Friday, 18 March 2011

Indian Wells: Black Swan & the Communist Manifesto


It’s no secret I’m more invested in the women's event this year: I make absolutely no apologies for this – the stories are simply more compelling.

And don’t worry – I’m not one of those uber-contrarians that define their world view in knee-jerk opposition to the tours elite and in slavish support of any and every nonsensical upset – like some anarchic tennis interpretation of the Communist Manifesto.

But I do think that, aside from Caro, the remaining players in the ladies draw provide the right blend of pedigree, talent and narrative to make it so much more than “just another week” of following the the tour’s elite playing top-tier tennis at top-tier events.

Without a doubt, Delpo kinda provides that on the men's side too (though you have to think that, in Rafa,  he’s now reached his natural limit at this stage of his comeback); and if Reeshie pulls off what we daren’t even conceive let alone mention, it would be a better story than just about everything else put together – I just think that’s about as likely as the creation of anti-matter(Update: Anti-matter, as suspected was not, and cannot be, created or destroyed – just like talent it seems)

To really grab your attention and run with it, a story needs to retain the bare essence of credibility. Which is what, I suggest, we have in spades in the women's draw.

Everyone knows what Bartolis capable of – one can only hope that losing here, if it happens, won’t have been because of the stomach flu that left her gasping for air against Ivanovic.


Had Peng survived Pova, she’d be aiming  to win her first tour title – you only need to have seen the measured, technically mature, and entirely professional way in which she held out to the very end, to understand why anyone gunning for that wouldn’t be partaking in some outlandish speculation. Far from it – a top 20 spot looks almost inevitable by the end of the year.

Where do you even begin with Pova?

It’s one thing to win a Slam (arguably beating history’s finest), bust your wrist and be forced to remain out of the game for a year; and entirely another to win three of them, spend almost half a decade at the top of the game (beating some of the best players EVER) and to then be locked out for the best part of two years from which you emerge able, only, to gingerly, cautiously feel your way back to bare-competence (an implicit sobering acceptance of how that “might never be” again, necessarily pervading the entire process).


Not simply bereft of your best weapon – once described (alongside Serena’s) as the best serve in the game – but in a particularly perverse poetry that might come straight out of ‘Black Swan’, to actually have it turn on you.  

All at the age of only 23.

Delpo fans have my full support – as does he –  but this is of an entirely different order of suffering, of self-awareness, of trajectory altogether.

Which is why I sat through her win over Peng, not just enthralled by the way she took hold of the match for a set and two games – something which, in any case, we already saw  against Safina – but by what came next.

With a win seemingly only a whisper away, Black Swan suddenly struck (she’d been lurking around striking lurid poses for while). Double fault quickly begat double fault, rapidly and perniciously smothering her drive, her movement, her confidence – her very soul you might say.

Anyone not moved by the way in which she gutsed her way through

that last set, drawing only on the innate reserves of mental strength she might only share with Rafa, has no business mingling in civilised society. Winning ugly doesn’t quite capture it  – it was almost more depraved than that.

Black Swan would have settled for nothing less.

So there you have it. Pova winning would almost represent a completion of a journey, a version of which Delpo will, in time, make in his own way. That time isn’t now – hastening it before its time might even prove counterproductive.

Bartoli battling stomach flu, back (quite impressively) from injury, capable of taking out anyone on her day, represents the alternative.

Even the obtrusive Wickmayer has, in some senses, earnt her stripes – whatever else you might think of her, her talent is undeniable.

Yep, I’m ALL ABOUT taking this #AnyoneButWoz thing to the nth degree.

(Pics: Getty)

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