Natalie Haynes: These sportswomen know how to hit men right where it hurts

Related Topics

For years, women's tennis has laboured under accusations of being boring.

For those of us who grew up watching Martina Navratilova win Wimbledon every year, pulverising every opponent en route to the final, it probably was. But at last, the women are biting back, and you call them boring at your peril.

At this year's Australian Open, it has been the men's tennis which has been less competitive. Rafael Nadal's first-round match against Marcos Daniel was probably the most extreme example: Daniel retired hurt in the second set, trailing 6-0, 5-0. That's not a scoreline, that's an anxiety dream. Walking out into a huge stadium and failing to win a single game must rank with realising that you are about to sing an aria, and you don't know the words, or the tune. Oh, and you're naked.

But in the women's draw, Venus Williams took her role as a crowd-entertainer very seriously. She turned up for each match wearing an increasingly baffling outfit, including one yellow lattice-work number which made her look like a tall, demented maypole, and was apparently inspired by Alice in Wonderland. Had she accessorised it with a giant hat in the shape of a white rabbit, she could have looked no quirkier. When she pulled out with injury yesterday, the fans may have been disappointed, but the fashion police were probably glad of the rest.

Meanwhile, Kim Clijsters bit back when she found out that Todd Woodbridge had been texting another player, saying he thought Clijsters was pregnant. There is a long, ignoble history of male commentators treating female players not as sportswomen but as potential dates – how they play is decidedly second to whether they're hot or not.

Clijsters responded during a post-match interview, quoting his crass remarks to the crowd. It was the perfect riposte – no crying, no demanding people be nicer about her, no pointing out that as one of the world's top athletes, she doesn't look remotely pregnant. She laughed throughout their exchange, and stuck the knife into him on his home turf. She's not only more interesting than most of the players in the men's draw, she also has the potential to become the world's smiliest assassin.

And world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki has been taking no prisoners either. She had heard complaints that her answers at press conferences were always the same. Not unreasonably, she reminded journalists that since she was always asked the same tedious questions, her answers were unlikely to change.

She has touched upon the problem with coverage of women's sport, and especially tennis. The media want pictures of these girls looking cute, and they aren't really interested in much else. They trot out the same tired questions every day, then complain when a player gives the same tired answers.

Wozniacki is hardly going to say that her opponent played like a block of wood, or that the tournament is a shambles – she has to work with these people. And players who do say something unpolitic (usually Serena Williams) are promptly demonised by the very pundits who complain the players are dull when they answer diplomatically.

So without pausing for questions, the Dane rattled through the answers to the trite questions she knew she'd be asked: she felt good about the match, she was happy to be through to the next round, she was pleased with her racket. Then she demanded more interesting questions, and spoke for several minutes about cricket, global warming, Kenny Dalglish and her skills as a pianist. Her press conference ended in cheers from the tennis correspondents. So don't call these women boring. Not only could they beat you at tennis, but they might just beat you at your own game, too.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

King's College, Cambridge: Stipendiary Junior Research Fellowships October 2016

£20,100 (pre-award of doctorate) rising each year to a maximum of £25,869: Kin...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Back End

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Recruitment Genius: Online Lettings Negotiator

£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join ...

Guru Careers: Trainer / IT Trainer

£30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Unlimited quantities of alcohol were served at the party. File photo  

Ohayo is the hangover cure from heaven - but what will stop us from drinking ourselves into oblivion now?

Olivia Acland
From left: Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn, Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham at a televised Labour leadership debate  

Jeremy Corbyn wouldn't be so far ahead in the Labour leadership race if his rivals weren't so awful

Ash Burt
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'