Last week was a real bloodbath for Russia at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York City. It may go down as the most humiliating single week of tennis in Russia's history. But nobody who reads this blog should have been the least bit surprised.
On the ladies side, the odious and contemptible Nadia Petrova (pictured above), at world rank #7 the second-best "real Russian" female tennis player in the world, was blown off the court in easy straight sets in the third round by an unseeded Hungarian not ranked in the world's top 30 players. Petrova, a really classic Russian nationalist monster, is infamous on this blog for appearing at tennis tournaments sporting a white visor with a giant Russian flag emblazoned on it -- something no other female tennis player we know of ever does (can you imagine the world's reaction if any American player tried this?). Of all countries which might inflict a humiliating loss like this upon Russia, former Soviet slave states are surely among the most painful for Russia to endure. The same fate befell Russia's vaunted beauty Maria Kirilenko, ranked #36 in the world, in her third-round match against the world #50 from Ukraine: Again, humiliating straight-set dismissal by a lower-ranked player from one of the countries a Russian could least stand to lose to (the Russian managed to win only six of eighteen games played). And to round things out, #14 seed Elena Dementieva, the serveless wonder, was routed by a lower-ranked Austrian player, winning only three of eighteen games played.
And then it got worse. Oh, so much worse.
Maria Sharapova, "Russia's best" player (ranked #2 in the world, she lives permanently in the U.S. and learned her game here), was soundly crushed in her third match by Polish newcomer Agnieszka Radwanska, not ranked in the top 30 in the world. It was the earliest ejection of the #2 seed from the U.S. Open in more than a quarter century. It was so embarrassing that Sharapova's own father Yuri got up from his vulture-like perch in the stands and walked out of the stadium before the match had even ended. Shamapova had previously set the record for the earliest dismissal from the U.S. Open by the reigning Wimbledon champion, and now has established another benchmark in infamy to go along with it. This left only Svetlana Kuznetsova, Russia's second-best player (and the best "real" Russian), a player who has won only one tournament all year and only won that one because of three, count them, three defaults, and Anna Chakvetadze, whose really a Georgian, to defend Russia's honor in the fourth round (Dinara Safina, sister of Marat, was also in the mix . . . until she met Henin in the fourth round and got blown away like lint, bageled in the first set and soundly crushed in the second).
Sharapova had been given a ridiculous sham of a draw, almost as if the tournament organizers were willing her into the finals for marketing purposes, with all the top-ranked Russian patsies in her half and none of the dangerous non-Russian players (Ivanovic, Jancovic, Henin and both Williams sisters were all sent to the opposite half, meaning Shamapova would have to face at most one of them and then only in the finals, but once again Russia's so-called "best" player simply couldn't measure up to ostensibly inferior opponents. Radwanska, an accomplished and complete all-court player, brutally exposed Shamapova's pathetically one-dimensional power game, going so far as to taunt Shamapova's vaunted serve by standing well inside the baseline to receive second serves. Shamapova committed a truly ghastly 49 unforced errors and 12 double faults, and as the camera panned around the stadium the myth of her star power and beauty were blown to smithereens -- half the seats were empty.
These losses would have been bitterly humiliating under any circumstances, but for them to come at the hands of a Ukrainian, a Pole and a Hungarian makes them quintessentially bitter. And the icing on this poisonous cake is that the losses occurred in front of American crowds. Ouch! It doesn't get any worse than that. Ah, the glory of life in Vladimir Putin's Russia!
On the men's side, things were just as bleak. Britain got a delicious bit of revenge , when its world #91-ranked favourite son Tim Henman (pictured above) soundly whipped Russia's fourth-best player, #27-ranked (and seeded) Dimitry Tursunov, ejecting the Russian in his very first match at the year's final grand slam. Jolly good show old beans! Russia suffered further humliation when Marat Safin, its biggest male star, third-best player and the #25 seed, was destroyed in easy straight sets by an unseeded Polish player in his second match of the tournament; Russia's #2 player, Mikhail Youzhny, also suffered a humiliating thrashing at the hands of an unseeded German in his second match, leaving the ranks of Russia's male contingent at the prestigious American tournament totally devastated before the third round could even begin. The next Russian below Tursunov, #39 Igor Andreev, was dismissed in his second match by a player ranked more than 20 places beneath him. We've often pointed out how ridiculously overrated Russian female tennis players are, but it's worth remembering in their defense that Russia's men are far more pathetic. The only significant Russian man who remained in the draw after all this carnages was Nikolay Davydenko, Russia's highest-ranked player, and he was born in Ukraine. Moreover, his continued presence only served to remind fans of the match-fixing controversy that is swirling around him.