by Karen


I love Victoria Azarenka.  I have written many articles defending Vika. I love her fight.  I love that she is fearless.  I love her game.  I could sit and watch her matches all day long, if only to watch her feet, but recently I have adopted a bit of a don’t care attitude towards her.  I think a lot of this has stemmed from the PR effort to remake her image and to have her become this person that is friendly, kisses puppies, saves kittens and helps old ladies across the road.  I like my champs feisty and I don’t mind the edge, as long as it is not disrespectful towards the fans or opponents.  As much as her PR team would like to have us believe that Vika is this loveable person, fans think differently as evidenced by the silence that accompanied her screams of delight upon hearing that the Denver Broncos had won their match against the Patriots.   In her loss to to Kerber, Vika has shown that she has a long way to go to get back to the top of women’s tennis. 

Victoria Azarenka for whatever reason was the sexy pick for many people.  I have no idea why she was the pick for so many tennis journalists and I suspect this had more to do with her match play against Serena Williams last year, rather than any strong belief in her capabilities to win this title and  I am still trying to fathom how nearly every ESPN analyst chose Vika to get to the final of this year’s Australian Open.  How can it be that because of your losses to one player during a season, that merits the title of comeback?  

I have never been a big fan of Kerber.  Her game bores me. I usually call players who play the “one more ball” style of tennis lazy and a bit cowardly. In her quarter-final clash against Azarenka, Kerber played a brand of tennis that I have never seen her play. She played fearless tennis.  It was a match that showcases the wonderful talent that exists on the WTA Tour.  If you missed it, please find a way to watch it.   It will be 2 hours well spent.  

Whenever I am watching a match, especially at the Grand Slam level, I always take the opportunity to look at the serve speeds of the women.  Many commentators look at the so called keys to the match, which for me is actually a ridiculous thing to look at. I always want to see how well people are serving as that is the only shot for which you have control.  I checked Azarenka’s serve speeds during her matches and I was appalled that a player who has risen to No. 1 in the rankings, won 2 Grand Slams and numerous Premier Mandatory titles could have a first serve that barely makes it to 90 mph.  I expect someone like Radwanska or Kerber to have a serve that weak, and it is a testament to Azarenka’s fighting spirit that she has been able to overcome that particular weakness in her game to make it to the quarter finals.  However, as soon as she got to the business end of the tournament and faced an opponent who was willing to take on the serve, Vika’s game imploded.  

I don’t know what the Dab is.  I, like most folks had to resort to Google and YouTube. Even worse I had no idea who Cam Newton was.  For those who came in late, he is a football player (American football) who does the Dab whenever he has scored a touch down (goal). The Dab apparently is an urban dance move (I had to look that up as there is a music video).  Newton and Azarenka share an agent.  Apparently, as part of the remaking of Azarenka’s image her agent thought it was a good idea for her to do the Dab after she won her matches.  The fact that she had to explain it after almost every single match either showed how clueless tennis fans were, or the fact that the Dab has not really crossed over into tennis territory.  Kudos to ESPN to try and get their viewers involved by having them vote as to post match ritual (the Dab by Azarenka) or (the Spin by Serena) was more popular.  What irritated me even more than seeing Azarenka do the Dab was the appropriation of black culture. 

Recently, Jamaican dancers were up in arms over a video done by Justin Bieber for his song Sorry.  The moves in the video were almost all Jamaican dancehall moves and nowhere has the choreographer even mentioned that her ideas were taken from Jamaican dancehall culture.   

For those who came in late Jamaican dances are a part of our culture.  From the days of ska, rock steady, reggae, dancehall, Jamaicans have been making up dances to go along with our music.  It is part of our history and culture and so to see someone from New Zealand appropriate our dances into a music video without giving us credit is a slap in the face to the many dancers in Jamaica who come up with these moves. 

And so, to see Azarenka, a white female player appropriate something that is part of black urban culture and try to make it her own should be dismissed as appropriating black culture without defending black culture.  Its the same reason why the Kardashians get dragged for appropriating black hairstyles without taking a stand when it comes to defending the rights of black Americans. 

Random Thoughts 

A few days ago news broke that Simona Halep would not be playing Fed Cup, Doha or Dubai as she would be undergoing nose surgery.  This morning, we were greeted with the news that Halep would not be having surgery at this time and would be playing Fed Cup. 

Recently, a tennis friend of mine said that she is having a hard time figuring out Halep.  I have to admit that I am having similar issues.  Her body seems to break down easier than most.  She seems to have a chronic foot problem that either has been healed or needs to heal and she either requires surgery for nasal issues or she doesn’t require surgery. 

The Spin can speculate all it wants until we get a clearer picture from the Halep camp as to what ails her, but from where I am sitting I get the distinct impression that Halep is going through a period where she is being asked to choose between self and country.  For years Cirstea, another talented Romanian was the future of Romanian tennis.  Beset by injuries Cirstea played on, carrying the Romanian flag high.  I have not seen hide or hair of Cirstea in quite some time and one wonders whether this talented Romanian has called it a day (I hope not).  Halep seems to be having similar issues.  From the hiring and firing of coaches to wanting to be with only Romanian support staff to not having an all Romanian support team to having surgery, to not having surgery. 

Halep’s game is a joy to watch.  She is an interesting player with a very likeable game and a wonderful personality to boot but my thinking is she will have to put self before country if she ever hopes to succeed in this sport.  As someone on Twitter pointed out, this is an Olympic year and I can’t imagine the pressure that she will be under to perform at the Olympics this year.  

My question is this, at some point in time, should players choose self before country?  Sound off in the comments or on Twitter.  

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