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Rant #489
(published June 3, 2010)
If You Ask Me, When the Women Play Well, It's Like the Most Excellent Jazz Music and You Just Go 'Yeah, Man, Oh, Yeah'
by Julio Peralta-Paulino
"Genius is not replicable. Inspiration, though, is contagious, and multiform—and even just to see, close up, power and aggression made vulnerable to beauty is to feel inspired and (in a fleeting, mortal way) reconciled."
—David Foster Wallace

I had some idea that there would be tennis on that first Saturday in September. That is to say, on the television. I was about done with the laundry when I decided to check on the sports channels.

Sharapova and Radwanska were just about to face each other. Maria Sharapova is one of the top players and is ranked number two in the WTA standings. Agnieszka Radwanska is ranked thirty-two and it is possible that no one expected her to offer much of a challenge to last year's U.S. Open winner.

Maria had been playing evening games and making waves with her bold choice of tennis suits. The last time I watched her in a match she wore an amazing blue suit and matching jacket. She was all business, but she was not playing well and failed to capture a win.

Agnieszka I had not seen playing, but had heard the name from some past tournament. Looking at her there through the TV screen, I thought to myself, how cute she looks in that dark pleated skirt but she is really going to have to give it her all if this is going to be close.

Sometimes, you can give it your all and yet it is not enough. Agnieszka got a little help from the breeze as well as from Maria's temper.

The American flag over Arthur Ashe stadium was constantly whipped by the wind through all the sets. Sometimes, you could see Sharapova stop dead in the middle of her serve simply trying to wait out the weirdness of the whipping breeze.

It wasn't easy, especially in the first set with Radwanska offering battle and juggling her limber body upon Sharapova's second serves. There were more than a few second serves from Maria and it is worthwhile remembering that she was not simply struggling with an upstart, she was clashing against a change of schedule and a sly breeze that breathed seemingly for slippery serves from the tall Russian tennis goddess. Agnieszka was up five games to three in the first set when I jotted down my first notes from the game.

The Prince racket looked bigger than usual as Sharapova tried to ignore or overcome the fact that the silly breeze was not only intent on disrupting her serve but also on lifting her suit from the back when she leaned in to repel the always moving onslaught from Radwanska.

It must have been overwhelming. Of course, at the end of the set it was a proven fact. The upstart was on top 6-4.

It was then that I remembered that I had not hung the laundry and as much as I love the chance to see an entire WTA match I did not want my clothes to be in need of a second round of detergent and spins.

It was a medium load and so the hanging process was quick.

Maria perhaps felt that she had forgot something on that sunny Saturday in Queens, New York. She unwrapped another racket and got to work. Her drop-pearl earrings shining in the light under her Nike visor (the underside of which matched her crimson shorts). Maybe, if given the chance, she would have changed back to the red suits she had been wearing at night. On another court, Anna Chakvedatze walloped Mirza Sania while wearing a pink suit.

In any case, Sharapova took the second set with a suffered calm and her always elegant poise. She mixed up her game and used the court to her advantage. She remembered placement instead of simply trying to overpower her opponent. She spread her arms out wide, after one very eloquent point, to express joy and just as quickly let it go. She is neither one to gloat in victory save for a shaken fist nor despair in defeat save for a touch of her face to force back any possibility of tears. Six to one. That will show her who's the boss around here, she might have thought.

Intimidation, however, did not make it all the way through to the young lady from Poland who had almost altogether ceased to taunt the young lady from Russia during second serves and began doing so again in the third set.

In her Prokom top, she brought it on and before anyone could catch a breath it was 4-2. Five deuces and then 5-2. Could it really happen?

It had not happened since a couple of Andreas faced each other in 1981, the TV announcers reported.

The thrilling, inspiring, match was over at some minutes after two hours. It felt like the wink of an eye. Agnieszka Radwanska won one of the best sports events I have ever witnessed.

After the match, she confessed that she knew it would bother her opponent if she moved around during serves and so she did. Her bright smile revealing silver braces. Later, Sharapova tried to explain how anything can happen and how one never really knows what to expect. Her lean body cloaked in a light jacket.

There was a weird harmony about the tennis match I happened to catch on that first Saturday in September and for a while I felt reconciled.

I settled in to wait for the Hingis match. She was two years younger than Radwanska when she took the whole tournament ten years earlier.

My satisfaction at having witnessed the brilliance of a WTA match did only slightly suffer when a couple of hours later Martina's match was broadcast for all of a minute or so and I turned off the television wondering when these events will finally be respected by the networks.

I wrote these words wishing I had been among the sold out crowd cheering for Martina Hingis, the laundry still drying on the makeshift line as evening pulled down its starry shade.

Julio Peralta-Paulino lives and writes in New York and can be found online at inkrealm.

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