The expression 15 minutes of fame was coined by Andy Warhol. It refers to the fleeting condition of celebrity that grabs onto an object of media attention, and then passes to some new object as soon as people’s attention spans are exhausted. It is often used in reference to figures in the entertainment industry and other areas of popular culture.
In the world of tennis, the attention span of the public and the time period of fleeting celebrity generally last 14 days – the length of a grand slam tournament. The four grand slams are the perfect stage for an unheralded tennis player to hoist himself into the public limelight and many a player has taken advantage of the same- getting his 14 days of world wide fame.
We will now look at some of the most ‘unknown’ names of this rather ‘forgotten’ club. These players are generally only remembered for one glorious stretch of 14 days, fading away from the public eye as quickly as they caught it.
Many one grand slam winners like Michael Chang or one grand slam finalists like Marcelo Rios do not make this list for the simple reason that they had many other days of fame. There are others like Arnaud Clement and Rainer Schuttler who just have one amazing grand slam tournament to talk about but still fail to make the list – simply because even for those 14 days they weren’t famous enough – they still remain relatively unknown and un-remembered.
So here is the list comprising mainly of players from the last 25 odd years. The 14 days of fame are in brackets
Mark Edmondson (Australian Open 1976) – This guy is definitely the leader of this club. He won the 1976 Australian Open on his Grand Slam debut and never won anything big after that. He was ranked 212th when he won the title – the lowest ranked player to win a grand slam title since the ATP rankings were introduced in 1973. That victory was also the last time an Australian won the men’s title at their home grand slam. Who would have known that his 14 days of fame would jinx his country that bad?
Chris Lewis (Wimbledon 1983) - In reaching the 1983 Wimbledon finals, Lewis became only the seventh un-seeded man to accomplish the feat. He was such an underdog that his opponent John McEnroe promised to jump off the Empire State Building if he lost to the New-Zealander. Thankfully the American won and was spared a leap to his death. McEnroe’s outlandish boast forever reminds us of Chris Lewis and his amazing 14 days.
Yannick Noah (French Open 1983) – He is now a very popular pop-soul singer and the father of an NBA star. He is also occasionally referred to whenever a player tries a ‘between the legs shot’ when lobbed at the net by his opponent. But our most long-lasting memory of him as a tennis player is his dream-run at the French Open in 1983. This victory is memorable for a number of other reasons.1) Last Frenchman to win the French. 2) Last guy to win it with a wooden racket. 3) And only the second black male to win a grand slam title. Could you ask for more for 14 days of effort?
Mikael Pernfors (French Open 1986) – He was the opponent when John McEnroe was disqualified from the 1990 Australian Open for violating the code of conduct. He was the opponent when Jimmy Connors made that amazing comeback from 1-6, 1-6, and 1-4 down to win in five sets at Wimbledon 1987. His name would have remained just a difficult trivia question if not for his final appearance at the 1986 French Open. Those 14 days surely made him a better known tennis player.
Andres Gomez (French Open 1990) – Remember him. The guy we all hated for upsetting a 19 year old Andre Agassi in the 1990 French Final. If not for this guy Andre Agassi would have become the 4th guy to win all four majors long back. Well never mind, Agassi got his record anyways. And Andres got his 14 days of fame. And how many of us know that Andres came from Ecuador.
Alberto Berasategui (French Open 1994) – This guy had an unusual grip on his racket which allowed him to hit both forehands and backhands with the same side of the racket. We would have never known about this extraordinary fact if the Spaniard hadn’t reached the French Open final in 1994. That was how unknown he was save for those 14 days.
Malivai Washington (Wimbledon 1996) – Wimbledon 1996 saw far more upsets than usual. Richard Krajicek upset the perennial winner Pete Sampras and was rewarded with a title. Malivai Washington made the most of an upset prone tournament to make his way to the final winning two amazing come- from -behind matches on the way. The Dutchman was hogging all the attention for his clinical performances but Washington got his 14 days worth of fame as well.
Martin Verkerk (French Open 2003) – Before his 2003 run he was relatively unknown, even in his native Netherlands. But thanks to his underdog status and on-court antics he became so popular that his final defeat against Juan Carlos Ferrero was watched by even more people in the Netherlands than when countryman Richard Krajicek won Wimbledon. He never did better than a third round otherwise but who cares. No one ruled Dutch tennis hearts like he did for those 14 days.
Mariano Puerta (French Open 2005) – Many athletes have taken drugs but Ben Johnson’s name always comes up first. Why? Because he won at the Olympics. Many tennis players have taken drugs but we will always remember Mariano Puerta. Why? Because he made the 2005 French Open final. Even for hi-profile notoriety you first need fame.
Marcos Baghdatis (Australian Open 2006) – In the January of 2006, there was a sudden wave of frenzy amongst the Greek-Cypriot population of Melbourne, Australia. Many of them were waving flags and cheering raucously inside Melbourne Park as well. The reason for all this was the giant-killing run of Marcos Baghdatis. Baghdatis’s performance was by far the biggest sporting achievement for Cyprus. I wouldn’t be surprised if those 14 days are celebrated as a national sports fortnight in his native Cyprus.
[Image Source: http://i.cdn.turner.com/sivault/image/2008/05/28/opfh-449.jpg]