What Has Happened to the Once Elite of Tennis?

Daniel KCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2009

Hey guys, how are you? I am just starting up here at Bleacher Report. I wrote my first article a little while ago.

This is only my second, so I guess I am sort of a rookie 'round here. So I would love for somebody to read this and tell me how I did, Thanks! Hope you enjoy!

The Australian Open has been flying by, hasn't it? So many great names up there in the Round of 16, Federer, Nadal, Djok, Murray, Monfils, Gonzo (who had an epic match against Gasquet, and barely got out, might have a hard time with Nadal after TWO 5-setters).

But to me there is something missing. Something that used to be around in the semis, quarters, finals, all the time. Hmmmm...what is it, I thought.

Then I realized some of the names I am used to seeing are already out either in the first, second, or third Rounds. Three of them are Marat Safin, Tommy Haas, and Lleyton Hewitt.

I was shocked all of them were out, but not as surprised seeing, how tough their draws were. Safin lost to the greatest ever, Federer. Hewitt lost to Gonzo. Haas lost to Nadal. So I guess it's not too bad about their losses.

But then I thought, were their opponents the only things holding them back? These are guys who should meet Fed, Nadal and Gonzo, later, like in the quarters, or semis, or something like that.

So if they were up against theses guys so early, it must mean they are not highly ranked. Hewitt is ranked No. 70, Haas is ranked No. 79, and Safin is ranked No. 27. So I am thinking, how in the world did these guys fall back so much?!!!

Well, Hewitt has been injured, so of course he has fallen back, he was not in action, that's understood. Haas, well, he was injured too, but in 2008, so understood as well.

Then Safin, well, I hear he was drinking a lot. But ever since Wimbledon, he has been pretty consistent, he made it to the semis, and lost to Fed. He was out of the Top 50, now he is 27th ranked.

Now, I am flashing back.   Remember the old Hewitt who won the US Open in '01, and then Wimbledon in '02? Yeah. Oh, oh, and remember how he made it all the way to the finals in his hometown in the Aussie Open in '05?

Well what about Haas, although he hasn't got a Grand Slam, he has been very successful, remember his '99, '02, and '07 Semifinals in the Aussie? How about making it to the Quarters at the US Open in '04, '06, and '07?

Now Safin, one of the most talented players ever! Won the US Open in '00 and the Aussie in '05. Then made it to the Semis in Wimbledon '08, and Semis in the '02 French. Haas was ranked No. 2 once, while Hewitt and Safin were ranked No. 1 before.

Injuries, drinking, this is what brought them down.

But another thing is being unfortunate to play in the Federer era. Had they not been playing around his time, each should have around five Slams by now and still ranked high. And how strange, all these guys seemed to have their best success around the same time.

Not too long ago, though, they have been just as good as ever, look at Haas in The Aussie in 06/07. Or Hewitt in the Aussie in 05. How about Safin in Wimbledon in 08. Each seemed to be coming back.

Then this setback again, and a few earlier. Had Haas not lost so early in a five-setter in Wimby, he would be up in the Top 30, had Hewitt not been injured same for him.

These days, all the talk is on Fed, Rafa, and Djok. It used to be on Haas, Safin, Hewitt. But could it still be?? They are still around, so why not?

Look at how successful they have been when not injured. Haas was in the Aussie Semis not long ago. This Aussie, Hewitt hasn't even played, and ended up giving Gonzo, No. 14 in the world, a tough five-setter.

While Safin has been back to normal almost since his Wimby Semis? So can these guys really get back to old form?? I think so.

They are just so amazing, each having tons left in them. They just need their time. Safin and Haas will most likely have the most recent success, since they have been playing well, but Hewitt will need time to get back from surgery.

Each of these guys are capable of beating anyone, especially Safin (Djok 08, Fed 05). Remember, they are the former elite, and also remember, Agassi won about half of his Grand Slams when he was 30-plus years young.

So even though Haas is 30, Hewitt still 27, and Safin 28, they still are just as good as they used to be, when healthy and ready. I say watch out.

We might have to see if these guys can make a return, come back to the Top 20s in the World. Will the former Elites come back, and return as the present Elites with Fed, Djok, Nadal? We'll have to see.

They are probably not as good, but are not far away from guys like Murray and Djok. I am always rooting for them, again, remember they all had some great success from 05-08, all of them, that's not long ago.

So we will just wait and see, if Haas, Safin, and Hewitt can still go out and do it.