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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine