Tennis has had its share of intense rivalries. While the competition results in heated emotions during the playing days, what happens when the competitors retire? Are they able to reconcile and make up or the hatchet is never buried.
Among sports in general, if you are talking about rivalries, you cannot fail to mention the Ali-Frazier tussle. They were bitter rivals in the ring and out of it. Ali called Frazier a gorilla and Frazier called Ali, the pretty boy. Their hatred for each other was amply evident anywhere they fought.
What better way to settle your differences than to take it out in the ring? They fought three times, with Ali winning the best of three. After the last fight when he defeated Frazier in furious 15 rounds, Ali called Frazier the greatest boxer after him.
Ali later apologised for calling Frazier a gorilla, but Frazier never accepted it and they have never reconciled after that.
Magic Johnson and Larry Bird saved the NBA with their rivalry. It energised the dying sport and brought fans in droves to the courts. Although not as bitter and open as Ali-Frazier, it had its own moments. No one was ready to accept the underdog status, and worked intensely to put the other down on the court.
It captivated spectators worldwide, with the huge talent and spectacle they both put on. Although there was no sustained bad mouthing between the two, they brought some extra mustard to the court, whenever they played each other.
Later, Bird admitted once when his brother came to see Magic for the first time, he told Bird that ‘he is better than you’. That among other instances, fueled Bird to prove his superiority.
Now they are best of friends and have more than reconciled. They have attended each other’s Hall of Fame ceremonies, to praise and shower accolades during their speeches.
Borg and McEnroe rivalry had all the ingredients of a huge one. Its just that Borg never provided any resistance to McEnroe’s theatrics. Borg’s premature retirement, also further dampened any chance of it being played out on the court for any serious length of time.
Had Borg continued, who knows what height they both, along with the sport, would have reached. McEnroe admitted that he would have been a better player if Borg had not retired.
They were not really mortal enemies during their prime, but they have become good friends now. McEnroe, couple of years ago, convinced Borg not to sell his five Wimbledon trophies to raise money for himself and family, by making the now-famous phone call, when the first words out of his mouth were ‘What’s up. Have you gone mad’.
Sampras-Agassi rivalry was pretty civil also. However, some of Agassi’s irritation and frustration, from having denied so many Grand Slams, did come out in some of his comments after Sampras had retired.
But they still have kept up the appearances, and the bond may have actually strengthened recently, when Sampras and his wife attended the fund raiser at Vegas for Agassi’s school.
I enjoy good rivalries and just cannot stand the buddy buddy stuff going on these days on the turf and the court. Have you seen the boxers these days, touching gloves before every freaking bout? Are you freaking kidding me!!!!!!!!!!!!!