Photo via CliveBrunskillGettyImagesEurope
It's been awhile since a women's match meant so much to so many people. Petra Kvitova ran the WTA's favorite and new golden girl Eugenie Bouchard out of London. She did it using old school big babe tennis. Early on Ms Bouchard tried to take advantage of Petra's inability to move well but in the end it was Petra who won the two long rallies that commentators had been saying Bouchard needed in order to defeat her opponent showing that she does know how to hit winners on the run. Petra also got off some cross court shots that left vapor trails. When her game plan didn't work Bouchard may as well have thrown in the towel and said "no mas". The match was over. She had nothing to counter the power and yes, skill, thrown at her by Ms Kvitova. Her vaunted game (vaunted by some anyway. I'll get to that in a few) was exposed for what it is: ugly technique, lack of ability to think her way out of a jam, a game still based more on a junior game than on a pro level, top ten one. Bouchard's comment after the match, that winning her Junior Wimbledon title meant more to her than making a Wimbledon Final was shocking to me.
"I still think my junior title was better than this. I think winning a tournament without losing a match is always something special. That was a big moment for me," said the Montreal native.
"But I appreciate what I've done these past few weeks, though and this whole year. I think it comes close."
Appreciating what she did at the tournament seemed more of an afterthought than a true expression of being proud of getting to a Wimbledon Final at 19.
There was also the way she had to be prodded into making a circuit of the court showing off her trophy. I'm guessing I had turned away by then because I didn't see that happen although it was mentioned on #TennisTwitter.
I think before I move on I should say something about the much commented on Carlos Rodriguez style coaching done by Bouchard's coach Nick Saviano. ESPN's Chris Evert did get in a snide remark about Saviano talking to himself and his player but that was the extent of comment on it. If he was doing the same thing today no one was talking about it. Did chair ump Marija Cicak let it be known she wasn't having it? Did it get so blatant that they spoke to Saviano about it? Thursday Bouchard had all the answers. Today she had none. What changed between then and today?
I can segue into my main points by citing the abysmal, one sided ESPN coverage. A casual fan tuning in for the match could be excused for thinking Bouchard was dominating woman's tennis. ESPN aired what could only be described as a feature film feating the Canadian and showed her in a kimono during one of her post match interviews. I thought for a minute that Bouchard was playing herself until they showed Petra in a two or three minute clip and pawned her off on Hannah Storm for a short in studio interview before they went back to all Eugenie all the time. It was a horrible display of corporate cheerleading by a network that is able to cover other sports with much better fairness. It's why I feel that ESPN is one of the big losers today.
The biggest loser today though was the WTA and its CEO Stacey Allaster. One tennishead posted a joke after the match that Allaster had stepped down as CEO. A lot of people didn't get the joke. The people who founded the WOMENS Tennis Association did not intend to found a pep squad. The WTA was founded to advance the visibility of women who play tennis and give them the recognition they deserve. Recently though the organization seems to have become cheerleaders for the type of player it seems to favor. Everyone else is relegated to soft porn photo sessions or invisibility. As has been pointed out this blonde obsession started with Chris Evert but it seems to have become worse under the current administration. First we had Caroline Wozniacki nicknamed "Sunshine" by Ms Allaster. Now we have the second coming Eugenie Bouchard. Allaster hasn't given her a nickname yet. It's getting to the point that you have to be an afficionado of women's tennis to know anyone outside of Maria Sharapova or Eugenie Bouchard. The excuse was that the woman who has really been the most consistent, Simona Halep, isn't known much outside of her native Romania and those of us who like to follow women's tennis for, you know, the tennis. They said that Halep didn't speak English well. I understand her very well. When fans can make jokes about the CEO resigning behind a single loss by a single player and have people believe it, when a player is openly called "WTA Favorite" and the title isn't challenged there is a problem.
I've been tracking a thread on a fan forum that asks why Bouchard is hated so much. What fans (not trolls) are saying is stop shoving this person down our throats. You tried to sell us on one mediocre player and now you're saying we should all be in love with a player who thinks her junior achievement ranks higher than her senior tour achievements, a player who needs to have media training beyond being "pretty and blonde", who needs to understand she's done nothing worthy of worship yet. I understand Canada's excitement but remember a guy named Milos Raonic who was going to decimate the big shots of men's tennis? That guy who can talk shit but can't put his money where his mouth is? Yeah him. The one who lost 4, 4 and 4 to that player he said was an old man standing in his way. He's not in the men's final by the way.
Sorry for digressing. When a hard fought for organization descends to the level of laughing stock it's time to revisit your mission. ATP players have gone back to heaping scorn on WTA players the way they used to back in the day. The joint tournaments that the WTA so values rarely feature women's matches even between top players. Instead of taking advantage of the dominace of Eastern European players with tournaments in that part of the world everything is being moved to Asia. I've read all about the potential audience but right now that potential seems a long, long way off. At the most hundreds of fans show up to tournaments held there (except for Japan which is also losing a tournament) and I'm being kind about how many show up. The WTA has become a side show, and no one is afraid to call it that to its face.
It's also interesting how after Kvitova disposed of Bouchard in 55 minutes all of these people came out of the woodwork saying women's matches should be best of 5 instead of best of 3 in majors. Why is that a thing now? Would it have made a difference today? I don't think so. Many of these same people were also praying for rain to give Bouchard time to "collect her thoughts" or whatever. Whatever. The gods rained their blessings down on Petra after the match was over.
So congratulations to Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic for winning her second Wimbledon title in three years and for showing what she, and many others, think about hype and those who are its recipients.
A Sad Note
photo via Amy Fetherolf TPN News
I first wrote about Victoria Duval when she was a child. Even then there was a bit of noise around her potential. I saw her take out Samantha Stosur last year at the US Open and was so glad to see her starting to put herself firmly on the road to being a major factor in women's tennis. You can only imagine how I felt when I read the announcement about her illness. I'm glad it was caught early. I'm glad that both of her parents are doctors. I'm very glad she is young and fit and has a great support system around her. Wishing you a speedy recovery Vicky. Stay strong.