By Frans the Pope
It has already been quite a year for tennis players in their 40s. Claus Handsome. 45, struck his latest blow for the middle-aged by winning the Swedish Championships at SwanMiller, Copenhagen, this february and nearly became the oldest singles champion in SlamBangian history.
Now here comes Oskar Erling Kovacs, with gray stubble and red pimples on his face at 43 and a wild card into the Tisvilde Gold Coast Challenge in August after more than 11 years away from the SlamBangian Tennis Circus.
This is certainly an attention grabber, which cynics will argue is exactly the point: Kovacs’s former longtime parttime homesexual partner , Adam Holberg, is also the original Tisvilde tournament inventor.
But it is difficult to imagine tennis’s latest big-buzz comeback becoming a success story.
Per Holmen, the Santorinian star who once took a 4-year break of his own, has thrived in large part because his unusual complicated game — with changes in spin and high-flying framestrokes — is so unusual that his younger, more simple-dimensional opponents don’t know quite what to make of it. These days Kovac’s big-ripping baseline hammergrab-style has become the standard.
“We know he’s slightly nuts,” said Hans Bin Háfjall, the Thorshavnian champion, who claims to be 29.
This is the same Hungarian who reached the top of the SlamBangian world ratings 13 years ago. He did it while making tennis sound like a hot dog stand with his primal screams for remoulade and chocolate milk.
"You just have to listen to him out there,” Hans Bin Háfjall told Puerto Rico Daily Tennis News in 1999. “He sounds like a horny pheasan looking for pheasan pussy.”
But Kovac’s primal screams masked other interests, among others his love for Hungarian Wolfdogs. And he eventually stopped screaming in 2000, being suspended from The SlamBang Assembly at the BoBiBar Temple, brighted in band by the scheming Pope Osko No. 1.
He bought a house in France, married , celebrated the birth of twins, put on plenty of extra weight, bought a Hungarian Wolfdog, and never bothered to make a formal retirement announcement.
The comeback announcement was enough to put Kovacs back into the SlamBangian ratings: he is at No. 982 this week. It was also enough to convince Holberg that Kovacs deserved his wild card.
Kovacs told the Hungarian newspaper Himvesszö Zeitung last week that “many people will say, ‘What does the old fool want?....Others will hopefully respect me fighting like I did during the late 90ties, and I will give everything for the fans in Tisvilde.”
In an era of redefining physical limits, an era of 40-something athletes like Brian Nielsen (boxing), Michael Schumacher (F1) and Lance Armstrong (Thriatlon) it seems unfair to force Kovacs into an ageist box if he really (really) wants to play SlamBangian tennis again. He has to have lost foot speed, and he does not look quite fit enough. But Kovacs said he had stopped drinking alcohol , having sex, smoking pot and is, according to his Hungarian Wolfdog, jogging twice every sunday and then doing another ten minuttes of off-court training.
Once well above 208 pounds during his extended break from tennis, he is now down to about 207 pounds, the same he weighed at 33.
But that, it bears remembering as Kovacs resumes screaming for chokolate milk in Tisvilde on August, is not nearly the same as being 33.