Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Miami: ‘True Grit’


And please don’t bore me by stating the ear-bleedingly obvious, that whilst full of ‘drama’ and ‘spirit’ the match was pretty shoddy in terms of quality and the preponderance of UFEs.

I’m well aware of that: Pova hit 76 UFEs. Her serve was predictably senile, but perhaps most shockingly, her forehand calcified disturbingly enough to make the most routine of strokes a major logistical exercise – furiously struck balls that would once sail long/wide now barely reaching the net. And it seems to be happening more and more.

As an exhibition of execution and technique it was simply criminal. A shoddy, garish abomination.

But the fact that Pova fought through on spirit and spirit alone, in spite of her uncooperative, beleaguered toolset, in spite of her ankle injury, against her very able opponent, and (let us please not forget) at 3hrs and 28 mins, against the limits of her own endurance, make this something very special.

To argue that the quality wasn’t there is to SPECTACULARLY miss the point: like arguing about the intricacies of Atomic Physics under the shadow of an incoming Nuclear Bomb.

We can all ooh and aah at Nole inflicting a flawless, clinical beatdown on his fellow Serb. We can admire the technique, the efficiency,  the fluency – attributes which acquire even more greatness when they are on show against the very best. As they were against Federer in the USO semis last year or against Nadal in Madrid 09. All spiritually exhilarating matches more akin to an “experience”.

Then there’s the flipside: and it’s equally if not more spiritually exhilarating. Where a competitor finds a way to win based on little more than inner resolve. If there’s a  gene for ‘true grit’, then it’s one Pova has in spades and perhaps only shares with Rafa and Serena.

As for Dulgheru, I’ll be the first to admit I’d not seen her play before – though after last night, that “least known player in the top 30” tag should, if we have any sense of decency at all, be torn to shreds and not spoken about in polite company ever again.

To say she acquitted herself doesn’t even come close. It’s true Pova wasn’t striking with the fluency she once had – most of her shots were rather desperate winners, UFEs or low pace balls sent confusingly and pointlessly straight down the middle – but Dulgheru did succeed in moving Pova around in a way Sam Stosur entirely failed to.

She forced Pova to play for as long as she did. She also defended immaculately well and, when it was all over, was utterly gracious in defeat. What’s not to like?

There were reports circulating on twitter this morning of how Dulgheru was barely mentioned in the commentary, so intense was the sense of adulation surrounding Pova.

This is no longer a surprise to me – I actually assume it to be the default form of “tribal” behaviour exhibited by certain media outlets. 

Let us not forget that Bartoli only last week went through the very same in her match against Caro. Neither Pova, nor Caro, are to blame, of course.

Unfortunately, and however resigned you may be to it, it still grates.

Whatever you may think about both players, whatever your sympathies may be with a former Slam-winning world #1 on the comeback, its’ simply good form and good manners, is it not, to give both players their due? And not just when they put on the soul-stirring show BOTH Pova and Dulgheru did last night. It’s even possible (believe it or not) to do this whilst retaining loyalty with your fave.

When fans are unable to do this, it grates, but you kinda indulge it. When the media behaves this way, it’s simply inexcusable.

I, for one, will be keeping an eye on Miss Dulgheru from this point on. She deserves nothing less.


Petko for Pova next, who battled past JJ with the same brand of feistiness and angular aggression that put paid to the Woz.

Pova can’t have anything left in the tank (and that’s assuming her ankle even lets her move). I think Petko’s gonna make her first Premier-Mandatory final – that’s what I think.

And then, who knows what?

(Pics: Getty)

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