Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Being Weenies

by Savannah

"Women are way tougher than men. That's why we have the babies, you guys could never handle kids," Williams said after thumping top seed Victoria Azarenka 6-1 6-3 to win the Madrid title on Sunday.

"We ladies don't complain we just do our best. On the WTA (tour) we are real performers, we are not about going out there and being weenies."

Serena Williams


Let's start this off right. I am a big fan of Serena Williams. I've been a fan since she and her sister took the main tour by storm. I've been a fan long enough to see tennis media go from treating Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and their father Richard Williams as a novelty act to now treating them with the respect they deserve.

I've supported both women in their boycott of Indian Wells after some very shabby treatment by the fans and tournament organizers. I've defended both women when their injuries were said to be fake and that they were wrong in developing interests outside of tennis. I've been around since cat suits and now through shiny sparkly see through thingies they've opted to wear on court.

So it goes without saying that the above statement by Serena distressed and annoyed me to no end. It took away from Serena's beat down of the woman ranked WTA #1 Victoria Azarenka and in my opinion further diminished the women's tour and American tennis.

Why? The article I linked to gives the following definition of "weenie" taken from Dictionary.com. "an insignificant, disliked person" or "a stupid and inept male". Serena's comments say to me that the women players care nothing about their on court safety. It says to me that it's okay to go out on a surface that can vaguely be called clay since it started out as the same red brick that is found on clay court tennis's hallowed ground of Roland Garros but has ended up being too slippery to play defensive based tennis and so powdery that whatever Madrid has become it can't be called a clay court tournament. In fact it needs to be moved to sometime leading up to the summer hard court season in the States. It's perfectly suited for big servers and players who can't play on the dirt, who have no concept of point construction or turning defense into offense. Sound like a tournament custom made for Americans? Is this what Ion Tiriac and the ATP and WTA have in mind? Will this tournament lure hard court players to Spain and give them a "level playing field", an ATP Master's 1000 to call their own during the run up to Paris?

By putting a tournament on this surface in the middle of the spring European clay court season what else are the tours saying to it's players? If no traction can be gained on a surface it's not clay. If the players can't turn and run down balls, get red clay in every orifice known to God and man and know they've been in a war waged on both the mental and physical levels then what good is it in the road to Paris?

The American tennis media had been spinning the idea that all of the talk of boycotts and that the surface is dangerous is just whining, that the ATP players were just upset at the color change. I think they began to see that they couldn't keep that line of bullshit running when Richard Gasquet, beloved of many in the tennis media, looked like a bull on ice and had trouble holding his balance during a match. Then Juan Martin del Potro had trouble on the surface. By the time Novak Djokovic finished slipping and sliding and Rafael Nadal lost to Fernando Verdasco the tide had begun to turn. Of course there were those who said that the eventual champion on the men's side, by staying above the fray and adapting to the conditions by playing serve and volley - on "clay" mind you - had shown the way to the other men who were talking boycotts of next year's Madrid Masters unless the surface was changed back to red clay.

They could run this line by ignoring the fact that Rafael Nadal had made it clear that he disliked Madrid due to the altitude long before that blue stuff was put on the ground. The altitude made for competition that didn't hone a players clay court skills and required a method of play that was at the least disruptive for those who take Roland Garros seriously.

In the end it seemed like Andy Murray was the smartest of them all. Citing back problems he took himself to Rome where he spent the week he was supposed to be in Madrid.

By the day of the Final's though the tune had changed. All of a sudden the commentators were saying that the surface was untested in real world conditions, that no players had been invited in to test the surface and give tournament officials their assessment. The lab where the stuff was created said it would play like red clay and the powers that be took them at their word. There was also a discussion of how they'd had to "compact" the stuff so that it would be less slippery and that the grounds crews had spent long nights trying to make the surface more playable. Really? What happened to all the whiners and wusses who had said the surface was unplayable?

To emphasize how bad the tournament was during the trophy presentations for both the WTA and ATP Manolo Santana, the man whose name graces the Center Court, and Tournament Director Ion Tiriac were roundly booed by the fans. It wasn't scattered booing. It was loud and concentrated and pointedly directed at the two men who are the public face of the tournament. It was worse during the men's presentation when the actor Will Smith and Roger Federer's twin daughters were brought out to try and change the fan's mood. It didn't work. No disrespect was shown to either Smith or the twins by the fans. They made it clear who they blamed for the fiasco that was Madrid 2012.

It should be mentioned at this point that the ATP tour members have been on the court safety tip since the 2011 US Open when players were expected to play on courts featuring pools of standing water. Andy Murray complained in Monte Carlo about the holes in the court there and if you had eyes you could see players avoid playing too far behind the baseline. During all of this turmoil not one peep has been heard from a WTA player. I'm a woman and I know women have opinions. I hate to say it but I'm sure that Serena Williams doesn't speak for all of her tour yet her comment has been featured in a lot of mainstream tennis media.

Maybe it's true though. Maybe the women don't care about safety. As Serena says they are strong enough to have babies and some slippery old court isn't going to stop them from playing their game(s). So what if you slip and injure yourself? You just get up and keep trying right? Right. If the WTA tour continues to pretend there are no court safety issues they will just further the view of many of the male players that the women are a bunch of out of shape mentally weak athletes in name only. I know this is not true but the opinion is rampant among the men's tour.

As for American tennis all you have to remember is the glass like court the United States employed against Spain a couple of years ago in Winston-Salem for a Davis Cup tie as well as the one they used in Austin which Spain protested. The thing with tennis though is that sometimes you have to move. You can't just stand in one spot and serve. That isn't tennis. Sure that's pretty much how Serena beat Azarenka but again that isn't really tennis in my opinion. It's too bad that one of the best women players ever chose to disparage the men working for what would be better conditions for all players, male and female, instead of conceding what anyone who has eyes and ears could see. The only losers are the women players and their tour. I don't think people's opinions of the American tennis establishment could sink any lower.


Karen said...

Oh Savannah, you are clutching at straws on this one my friend. The court in Madrid has always been slippery. Playing on a clay court, one cannot stop on a dime and recover. That is why ppl like Venus and Serena do not do well on the stuff. If clay gets you out of position, you cannot recover like on a hard court or grass. No traction. That being said, the women did complain. Their voices were maybe not as loud as the men, but they did. Stosur, Serena, Venus, Sharapova, Azarenka. They all complained. However, their complaints were along the lines of: jeepers this court is crap, but guess what let me make the best of a bad situation. The men on the other hand threatened to boycott a tournament. Frankly speaking this new breed of so-called pros leaves a bad taste in my mouth. At the first sign of adversity they are calling for boycotts. The last time someone started that crap he became a pariah for a long time. There are ways of fixing things and yes I agree with Serena, they came across like a bunch of weenies

Savannah said...

We will have to disagree on this one Karen.

Clay is by it's nature slippery. It's dirt. What made this blue stuff dangerous is the fact that you couldn't gain any traction on it. If you can't get traction there is no way to move the way you should on clay and sliding when you can't stop turns players into bovine animals on ice. This is what the players were complaining about. I'm sure you're watching Rome this week and see the difference in movement.

As for the women I did read later that there were voices raised against the stuff. That just makes Serena's comments more frustrating.

Randy Burgess said...

I admire Serena, am glad she has a life outside of tennis, and enjoy watching her smack the heck out of the ball. And I especially enjoy her strive for inner focus in between points. When she's on, her game is cruel, aspiring, and majestic.

However . . . I never take anything she says off the court seriously, because she seems to say whatever she thinks at the time without much caring how it will sound. Including the "weenies" comment.

Plus, her use of the word "weenies" when I originally saw the wire story made me think she was half-joking. She does like to joke around.

I do agree though that the blue clay was nasty. The latest wire story I saw has Carlos Moya saying that somehow the salt they used on it - identical to salt used on RG - reacted poorly with the Madrid climate and changed into an "unbreakable film" of pure slippery hell.

Yes, power players were able to cope with it, but even the likes of Federer said it was a harsh surface - he said after he won the final that his body was aching, which seemed to imply that all the extra work he had to do to avoid slipping was a real strain. I can imagine.

Savannah said...

Whether you like Tiriac or not I think we can all agree that it was absurd not to pretest the surface. They could've found out the surface was unplayable way before it was bought and put in place. That they ended up having to change their tune towards the end shows that they were caught with their pants down and had to come up with some kind of excuse.

It would be laughable except that athletes careers were put in danger.