Todd Martin

Born: July 8, 1970 in Hinsdale (Illinois)
Height: 1.98 m
Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand)
My first sighting of the almost two-meter-tall Martin was at the US Open ’92. At the main arena, during the night session, he lost to a one-year-younger yet much more experienced Pete Sampras. Still, my overall impression was that Martin could have emerged victorious; it came down to just a few crucial points. It surprised me that a 22-year-old player with such a powerful serve, excellent net coverage, and exquisite returns, had just broken into the Top 100 before the Open.
The following year confirmed Martin’s immense potential as he soared from No. 90 to 13, delivering commendable results across all surfaces (even American clay, he played on European clay only in Paris). From late 1993 to early 1997, Martin was perceived as a top 10’er, besting all the world’s top players in those years (aside from Jim Courier). However, the lack of clinching a significant title tarnished his career. A severe elbow injury sidelined him for eight months, plummeting his ranking from No. 12 to 81. After the resurgence, with first grey hair in the years 1998-99, he was arguably better than ever regarding his consistency on every surface and ability to win tight matches on a regular basis (the best results he had in 1994).
Despite clay being his weakest surface, Martin secured presumably his most significant title after a two-year hiatus from his previous win – Barcelona ’98. What’s even more remarkable, it is his convincing victory in Barcelona over six players who excelled on clay. Martin was an exceptional fighter, rallying back nine times from 0-2 down in sets (the most memorable vs Greg Rusedski at the US Open ’99). Yet, he also suffered unimaginable defeats on Centre Court at Wimbledon against fellow Americans: MaliVai Washington (1996) and Andre Agassi (2000), losing those matches despite holding a double-break advantage in fifth sets.
Regarding his serve, although his towering height was somewhat misleading due to his larger head, Martin was never considered among the best servers; he knew how to swiftly secure service games with a mix of aces, service winners, and volleys though. Well-regarded among his peers, he was elected president of the ATP in 1998. The presidency featured his second career phase, where regularity in achieving good results in the early 00s proved elusive compared to his pre-injury form of the mid 90s. Nevertheless, as a seasoned veteran, he secured his second Grand Slam final at the US Open ’99, where he led 2-1 in sets against Agassi.
From a historical standpoint, I rank Martin alongside Cédric Pioline in the tennis hierarchy (6-4 for Martin in matches between them), although the Frenchman secured one big title while Martin narrowly missed out. Martin’s prime opportunity arose in Montreal ’93, but despite seemingly having the title within his grasp, he fell short against Mikael Pernfors.
Sampras remained Martin’s toughest rival, boasting an 18-4 Head-to-Head record against him. “I always joke (that) I beat him four times, (but) don’t ask me how many times I played him. Because he truly dominated me. I just so happened to not be dominated the way I could have been dominated.” stated Martin many years after finishing his career. However, other serve-and-volleyers struggled against Martin due to his equally efficient groundstrokes from both wings. Great players like Stefan Edberg (Australian Open 1994) and Boris Becker (Munich 1995) discovered this challenge when facing Martin, among others.
In an interesting trivia note, despite both “towers” Martin and Marc Rosset competing on the tour throughout the ’90s, they never crossed paths in singles matches! However, they did encounter each other once on the doubles court at Indian Wells ’96, where Martin and his partner secured victory with a 7-6 triumph in the third set.
Career record: 411–234 [ 230 events ]
Career titles: 8
Highest ranking: No. 4
Best GS results:
Australian Open (runner-up 1994; quarterfinal 1999 & 2001)
Wimbledon (semifinal 1994, 1996; quarterfinal 1993 & 1999)
US Open (runner-up 1999; semifinal 1994 & 2000)
Davis Cup champion 1995 (played doubles in the final)
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