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.