The top eight players in the world are coming to London this week for the Masters. An event dedicated to the elite of the Top 10, where some have come and gone without really stopping. If history might has forgotten them, We Are Tennis has decided to come back on their fifteen minutes of fame.
Jiri Novak (highest ranking: 5th in 2002)
Until his 27th birthday, Jiri Novak was one of those solid players who roam the Top 100 in relative anonymity. A man respected more than feared. Good family man, the Czech saw his career take another dimension when he reached the last four of the Australian Open in early 2002. Building on this momentum, this doubles specialist kept having good results and made it to the Top 5 in October after a lost final in Madrid. While he calmed down thereafter, Novak can still boast of being the only man to have knocked Rafael Nadal in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas. It was in 2004. Since then, the Czech is still waiting for successor.
Kent Carlsson (6th in 1988)
Kent Carlsson was never a classic tennis player. To the comfort of four-star hotels, the Swede has always preferred the intimacy of his camper. More Borg than Edberg in terms of playing style, Carlsson achieved a tremendous series of 23 victories in 1988, winning tournaments in Kitzbühel, Saint Vincent and Barcelona before losing in Geneva's final. A recurring knee injury forced him to retire in 1990 at only 22 years old. He now runs a stud farm in Sweden, far from the tennis world that was finally just a brief fling.
Karol Kucera (6th in 1998)
Karol Kucera, it’s first of all a nickname: "Little Cat", given in reference to his coach, Miloslav Mecir, "The big Cat" of the 80s and magician of the little yellow ball. In 1998, the Slovak kitten yet grew all of a sudden. This fast surfaces fan had many great results: semi-final in Melbourne, quarterfinal in New York and victories in Sydney and New Haven. Held back by an arm injury, Kucera fell back into anonymity shortly after, despite a last tournament victory in Copenhagen in 2003.
Jay Berger (7th in 1990)
In the United States, the career of Jay Berger went almost unnoticed. It must be said that, at the time, Chang, Sampras, Courier or veteran Connors were on top of the world. New Jersey native, Shepherd led his small business with success: three tournament victories, a quarterfinal at Roland Garros in 1989 and a seventh place worldwide the following season. Performance that would make him a star in the current situation of American tennis.
Johan Kriek (7th in 1984)
Who knows that a South Africa has won the Australian Open twice? No, it's not Wayne Ferreira but Johan Kriek. In the early 80s, the best players were deserting the Australian tournament, played late in the season and on grass. Too bad, Kriek was a treat for the audience with his pure attacking game and beat Steve Denton twice in the final. Kriek (now naturalised American) won all of his 14 singles titles on grass or indoor.
Alex Metreveli (9th in 1974)
Born in Georgia, Metreveli is the first Soviet to have made a name for himself on the tour, long before Andrei Chesnokov. With an unpredictable game, he reached Wimbledon final in 1973 "taking advantage" of the boycott of over 80 players who were protesting the suspension of the Yugoslav Nikola Pilic by his federation for having missed a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas match. Metreveli's performance went almost unnoticed in his country. In the USSR that was only swearing by Olympic sports, tennis was just entertainment. Metreveli was probably born 20 years too early.
Martin Jaite (10th in 1990)
For twenty years, Argentine tennis had been spoiled with the great results of Nalbandian, Del Potro, Gaudio and Coria. Their successes could make almost everybody forget about Martin Jaite. In the 80s, this true clay courts fan paved the way along with the robust Alberto Mancini. A year after his compatriot and after his victory in Gstaad, he joined the world's top ten. A stealthy phase for the current captain of the Argentine Davis Cup by BNP Paribas' team. A competition where, in 1988, Andre Agassi had outclassed him to the point of playing the match ball... with his left hand.
Wojtek Fibak (10th in 1974)
Since last August, Wojtek Fibak is, alongside the historic Marian Vajda, Novak Djokovic's coach. At 61, it’s a new chapter in the hectic life of the Polish man. Art collector, media owner or businessman, Fibak is one of the prominent figures in the country. His arrest for procuring in 1997 also made a big splash. This second agitated career could almost make everybody forget the first one. In 1977, he joined the Top 10 after a quarterfinal at Roland Garros. Anything but the player of one season, Fibak shows in his list of conquests victories over Ashe, Borg and Connors. Not bad for an almost unknown.
Carlos Costa (10th in 1992)
For ten years, Carlos Costa has been mostly known for being the agent of Rafael Nadal. And if the Spaniard became the confidant and the right hand man of "Rafa", it may be because he had a nice little career himself. Especially during his campaign of 1992 on clay, where he won the tournaments of Estoril and Barcelona, before making it to the final in Rome. "Almost surprised by his level of play," Costa struggled to confirm the hopes placed in him. But he already stood up by becoming his own agent: "I started to negotiate my contracts myself, because this is something that interests me very much." Rafael Nadal won't say otherwise.
Thierry Tulasne (10th in 1986)
Thierry Tulasne is a bit the forgotten one of 80s French tennis. Less flamboyant than Noah or Leconte, this clay lover was yet a prodigy in junior (world champion in 1980). Five years later, he confirmed by defeating Mats Wilander in in Barcelona’s final. Tulasne joined the Top 10 to leave it the following week and never return. The rest of his career ended up to be a succession of injuries and unfulfilled hopes. After becoming coach, he made a bet with Gilles Simon at the beginning of their collaboration: to improve on his 10th place. A daring but successful bet since his protégé reached the 6th place in early 2009.