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21st Century Girl 08/21/2008 - 10:00 AM


By Pete Bodo

I was expecting a light, fun day out at the BJKUSTANTC yesterday. I'd pick up my credentials and all-important parking pass, get my locker and desk assignment, maybe cruise around a little with Tennis colleagues Tom Perrotta and Jon Levey, checking out some of the qualifying matches. But when I heard the match-assignment desk call for Olga Puchkova and Sesil Karatantcheva, I decided a little more formal work might be in order.

Many of you already know why: Karatantcheva, a native of Bulgaria, started this year fresh off a two-year doping suspension, following what amounted to as searing and painful a cautionary tale tennis has recently produced. And this is a game with a long and unfortunate history of precocity misplaced, abused, squandered or shattered. And in Karantantcheva's case it, it all played out publicly in a way that sometimes made you want to avert your eyes, stopper your ears, and pray that nobody you cared about would ever subject his or her child to this sport.

Here's the quick run-through: At 14, Karatantcheva, a highly regarded Nick Bollettieri protege, made an eye-opening breakthrough, winning two rounds at Indian Wells in 2004. This produced a tragicomic incident that has haunted her ever since: contemplating her next opponent, rising star Maria Sharapova, she predicted that she would "kick her ass off" - the waif from Bulgaria was ready to rock, even if she didn't get the terminology down pat. Mortified, the WTA tried to rein her in; the press successfully goaded her into repeating herself until all parties seemed guilty of (nothing more than) behaving like first-graders reveling in the instant attention they can get from using potty words.  Karatantcheva at least made her trash talking credible if not tasteful, playing with impressive poise and focus before losing to La Sharapova in three sets.

Some people, myself included, found the combination of Karatantcheva's wild boasts and clueless demeanor more suggestive of inadequately socialized exuberance than arrogance, and a welcome, nascent fighting spirit. But then I was a staunch apologist for Andrea Jaeger and the young Andre Agassi, too.  Here was a kid who, on one hand, evoked all things Bulgarian of that time, including plastic shoes, bad haircuts and ill-fitting clothing, yet had the spunk and air of entitlement befitting a gum-snapping, backhand-whacking, tennis bracelet-wearing California tennis princess. It was almost a moral imperative to cut her a break because she also was saddled with an intensely hands-on daddymonster, former rowing champ Radoslav Karatantchev.

Karatantcheva improved through 2004 and had a breakthrough 2005. Her best result was at Roland Garros, where she took out Venus Williams and at just 15 became the youngest French Open quarterfinalist since Martina Hingis in 1996. In November of that year, her ranking hit a career-high no. 35, and in December her world came tumbling down as the French sporting newspaper, L'Equipe, reported that she had failed a drug test at Roland Garros, testing positive for the steroid, Nandrolone.

The paper also reported that she blamed the failed drug test on chemical changes related to having been pregnant at the time the drug tests (for there were two positive test results) were administered. Facts relating to the pregnancy and its termination through abortion are excised from the ITF's Independent Anti-Doping Tribunal's decision, and I suppose it's just as well; the critical thing is that the ITF rejected her multiple defenses and embraced the simple explanation that she had, wittingly or not, ingested the banned substance and suspended her for two years, ending this past January.

What is that, the equivalent of a decade in the life of a developing player? It hardly seemed so, though, when Karatantcheva returned to the pro tour at the minor WTA event at Surprise, Az. in late January, and won two Grand Slams's worth of matches as she slashed her way from pre-qualifying right through to the title.

She made headlines then, and broke back into the top 10,000 (that's no typo), entering her next event (La Quinta) with a ranking of 9,999. Although she won that one, too, she's  hit a few speed bumps on her way back to the elite Top 100, crushing opponents one week, flaming out the next. She's presently ranked no. 174.

When I wandered out to Court 15 yesterday afternoon and plopped down in the bleachers, it soon became apparent that the one thing Karatantcheva hasn't lost or let fall into disrepair is her poise - that ease with which really good players wear the heavy mantle of competition. This girl is made to play and win tennis matches like a coyote is made to kill bunnies. I arrived at that match right after Karatantcheva had been broken to go down, 0-2, but she battled back and secured an easy, key break to take the first set, 6-4. Not that she didn't have help - Puchkova served so badly that even Elena Dementieva might have felt a pang of sympathy for the poor girl.

Karatantcheva wore a pretty, salmon-colored tennis dress layered over a white tank top. On changeovers, she sat erect, gazing into the middle distance. She used her towel with great purpose, meticulously tamping perspiration away from the corners of her eyes and sides of her noses, as well as between each of her fingers. It was the kind of ritual of relaxation you expect of someone happily adjusted to a work routine. All that betrayed her status as a struggling qualifier was the slightly worn and scuffed look of her Adidas shoes.

Was this struggle going to be resolved on form of the day? I didn't think. Because just watching the way each girl carried herself, and how she reacted to moments of greater or lesser pressure, was telling. I sensed that Puchkova experienced some sort of telepathic warning, like prey often does, that made her wary and inhibited. I've always felt that there's a sure way to recognize that communication during a tennis match: It's when the apprehensive one plays well, except when it really counts, while the bold one not only lets it rip when the pressure is on, but also shows no sign of remorse when pulling the trigger produces a wild or errant shot.

Karatantcheva played like she couldn't care less, Puchkova played like she was busy trying to disguise the fact that she couldn't care more. Puchkova has a glowing game: she hits a clean ball, with classis strokes, and seems to like points that are set pieces. Karatantcheva was a little more interested in mayhem and, in general, risk-taking. She's a good mover who likes to turn up the heat during rallies, and her two-handed backhand is a versatile thing of beauty. She sometimes crowds her forehand, and doesn't make quite as much pace on that side. Her serve always seemed the weak link, and it remains so today.

After Karatantcheva closed out the match, 6-4, 6-3, I approached her and introduced myself, asked if she was interested in having a chat. Her pale blue and green eyes  - beautiful eyes, really - lit up and she said she really liked Tennis magazine. It was a nice gesture. A middle-aged Bulgarian couple came over, kissed and congratulated her. Then she fell into an embrace with an elderly American gent in old-fashioned tennis clothes, comically exclaiming, "Mike, dude, it's so good to see you here!"

I moved off a little to let them chat, and after a few moments Sesil came over to me and apologized. We started walking to the player lounge but were interrupted by a number of fans who said things like, "It's good to see you back!" Or, "We missed you." She also exchanged a big hug with Jennifer Elie, a long-lost friend from Karantatcheva's days at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.

As we walked along I asked if many people had wished her well and she said yes, and unexpectedly added, in a tone of wonder: "People. . . they can be so weird sometimes, you know?"

Karatantcheva tossed her racquet bag against a wall on the way to the dining area, and I asked if she thought her bag would be safe there. She said, laughing, "Trust me, the last thing anyone in here would want to steal is a tennis racket." She speaks English extremely well and has a sharp sense of humor, her words tumbling out in a breathless rush. But she looks you in the eye and has that attractive ability to connect - to make you feel like the conversation matters. Whatever else she is -  or isn't -  Karatantcheva is an aware girl with a keen mind, the kind of young woman that some would describe as having an "old soul."

When I asked how the trip back to the game has been she said, "Long and bumpy, but it's good to be back."

I'd always been curious about that incident involving Sharapova at Indian Wells. Many people thought the stunt was orchestrated to get the emerging player attention. The backstory is more innocent; Bollittieri, eager to see Karatantcheva to be better understood and appreciated, encouraged her to tell the story of how Sharapova had haughtily turned down Karatantcheva as a hitting-session partner.  "I'm an emotional person, and back then I was emotional and just 14." Karatantcheva explained. "I would say anything. Once I started going into that story, the rest just came out. It  was a pattern, though. I'm always getting in trouble, kind of like the bad kid on the block."

Sesil When I asked Sesil what it was like to find herself suspended, she said that her first reaction was denial - This isn't happening to me. Then, after she spent three days crying, she abruptly decided:  "I have nothing else to do but play tennis, I've done that and nothing else for 10 years. So I never really even thought about coming back to the tour. I just worked on the court (mostly at a spa in a town near Sofia), and then one day it was December, 2007 and I realized - I can go back."

Karatantcheva said she never got discouraged, never wondered if she could recapture her Top 35 form. She went day-by-day, largely alone, abandoned by friends and acquaintances from her brief days on the tour. Bollettieri publicly said he would welcome Karatantcheva back, but privately he encouraged her to break with her father, contending that he was a "bad infuence" (Karatantcheva's words). This put her in an uncomfortable position. She explained: "My family was the only ones beside me in those two years - not a single player came to me in two years and said, Keep playing, come back. I realized that my family was all I had, and I can't just leave behind the father who did so much for me. It's okay with Nick, though, I told him I appreciate his advice. We talk. But for me this is a good situation. I grew up with my dad. He took care of everything. I'm still my daddy's girl."

When I asked her if any elements in her original story, or the facts pertaining to her case, had changed, she said no. She characterized herself at 15 as "pretty crazy." She suddenly had a modicum of fame, and money as well. She had, by her own measure, "a big mouth." She stopped listening to anything that anybody might offer in the way of advice.. "I'm not really sorry about all that," she said. "It was just me. But I guess I just used those two years away to get my head together, to stop flying in the sky and start walking on the ground." Her voice cracked slightly as she added, "I had a pretty tough puberty."

Karatantcheva likes to point to the fact that Jamie Lee Spears, pop train-wreck Britney's sister, had a child at 16, and characterized unwanted pregnancy and drugs as the two major problems confronting youngsters in this new century. She just rolls her eyes when people wonder how she could have done such a thing - and at 15, no less - and she's grown hardened to the judgments made by others. And you have to wonder, how could she not? 

Sometimes, she said, she wishes she were a male player, able to partake of the camaraderie she sees on the men's tour. "The women's tour,  you know, it's more like . . . what do you call that, where bees live? A beehive. Yes - that's how it feels. They're really not very nice to each other. Everyone has her own clique. But don't get me wrong, I have my own friends, too."

I wondered if she believed in forgiveness, perhaps even redemption. Did she expect that anyone would take the position that whatever she did or didn't do, she's paid her price and now has a right to start with a clean slate?

"Personally, I believe that everybody deserves a second chance. But if someone thinks I did it, that I'm guilty and should continue to pay, then whatever. . . But it's the 21st century. This is a multi-million dollar industry, and people expect  you to go out and run 100 kilometers an hour, and do other unbelievable stuff. Who's going to hold up under that pressure. What body is strong enough?"

She left her thought unfinished, and I felt it was time to change the subject. I asked about her poise, the suggestion of entitlement, albeit without arrogance, that seeemed so striking to me.

"I'm a pretty calm player," she said. "I rarely smash rackets or scream. Actually, I laugh a lot on court  - and I loved Agassi and now Federer for being like that, for being so. .  gentle . . . on the court. I guess it's just my character; people say,'how can you be so hyper and wound up, and then go on the court and be so calm?' and I don't know the answer to that."

I wondered what she felt she might have lost, being off the tour for two years, and what she might have gained. She answered Part A swiftly and clearly: "I lost my ranking, that hurt the most. Starting at zero is very, very hard, because now everybody can play. The bottom of the rankings is overcrowded with good players and you can be a good player and still spend your entire career there."

Part B was a little more complicated. She said, "Maybe I grew up, realized what is important and what is not. I also learned to live one day at a time, and to enjoy every day, because maybe tomorrow I'm not here. It's good to understand that. I started thinking more, too, which I don't like. Honestly. I mean that.This growing up took away a lot - at 14, 15, I was uncaring. Am I gonna lose? Big deal! Who cares? Being brave, that's easy when you're not thinking."

Yesterday, for long stretches in two solid sets, Karatantcheva forgot to think. She played uncaring tennis, and bumped one step closer to a main-draw slot at the U.S. Open. It was, in some ways, like old times once again for a 19-year old - despite the fact that these days, she said, she would rather stay in most nights and curl up with a good book. She recently finished La Dame Aux Camilas, by Alexandre Dumas, and was heartbroken by the tragic end. You'd think she'd know by now that only the good die young - or should those nouns be reversed?

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Posted by Master Ace 08/21/2008 at 10:19 AM

Not surprised on how Maria treated Sesil at that time as Sesil was looking for a hitting partner. Also, it is unfortunate that the WTA is not as "social" as the ATP is.

Posted by Always interested 08/21/2008 at 10:25 AM

Why isn't there a front page article on Villiers stepping down?

Posted by Matt Zemek 08/21/2008 at 10:31 AM

She's in her mid teens, and she's been exposed to so much of human nature. The "old soul" shows through, indeed.

What a fascinating, layered and absorbing portrait. Sesil has already gained a great deal of perspective on life, and I simply hope that she translates that perspective into wisdom.

Posted by Chiconinja 08/21/2008 at 10:39 AM

Hi Pete,

I remember reading about her some time ago (I believe in Tennis magazine if I'm not mistaken) but then of course I thought I'd never hear from her again. Being ranked at 174 she's only a good run short of the top 50.

I'm very curious to see this girl play. Hope she does ok in the next months so she can get into bigger tournaments once again.

Can't really blame anyone for the choices they've made at 14 yeard old. Those teen years can play a lot of tricks on a person.

Posted by Samantha Elin 08/21/2008 at 10:40 AM

Pete, I love this article, it's like reading one of your article from tennis magazine, you get to know Sesil personally. I've always liked her. Although I think it would have been better if she just been honest and said hey I made a mistake rather than make up a story about a pregnancy, which only made matters worse, but hey it's her choice. Nobody has the right to judge. And she's right, everyone deserves a second chance and the only one she hurt was herself. Good luck to her, I think she has a great personality. Justine, forever my #1!

Posted by Olivia 08/21/2008 at 10:53 AM


Sounds like you had a really interesting day!!! I don't remember her at all from back then but I personally am glad to see that she's bounced back. Can't wait for the draw today!!!

Posted by Tennis Fan 08/21/2008 at 10:59 AM

Excellent article!

Posted by JR 08/21/2008 at 11:01 AM

I have a 14 year old granddaughter. Growing up is complicated enough for her. I can't imagine adding a budding tennis career to that mix.

Posted by darthhelmethead(lurker in reform) 08/21/2008 at 11:10 AM

I gotta say this is one good article, it really made me sympathize with Sesil and made me feel as if I had met her too. That said, I hope that she succeeds on tour, the wta needs more personality. Or maybe it just needs more variety of personality. I loved the description of the social behavior of the wta versus the atp. I always had a tough time imagining the female players getting together in the player's lounge and having a videogame soccer tournament in the way that the guys sometimes do.

Posted by Mark 08/21/2008 at 11:13 AM

Great article. I'm hoping she makes it back to the top 50 or more. She seems to have a good attitude and a great sense of humor. Good luck Sesil!!!!

Posted by Ali C (Dechy for Doubles!) 08/21/2008 at 11:18 AM

Wow. Great piece, Pete.

Posted by tennisesq. 08/21/2008 at 11:21 AM

I really enjoyed this post, especially the message I got from it.

I remember all too well the day Sesil defeated Venus at RG in 2005. A loss like that doesn't get any worse for a Venus fan. So, I was quick to crucify Sesil when news of the doping charge surfaced. But, this and other articles I've read helped to open my eyes. I'm rooting for a successful comeback for Sesil and I would love to see a rematch between Vee and Sesil, preferably on grass.

Posted by 08/21/2008 at 11:26 AM

Hey great article. Britney's little sister's name is actually Jamie-Lynn Spears, not Jamie Lee. I know, it's not, but I'm just saying.

Posted by ron 08/21/2008 at 11:28 AM

Great article Pete:

She is just so "real" and this is refreshing with all the princesses out there. And she's right, she paid her debt to tennis and everyone should just leave her alone. Let's not forget, she was only 15 years old for crying out loud.

Posted by yello fuzzy 08/21/2008 at 11:33 AM

HHmmmm, makes me wonder how all these eastern Europeans can afford to go to Bollettieri's. Sharapova was not exactly wealthy before she came to the states,how are Karatantcheva and so many others are somehow getting into such an exclusive (costly) academy? Are there no handout s for americans at Bollettieri's?

Posted by luxsword 08/21/2008 at 11:34 AM

La dame aux camélias, it is. ;)

Good read, your article, Pete. :) I remember when they banned her, I felt her team (coach and all) should get some blame too. And I remember waiting for her to confess the doping as well.

Posted by CherryNYC 08/21/2008 at 11:54 AM

Great piece. I always liked her -- Agree with luxsword that the blame can be spread around. she was 15, for god's sake!

I love the word "gentle" to describe Fed on the court. Right on the money -- she has great insight.

And I always suspected the women didn't like each other. can you imagine Sharapova hanging out with the Sisters. No way -- these divas are vicious!

Posted by Todd and in Charge 08/21/2008 at 12:02 PM

Pete, these are some of your finest columns, when you hit the pavement and explore some story or angle that is utterly fresh and unique. Thank you.

What did you think of Olga? I used to hit with her and her older sister at Quayside here in South Florida, she was beating me from around the time she was nine or so!

Posted by tommy 08/21/2008 at 12:19 PM

I think you should have interviewed Olga. She was engaged to Alexander Ovechkin, who signed a $100 million NHL deal.

Posted by Paul 08/21/2008 at 12:36 PM

One of the very best tennis articles I`ve ever read. Incredibly thoughtful and observant. Thanks Pete. And it shows once again how hardships bring maturity. Best of luck to Sesil.

Posted by Kieran 08/21/2008 at 12:44 PM

That's so bloody beautiful and sad! That girl's crammed a lot into her few years. She's a cautionary tale and an example. She's stunning, too. Which only makes her story more compelling and tragic, for some odd reason...

Posted by skip1515 08/21/2008 at 01:13 PM

This was a pleasure to read, Pete. Really well written. Thanks.

And about some players compared to others:

"This girl is made to play and win tennis matches like a coyote is made to kill bunnies."

Ain't it the truth?

Posted by Volen 08/21/2008 at 01:31 PM

Great article, Pete! I myself am a bulgarian so this whole story is all too well known. Sesil was a big star back then, you know - a young player breaking into the elite, representing Bulgaria. Here it's widewly believed that her father is the problem and most probably he is the one that pushed her into taking the steroids. The typical tennisparent, if you may ;( . Climbing back is going to be tough for her, our federation is quite poor, and isn't very helpful, and of course all tournaments have entry fees. This was also a problem for Grigor Dimitrov who won the boys title at Wimbledon this year - his father had to sell the family car in order to get him in the tournament. I wish Sesil the best of luck and a quick bounce-back. I really would like Grigor to break into the men's elite too

Posted by reki 08/21/2008 at 01:35 PM

Sesil is a very sensible young woman. She is, what is commonly called in tennis- a big natural talent. If only someone could teach her to serve and a bit of tactics, she would really get back there and more. The problem is, it's not about her letting her father down, it's up to him to leave his daughter fly by herself. She will not progress with him! I red an article, an interview of a volleyball player, translated by some Bulgarians, where this man explained that nutrition supplements in the country are quasi all contaminated. So I just got a thought, is it possible this is the reason for her positive sample?

Posted by Veruca Salt: I hate the IT Dept. 08/21/2008 at 01:53 PM

Wow Pete. Kudos for an honest but sensitive portrait of Sesil. I'm probably not going to jump on the bandwagon but it's good to see that she has learned from the mistakes she's made. All I can do is wish her the best.

Posted by Ginger 08/21/2008 at 01:56 PM

As many posters have noted, this article is one of the reasons why I am such a huge fan of TW. Refreshing, fresh, interesting, unique - and captured the essence of Sesil - I felt like I was right there in the room with her. As a mother of 2 teenage girls, I felt for this child but was so proud of her fighting spirit and of how real she is- Thank you so much and keep writing

Posted by Jenn 08/21/2008 at 02:00 PM

Pete, let me echo others in saying how much I enjoyed this article. We all see tons of articles about people like Federer and Nadal (and I love reading them), but its these types of gems that I enjoy the most, where you really get true insight (as opposed to PR-type or cliched quotes) from subjects who are under the radar screen. I particularly liked the part of the article where she talks about her parents being the only people who were there for her. While Nick B. was undoubtedly well meaning in advising her to split with the overbearing Dad, it was really poignant how she recognized that while that may be good advice, Dad has also been there for her and who else would have done that?

Obviously Sesil has been through a lot and of course she deserves a second chance. Who does not regret bad decisions made during adolescence? I hope she makes it to the main draw at the Open and eventually fulfills her potential.

Posted by luxsword 08/21/2008 at 02:07 PM

Did she say she did take steroids, btw ?

"And I always suspected the women didn't like each other. can you imagine Sharapova hanging out with the Sisters. No way -- these divas are vicious!"

Well, it's just that girls and boys don't relate to each others the same way, I think, especially competition wise, and there are a lot of girls, not women on the WTA tour, too... It's just how it is, and I don't think they should be blamed or judged, any of them, for not being buddies the way men can be.

Posted by Laser 08/21/2008 at 02:16 PM

Good post Pete,
I remember watching Sesil beat Venus in 2005 and thinking...., this girl has got some spunk and a certain joie de vivre. She sure didn't seem like the mindless robots that dot the WTA today. I'm sorry I didn't catch her match yesterday, I was at the Qualies.
Anyway, thanks a lot for a very interesting piece on an interesting person.

Posted by Samantha Elin 08/21/2008 at 02:26 PM

luxsword, no to your question. Sesil still maintains her innocence and said she tested positive because she was pregnant. Well Ok.

Posted by JAG 08/21/2008 at 02:51 PM

It was a good read. Thanks, Pete!

Posted by vetmama (ready for the torch to be passed back) 08/21/2008 at 02:51 PM

Pete -

What a wonderful nuanced piece. I really appreciate reading complex portraits of people, rather than the usual PR pinups.

Even more than natural talent, it seems that kids aspiring to be professional players need intense drive, a clear head, and a tough hide.
That's a tall order for any teenager.

And, Pete, it's also nice to see you getting the response you deserve rather than the pile-on you received on Friday. Ouch!!

Posted by Elevennis Anytwo? 08/21/2008 at 02:55 PM

Thanks so much for this portrait of a young lady, once troubled like most, only publicly, but coming through honorably, it seems. You are at your best when you write these profiles of the lesser lights, Mr. Bodo. Maybe you could do an update on Agnes Szavay, whom you profiled last year around this time?

Posted by Markic 08/21/2008 at 03:22 PM

Love it. Loved her big mouth first time round, hope she's here to stay sans papa...

Posted by Al 08/21/2008 at 03:28 PM

Pete I also would echo the thought by saying that this was an enjoyable read. I remember the first time I had seen her was not at Roland Garros when she had defeated Venus but when Sharapova thrashed her 6-0 6-1 ( I think ) at Wimbledon a few weeks later. Good to see that she's marking her journey to come back .

Posted by esha25 08/21/2008 at 03:33 PM

Pete well written article. Too bad you had to fall into the sensationalism of the subject that Sesil. But it is a classic story, no? Great talent, gets big win, talks big game, and is derailed now on the long comeback trail. Let's embrace her because she's learned so much is so much wiser and is so romantic of an ideal. Doesn't help that it is a woman, who fits the Western "ideals" of beauty to boot. I almost cringed at reading your physical description of her, as every man that has every written an article about her always (no matter how nuanced) comes back to her sexuality.

Unfortunately, this angle and type article on Sesil has been done over and over again. I am beginning to think that this is the only angle to this young woman there is/that she is willing to show to the press. It makes me wonder how boring (or guarded to the press) tennis players must be in order for an over confident, over sexualized, person to get such top billing. (Yawn) The fact that you choose to paint her as the opposite of a spoiled, braggadocios, princess, even though in reality that is what she really is, is hilarious. (But I guess that is what playing the qualifiers at the USO will do to a person)

Posted by lira vega 08/21/2008 at 04:00 PM

Wow, Pete, great piece. I loved Karatancheva’s run at RG and that doping announcement was such a cold shower. Still, she was young and treatment she got from the media at that time was really brutal. Great to see somebody willing to scratch beneath the surface. Thanks for this one!

Posted by Elevennis Anytwo? 08/21/2008 at 04:17 PM

esha25 - Why are you so critical of her? Is there some additional evidence you have that the rest of us should know about?

Posted by Pete 08/21/2008 at 05:34 PM

Esha, perhaps "very man who has ever written about her (Sesil) comes back to her sexuality" because her sexuality (your word btw, not mine, but I do think those eyes are wonderful) is such a prominent feature of her being? Beyond that, I simply don't agree that this piece dotes on that feature. But thanks for your input and thanks everyone else for the praise, it means a lot to me.

Posted by Asad Raza 08/21/2008 at 06:01 PM

Man, Pete, you show up for a relaxing day and then turn this piece out? Amazing. I really enjoyed this, it was so much more than tennis--and tennis too. Brilliant last sentence.

I'm rooting for her now.

Posted by Tennis Fan 08/21/2008 at 06:13 PM

Unfortunately, she loses in the second round of qualifying. Wish her the best on her road back.

Posted by † Hallelujah 08/21/2008 at 06:30 PM

Intersting read. Danke

Posted by Samantha Elin 08/21/2008 at 07:43 PM

Poor Sesil, I think it's going to be a tough road back. Two years is alot of time in tennis. I think she has changed a lot, grown up.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed) 08/21/2008 at 10:06 PM

Pete - at the risk of sounding redundant, great read. Condolences on the loss of your relaxing kickback day, but boy did we make out!

interesting how you Sesil as being so quiet on court. that self-possession seems like it may be awfully hard won, or perhaps she always had it? Honestly, while i remember the todo of course, I don't recall ever seeing her play.

Pity she's out in the qualies, as i would definately have made a point to see her next week. Hopefully I'll be able to catch her at another event.

Posted by harini 08/21/2008 at 10:50 PM

sorry to see karatantcheva out of the qualies. i remember the '05 season and her run to the quarters at RG. my mother and i were instant fans and it's so sad that her career hit that roadblock.

i really hope sesil has a comeback year next year. thanks for a great article pete. she's got a fan here!

Posted by Aussie Angel (Safina WTA's Future Nol. 1) 08/21/2008 at 10:51 PM

Thanks Pete for the article on Sesil. It was really insightful. I hope she has put all that teenage agnst aside and now can concentrate on being a young adult. Hopefully she will start 2009 off on a positive note and make her mark on the WTA because it needs a few more personalities.

Posted by rg.nadal 08/21/2008 at 11:59 PM

Good read.
Good that she is just 19. She has many years of good tennis in her, i'm sure. Good luck Sesil for entering the main draw.

Posted by Christopher 08/22/2008 at 12:12 AM

Pete-- Great piece! Really gives us a sense of the brutality of the pro tennis life. It's amazing how much of a dog eat dog world it is. I seem to recall that both Seles and Blake have said that few players kept in any contact with them during their respective time away. I hope Karatantcheva at least manages to live a life that makes her happy, with or without tennis success.

Posted by Backhand blaster 08/22/2008 at 12:32 AM

Peter Bodo: Congrats on a beautiful piece. I am really blown away. Karatantcheva has a new fan here. Articles like this keep me coming back.

Posted by eddy 08/22/2008 at 12:47 AM

thanks pete. i can't believe how much work you put into this article!

Posted by esha25 08/22/2008 at 11:14 AM

Elevennis Anytwo?, no I don't know anything else about Sesil except that what has been written about her before and what I have seen with my own eyes.

Pete, I think I also wrote, "Unfortunately, this angle and type article on Sesil has been done over and over again. I am beginning to think that this is the only angle to this young woman there is/that she is willing to show to the press." My point being you have to go with what your subject is willing to give you. Like I said before it was a well written, nuanced (compared to others) piece on Sesil. I just didn't really didn't learn anything new about her. In my defense, I offer an article where Sesil says similar things to you.

I just don't think people like Sesil should be highlighted by the tour or focused on by the media. My opinion, and one that many commentators and yourself disagree with. Too me, Sesil's story is the easy one to write, and honestly, Pete, you are better than that. The USO qualifiers draw have up coming players, many American, and many not that are more interesting and fighting a lot harder than Sesil to make their mark on tennis. You shine at writing those articles and I truly enjoy reading them. Sesil had her time to brag, boast, and make a go at fame. But in her own words she had a lot of friends and did crazy things.

Posted by Ruth 08/22/2008 at 01:27 PM

I thought that Sesil was a breath of fresh air when she burst on to the scene (especially after the Maria related comments), and she's probably still capable of being a good contributor to the competition and entertainment on the WTA tour.

But one thing has always amazed and bothered me, and that is the way that people (including Pete, Al et al) just cavalierly refer to her "defeat" of Venus -- or to any of Sesil's victories at the RG when she was determined to be taking performance enhancing substances. My goodness, if she had won a track or field event, her medal would be pulled and her W expunged. Tennis cannot do the same thing because the tourneys go on after the dopers win, and we can't tumble the pyramid after the fact.

But could we at least not act/write/talk as if the wins were as legitimate and worthy of mention as the wins by the "clean" athletes in the tourney?

Posted by jbradhunter 08/22/2008 at 11:54 PM

Pete. Thank you. You are especially gifted at this sort of intimate piece. I honestly didn't know much about her other than the suspension. I hope she does well for herself and I also agree that people should get second chances and even third chances and fourth... I also think Ruth makes a strong argument that sesils win over Venus is tainted and in my mind isn't a clean fair win. I hope she gets a chance at redemption because that would have been one of the biggest wins of her career. Go sesil!

Posted by Pete 08/23/2008 at 01:02 AM

Ruth - I absolutely agree with you, I should have noted the tainted nature of the win. Next time, I will.

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