- Paul Grant
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NEW YORK -- Watching women's tennis can be an educational experience. The competition is fierce, the athleticism is strong, the shrieks startling.
But it's the press conferences afterward that offer the most enlightenment.
Thus, here is what we learned from Friday's post-match gatherings with the press:
Maria Sharapova is as tall as she looks on TV. And her teeth really are that white.
It's never too late to ask for help. During warmups before her doubles match earlier in the week, Jelena Jankovic felt a twinge that left her feeling "disabled." "It was so painful, I could barely even bend," she said.
A member of Jankovic's posse asked Amelie Mauresmo for the services of Mauresmo's physiotherapist. Mauresmo agreed, and Jankovic was treated to the point where she could play with relatively little pain.
Mauresmo, for her part, downplayed the sharing when asked about whether other players would have done the same as she had.
"I don't want to comment on that," she said, smiling.
No excuse is too ridiculous. At various times, Jankovic blamed the wind, Justine Henin-Hardenne's suspected gamesmanship, the instant replay process and the lack of initiative by umpires to counsel her on whether she should challenge close line calls for various deficiencies in her loss.
But, ultimately, she didn't blame anyone but herself for the loss.
"I don't blame [Henin-Hardenne]," she said. "I lost this match and it's my fault. I made those little mistakes."
The shrieking isn't all that bad, actually. During a particularly intense rally, Sharapova's intense bellows draw smirks from the crowd. But her opponent wasn't bothered. "You hear it much more when you watch the match than when you play against her," Mauresmo said. "I mean, I just totally don't pay attention to that."
Honesty makes for good quotes, Part I. Jankovic on perceived gamesmanship by Henin-Hardenne: "I think you should play fair. And if you have pain, you have pain. But then how come when she's winning, she serves like a 120-mile [per hour] serve, and then when she's losing, she's barely pushing it back? Just to kind of say, 'Oh, that's why I'm losing.' For me, that's not quite fair play."
The umpires stink. Jankovic again: "The umpire has to be involved in the game as well. [H]e also has to make his call, you know. Not just leave the linespersons to make the call and make the mistakes. Then we challenge. I think that's not fair. What is then the purpose of the guy? Just to keep score?"
Monica Seles is Tennis' Elvis. "Is she here?" journalists asked after Jankovic mentioned she had received e-mails from the former champ. A hush fell over the gathering. Monica Seles is here? "I thought I saw her in the stands," another journalist speculated. There was no word on when she left the building.
Henin-Hardenne rocks. She has now made the final of all four Grand Slams this year, the seventh woman to do so all-time.
"It's a great feeling. It's an amazing season for me. It's almost a dream, this year," she said.
Henin-Hardenne was in control of her semifinal match with Jankovic the entire time. "She played really well, and then I pushed her a little bit more," Henin-Hardenne said. "That changed, totally changed, the match."
Honesty makes for good quotes, Part II. Mauresmo on her chances of coming back in the third set against Sharapova: "I thought it was over at 5-0."
European journalists cheer in the press box. And not just when the cooler is restocked with free drinks.
Plus, Russians applaud Sharapova when enters the press room.
Women get bathroom breaks. The men do, too? I didn't know that.
Paul Grant is a senior coordinator at ESPN.com
Are Maria Sharapova's teeth really that white? After watching both women's semifinals at the U.S. Open, Paul Grant learned the answer to that and other important issues.