One thing I really love about tennis is the fact that there isn’t really a player I dislike. I don’t even dislike Nole, even though he’s beaten Rafa six times. Believe me, it would be so much easier if I hated him, and I’ve tried! But I can’t hate him; he always manages to charm me and make me like him. There is one player, however, that does get under my skin, and that is Caroline Wozniacki. At first, I couldn’t explain it, because she’s never done anything morally reprehensible, as far as I know. But I’ve realized it’s not her personally, it’s what she represents to me that I can’t stand.
Let me explain.
Periodically, I will see headlines about tennis on Yahoo!, though Yahoo! doesn’t really seem to understand what is going on in the world of tennis. I saw headlines about Rafa crying about the death of an athlete friend, but no mention to Nole’s winning streak or Rafa’s record-tying French Open. However, a few months ago, i noticed a somewhat annoying pattern of Yahoo!’s posts. Whenever they posted about women’s tennis, it was always fashion related. They never talked about the women’s record setting tennis match in the Australian Open, but they poured over the wardrobe choices of the women athletes. (Did they ever analyze the fashion choices of the men? No.) This stuck in my craw, much the same way a letter to Jon Wertheim complained about Kim Clijsters being fat. (Does anyone ever criticize Rafa for being fat? Did anyone criticize Mardy Fish for being fat before he lost his weight?)
I realized that, in some way, this is inevitable. Women’s tennis simply is nowhere near as strong as men’s tennis right now, where the Big 3+Andy drama plays almost like a soap opera. Which brings us back to Caroline Wozniacki. Caroline Wozniacki, the number 1 player in the WTA, has never won a Grand Slam. In fact, she did not even make it to a Grand Slam Final last year. She made the semi final in Australia, and had match point against Li Na, only to lose. She made it to the semi-finals of the US Open, where Serena Williams defeated her without too much trouble. I didn’t even give her much of a chance to defeat Serena. Before the match, I posted on Facebook, “If Caroline Wozniacki manages to beat Serena Williams, she will have earned a lot of legitimacy. That being said, she won’t beat Serena.” I was right. Caroline Wozniacki has come to symbolize the power vacuum in the women’s game right now. She’s consistant, steady, but not dominant. Her game also lacks weapons and power. There is even some debate over whether or not she cares about winning a Grand Slam. There was an article recently on Tennis.com with a coach, discussing his disagreement with her and her father about whether or not it was more important for her to win a Grand Slam or to be ranked #1 in the world. The coach felt Grand Slams were important, her father says otherwise. (Does she have an opinion on this subject? Don’t know.)
I realize that I don’t hate Caroline Wozniacki, but rather I’m angry at the lack of respect that women get. Why is it that a woman can’t simply be a great athlete? Why does our society judge a woman’s value solely on her appearance? That’s what bothered me so much about the Susan Boyle phenomenon. It was if our culture was shocked to find out that “ugly” women had talents too.
What bothers me even more is that some women today don’t even seem to want respect for anything other than how they look. I don’t pay too much attention to girl’s fashions, but everywhere I turn, women are complaining that mothers are dressing their six year old girls like whores. A friend of mine with a five year old daughter laughed at the line in the movie Love Actually about Barbie dolls looking like dominatrices, and assured me that it’s not far from the truth. When I grew up, I played with Dr. Barbie. Dr. Barbie went through four years of college, took the MCAT, and survived four years of medical school despite a potentially crippling disability. Barbie passed a surgical rotation despite the fact that she cannot straighten her arms or move her fingers! Talk about perseverance in the face of incredible obstacles!
When I look at Caroline Wozniacki, I occasionally even find myself wondering if she wants that respect. After she started dating Rory McIllroy, they released a picture of the two of them kissing in front of the football team, and they’ve even chosen to brand themselves WozIllroy. Seriously, who brands themselves? None of this would bother me if she was winning Grand Slams, but since she’s not, I wonder if this is how she wants to be perceived, as one half of a celebrity couple. Does she want to be known as a great tennis player or is she satisfied with being a famous girlfriend?
I realize that it’s (incredibly!) unfair for me to pin all of this on Caroline Wozniacki, and I really try not to do that. But I really find myself annoyed with how women tennis players are perceived, at the fact that the wider media simply focuses on their looks or their clothes, rather than their tennis playing abilities. The power vacuum, symbolized by Caroline Wozniacki’s rise to the top of the WTA rankings, doesn’t help to overcome this belief. This is completely irrational, I know, this anger at Caroline Wozniacki. Intellectually, I understand that it’s not Caroline Wozniacki’s responsibility to raise the level of women in tennis, or in society as a whole. But for whatever reason, I can’t help it.
And now, a palate cleanser. I only heard this song for the first time about a month ago, but I love it.