, quarter-finalist in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments, two titles grabbed in Moscow and a bronze medal at the Olympics. His background as ex-Soviet added to the mystery…   Manuela Maleeva (Bulgaria, Bronze medal, Seoul 1988) To view Manuela Maleeva’s career uniquely through her bronze medal won in South Korea is obviously unfair, given she also was once ranked third in the world. Except that, despite her thirty-seven finals on the tour for 19 victories, the Swiss-Bulgarian never exceeded the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam (except in New York, semi-finalist twice, Editor's note). In 1988 she lost against Steffi Graf in the semi-finals of the Olympics and shared the bronze medal with Zina Garrison. Almost nonsensical, given the scale of her talent...   Leander Paes (India, Bronze medal, Atlanta 1996) Last week, the London Olympics were his sixth appearance. First in Barcelona. Second in Atlanta, with the bronze in singles. Then Sydney and Athens, where he lost the final for the third place with Bhupathi 14-16 against the Croatian the pair Ancic/ Ljubicic. Over the years, he became a leading player in doubles (13 Grand Slam titles, Editor's note) and he was pleased that the mixed was admitted to the 2012 Olympics. Unfortunately for him, as in Beijing, he won't collect any medals this time. Although there’s always Rio, for what would be his 25th year on tour and at 43 years old…   Alicia Molik (Australia, Bronze medal, Athens 2004) In the end, Alicia Molik would earn over $ 3.2 million in prize-money in her career, mostly in doubles, with two victories in Grand Slams. Even if she briefly occupied the eighth place in the WTA ranking, she never showed much in singles play, apart from this single bronze medal, taken from under the nose of Myskina, the winner of Roland Garros 2004.   Arnaud di Pasquale (France, Bronze medal Sydney 2000) Now in charge of the elite programme at the French Tennis Federation, Arnaud di Pasquale was pleased last weekend with the medals in doubles for the Frenchies. It reminded him of something ... Before seeing his career devastated by injuries, "Dip" eliminated three seeds - including Magnus Norman - in Sydney in 2000 before being eliminated by Kafelnikov in semis before finding enough motivation to beat a young Roger Federer for the bronze...   Fernando Meligeni (Brazil, 4th place, Atlanta 1996) The former sidekick of Gustavo Kuerten in doubles could embody a sort of composite picture of the tennis player who won his Warholian fifteen minutes at the Olympics. In short: he won a few tournaments (Meligeni won three, Editor's note); reached his best ranking in mid-career with a 25th place; he is good in doubles (7 titles, Editor's note) and had one good run in a Grand Slam, once reaching the semis in Paris. All this together, he shined at the Olympics and once reached the semi-finals, where he fell on someone who had a profile even more unlikely than his own in Leander Paes. QED.   By Rico Rizzitelli