10/13/2010 3:00:00 PM
How many Scooby-Doo Mysteries do we need in a single tennis season before we say, wait, hold up, something ain’t right? 20. That’s right, 20 mysteries: from Serena’s foot injury to Delpo’s lost months in Argentina to rampant rumors of Venus retiring to how on earth a dude can play a tennis tournament long after he was busted with HGH. Once I saw Justine Henin singing and dancing across my laptop in a youtube clip for the ages, I knew something was up. This isn’t all just a random series of events. Something Bigger was at play. And I was hellbent on finding out what.
I started at the beginning, to the first Big Mystery of the year, and still the single most baffling result of the season: Kim Clijsters’ utterly inexplicable loss to Nadia Petrova at the Australian Open. It didn’t make sense. She wins the entire US Open and can’t take more than a single game off Nads? The rationale didn’t fit. “I didn’t feel the ball at all,” Kim said. It still rings hollow. I tracked Clijsters down as she was nursing her injured foot after recent mole-removal surgery to press her on it but she fled into the night. In her wake, stage make-up in the shape of a wound. I knew I was on to something.
Next up, the trainwreck that was the Hit 4 Haiti. Such a brilliant effort, such a worthy cause. So why is Andre Agassi dropping stink bombs all over it? You were there that night James, what seemed unusual that day? Think dammit!
Fast forward to Houston, where Wayne Odesnik worked his way through the draw in Mystery #3: How on earth could a guy who pleaded guilty to importing HGH into Australia continue to play on tour? The ITF says “Due process.” Am I going crazy? Is this all in my mind? I stumble upon a clue when playing with the letters of his name: Wayne Odesnik is an anagram for “Sneaked win, yo!” Wait, that’s not a clue, that’s a fact. I rearrange them again and get “Idea Knew. Nosy.” Wayne had something on someone! But who? What?
I race to Mysteries 4, 5 and 6. In Argentina, Delpo is plagued by rumors that he’s suffering panic attacks and performance anxiety, but he’s saying nothing. Ditto Rafa, who’s silent as questions about his knees abound. What is this wacky new procedure he’s undergoing? And IS SERENA WITH COMMON OR NOT?
There are no answers, just more questions. Why not just speak up? What are they hiding?
Mystery #7: With Serena Williams and Justine Henin in the draw, Francesca Schiavone miraculously wins the French Open. “Nothing is Impossible,” her t-shirts read. Lies! Next thing you’re going to tell me, two players can go 70-68 in the fifth (Mystery #8). What, John Isner simply couldn’t break this French dude’s serve for three straight days?! Come on. Smarten up.
A simple fall ends Justine Henin’s entire season (#10). Andy Roddick suffers the shortest bout of mono on record (#11). Roger and Rafa partake in the Most Awesomest Youtube Clip Ever of them choking on their own giggles, and it disappears from the internet as fast as you can link it (#12). Something was in that clip they didn’t want us to see. I manage to rip it to my hard drive before it’s replaced with some watered down edited version (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94xyOpETYYs). Before I can study it, Serena kicks it into high gear. No one is caring enough about this whole Common thing no matter how much she doesn’t talk about it. She needs something more dramatic to not talk about. Enter The Boot (#13). Broken glass, droopy toes, I don’t know what any of it is all about. Does Serena’s nose look any different? (#14)
Victoria Azarenka collapses at the US Open, one of 6 retirements in a matter of months (#15). Venus injures her knee not while playing a tournament but while on her book tour (#16). She returns in time to blow the most stunning tiebreak of the year at the US Open (#17), effectively handing the trophy to Clijsters.
More and more players call it quits for the year. Jie Zheng. Agnieszka Radwanska. Dinara Safina. Nadia Petrova. Venus. Serena. Injured. Injured. Injured. Injured. Injured. Injured. Svetlana Kuznetsova…ill. Okay, I guess that’s…a reason. Maria Sharapova. Meh, just over it. Is this a coincidental string of maladies or…a sick out? (#18) There are even rumors that Venus is poised to announce her retirement, but the announcement never comes. (#19) What is going on?
I’m up late eating my failure in Mallomars when I finally manage to watch the Roger/Rafa Gigglefest. Played forward, nothing. But played backwards, their laughter conceals a hidden message!
“Wozniacki, No 1.”
It all becomes clear. Clijsters losing at the Aussie, Venus losing at the Open. Azarenka being compulsively unable to finish a match. Serena doing everything in her power to not play. All the ripcords the top women have pulled on their seasons the last couple weeks. They’re all things that contributed to Caroline being able to leapfrog to pole position!
I couldn’t let her get away with it. I hopped in my Mystery Machine and tracked Woz down at the old amusement park, roped her with a lasso and forced her to explain herself.
“Justine was gaining too many points too fast,” Caroline sneered. “Hours before the Hit 4 Haiti, I forced her to lose to Gisela Dulko. But no one believed it. They just kept talking, talking. I used Agassi as a smokescreen. Delpo, Rafa, Roddick’s mono… It was all part of my master plan to shift focus while I unbelievably seized power!”
“There were snags,” she went on. “Odesnik stumbled on my plan. So did Schiavone. I had to pay up so they’d shut up. I thought Lil Wayne was going to blow everything when he found out my plan to have Kim and Rafa win the US Open and tried to warn everyone with his stupid little scribbles from prison, but people just took it as a prediction! That crafty Robby Ginepri wasn’t fooled, so I had to take him out. I struck him down with the greatest weapon of destruction known to man. A squirrel.”
Still, as she laughed maniacally, something felt wrong. This brilliant plan was just a little too diabolical for Sweet Caroline. She’s Miss Sunshine for God’s sake! And then it hit me. Too big a scheme for Caroline perhaps, but not for her idol. I ripped off her mask.
“No, my wicked wicked plan!” Martina hissed. “I would’ve been the No 1 player in the world again! And I would’ve gotten away with it if it weren’t for you pesky kids.”
As the police led her away in her ill-fitting Stella dress and bright yellow nails, all I could think of was, finally. Finally a plausible explanation why Caroline became No 1. But I had one last mystery to solve. I asked Martina: What about this Justine Henin singing and dancing clip? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgiphQhY6SE) (#20) Was that a big smokescreen too?
“Oh God no, I have no idea what that was about,” she says. “If you crack that one, let me know. Cuz I’m dying dude.”
Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.