In the end, it has finally come to an end.
It will be hard, from this point on, to spectate the WTA leadership anarchy, dragging itself from No.1 to No.1, from a maiden Slam win to another. Well, it has already been a struggle to many for a good while now, to watch up-and-coming new Big Things squandrel top spots and confidence levels achieved in three-month runs, only to drop level of playing for unknwon reasons after the first corner. A bunch of supposedly merciless maids, determined to murder their lady of the chamber and inherit the WTA estate, has not been able to even put on a decent oligarcic power. They might have got away with murder, but the ultimate motive is still unknown to most of us, as none has yet consolidated the seat. In full fairness, over the last three years Simona, the Romanian voivod, seems to have shown her ability to hold the scepter a little more often and for a little longer than the other; though, to many observers, still her rank appears to be of a first among peers. Angie the Prussianic warrior raised to Kaiserine for a full year, but she never conquered the love of her subjects. Garbine, the Latin of the Two Worlds, had sent signals of a tyranny agenda, and Naomi, the Japanese Piratess of the Carebbeans, had introduced herself as a silent assassin. Now we have Ashley, the Returner with her ticket-to-leave from Down Under, but for how long? And Adriana, the Carpatian Red Coat, how long is she able to keep all her pieces together?
However, as mentioned, it is a little less painful to watch the disarray and misdeeds of such a Committe of Public Unsafety when you know the queens, though inprisoned in the tower, are still there. Watching from the window and through the metal bars, chained to the floor by their aching ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders, but available to reclaim the throne as soon as something happens and allows them to sneak free.
The WTA Kingdom only had two Dames over the last fifteen years: Serene, the Black Lady, and the Blonde Ice Queen. The former has been left on the side, but like Athreides of Planet Dune, still with the Family Atomic Weapons available: her rocket serve is still there, ready for use. Hope is anyway not having to witness another Slam who ultimately would fall to the brutal serves (and little more) of a Serena less and less able to move properly around the court, a last-woman-standing when all the others fall to their own fragilities.
Therefore, the loss of the Blonde Ice Queen is irreperable for women’s tennis. A fighter in spirit and truth, she surged to public attention around the year 2004, in the most inappropriate manner, introduced to the world by superficial media as “the young, model-like tennis beauty from Siberia”. How wrong. Everybody not under the influence of hormones was like: “We don’t need another Kournikova.”. The Blonde was far different from the Russian-star-never-to-truly-shine. We would have learned that.
Had YouTube been as comprehensive as today, it would have been easy to access a repertoir video of a Russian teenager, living at the Bollettieri Academy as some sort of a Navratilova protegé (technically, not financially) and showing her room and her life to the camera. Not the teenager Millennial you would think about: sheer personality, a dedicated smile, and not a single sign of hesitation on what to do or what to say. Find another one of that age, then write me back when you do. The Marine-turned-tennis-coach said of her: “She never shows fear. She plays down 0-5 0-40 like it was the first point of the match.”. Rolling back the years, the root of such character must come from within the family: when Martina the First (being Martina the Second from Switzerland) identified her talent, her parents took the bold decision to bring her to Florida to pursue her career when it could have bloomed (when she was 7, Russia was receovering from the Soviet Union fall, and the new leader Boris Eltsin’s love for tennis was unfortunately accomanied by his deeper love for vodka). Problem was, money was too tight to move the whole family. Everyone now knows about the the of the little girl leaving for a new country, with no money, no language knowledge, and no Mummy besides her. Everyone knows the story, not everyone understand the guts she must have had. Someone still does not.
It would be worthless to indulge here on how the little blonde girl on exile turned into the Blonde Ice Queen: the 2004 triumph in London, her statement to the public that indeed she was not another Kournikova, but she was “there to win” (poor Anna, No.10 in the world only to become the paradigm of the too beautiful to succeed mindset), the No.1 spot achieved, the shoulder injury, the return to the throne, the transformation on clay from “cow on ice” to “queen on earth” (at the expense of putting on muscles on her perfect legs), the Meldomium affaire (the last Cold War intrigue), the stubborn return in her 30s, et cetera. There is plenty enough on Wikipedia alone, go find yourself.
The question to answer is whether the legend of the Blonde Ice Queen is worth transmitting to a younger generation, one made of little girls watching a Royal Rumble of female tennis players trying to make a sense out of it. The doping incident has further polarized her reception among the public, already split due to her on-court persistent grunting, her on-court/off-court attitude towards opponents (to define it as “straight in the face” is to do a favour), and her on-court haughty walking. Defined “a cheater” by Eugenie (the Cutie Girl Lost in the Dark) and attacked more than once by several fellow players (with the notable exception of Monica from the Caribeans), she surprisingly found more understanding and solidarity from her sponsors. In the Age of the Political Correctness that was astonishing to say the least, with companies usually more than prones to drop any top-level athlete stained by any mark of mediatic infamy. But Head boldly led the way announcing they were standing by her, Nike took some time to think about it, but eventually duly followed, then virtually all the others promptly aligned. One motivation or the other, too much was anyway at the stake for these firms.
In the writer’s view, her legacy will have nothing to do with personal integrity nor with business development: it is about holding your head cool and your focus firm in front of seemingly unavoidable falls. Whenever I find myself trailing 2-5 on the returning side, I position myself with dignity, forget about the score, and think about the Blonde Ice Queen facing the same feat. I think about her slow but smooth movements and her determined stare. THAT stare! I think about it, and suddenly all the negative and distracting thoughts are erased at the benefit of the focus on the tactic. Fear of losing the match is suddenly erased at the benefit of determination to win the next point. Frustration for the poor performace is suddenly erased at the benefit of the composed desire to raise my game level a notch.
“Never giving up” is a just a slogan for the peasants.
Composure in front of the adversity is the chilly legacy our charming Queen has left us.