Fran lost to Caro yesterday. But that's the secondary story. I'll have more on Fran later, but seeing as how after playing nearly five hours two days ago she came blasting out of the gate and, for a set and half, made Caro look like a junior who had no business being in the top 100 let alone the Top Dog, then fought off three match points in spectacular fashion, all I can say is this:
Ok, wait, I lied. I have one more thing to say:
Look, I get it. MTOs are a part of the game. You can take one whenever for whatever reason and it's not cheating. But between Aga's third set MTO in her first round match, which Kimiko admitted completely iced her 40 year-old body down and took her out of her rhythm, and Caro's MTO yesterday, taken after she dropped the first set, I have to call bullshit.
You seriously had the gall, Caro, to call for an MTO for a tight hip-flexor after you drop a set to a woman 10 years your senior who had less than 48 hours to recover from playing a 4 hour and 44 minute match? I mean, REALLY??? Pam tracked down Sven (look at you, Reporter Pam) and asked him whether Caro was carrying any injuries into the match and he said no. So Caro goes off court to get it taped, and then, like, 5 games later, tears the tape off and starts running like a rabbit again.
It reeked of gamesmanship and, at least among fans, threw out any goodwill Caro had gained with her press conference antics this week. To add further insult to non-injury, Caro would show up to her post-match presser with an inflatable kangaroo and boxing gloves, claiming that the gloves were there in case the kangaroo decided to attack her again. You go through a tight match like that and you decide to game up the presser? Have some respect, dude. You *should* want to talk about the tennis.
Caro would say afterwards that her game was "to win". That may be a nice soundbite that speaks to the fighter in all athletes, in the context of the match the translation was closer to "I will do whatever it takes to win." But in sport, while stat sheets and win/loss records are paramount, the way one goes about it matters. This is why for all the crap that Serena and Venus get (and I admit, I'm one that doesn't mind heaping on them) the one thing they are never accused of is gamesmanship, and in that way they are further bolstered as "true champions" by fans. No one will ever doubt the competitive drive of Justine Henin, for example. Her will to win is second to none. But her history of "winning at all costs" will always make her second to most.
Fran admitted after the match that she was fatigued. Yet she never called for trainer and she didn't use that fatigue as an excuse.
It's time to grow up, Caroline. I have been a realistic defender of yours, trying my best, within the circumstances, to acknowledge your weaknesses but defend your position within the sport. But these antics are junior league and not worthy of anyone who would consider themselves a champion. True champions realize their position in the sport, embrace it, and act accordingly. They don't act like they're still in the juniors. If you want to be taken seriously you would do best to heed the example of your vanquished opponent today.
Also, stop moonballing, cuz that shit is WEAK.
Winning is great. But how you compete is greater. To the extent a player cannot distinguish the two and act accordingly, I can't help but lose respect. It's possible that Caro could care less that she caused a shitstorm among tennis fans with what she tried to pull yesterday. But again, given how far she goes out of the way to be liked, I doubt it.
Second, let me just say this about the media coverage of the haps. Go ahead and google "Caroline Wozniacki" and read the first 10 news articles about yesterday's match. Chances are they will all focus on Caro's fight. How she came back from 1-3 in the second set, fighting off a "debilitating leg injury" to courageously gut out the match. I can't help but wonder how many of those folks writing those articles actually watched the match from start to finish and how many of them are writing honestly, as opposed to ignorning the gamesmanship because the "selling of Caroline Wozniacki" is a better story. It wasn't a debilitating injury. The only thing debilitating about Caro was her tennis for a set and a half.
I generally sympathize with the press corp. There isn't that much money in this game and most get paid by the article, which means they have to churn as many pieces as they can in order to make this pricey trip worth it. But I've also seen them write about matches they didn't even watch from start to finish. They miss the nuances, they hear chatter from other members of the press, and suddenly the misinformed echo chamber is transformed into a truth chamber. They think they know *exactly* what happened.
I haven't had those restrictions while I've been Down Under both for better (freedom!) and for worse (no cash). Sure, there are days where I need to focus and write up a piece for publication, but with respect to the stuff that I write on Forty Deuce, I literally either sit at my station and watch a match from start to finish, or I sit courtside and take furious notes. I constantly work under this fear that I am not doing the players or the matches justice. They busted their asses to play a match. The least I can do is pay attention and get it right.
So it was tremendously disappointing to see people ignore what actually happened on court yesterday. The ESPN crew, which, you know, was actually watching the match, essentially called BS on the leg injury. If you listened closely you could hear the sneer in Pam's voice as she observed that Wozniacki was moving really well in the latter stages of that second set. But the print media seemed to turn a blind eye.
How many Novak Djokovic articles focus on his history of retiring from matches, question his heart because of it, and paint him as a gamey villain who will fake injuries to get ahead? Just because Caroline's a cute 20 year-old blond with a big smile, doesn't mean she should be immune to the same criticism.
Fans were looking for Caroline to prove herself during this fortnight. They were looking to see what she was made of. Unfortunately, for the time being at least, they might be a little disappointed in the answer. I know I am.