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http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/06/07/1054700439428.html


Feuds spice up women's tour
June 8 2003
By Richard Hinds
Paris




Picture: AFP
A bitter rivalry exists between Serena Williams and Justin Henin-Hardenne.


There are a lot of reasons why women's tennis is now seen by many to be more marketable than the men's game. The more luminous personalities. The good looks. The fashion. Occasionally, in the later stages of an event, even some compelling matches.

In the dramatic French Open semi-final between Justine Henin-Hardenne and Serena Williams, and its bitter aftermath, another reason why women's tennis is now a public relations sweetheart emerged. Call it the Bitch Factor.

When Williams barely brushed the Belgian's hand at the net, it was obvious that she was experiencing more than just the regulation disappointment that comes from an unexpected defeat. This became even more apparent later when Williams accused Henin-Hardenne of being a liar because she had failed to acknowledge she had put up her hand to indicate she was not ready as she served a fault at a vital moment in the third set.

Although Williams had been riled by Henin-Hardenne, there was some history to this hostile encounter. The Williams camp was apparently unhappy with Henin-Hardenne's statements that Serena could be beaten - even if the Belgian had already done so once this year.

But then, the outspoken Williams pair have created bad blood with several opponents even though their eccentric father, Richard, is no longer a regular at tournaments.


Serena's grim-faced destruction of Amelie Mauresmo was seen by most as revenge for the Frenchwoman's recent victory in Rome. Yet, according to tour insiders, there could be another reason for the violence of her performance.

Last year, Mauresmo and her coach were tossing around a medicine ball in a gymnasium when it accidentally hit Oracene Williams, the sisters' mother. It is claimed that seemingly trivial incident became the source of bad blood between the respective camps and another women's tennis feud was born.

Of course, it is dangerous to interpret heightened competitive instincts as anything more than that. It enters the region of political incorrectness to ascribe normal rivalries to bitchiness. But while the men's tour is now a relatively cosy world of mutual respect and self-satisfaction, there is no question the women's rivalries have a far greater edge.

You would not, for instance, expect to find Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati trading small talk in the locker room. The genesis of their feud is clouded, although Capriati once accused Seles of grunting too loudly, while Seles played a strong hand in Capriati's removal from the US Fed Cup team.

Then there are the players that few others like, with the moderately performed, but heavily promoted Alexandra Stevenson top of some lists. Her sin, in the eyes of her rivals, is to have been given more favourable treatment by the WTA than her achievements warrant. As a "gold list" player, Stevenson gains automatic entry to some tournaments and those who do not have made their resentment known.

Sometimes, particularly in a big match such as the Henin-Hardenne versus Williams semi-final, these hostilities spill on to the court. Small incidents are inflamed by personalities. The result might not please the purists, but it makes for great viewing - as those who run women's tennis are no doubt aware.

Yet, just two decades ago, the reverse applied. While Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert formed a mutual appreciation society, witness the bitter scenes after John McEnroe lost the 1984 French Open final to fierce rival Ivan Lendl after leading two sets to love. The inconsolable McEnroe pushed officials out of the way and stormed off the court after the presentation. Lendl vomited before accepting his trophy, such was the toll taken by the match.

Now, such a dramatic conclusion seems more likely after a women's match - if slightly less so since the retirement of Martina Hingis. Prone to declaring herself to be the best despite defeats by the Williams, and also for making unfortunate remarks such as her infamous "half a man" comment about Amelie Mauresmo, Hingis made herself a target for opponents and even crowds.

As a result, she was also a walking headline and, to some degree, that is what women's tennis is all about. After all, it is all very well to see the Spanish amigos trading friendly fire from the baseline. But without a touch of spice, it just will not sell.
 

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"But then, the outspoken Williams pair have created bad blood with several opponents even though their eccentric "

Am I the only one tired of people/commentators/writers always lumping Venus with Serena. I have never heard Venus Williams talk trash about an opponent. And I challenge anyone to come up w/documented proof that she has.
 

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GogoGirl said:
Serena's grim-faced destruction of Amelie Mauresmo was seen by most as revenge for the Frenchwoman's recent victory in Rome. Yet, according to tour insiders, there could be another reason for the violence of her performance.

Last year, Mauresmo and her coach were tossing around a medicine ball in a gymnasium when it accidentally hit Oracene Williams
rotfl!!!!
 

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All I can say is :

Thank god! :) Old moments are returning! :) GO BITCHY WTA!
 

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GogoGirl said:
Of course, it is dangerous to interpret heightened competitive instincts as anything more than that.
The piss-in-the-wind, bullshit, "I-didn't-say-anything,-really!" disclaimer, buried 8 paragraphs deep.
 

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Wow- this is interesting. I never knew about the
gym incident. Oh boy! I wonder what else the
WTA keeps a tight lid on.
 
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