Sunday, January 29, 2006

On Ya, Mates - The Dorothy Tour Awards

Anyone who saw the women's final in Melbourne (or what amounted to one, at least) knows that birds were having a grand old time chatting up the match from their perches in the (Pat?) rafters of Rod Laver Arena.

I wonder what they were talking about? Did they try to drop their own little "bombs" on Justine after she retired from the match, just like pretty much everyone else has over the last 24 hours or so?


=SINGLES=
#3 Amelie Mauresmo d. #8 Justine Henin-Hardenne 6-1/2-0 ret.
=DOUBLES=
#12 Yan/Zheng d. #1 Raymond/Stosur
=MIXED=
Hingis/Bhupathi d. #6 Likhovtseva/Nestor
=GIRLS SINGLES=
#8 Pavlyuchenkova d. #1 Wozniacki
=GIRLS DOUBLES=
#4 Fichman/Pavlyuchenkova d. #8 Cornet/Dentoni
========================

The Oz Open's 2006 champion list includes a Frenchwoman, two Chinese, a Slovakian-born Swiss, a 14-year old Russian (twice) and a Canadian. There was a little bit of something for everyone at the Australian Open this year. Including, it's turned out, a little blood in the water for all the sharks to frenzy about.

Isn't it amazing how in the span of about an hour on Saturday all the apparently latent hostility built up toward Justine Henin-Hardenne over the years burst out in one ridiculously far-reaching overreaction to her having the "audacity" to retire two games into the final's 2nd set against Amelie Mauresmo? Rather she lamely -- or, if the detractors are to be taken seriously, should I say "honorably?" -- stumble though a few more games (no doubt to catcalls from the crowd, then some opportunistic beaning by commentators... until she said afterward that she was sick, which would have then led to accusations of Venus-like excuse-making) in order to allow Mauresmo to celebrate her first slam title?

Hmmm, I wonder if those same people who complained about Maria Sharapova having the "gall" to celebrate after defeating an obviously-injured Serena Williams in the '04 WTA Championships would have also hounded Mauresmo for showing any glee after defeating an apparently-diminished JHH? I doubt it.

From here, I think far too many people are still harboring ill will toward Henin-Hardenne for "the wave" against Serena at Roland Garros in 2003, a long forgotten transgression whose cobwebs were brushed away this weekend. How else can the excessive handwringing be explained in any sort of context? Considering that JHH has been one of, if not the best competitor on tour for the past few seasons, playing in various states of physical duress that caused many to think she'd pull out of a previous grand slam final ('03 U.S. Open) before the first ball was struck, only to see her go on to win the title. It was just one in a series of "heart-and-guts" performances that gave birth to "Le Petit Taureau."

How quickly people forget... about the benefit of the doubt one would have thought she'd built up, as well as the cytomegalovirus that struck her down for much of '04 and likely sends phantom shivers down her spine anytime she questions her health less than two years later. Even when someone of some stature (though, if you've ever heard her commentary on ESPN in the past, you might question that sometimes) such as Pam Shriver at least manages to dredge her memory for a possible answer to JHH's retirement on Saturday, she still judges that this one moment will tarnish Henin-Hardenne's reputation forever. Get a grip, Pam. Just because some will seek to never let others forget something, it doesn't mean that anyone's reputation is "tarnished" in any meaningful way by anyone looking at the current situation with any objectively and respect for personal history.

I, for one, freely admit I'm not entirely objective on this subject. Anyone who reads this space with any regularity knows that I've come to hold JHH in high esteem, even after the long-ago exposure of one of her "flaws."

SI.com's Jon Wertheim frets that JHH's "doesn't get" that her actions might not have been "fair" to Mauresmo. Get over it. Henin-Hardenne's not perfect (NEWSFLASH: Clijsters isn't either, though you'd have a hard time convincing people of that considering all the glowing press she garners for being so "down to earth"... squeegeeing courts and running through the water as she does and all). Shocker. She has a selfish streak? Name a top tennis player (or athlete, for that matter) who doesn't.

I enjoy jabbing at Venus Williams with a blunt stick for some of her "seemingly ungrateful" post-match comments, but that doesn't mean I think anything she says or does after a loss in any way "tarnishes" her reputation or blots out any of the great things she's done (or might still do) in her career. An isolated incident (or even incidents) does not a career besmircher (yes, that IS a real word -- I looked it up!) make, especially when it takes place at an event that has a court named for Margaret Court, who made some famously nasty remarks about Martina Navratilova's homosexuality a few years back (comments that might make her an unwelcome dinner companion -- albeit an interesting one -- for some, but doesn't disrupt her "reputation" as one of the game's all-time greats, thanks to her 24 slam titles).

If anyone persists is casting JHH as a villain now, so be it. Every sport needs it dark princes (or Queens, in this case), if only to make all the "Miss Congeniality" contestants seems more congenial (even as they screw their coaches out of money, or their Olympic team over loyalty to a sponsor). But, hey, who's keeping score on such things? Right, Killer?

If we've learned aynything from this little "Melbourne mess" it's that even the tennis press isn't above sinking to the level of tennis messageboard hater when there's blood in the water, even if it means sullying the reputation of one of the sport's greatest fighters with "no mas" sneers and "quitter" smears.

From here, that's more sad a development than anything Henin-Hardenne did or said on Saturday.


==========================

Whew! Okay, that's that. Now, on with the "Dorothy Tour" Awards, as told to Backspin by the birds of Laver Arena. I'll serve as your humble translator:

==DOROTHYS OF THE MONTH==
1.Amelie Mauresmo
2.Justine Henin-Hardenne
3.Maria Sharapova
4.Martina Hingis
5.Kim Clijsters

==SHEILAS==
1.Samantha Stosur
2.Zi Yan & Jie Zheng
3.Daniela Hantuchova
4.Nadia Petrova
5.Marion Bartoli

==GOBSMACKERS==
1.Tszvetana Pironkova
2.Elena Vesnina
3.Olga Savchuk
4.Mara Santangelo
5.Yoon-Jeong Cho

==MUNCHKINS==
1.Michaella Krajicek
2.Lucie Safarova
3.Ekaterina Bychkova
4.Ana Ivanovic
5.Victoria Azarenka

JUNIOR MUNCHKIN: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
AUNTIE EM: Martina Hingis
COMEBACKS: Martina Hingis & Svetlana Kuznetsova

==WALKABOUTS==
1.Venus Williams
2.Serena Williams
3.Mary Pierce
4.Cara Black & Rennae Stubbs
5.Jelena Dokic

==TOP PERFORMANCE==
Amelie Mauresmo in Melbourne to win her first slam, even if she didn't have to finish three of her seven matches

Chirp, chirp, chirp. (Whoops, sorry for letting that stuff slip through... if any of you can speak avian, please forgive the crude language.)

==TOP MATCH==
Australian SF - Henin-Hardenne d. Sharapova
...4-6/6-1/6-4. Suddenly, the Supernova's the "hard-luck" girl.

Chirp.

(Thanks. I'm glad you like the Sharapova '07 Scenario.)

==WORST MATCH==
Australian Final - Mauresmo d. Henin-Hardenne
...6-1/2-0 ret. Pretty stinky, even before the untimely end and unseemly response to it.

==BIGGEST UPSET==
Australian 1st - Pironkova d. V.Williams
...2-6/6-0/9-7. We'd better not learn that THIS Bulgarian tested positive for anything after the match.

==QUOTES==
Pironkova, relaying the congratulations from fellow players after her 1st Round win: "Well job. Good done."
------------------------
Venus, explaining the loss: "Obviously, she benefitted from my largesse."
------------------------

==BIGGEST COMEBACK==
Sydney Final - Henin-Hardenne d. Schiavone
...4-6/7-5/7-5. The still-titleless Italian led 6-4/4-1, then 5-3 in the 3rd in this 3:00 match. If Schiavone had retired, I doubt if any JHH fans would have complained about any "unsportmanlike conduct."

==BIGGEST CHOKE==
Australian Doubles Final - Yan/Zheng d. Raymond/Stosur
...2-6/7-6/6-3. Raymond/Stosur blew a 3-1 lead in the 2nd, then 2 Championship Points in the tie-break. Sorry, Sammy.

CHIIIIIIRRRRRPPPPPP!!!!!

(Hey! Watch it! I like Sammy, too... but a spade is a spade.)

==WORST COMEBACK==
Australian 1st - Razzano d. Dokic
...3-6/7-6/6-1. The Debutante led 6-3/6-5 in her first AO match since 2001. She held 2 MP, and celebrated when she thought she'd converted one. But a chair overrule led to a tie-break loss, then a walkabout of a 3rd set.

==WORST...(take your pick)==
Serbian media reports of Damir Dokic threats to kidnap Jelena, bomb Australia and murder an individual who helped her return Down Under. Worst. Damir. Serbian media. They're all kind of synonymous, don't you think?

Chir-chir-chir-chirrrrp.

(Boy, you can say that again.)

========================


==WTA ODDS & ENDS==

**AUSTRALIAN OPEN GIRLS FINAL**

#8 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS) def. #1 Caroline Wozniacki(DEN) 1-6/6-2/6-3

**AUSTRALIAN OPEN MIXED DOUBLES FINAL**
Hingis/Bhupathi def. #6 Likhovtseva/Nestor 6-3/6-3

**CAREER SLAM TITLES - ACTIVE**
[singles/doubles]
58...Martina Navratilova [18/40]
15...Serena Williams [7/8]
15...Martina Hingis [5/10]
13...Venus Williams [5/8]
9....Virginia Ruano-Pascual [0/9]


==WEEK 5 PREDICTIONS==

TOKYO, JAPAN (I-Carpet/Indoor)
05 F: Sharapova d. Davenport
06 TOP: Sharapova/Dementieva
==============================
SF: Sharapova d. Hingis; Vaidisova d. Myskina
FINAL: Sharapova d. Vaidisova

...hey, I've got the chance to pick a Sharapova/Vaidisova final, so I'm gonna do it. We should at the very least see how quick a learner the Czech Maiden is, in this first action since her uninspired Round of 16 performance in Melbourne.



And so ends the Daily Backspin (it'll return for Roland Garros), and the return of the regular once-a-week (with occasional extras, such as the upcoming WTA Media Guide Photo celebration) schedule.

All for now.

5 Comments:

Blogger chiron said...

Yes there are lots of people who think Justine failed a test of character, though I personally can see why that virus she had could have scared the shite right out of her, causing her to be overly protective of her health nowadays. Maybe it's "too bad" but she'll have to endure the comparisons. I remember seeing Andrew Murray puke his guts out at the 2004 US Open and then finish the match. Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, they all played to an ethic that JHH did not. And few people will believe that she could not have had stayed another 10 minutes to finish the match. Yes she'll be remembered for this, it's inevitable, and as she likes to remind us, it was her own choice.

Mon Jan 30, 09:31:00 AM EST  
Blogger chiron said...

ooops...I meant Andrew Murry at the 2005 US Open....

Mon Jan 30, 09:32:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Yeah, it'll be remembered. But, in the long run, I don't think it'll come close to defining her career. There'll be too much on the other side of the ledger for that.

Another good example: Henman angrily swatting a ball at Wimbledon that hit a linesgirl quite a few years ago, and being disqualified. It's part of his history, but hardly tarnishes him.

Mon Jan 30, 09:52:00 AM EST  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

I meant "ballgirl," of course. :)

Mon Jan 30, 09:55:00 AM EST  
Blogger thesupernova said...

May the tennis gods have mercy upon her soul.

Mon Jan 30, 04:36:00 PM EST  

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