Monday, October 22, 2007

Another Year, Another Open Letter

by Savannah

I used to say pretty much whatever I wanted when I wanted on tennis boards. What did it matter? I was hiding behind a screen name so no wild-eyed fan of a particular player was going to show up at my door and try to bash my head in with a Babolat racquet or send hate mail. I was anonymous.

When I started blogging my attitude changed somewhat. Not that I use my real name but I look at what I do here as a form of journalism. I report to no one but myself but I do feel that a reader coming to these posts should find an objective discussion on the sport of tennis. I have opinions and I state them but I try not to call players low life bottom feeding point whores and try to put their decisions about where and when they play in perspective so that when I discuss how they play no one can say she's ripping Player A a new one because she hates his/her guts. I have one player that I reach fangirl levels on and I'm upfront with that. It's why I tend to do reviews of WTA events and rankings since my objectivity about the men can fly right out of the window.

So it was with interest and then surprise that I read about an Open Letter to Marat Safin written by James Martin, editor in chief of Tennis magazine. As most tennis heads know Chris Evert wrote an Open Letter to Serena Williams asking her to cut the crap and play tennis. I remember thinking that Chris, as a former player, a former champion, had every right to address what she sees as Serena's shortcomings. Whether she should have done it so publicly is another matter. Billie Jean King talks to both Venus and Serena all the time but I haven't seen any Billie Jean King Open letters gracing tennis magazines.

The issues I have with Mr. Martin's letter are that one, he is the editor of a widely read tennis magazine and two, he got personal. When you drag someone's mother into your argument comparing her to the old Soviet political regime I think you've stepped over the line.

The letter has not had the publicity that Chris's Open Letter got and you have to wonder why when Mr. Martin states the following:

What's with the ’tude, dude? You’re like a teenager who’s way too self-absorbed for his own good. When you were recently asked about the gambling investigation in men’s tennis, which strikes at the very core of the sport’s integrity and deserves an informed response from all of the top players, your response was weaker than an Elena Dementieva second serve. “To be honest,” you said, “I don’t really care. Whatever people do and whatever they want to do, I don’t care. If the world collapses, I don’t really care. I have enough problems myself. I can’t worry about other people’s problems.”
(...) shows a lack of respect for the sport that made you a millionaire in the first place. Even John McEnroe, Mr. Ego himself, cares (or at least pretends to care) about tennis.

Look, Marat, I know you’re hard on yourself—self-criticism is in your blood, ingrained over many formative childhood years by your mother and the severe Soviet system. Positive reinforcement? It didn’t exist in your universe. You’ve even said, “I didn’t care to play tennis, didn’t really like it.”
...We’re talking only slightly better than Marcelo Rios here.

Don’t laugh. He won 18 career titles; you’re at 15. Granted, you’ve got 2 majors, while Rios never won a Slam. But you both share that absurd, petulant attitude, which undermines everything you do on court.

Hey, man, it’s your career. But you’re 27, and if you can get healthy you might want to dig in for a year or two before your body, or mind, or both, totally conk out. No regrets, right? Otherwise, spare your fans the heartache and join Yevgeny at the poker table.




The webmaster of Marat's site posted the following:

Recently an article was published on the Internet by the editor of under his "Viewpoint" which was trying to put a smear on Marat's situation plus making recommendations re things he should do for the future. This "article" was written by someone who pretends to be a fan of Marat Safin.

Neither Marat nor his website has ever in the past made a point of commenting on things that appear in the media because throughout his career Marat has always maintained a great relationship with all channels of the media - be it written, TV or radio - always been available when asked for interviews etc, respected their work and treated them with dignity.

Now for the first time an article is written on a "respected" website and this article was full of hate - really patronizing and vicious in its comments and aimed at hurting Marat, his reputation, his past contribution and achievements in the field of tennis.

Marat himself was very insulted by this article that was brought to his attention for the very reasons stated above.


The hullabaloo over Chris's Open Letter still hasn't died down. I wonder if this letter will cause the same stir. Marat is second only to Guga in fan popularity and I think once this gets around his fans will raise the same sort of fuss Serena's fans did. Marat had knee surgery he just seems to be getting over mentally (those of you who have had knee surgery know what I'm talking about), and he has a wrist injury.

Chris Evert's Open Letter was an Op-Ed piece. This Open Letter is more of an editorial. Should tennis players be called on their shit? Absolutely. I'm waiting to see Open Letters to Maria Sharapova for her gamesmanship and Justine Henin for Carlos Rodriguez antics during her matches. I don't think those are forthcoming though.

There is a good editorial in this article. Everyone can't pull off sarcasm and/or humor. Every culture has its definiton of what those two words represent. I just hope that this Open Letter, like Chris's, gets wide circulation and discussion.


Nina said...

Wow, thanks for the article. I totally agree with you. Though it is written in an entertaining style, still it has some disguised meanness in it and gets too personal. Even parents don't talk to their kids in that "tone."

Marat is a free spirit with his colorful U-turns. This is what makes him Marat Safin. Nobody should try to "standardize" him. It can actually backfire!

brooklyn1006 said...

I loved Marat's response. I wish Serena had formally responded to Chris. Chris is no journalist. Once you write an article directed to a player, the player has a right to respond. And, I'm glad Marat had a team around him who instructed him on how to handle James' contemptuous tone.

oddman said...

Seems to me the tone of the open letter is trying to be wistful, but comes across as meanspirited.

Marat is Marat, and that is that.

Craig Hickman said...

"Marat is Marat, and that is that."

Exactly as Serena is Serena, and that's that.

edma1022 said...

Thanks, SavANNah for the article.

This hack is trying to sell extra copies, IMO.

(Your 2nd para is sweetly written. It's even at a higher moral plane than the one done by that editor-in-chief).