Sunday, September 12, 2010

3 questions to ponder

Last night's final left me with questions, all of which I have pondered before, but which now seem more relevant than ever:

1. What is it with the Russians? With the exception of the "old" Sharapova, some of the best players on the women's tour are known as much for not handling pressure as they are for their forehands and volleys. Among Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Petrova, Dementieva, Zvonareva, and Safina, there are only five major championships, all won by Sharapova and Kuznetsova.

2. What does Vera Zvonareva's tennis future look like? She is considering dropping out of doubles competition in order to stay physically fresher. She said that in the final, she felt physically unable to compete.

3. Does Kim Clijsters now have enough confidence to win majors on grass and/or clay? I may be projecting something onto her in which she has questionable interest. Clijsters may not wish to be on the tour much longer--I don't know. And if she retires with three U.S. Open titles, that's still a lot nicer for her than retiring with only one U.S. Open title. But the question is nevertheless tempting to ask.


Overhead Spin said...

Clijsters has no interest in winning on other surfaces. If it happens she will take it. Apparently she is considering having another child but if it happens before the Olympics she is done with tennis.

I have not seen the article from which people are posting and I cannot bring myself to go and read the press transcript. There is just something about the woman that rubs me the wrong way. Maybe it is just me, but I just do not buy all this niceness. Oh well. Must be me.

As for the Russians, the 2 that have been successful honed their skills elsewhere. Sharapova in the States and Sveta in Spain. The rest are all churned out by the same Russian system, where they teach you hot to hit forehands/backhands but do not teach how to serve and how to remain rock solid when the going gets tough.

I should say though that Safina did go to Spain when she was much younger, but most of her formative years were spent with her mother as coach and from the inferences from interviews from her brother and from her it would seem that they were more forced into tennis rather than it being a sport where they actually enjoyed it and decided to do it.

When you hear some people speak about tennis there is joy in their voices. They speak of the sport as much as a fan of the game as well as a competitor. When you listen to others it is a means to an end and when you listen to others it is like a burden.

Anonymous said...

veras mentality: only victorys counts. this is typical of all eastern countries.(sic). the old theme: east versus west. i was born 1982 in east germany and i was a good swimmer. but the pressure was horrible. better, faster more. i broke with this mentally system at 17 age. have i a good result: its not enought. it must better. vera is one of > 20 millions tennis player world wide. she have so fucking good results. she is number 4 in this fucking (sorry) wta-list. she earned 10!!! millions dollar cash. 2 GS-finals-4 GS-quarters (AO-Fo-W-UO). double GS. olympic medal.fed cup winner. a big sponsor, maybach car service.... oh my god. this world is so crazy. i don´t understand why she so unhappy. vera, choose life and take it easy, it´s not a race :)

sorry for my english :)

Diane said...

Your English is fine, Anon.

I do, however, understand why Zvonareva is upset; she knows she can do better.

Overhead Spin said...

The thing is Diane, Vera is her own worst enemy. I am kind of tired of the pity party for these grown women who cannot seem to hold it together when the going gets tough. Most of us out here in the world suffer through bad stuff as well but we make it through. What makes these players so different?

In the same way that many of us working mothers, some of us without a travelling nanny and a husband who does not work, have to struggle with 3 and 4 children and so we are sick and tired of the Clijsters as a working tennis player narrative.

In the same I am also sick and tired of hearing about these women feeling the pressure of expectations. You chose the career of a professional tennis player. With that choice comes pressure in all sorts of situations. Vera has been on Tour long enough now to master those emotions and go out there and compete.

I can always understand coming back from career threatening injuries, but these emotional breakdowns that happen to her are beginning to make even me crazy. Enough already.

Diane said...

In all fairness to Clijsters, she has said, more than once, "I have the money to be able to do this, so it isn't as hard as you think," referring to her child care/travel situation. But the media just keeps at it.

One of the things the players need to do is handle the media much better than they do now. A few players do a good job with drawing boundaries and getting the discussion on track. Unfortunately, those players are consequently referred to as "nasty" and "uncooperative."

Anonymous said...

Zvonareva is progressing. She used to cry in the middle of the match, visibly sobbing in-between strokes. She did not break down on the court even though she was being demolished. This is an improvement. She handled herself well post-match also. Clijsters herself admitted to having a problem with nerves in the past so I don't think it is just the Russians.

Diane said...

Oh, it isn't just the Russians, that's for sure. It's just that all of the very top Russians (excluding pre-injury Sharapova) have this issue.

Anonymous said...

"I'm trying to look forward ... I'm trying to think about what I have to do next to play better. Hopefully I will have another chance. Hopefully I will go far in another grand slam. Hopefully I will be more experienced."
ok bepa: next chance @ Aussi Open ;)
better, faster moore .....
Schiavone: "of course I have a psychotherapists"

bill said...

I had to contrast Zvonareva's performance here and Schiavone's at Roland Garros. They're very different players at different points in their careers. But this final was just a reminder about how extraordinary Schiavone's win was. It's way too simple to say "the power of positive thinking" but that certainly was a huge difference.

Clijsters at the US Open reminds me of how Henin used to be at the French: "This is my garden." She looked very comfortable in her skin out there.

Diane said...

I thought about Schiavone, too, Bill. It's actually self-belief that can make the difference, and Schiavone had it. She also had a plan, and she stuck to it, resisting the temptation many players have to give up on a (good) plan altogether during a bad patch.

Anonymous said...

With the Russians, hoping Dementieva wins a least one major before she retires, she's just to good not too! Vera, as much as I like this player she will end up like Safina if she doesn't move out her own way! As fasr as Kim goes she is a one major winner! don't see an AO, Wimbledon or French in her future

Anonymous said...

It seems that Kim should take some confidence away from this win, but perhaps the issue is whether or not she enjoys playing on the other surfaces, and whether or not her game is suited to them. I want to see how she does at the AO, since that match at last year's (against Petrova? I think) seemed like a fluke of a horrible day.

I enjoy watching her play, a lot. I think her personality is like a breath of fresh air on the women's side of the sport. I'm thrilled she's back, and playing well, and shaking things up as a consequence. The fact that people (not just here in the comments section) seem to take issue with her, as a person, because she's "too nice" is kind of creepy to me. It's as if our culture has become SO snark infested that a person with their feet firmly planted on the ground, happy with her life and her life choices, cannot be trusted as real. What does that say about us?

The Russians, ::sigh::. I had a Russian grandmother who was a combination of diva and insecure girl/woman. From what I've heard about her parents, the mother was characterized as emotionally abusive and the father was meek. None of this may be appropo to the Russian women tennis players, of course, but what I gleaned from my grandmother about what she called The Russian Soul was the belief that life was hard and awful. Period. Not life was hard but life was also wonderful and beautiful. Your job was to rise up from the hard and awful and survive.

Again, I have no idea if this admittedly simplified outlook applies to the Russian players, but if it does, I can see how it would be difficult to let go and enjoy yourself playing a sport as a professional, with all of its inherent pressures. Pressure to earn $, so pressure to win, pressure to please the coach, etc. I think Elena is the only one who looks (at times) like she's having fun on court. But if you don't have at least some fun, you're going to play tight and tense, which is a losing battle in tennis, as we all know.


Diane said...

I think Clijsters can win on different surfaces. We'll see what happens.

The problem some people have with Clijsters is that her excessive "niceness"--buying everyone in her hometown a beer, buying everyone champagne, being part of the on-court squeegie team--can make her look insecure. Some people, therefore, don't quite trust the persona.

People conveniently forget that Kim said she was returning to the tour because she saw the top women play and realized how easy it would be to beat them. Only she didn't put it that nicely. :)

My biggest problem with Clijsters was/is her promotion of that hideous Barbie that promotes eating-disorder thinness and that makes her daughter look like one of those very unfortunate little girl pageant "princesses." But I shouldn't have been surprised; it's the WTA.

But other than that, I'm okay with her. There are many different personalities on the tour, which makes it interesting. (I've never met Clijsters; however, some of the players I really enjoy watching have not been half as much fun in "real" life, believe me.)

Overhead Spin said...

As quiet as it is kept Clijsters' nice personality does not translate off court. I have read a few of her press conferences and she is quite short and snotty with the reporters when she is being asked questions. There was one in particular where she told the reporter to go back and read her response on a question that she was previously asked.

I have also read where journalists have said that she is not as accommodating this time around as she used to be in her first career.

Diane, I too remember her assertions about coming back to the Tour after seeing the other women play. She came back last year well rested and injury free and won the USO. This year she played a very limited schedule and while she was tested she was able to pull out the win once again.

I am not too fond of Clijsters' game style and her personality leaves me cold. The picture of her and Vera together after the trophy ceremony is all kinds of awkward. I just get the feeling that Clijsters is here playing because rather than being known as a One Slam Wonder she realised that she perhaps wanted to be known as a multi-slam winner. She has already started sounding the horn about leaving the Tour and if she can squeeze in an Olympic medal before the baby, so much the better.