The Thin Line Between

Posted by Brodie under: Rome, Vika

14 May 2011

“What are little girls made of? They’re made of sugar. And spice. And sweat. And grit. And fucking swearing, bitches.”

And therein lies the question. When do all those lovely catch words, sweat, grit, determination, desire, competitor, passion… when do they all become ugly?

Last night in Rome, it got ugly. Vika was, um, unimpressed with Maria, and had a catchy phrase to call her. And after she was forced to retire with an elbow injury, down in the second set, she flailed her arms around in a near universal, ahem “I find you highly irritable” gesture.

In a rather classy way, Vika said on Twitter (@Vika7) that she essentially only ever chirps herself on court and not another player. Maria declined to comment any further. Few. Vika was mad at herself, case closed. Except…

Who calls themselves a “f—ing b—h” after winning a set? And my first year university psychology class I took way back when tells me that when you’re pissed at yourself, you usually do something physical. Like, I don’t know, smash a racquet? Pull a Youzhny and bleed your forehead open? Not swing your arms helplessly. A nice attempt at a save, but not a realistic one.

So, as tennis fans, what do we do with this? This is nearly universal to tennis. When a pitcher throws at a hitter, they swear and look for payback. Hockey players will go after the other one, maybe fight. The list goes on. In tennis, not only can you not storm the mound, there is no one else on the field except the two of you. It’s all tension, baby.

For me, responding to this is difficult. I’ve never been a huge Vika fan, but I’ve never thought her as the scum of the earth, and really respect her game and think she’s great for the game. I also think I’m a highly competitive person and am definitely into finding ways of pumping myself up in intense, competitive situations.

However, no one wants a sore winner, and no one wants a sore loser either. Yet Vika falls into a strange spot here, being injured before the incident, and during the incident that led to her retirement. There is no “code of retirement ethics for an opponent” in other sports. In tennis, it’s unwritten. How many people have chirped on Justine for retiring in a slam final? Or for players retiring down a set and 0-4 or 0-5? “What the hell, just stand there and finish it out.”

In other words, I’m not going to sit here and tell that what Vika did was totally acceptable, or completely slimey. Simply, we should stop and think about what happened, and the players that have muttered similar words either undetected by cameras, or on non-show courts. I don’t know. Maybe it was unsportsmanlike, maybe it was in the heat of battle, or maybe it falls on the thin line between.

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