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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Oct 21, 2009

10/21/2009 12:00:00 AM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Main Page

Oct 21, 2009

2009 was an eventful year in tennis. Roger Federer broke the Grand Slam singles record. An entire ranking system was derided when the No 2 player won three more Slams than the No 1. And the word "retired" was officially retired.

But ultimately, 2009 will go down for one thing and one thing alone: the year tennis became badass.

Marat being Marat

It should've been a sign that this was going to be no ordinary year when Marat Safin showed up for Hopman Cup duty with a black eye. But no, we brushed it aside ("That's our Marat!"), much more taken by Fed's tears after losing the Aussie. As Rafael Nadal comforted him, putting his head on his shoulder, it was so sweet it would've given a Care Bear diabetes.

But then those tears dried. And all hell broke loose.

In March at the Sony Ericsson Open, puppydog Frenchman Richard Gasquet tested positive for cocaine and was suspended from the tour. His defense: too much partying with Bad Girls.

In May, Jelena Dokic's father Damir was arrested for threatening to blow up the Australian Embassy. A search of his house turned up bombs. Even typing that out feels ridiculous. Bombs. But there they were, presumably behind the Wet Vac in his hall closet. So yeah, off to prison.

In July, there was a big on-court brouhaha between Robert Kendrick and Leander Paes, who each took turns nailing each other with a tennis ball. It led to a coach being suspended. Did I mention this was at WORLD TEAM TENNIS? It's nothing but smiles and rainbows over there. Well, smiles, rainbows and box cutters now.

Around the same time, Ana Ivanovic and Marat Safin (you know when there's trouble, the Russian's not too far away) both went on record saying no one is really friends on tour. It's all business, baby. True playas got their mind on their money and their money on their mind.

At the U.S. Open, Vera Zvonareva goes on the attack. Her victim? Herself. There's a beating and a ripping to shreds, followed by the dropping of a different kind of bomb. Even Roger himself, who's won the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award more times than Stefan Edberg (okay they're tied but I'm trying to make a point here), got fined in the final for a profanity-laced hissy he got into with umpire Jake Garner. Talk to the hand? Oh no you didn't.

But of course it was Serena Williams who made the biggest headlines for her full-scale kamikaze on a line judge. (This after fuming she'd see Mary Jose Martinez Sanchez in the locker room at the French.)

And this week, as South Park's Butters says it best: "Hookers!"

Yup, as you've probably read by now, two ATP players were busted for soliciting prostitutes in Sweden, just before the start of the Stockholm Open. While their identities have been officially withheld, it's fairly common knowledge who they are. In the interest of journalistic integrity, I won't name names. Unfortunately for them, Joachim Johansson didn't have that problem in his blog.

Now, far from condoning any of this behavior (well, blowing up an embassy might be a little extreme), I've got to say, on the whole, I'm on board people.

Rafael Nadal and the Williams sisters have done a lot to change the face of tennis, showcasing how brutal and physical it can be. You know, a real sport. But outside in the real world, despite some gains, the sport remains a WASP-y, elitist pastime that people engage in when they don't want to get their clothes dirty.

You know it's true. And it makes you boil. Every time you see it in a movie or on a TV show, as a playful mixed doubles match played at a mansion followed up by a refreshing pitcher of lemonade. Every Halloween when you see people dressed up as tennis players, not with muscle shirts, clay-stained socks and the hottest new K Factor racquet, but with the cardigan over the shoulders, the wooden racquet. A terry cloth headband thrown in just to piss you off.

You want to scream. Cry out. "Stop it, just stop it, that's not my sport, damn you!!!"

Well now you have examples you can point to. Stories your friends or those jagweeds at work with their smug faces and giant foam fingers have all heard or read about. Or seen on youtube 1.5 million times. So thank you Serena Williams. Thank you Richard Gasquet. Thank you Vera Zvonarena and Roger Federer. Marat Safin. Leander Paes and Robert Kendrick. Thank you nameless hooker-happy players in Stockholm. Thanks to your efforts, 2009 will go down as the year tennis ditched the cardigan, threw on a pair of saggy jeans and walked with a gangsta lean all the way to the stage of Jerry Springer.

I couldn't be happier. And if you don't like it, we can take it to the tennis court. Oh yeah, you're scared now.