Ms. What is the 'play down rule'? I don't recall this?
When the rankings were calculated under the divisor, there was a rule that the top players wouldn't be penalized for playing in and winning
a tournament that awarded championship points lower than the player's point average. I also think it was applicable only in certain instances, like for a tournament that was "assigned," for a "hometown" tournament, or when the top players' appearances fulfilled the WTA's field commitment to the tournament and thereby saved the WTA from paying a fine. All of which seems fair and reasonable, and there was no issue when Martina was No. 1.
But one day, Martina wasn't No. 1 and Steffi was. And Steffi was winning so many "rich" tournaments and her average was so high that the rule could be applied at just about every non-Slam she played, since her presence fulfilled any tournament's field commitment. Then, it suddenly became a problem. So, right in the middle of the 1988 USO -- you know, the last leg of the Grand Slam -- the WTA held a vote to abolish the play down rule. The Graf camp had already lodged its dissent, and Steffi did not attend the meeting because it was obvious what was going to happen: an amazing 111-0 vote to abolish the rule.
Papa Graf, predictably, flew off the handle. The WTA stood firm and asserted that one player was not bigger than the sport. Steffi calmly said that it wasn't the right time to discuss it, which should have been their first clue that they miscalculated in their attempt to get under her skin and disrupt her CYGS bid. Steffi thrashed Katerina Maleeva in the quarters, and even gave her racket a few angry, impatient swishes.
When she spoke about the upcoming semifinal against President Evert: "I'm excited to be in the semis and playing Chris. I'm looking forward to a tough match. I'm happy at this stage. For me, it's like the tournament is just starting." OK, for those of you who aren't too familiar with Steffi and Graf-speak, this translates to: "It's time to poop your pants, Chrissie and anybody else who gets in my way." Fortunately for Evert, she pooped her pants before the match and didn't have to play it. Steffi's reaction: "I was ready to play Chris. I wanted to play her badly." Translation: "You lucked out this time, Chrissie. Enjoy praying to the porcelain god while I play one more match."
Not long after Steffi won the Grand Slam, maybe a week and a half, the WTA concluded that they should revisit that unanimous decision and find some way to make things more fair for the top players that didn't involve reestablishing the play down rule, because then the skulduggery would have been too obvious. Their solution? Have no more "down" to play! Award the same amount of points for a whole range of purses.
Of course, it's kinda funny now, and proves just how much self-control Steffi had, but at the same time it's sad that the Sorority Sisters would stoop lower than the standard psych warfare ploys and reach genuine abuse-of-power depths. Still wonder why Steffi passed up these WTA Love-30 and Love-40 things?
I love that Ted Tingling quote about peak Martina - "She goes from arrogance to panic with nothing in between"
That happens when you're used to winning a lot and easily. You forget how to struggle through.
It certainly rang true yesterday afternoon. So strange that at Serena's age she must have felt it revealed weakness or flaw in character to admit she was utterly crushed under the pressure.
Hitting her with a lot of slice -- good old sneered-at slice! -- also had a lot to do with it. Pressure + junk = I can't bleeping play tennis! If her opponent had been, like, a power player feeding her steady straight-up pace, I think she would have pulled it out.
She imploded against a crafty player who basically got every single ball back knowing her opponent was nearly frozen with anxiety, sometimes literally.
Look, it is
so damn hard, especially if you care. If finding that balance point between desire and detachment were anything close to easy, there would be more than five names on the list. There's nothing to be ashamed of, especially with everything else Serena has accomplished.
I imagine the 84 match at the same stage was quite different given that sukova is nearly a foot taller than Vinci, and had a game built around a huge serve volley game on grass, but does anyone remember how Martina played that day?
Not that Martina was always the best judge of her own play, but she felt she did not lob enough. The match reports also state that Sukova served strongly, returned well, and passed well, especially off the forehand. Helena led 3-0 in the third set, Martina got it back to 4-4 and saved 5 match points, so she wasn't just frozen -- unless Sukova was gagging a little.