Sunday, October 21, 2007

Another Year, Another Open Letter

by Savannah

I used to say pretty much whatever I wanted when I wanted on tennis boards. What did it matter? I was hiding behind a screen name so no wild eyed fan of a particular player was going to show up at my door and try to bash my head in with a Babolat racquet or send hate mail. I was anonymous.

When I started blogging my attitude changed somewhat. Not that I use my real name but I look at what I do here as a form of journalism. I report to no one but myself but I do feel that a reader coming to these posts should find an objective discussion on the sport of tennis. I have opinions and I state them but I try not to call players low life bottom feeding point whores and try to put their decisions about where and when they play in perspective so that when I discuss how they play no one can say she's ripping Player A a new one because she hates his/her guts. I have one player that I reach fangirl levels on and I'm upfront with that. It's why I tend to do reviews of WTA events and rankings since I my objectivity can fly right out of the window.

So it was with interest and then surprise that I read about an Open Letter to Marat Safin written by James Martin, editor in chief of Tennis magazine. As most tennis heads know Chris Evert wrote an Open Letter to Serena Williams asking her to cut the crap and play tennis. I remember thinking that Chris, as a former player, a former champion, had every right to address what she sees as Serena's short comings. Whether she should have done it so publicly is another matter. Billie Jean King talks to both Venus and Serena all the time but I haven't seen any Billie Jean King Open letters gracing tennis magazines.

The issues I have with Mr. Martin's letter are that one, he is the editor of a widely read tennis magazine and two, he got personal. When you drag someone's mother into your argument comparing her to the old Soviet political regime I think you've stepped over the line.

The letter has not had the publicity that Chris's Open Letter got and you have to wonder why when Mr. Martin states the following:

What's with the ’tude, dude? You’re like a teenager who’s way too self-absorbed for his own good. When you were recently asked about the gambling investigation in men’s tennis, which strikes at the very core of the sport’s integrity and deserves an informed response from all of the top players, your response was weaker than an Elena Dementieva second serve. “To be honest,” you said, “I don’t really care. Whatever people do and whatever they want to do, I don’t care. If the world collapses, I don’t really care. I have enough problems myself. I can’t worry about other people’s problems.”
(...) shows a lack of respect for the sport that made you a millionaire in the first place. Even John McEnroe, Mr. Ego himself, cares (or at least pretends to care) about tennis.

Look, Marat, I know you’re hard on yourself—self-criticism is in your blood, ingrained over many formative childhood years by your mother and the severe Soviet system. Positive reinforcement? It didn’t exist in your universe. You’ve even said, “I didn’t care to play tennis, didn’t really like it.”
...We’re talking only slightly better than Marcelo Rios here.

Don’t laugh. He won 18 career titles; you’re at 15. Granted, you’ve got 2 majors, while Rios never won a Slam. But you both share that absurd, petulant attitude, which undermines everything you do on court.

Hey, man, it’s your career. But you’re 27, and if you can get healthy you might want to dig in for a year or two before your body, or mind, or both, totally conk out. No regrets, right? Otherwise, spare your fans the heartache and join Yevgeny at the poker table.



James Martin on Marat

The webmaster of Marat's site posted the following:

Recently an article was published on the Internet by the editor of under his "Viewpoint" which was trying to put a smear on Marat's situation plus making recommendations re things he should do for the future.This "article" was written by someone who pretends to be a fan of Marat Safin.

Neither Marat nor his website has ever in the past made a point of commenting on things that appear in the media because throughout his career Marat has always maintained a great relationship with all channels of the media - be it written, TV or radio - always been available when asked for interviews etc, respected their work and treated them with dignity.

Now for the first time an article is written on a "respected" website and this article was full of hate - really patronizing and vicious in its comments and aimed at hurting Marat, his reputation, his past contribution and achievements in the field of tennis.

Marat himself was very insulted by this article that was brought to his attention for the very reasons stated above.

Safin Web Site
The hullabaloo over Chris's Open Letter still hasn't died down. I wonder if this letter will cause the same stir. Marat is second only to Guga in fan popularity and I think once this gets around his fans will raise the same sort of fuss Serena's fans did. Marat had knee surgery he just seems to be getting over mentally(those of you who have had knee surgery know what I'm talking about), and he has a wrist injury.

Chris Evert's Open Letter was an Op-Ed piece. This Open Letter is more of an editorial. Should tennis players be called on their shit? Absolutely. I'm waiting to see Open Letters toMaria Sharapova for her gamesmanship and Justine Henin for Carlos Rodriguez antics during her matches. I don't think those are forth coming though.

There is a good editorial in this article. Everyone can't pull off sarcasm and/or humor. Every culture has it's definiton of what those two words represent. I just hope that this Open Letter, like Chris's gets wide circulation and discussion.


Karen said...

Savanna, I post over at every day and I was a bit shocked when I saw the article. I too thought it was hateful and really insulting. It is like kicking someone when they are down. I predict that when Fed and Nadal's decline starts, we will see the same types of editorials from these so-called journalists. Journalists who have never been accorded anything in their non-existent lives. I was also a bit perturbed that in all the discussions this week over at no one has raised the issue of the open letter on Marat. If this is James Martin's way of lighting a fire under Marat then he is going about it the wrong way. I think a lot of people do not understand what these athletes have to endure. The loss of confidence, the mental effort it takes to play day in and day out and then reading articles like that one that just makes you feel like you want to kill yourself. As to articles to Justine and Sharapova. Please, keep dreaming. That will never happen.

tristann said...

There is so much that could be written about Marat Safin. He is the embodiment of a greek tragedy hero; a talented individual brought down by a fatal flaw(s), the nature of which we cannot fully discern. It would have been nice if James Martin had at least attempted to, instead he chose to write a piece which just smacks of kicking a guy when he is down.

Savannah said...

I found a thread about the letter on MTF and mmmm8 over at TAT posted about it as well.

I'm surprised none of the posters on that site have commented on it, in agreement or disagreement.

tristann said...

I's surprised to hear that, Savannah, because I remember a big uproar last year when Bodo wrote a pretty nasty piece on Kim Clijsters and there was quite a big uproar. You would think there would be at least as many Safin fans.
As I said, there are many aspects about Safin worth discussing, but that piece by Martin is not enlightening or insightful in any way. It is a pity because I think that Safin illustrates to an extreme degree what we have seen happen with many talented players, so the topic is worth exploring.

Savannah said...

I remember the Bodo piece and the uproar it caused Tristann. Not sure if he made it an "Open Letter" though. I do remember that even though I'm not a Kim fan I thought it was a bit much.

I think the issues raised by Marat's career are definitely worth exploring by serious minded fans not only of him but of tennis. Is he Hamlet or as Tristann says the embodiment of a Greek tragedy? From his words we all know he is passionate about tennis and needs it in his life. Why he chose to step back from the spotlight after 2000 when he could've had the world as his deserves more scrutiny than what he got in this piece.