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Title: She Got Game

Year Of Release: 2003

Review Date: July 7, 2005

Rating: Not rated. Small amount of inappropriate language and a brief shot of an explicit mural on the side of a bus.

Box Office Gross: N/A

About: Tennis Documentary Featuring WTA Tennis Players.

Recommendation: The perils and sad side of life in tennis.

Site Rating: 6 out of 10 stars

I saw the "She Got Game" tennis documentary recently and I have to say, it was a bit sad. It was interesting, but sad. Its melancholic tones showed the down side of not becoming the world #1 in tennis. Everyone thinks that you train when you are young, join the circuit and become The Williams Sisters or Lindsay Davenport. It's not always so.

The doco gave a surprisingly candid view of life in the WTA when you aren't top tier and what some female athletes go through in their careers. Everything's different, from sponsorship to hotel rooms.

For every Serena, there is someone struggling to make it. That's not something that gets written about often, but it's a statistical fact of life in tennis.

Me for instance - I decided to forfeit my professional tennis career that I never started to give Venus and Serena a chance to win, because I'm that kind of thoughtful person (just kidding about the tennis career).

I'm not very critical of athletes, because in my opinion they do far less damage to youth than musicians and actors.

If an athlete doesn't' do that well for whatever reason, I don't get disappointed or slam them for it. Their job is being a professional competitor and in ways that's got to be tough and reek havoc on the emotions.

You do your best. At the end of the day that's all anyone can ask of you.

THE AGONY OF LOSING

"She Got Game" centers around Sonya Jayeseelan, a female tennis player ranked in the 40's at the time of the documentary, groomed for the WTA circuit by a very driven father. This segment of the documentary is a bit awkward, as it lays bare a strained, difficult father daughter relationship. It was almost too candid, painfully so, but it gave a stunning portrait of what stage parenting can evolve into and what it's truly like. And I do believe stage parenting can extend to sports coaches who are parents pushing on their little prodigies.

While you want your kids to do well and you mean them well in that, sometimes parents push their kids too hard.

PLAY OR PRACTICE

I don't like to criticize people's relationships with their parents, but this case was extreme in what both she and her dad said on camera. She said he would berate her if she didn't play well enough or show enough promise during practice. This clearly shattered her self-confidence, especially comparing her to other players who were ranked higher.

She suffered setbacks that hampered her career and world ranking, but she continued to persevere.

Several times throughout the documentary I wondered if she was playing tennis because her dad wanted her to or because she wanted to. At some points, I got the vibe that she herself wasn't sure.

Another reminder this doco provided - you can't choose a profession to make your parents happy. It's what you'll most likely be doing for most of, if not, for the rest of your life. Therefore, you can't make a decision based on that.

WTA TENNIS PLAYERS

The documentary also featured cameos from Serena Williams, Jennifer Capriati, Chandra Rubin and Anna Kournikova, among others. Their roles in this piece was relegated to interview style clips and brief footage of them on court. 

PRESS CONFERENCES

J-Cap, as she is called by some journos, was featured in several scenes. The documentary featured footage of Capriati's return to tennis and how she broke down in a press conference when reporters started asking her about past run-in's with the law. That part was sad.

But reporters always want to get their story, so they feel nothing is off bounds, especially something in the public domain.

LIFE AFTER TENNIS

"She Got Game" also goes into the struggles some face after tennis, especially those who sacrificed their teen/educational years chasing the dream of being apart of the professional tennis circuit.

Considering many tennis players start in their mid to late teens and careers considered to be long run into an athlete's mid thirties, it really is not prudent to make any sport your life.

Journos and commentators have criticized the Williams sisters for seeking ventures outside of tennis, however, I don't agree with that. They need a life. Everyone does. Sometimes people need a break.

I think the only thing that can truly damage a career is injury and hard partying. The body doesn't process either very well.

SEX SELLS SOULS

I don't agree with sex selling sex. Why not sell substance.  That goes for musicians and actors as well. Selling sex is like selling your soul - not what God wants for anyone, but it is correctable and forgivable.

Selling sex works sometimes in a career for exposure, well overexposure, but that's really not how you want to make it or be remembered. It'll take away from your accomplishments and in some cases it is like you never did anything at all in the field. What you'll be left with is a shallow picture of who you are as a person, with not much to back it up.

The part of the documentary that got me the most was the showerhead company ad executive talking about the so called young hot female tennis players that he feels everyone wants to see. I mean, dude was excited.

I thought the statement was inappropriate, especially considering the girls he was referring to are still pretty young (at the time of the doco). It came across as a bit of a stunner. I thought to myself, ok, this is Europe, but still...

Decorated tennis pro Martina Navratilova voiced her concerns about the new breed of female tennis players who spend time disrobing for the camera. She said something quite true in that they are sending the wrong message to young girls - that you work hard to make it in the WTA, then take your top off. Not a good message at all.

An aspect of the show that I found profound, as I didn't realize the full extent of their struggle, is the female Russian tennis players who play professionally as a means to provide their families with a better life. I thought that was quite commendable, but at the same time, a lot of responsibility for a young girl.

However, when you come from a country with economic hardships, like Russia, it will cause you to grow up fast. This was the most interesting and inspiring tidbit. She, Sandra, was playing tennis to help her family and I thought that was sweet.

IN CLOSING...

You walk away from the documentary with the sad sense that tennis defines several of the female players, as it is their life. I'm sure it is the same for some male tennis players as well.

However, you are more than just a tennis player. With all due respect, there is more to life than tennis. 


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