What else would you expect? A tournament snakebitten from the start – recall the Top 6 seeds all lost in their first match – concludes on a retirement during its championship match. Such is status quo these days on the WTA Circus.
Credit though to Maria Sharapova who battled through a dicey draw to win her first title in 18 months. Earlier today in the Tokyo final Maria led Jelena Jankovic 5-2, 30-0 in the first set when the Serb called the trainer and pulled the plug citing a wrist injury. Yes, Maria was two points from the first set, but I guess Jelena, who actually led 2-0 to start the match, had no intentions of letting her have it.
How bad JJ’s wrist/arm are is unclear (she’s always injured, isn’t she?), but the retirement will leave a bitter taste in conclusion for a Tokyo event that poured $2 million in prize money only to have all six of its top players lose their first match – Dinara Safina, Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva, Svetlana Kuznetskova, Vera Zvonareva, Caroline Wozniacki – and then have an unfinished finale.
I know retirements happen and that players get injured or they are too tired, exhausted, unmotivated some days to compete. But I think players need to better understand that the economy is tough all around the world (though I’m told “greenshoots” are everywhere!) not just for themselves but also for the tournaments and most importantly for the fans.
Tennis is a sport of the privilege, of the upper class and I know Tokyo has its share of the wealthy, but some, if not many, of the fans who go support their favorite players are buying tickets these days with the last remaining pennies in their bank accounts. And at the end of the day some players (men and women) need to take that into account by giving back more, by going that extra mile, fighting just a little harder for that ball and doing whatever they can to make sure those fans who are spending their hard-earned money get a good show.
Did that happen this week in Tokyo, I don’t know. But to add, put yourselves in the shoes of the tournament sponsors. Is this the kind of event, the kind of tour you want to put your dollars in especially in this global economic climate?
As for Maria, again full credit. I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again, Sharapova is one of the fiercest competitors in tennis if not in all of sports. If her shoulder heals 100% and her serves returns to full we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the winner’s circle. I know many people don’t like her – I really don’t either – but she gives it her all every single match. And love her or hate her you have to respect her for that. She gets paid a hefty sum not just for those good looks, but because she’s going to compete.
The Tour now shifts onto the mainland in Beijing for the $4.5 million China Open. The tournament, which uniquely began today, features close to the same draw as Tokyo just with the addition of Serena Williams (more on her participation in another blog!).
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