Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The curious case of Xavier Malisse

So, this week over on VANtage Point for Down the Line!, I decided to do a profile of the U.S. Open qualifying tournament. I was looking at the draws and both the men and women's sections are riddled with names any tennis fan would know: Vince Spadea, Nicole Vaidisova, Guillermo Canas, Kimiko Date Krumm … it goes on and on. And since I have his name up there in the headline, I'm sure you must know, Xavier Malisse was among the names, too!

Malisse has been playing qualies and Challengers all year, with some pretty tough results until his last two outings in Canada the past few weeks: winning in Granby and making the finals in Vancouver. It was back in the beginning of 2007 that he had the best stretch of his career, taking both the singles and doubles at two of his first three tournaments. Then he suffered a major wrist injury and only played a couple more events. In 2008, he only played a handful of events as well, but it looks like this year, he's giving it a full go and is starting to find some success.

What I'm kind of wondering about him, though, is why didn't he ever really break through? I remember waaay back in 1998 when he was 18 and had none other than Pete Sampras on the ropes in a match in Philadelphia. Usually, when you see a kid do something like that, they're destined for great things, but that didn't happen with the X-Man, who floundered for a few years and struggled with maturity issues until deciding to get serious in 2002. Back then, he made the semis at Wimbledon before losing to David Nalbandian in the famous "breathing problem" match. I figured he was destined for the top 10 at that point, but it just didn't happen. I wonder if 2007 would've been the year if not for the wrist? Still, '02 to '07 is a big gap for something not to have happened.

I've managed to catch Malisse out at the Open a couple of times, and he's one of those players that makes the game look really easy. He actually reminds me a little of Andy Murray with his ball-striking ability, but doesn't play defense as well as Murray. Talk about two careers going differently! For some reason, though, I don't think that had to be the case.

UPDATE: After writing this, I checked USOpen.org for the qualifying scores and saw he lost his first match to 78th-ranked Horacio Zeballos. Not a great finish to the Slam season, but I guess we'll see how the rest of the year goes.

(Photo: Wikipedia)


tim said...

Wow I thought that was mauresmo for a minute.

van said...

Ha! I guess I can see the resemblance ...