Tuesday, 27 January 2009

To Have, And To Have Not - Womens Tennis On The Margins.

If it were possible to imagine anything further removed from the uber-glitz of the WTA Womens Tour that is once again beginning its 11 month grind amongst the world's most glamourous cities, then a rainy Friday morning in North Wales would probably be it. The ignorance and apathy of Wrexhams 42000 inhabitants towards their towns $10k professional womens tournament, is tangible.

On the other side of the world in Melbourne, Australia, as the stars of the womens game shimmer in the glare of the media white hot spotlight, tennis is the only game in town. A cursory glance around the Welsh border town, shows that this sentiment is not mutual. No posters adorn the sleepy former Steel and Coal town that clings on to its remaining manufacturing heritage like a badge. No buzz about tennis, skitters, helter-skelter within the local conciousness. No Awareness. No inclination. No chance for tennis.

If one thing unites these two polar opposites however, it is the fellowship of dedication shared by the respective players who compete. Its 9.45AM here, and the number 1 seed, Briton Naomi Cavaday, has already taken to the court to execute her rigourous pre-match warm up. Amanda Elliott another promising home player, looks on ready, awaiting her 11AM start, whilst partially consumed by the familiarity of her I.Pod.

You get the sense that both players feel that their talent is capable of elevating them to greater heights. Heights that will, in another year transport them via 1st class, to the cossetting limo rides, and tournament perks available to the top echelon in Melbourne.

That journey will not start today for Elliott. Unsurprisingly she does not have enough to trouble her Opponent, Claudine Schaul. Schaul to her credit, has already experienced the rarefied air at the top of the womens game, as world number 41 in May 2004. She looks the part, and indeed will go on all the way this week, taking the title on Sunday. But again it begs the question as to why this 25 year old, who has won a tournament on the main tour, currently must exist in the twighlight world of the bottom rung of such an arduous ladder.

Tennis success is a transient thing, like the factors that drive it: confidence-form-injury, and Cavaday herself should be much higher, the roars from last years packed centre court at wimbledon still ring in the memory, recalling her brave defeat at the hands of Serena Williams. Defeat but not humilliation, indeed Cavaday held the ego-rich American resolutely over the precipice that day, but stood too close herself, and after an inspiring first set lost her equillibrium, and resultantly the close battle.

However that was then, and this is now, and Wrexham is nothing like Melbourne in January, but Elliott could make it to Melbourne, Cavaday will make it there one day, and Schaul should make it BACK, but it seems a long way from here to there, as the rain begins to fall in Wrexham.