When winning is not everything

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ROMY P. MARIÑAS

Garbine Muguruza would not win Miss Congeniality if such title was awarded at the ongoing French Open in Paris.

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Muguruza, a Spaniard who was born in Venezuela, on Tuesday was dethroned as the defending champion at Roland Garros, one of the four Grand Slams of tennis.

She was booted out by Kristina Maldenovic of France, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the Round of 16 in an emotional match that saw Muguruza leaving Court Suzanne Lenglen angrily and wagging her finger at the crowd, which of course rooted for its own.

The Spaniard did not get it and paid for her immaturity as a champion.

Certainly, the French would root for Mladenovic, even if she is not even “native” French at birth, in the first place.

Mladenovic’s parents were originally from Yugoslavia but moved to France, where Kristina was born.

The partisan fans also cheered for the country’s naturalized French player partly because they have not had a singles winner in the women’s draw for decades.

Apparently, “native” French or “imported” French will do, an acceptance that arguably shows tolerance at its best.

But the ethnicity card was not the issue in Muguruza’s early exit but rather her failure to block out whatever she was seeing or hearing during the three-setter.

In this corner’s opinion she is a much better player than Mladenovic, who has never bagged a Tier 1 WTA title, but, judging from a video that we saw, never really rallied the noisy French rooters behind her to make up for her shortcomings.

Muguruza apparently reproaching her rival’s fans–and compatriots–as she exited the stadium showed her a poor loser, refusing to give the credit to Mladenovic.

Besides, an underdog going up against the defending champion would almost always have the crowd, if not the world, to her side.

The same is true in other sports.

In football, for example, wonder no more why Phil Younghusband of the Philippine Azkals frequently and literally bites the dust in friendlies and internationals.

Phil is a striker for the national team and he is a marked man even before he enters the pitch.

We have seen him play many times and he takes in stride every elbowing, tackling and other foul moves that one or two members of the opposing team throws his way.

Reacting irresponsibly and unprofessionally could mean a yellow card or, worse, a red one, for Younghusband, but he has not been baited into causing either–especially the red–to be flashed before his face as far as we know.

In today’s friendly between the Chinese national team and the Philippine Azkals, Phil, if he was picked as a starter and fielded as a striker, would have to live with his “fate” as everybody’s favorite whipping boy.

And so, to Muguruza and other onion-skinned players, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

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