Saturday, January 26, 2008

I Wanna Be Sedated--Sharapova Wins Boring Women's Final

Sharapova beat Ivanovic in a 705, 6-3 final that featured more uninspired play. Women's tennis is rotten right now. They haven't had a compelling major final in two years. The error-riddled matches occasionally take dramatic turns, but those are brought about by the psychological weaknesses of stars who can't close out matches, along with the usual hijinks we've come to expect from the women's tour.

I give Sharapova credit though. After slipping from the top 5 in 2007, Sharapova really worked hard to get back to where she is. Her work ethic was always evident, even at the beginning of her career, when the marketing gods decided to turn her into a Kournikova.

Sharapova dedicated her win to Jane Joyce, the mother of Michael Joyce, her longtime hitting partner. Jane died last year after struggling with cancer for many years. The awards ceremony featured Sharapova paying heartfelt tribute to Jane. We know Yuri didn't put those words in her mouth.

You know, Sharapova also said some wonderful things about Billie Jean King last year during the US Open, and she has handled her terrible 2007 with a lot of grace. We conclude that she is a nice young lady who is capable of winning and losing with class. What a shame, then, that she is saddled with another one of those evil tennis fathers, the kind of father that makes you root against his daughter because you hate him so much. Illegal coaching, crass comments, ugly jeering at opponents, pathetic attempts to claim he's her real "coach" and the now infamous throat-slash just goes on and on. 

And now the WTA has bought into his claim that the throat-slash was just an inside joke with Maria since the two shared a joke earlier in the tournament about him being an assassin. You see, Yuri's disgusting move is just fine with the WTA. Richard Hinds, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, had this excellent take on it:
Even the American NFL, the world's most violent football code, banned the throat-slashing gesture - which some players had called "the OJ" - eight years ago.

This was one of those clear-cut incidents when there was no alternative but to act.

And, as a bonus, by punishing Sharapov, the authorities would send a message to those who believe women's tennis is run by starstruck sycophants who tread on egg shells around the players and their families in the knowledge they are more dispensable than the divas and prima donnas upon whom their livelihood depends. It was a chance to let everyone know who is boss.

When the verdict was delivered we found out. Is that one lump of sugar or two, Mr Sharapov?
Unfortunately for Sharapova, this wasn't Daddy's only blowup of the tournament. Post-throat slash, he went ape on some reporters who politely approached him for his thoughts on the women's final. "You like sharks! You like sharks!" he screamed. Then another member of the entourage started yelling "you don't care how she plays!" Whatever. These guys are so New Russia, aren't they? Intimidating thugs flush with the spoils of capitalism/mafiaism or whatever they're calling Putin's Russia these days.

After years of allowing its players to pull out of tournaments on a whim, sucking up to entourages, failing to penalize them for illegal coaching (and in fact enabling it by the short-lived on-court coaching experiment), never fining their stars for skipping pressers and disgracing the game on the court, the WTA is reaping what it sowed. When the sponsorship money dries up and the fans go away, the WTA will have no one to blame but themselves for tolerating this conduct.

No comments:

Blog Archive