Monday, May 6, 2013

Passing shots

Shelby Rogers has earned a wild card into the main draw of the French Open.

Talk about opening up the draw. Today, in Madrid, Sam Stosur went out in the first round (def. by Carla Suarez Navarro) and Agnieszka Radwanska went out in the second (def. by Laura Robson). Li Na, Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki, Mona Barthel, and Roberta Vinci have already been eliminated from the tournament.

Venus Williams has become one of the owners of World Team Tennis.

Sara Errani is blogging from Madrid.

Just in case you haven't seen it, here's an emphatic piece of self-destruction, brought to you by Sloane Stephens. "What was she thinking?" doesn't seem adequate.

You'd think that sexist people would come up with something better than the tired and routine "shrill" description for women who actually speak their minds. Calling Venus Williams "shrill" actually makes my blood boil, just as it does when female politicians are called "shrill." Oh, and perhaps someone should tell the unbearably shrill Mr. Brown that the tour offered to play five-set matches, but Wimbledon turned down the offer.


sunny ninw said...

I am not sure what you meant, Diane, regarding Stephens. She was just being honest not worrying about consequences. The media, especially ESPN2, tried to spin all sorts of stories regarding Stephens and S. Williams. Mentor, friends. Even before AO, I saw some of her pressers and the media always wanted to put the Williams' as Stephens' idols even after she answered that she suspected they were inspirations to many women (i.e. not just her because she is black). Look it, I don't want to get into anything but there has been the smell of racism with regard to a special bond between S. Williams and Stephens for a long time. Stephens isn't buying into it. During interviews, ESPN2 would always push her into corners to verify their views, even on grunting (4th rd played Jovanoski)when she didn't want to deal with it. Also the media put so much pressure on her. She barely beat Jovanoski to get to the quarters and then she beat an obviously hurt Serena which made the ESPN2 commentators squeal with delight and Brad Gilbert start planning the demise of Azarenka (paraphrase-Azarenka doesn't like the heat, maybe it will be really hot when Sloane plays her---or something to that affect). So I just think she wants to be left alone. Didn't they learn from Oudin about putting pressure on these young women and Stephens said it all at the end "They want another Serena."

With regard to the "shrill Venus" remark, the guy at the Telegraph was full of sexist and hurtful comments- w re to Bartoli he said she "displayed a level of puppy fat that prompted speculation of a penchant for chocolate ├ęclairs." He also said that Pavlyuchenkova "broke into the top 20 despite carrying a stone in excess baggage." And he called Serena's hitting "freakishly explosive".

sunny nine said...

I just read the whole interview in ESPN the magazine on ESPNW not just the link you gave us Diane. Here is one interesting quote from

Sloane: I'm annoyed. I'm over it," she says of all the Serena comparisons. "I've always said Kim Clijsters is my favorite player, so it's kind of weird." She attributes the media hype over her relationship to the star to "just being African-American and them wanting to link to something."

Sloane, herself, sees the racial issues involved.

Todd.Spiker said...

From what I recall from last season, while I certainly agree that the media played up the Serena/Sloane angle (and that it has had some racial undertones to it, whether intentional or not), it was really Stephens herself who began many of the "my good friend Serena" angles that developed. When she started popping up in TV interviews during big events last year, I can remember being struck by how much of a habitual "name-dropper" she seemed to be when it came to Serena, something which she pretty much offered up unsolicited. After that, the media ran with the story and it maybe became bigger than it truly was, but Stephens continued to use it to her advantage until her results have begun to erode since Melbourne.

And while I agree that the pressure placed on Stephens is largely counterproductive as far as her development and success on the court goes, as it has often been the case with other "next star" contenders, Sloane more than most of those past players has really played to all the attention, loving it and often seeking it out, so it would seem to be more than a bit hypocritical if she begins to take the stance that she's getting unwanted media scrutiny.

I like Stephens and wish her well, as she could turn out to be a very important person in regards to the future of tennis in America, but sometimes when you dance a bit close to the fire you get burned. I think that's what's happened to her in the last few months. Hopefully, it'll be a lesson learned and she'll be better for it in the long run. U.S. tennis -- and the WTA -- will be in much better shape five years from now if Stephens is in the mix for major titles.

Diane said...

I agree with Todd. And I do think there have been racial overtones (aren't there always?) to the story. But Stephens was broadcasting a lot of the "mentor" angle and gushing about Serena, though none of it was ever really confirmed by Serena, and it always made me feel a bit uncomfortable.

Of course, Sloane had help from the media (when they needed a break from bashing Vika) and the whole thing became silly, in my opinion. Now it's come back to bite her.

I do think there's a missing piece in this story, though. Or perhaps Sloane has just regressed a bit after not being able to live up to the hype.

Or maybe she's seen too many Radwanska and 'Pova interviews >:)

Eric said...

i'm just going to say it. I love you guys.

so much wisdom. so much wit.

- "missing piece of the story": Diane, I kept trying to think of the words and you hit the nail on the head. But I think missing piece of the story is modus operandi for williams sisters issues and to an extent i think it's a wise move. talking about these things tends to muddy the waters even more instead of clarify things. it's best to just stay silent...which i hope serena continues to do.

- emphatic piece of self-destruction: i could not stop laughing!

- I didn't realize we had continued the discussion over here. Sorry I'm late to the game!

- Todd, you have a way of writing in which i can never tell who you're actually pulling for. Previously, when I read your posts on Sloane...I do remember you saying she name dropped...but, I thought you were saying it affectionately or neutrally and not...intriguingly and slightly dismayed (not the right word...but something with a slight negative connotation)...and maybe i'm reading you wrong now...either way, i think it's a good skill to have to be able to obfuscate how you feel to write a post that is reporting rather than opining.

Eric said...

Just continuing from yesterday's post...not saying she was sandbagging, but maybe Li was trying to protect the knee...and since Madrid is one of the 4 biggies, perhaps she didn't want to withdraw...speculation, of course. (i forgot what the rules were...i think you can withdraw from one without penalty...)

Eric said...

i really like Courtney Nguyen's work at SI...but I really wish she'd stop posting the play-by-play...

sunny nine said...

Basically, all I can say is that we all see things or read things differently. Thus to each his/her own. You know what you heard and watched, and I know what I heard and watched. Agree to disagree. All I know is that I have on tape the view of ESPN2 about ready to wet themselves when Stephens beat Williams and thus they threw Williams under the bus. THey didn't care; they had someone to fill the new position. This has nothing to do with what Stephens said or Serena said, it is what the PRESS SAID.
As far as Courtney Nguyen, I don't really have respect for her. Given her personal, original blog where she trashed many players and swooned over others, I don't find her articles very fair.

Todd.Spiker said...


Ha! Yeah, I did sort of categorize Sloane's talk of "my friend Serena" in '12 as somewhat humorous, but, and I don't know if I actually posted the thought or commented on it at the time or not, but I know the idea then was that, either way, she really needed to stop doing it soon or it was going to get very annoying very fast and possibly impact her own popularity. Maybe Serena had a similar reaction?

As Diane said here (and noted then, too), there was something a little bit squirrelly (ok, that's my word) about how often Stephens did it, though. I gave her a pass on it then, but her recent outburst about the whole thing warrants a slightly different casting of the habit, I think. She can't try to have it both ways and have it not be pointed out. I still like Sloane, though. She just needs to worry a little less about Twitter and any perceived personal slights she might believe she's been subjected to by players who really aren't paying nearly as much attention to her minute-by-minute moods as she thinks.


I actually agree with your assessment of how ESPN2 latched onto Stephens as the new big deal, etc. after the Williams win at the AO. They always cynically try to push the new Great American Hope, even at the expense of the current (and only) one -- you'd think Serena would get more respect than that, but I suspect that won't fully happen until she's gone and people try to act as if they always loved her, even if they often took every opportunity through the years to treat her as if she owed them something. But, of course, they think they HAVE to do that because, in their eyes, American viewers won't watch women's tennis unless there's an American or a Sharapova playing or being talked about on an endless loop. That is, if they can't find a more boring men's match to cover instead.

I was more referring to what Stephens said before January, when she talked up her supposed friendship Serena, then now turns around and acts as if it was a storyline concocted by the media, when actually it was Stephens herself who was the original author.

Eric said...

sunny, where is courtney's original blog? can i have a link please? i only started reading her stuff on SI

I agree with you...this is blown WAY out of porportion...and there's a lot of media spin

Karen said...

Whew, there has been a lot written about this whole S/S saga and for my 2 cents, all Sloane needs to do is go back & watch tapes of Serena & see how she dealt with the day to day obstructions that were placed in her path & how she overcame them. You want a mentor, you only need to look at Serena's career to get a sense of what are the important things.

I have always been a fan of Sloane ever since she came on the radar a few years ago. I liked her personality & her game. I have always felt that she did not take tennis seriously enough & was a bit of a spoilt brat. Nothing since has changed my way of thinking.

Girlfriend needs to sit down, put her racquet in her hand & go play tennis.

As for Sharapova's comments, there is a saying "cockroach don't business in cock fight"

sabey said...

Great post Diane! It makes me so angry that even today women who ask for what's theirs are called shrill (read "harpy"). No one has done more for pay equality in the WTA in recent years than Venus but no one (in their right minds) would call her shrill.
As for Stephens I love your quote! Complaining because someone didn't sign your poster or removed you from their twitter feed is just plain bratty! As others here have pointed out she was more than happy to perpetuate the “my bff Serena line”so getting mad with the media now is once again, bratty. I think Sloane has a lot of promise as a player I just hope her mother hires a publicist right away. she needs it.

Diane said...

Eric, thanks for joining in, and I'm pleased to entertain you :)

FYI--Courtney N. used to publish 40 Deuce. Her S.I. column is one of my essential reads.

And--some wisdom for both Sloane Stephens and the media: The only important talking comes from the racket.

Diane said...

Karen and Sabey--we cross-posted. Thanks for joining in. Thanks, everyone :)

sunny nine said...

Eric-I got the full interview off of ESPNW- It gives more info and the milieu of the interview than the loaded excerpts that SI gave.

I saw the "about face" of Sloane mentioned today. This is what I finally figured out what to say. The media does blow things out of proportion especially ESPN2 since they cover the majors and are from the US.
We should not judge. We are NOT in the minds of S. Williams or Stephens. So much of what players say is to keep fans and the media happy. Thus possibly the reason for "about face" of Stephens and the "I'll take the high road" S. Williams. BUT I DON'T KNOW. (caps are not screaming but for emphasis). I am not in their heads. As fans you pick favorite players and then believe everything they say and base your love of the sport on personality. The love of the sport should be about the game of a person not the personality. S. Wlliams is not immune as other players are not immune to lashing out at a player. Go back to her remark and laughter about Safina's no 1 position when with media at, I believe, Wimbledon 2009. And please don't get on me as if I don't like S. Williams. I have great respect for her and her improvement of her game at this late date. Not unlike Federer who went more agressive to keep points short in changing his game. Thank you.

Karen said...

FWIW I think Venus brokered this particular peace deal :)

Diane said...

That sounds like a pretty plausible theory, Karen.