Billie Jean King, founder of the women’s professional tennis tour, was quoted in the Washington Post on Tuesday, saying that women’s tennis “is not in a great place right now.”
Well, it’s in Doha. And going into Wednesday’s line up of Zvonareva vs. Azarenka, Clijsters vs. Jankovic, and Stosur vs. World No. 1 Wozniacki, I can see how some could feel. . .underwhelmed by the 2010 field at the WTA year end Championships. But there really was some interesting tennis on my DVR Wednesday evening, especially the final match between Caroline and Sam. Wozniacki is a great foil for most players. She’s like the basic black of tennis: her style of play goes well with almost everyone. And when Sam Stosur is playing great – hitting that heavy inside out forehand, cutting up those volleys, smacking that serve – she’s one of the most thrilling players to watch on the WTA tour. Stosur was on her A-game on Wednesday but still needed to fight off six break points to win, 6-4, 6-3, and deny the Major-less World No. 1 a lock on the year ending top ranking.
That’s where the intrigue still lies in this tournament. Vera Zvonareva, who is 2-0 in round robin play after a tight straight sets victory over Azarenka on Wednesday, still has a small chance of elbowing the Dane aside this week. Vera must make it to the finals to give herself this chance.
Click here for current standings in Doha.
By the way, BJK is optimistic for next season:
“I just want everybody to be healthy at the same time because we really have depth if we can get them all playing,” King said. “We’ve had a very bad year. But it’s not going to be like that forever.”
As I said, I understand where the general blah attitude is coming from. Some of us (who, me?) were fantasizing earlier this year about Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, and the Williams sisters fighting to the death at this tournament. You’re a certified WTA geek if your heart’s all aflutter over Zvonareva vs. Wozniacki. But I think that compared to recent years, the 2010 season has given us some fantastic WTA matches: Clijsters vs. Henin in Brisbane, Henin vs. Serena in Melbourne, Stosur vs. Schiavone at the French, and Henin vs. Sharapova at the US Open, to truly name just a few. (Oh, just remembered Wozniacki vs. Pennetta at RG!) I also recall that last season, we were grasping at Dementieva vs. Serena at Wimbledon as proof that women’s tennis wasn’t going in the shitter, for lack of a prettier term.
And despite the lack of a major title, Henin’s comeback has been a great success, at least for spectators.
What do you guys think about the WTA, ca. 2010?
Some notes on other tennis happenings.
John Isner hit his 999th ace of the season on Wednesday at the Open Sud de France. Wanna bet he breaks 1000 in his next match?
Jim Courier will be taking over for Patrick McEnroe as Team USA’s Davis Cup Captain. Via the Seattle Post:
“I’ve always known, once I got a taste of playing Davis Cup, if I were given an opportunity to be the captain, I would certainly want to take it,” Courier said Wednesday.
Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and highest-ranked American man, tweeted: “jim courier new davis cup captain … great choice!” Courier said Roddick told him he was committed to playing Davis Cup next year.
Speaking of Jim Courier, he’s inspired the 33-year-old Wimbledon finalist, Mark Philippoussis, to try his own WTA-style comeback. The Australian left the tour in 2006. (via The Canadian Press)
“I’ve just fallen back in love with the sport on the Champions Series,” the 33-year-old Australian said. “It’s just great and since I’ve gotten that love back, my body has been getting stronger. I feel I can hit the ball just as hard as the guys on the tour, so why not give it a go if I’m having this much fun?”
Mark made this announcement after beating Courier last Sunday in the finals of a Champions Series seniors tournament.
Maybe we’ll see a Muster vs. Philippoussis first round sometime soon. Former world No. 1 and 1995 French Open Champ, Thomas Muster was given a wildcard into this week’s Vienna Open, where he played and lost on Tuesday to 143 ranked countryman Andreas Haider-Maurer 6-2, 7-6 (5). Hey, that’s not too bad, considering the 43-year-old hadn’t played a tour level match in 11 years. No wonder he got a standing ovation from the sell-out crowd when it was all over. It’s something to build on, he says.
“I’ll keep training hard and plan to enter 20 to 25 events from March,” Muster said. (via Fox5Vegas)
“There is no pressure of getting into the top 10,” he said. “It’s about enjoying tennis. In ’99, I hated tennis. Now I love it.”
See, love actually means quite a lot in tennis.
Rafael Nadal is feeling the love from website AskMen.com. He was named the 15th Most Influential Man of 2010 on the website’s list of the Top 49. Barack Obama was ranked a mere 21 and only one athlete, quarterback Drew Brees, ranked higher than Rafa. Here’s why:
Once considered “The King of Clay,” Nadal’s game has evolved into an all-encompassing barrage of lethal weapons: he’s capable of defeating anyone, anywhere, anytime. The man plays with reckless abandon, and we love him for it, but his tendinitis-ridden knees are the result. They’re also the only things standing in the way of Rafael Nadal and the title of “The Greatest Tennis Player of All Time.”
I’ve never been into AskMen, myself – maybe because I’m not a dude – but the ATP says that the site garners about 16 million readers a month. . .just a tad more than GTT!
So now that I’ve mentioned Nadal, I’d like to bring up the sage Jon Wertheim’s latest appeal for Fedal harmony:
It’s such a shame that, at least in some quarters, Federer-Nadal has become as polarizing as American politics. Any reference to Federer suddenly becomes a referendum against all things Nadal. Any reference to Nadal — hey, it would be nice if he declined mid-match coaching — becomes a wedge for the Federer loyalists.
I’m of two minds about this. I’m a Fed fan. I’m always going to root for him in a tennis match. Having a favorite makes it more fun and exciting to watch (lately, a little too exciting, Rog!) But I can also appreciate Rafa and what he brings to the game, mi amor Uncle Toni included. And of course there’s a bunch of other amazing players that I enjoy watching, too. (Up close and personal, Novak Djokovic is the most handsome of the Top 4, just sayin’.) This sport can’t exist without a full cast of colorful, wonderful, sometimes babe-a-licious characters – R.I.P. Marat – and I’ve been puzzled to meet die hard Fedophiles who admit to having zero interest in the rest of the ATP line up. I’m sure there are some equally myopic Rafanatics out there. A woman can’t live on Swiss chocolate alone.
But this is sports, not politics. Meaning that this year’s mid term elections are as civil as a real tea party, compared to the primordial enmity between, say, Red Sox and Yankees fans. What fun is sports – some may even ask what use is sports – if everybody’s just in it for a jolly good show? Being irrationally devoted to a sports team, and viscerally repulsed by its main rivals, is an almost universal human experience. It’s also a great way to funnel your petty frustrations and residual teenage fangirl hormones into a socially acceptable means of passionate expression.
This primal fan urge is complicated by the fact that tennis is an individual sport with noble roots and quaint customs – like not jeering or throwing beer bottles when the other side takes the court – that inherently acknowledges that it’s tough for a player to be out there on his own. A fan’s instinctive animosity toward her favorite’s main rival gets uncomfortable when the rival is a lone man with a boyish smile, a killer forehand and a penchant for helping poor kids in India. And that’s why I’m singing along with Jon on this topic: “All we are saying, is give peace a chance!”
What do you think?