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Don’t Care ‘Bout Your Bad Behaviour

May 26, 2010

We are barely into day two and Roland Garros has been more about frustrations and mental collapses than the usual triumph and excitement associated with a Slam. Granted, there are always heartbreaking losses, but the heartbreaks at Roland Garros have been, well, not so heart-felt. It all started with Victoria Azarenka. Coming off an injury Azarenka wasn’t expected to play the Slam of her life by any means, but an absolute thumping first round by giant-slayer Gisela Dulko certainly wasn’t on the cards. However, it was Azarenka’s refusal to face the music which eventually drew the headlines. After her 6-1 6-2 loss, Azarenka skipped her press conference and was fined $4000.

Lucky for her, the negative attention was about to be stolen by someone else. Richard Gasquet has always had the reputation of the choker but some thought he might be revived after his win in Nice the previous week. Gasquet was simply stunning for the first two and a half sets against Andy Murray, racing to a two sets to love lead with a mini-break in hand. What ensued wasn’t pretty. Gasquet fell apart mentally in the third and completely gave up in the fourth and fifth. He was heard talking himself down saying, ‘I am running on empty’. Murray showed that the right attitude and mentality can bring you through matches, even when you are the inferior player on the day.

The drama continued. A day after Gasquet fell apart mentally, Safina made sure to remind us that her bad back isn’t the only part of her body she needs to overcome. Safina’s mind played havoc with her as she crashed to a devastating loss to 39 year old Kimiko Date Krumm. The third set score, 7-5, showed that whilst Safina certainly didn’t give up, she still cannot hold her nerve. Safina has recently split with her long-term coach, let’s hope she finds someone who can fix her biggest flaw.

As upsetting as Safina’s loss was, Sam Querrey’s was all the more unexpected. Displaying none of the determination needed to succeed at Slam level, Querrey lost in four sets to Robbie Ginepri. The set he did win was the first and this is very telling about Querrey’s mentality. 

“I just got tired,” he said after the match, “Mentally not there. Just did not enjoy myself out there. It’s been like that on and off for like a while. So I’m going home tomorrow. I’ve not been a professional, you know, on and off for the last few months, you’re out there facing one opponent. You don’t want to face the opponent and myself. I just need to get it together mentally in my head. You know, right now I’ll be enjoying it and as soon as one thing goes wrong, I’m done. My coach thinks I’m a little tapped out.”

Tapped out is an understatement. After appearing on adverts with John Isner about their chances at doubles, blogging on with Isner, and playing some decent clay-court tennis, Querrey tanked the rest of the match against Ginepri. He then pulled out of doubles and put himself on a flight home, along the way deleting his twitter account presumably to avoid the criticism from fans.

There is no doubt that sport is a test of both mental and physical strength and only those with both will make it to the very top. Azarenka, Gasquet and Querrey are displaying a defeatist attitude, one in which they are not willing to admit their own mistakes and learn from them. Gasquet gave up as soon as Murray got a set and never found the will to fight back. No matter how much talent he has, Gasquet will never get to where he could without the right attitude. It’s similar for Azarenka, facing the media may be hard but it can also be a learning curve. As for Querrey, he let down his best friend on tour to escape his own demons. Running away is never a good option and Querrey and Azarenka will realise it in their own time. As for Safina, she is a different problem altogether. Safina has shown great mentality in the past and she’s certainly not one to give up. Safina has the right attitude she just lacks the belief. Belief, however, can be conditioned and gained with help from a good team. Dumping her coach could be her best move yet. As for Azarenka, Querrey, and Gasquet, their games may be getting closer to the top-level but their maturity clearly isn’t. Time and experience may teach them, but then perhaps they will never change. Personally, I hold more hope for Azarenka and Querrey then what I do for Gasquet. Let’s hope the rest of Roland Garros is played with enthusiasm, dedication, and a never-say-die attitude.

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