Thursday, October 29, 2009

So Safina bailed on her beat down

Well, I can’t say that I was entirely surprised. Were you? You knew it wasn’t going to be pretty. Serena has made it perfectly clear that she was out for blood. If Safina had somehow made it to the finals in Doha, the beat down was not going to be pretty. In fact, it was going to be downright ugly. All blood and gore.

But no more. Safina has bailed on the entire event. She flew to Doha, posed for pictures (wearing some of the most garish makeup and the most god-awful black dress I have ever seen), went out on court, posed with Jankovic, warmed up, played two games, and then bailed. She said that her back was hurting. To quote her, “My body just gave up, and I couldn't handle the pain anymore”. To quote me, no sweetie, you just bailed on your ass-whopping.

Part of me is struggling to remain sympathetic towards Safina. She would not be one of the women in the banner above my blog if I did not truly appreciate her. I think that she has worked very hard to get to the top. Forget about the fact that she has not won any Slams; she has been a finalist more than once, and has won her share of top tier tournaments. I truly believe in her talent.

But I can’t help but wonder if at least a part of her motive for bailing on Doha was possibly to avoid further damage to her psyche. Had Safina submitted to the beat-down by Serena (assuming of course that she even made it past Wozniacki, Azarenka, or Jankovic), that experience may have done more harm to her already fragile psyche.

Because we all know that Serena would have made a point of crushing her. Of course Serena herself would have had to get past a much more difficult draw consisting of her arch rival Dementieva, the very talented Kuznetsova, and her own sister Venus. Had she survived her half of the round-robin tournament and ended up facing Safina in the finals, Serena would have risen to the challenge of destroying her opponent. And to be honest, that would have been fine with me. After all, as I’ve said before, professional tennis is not a garden party. If you don’t have the stomach for it, get off the court.

And apparently Safina has. She played two games, grabbed her back, packed her bags, and fled. Can women’s tennis get any more shameful?

But is it possible that Safina may have done more damage to herself psychologically by quitting? Could she have benefited from toughing it out, by believing herself to be bold, brave, and not afraid of anyone?

Understand that this argument is premised on the assumption that there is a whole lot of emotion tied up in that complaint of back pain. Pain that suddenly appeared on a tennis court in Doha, and that was evidently so unbearable that she could not even complete one set. I am fascinated by the psychology of pain. I am intrigued by the growing body of evidence indicating that pain may be far more of a psychological experience than a physiological one. Treat the emotions behind the pain and quite often the pain subsides.

Of course Safina needs to consult with orthopedists, physiotherapists, neurologists, chiropractors, and any or all of the host of medical specialists who can assist her with addressing the physiological aspects of her back pain. But perhaps she may also want to consider attending to the mix of emotions that may be tied up in her physical pain. Emotions such as fear, and anxiety, and (ouch) cowardice. I don’t mean to be harsh. I’ve argued before that I believe that PST can help her. I believe this even more now.

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