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LaRosa's Sweet Spot: Apr 20, 2011

4/20/2011 1:00:00 PM

LaRosa's Sweet Spot Archive |

Jelena walks down the winding staircase, her giant chandelier earrings delicately offsetting her leopard print pleather Bob Mackie gown. Waiting at the bottom, ingénue Ana, her hair Aqua Netted up and away from her foot-tall shoulder pads, her eyes blazing yet moist with tears.

ANA: Jelena, how could you? We were a team! But you stole all the glory from this weekend’s Fed Cup tie, glory that should have been ours to share!

JELENA: Do you think for one minute I’d share anything with you? I’m the face of Serbian tennis. ME! You…you’re nothing but a drowned rat in a swimming pool. Except a rat has working abdominals.

Ana slaps Jelena across the face. Jelena slaps her back. They tumble out the door and into a nearby mud pit, fistfuls of each other’s thick Serbian hair in hand as they take turns shoving each other face down into the muck.

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Who doesn’t love a good catfight? Even Gloria Steinem loved going to foxy boxing matches once in awhile. Okay that’s a lie. But you can’t deny catfights definitely add a nifty extra layer of Oh No She Di’int to what might otherwise be straightforward (read:dull) proceedings. But in tennis, where it’s players’ jobs to beat the crap out of each other, it’s often difficult to tell if a war is truly personal.  And if there is off-court buzz that they want to rip each other’s weave tracks out, is it for real or just some media generated drama to juice up the story or satisfy some inner girl-on-girl fetish?  Well worry no more, this week we offer the CATFIGHT LITMUS TEST. Is your catfight fact or fiction? Don’t settle for imitations.

1. DID THE PLAYERS IN QUESTION SAY SOMETHING CATTY TO THE PRESS?

Nothing says “I hate you b****” like speaking it into a tableful of world media microphones. It’s like a Hallmark card that says, ‘Hey chick, I’m not talking smack behind your back, you’re reading what I think of you in your morning paper. BRING IT.’

Exhibit A: ARAVANE REZAI/MARION BARTOLI

Who knows where the simmering tension between these two countrywomen began. What matters is, it began. And it came to a boil last year at the French Open, after Marion suggested Aravane received a disproportionate amount of media attention than her in their homeland. Aravane responded by unloading to the press about how Bartoli’s a “difficult girl” who’s been rude to her for years and doesn’t get along with anyone, partly due to her “education.” This after Rezai had earlier told the press that Marion showed the worst sportsmanship on tour. Oh it’s already been broughten.

2. DID THE PLAYERS IN QUESTION DO SOMETHING CATTY ON COURT?

Why waste words when actions speak so much louder? Especially actions that can be broadcast live around the world and replayed over and over again on YouTube?

Jelena and Ana pass the catfight litmus test.

Exhibit B: JELENA JANKOVIC/ANA IVANOVIC

After beating Ana in Madrid last year, Jelena decided to kick her when she was down by doing a little mock Ana fist pump. Not to her face of course. Because that would be rude. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nxYarGyTMY) Ana’s now-famous response: “Sport doesn't build character. It shows it.” Bam and bam. The fact that this all came after JJ’s mom Snezana took a swipe at Ana saying she was off sipping coffee somewhere while her daughter was playing hurt for her country in Fed Cup was just gravy.

3. DID ONE OF THE PLAYERS TAKE SOMETHING THE OTHER BELIEVES IS THEIRS BY BIRTHRIGHT?

Perhaps it’s fame in your homeland for being the top ranked player. Or the glory of being the first No 1 and female major winner in your nation’s history. Or maybe it’s your manhood.

Exhibit C: DANIEL KOELLERER/STEFAN KOUBEK

That’s right, don’t get it twisted girlfriend, catfights aren’t gender specific. Anyone can bare their claws, as Stefan Koubek did in a match v. fellow Austrian Daniel Koellerer at an Austrian league match last June. “Crazy Dani” (who could start a beef with a lamp post) was throwing his usual hissy all over the court when Stefan said Aw hell naw and proceeded to grab the cat by the throat. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIYdC4TX_G8) Said Stefan afterward, “I'm man enough not to let myself be insulted, especially not by him.”  The crowd seemed genuinely disappointed Stefan didn’t actually take Daniel’s life. Perhaps the ATP was as well as Koubek suffered no more than a disqualification from the match and was happily playing Wimbledon weeks later without a care in the world. Lesson: If you’re going to choke someone, make sure it’s Daniel Koellerer.

4. WAS SAID CATTINESS IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS?

Catfights are like Disney tween stars. They get old and stale awfully fast.  No matter how much even the most ardent drama mamas wanted to believe Kim and Justine were at each other’s throats until the bitter end, there was simply no real fuel to throw on the fire the last few years.  In order for the catfight to be a catfight, they’ve got to be, you know, fighting.

Exhibit D: SERENA WILLIAMS/JUSTINE HENIN 

Once upon a 2003 French Open, one young woman told another young woman to talk to the hand.  What resulted was a hate-affair whose flames would rage for all eternity:

From when they were both on the court… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4wRo5F1fGo

To when only one of them was on the court…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-5htZuzxaY.

To when none of them were on the court…
http://twitter.com/#!/serenawilliams/status/40863954976641024

Oh No She Di’int.

Oh yes she did.

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Sadly, not every face-off can be a catfight. It takes skill, dedication, a little elbow grease and a lot of sass. But if you’re lucky enough to find one, hold on tight and don’t let go. Like unicorns and Santa, it’s a magical gift that fills your soul with rainbows.

Unless you’re Patty Schnyder. She’s uneducated and has no soul. BRING IT PATTY.

CATFIGHT HALL OF FAME:

* http://deadspin.com/#!5570094/james-blake-calls-pam-shriver-an-ass--during-play
* http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYYUtb4GUHE
And my all-time favorite: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3uY3wesJmQ

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Follow James at twitter.com/JamesLaRosa.