WHEN A MENTOR IS NOT A MENTOR

The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines a mentor (n) as an experienced and trusted adviser as in “he was her friend and mentor until his death” or as an experienced person in a company or educational institution who trains and counsels new employees or students” as in regular meetings between mentor and trainee help guide young engineers through their early years.
In the situation of Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens much has been made of the fact that Serena mentored Sloane.  If one follows the definition of mentor above, Serena has not mentored Sloane.  However, there are more ways in my view to define who or what is a mentor.
I work in the legal industry and I have been involved in mentorship programmes for about 4 years.  These programmes are not designed to assist young people to enter the legal industry, but they are designed to help young people achieve their goals by keeping them focused on what is important, namely:
The above principles, while they may seem easy to look at are very hard to achieve especially when you are dealing with teenagers. 
When Serena Williams decided to play Fed Cup during the 2012 season, she not only made herself available to country, but she also made herself available to the younger members of the US Fed Cup team. These young women were able to be practice partners for one of the true legends of the game.  There were reports that seeing Serena’s work ethic, the way she prepares for practice sessions and the way she approached her matches gave insight to the younger players about how to deal with expectations and pressure.
In some ways then you could say that Serena’s association with not only Sloane, but with other members of the US Fed Cup team was that of a mentor. How then does the media narrative seems to be that this mentoring never happened, or that the friendship that ensued from playing Fed Cup is not one of the reasons for Sloane’s improvements in her game and in her demeanour and in fact, may have contributed to her win over Williams in their quarter-final match at this year’s Australian Open?
When Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock became practice partners for the great Andy Roddick, the media were quick to point out how much influence Roddick had on these young American men.  Both Harrison and Sock have gone to Roddick’s home in Austin to have practice sessions with him and the media, as they are wont to do, have indicated just how much of a mentoring process this is and have played this up for all it is worth.
It was interesting reading through the various tweets from noted journalists and bloggers who are now back stepping and basically saying that there was never any mentorship of Sloane by Serena, and they have even gone so far as to say that there is not much of a friendship there.  As a matter of fact, comparisons are now being made of Stephens’ demeanour and attitude to one Maria Sharapova.  I mean you just cannot make this stuff up.
The Sharapova comparisons are even laughable in that because after her win Stephens went to her phone to check messages, a la the same thing Sharapova did after defeating Serena at Wimbeldon in 2004. I guess a phone endorsement is coming soon to Stephens.  Someone should tell Sloane that it has been 9 years since Sharapova got a win over Serena.  I doubt if it will take Sloane 9 years to get another win, but it is probably not going to be good for her the next time she meets Serena.
The media has even gone so far as to discount Madison Keys’ interest in tennis.  Ever since I have heard of Madison Keys, the story has always been that she wanted one of Venus’ dress that she saw her playing in, asked for the dress, and her parents indicated that she would have to play tennis to get the dress.  Whether Keys was inspired by Venus or by the dress, we will never know because soon the story of the dress will also be discounted.
Jennifer Capriati
After last night’s match, Capriati who makes it more in the tabloids than she does in any way related to tennis, took to Twitter last night to basically remind us all of why she is a bitter woman.  One wonders how she ever got into the Hall of Fame.  One would think that neither Venus or Serena have any plans to ever retire because they surely would not wish to be included in a place that purportedly honours champions when the likes of Capriati have been inducted.
Sexism in Tennis
When I first started this blog, it was to comment first of all on the unfavourable comments that broadcasters made during women’s matches, and it was only to bring to light the inequality when it came to featuring women’s matches, especially at combined events.  There were many times over the past 4 years that this blog has been around that I have become so disconsolate at the media and how they portray women’s tennis.
Things have gotten a lot better since I started, but I still hear instances of negativity and stereotyping when it comes to commentators and how they deal with matches featuring women.  Most of the commentary is always centered around the mentality of the women and their emotions, as if it is only women who are affected by their mental and emotions and indeed their hormones when it comes to playing tennis.
In case there was any doubt, men do suffer from hormonal issues as well.  Men do have emotional breakdowns during matches and men do find it hard to compete mentally when things are not going their way.  There is a reason why 47% of men suffer from erectile dysfunction and 90% of the sufferers are not old men on medication.  They are young men in the prime of their lives who are unable to deal with the pressures of the modern world and the first thing that goes is their ability to perform sexually.
That being said, reading through Tsonga’s take on why the women are not as successful as the top 3 in men’s tennis seems to have missed the bit of irony altogether. 
In case he has not realized it, Tsonga has basically said what those of us who have followed women’s tennis for years have known.  The men are afraid to step outside their comfort zones and take down the men at the top.  If they could, there is no reason in the world why 3 men and Andy Murray should be dominating Masters Series events and the Grand Slams in the way that they have done. 
On the women’s tour many women have made the leap from journeywoman to Grand Slam champion.  Since 2009 we have had 16 Grand Slams played, from this amount, here are the winners:-
YEAR
GRAND SLAM
MEN
WOMEN
2009
AUSTRALIAN OPEN
NADAL
WILLIAMS
2009
FRENCH OPEN
FEDERER
KUZNETSOVA
2009
WIMBLEDON
FEDERER
WILLIAMS
2009
U.S. OPEN
DEL POTRO
CLIJSTERS
2010
AUSTRALIAN OPEN
FEDERER
WILLIAMS
2010
FRENCH OPEN
NADAL
SCHIAVONE
2010
WIMBLEDON
NADAL
WILLIAMS
2010
U.S. OPEN
NADAL
CLIJSTERS
2011
AUSTRALIAN OPEN
DJOKOVIC
CLIJSTERS
2011
FRENCH OPEN
NADAL
LI
2011
WIMBLEDON
DJOKOVIC
KVITOVA
2011
U.S. OPEN
DJOKOVIC
STOSUR
2012
AUSTRALIAN OPEN
DJOKOVIC
AZARENKA
2012
FRENCH OPEN
NADAL
SHARAPOVA
2012
WIMBLEDON
FEDERER
WILLIAMS
2012
U.S. OPEN
MURRAY
WILLIAMS
Apart from 2012 when Murray finally had his breakthrough win, the last time a player outside of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic won a Grand Slam was 2009 when Del Potro had his big win. Since that time the depth on the women’s tour speaks to the variety, consistency and mental toughness. 
I guess those hormonal women know something the men don’t.  

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