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Friday, November 04, 2005

THE LAST OF THE MALEEVAS

Magdalena Maleeva retired from competitive tennis last week, a straight sets loss to Patty Schnyder at the Zurich Open signalling the end of a twenty-two old passage of play on the WTA Tour in which at least one Maleeva featured.

One of three Maleeva sisters coached by mother and former player Julia, between then they practically reinvented the sport in Bulgaria, which has had a chequered past in international sport, with insider jokes like the Bulgarian weightlifting team having three clean and four “jerks” .
Before Magdalena, elder sister Manuela- clearly the most accomplished, tallest and successful of the lot had ploughed a lonely furrow through the 80’s and had crossed paths with stalwarts like Chris, Martina, Steffi and Monica with moderate success—three Grand Slam semis, before retiring after marrying Frank Fragniere and settling in Switzerland.
Katerina, like most middle children was a comparative underachiever, who nevertheless managed ten singles titles. They achieved a first when all three were seeded for a Grand Slam, and were in the Top 15 in 1993 and also when all three reached the fourth round of the French Open.

Magdalena won ten Tour titles herself but reached the quarters of a Grand Slam just once ( US Open 1992 ) although she managed quite a few trips to the fourth round. But her vicarious claim to headlines was when her opponent in the QF of the Hmaburg Open in April 1993, Monica Seles was stabbed by a Graf fan and effectively ended a stupendous career. A gregarious and outspoken interviewee, Magdalena has been the Spokeswoman of the WTA twice.

Does this affect me greatly ? I think so, players who began playing long after I started following the game are now riding away into the sunset. This year should be the likes of Davenport, Raymond, Frazier, Likhovtseva, Bjorkman and Agassi-Wayne Ferriera has already gone.

Mortality is a painful thing, and I remain a sentimental fool (Ed- An old fool !)




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