Top 5 : rivalries between fellow countrymen

Mar 9, 2016, 10:58:21 AM

Top 5 : rivalries between fellow countrymen
Tension is running high between Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic. A fight which brings up many memories of other feuds.

Tension is running high between Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic. Accused by the latter  of faking an injury to skip the first round of the BNP Paribas Davis Cup, Kyrgios suffered the wrath of his fellow countryman, who was determined to make him pay for that withdrawal. A fight which brings up many memories of other feuds, wether based on intense patriotism, or very personal hatred.


Llodra vs Paire


Between Michaël Llodra and Benoit Paire, things could only go wrong. Both known for their strong personalities, their broken racquets, or foul language used on the court, the Frenchmen have offered the quintessence of these talents in 2013. During the first round of the Miami Masters 1000, Llodra lights things up from the first set, after Paire contested one of the umpire’s decision : « Don’t start putting pressure on the umpire, the match will go well. Don’t act like a little shithead. » The start of a limitless battle, where Paire will answer with a brutal « scum-sucker », before hitting the ball towards him at the net, and finally refusing to shake his hand at the end of the match (lost in two sets). Three months later, the two men meet again at s-Hertogenbosch : « I won’t say our relationship is extremely good but we’ve talked again (…) It’ll take a little time before we go dining together but I’m sure we’ll share a beer and we’ll both laugh about it », explains a pacified Llodra. In any case, he didn’t really have the time to get mad as Paire withdrew from the match after only two games…


Jimmy Connors vs McEnroe


At the start of the 80’s, attending a match between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors brings much more than a simple sporting interest. It’s mainly the guarantee of seeing the two Americans unleash their mutual hatred for one another. At the start, a match of the 1979 Masters, before which Connors says of his younger opponent : « He’s very young. He’ll be a good training for me. » Forced to withdraw from the tournament after a foot injury, he then witnesses McEnroe celebrating this « victory » with both arms up in the air. The animosity is born. And during the 34 confrontations between the two men, it will never flatten out. In 1982, in Chicago, they are separated after a few heated words exchanged at the net. Same thing two years later, when Connors, who had taken the habit of grabbing his sack with both hands to taunt his opponent, pointed a finger at him during the Roland-Garros semi-final. A long relationship of hatred, which Connors will finally summarize in his own words in 2011, when a NY Times journalist asked him to compliment McEnroe : « I’m not a kiss-ass guy. » Especially not Big Mac’s.


Ivanovic vs Jankovic


« We talk when we see each other but we're not best friends ». This is how Jelena Jankovic describes her relationship with her fellow countrywoman Ana Ivanovic. It must be said that the two women share relatively opposite conceptions of patriotism. The conflict’s principal cause, a BNP Paribas Fed Cup play-off match between Serbia and Slovakia in 2010, to which Ana Ivanovic had preferred a romantic trip with her boyfriend at the time, while Jankovic had been through a 48 hour-trip to join Belgrade. Defeated 3-2 with her national team, Jankovic had then publicly questioned Ivanovic’s implication : « It would have been nice even if Ana had just been sitting on the bench and supporting the team, even if she felt she could not play. » To finally add : « In Federation Cup, you don't play for [ranking] points or money, you are just playing for your country, for the love of the people. » A love the pretty Ana wasn’t ready to give.


Wawrinka vs Federer


Between Federer’s class and Wawrinka’s energy, Switzerland has an abundance of choice when it comes to choosing its protégé. However, don’t expect to see them both heading in the same direction. Because between Roger and Stan, the relationship is more than rowdy. In 2012 it’s around the Davis Cup that the tensions appear, Roger accusing his young lieutenant, on RTL, of not having done the job during the heavy defeat, 5-0, against the USA : « It’s especially a pity that Stan didn’t put pressure on our opponents by beating Fish on the first day, even by playing badly. (…) I had a good doubles, Stan was okay, but he was often facing trouble on his serve. » A year later, the roles are switched and Stan smashes Federer, absent for the first round against Czech Republic, in the columns of : « For years, Roger hasn’t stopped saying that he cares about the Davis Cup, but it’s clearly not the case today (…) I’m sorry that he always turns things in his favor. » Last episode, the semi-final of the Masters in 2014, lost by Wawrinka, and at the end of which he accused Mirka Federer of speaking too loud between his serves. Mrs Federer’s answer : « Cry Baby, Cry ». A certain idea of Swiss neutrality.


Henin vs Clijsters


The muscular blonde against the skinny blonde. The nice one of the circuit against the introvert of the dressing room. The Flemish woman against the Walloon. From the start, everything seemed to brink Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin into opposition. However, the two Belgian have often met on the court, as they were both animated by the same talent racquet in hand. A dominating Kim at the start, a powerful Justine to follow, the careers of both players have always criss-crossed. Not without a few clashed. In 2003, Le Soir makes a big deal of the quarrel between the two fellow countrywomen during the San Diego final. Clijsters then reproaches Henin, the winner on that day, for having deliberately unsettled her by calling the physio : « It’s not the first time that it had happened. I even get the impression that she does it every time we face each other and she’s in trouble. » 25 matches later, Clijsters and Henin part ways on a balanced 13-12 record. And, now retired, find the strength to bury the hatchet. Henin, speaking to CNN : « Kim and I we were number 1, number 2, at the same time. We played Grand Slam finals, we won Grand Slams. We grew up together. We played the same tournaments from 9 years-old. And finally, as soon as she was getting better, I wanted to get better. When I was getting better, it was a lot of motivation for her. I always say, if there hadn’t been Kim, I’m not sure I would have been the same player. » The end of a Belgian story.


By Raphaël Gaftarnik