“If You Show Respect, You’ve Lost.”
Posted by gauloises1 on May 24, 2010
Really interesting article from The Times on the mixture of giggling and grit that is life on the WTA tour. Go read the whole thing before it disappears behind a paywall.
I am told one story of the girl who found her rackets with all the strings cut out. Another is of the girl who could not handle the heat and took a year off to cool down. Another is of the locker-room bullies: the high-rankers who may decide that they want the locker of a lower-ranked player, so will then take down their name tag and evict them.
And there is plenty of talk of the ice queens who have closed down the concept of conversation completely. When you are playing for millions, why talk to your competitors? “A lot of the girls want to show the pecking order,” is how Elena Baltacha, the Briton, puts it. “Barging you out of the way is a way of showing they don’t respect you. The top 10 to 20, they are constantly hunted. They are constantly on guard and will want to slap you down. If you show respect on court, you’ve lost.” [...]
Coffee with Wozniacki and Azarenka. This is interesting because it changes the story. Wozniacki is 19 years old and ranked world No 3; Azarenka is 20 and No 11. They are the up-and-comers of the women’s game; theoretically, they should detest each other. But last year, Wozniacki finished the season by holidaying in Mauritius with another rival, Agnieszka Radwanska (aged 21, ranked No 8); this year she is already talking holiday plans with Azarenka.
It was, they say, Martina Hingis who melted the permafrost of the locker room by actually talking to her rivals, but these girls have taken friendly rivalry to a new level. “We only really compete for guys,” Azarenka says.
“She wins,” Wozniacki says, giggling. “But I am definitely the better racing driver.”
“On the court, we don’t really want to kill each other,” Azarenka says, “but we want to win.”
“I think the young girls today are really sticking together,” Wozniacki says. Her point was made the next day when she and Radwanska were knocked out simultaneously and consoled each other by sitting in the locker room eating chocolate together. As Radwanska recorded in her blog: “We also went out for a late dinner, then we watched a scary movie . . . Paranormal Activity . . . There’s one part at the end that’s so scary, we jumped so much, the computer almost fell off the bed.”
I ask about the pecking order, the intimidation and Wozniacki explains: “If you are friendly and open, the other players don’t try to scare you as much.” Who would they be? “We can’t say,” comes the reply. And this is common; yes, tennis can be a catfight; and no, we won’t snitch on the cats with the sharpest claws.