Monday, November 01, 2010

On Being A (Very) Sad Tennis Fan

Coming along at the same time as reality TV, sexpot Anna Kournikova, Martina "Chucky" Hingis and lineswoman-scourge Serena Williams, Dementieva represented class in a classless age. She was unassuming. She didn't bray or strut -- even though she could have. She's better looking than Kournikova and had a winner-on-any-shot game that lent itself to a Jimmy Connors-like smirk and hip waggle.

But she was raised well. (Her mother, wringing her hands on every point, traveled with her throughout her career.) She played because she loved the game and the competition, not because she had a chip on her shoulder. She didn't have to prove anything to the world to make herself feel OK. Dementieva's impact on tennis was apparent on the faces of the other players on court when she announced her retirement at the WTA Championships. Every one of her colleagues was crying.

November has become the month when tennis wraps up its professional season.

The women played their tour championship last week and the men play at the end of the month.

Already this has been a pretty depressing end to a pretty dismal season.

Last week Elena Dementieva, my favorite woman player, retired.

Damn it.

It’s getting harder and harder to find tennis on television and, when you finally find it, it is getting harder and harder to find players anybody would want to watch.

Poor Elena. At this year’s tour championship all the big names were out with injuries so Dementieva was something like a favorite going in. I considered trying to play out my #3 big fantasy and take a woman up to Evanston for the weekend to watch the finals at some hotel.

But Dementieva, it turns out, had injury issues of her own. She not only didn’t make the finals, but at the end of the round-robin play Elena Dementieva retired from tennis.

[ Sighs ]

Tennis has been a pleasant topic for me, but there is very little left to write about. None of the women left in the game, and none of the up-and-comers, have much style or personality. Maria Sharapova is still pretty in a glamour sort of way but she is getting old and has never really recovered from her shoulder injury.

I might be retiring tennis as a theme along with Elena retiring her career.

So, here’s goodbye to Elena Dementieva. And maybe to tennis.

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