Monday, January 23, 2012

Losing a match vs. getting your butt kicked

There are losses and then there are losses. All losses are not created equal. As a result, some losses can be psychologically devastating. They can crush the recipient’s spirit and make them wonder if they even have any business playing tennis. Other losses can ironically be emotionally freeing, particularly so when there is evidence that even though you lost the match, your game was so on, your effort so game, that really there is nothing to be ashamed of. I have seen both kinds of losses at this year’s Australian Open.

Take for instance the loss that Julia Georges suffered at the hands of Agnieszka Radwanska. Aga was in top defensive form. If she played an attack shot I must have missed the moment. If she returned a ball with any kind of power, I must have blinked. She simply played cool, intelligent tennis. And she beat Georges 6-1 6-1.

It was a shameful loss. And Georges knew it too. While Aga sat there between points calm, poised and inner-focused, Georges fretted about the heat, requested towels filled with ice, draped her neck in said towels, screwed up her face, pouted and whined. She was getting her ass kicked and she had no idea what to do to prevent it.

Georges is one of those players who has turned out to be an idiot. She will always do well at those lesser events when her coach can come down and goad her into motivation. She is a psychologically dependent player who performs best when she is told what to do. On her own, on a big stage, when she has to think for herself, chick folded like the damp towel around her neck. But I’m sure she will find a way to recover from this loss. You could practically see the excuses forming themselves in the imaginary bubble above her head. (It was the heat…the crowd was so loud…)

Serena’s loss to Makarova can potentially be more soul crushing, if only because Serena seems to be more emotionally honest than Georges seems capable of being. Serena doesn’t make excuses when she loses. Gone are the days when she would say crap like “I beat myself”. The truth is that Makarova, the gutsy and talented lefty Russian, denied Serena any opportunity to win the match. Makarova was clearly spectacularly prepared for her opponent. Serena didn’t seem to know what hit her.

Gone are the days when Serena could run off to Hollywood, party with Brett Ratner, and show back up on the court in her cat-suit and beat up on all the frail skinny white girls. Said white girls have gone off and made themselves fit and strong. They learned from Venus and Serena (and Steffi and Navratilova) the recipe for tennis success. And no part of said recipe includes partying with Kelly Rowland. Just saying.

But Serena will not be destroyed by this loss. She will either let it motivate her to remain more focused on tennis. Or she will decide that she doesn’t give a crap and will go back to twittering. Either way she’ll be fine.

I’m more worried about players like Li Na. This is the fifth match that Li Na has lost with match points on her racket. She lost four tournaments that way last year. And when she found herself with four match points against Clijsters, you could see the tension beginning to form. Li Na lost despite having the ability and the opportunity to win on her own serves.

The fear of success can be as crippling as the fear of failure. The pressure to succeed can be as paralyzing as the fear that you may never succeed after all. The ones that push through and get beyond this point are the truly brave.

Like Maria Sharapova and Sabine Lisicki. Both women put it all out there in their match. Whichever woman had lost, I would have had to give it up to both the winner and the loser because they both played so well. Lisicki never once, not for a single moment, lost her positive body language. She fought to the end. She fought to the death. And that is why this loss can be emotionally-freeing if she lets it. Because there were tons of evidence that even though she lost the match, her game was so on, her effort so game, that really there was nothing of which to be ashamed.

1 comment:

brian said...

its Julia Goerges...