Rogers Cup winner will have leg up

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

It either was Napoleon or Bobby Knight.

Somebody famous once said something along the lines of, "The mental is to the physical as three is to one."

We may not have the words, or who said them, exactly right.

The point is, sometimes the mental is as important, if not more important, than the physical. That's what the psychologists and psychiatrists say, although they have a vested interest.

In a sports sense, the mental can be divided into two key elements: Confidence and momentum.

But those words have not been uttered very often during the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament.

All we keep hearing about is how important it is to be ready for the U.S. Open, which starts next week in New York. U.S Open this, U.S. Open that, blah blah blah.

You have to wonder, if tennis players are going to be so exclusively obsessed with Grand Slam events, maybe they ought to hold only four tournaments a year and stop the charade.

That sounded a tad grumpy. Let's get back to assessing the cold reality of the situation, which is:

- Big-name players care about only Grand Slam events.

- At this time of year, practically every female pro tennis player is injured, or fighting off an injury, or coming off an injury. No one is 100%.

Everybody's in the same boat -- and we mean that figuratively rather than literally, notwithstanding the torrential rain that flooded the Rexall Centre on Friday.

So if you accept that virtually everyone is hurt to some degree, shouldn't confidence and momentum matter even more?

Here's a crazy idea: In the days leading up to a Grand Slam event, why not win some actual matches, fine-tune your game and build up your mental toughness?

This might be an old-fashioned notion, but isn't it possible that one of the best ways to get ready for a major competition is by playing and winning?

Despite all the whining, there is something to be said for testing out your aches and pains, proving to yourself that your injuries aren't debilitating, staring down a few quality opponents and reminding yourself that you're able to beat them.

Momentum means something in football, in baseball, in hockey, in basketball. So does confidence.

Don't those terms apply to individual sports like tennis?

Or is everyone so cocksure that momentum and confidence are irrelevant, and all that matters is physical health, or at least the perception of physical health?

Kim Clijsters, who will play in the Rogers Cup final today and is one of the favourites for the U.S. Open, didn't give momentum much credence when asked about it yesterday.

"For me personally, I don't think (momentum) changes much," Clijsters said after her victory against Anastasia Myskina of Russia in the Rogers Cup semi-finals.

"It doesn't promise that if you have a great summer here you're going to do well at the U.S. Open. There are so many little details that can change. It's a different tournament.

"For your personal confidence, (momentum) helps, of course. But physically I feel healthy. That's the most important thing."

We just don't think it's the only thing.

Two young women will meet in the Rogers Cup final this afternoon. Heading into the U.S. Open, one of them in particular will be able to draw upon a reservoir of recent achievement.

We have to believe the winner of the match today in Toronto will have a slight heads-up on most of the competition in New York, particularly all those individuals who were absent this week, having opted instead to fret over their boo-boos.

Maybe that's horse-and-buggy thinking.

But horse-and-buggy thinking worked just fine before all these flashy sports cars started breaking down.


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