First it was Kim Clijsters. Then I heard talk about Mary Pierce who is reportedly in serious training with Yutaka Nakamura at Bollettieri’s. And now rumor has it that Henin is training for some exhibition matches later this year and may be open to returning to competing for real. What’s going on? What’s with all this leaving and coming back?
Personally I blame Dinara. Yes I know that it’s not fair of me to lay blame anywhere but since you logged on to this blog to get my opinion I will admit that I think that the problem lies in the lack of a credible #1. Right now, it’s clearly just about any woman’s game. And this may be at least a part of the reason why former champions seem to be chomping at the bit for their chance to slide back up the rankings and take over.
Serena is the closest to dethroning Safina at this point, and has made no bones about the fact that this is her intention. There is no doubt in my mind that Serena Williams is the best women’s tennis player at this time. In fact, I believe that she has the potential to be the best women’s tennis of all time. Unfortunately she got distracted for a while by trying to be a clothing designer/actress. But lately she seems to have accepted the fact that her true calling lies in tennis and seems to have rededicated herself to the sport. I believe that it’s just a matter of time until she ascends to her rightful throne.
But not if Elena Dementieva has anything to do with it. Dementieva just won the US Open Series and is looking all kinds of awesome. Not to mention the fact that she most recently had the pleasure of spanking Serena. A friend emailed me today a list of the US Open winner picks by a number of tennis commentators. Seven picked Dementieva. Six picked Serena. Peter Bodo picked Venus. He must know something that we don’t, right?
In the meantime, how poor Safina struggled yesterday to close it out against Aussie newcomer Olivia Rogowska. I was beyond embarrassed for her. Poor chick had to invoke God in an attempt to explain her inexplicable win [“God knows how I pulled it out. Not me.”] No wonder former players seem to be coming out of the woodwork. There has probably never been a better time to try to return to women’s tennis.
When Justine Henin decided to abandon tennis in favor of having a life, I was royally pissed. At the time I felt that tennis needed her. But I also admired her courage to stand down at the #1 position. She didn’t wait until she had a serious career-killing injury like Mary Pierce. She didn’t have delusional aspirations of becoming a world-famous actress like Serena. She just quietly said that she had had enough, and in a poof, she was gone.
So I must admit that part of me will not be thrilled if she does return. If I could I would ask her what was the point of leaving in the first dam place. I would point out that part of the negative stereotyping that women have long faced is that we constantly change our minds. I would insist that she clarify how serious she is about any comeback. And I will not get all attached again because I’m not down with getting my heart re-broken.
As for the possibility of Mary Pierce’s return, I am quite ambivalent. Part of me feels that she has every right to take the time she needed to heal from her horrifc injury and return to tennis. I even admire that at age 34, she is willing to re-define retirement. But mainly I feel that she should be offered another role in the world of women’s tennis. Kind of like a senior mentor, in the vein of Billie Jean King or Zina Garrison.
But I don’t feel as negatively about Mary Pierce’s possible return as a good friend of mine feels about Lance Armstrong’s decision to return to racing. She is beside herself on this matter. I don’t think that Alberto Contador’s annoyance comes even close to capturing my friend's feelings. She thinks that Armstrong had his time in the spotlight and it’s time for him to go home and pay attention to his children. Whenever she sees him racing she sucks her teeth and yells, “Go back home nah Lance and flip the remote or something!” She thinks that he uses his ancient cancer diagnosis as a crutch to remain the center of attention, almost as if “everybody forgot about the disease and he has to remind them”. Like I said, she is beside herself on this matter.
And I would have been more firmly on her side had I not seen Kim Clijsters’ match against Marion Bartoli today. Really, if you can come back from baby-making to play such a lethal level of tennis, then you have every right to return. So welcome back Kim. And maybe Mary and Juju. Just don’t quit on us for no good reason again, OK?