During Thursday's semi-final match against Italy's Francesca Schiavone, Elena Dementieva lost the first set in a tie-breaker. Nothing to be ashamed about.
The speed on her ground strokes surpassed that of her opponent and she was serving well enough.
But in the last few games as well as during the tie-break, the TV analysts noticed her being a bit tentative. She didn't seem to be running all out to get balls she could have reached.
It had been noted that her left calf was taped up and she had complained of pain in a muscle tear during her previous two matches.
Then in the final points of the tie-break, the camera caught her looking as if she might be shedding some tears, trying to hide it behind the bill of her visor.
After the tie-break ended, Elena calmly told her opponent and the chair umpire that she couldn't continue.
Suddenly it dawned on Schiavone and the television audience that the Italian was taking her first trip to a grand slam final.
No trainer was called to examine Dementieva. There were no shots of her grimacing in pain, agonizing about whether to continue. She didn't hobble out for the first game of the second set, making an attempt to soldier on.
And she got slammed for that.
In tennis, the term for what Dementieva did is "retire". What the TV commentators insinuated was that she flat-out quit. They related stories from their own pro careers or those of pros they coached and we all were told that it just isn't done like this.
Reporters in the post-match press conference were told by Dementieva that she didn't see the need for a trainer since she had spent all too much time with them in the last week.
They had done all that they could. A tear is a tear, not a muscle spasm. It's not going away without rest or surgery and she had taken the requisite pain killers. She had been able to get through her previous matches but not this one.
Like Andrew Bynum of the Los Angeles Lakers, it's all about dealing with the pain and how much it limits the player who needs good wheels to be successful.
Dementieva knew she couldn't win the way she felt on Thursday and she put up with the pain to the extent she could.
Call her weak minded or just plain soft but sometimes we expect our sports stars to damage themselves just so we know they have what we call "heart". Remember Tiger Woods on one leg winning the U.S. Open?
It was an odd way to handle it but it's her way. Who are we to say it's not right?
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