That's what I tweeted on Tuesday, after rumors hit the internetz that Montreal might be reconsidering their decision to deny Ana a wildcard into the main draw. I think I've been pretty clear as to my take on the subject, but just to get everyone up to speed: no one is entitled to a wild card into a tournament. That much I think we all agree. But I couldn't help but question the decision from the tournament to deny a Grand Slam champ, former Rogers Cup champion, and fan-favorite player a wildcard from a public and player relations standpoint. That's a bridge you are burning with her and her fans. Sure, you might now need her this year, but what happens down the road?
When she was asked about it at Stanford, Ana admitted she was "hurt" by the decision, but understood that she had to go out there and prove herself and play well in the upcoming tournaments leading up to Montreal.
Well, shit, she did just that. After losing a tough match against Shahar last week in San Diego (getting broken just once but squandering a 3-0 lead in the first set TB) she came to Cincy and battled back from a set and 3-5 down to oust Stanford champ, Vika. Then she goes out today and survives not only herself but numerous rain delays, to bounce the always tough Shvedova in straight sets. Not only is she winning but as the journos and bloggers at Stanford, SD, and Cincy have remarked, she's playing pretty damn well and could easily find herself in the quarterfinals here.
But as she was finding success in Cincy, questions about her participation in Montreal popped up. First, she accepted a wildcard into New Haven. Not a totally odd decision other than the fact that she would be playing five straight weeks going into a Slam, which she had never done before. I definitely raised an eyebrow. Then there were her comments after her win over Vika, where she slipped this in at the end of an answer: "Next week I'll have off and then play New Haven."
That's when the alarm started raging in my head. It made sense to skip Montreal, really. If she lost her second rounder today, she'd have to bust her ass to the airport to get to Montreal for qualies, which start Friday. I had a long debate about it with Victoria and we agreed that she should skip it. She's already built some momentum beating Vika. Why go play qualies? There's nothing to gain. Play three back to back matches just for a spot into the main draw? At best, she's into the main draw, exhausted from the emotional and physical drain of qualifying. At worst, she loses in qualifying and her confidence takes another huge hit. Take the week off, go to New Haven, go drink coffee and walk around the Yale library. It'll be better.
So when news came that Montreal tournament director Eugene Lapierre was reconsidering giving Ana a wildcard and asking people (via Twitter, apparently) whether he should give her a wildcard into the main draw, I had enough. If you don't need her, you don't need her. What the fuck do you care? Go and give your fucking wildcard to some 14 year old Canadian tennis prodigy (to the extent you have one, which I'm guessing you don't.) Treat the situation with respect, for the good of the tournament, for her fans, and yes, for a former champion of your own goddamned tournament.
Thankfully, I wasn't the only one who had had enough. Ana released a pretty scathing statement on her site today, acknowledging that Montreal had offered her a wildcard, stating that she declined it, and offering a pretty damn thorough explanation as to why:
“I would have loved to have played in Montreal, but I was quite hurt by the comments of Mr Lapierre that I was shown in The Montreal Gazette recently.
“I don’t think his comments were necessary, and they contradicted everything he had told my management previously: that I was not getting a wild card because I am not Canadian.
“The fact that my original request was turned down isn’t really an issue: I would have been happy to play qualifying, but I felt that they kind of stepped over the line with this interview, making public our correspondence and even misrepresenting it. Unfortunately I don’t feel welcome at this tournament.
A pretty shocking statement considering how diplomatic Ana has always been. She's the nice girl. Everyone knows that. Hell, she's been accused of being too nice. She takes a hit from journos, from players (*cough*JJ*cough) and she turns the other cheek and tries to take the high road. So what the hell happened with Lapierre that could peev her so? Clearly she felt like she and her team had been jerked around behind the scenes. And oh, I don't know, maybe the unsolicited advice she was getting from a tournament director who suddenly felt the need to step into the role as coach and advisor:
"The way I analyzed it was that, yes, she's a player who has done a lot for our tournament -almost saved it one year. She has a lot of charisma. Everyone likes her. But the fact is that she hasn't demonstrated (with her play) that she deserves a wild card."
"If I were her coach, I'd force her to play qualies,"
Oh really? Thanks for the thoughts. So you say that you don't need her from a marketing standpoint. Ok. And you would prefer to give the wildcard to Stephanie Dubois, a Canadian. Ok. And you wanted to "tough love" her and force her to play qualies for her own good. Ok. But then you offered her a wildcard. Which would mean she wouldn't play qualies, so no tough love. As far as I know, she still isn't Canadian. And last time I checked, you were still sticking with your "we don't need her to sell tickets" thing because our event is so fucking over the top successful. So...my head hurts. I'm just not bright enough to understand your Canadian logic. Stupid American, I know.
From what I can tell, tennis fans seem to be pretty firmly behind Ana's decision and the only snipes that are being made at her are of the "ooooooh, look at little sensitive Ana getting her poor little feelings hurt" variety. Even Douche Nugget Pierre's apology was of the "I'm sorry your feelings were hurt" vein, which, if you've ever been a relationship, is pretty much the most condescending apology you could issue, and if you were dating me it would guarantee you a frying pan to the ear.
The kid is a Grand Slam champ, former #1, former champion of your tournament, who you fully admit, helped save it one year. In 2008, Montreal had problems fielding a marketable squad because the Olympics were looming around the corner. They begged Ana to come play. She flew from Europe to Montreal to play despite carrying a thumb injury that would eventually take her out of the Olympics and set off a chain of events (JULIE FUCKING COIN) that I don't even like thinking about. She did that. Because she's nice and she felt a responsibility as defending champion.
And this is how you repay her. By handling the situation with less class than a Jersey Shore/Speidi dating game hosted by Perez Hilton.
You'll have to pardon her if she says enough is enough, stands up for herself, and says "No, I'm better than this and I deserve to be treated better than this." If Maria Sharapova did this no one would bat an eye. If Serena did it, we'd all just roll our eyes and go back to watching HSN. But because it's "nice girl" Ana, everyone thinks this is about the little sensitivo crying into her Strawberry Quik. Please.
Yes, tennis is a business. And in business, every decision has consequences. Lapierre's decision to speak publicly about the crazy inner workings of his mind had consequences. Don't go pointing your finger at Ana. This is a completely rational response, and beyond that, a smart business move on her part. You treated her like shit. She's letting the market know that it won't be tolerated. And you're telling me that *she's* the idiot here?
You said you didn't need her in Montreal (despite the fact that you don't have Serena, Sam, and Justine, and likely, Venus). Turns out, she doesn't need you either. Leverage is a funny thing when it bites you in the ass, huh?
Two snaps and around the world, Ana. Hell, let's throw in a slow clap chaser. You gained a lot of respect today.