Friday, 25 February 2011

Dubai: The Middle Ground


Criticism both for and against Woz has gone from being an idle weekend pursuit to a large part of how you define yourself ideologically


On the far-right you have those Neanderthals for whom any and all of Caro’s victories are evidence of her opponents’ dysfunction and presumably of what poor shape the WTA is in.  The other extreme consists of those sandal-wearing pacifists that have made an art form of forging touchy, defensive tracts even when the circumstances point overwhelmingly (as they did this weekend with Sveta) towards a poor performance on the part of her opponent.


The “middle ground” (if it exists at all)  is occupied by other varying shades of apologists and belligerents.


I no longer want any part of it.


Q. Do you think it’s unfair when people criticize you or when people talk your game and they say, She gets lots of balls back, but she hasn’t got a big weapon? You’ve got to No. 1 in the world. Do you think that’s unfair when you hear people say that?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Um, well, if I don’t have a weapon, then what do the others have? Since I’m No. 1, I must do something right. I think there’re not actually criticizing me. I think the other players should be offended.

She’ll never be your cup of tea if, like me, you enjoy brash, bold, big-hitting tennis. That doesn’t, shouldn’t, mean


a) that she hasn’t earnt many (if not all) her wins,


b) that we don’t call out, in the strongest possible terms, her (supposedly more experienced, high ranking) opponents for capitulating as badly as they seem to against her, or, for that matter, why she appears to cause them so much trouble – is she clearly not doing something right?

c)  or (worse) that she’s somehow foregone her right to being credited for the type of mental resilience necessary to play the style of tennis that seems to offend people so much. (Hint: it’s the same focus we so enjoy celebrating in Pova and Rafa amongst others – but somehow not hitting the same amount of winners as them means you forgo that right?)

It also doesn’t mean (and this cannot be stated enough) that her style of play has no business at the top of the WTA food chain.

The problem (as I see it) comes when well (or seriously unwell)-meaning peeps try and present being “rocksolid” as an incontrovertible virtue and rationalise EVERYTHING (from tennis results to the origins of the universe) by invoking that great tennis tautology: “a win’s a win”.


Yes, a win is indeed a win – but some wins are clearly better (or worse) than others. And being "rocksolid” is infinitely easier to appreciate when it’s not fashioned upon the bedrock of your opponents stupidity. I’m not even going to attempt to understand what lay behind Sveta’s flatulence – let’s just say “it happens”.


The most infuriating strain of this thought goes as far as crediting her with talents she clearly doesn’t possess like “nuance”  – I’ve even heard her being compared to Rafa.


And that, I’m afraid, is when knives are drawn and plates are broken.

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