Are you a tennis fan?
Have you been glued to your seat over the last couple of weeks?
I have to confess: tennis is not my favourite sport. When I was a kid, I was actually likened to McEnroe (are you old enough to remember him?)
Now, thankfully, I didn't bounce around the court yelling "You cannot be serious!" but I wasn't exactly the most patient player on court (thankfully my sister had enough patience for the both of us).
So why on earth would I want to write a post on tennis if I'm not even a fan?
Well I'll tell you why. Last weekend during the finals at Wimbledon, tennis' oldest and most prestigious grass-court competition, the focus wasn't so much on the tennis as on the outward appearance of the players.
Intrigued? Read on.
Last Saturday was the women's Wimbledon final. And in that final was Germany's Sabine Lisicki, currently No18 in the world ratings, and France's Marion Bartoli, a top-10 French professional player.
"After losing serve with a pair of double-faults in the first game, Marion ticked off 11 of the next 12 games.... Bartoli then served the match out at love, dropping to her knees after hitting an ace on match point, then climbing the wall into the players box to celebrate with 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo - the last Frenchwoman to win a Grand Slam title - and her friends and family." (Huffington Post)
“I think in the middle of the tournament, when all the favorites had lost, I think she told herself, ‘This is my chance, this is really my chance,”’ said Gilbert Ysern, the
tournament director. “And I think it shows her strength that she was able to know it and then do it. That’s also a talent.”
That's quite an accomplishment in my eyes - to see an opportunity, visualise your success and go out there and get it. Marion is a lady of strength - both mentally and physically. And someone who should be revered.
But was she revered?
Let's look at her success from a different viewpoint. Let's re-write the above as others saw it:
Last Saturday was the women's final. And in that final was Germany's blonde and beautiful Sabine Lisicki, currently No18 in the world ratings, and France's Marion Bartoli, a top-10 French professional player who is deemed to be "neither poster-girl pretty nor athletic in the romantic sense." (The Independent)
Many of tennis' front runners such as Siren Serena Williams, Hot Maria Sharapova, and Sexy Victoria Azarenka were all out of play mostly as a result of injury. And Marion Bartoli saw that as her perfect opportunity.... seizing her chance without dropping a single set.
As Marion claimed her well-deserved victory, having been runner-up to Venus Williams in 2007, BBC commentator John Inverdale gave quite a noteworthy speech:
“’I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5ft 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.’”
Puts a very different light on things, doesn't it?
And it seems that John Inverdale wasn't the only person who so diligently ignored the talent that stood before him and focussed on the lack of beauty, he felt, she beheld. Marion Bartoli was, either knowlingly or unknowlingly, subjected to abuse via Twitter throughout her magnificent game. I've read many of the tweets and, quite honestly, they are tweets that I do not deem worthy of repeating in my post.... they are simply shameful.
After a 77 year drought, tennis player Andy Murray did what no other British tennis player could do since Fred Perry - he won Wimbledon on Sunday.
After 77 years of progression and growing acknowledgement for the strength and equality of females, John Inverdale (and others like him) did the unthinkable and returned to the dark ages where women are only acknowledged if they are pretty.
Thankfully Marion Bartoli exercised intelligence in light of her victory and reacted with poise. According to the Telegraph her victory was uplifting. "It was touching, and it was also good listening, because with her intelligence and sensitivity, she was more than capable of putting words to the moment and of deflecting insensitive remarks with a sharp wit instead of outrage."
“I have no sense of vindication,” Marion said. “I only feel I have managed to reach the goal of my career, of a life, of a child who was 6 or 7 years old in a little club in a village of 2,000 people who dreamed that one day perhaps she will lift up this trophy. And when you’ve dreamed for more than 20 years and trained for that and then you have made it, that is a moment that will stay engraved in your memory. It is happiness in pure form.”
Congratulations Marion.... celebrate your victory