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Monday, 25 February, 2002, 12:09 GMT
What's in a name?
Max
"The Beast" is actually mild-mannered
BBC Sport Online's David Law talks nicknames with the "Beast" of men's tennis.

With six feet four inches of solid muscle snarling at them from the other side of the net, it is no wonder that Max Mirnyi's opponents call him "the Beast".

A mild-mannered, softly-spoken 24-year-old off the court, the Belarussian is more than happy to be known for his fierce nature on it.

"I don't mind a bit that I'm called the 'Beast'," said Mirnyi.


When I play now, I speak to myself and it's as though there's some kind of second person with me
Max 'Beast' Mirnyi

"It's a good presence to have and I believe it can have an intimidating effect on my opponents."

The name started to stick a few years ago after he played a succession of gruelling matches that went the distance.

When he lost to Spaniard Fernando Vicente in a final set tie-break under the blazing sun of Singapore, Mirnyi realised that it could actually help him focus on court.

"Vicente patted me on the shoulder after that match and said 'man, you really are the Beast'.

"When I play now, I speak to myself and it's as though there's some kind of second person with me. I tell myself 'Get going Beast' or 'Hang in there Beast'.

"It's helped me get through some difficult times."

Last year he finished 34th in the ATP Champions Race and added Pete Sampras, Goran Ivanisevic and Yevgeny Kafelnikov to his list of victims.

German tennis star Boris Becker
Boris Becker - AKA Boom Boom

Nicknames in tennis are nothing new and most of them have a meaning.

Boris Becker was known as 'Boom, Boom' for the huge serve that helped him win three Wimbledon titles, while cool Swede Bjorn Borg was called 'Ice Borg'.

And who could forget when the tabloid newspapers in Britain christened John McEnroe 'Super Brat' following his on-court tantrums in the 1980s?

There's no shortage of nicknames on the circuit today either.

Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten is universally known as 'Guga', while Roger Federer is the 'Federer Express'.

And, after demoralising Lleyton Hewitt with the brilliance of his drop-shots in Hamburg last year, Spaniard Albert Portas became the 'Drop Shot Dragon'.

"I wish more players would add a second name to their presence," says Mirnyi.

"It's a good thing for the players and the people who watch. A few 'Beast' hats and shirts have already been made and it adds a bit of colour to the game."

Beauty and the Beast

It also gives television commentators and journalists something to work with.

At the US Open in 2000, they had a field day when Mirnyi reached the mixed doubles final with Anna Kournikova.

"They called us 'Beauty and the Beast'," said Mirnyi.

"Everyone relates to her as this sex symbol, and there she was with this big bear sitting next to her.

"Every time we went into the press room they would say, 'a question for Beauty, and now maybe the Beast can answer'."

Unlike the Disney movie of the same name though, there was no romantic ending. Max and Anna are just good friends.

See also:

20 Oct 01 |  Tennis
Mirnyi too hot for Kafelnikov
19 Oct 01 |  Tennis
Mirnyi mauls Sampras
16 Oct 01 |  Tennis
Max power sinks Kuerten
12 Oct 01 |  Tennis
Safin survives scare
03 Sep 01 |  US Open tennis
Kuerten comes through thriller
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