At the Kremlin Cup tournament in Moscow over the weekend, Elena Dementieva (the classic Russian beauty shown above) saved Russia from the brink of brutal humiliation after both its most famous player, Maria Sharapova, and its top-ranked player, Svetlana Kuznetsova, suffered devastating one-sided losses to lower-ranked players in front of the home crowd. This followed on the major snub of having only one of the six top-ten-ranked non-Russian women agree to travel to Russia to play in the event (not a single one of the world’s nine top-ranked non-Russian men would make the trip, and several of the Russian men also went down in humiliating fashion, but top-ranked and top-seeded Russian Nikolay Davydenko did win the finals, for a Russian sweep). Under such circumstances, an all-Russian final and victory was expected. Yet, only one Russian, Dementieva, emerged from the group to reach the finals, there to meet American Serena Williams. And Dementieva dropped the first set too — but then she stormed back to take the title in three sets, dominating the second and third.
And the best news is how she did it: Reform! She admitted her deficiencies and made radical changes! Dementieva has always been infamous for her pathetic service game, the joke of the tour. But she’s apparently been working on it, and she served remarkably well in this event — surprising the American, who obviously expected the same old sorry thing from the Russian.
If only Russia’s voters could do the same in the upcoming legislative and presidential elections!
To be sure, nobody should make too big a deal out of this. Dementieva has been on a steady slide in the ratings, and virtually none of the world’s top players were in the draw (this late-year tournament is a virtual set-up for a Russian player to win on both the men’s and ladies’ sides). This was an indoor match, and they are hardly indicative of results in the main season outdoor schedule. Serena lost the match by making nearly 60 unforced errors during its course, Elena did not win it outright. And once again, with a Russian in the final match, the quality of play turned out to be extremely poor, nearly unwatchable. But on the other hand, Dementieva made a major improvement in her game, victories by Russians against higher-ranked opponents in final matches are extremely rare, and if Dementieva realized the power to be gained from genuine reform, her future might be unlimited since she’s got lots of good qualities to her game (check out the comments in the link above to see why).
And the same is true for the people of Russia. If they could find the courage to look at themselves in the mirror, see their faults, put aside their absurd propaganda, get down to real hard work and break from their wretched, embarrassing past, they too might find themselves holding a champion’s up — and not in an obscure Moscow tournament but in a Grand Slam event.
The one called life.