The limerick doesn't quite work, but he gets style points for trying.
Sound and the furor - Unfairly, Seles is victim of Wimbledon `huh-ihhh!'-jinks
Saturday, July 4, 1992
Bill Conlin, KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE
There was a young moaner named Seles
Who hit the ball hard as the fellas
With piercing inflections
She squealed out selections
That would make even Meg Ryan jealous.
WIMBLEDON, England - It was the first day in the history of this tradition-bejeweled Centre Court that the chair umpire began a match like this:
"Ladies and gentlemen, quiet please - and that includes you, Miss Seles."
Well, it didn't really happen that way. But the reality that unfolded while Monica Seles was climbing over the imposing presence of Martina Navratilova and into a date with Steffi Graf proved just as ridiculous.
Before we get into the details of this glottal battle between soprano vibrato and contralto ego, outsider and elitist, the pertinent match details:
Seles earned her berth against Graf in today's Wimbledon final with a 6-2, 6-7 (7-3), 6-4 victory over Navratilova, who has played and won more singles matches than any woman in the history of the tournament, 116.
The 35-year-old doyen of the tour has been a wonderful spokesperson for women's tennis and an outspoken and generous supporter of myriad philanthropic and social causes, including gay rights.
But this was not one of her finest hours.
At best, Martina was a bully who used an obscure, ambiguous and rarely, if ever, invoked distraction rule to twice intimidate an opponent who, at 18, is younger, better and, oh, yes, ranked No. 1 in the world.
At worst, she is a hitwoman for a thinly disguised conspiracy involving the Women's Tennis Association inner circle and the ultraconservative Wimbledon Old Boys Club. This is, after all, the place where all-white garb was mandated at the end of Queen Victoria's reign because it is the only color that does not clearly show women's perspiration patches.
Wimbledon referee Alan Mills has made it easy for the WTA Ma-Femosa to make an issue of Monica's probably unbreakable habit of wailing like a banshee on each point. He has singled out Seles for criticism - and outright threats - on two occasions. On the eve of her showdown with Martina and in the echoes of Nathalie Tauziat's late, ill-advised and mean-spirited quarterfinals protest, Mills amplified what he said as the fortnight began. It is too Brit-boring to repeat in its stilted entirety, but there is no way to skew the context.
"If Monica upsets another player . . . then she will be given a warning," Mills said. "Then there will be a point deducted. And another. And so on. If the grunting continues, then the umpire will call myself and Women's European tour director Georgina Clark to the court. If it . . . continues . . . the umpire has the ultimate sanction of defaulting the player."
They don't have the guts . . .
It was no accident that a woman named Fran McDowell was in the chair for Seles-Navratilova.
Nor was it at all surprising that after Monica stormed to a 6-2 first-set victory, her moans rising from the demure squeak of a Minnie Mouse to the full throat of the triumphal march from "Aida," Navratilova made eye contact with McDowell and a small hand gesture.
"Here comes a warning," I said aloud and, it turned out, correctly. At the end of the fourth game of the second set, the score 2-2, on serve. McDowell beckoned Seles to the chair amid scattered applause that fell far short of a consensus. Reduced to a squeak and just an occasional "Hon-WHEEEEEE!" Seles started missing her returns and lost the set in a tiebreaker.
Down a break toward the end of the match, Martina once more glanced toward the chair after Monica hit a shriek-punctuated passing shot that would have been a winner even with Marlee Matlin trying to chase it down.
It was bush-league gamesmanship, a ploy better suited for a Saturday morning women's doubles league match than Centre Court at the world's most prestigious tennis tournament.
They are trying to break this gifted kid who goes her own way and who is savaged behind her back in the locker room for her aloofness and independence. They don't even know what country she represents because she refuses to get drawn into the politics of what used to be Yugoslavia. (And how deeply was Goran Ivanisevic's tongue buried in cheek when he said Wednesday he was going to go home to fight for Croatia after Wimbledon, but could do more for the image of his country playing tennis? Sure, Goran, would an exhibition on the runway of Sarajevo Airport be out of the question?)
Seles said she was unaware that Martina signaled the chair for each warning, and what's that Oscar Wilde wrote about the coward doing it with a kiss, the brave man with a sword?
"She (McDowell) said, `Miss Seles, would you keep it down?' " Monica said. "Then I tried and I think at one point she said, `OK, keep continuing doing that.' "
I asked Navratilova the question that raised her hackles and moved her semantically against the interview room wall, back arched and hissing defensively.
Question: ''Would it have been an issue if she was ranked 50th?''
Answer: ''It would still bother me. I think the reason - it is always an issue. There is a player, an Italian player, Katia Piccolini. She is always getting warned, also. She makes a lot of noise.''
Just like a piccolo, right?
Question: "You played her 11 times. This is the first time you have complained?"
Answer: "Are you putting me on the defensive here?"
Answer to her question: "I do not believe you have complained about it at any previous match. You did complain twice today, so obviously it must have reached a level of intolerability."
Answer: ''It gets louder when it gets close. I mean, I was watching the French Open, I would have complained, you know. Jennifer Capriati did not realize she could complain about her or say something. It is not a matter of complaining. I want to be able to hear the ball. Sometimes the ball is still in play. . . . I am not saying I lost because of her grunting. . . . I would have said this, and we would have been talking about it if I won.''
Listen to Martina bawl. The women want equal prize money, but, if Navratilova is any yardstick, they have inferior hearing to the touring men. How else can we explain how not one male on the tour in 17 years has complained about John McEnroe's primal bellowing - much louder than Seles. Or the outrageous exhalations of Jimmy Connors?
I think Mac and Jimbo would have a unique way of dealing with a "No Grunt" warning.
The Irish call it the old heel-on-toe Adam's apple smash.