July 06, 2006

This side of Neptune

Kaarsten Braasch? Who's he? Tennis player from Germany, now retired from playing on the circuit. Known for four things. (Well, I know these four things).

  • Played Pete Sampras, then the defending champion, in the first round at Wimbledon a few years ago. It was expected to be something of a cakewalkover (where that word came from, another time) for Sampras: Braasch was fairly low in the rankings, after all. But with a mix of slice and spin and dropshots, Braasch actually wrested a set and fought hard. Pistol Pete had to summon up all his racket prowess to eventually beat Braasch.

    "He's a pain to play", or words to that effect, was Sampras's post-match reaction.

  • Is a chain smoker, 15 smokes a day. Let's just say that's unusual for a professional tennis player.

  • Has easily the most peculiar service motion this side of Neptune. I'm unable to find words to describe this flailing that would deposit the ball across the net. If you haven't ever seen it, I feel for you, because I believe nobody should die without having seen Kaarsten Braasch's service at least once. Nobody.

  • In 1998, he was lounging around at the Australian Open. Williams sisters, then on the up-and-up and full of immense self-belief, announced to anyone in earshot that they believed they were good enough to beat the 200th-ranked player on the men's tour in a practice match. Braasch was within earshot (perhaps smoking his 7th of the day). He was then ranked 203. He volunteered, then went off to train, Braasch style: some golf, some shandies.

    Then he played Serena, beat her 6-1. Venus immediately after, beat her 6-2. Braasch wrote later:
      Both sisters are great tennis players and hit the ball extremely well. However, if you've been playing on the men's tour there are certain shots you can play that are going to put them in difficulty. Try and put a lot spin on the ball - I was hitting the ball with a degree of spin they don't face week-in, week-out.
    Williams sisters then announced to all in earshot that they wanted to do it again, but against the 350th-ranked player.

    Braasch, now perhaps on his 10th smoke, told the press that he was about to lose a lot of ranking points, and would be at #350 in a week. So if the Williams sisters wanted, they could play him again in a week.

    They didn't take up that particular challenge.

    Please, please don't be content with my mangled and abbreviated account of this encounter. Far funnier are Braasch's own words.

    My kind of man. God I love tennis!


    Postscript: Then there was the time when Karan Rastogi beat Maria Sharapova.

    Anonymous said...

    Thank Dilip!

    Lovely. The bit about being 350th rank soon was priceless. I am sure with more practise Williams sister could eventually beat players around 200th rank or maybe even higher.

    Why did his dude retire? Probably smoked one too many one day.

    Stone said...

    I'm curious to see his serve!! Can you provide any links for the video or something?

    Raghuveer said...

    Another funny tennis story:

    VITAS GERULAITIS, on breaking a 16-match losing streak to Bjorn Borg in the late 1970s, uttered the immortal line: “Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row.”

    Arthur Quiller Couch said...

    So Richard Krajicek did have a point.

    Dilip D'Souza said...

    stone, I've searched for videos of Braasch's service motion for a LONG time. No luck. So if you get lucky, please immediately let me know.

    Water, I rememebr that one! Vitas had a sense of humour. Pity he died as he did.

    Arthur, Krajicek did indeed have a point. Many points, in fact, for example at Wimbledon in 1996, when he won it all. I wouldn't be able to tell you exactly how many points, but "many" is certainly accurate.

    Anonymous said...

    15 smokes a day and a chain smoker in the same sentence? A chain smoker would easily smoke at least 60 a day.