Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - What's in a Name
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What's in a Name 06/17/2009 - 5:32 PM

Ar So many weighty issues looming over the sport right now. Is Roger Federer the best ever? Are Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic doomed? What the heck is Andy Murray wearing?

I’ve been thinking the last few days about something less topical: player names. A couple of events led me there, besides the fact that, like any sportswriter scrounging for a pun, I enjoy a good name. One was a recent post I did where I contemplated the inexplicable stutter in Roger Federer’s last name. Another was a book I finished a little while ago about the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s by Roy Blount, Jr., called Three Bricks Shy of a Load. Its most entertaining chapter consisted of the author reflecting on what he considered the greatest names in sports history. He finally decided that his favorite had belonged to a football player whom he’d known while attending Vanderbilt University. Snake Grace was the name—I have to admit, it’s a tough one to beat. Blount Jr., was in the same fraternity as Mr. Grace. He says that every time the lanky QB would appear in the distance and start walking toward a gathering of people, “Someone would pop his head up and yell, ‘Snake!’ for no real reason, and everyone would feel good.” I love that story—it makes me feel good just imagining the scene. A friend's name can do that to you.

The third reason is that tennis has, and always has had, the best names in sports. How couldn’t it? It pulls them from all over the world, it includes women as well as men, and unlike, say, soccer, there’s no dopey team moniker to get in the way of matching an individual's personality to his or her name. I’ve always found it perversely satisfying to hear local sportscasters botch and then mock the fancy, multi-syllabic foreign monikers they’re forced to (mis)pronounce three or four times a year. It makes me feel like being a tennis fan, like being a tennis player, is something you have to earn.

It’s worth it, of course, because this is the sport that, if it has done nothing else, has given the world names like Gabriela Sabatini, Vitas Gerulaitis, Slobodan Zivojinovic, Jean Borotra, Pat Cash, Virginia Ruzici, Cedric Pioline, Andre Agassi, Hans Gildemeister, Lew Hoad, Torben Ulrich, Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzalez, Wotjek Fibak, Tony Roche, Ion Tiriac, Althea Gibson, Ken Rosewall, Evonne Goolagong, Arthur Ashe, Adriano Panatta, Ellsworth Vines, and hundreds of other two word poems. As well as, of course, the very finest and most mellifluously fitting name in the history of any sport: Ilie Nastase.

Who keeps up this tradition today? It’s a wilder world than ever out there, especially if you’re an Anglo like me. These days even a name as iconic as Venus Williams can seem a little too easy, and a name as normal as Andy Murray can begin to sound almost exotic in its plainness. Scrolling down the Top 50 on the men’s and women’s sides today, these are the names that caught my eye. Keep in mind, for whatever it's worth, that it's a Stateside eye.

Rafael Nadal: It's decent. Rafael sounds noble to an American ear—though is it just the Spanish equivalent of Ralph? Nadal, aside from being original in tennis, suits him. The “d” looks and sounds appropriately bold at the center.

Roger Federer: As I’ve said, Roger is comfortably old-fashioned and friendly, but Federer, while it will one day be immortal the way Laver and Tilden are, makes me feel like I’m mumbling.

Dinara Safina: Gets points for first-name originality, but Marat is a tough one to follow.

Novak Djokovic: Highly original, and the first and last names flow well. If only we could get the last one right. He told me once that it’s pronounced “Dj-yuk-ovic.” Not “joke” or “jock”—as far as I can tell, there’s a tiny “y” sound in there that doesn’t come naturally to English-only speakers, so I guess he lives with the imperfect pronunciations.

In Juan Martin del Potro: Again, there’s a noble and ancient cast to this name, like a character from Don Quixote. Apparently it doesn’t come naturally to Americans either. Standing in line for a night session at the U.S. Open last year, a buttoned-down young man looked up at the big screen to see that del Potro was still on court against Murray, and that the gates wouldn’t open until that match was over. He spun around and yelled at no one in particular, “Flub it, Du Pont!” (I’ve told this story before, but I only have so much material, so please forgive me.)

Victoria Azarenka: The first name captures her hauteur, the last name her sharp and sometimes grating edge.

Fernando Verdasco: So perfect that if it were a movie star’s name, you would know he made it up. His real name would be Fred Ventura.

Urszula Radwanska: Hard to untangle when you say it, but it's great to read—or at least look at. Like a Thelonious Monk (speaking of great names) composition, it gets points for thorniness.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: The first name is fancier than our Joe Willie, and the second syllable of the last name seems to rebound off my tongue. 

Sabine Lisicki: Sabine is very nice, and I like the harsh way the second syllable of her last name sounds when it’s overemphasized.

Fabrice Santoro: What else could someone with this name have been other than a tennis player?

Aravane Rezai: Yes, there’s a French theme here; they do names well (though is Rezai Iranian by ethnicity?). Whatever the origin, Aravane is so smooth, simple, and original, it’s a shame she isn’t a better player.

Igor Andreev:  Even better when you pronounce it "Eye-Gore," Young Frankenstein-style.

Sorana Cirstea: Dense, rhythmic, symmetrical

Dudi Sela: Heh, Dudi

Fabio Fognini: Preposterously good, but kind of like “Mardy Fish,” it’s hard to imagine anyone with this name taking himself seriously enough to become No. 1 in the world. Parents should have thought of that.

Gael Monfils: As Michael Wilbon of ESPN’s PTI proved during the French Open, it’s fun to say “Monfeeeeeees!!!” Extra points for the feminized nickname, La Monf.

Marcos Baghdatis: Born to be a goof

Drumroll, please, as we’ve come to what I would contend is the best name in the current Top 50:

Yes, it belongs to . . . Potito Starace: The first name is comic and musical, and the second must be pronounced correctly to get the full, multi-syllabic Italian effect: It’s stah-RAH-che. Both names just better the more you exaggerate them.

 

 

I’ll be back Friday with Wimbledon previews. Of the players, not their names.


 
138
Comments
 
1 2      >>

Posted by just horsen(Court for GOAT) 06/17/2009 at 05:38 PM

1st

Posted by glo 06/17/2009 at 05:40 PM

first

Posted by fedexfan 06/17/2009 at 05:45 PM

yawn! what a bore. What's in a name?

Posted by just horsen(Court for GOAT) 06/17/2009 at 05:46 PM

JMDP is just too long of a name. Fernando Verdasco is personally my favorite name name in the top 50. It sounds good and it fits him too. Federer is kind of like stuttering. Very fun post!

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 06/17/2009 at 05:49 PM

LOL, that was unexpectedly great! Thanks Steve

I can't believe you neglected to mention Anna Smashnova though.

Lol'd @ "Dudi Sela: Heh, Dudi"

Posted by Steve DeWitt 06/17/2009 at 05:52 PM

The name Federer comes from the German word "feder" which means feather. A "federer" is therefore not a stuttered version of feder but a featherer, the guy who in olden days affixed feathers to the end of arrows, i.e. a fletcher. Which sounds much better anyway - Roger Fletcher.

Posted by jewell - writing out 1000 times, I must not get involved in Fedal wars... 06/17/2009 at 05:54 PM

LOL.

Came across Adrian Cruciat the other day, who sounds if he could be either a Harry Potter villain or a porn star. :) Definitely my current favourite.

and of course, there is Smashnova...*loves*

Tim Henman is also perfectly appropriate for the man. (Sorry, Tim, it just is...)

Ralph. LOL. Just doesn't quite have the same romance...although it sounds more dashing if you pronounce it "Rafe." :)

Posted by Emma (insertwittymantrahere) 06/17/2009 at 05:57 PM

"Tim Henman is also perfectly appropriate for the man. (Sorry, Tim, it just is...)"

LOL jewell, it totes is! Every time I heard someone refer to him as Tiger Tim, I cracked up at the irony of it.

Also, I dunno if this is a European thing, but I can't help but roll the R in Rrrafa, sounds more Nadalesque, and therefore better that way.

Posted by Popper Malone 06/17/2009 at 05:58 PM

How could you possibly have left out Yevgeny Kafelnikov? (Best uttered with mad scientist glee.)

Posted by embug 06/17/2009 at 05:59 PM

When I first introduced a close friend to Fabio Fognini -- through a photo only -- he said, "How could that be his name. It's not his name, is it?" We both laughed. I think Fabio wants to be a movie star. He's half-way there in name.

Posted by charles 06/17/2009 at 06:01 PM

Akgul Amandmuradova - it's mesmerizing

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 06/17/2009 at 06:01 PM

"Dinara Safina: Gets points for first-name originality, but Marat is a tough one to follow"........ooooh, you're good---just couldn't resist I bet!:)

fun post--enjoyed it

btw, why do many US commentators have trouble with 'ra-fAAH-el and insist on pronouncing it 'ra-fEEH-el'?

Posted by charles 06/17/2009 at 06:01 PM

oops, Akgul Amanmuradova (only one d)

Posted by Shan 06/17/2009 at 06:03 PM

Steve Dewitt, how interesting that Roger's last name means a person that attaches feathers to arrows, because his first name means "famous spearman" or a person famous for the use of their weapon (racquet). And Steve Tignor, you don't know how to pronounce Roger's name right, that's why you feel like you are stuttering. It's German, so the final "er" is not pronounced that way in Germanic culture, it's prounounced more like an "uh", So the proper pronunciatino of his name is more like Feh-der-uh" not "Fed-er-er" as you seem to think. The same way Rainer Schuttler's name is not pronounced "RY-NER Shoot-Ler" like everybody pronounces it, it's actually more like "Ry-Nuh Shoot-luh"" they don't emphasize that last "r" very much.

Posted by jewell - writing out 1000 times, I must not get involved in Fedal wars... 06/17/2009 at 06:07 PM

I keep hearing RAF-eye-ell. But mostly, it seems to be just Rafa.

LOL, Emma - and the fist pump, too - ugh. And I *liked* him. :)

Oh oh oh - and how could we forget Severine Bremond? Ooh. *shivers* I love that name.

And the Mills and Boon Medical Romance blond and square-jawed consultant hero - Ryler de Heart. Fabulous. :)

Posted by ata08 06/17/2009 at 06:09 PM

i am rooting for josselin ouanna to excel purely so when he plays i can sing, ouanna-ouanna, don't you ouanna-ouanna, fanta?

i can't help it.

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 06/17/2009 at 06:11 PM

Steve DeWitt and Shan: two very interesting posts.

Hope Fletch does well at Wimbledon this year.

Posted by charles 06/17/2009 at 06:11 PM

while on the subject of the banal...
has anyone noticed that the three men most often cited as the greatest of all time, Federer, Laver, and Sampras, all have birthdays within 4 days of one another? 8th, 9th, and 12th, respectively. There must be some weird cosmic alliance that produces great tennis players...

Posted by charles 06/17/2009 at 06:12 PM

of August

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 06/17/2009 at 06:13 PM

jewell: How could I forget about "RAF-eye-ell"...ugh!

Posted by SwissMaestro 06/17/2009 at 06:15 PM

Italian names are the best by far as the right pronunciation on the words have some kind of melodic sound to it through to the very end...

tennis players:

Davide Sanguinetti, Potito Starace, Fabio Fognini, Federico Luzzi (RIP), Andrea Seppi -Andreas, with an "S" is the germanic version of the name-, Adriano Panatta, Simone Bolelli and so on...

soccer players too:

Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Del Piero, Giuseppe Rossi, Marco Materazzi -sounds like a car's name-, Gianluigi Buffon, Gianluca Zambrotta, Filippo Inzaghi, Luca Toni...

Posted by jewell - writing out 1000 times, I must not get involved in Fedal wars... 06/17/2009 at 06:16 PM

How could I have forgotten Josselin Ouanna??? Sigh.

Posted by imjimmy 06/17/2009 at 06:20 PM

""has anyone noticed that the three men most often cited as the greatest of all time, Federer, Laver, and Sampras, all have birthdays within 4 days of one another? 8th, 9th, and 12th, respectively. There must be some weird cosmic alliance that produces great tennis players... ""

Wow! That's amazing. Thanks for sharing. Now I'll know where to look while evaluating a potential GOAT contender :)

Posted by darthhelmethead 06/17/2009 at 06:21 PM

Uh, Edourdo Shwank. I didn't spell that right but that is an awesome name!

Posted by Mr. and Mrs. D. 06/17/2009 at 06:22 PM

Swiss Maestro: you are so right...how about these ladies:

Flavia Pennetta, Francesca Schiavone, Mara Santangelo, and so on...just beautiful

Posted by Tennisfan150 06/17/2009 at 06:40 PM

Cute one, Steve!

Ryler de Heart!! The adorable qualifier who took so much joy in playing Nadal at US Open last year. He was absolutely ecstatic when he managed to break Nadal in the second set.

Smashnova ! - Love it!

Posted by Tennisfan150 06/17/2009 at 06:44 PM

I like the sound of Bjorn Phau!

Posted by mersault 06/17/2009 at 06:46 PM

To add a little something to the winner's first name.
Do you know what "Potito" means in Latin American' spanish? It means, exactly, the diminutive of "buttocks", and as you can imagine it's a word used informally to call all sorts of things, most of them intimate human body parts
So, Mr Starace first name has caused a lot more laughs in this side of the world than amusement in the english speaking areas.

Posted by Shank You Very Much 06/17/2009 at 06:51 PM

I remember watching a match between Andre Agassi and Jaime Izaga - two fantastic monikers and the surnames are practically mirror images, to boot! How about Guy Forget and my personal mellifluous favorite: Miloslav Mecir.

Nice language lessons from previous posters.

Posted by Second Serve 06/17/2009 at 07:01 PM

Many good ones, and I find those Italian names melodic too.

The name Anastasia Rodionova caught my eyes the first time I saw it. The name rolls off the tongue as gleefully as Gabriela Sabatini, but the tennis player that wears the name pales in comparison.

Posted by JAG 06/17/2009 at 07:14 PM

Ekaterina Bychkova - Thats my fav

Posted by My Perspective 06/17/2009 at 07:16 PM

Steve,

How can "Reeeshard" Gasquet not feature in your list ? :)

Posted by Nam1 06/17/2009 at 07:18 PM

Fabio Fognini

for some reason that sounds like he should be a porn star.....

Posted by Nam1 06/17/2009 at 07:21 PM

Fabio Fognini

Sounds like he should be a porn star...

Posted by Nam1 06/17/2009 at 07:21 PM

what about Anne Keothavong? spelling?

Posted by Nam1 06/17/2009 at 07:22 PM

oops , sorry for the double post

Posted by naughty T 14 count 'em 06/17/2009 at 07:31 PM

he sure plays like Fred Ventura... my Green Acres suffers.

Posted by naughty T 14 count 'em 06/17/2009 at 07:34 PM

seriously Steve..
today at wimby qualies we had
I Begu ... pleeeeeeeeeaaaase get out of the house a little

Posted by louise 06/17/2009 at 07:35 PM

What about 19th C jewel thief and criminal mastermind Yves Allegro?

Posted by Paula V. 06/17/2009 at 07:38 PM

Great article, Steve! Like you, I've always been fascinated by player names, as well as player nicknames, like "Guga".

Posted by Dunlop Maxply 06/17/2009 at 07:56 PM

One fascinating thing about tennis names is that, at all levels, it is perhaps the most popular sport in which professional and top amateur players do not have their names on their playing apparel. Thus, you always need to do a bit of research to match the player up with the name.

At one point, as with everyone, someone walked up to a junior event in Spain and saw, "Nadal, R." on a draw. Who was this Nadal? As "Nadal" won more and more rounds, the name progressed on that draw and others, but recognizing Nadal the person had to be accomplished in the old fashioned way.

Especially now, in the computer age, you can print out all of the ranked players in an age group in your USTA section. You recognize the names and then, sometimes years later, you finally match the name with the player.

Now, even though players are introduced at the start of the match in pro events, you still have to at least wait until an ad point to figure out who is who if you don't know them by sight.

I've always found it interesting that the name becomes known, and sometimes famous, before the player becomes associated with the name.

Posted by toonie 06/17/2009 at 08:02 PM

My birthday is August 12. I definitely need to learn how to play tennis.

Posted by Nam1 06/17/2009 at 08:14 PM

toonie

that was funny!!

Posted by deucethe3rd 06/17/2009 at 08:23 PM

Two names that I can never stop saying out loud to myself and have a little chuckle over.

Maximo Gonzalez and Bjorn Phau

I love those guys.

Posted by GC20 06/17/2009 at 08:33 PM

Speaking of names is Paradorn Srichaphan ever coming back?

Posted by Colette Lewis 06/17/2009 at 08:39 PM

Believe it or not, I just ran across this story of a 14-year-old Malaysian junior named Ahmad Deedat Abdul Razak
http://tr.im/oRBY

Posted by Nick 06/17/2009 at 08:48 PM

Best tennis name ever: Bohdan Uhlihrach.

Posted by dollymix 06/17/2009 at 08:48 PM

SYBILLE BAMMER

I also stumbled across the name "Boy Westerhof" the other day, which is fairly amazing. As is the name of junior Tennys Sandgren.

I also like:
Jose Acasuso
Paradorn Srichaphan
Francesca Schiavone
Mario Ancic
Mikhail Youzhny
Na Li
Kaia Kanepi
Yanina Wickmayer

Posted by Ryan 06/17/2009 at 08:53 PM

Can we get lifetime bans for people who post "first"

Posted by jhurwi 06/17/2009 at 09:03 PM

Steve: "Rafael" is not the same name as "Ralph," no matter what Brad Gilbert says! "Raphael," the name of a Biblical archangel, comes from the Hebrew and means "God has healed." http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Raphael "Ralph" is Germanic in origin (it's the same name as Rudolph)and comes from roots meaning "wolf" and "counsel.: http/www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Ralph.
I agree with the earlier poster who says Ralph sounds sexier pronounced the British way ("Rafe") as in "Ralph Rackstraw, the smartest lad in all the fleet" in Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore.

Posted by Cosi 06/17/2009 at 09:06 PM

Posted by charles 06/17/2009 @ 6:11 PM

while on the subject of the banal...
has anyone noticed that the three men most often cited as the greatest of all time, Federer, Laver, and Sampras, all have birthdays within 4 days of one another? 8th, 9th, and 12th, respectively. There must be some weird cosmic alliance that produces great tennis players..."

The "weird" cosmic force involved could be astrology, all three are born under the sign Leo, which rules Kings, Royalty and Rulers and fame... makes sense doesn't it? Leo also is one of the signs that rules sports and recreational competition.And another amazing thing is just how many modern tennis stars that rose high in the rankings that are born under the sign Gemini, there are many of them. Gemini rules the hands, footspeed and hand eye coordination, all important things for tennis greats.

Posted by Vie 06/17/2009 at 09:19 PM

Good point by Dunlop Maxply. We mostly know names of tennis players long before we know who the player is. I guess because it is an individual sport, we read and assimilate these names just by looking at drawsheets and listening to the commentaries. The exoticness of the names also draw our imagination and curiosity.

Posted by jon 06/17/2009 at 09:30 PM

my favorite sports name ever is JEFF BEUKEBOOM

Posted by realfrances 06/17/2009 at 09:55 PM

I didn't even read past the second paragraph. C'mon you can do better this. Boring aricle. Epic fail.

Posted by federerfan 06/17/2009 at 10:09 PM

i thought potito starace could sound like "potato starch" to those who may not be dearly familiar with the names in the atp top 50! :)

Posted by federerfan 06/17/2009 at 10:16 PM

actually from cricket there are two names that get me :

ryan sidebottom ! what a last name!

secondly and one that is more appropriate for the player is a last name : mascrahenas (hope its spelled right), i always call him the massacre-nhas, this guy can blast the poor ball so hard and so far away, anytime he is on the field against any of my fav teams, its really terrifying!

Posted by monte de las ánimas 06/17/2009 at 10:17 PM

As usual, I liked your post, Steve. This time it was amusing, if not insightful.

My favourite name has always been Yevgueni Kafelnikov, very Dostoievski-like (remember Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov?).

As far as "Rafael" is concerned, I don`t know how to translate it into English or German. Raphael is one of the archangels of God, mentioned in several Torah books. Curiosly, these books are considered apocryphal in the Protestant tradition, and canonical in the Catholic one. But the name is popular both in Italy and Spain because of the Renaissance painter Raffaello Sanzio (Rafael in Spanish).

Thanks again for your posts.

Posted by Anders 06/17/2009 at 11:05 PM

To keep the ball rolling, "Nadal" means "Christmas" in one of the two official languages in Majorca (Majorcan, not in Spanish) and also in Catalan.

Posted by happy cat 06/17/2009 at 11:08 PM

TEIMURAZ GABASHVILI. now there's a name that conjures up images of grey fedoras and AK 47s.

Posted by Miguel Seabra 06/17/2009 at 11:28 PM

what about Stefano Pescosolido? Horacio de la Peña?

Posted by Pspace 06/17/2009 at 11:41 PM

Nice one, Steve. Yeah, only in tennis...

Miroslav Mecir
Evonne Goolagong
Steffi Graf
Pancho Gonzalez
...

just too many.

Posted by pogiako 06/17/2009 at 11:46 PM

I am a Filipino and I do not have a problem pronouncing the last name Federer. What is so difficult about it?

Posted by Vie 06/18/2009 at 12:03 AM

TEIMURAZ GABASHVILI. Made and makes me think of wild cats, animals..

Posted by Crazy-for-Rog 06/18/2009 at 12:11 AM

It's the American's who insist on rolling their "R"s. Roger's mum is South African, hence his first name is English. Rog-uh Fed-er-ruh - it rolls easily off my tongue. There's a rhythmic quality to the name, it's light, lilting, smooth and easy. Much like Federer himself ... and his game !

Posted by Roger That 06/18/2009 at 12:35 AM

Last!

Posted by susan 06/18/2009 at 12:37 AM

My favorite: Gabriela Sabatini. All those vowels. (why didn't i study Italian?).

I once taught an English class to non-native speakers and asked them: what is your favorite word in English?

All of them ended in a long e sound, except for one clever guy who said 'you'.

Their own language uses numerous pronouns to indicate status, respect, etc and he loved the simplicity of what he saw as the more democratic 'you'.

Posted by susan 06/18/2009 at 12:38 AM

Sorry!!! Gabriela is Argentine!!! And i did study Spanish... geez

Posted by susan 06/18/2009 at 12:42 AM

Sabatini I assume is of Italian origin. Many Italians in Argentina.

Posted by pk 06/18/2009 at 01:01 AM

bettina bunge :]

Posted by SRao 06/18/2009 at 01:13 AM

Steve,
Extremely interesting...your mind works awfully different,but so original too.Your last name too is different for me.
I liked ESPN post on Federerer too!LOL

Amidst these tense moments as Wimby is just days away,it's nice to read the lighter side of Tennis.Hope the players too read it,it sure lightens them up!

An earnest request:Plzzzzzzzzzzz make your Wimby predictions right this time.FO was ghastly,you were miles away,from anything being right.Actually you screwed it up,never expected that from a man with such high calibre :-(
Never mind,a suggestion for you to make it easy/simpler for you:Just pick Swiss Maestro/TMF/The one-and-only Mr Roger Federer.LOL!

Posted by potato starch 06/18/2009 at 01:29 AM

What a fun post,thanks Steve and everyone.
I've given myself a new moniker in honour of all those of us who involuntarily changed Potito Starache's name to potato starch.
Thanks for the explanation of Federer's name ;what with all the weapons and feathers in his name no wonder his game is so light,accurate, and piercing.
for some reason I love the name Lew Hoad.
Other favourite; Pancho Gonzales,
Do y'all find that when you like a name you just keep repeating it in your head..then laugh at yourself.

Posted by x 06/18/2009 at 01:36 AM

This article is obviously a ridiculous waste of time to read. I know it must be difficult to think up things to say week after week, but could you please make more of an effort to find something more substantial to write about?

Kthnkz.

Posted by mpiktas 06/18/2009 at 01:55 AM

Ah, Vitas Gerulaitis. So nice to know that Lithuanian name sounds nice to american ear :) I foster little hope, that soon we will have another Lithuanian name to discuss about. Former junior no 1, Ricardas Berankis, translated to English means Richard Armless :) And I am not joking that is what the name really means. In lithuanian web pages you always get at least one comment: how he can play tennis withouth arms.

Posted by sb 06/18/2009 at 02:44 AM

Who is the lady in the first photograph ?

Posted by Corrie 06/18/2009 at 06:23 AM

Well I think this post is great fun and no more a waste of time than endless talking about tennis ever is.

I love all those French names, Severine and Fabrice and Gael and Josselin and Gilles. It's a pity their play isn't often up to their lovely names.

Don't forget Damir Dokic, whose name somehow reflects his status as a big bad tennis daddy from hell.

Posted by ellie 06/18/2009 at 07:45 AM

i think federer sounds distinguished
go fed

Posted by nina 06/18/2009 at 07:47 AM

i think federer sounds distinguished
go fed

Posted by jim 06/18/2009 at 07:48 AM

what does tignor mean?

Posted by great gams 06/18/2009 at 07:53 AM

a player from the past: Fiorella Bonicelli

Posted by C.F. 06/18/2009 at 08:04 AM

One of my new favorites is Sorana Cirstea. Love it! Samantha Stosur is pretty cool, too.

Names that repeat either the first letter or the sound of the first consonant are great: Arthur Ashe, Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, Bob Bryan or, if you prefer, the Bryan Bros. And I even like Jelena Jankovic. I also enjoy the "f" sound in Steffi Graff.

About Ilie Nastase: awesome, and add Yannick Noah there! ;)

Regardless of the surname, I think Martina is the perfect WTA name, but I also like two names for women: Like Billy Jean (King) and Maria Esther (Bueno). For men is kind of cool, too, but while I love the sound of "Juan Martin Del Potro", when I hear it, I still imagine a 16th, 17th century Spanish "conquistador" wearing a huge hat (with a feather) and holding a musket, not a 7-foot-tall kid in sleeveless shirt holding a racket.

Posted by C.F. 06/18/2009 at 08:07 AM

Oh, and Nam1, you're so right, Fabio Fognini really does have an "adult movie" sound to it.

Posted by TennisFan2 06/18/2009 at 08:58 AM

Names?? Well, it definitely quells the GOAT debate and injury reports!

My 10 year old son and I enjoy hearing Jarkoo Nieminen...
Gabashvilli is another great one.

Posted by TennisFan2 06/18/2009 at 08:59 AM

oops, typing error - Jarkko - although Jarkoo could be interesting as well.

Posted by catq 06/18/2009 at 09:04 AM

btw, why do many US commentators have trouble with 'ra-fAAH-el and insist on pronouncing it 'ra-fEEH-el'?
------------

mr. & mrs. D, yeah, and why do they also pronounce Nadal as Na-doll--Ra-fee-yel Na-doll--the whole effect is quite comical.

Posted by Sandra 06/18/2009 at 09:28 AM

You forgot to mention that in the Catalan language "Nadal" means Christmas.

Posted by catq 06/18/2009 at 09:55 AM


leos rule but not far behind or at par are the geminis--lenglen (may 24), henin (june 1) nadal (june 3) borg (june 6), anna kournikova (remember her? :) june 7), davenport (june 8), don budge (june 13), graf (june 14), venus williams (june 17)

becker and billie jean king share the same birthday--nov 22

aquarians - safin, mcenroe, edberg, hana mandlikova

the two martinas are both librans, as is serena and novotna

taureans - agassi, djokovic (gemini cusp), sabatini, pancho gonzalez, roche, murray & fred perry (same birthday)

virgos - connors, roddick, guga kuerten, connolly

saggi- seles, sanchez vicario, evert (capri cusp), hoad, tracy austin

leos - laver, sampras, fed, courier, nastase, goolagong-cawley

whew!

Posted by Rosangel 06/18/2009 at 10:03 AM

*while on the subject of the banal...
has anyone noticed that the three men most often cited as the greatest of all time, Federer, Laver, and Sampras, all have birthdays within 4 days of one another? 8th, 9th, and 12th, respectively. There must be some weird cosmic alliance that produces great tennis players...*

charles: I hadn't noticed that, but it's difficult to miss the fact that Bjorn Borg (the fourth man in the GOAT contenders list) was born on 6th June, and Rafael Nadal's birthday is on the 3rd June - both falling at the time of Roland Garros, with which both men are so closely associated.

Posted by Tennis fan 06/18/2009 at 10:36 AM

This is the most boring article I read so far.

Posted by Liwa 06/18/2009 at 11:14 AM

West Indian cricketers often have amazing names:

Curtly Ambrose
Vasbert Drakes
Dwayne Bravo
Nixon McLean
Tino Best
Darren Ganga
Wavell Hinds
and to bring in a tennis theme, Lendl Simmons (named for Ivan).

Usain Bolt is also pretty awesome.

(There is also a young Indian cricketer called Napoleon Einstein..)

Posted by Lizzie 06/18/2009 at 11:37 AM

I think "Roger Federer" sounds so much more mellifluous when spoken with a French accent than an American one - but then most words do, I suppose. Couldn't hope but notice how nice it sounded during Roland Garros; none of that last-name stuttering effect that Steve mentioned.

Posted by TripleF-FedFanForever 06/18/2009 at 11:44 AM

Very nice. True, I always wondered about how Americans cutely-struggle with Tennis pros names. To a point where even I sort of stretch-and-slur-and-stutter-and-pause while using Tennis pros names...thinking am making it easy on myself and others. My pick would be most eastern European slavic names (esp. last names). All in all, gentle fun. Take the mind of the Fedal wars...just for a day or two.

Posted by Brian 06/18/2009 at 11:47 AM

Great, but what about Guy Forget? That's a classic tennis name, and as Fred Stolle said, only the French could make a name as ordinary as "guy forget" into something as romantic as gee forzhay.

Posted by Afedfan 06/18/2009 at 11:51 AM

Always thought Vitas Gerulaitis was a disease you got for not taking proper precautions.

Posted by sRod 06/18/2009 at 11:52 AM

Everyone seemed to "forget" this name.

What about Stanislas Wawrinka?

You gotta love that!

Posted by sRod 06/18/2009 at 11:53 AM

Ha ha ha, that last one was good!

Posted by sRod 06/18/2009 at 12:01 PM

But the one name on the women's side that annoys the hell outta me is Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez!

For some reason, I always says Sanchez Martinez.

That Jose in the middle just breaks it all apart and throws off any natural flow in her name. Can't stand it!

Posted by Mr. V 06/18/2009 at 12:21 PM

Ralph is not the English version of Rafael. It is Raphael.

Posted by Bring Back the Jets 06/18/2009 at 01:15 PM

Timely post. As a Canadian I feel compelled to add that our Wozniak and the Danish Wozniacki have the luck to be playing in the WTA together right now. As a bonus they're playing each other in the semi-finals in Eastbourne tomorrow.

Posted by Well Left 06/18/2009 at 01:17 PM

During JMDP's run to the title at the Legg Mason tournament in DC last year one fan kept yelling 'C'mon POT-tro!', every point or two, in his semifinal win. After about a set and a helf another fan exclaimed, 'It's DEL Poh-Tro!'.
'Thanks Mom' yelled a third person.

That exchange reminded me of this post for some reason.

Pat Cash and Lew Hoad? uh, ok- short and sweet, I guess.

Posted by Dave 06/18/2009 at 03:23 PM

How about the best name in all tennis history? Boris Becker!

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