Saturday, July 6, 2013

How come no one calls Nadal “quirky”?

“Quirky” became the catch phrase of almost every American commentator to describe Marion Bartoli as she played the finals match against the openly favored (not by me) Sabine Lisicki. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Sabine, as any regular reader of this blog knows. But against the nerd with an IQ of 175? I’m sorry, the lower-ranked blonde with the pigtail and ribbons and jagged-tooth smile didn’t have a chance, ever, in my view.

But this entry will not be another of my rants about how the tennis establishment becomes cock-eyed when a blonde chick with a pigtail picks up a racket. I promise.

Instead, it is a rant over the not-so-subtle belittling of Marion Bartoli by relentlessly describing her as “quirky” while this word is never used to describe Rafael Nadal, despite his constant and repetitive arse-picking, and finger-smelling, and hair-patting, and shoulder-adjusting – to name just a few of his expansive repertoire of quirks.

I cannot remember ever once hearing any commentator comment on the fact that Nadal picks his ass and smells his fingers. Sure they’re quick to talk vaguely about his ‘rituals’ and about how everything has to be ‘lined up just so’. But there is much compassion for what he needs to do in order to perform – as there should be for anyone trapped in the psychological prison of ritualistic repetition.

But Bartoli does not attract compassion. She gets derided, repeatedly, as “quirky”.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Breakthroughs, flukes, and the fear of success

I can’t remember another event when so many of the heavy favorites found themselves dismantled and dismissed along the way, as a bunch of relative newbies stepped up and forced us to take notice. I almost don’t care any longer who wins Wimbledon on either the men or women’s side. I’m just thrilled at the sheer number of breakthroughs.

And this of course inspired me not only to contemplate the psychology of breaking through but to finally write that long promised article on the fear of success. Because have no doubt that breaking through is very much a psychological experience, which, when mismanaged can end up looking like a fluke event, never to be repeated. When managed well however, a breakthrough can turn out to be a stepping-stone toward further success.

I’m thinking of Darcis and his win against Nadal. I admired Nadal’s insistence on not detracting from Darcis’ victory by refusing to answer questions about his knee. Nadal was willing to graciously concede the breakthrough. Darcis celebrated like he had won Wimbledon and needed to work no further. He did interview after interview after interview, talked incessantly about how he was going to celebrate by drinking Belgian beer – and then called in sick the next day.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

‘A hacker with a big serve’

That’s what I once called Dustin Brown. The date was September 2010; the match, against Andy Murray; and the occasion, the 2010 US Open. At the time, Dustin was in the middle of failed attempts to get himself adopted by England after he fell out with Jamaica.

Three months later, in December 2010, I made the following joking prediction: “After learning of Kiefer’s retirement, Dustin Brown will give up his bid to be adopted by Britain and will instead offer himself to Germany, reminding them that he was actually born there. The Germans will have a good belly laugh.”

Turns out I was both wrong and right. Brown is now listed as German on his official records. Yet he has never played Davis Cup for that country. Indeed, do any random search for German tennis players and his name rarely comes up. This is because for most of his tennis career, Brown was listed as Jamaican, living for years in a camper purchased by his parents, and supporting himself on the challenger circuit.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

“Anything I could do to support women I have done”

Not being one to waste a moment, Serena Williams has already moved on to her next controversy. (Ugh, doesn’t she find it exhausting?) Her feud with Sharapova has taken on nasty overtones – so nasty that someone seems to have gotten through to Serena that it’s time to shut it down. She now claims to have apologized to Sharapova. As of this writing, there has been no confirmation by Maria.

In a recent interview (Rolling Stone magazine), Serena was recorded bad-mouthing Sharapova on the phone. My sense is that the whole phone thing may have been a ploy by Serena to be able to make nasty comments about Maria without officially going on the record. I say this because Serena did not have to take that call during that interview. Nor did she have to make a point of speaking loudly enough to be heard and recorded. But she did, and she was, and once again she ends up looking like a fool.

The article claims that Serena made a number of petty, mean-girl comments about a certain tennis player who is not invited to the cool parties, who is too tennis-obsessed, and who is dating a man
with a “black heart”. Said woman assumed to be Sharapova. Said man deduced to be Dimitrov. Said passive-aggressive comment leading to Sharapova’s unsheathed, in your face, right back at ya biyatch!

Serena, Steubenville, and the question of complicity

Serena Williams’ off-handed, unsolicited comments about the 16-year-old who was raped and humiliated by a group of Steubenville athletes ended up raising so many hackles that Serena was forced to issue a public apology. During the latter, she went on and on about her long fight for women’s equality: “I have fought all of my career for women’s equality, women’s equal rights, respect in their fields—anything I could do to support women I have done”.

Really? I had no idea Serena was such a feminist! Since when? I need proof. I do remember her sister Venus sticking her neck out to argue passionately on behalf of women’s equality on the tour while Serena partied her ass off in Hollywood. But Serena has always appropriated that which first belonged to Venus, so her new feminist claims are likely no different.

What forced Serena into an apology was the harsh public outcry over her implication that the 16-year-old victim was complicit in her own victimization. Most disturbingly, Serena even went so far as to query the 16-year-old victim’s virginity: “…It could have been much worse. She's lucky. Obviously I don't know, maybe she wasn't a virgin, but she shouldn't have put herself in that position…”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The combination of power and finesse

What stood out for me at the 2013 Roland Garros finals between Serena and Sharapova, was that Sharapova played a purely power game while Serena mixed in finesse. For a good portion of that match, Serena returned the ball placidly, measuredly. Power, like finesse, was something she turned on and off, as needed.

But when folks talk about Serena, all they allude to is her power. It’s almost as if some are incapable of perceiving finesse points when the player doesn’t physically look the part.

Which is why I think that it is beyond simplistic to divide professional tennis players into one of two of these narrow categories: They’re either hitting the ball hard like Sharapova or they’re playing exclusively with finesse…like…whom?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Errani, Ferrer, and the re-definition of finesse?

There are so many paths to tennis success, so many different styles of playing and winning. Just think of the top ten women right now and it becomes easy to identify ways in which their games are totally different from each other’s. Radwanska’s style of play is as different from Kerber’s as Na Li’s is from Sharapova’s.

And while the latter’s game probably most closely resembles that of Azarenka, it is in many ways distinct from that of Kirilenko, Errani, and Kvitova. Heck, throw Wozniacki and Serena in the mix, and you have a top ten field that

Friday, June 7, 2013

“It doesn’t have the feel of a semi-final match”

That was the general consensus regarding the blowout of a win put down by Serena Williams on Sara Errani at the semi-finals of this year’s Roland Garros. The actual quote from Chris Evert was, “It doesn’t have the feel of a semi-final match, that’s for sure.” Her words confidently implied that there was no room for disagreement with her opinion.

And part of me gets why the one-sided, lop-sided, 0-6 1-6 Errani loss in no way represented the score-line one would expect of the semi-finals of any Grand Slam event. In the opening rounds, sure. Heck, even Johnny Mac spared us the salary comparisons between Errani’s 6-1 6-2 dominance of Arantza Rus and Federer’s 6-2 6-2 6-3 win over Pablo Carreno-Busta at the same point of the tournament.

But as the tournament progressed, the complaints started becoming more strident. Brad Gilbert soon joined the chorus, sounding and looking as gray and crotchety as Johnny Mac. The women were earning too much and playing too little. And Errani in particular had

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A bunch of Old Farts make it into Week Two

I’m sorry but I couldn’t think of a better title. Maybe it’s because I have always been a supporter of Old Farts in tennis. My very first tennis love was an Italian named Gianluca Pozzi. I’m probably the only person outside of Italy who remembers him. Gianluca once won my heart in a five-setter against Marat Safin and I have never looked forward since. I’ve remained addicted to looking back.

For purposes of tennis only, an Old Fart is any player older than 30. Yes by non-tennis standards that is grossly unfair. Go talk to the ACLU. In the meantime, I am throwing a merlot party for the abundance of Old Farts who have made it into Week Two of the 2013 Roland Garros. The number seems unprecedented to me.

For a start, there is my darling Federer. He almost gave me a heart attack today when it looked for a minute like the non-weaponed Gilles Simon might beat him. The only good thing that came out of that match was that I finally gained insight into why I cannot stand Gilles Simon. For the first time I understand why I refer to him in my thoughts

Friday, May 31, 2013

How to maintain the course

The third phase in the process of change involves preparation. You have to prepare for change. Impose change without preparation and it can be a shock to the system. It’s kind of like transplanting a seedling from the safety of its plastic pot into unfamiliar garden soil. The pot may have become confining but it is nonetheless familiar. Transplant the seedling under the wrong conditions and it can go into shock and die.

This is why change is something for which you first prepare. Part of that preparation, in tennis, involves finding the right coach. Who would you best click with? Who is the person who can best manage the murky dynamics of being both teacher and employee at the same time? The preparation stage involves doing the right research.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Li Na and the difficulties with change

There is no question that Li Na’s game has already changed under the guidance of Carlos Rodriguez. Already she has added way more spin to both her forehand and backhand. Already her fitness and movement are visibly improved. Already her forehand is no longer a liability but has become a weapon. Already she has cut out the business of losing focus in the middle of a match while she looks up to the stands to cuss out her long-suffering husband.

Clearly Li Na’s tactical game has improved. The remaining problems are all mental.

Change is hard, Li Na can tell you. In her cheerfully blunt fashion, she has been open about the difficulties of enduring the painful boot camp that Rodriguez put her through. Henin is probably the only person who can empathize with her pain. Carlos uniquely seems to understand how to take a woman of small stature and turn her into a force to be reckoned with. He did so with Henin, not just physically but also mentally.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Peng Shuai and the limits of defensive opportunism

Peng Shuai has now been in six or so WTA finals. And she has lost them all. Her official record boasts wins against many former and current top players. The list includes: Safina, Mauresmo, Hingis, Jankovic, Sharapova, Ivanovic, Aggie Radwanska, Li Na, Kuznetsova, Petrova, and Schiavone. But Peng has never won a singles title. 

On a good day, Peng can beat almost anyone. Heck, I would never want to play against anyone who plays her brand of tennis. I can just imagine how frustrated I would become after all of those dropshots, junk balls, lobs, shots going behind me, and all of the other sneaky and defensive maneuvers that Peng brings to a typical match.

Her opportunistic style can frustrate almost anyone. Peng’s problem is that by the time she gets to the finals -- the few times she has made it that far -- she is depleted from the amount of energy and stamina required to keep up that level of manipulation. So she loses, often with embarrassing ease.

Peng has managed to win some eight doubles titles, but she has never won a WTA singles event. She has made it to the 4th round of every Slam, but she has no Slam wins. To date, her biggest accomplishment remains her gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games. Most of the Western world probably has no idea what that even means.

Which leads me to wonder – is Peng’s problem one of mechanics or psychology? Is her game limited by a lack of development of strategy? Or is she mentally incapable of taking her tennis to the next level? Or possibly a combination of both?

I studied Peng closely over this past weekend. I watched intently as she beat Oprandi in three frustrating sets at the semi-finals of the Brussels Open. And then she lost, once again, in the finals, to Kanepi who was able to anticipate Peng's every move.

I decided that, as a player, Peng can best be described as a sneaky, defensive opportunist. And it’s hard to win tournaments when that is what your entire game consists of.

Peng is no Fabrice Santoro, the French magician. (Did you see him chatting up Serena after she destroyed poor Tatishvili at Roland Garros today?) Peng is no Radek Stepanek, capable of frustrating anyone on any given day – and also of winning titles. She is no Hingis, the junk ball queen, with sundry Slams and titles to her name.

The problem for Peng is that her game remains woefully under-developed. It has stalled out. Peng rarely ever dominates. Her shtick is to react, swiftly and unexpectedly, yes, but always to react and defend. Occasionally she will demonstrate a moment of power but that is never sustained. She reacts to, but rarely creates. She is an opportunist who seizes the moment and tries to make it hers. She is a sneak. You do not see her coming. She can catch you by surprise.

But sneaky opportunism has its limits. For a start, it becomes predictable in its unpredictability. If Peng serves out wide, 19 times out of 20 she will return to that same corner. She is sneaky but predictable. Furthermore, her game is limited by a lack of development. She is no Na Li. There is nothing new in her repertoire. Yes, Peng works very hard on the court and is known for her stamina. But she still has zero weapons and no titles to show for all her effort. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Should Venus retire?

I found the question to be offensive and told my friend so. We began to argue. She believes that Venus is ruining her legacy by continuing to hang around the game. She wants that the last memories of Venus Williams not be ones in which she is being beaten by the likes of Laura Robson in the first round of the Italian Open.

I think that that position is completely unfair. In fact it’s unfair to both Venus and Laura. It implies that Laura Robson is so talentless that she ought not to beat a player like Venus Williams. This is the same Laura Robson who won Olympics silver with Andy Murray, and took out Kvitova in Australia earlier this year. Laura can play decent tennis. And as a lefty, she can challenge the best on a good day. And although Serena then beat her in straights, she had her moments of challenging Serena.

But the question in my title is particularly offensive to Venus Williams herself. Don’t get me wrong, I kind of understand why some folks are asking it. The well-wishers are probably concerned about Venus’ health. But surely Venus and her doctors know her limits better than we do? Surely the specialists she can afford have blessed off on her decision to remain active?

Furthermore, from a psychological point of view, Venus may be healthier because she is continuing to do something she loves. Her motivation to stay healthy will increase if she remains actively engaged in doing things she enjoys. What should she retire and do? How could staying home and twiddling her thumbs possibly be the healthier path for her?

Retirement is a huge and depressing step for a lot of people. They have to give up their self-identity as workers and doers and find another way to extract meaning from life. And if Venus does not feel ready to make that step, no one should force her to do it.

I've written before about how much I really dislike it when people start calling for any player to retire. Already the drumbeat is also starting for Roger Federer. His latest loss to Nadal tells me only that he still has a mental block when it comes to playing Nadal – not that he should hang up his tennis shoes any time soon.

If Tommy Haas had listened to the naysayers, he would never have made it back from injury and his parents’ crisis to play great tennis. If Agassi had listened to the detractors, he would not have had the courage to go back to the challengers and re-find his form. If Kimiko Date-Krumm hadn't dusted off the cobwebs, she would not now be ranked  34th in the world at the sweet young age of 43. 

I believe that people should retire from playing a sport when they want to, and on their own terms. No one should be forced out of the game by a bunch of fans who want the reflection of all of the glory when the player is on top, but none of the pain as the player begins to struggle.

So to answer my own question, no Venus should not retire. She should continue playing tennis for as long as she wants to and feels healthy enough to do so. She is currently ranked 41st in the world. Ranked just below her are Daniela Hantuchova and Francesca Schiavone. Are we saying that these women should retire too?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Did Sloane Stephens fail media training?

One of the plusses of being a top male tennis player is the requirement that you submit to media training. The ATP has been pretty open about the fact that they train tennis stars on how to handle the media and themselves appropriately.

I’ve always assumed that the WTA offers a similar service for the women. But after reading the fiasco that was Sloane Stephens’ latest ESPN interview, I have to wonder if the problem is that the WTA does not offer this service, or whether Sloane was just a dunce in media class. There are no other explanations for her abject stupidity.

For a start, let’s get real. Sloane Stephens beat an INJURED Serena in Australia earlier this year. Serena was hobbled by a twisted ankle and severe back spasms. She posted a picture of the swollen ankle lest there be any doubts as to why she lost to Sloane. You would think that this would have tempered Stephens’ celebration of her win.

Instead, Sloane revealed herself to be a kind of hypocrite. Mere weeks earlier, after losing to Serena in Brisbane, Sloane had this to say about her opponent: “She's so sweet…I love her. Obviously she's been a really great influence in my tennis career...Obviously I always was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I love her to death. She's amazing, whatever. Now she's like an actual person and I'm like, 'Oh, hi. How is it going?' She's not like a hero anymore. She's just a friend.”

As it should be. Because for every up-and-coming player of color, Serena and her sister Venus will forever be the ones that paved the way. Thank goodness they had each other in the locker room because no one spoke to them. Thank goodness for parents who loved and protected them because no one else did. And with their pain and sacrifice, they paved the way for the likes of Sloane.

But instead of graciously acknowledging this, Sloane chose to tell ESPN about a grudge she has held against the Sisters since she was 12. She and her family had waited all day for the Williams sisters to sign their posters but never got the desired autographs. A clearly delusional and narcissistic Sloane then proceeds to bash the Sisters, while apparently ignoring her mother's attempts at restraint:

‘“Yes! The people need to know! I waited all day. They walked by three times and never signed our posters…I hung it up for a while. I was, like, devastated because they didn't sign it, whatever, and then after that I was over it. I found a new player to like because I didn't like them anymore.” The new player? Kim Clijsters.

Wow. I don’t know where to begin with this ungrateful biyatch.
Sloane has since seemed to come to some modicum of awareness. She offered a retraction via Twitter:  “Guilty of being naive. Much respect 4 ‪@serenawilliams , a champ & the GOAT. We spoke, we're good. ONWARD! ‪#lifelessons”. Not bad from a dunce.

But here is Serena’s simply brilliant response to ESPN’s revelations:  “I don’t really know. I don’t have many thoughts. I’m a big Sloane Stephens fan and always have been. I’ve always said that I think she can be the best in the world. I’ll always continue to think that and always be rooting for her.”

See Sloane? That’s how it’s done. When you’re the best, you don’t have to engage with ungrateful immature fools. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

So Sharapova is a cougar now?

I love good tennis gossip. Or maybe I just love celebrity gossip period. I’m not into real-people-that-I-know gossip. That would involve betraying confidences, which is just not cool. But give me some good celebrity gossip any day. And celebrity tennis gossip is the best!

I decided years ago that this was going to be the counterbalance for my oh-so-serious professional life. Like just yesterday I was in stitches after Miley Cyrus announced to the world that she had made it to the top of the Maxim 100 list. She couldn’t wait for Maxim to tell us, she had to say it first. She was so proud of this non-achievement! I would have felt embarrassed for her if I wasn’t so busy laughing at the pathetic-ness of it all.

Not everyone appreciates my fondness for celebrity gossip. I remember an ex who, early in the relationship, told me that it drove him crazy that his ex-girlfriend, a brain surgeon, would come home everyday and turn on the TV to watch game shows. The more mind numbing, the better. Well did he make a mistake in deciding to date me after her!

To his horror, he quickly found out that I had my own version of crap-addiction – I read online gossip rags. Like his ex, I suspect that it is a way of washing my head out after a day of being totally embedded in the serious and painful lives of my patients.

When I get home, I just want to wash my brain clean. And nothing does the trick like reading what that preggo Kartrashian is wearing lately as she continues to stifle that poor fetus within layers of Spanx, as Kanye continues to seem horrified by the reality of the life he has procured. If you can’t laugh at the ridiculousness of celebrity lives, what can you laugh at?

So yes, I did laugh like a loon as I read about Maria Sharapova’s latest photo shoot. She is wearing a nude-colored bathing suit. It is all the rage, I know. But some women should never wear nude and Maria is unfortunately one of them. The color just washes her out. It highlights all of her imperfections. And it is beyond ridiculous that she did this for the Latin American version of Esquire. Hola Maria? Are you serious? Which Latino man is gonna get it up for this?

But the real gossip of Maria’s life is the persistent rumor that, following the end of her engagement to Sasha, the basketball player who ended up in Turkey, she has been secretly dating the 21 YO Federer-wannabe, Grigor Dimitrov. So Maria is a Cougar now? LOL!

And that’s not all! :eek: Rumor has it that Dimitrov dated Serena for a hot minute after she and Common broke up last year. So Maria is apparently chomping on Serena’s sloppy seconds?? ¡Qué escándalo!

¡Y hay más! Apparently Maria gave Grigor the blue Porche she won in Stuttgart just weeks ago!! I wonder what Serena ever gave him?

There! My brain, all washed and clean. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

In defense of the mental health time-out

This entry was inspired by a reader’s (Madame Lisa’s) comment. She said, “I wanted to hear your take on Azarenka’s behavior at the SF of the AO this year …the panic attack”. Thanks Lisa. You probably realize that I am a big ole nerd who loves doing homework assignments. And I am going to take a stance in defense of Victoria Azarenka.

Shocking, I’m sure. If Azarenka were an effigy, she would have been burned in Australia after she took a 9-minute time-out to gather her nerves during the semi-final match against Sloane Stephens. People felt that she was being given special privilege because she was (at the time) the top player of the WTA.

Me, I watch stunned as Sloane sat there passively, not complaining, not saying a word. I was speechless with anger – at Sloane. I could not believe her apathy. I could not handle her forbearance. I found myself thinking that if it was Serena who had taken the prolonged time-out, Sloane would have been shouting disrespect from on top of the dome of the stadium. But perhaps because her opponent was a White bitch – as opposed to a Black one – Sloane sat there like a loser as her muscles went cold and the match slipped away from her hands.

And yes, I do also understand the rage against Azarenka. The lengthy break was suspiciously timed. It went on for far too long. It had the tone of gamesmanship from a player well known for her manipulativeness during tennis matches. The way she holds up her hand just as the server is preparing to serve. The way she often seems belatedly not ready to receive. The way she seems intentionally to throw the server off her rhythm. The way her high-pitched screams continue well past her contact with the ball, all the way into its return to her. Yes, in my opinion, Azarenka is a manipulative bitch.

And yet I will defend her right to take a mental health time-out in the middle of a match. Do you know why? It’s because if she had had a hamstring injury, she would have been allowed time to have it diagnosed and treated. I don’t see the difference between the need for diagnosis and treatment of emotional distress. And I think that players should be allowed time out for treatment of mental distress as long as the rules continue to allow for treatment of physical injury. In a just world, the latter would not be favored over the former.

Rules have to be consistent. There was a time when the injury rule did not exist. But thanks to one Shuzo Matsuoka, the rules were changed in 1995, allowing players to receive medical treatment during a match instead of having to forfeit. 

This new rule has, of course, been abused like no other in tennis. Well-intentioned in its motive, it opened a floodgate of one-upmanship as players pretend to be injured only to run like gazelles toward the winning trophy. But as long as this rule continues to exist – and chances are it’s not going anywhere anytime soon – then it must be implemented.

My position is that if we allow players time out to treat heatstroke and pulled groins, then we must also allow them time to gain control of their emotions during an anxiety attack, if said anxiety is limiting their ability to perform. (I wasn’t there but I find it hard to believe Azarenka had a true 'panic attack'. People tend to mislabel anxiety as panic all the time).

Will the rule continue to be exploited? Of course it will, in much the same way that the medical time-out has been abused by cheaters with eyes only on the dollar prize. Heck, Azarenka has been known to be taken off court on a full stretcher when everybody and his sister felt that she was just being a frigging drama queen.

So yes, I will concede that her prolonged anxiety attack smells of the same level of veracity as sundry of her physical injuries. But she did not invent the rules. And once you let the horse out of the barn, it’s too damn late to wonder how you’re going to go about reining it back in.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Watching the men watch the women play tennis

I find it refreshing that Martina Martina Hingis has found new footing as a professional tennis coach. As a long-time Hingis apologist, I am always pleased when she does well. I have always believed that Hingis has more talent in her little finger than most people have in their entire bodies. And her coaching Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova into finals success at the 2013 Portugal Open made my cynical heart very happy.

But what especially made me feel good was the fact that Pavlyuchenkova’s success came at the hands of a woman. Hingis has become one of the few women coaching at the professional level in tennis. I’m sure that the USTA and other professional bodies hire scores of women to coach juniors. But the minute women go pro, the list of options seems to become gender biased in favor of men. And that is so not cool.

Indeed, I’ve taken to watching the men as they watch the women playing tennis. And I don’t just mean the male coaches. I am referring to the entire entourage – the physiotherapists, the agents, the hitting partners, the fathers, and of course, the lovers. For the most part, the entourage surrounding most of the top women’s tennis players seems to consist exclusively of men.

Take Maria Sharapova for example. If there is a vagina other than hers in her entourage, I must have missed it. And she is not unique in this so don’t think I am picking on her. Look at most of the top female tennis players and all you can see is a bunch of men ravenously looking on as the player strives for success on the court. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Check for yourself.

Watching these men as they watch the women playing tennis can be a distinctly unsettling experience. The hunger in their eyes, the greed, the silent willing, the unspoken pushing – it’s all there, and it’s all rather disturbing. How do we know that these women are safe? How do we know that they aren’t being subjected to all kinds of abuse after losing matches? Who patrols the entourage?

There is something unsettling to me about this masculine dominance of the tennis woman’s entourage. Surely these women can do like Serena and benefit from the presence of an Oracene or a female physiotherapist? Surely they can understand why Azarenka has blossomed from the inclusion of Meilen Tu in her support group? Surely most women appreciate the presence of other women, as supporters, confidantes, sisters, believers, boosters, whatever?

In 2013, I find kind of unnerving to see how men continue to control this sport. Where are the women? Why aren’t they also coaching both men and women’s tennis? Amelie Mauresmo should not be the exception, she should be the rule.

And yes you can rebut that it is no different among male players where men are also in control. But such a lame rebuttal misses my point entirely doesn’t it? 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Some quiet Sunday afternoon for sure

First I need to say thanks to those of you who are still reading this blog and responding with comments. That is amazing. I really didn’t think my little blog would survive my abandonment but apparently it has and here I am again.

Why exactly did I stop writing? The reasons are sundry; excuses I have none. Mainly I’ve discovered that I am not good at sharing my writing space which I’ve had to share for the past year and a half. I’m good at sharing other things. Certainly I’m not stingy when it comes to sharing my opinions. But space is different. I find that my writing muscles are best expressed under certain conditions of privacy and dare I say, anonymity.

Then again, there’s the cat. Yes that same cat. Like most cats, she loves to climb. And sleeping on my desk as I am trying to write is one of her favorite pastimes. That and begging for rubdowns just when my fingers threaten to become busy forming words.

Certainly it’s not because I lost interest in tennis. Far from it. Most of my DVR recordings contain tennis content. If there is ever a recording conflict, tennis will win out every time.

No, I think that the problem with stopping writing is that I could never find the best moment to start up again. I guess part of me felt that something earth shattering needed to happen in tennis to jerk me out of my self-imposed stupor.

But surely Maria Sharapova winning Roland Garros was that moment? Or Sloane Stephens getting too big for her britches and accusing Serena of disrespecting her? And what to make of Nadal’s prolonged disappearance and confident return? Which reminds me of Lance and his admission of his blood-changing, conniving, cheating ways, which we still want to believe never ever, occurs in tennis.

How to choose from the many moments of greatness single-handedly created by Djokovic over the past year? So much to choose from. And where exactly was the tennischick all this time?

For a start, I’ve been playing loads of tennis. And one of these days I will start that series I once promised that I intend to title ‘Adventures in League Tennis’. Or something equally grandiose. Once the season is over I swear up and down “never again!”, and then I go right back for more USTA-unregulated abuse by the Nazi who happens to be Captain.

And then I realized that I needed to take a page from Nadine Gordimer who once famously wrote that apartheid would not end with a bang of celebration but would fold quietly on an ordinary Monday for sure. I did not need to wait for a huge moment in tennis to occur to justify using this muscle that I have sadly neglected. I can do so on a quiet Sunday afternoon, for sure.