Call me nostalgic, but I miss the days when women’s professional tennis used to be a lot more than grunts, piercing screams, frequent cries of “Come On,” and players hugging the baseline and blasting perfectly-timed groundstrokes but not much else.
To be sure, one of the players I admired most from a different era, Chris Evert, was not known for her serve nor her volley. She did, though, win three major doubles tournaments, and wove drop shots and breathtaking angles into her tennis arsenal so that she could move forward on the court and end points more quickly. Many of her main rivals, including Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Margaret Court, and Evonne Goolagong, served and volleyed even on clay courts. Chris’ other true challengers, Steffi Graf and even Tracy Austin, baseliners like Chris, were intriguing to watch because of their variety, tactics, and sportsmanship.
Maria Sharapova did not receive a wild-card invitation to the French Open because of a doping violation and because her ranking is not yet high enough to be accepted directly into the tournament.
Maria has returned to the game with a lot of fanfare but at the same time not a great deal of sympathy from many followers of the sport nor from her fellow players. Many of these women will never come close in earnings for their entire careers on the court what Maria takes in in one year from endorsements. Many, after returning to the game from injuries, have had to play satellite tournaments in places Maria has never been to. I remember watching a woman outside the Top 100 play the match of her life against Maria until she badly twisted her ankle. Maria never reached out to her on the court, pouted a great deal, and practiced her serves while her competitor was being treated on courtside. When the player eventually defaulted, Maria barely shook her hand at the net and then waved enthusiastically to the crowd.
Lesser ranked players frequently receive code violations for making noise on the court while in the thick of battle. Maria at best receives an occasional warning for shrieks that accompany her every stroke and make quite a few fans reach for aspirin.
In the past two days I’ve read writers and heard commentators state that she deserved better than being barred from the French Open. This blogger, though, is relieved to see Maria have to wait a little longer to again receive an overabundance of undeserved perks.