TENNIS JERRY MAGEE
Time for Stevenson to find another line
July 29, 2007
CARLSBAD – Her triumphs now are merely getting through matches. It isn't enough, not nearly, not for a tennis player who had what Alexandra Stevenson did.
Alexandra, please accept this kindly. As I suggested to you yesterday, I long have felt you could be a factor in the women's game. Through all your times away from tennis and your struggles to regain the full use of your postoperative shoulder, I have continued to believe that one day you would have it all again, all those magical assets you had when at 18 you hit through to the semifinals at Wimbledon, captivating Great Britain with your power and your pretty little curtsies.
Alexandra, it isn't happening and it doesn't seem as if it will. To strive as you have is commendable. Nothing is more noble than to persist in endeavoring to overcome an outcome that is preordained. But it has been too long, Alexandra. You have a life to live. In December, you will be 27, which is nine years from when you had your grand moment at Wimbledon. Your shoulder surgery, the source of your travail, was in September 2004, and you still would not seem fully recovered.
Give it up, Alexandra. Sing and dance. You always have wanted to, to become a star, to have your name in lights. There are worlds apart from tennis. You have borne enough pain, had enough chastening experiences.
“I'm not a quitter,” Stevenson said with emphasis yesterday following another disappointment for her, a 6-4, 6-1 defeat to Yulianna Fedak of Ukraine in the opening round of the Acura Classic's qualifying procedure. “If I quit,” she added, “I could never forgive myself.”
For the La Jolla Country Day School alumna to go on attempting to resurrect her career, however, would be an exercise in futility. Watching her yesterday, I thought back to the first time I saw Stevenson. The player I observed yesterday was difficult to associate with that 16-year-old I looked up when she was playing in the junior phase of the U.S. Open on a court that was back in that gathering of trees that then served to soften the National Tennis Center.
Opposing Stevenson was Amelie Mauresmo, who was as celebrated a junior player as she has become at the highest level of the women's game. She had won a couple of the junior events that are offered at the Grand Slam tournaments, but she did not overwhelm Stevenson, who might have won, I thought, if she had been more mindful of playing to the score.
No matter what it was, she would lean into strokes that were like haymakers. Mauresmo won, if I recall correctly, 6-4, 6-4, but you had to admire Alexandra, with her youth and her size and her willingness to go for winners.
The Stevenson on the Grandstand court at the La Costa Resort and Spa yesterday didn't have the spontaneity of the teenager I observed so long ago. She didn't have the serve, either, or the ground strokes. Her forehand return of serve was particularly fragile. Her shoulder, she said, no longer is the problem it was, but while dealing with the frailties of her shoulder, she has developed a right pectoral muscle strain. The right upper half of her body was heavily taped when she took the court against Fedak and she said she had been unable to hit tennis balls for a week.
“You lose strength with the ball,” Stevenson said of her pectoral injury. She termed her play against Fedak “a disaster,” but this woman is not easily daunted. “It's coming back,” she said of her game.
“She's this close,” contended her mother, Samantha, holding her hands about 2 inches apart.
Samantha Stevenson, I might note, is a person I most admire, and not because she once was a sports writer. Not everyone in the tennis community shares my regard for Samantha, who is willing to go to almost any end in her daughter's behalf, but I find this appealing. Score one for motherhood.
As I adjudged Alexandra's effort yesterday, just about the only positive thing she achieved was being able to finish the match, and that was a near thing. She had to summon a trainer to attend to her pectoral problem when she trailed 0-3 in the second set.
Stevenson this season had to retire at Cincinnati. At Indian Harbour Beach, Fla. At Sea Island, Ga. At Houston. At Troy, Ala. At Ashland, Ky. She has won only three matches this year, according to the records of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. Alexandra, you have borne enough. No one aware of what you have experienced could consider you a quitter.
Emma Murphy's heart, meantime, had to be somewhere else yesterday. On Friday, the former USD player had been advised that her father had suffered a heart attack in County Cork, Ireland. Emma was out there yesterday, running down every ball as she always does and making a bold stand in coming from 1-5 down in the second set before falling to Mathilde Johansson, a smoothie from France.
Emma's father survived his attack, but he remains hospitalized. She is scheduled to leave for Ireland this morning.