Last week we exposed the outrageous rigging of the Wimbledon ladies’ draw in favor of “Russian” Maria Sharapova, who was given a seed her ranking did not merit — the only player to receive such a gift. Tournament organizers freely admitted they were doing it to build interest in the tournament, which offered the propsect of repeating the all-Russian final seen at the French Open a month earlier — one of the worst grand slam finals in tennis history, unwatchable and indeed simply embarrassing from start to finish. Tournament bigwigs were right to worry, since a few more grand slam finals like that and the entire sport would be washed up. But rigging the draw for cheap theatrics is no answer.
In her second match at the All-England Club, Sharapova met journeywoman Gisela Dulko of Argentina. Ranked #45 in the world, well ahead of Sharapova at #59, Dulko should have been expected to win the match (even though she had only won three games in four previous sets against the “Russian”). But if we believed the Wimbledon organizers and their seeding, it was going to be Sharapova who easily prevailed against her unseeded rival.
The organizers fraud was exposed and Sharapova went down in flames.
She served a horrifying nine double faults and struck 27 unforced errors. Her serve was broken five times and she was soundly defeated in the third set by a player who had never before won as much as a single set against her. So all the possible “interest” Sharapova was to have generated rapidly evaporated, as she was totally unable to take advantage of the benefits her seed had given her.
Maria Sharapova hasn’t won a tennis tournament of any kind since April 2008, more than 14 months ago, yet not only was she given a seed she was assigned to play both of her first two matches on Centre Court. Shrieking like a banshee, she barely managed to win her first contest and then was booted out of the tournament in her second. Sharapova’s “win” in April 2008 came against a player not ranked in the world’s top 30. The tournament she “won” before that had her prevailing against an opponent only slightly better and not ranked in the world’s to 25. She hasn’t won a tournament by beating a top-10 opponent in the finals since January 2008, almost 18 months ago.
All of which means that the seed gift was an outrage, an offense to all the other hard-working players, a fraud that should not be repeated. The increasing presence of lackluster Russian players in the top ten directly imperils the health of the sport, but the solution does not lie in giving even more lackluster Russians free passes.