A few years ago Marion Bartoli played Venus Williams in a Wimbledon Final. It was the story of two women who, if you were writing a tennis novel, wouldn't be your first choices to face off in the Final. Venus Williams, daughter of a bus driver from Louisiana, and Marion Bartoli, daughter of a physician from the south of France, should have had different paths woven for them in the carpet. Yet both women played on what was left of the green carpet of the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world and the bus driver and the doctor embraced understanding that their daughters had overcome improbable odds to play each other that day.
Marion Bartoli is that girl who everyone teased, the awkward one who was often seen doing weird things with hair that needed a good cut and a little to thick around the waist. Her father didn't try to make her into something or someone she was not. Instead he sought to build her strength letting her stay the woman she was. His methods were unorthodox but his daughter always ended up surprising people in the sport she chose for herself. Her quirks would sometimes leaver her exhausted towards the end of a long match but Marion has always won or lost matches her way. I don't think eating a Twix bar on the sidelines did anything to help her image and may have reinforced the stereotypes some have about women's tennis but when the dust settled today she was waiting to see who she would play in the Ladie's Final at Wimbledon.
The one thing I'll always remember about Sabine Lisicki was when she tore up her ankles so badly she had to be carried off court and practically learn how to walk again once her body had healed. Four years later she will walk on Centre Court at Wimbledon to play Marion Bartoli for the women's title.
When Sabine was injured she was on a lot of peoples radar and there was a lot of buzz around her. After the horrible injuries no one expected her to come back and play high level tennis.
She's been quietly plugging away out of the limelight, overshadowed by other German women in terms of popularity if not results. She's ranked #24 at the moment and was seeded #23 at Wimbledon. She made it to the second week and no one thought she'd get past her opponent, the top woman player in the world.
But there is a reason you play the matche. On paper she should be on her way to another tournament or resting from the Roland Garros/Wimbledon cycle. Instead she caught the top woman on a bad day and is now in the spotlight.
I have nothing against Sabine. She's overcome adversity and right now the sky could be the limit as far as tennis goes. I just wish that commentators wouldn't pick favorites and instead of calling the match as it's being played focus on the one they've anointed "favorite" and not what is happening on the court.
I've been saying for years now that the tours, especially the WTA, promote names, individuals and not the sport. It's why ESPN, despite it's excellent coverage during the second week when both ESPN and ESPN2 were used to cover Centre Court and Court 1, was scrambling to find out anything about the women who had reached the semifinals. Tennis is not promoted during Slams in the States. Americans playing tennis are promoted. But that's a story for another day.
I still think the Tournament Director is working his way through a case of gin. Wimbledon is where the anointed ones are supposed to face off in semifinals and finals not #15 and #23.
May the best player win on Saturday.
I'm not a big fan of Agniezska Radwanska. I admit that she brings an artistry to the court and that her style of play runs counter to Big Babe Tennis is interesting for some, but when I watch her play I end up sound asleep. I didn't sleep during the third set of her match against Sabine Lisicki though. It was a great set of tennis and despite the fact that Aga was visibly struggling, that she could no longer ignore the pain she played in the entire match Aga fought and almost pulled it off. When the match was over she quickly exited ignoring the Wimbledon custom of both players walking off the court together. Some fans thought she had been, well, disrespectful to her opponent and to Wimbledon. What did Agnes have to say about her "bitchy" behavior.
I found a fan translation of an interview Aga did with Polish media where she delivers a line that ranks as one of the best of the year.
When asked about the "handshake" between her and Sabine after the match Aga replied
Why was I cold during the handshake and leave the court so quickly? Well was I supposed to stay there and dance? I had no desire for a chit chat with Sabine, I was mad that I lost.
Good going Aga. Good for saying exactly how your felt and good that you won't get grief for it from the US media. If you read Polish the link is above.