M.J. Fernandez: Super cool. Super sweet. No slam... why?

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by Oh Definitely, Aug 12, 2014.

  1. Oh Definitely

    Oh Definitely Rookie

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    One of my most favourite players from the great era of pre-2000 but not one solitary slam win???

    Her ground strokes were penetrating enough. She had the movement and net play to come up trumps. M.J. even made a few GS finals... but ended up with didley... Any thoughts on why?
     
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  2. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

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    she faced some pretty good opponents like graf, seles and Sabatini. she was good but not as good as them.

    she would have needed some luck to win a slam (or a terrible era like now:)).
     
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  3. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Nice girl, sweet looks, crafty game.She was a bit like Raul Ramirez or Jose Luis Clerc.fantastic players, great watching...but had bad luck playing one of the hardest ever eras and lacked the extra thing that separates great players from great champions
     
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  4. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    Not to mention Pierce, ASV, Martinez, Novatna, late-career Navratilova, early-career Hingis, Capriati. She played in a minefield era and just came up short a couple of times. She had some good looks, but couldn't get it done.
     
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  5. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Of all players I have seen, her strokes were most like late career Evert's And she sure had read Evert's playbook. But Fernandez was a bit more predictable and her mobility wasn't as good has many of her opponents, While she had a competitive nature, she did not have a ruthlessly competitive nature. If you lack that killer finishing shot, you had better have that killer drive.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
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  6. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    She worked upstairs from me in the mid to late '80's, with Rosie and IllanaKloss.
    A very feminine girl with a devil seething inside her. Casals could really push her buttons.
     
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  7. conway

    conway Banned

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    Plain and simple, she wasn't good enough. Her record vs Graf is 0-13 or something like that. You cant win a slam in the Graf era if you are incapable of even posting a single win over her (even in a small tournament). Her record vs Seles is similar, something like 1-13. Her 1 win being over 15 year old Seles, so all but meaningless, so it is as if she never beat her either. She played Hingis a few times and got walloped badly in each. She never beat Chris Evert despite that they played when Chris was really old and past her prime. In fact I don't believe any of their matches were close. So it becomes obvious she wasn't competitive with the best.

    She was like the 90s version of Manuela Maleeva. Nice and steady from the baseline, but no real weapons, guile, athleticsm, or creativity to win a slam. Her best chance was the 93 French where she had Seles out of the event by the stabbing, a miraculous comeback vs Sabatini in the quarters, and a badly off form Graf in the final. Still her best tennis proved to not be quite enough against Graf's worst. That was the only day she might have won a slam, and still not quite enough game in the end.
     
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  8. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    I think Mary Joe overachieved. I never got the impression that she would win a slam. But she did a darn good job of making three slam finals, really pushing Graf in Paris. We should also remember how close she came to beating Gaby at the 90 US Open. If MJ F wins that, Gaby has 0 slams.

    I liked her game and rooted for her often. Her game resembled her appearance: collected, clean, and very focused. Injuries and health problems interrupted several promising years.

    BTW, MJF's rivalry with Gaby is one of the best in womens tennis in the 90's. I loved her wins over Sabatini at the 92 US Open and the famous 93 French Open, even though I was rooting for Gaby. She also had a great win over Serena at the 99 French.
     
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  9. conway

    conway Banned

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    I don't think MFJ was ever beating Graf in the 1990 U.S Open final even had she beaten Graf. That Sabatini beat Graf is meaningless to her chances. Gaby shocked Graf with a new net rushing game, and Graf's confidence after upset losses to Seles and Garrison at the French and Wimbledon was shaky enough to be unsettled by this. Fernandez would have done nothing that surprised her, and as Graf was playing well prior to the final (far better than she had all year probably in fact), would have smoked her probably much more badly than their Australian Open final that year.

    I agree with everything else you said though.

    I don't know anyone would expect Fernandez to win a slam in an era where people like Sabatini and Novotna, CLEARLY superior players (despite Fernandez's strong challenge to Gaby in their personal rivalry) managed only 1. Even Martinez who was so great on clay, would seem a much more likely slam winner than Fernandez. Fernandez was about as likely to win a slam as say Anke Huber or Manuela Maleeva for me.

    I also look at clips of Fernandez in one of her only slam finals (thus probably one of her best ever tournaments) and it is even more apparent to me this isn't a player likely to win a slam title:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NeOfylJpJk

    Just not enough weaponary.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2014
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  10. CEvertFan

    CEvertFan Hall of Fame

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    Watching that clip (I remember watching that final) young fit Seles was a very bad matchup for someone like Fernandez. She got overwhelmed by Monica's power, and pretty much the same thing would happen against Graf too. No one on the tour at that time hit nearly as hard as Seles did (she being the prototype power player so common these days) and to counter that power you needed weapons of your own or tremendous footspeed or preferably both like Graf had. Being steady wasn't going to do it against Seles.
     
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  11. conway

    conway Banned

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    Yeah Fernandez's playing style was rendered useless by someone like Seles. The only player she was more hopeless against than Seles was Hingis. I remember their matches in early 97 when Fernandez was actually resurgent and playing some of her best tennis, but Hingis is essentialy just a much better version of Fernandez's game, the same way Chris Evert was. She looked even more helpless against Hingis than she did prime Seles.
     
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  12. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    One thing I have to give credit to MJF for is the fact that she was such a flat, clean striker of the ball. Not many of those survived in the 90's era of big racquets for the heavy topspinners. That style helped to drive several of the 80's top tenners down in the rankings or out altogether. I think MJF survived because of her youth and intelligence.

    I brought up the great SF loss to Gaby at the 90 Open, but she got even closer to another final at the 91 Australian when she caught Seles on a bad day. As BTurner suggested, she might trouble Graf or Seles if they are off because she could smartly pick up on what's bothering them that day. But we've all seen what happens when a Graf or Seles is on and MJF plays well too: 92 Australian F, 95Wimbledon, etc. Just not enough weapons.
     
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  13. jaggy

    jaggy G.O.A.T.

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    That sounds very interesting
     
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  14. Gonzalito17

    Gonzalito17 Hall of Fame

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    Very very good player not quite great. Seemed to be missing that passion, that fire, which most of the major champions have, that obsessive hunger to be the best. Just a bit too placid and cool to go all the way against the behemoths. Like Todd Martin, Sam Querrey, Spadea, Correjta...

    To win a major or majors you have to really really want it.
     
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  15. Oh Definitely

    Oh Definitely Rookie

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    Thanks for the feedback.

    Some great comments.

    Watching her game, MJF was extremely solid and did generate some depth and power when she was on.

    With 3 slam finals, and being a top tenner for almost a decade, you might think she could have had the luck to pull at least one off.

    Yes, as one of you said, her "crafty" (great adjective in this case) game was great to watch. She was also so very well presented always... very stylish and unique.

    She was a great junior in the US circuit, and it's kinda unfortunate she couldn't take that next step, as say ASV or Martinez did.
     
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  16. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    I loved watching her play Chris at Wimbledon and the US Open in 1986. For those that thought of Evert as a "pusher, " she had more power than MJF did which was why she couldn't make an impression on Chris. But you can tell that she was a player that learned and understood well the tennants of Evert's great approach to tennis.
     
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  17. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    anyone who thought of Evert as a 'pusher' at any time in her career, was totally ignorant of women's tennis. Evert had some of the most powerful pair of groundies in the sport from 1974-1988, excepting maybe 82-83 right before her belated change to graphite. Martina claimed Evert still had the best pair of groundstrokes in the late eighties. That was never where her problem lay.
     
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  18. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    Very true. But it's been said a time or two here on this forum. Amazes me too.
     
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  19. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    I've brought this up before. People really have to watch the right video clips of Evert. There's some clips of her out there that make her (and other players) look like they're playing in slow motion. It's a video quality thing. Not saying she had Mary Pierce or Serena power, but she had some powerful groundies and not every video does that justice.

    Also, she had such simple strokes. There's no gigantic swing and/or exaggerated take-back which often is a visible way to suggest power.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
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  20. conway

    conway Banned

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    You can only compare things like power to players of your own time. Anyone will likely be a lot more powerful in a later date with advanced equipment, technology, coaching, etc...Evert was the hardest baseline hitter of her own time most of her career. The only exceptions were peak Austin from 79-81, Nancy Richey early in Evert's career, and Steffi Graf from 86 onwards (and maybe Sabatini from 87 or 88 to Chris's retirement).
     
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  21. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    That's a good point. Pre 90's, there were several such clean, efficient strikers of the ball that made it look so easy and smooth that the power was deceptive. Power has components like torque, leg muscles, etc. But it always comes down to timing and how quickly the ball comes through the racquet.

    We also remember that players like Evert and I would even say MJF did what the situation called for. Masters of tempo and sometimes pace too.
     
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  22. dirtballer

    dirtballer Professional

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    Mary Jo played would have benefited from weight training. She was relatively frail.
     
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  23. BTURNER

    BTURNER Hall of Fame

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    Graf and richey dominated rallies by running around their backhands and that is why I stipulated pair of groundstrokes. All three women you mentioned at times in the rivalry could overpower in forehand exchanges, but neither Richey nor Graf could ever consistency overpower her by trading backhands at all. She normally put as much or more power in that flattish backhand as anyone except maybe Tracy. Evert loved to eat up the pace when Graf came over hers. Shot for shot, Evert both created and returned pace off that wing better. They of course each had wonderful slices all the inherent advantages, but that is a different subject.

    If we are comparing pairs of strokes, to pairs of stokes. You may well be right about Austin by that standard. By mid 1988 I'd add Sabatini, and in 1989 specifically,I'd add Seles . Never Fernandez.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2014
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  24. Oh Definitely

    Oh Definitely Rookie

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    "Frail" is such a harsh term...? I would consider her slight.

    You're right though, weight training would have bolstered her already solid strokes. There was good depth and weight on her strokes, but perhaps with the added time in a gym, MJF could sustain that depth and weight for extended rallies, rather than either 1. making an unforced error, or 2. being overpowered, as was the case in her '91 AO semi...

    ...she could have (and really should have), taken that match away from Monica at anytime in the 3rd set.
     
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  25. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    NOT everyone on the WTA circuit is built like Serena.
    At 5'11" or whatever, she needs to be somewhat thin to move left and right.
    Dani.
    Anna.
    Aggie.
    Are all close to "too" thin, but they make money on the side modeling, don't they?
     
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  26. bluetrain4

    bluetrain4 Legend

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    Also, Hantuchova and Ivanovic never lacked for power. So, it's not always as simple as someone being thin and that's the reason they lack power.
     
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  27. staceyliving

    staceyliving Banned

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    Ivanovic was a big strong girl. Hantuchova has near flawless technique which is probably why she is able to achieve such power even being slight. Also even though often thin she is quite tall too so it is not like she is a small girl. Wasn't Fernandez relatively short and extremely frail/thin as well?

    I think if she had a more aggressive mindset and stepped into shots more she would create more power. Like she did at Roland Garros 93. That is the way she needed to try playing her entire career.
     
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  28. heninfan99

    heninfan99 Legend

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    I think she was always looking to network and marry a successful guy, looking toward a post-tennis career. I think she's way too friendly with certain players to be a reporter or commentating. Too much bias. She didn't win slams because she didn't have the game to win.
     
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  29. PDJ

    PDJ Hall of Fame

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    I agree absolutely. I recall commentators at the time saying she needed to develop a little more muscle as a) she could wilt b) really susceptible to injury.
    I did enjoy watching her play.
    She wasn't too shabby at doubles either.
     
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  30. THUNDERVOLLEY

    THUNDERVOLLEY G.O.A.T.

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    In the 90s, I recall reading a tennis magazine which spotlighted her training program--it was all about that. She was fit, but as others noted, she was not physically gifted. In an era where speed was one of the priorities, she was practically playing in slow motion compared to her chief rivals.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
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  31. PDJ

    PDJ Hall of Fame

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    A great post. Especially re her game matching her appearance.
    I may have the wrong player, but didn't she have multiple coaching changes, if so, that rarely helps.
     
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  32. PDJ

    PDJ Hall of Fame

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    Enjoy:

    Chris Evert d. Mary Joe Fernandez - 1988 Lipton I…: http://youtu.be/H3K_LpD15mo

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NasKAsJRejw&sns=em

    Chris Evert vs Mary Joe Fernandez 1989 Key Biscay…: http://youtu.be/Bg9OEi2A0qM
     
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  33. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    She worked upstairs from you? In the mId to late eighties...what did you do for a living?

    At that time, mj was a teenager going from jrs to the tour. I can see her knowing rosie and illona...bjk, et al....but working upstairs from the notorious L.E.E.?

    Well, she was traveling and playing the tour.
     
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  34. ScentOfDefeat

    ScentOfDefeat Hall of Fame

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    While I agree with the others, I think Corretja had what it takes to be a champion. That Masters win against Moya showed how passionate he was. He also made two RG finals and was by no means at Querrey's or Spadea's level.
     
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  35. suwanee4712

    suwanee4712 Professional

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    You know, I don't remember a lot about MJF's coaching. The coach that I associate her with most was Harold Solomon. I think that pairing lasted a couple of years. I think she was also coached by Juan Nunez for a time. Seems like for a while she, ASV, and Sabatini swapped coaches from time to time.
     
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  36. itoaxel

    itoaxel Banned

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    Don't forget Conchita. All 4 of that group seemed to swap coaches around.

    Regarding OP Mary Joe just wasn't quite good enough. In her own era (90-97) Graf, Seles, Sabatini, Novotna, Sanchez Vicario, Martinez, Navratilova, Capriati, Hingis, were all better tennis players. When you are about the 10th best player of your era you probably wont win a slam, unless you get lucky like Majoli did.
     
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  37. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Who was better,Mary Jo or Jaeger?
    Interesting debate
     
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  38. slice bh compliment

    slice bh compliment G.O.A.T.

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    Interesting, but as i remember, andrea jaeger was the next big thing when mj was in 12s. Mj was just a contender in her teens and twenties. A model of consistency.
    In her heyday, Jaeger was fearlessly taking the evert and austin style up a notch. Short career, though.

    So even though their career records might be somewhat comparable, my perception is that mj's star burned longer with less brightness.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2014
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  39. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I couldn't agree more
    Fate took the best of Andrea from us
     
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  40. itoaxel

    itoaxel Banned

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    Mary Joe vs Andrea? Not sure really. I think Andrea had way more talent and potential, but she never came even close to fulfilling it. Mary Joe had a longer, much more consistent, and more accomplished career so I would say she was ultimately probably better, and for sure greater.

    Then again Mary Joe lost 20+ matches in a row to Graf and Seles. That is some serious incapability vs the best. Jaeger had some wins over Martina and Chris, but mostly in slump years for one or either. Not sure if she even beat either in a true prime year.
     
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