Ah, the WTA tour. I’ve been ignoring it lately. It’s just a little too. . .complicated. Wozniacki and Zvonareva are the top seeds at the Australian Open. Defending Champ Serena Williams is making news with her snazzy bejeweled foot cast. Last year’s comeback story, Justine Henin, is making yet another comeback from injury. Somehow, Jelena Jankovic continues to be seeded in the top 10.
I really am looking forward to some fantastic women’s matches Down Under – a possible Venus vs. Sharapova fourth round, Sam Stosur representing for Australia, Henin gritting it out, Clijsters looking for redemption after being bageled by Petrova last year and Schiavone, well, just being awesome. But unlike the men’s side, which has the ongoing Roger vs. Rafa saga and a reliable supporting cast, the women’s draw doesn’t have those one or two big storylines that everyone can get into. Right now, watching women’s tennis is like going to a movie without reading any reviews. You don’t know what to expect, but it has the potential to really surprise and astound you. (And right now, the WTA tour is more Robert Altman than Steven Spielberg.)
Okay, ladies, I’m ready to be astounded!
Here’s a selection of pre-tournament quotes from the top gals on tour.
World No. 1 and Australian Open top seed Caroline Wozniacki was asked the question, and she answered it perfectly:
Q. There’s been talk about being ranked No. 1 when you haven’t won a Grand Slam. Do you feel any need to prove yourself?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: I don’t feel I need to prove anything to anybody. You don’t become No. 1 winning small tournaments or doing bad results. You know, I’m a good player. I’ve done great results. Won six tournaments last year. I don’t have to prove anything.
So there. Of course, it helps to have the “real No. 1” /defending champ in a different hemisphere, and not answering questions about the ranking system. (A moment of silence for Dinara Safina, who get’s this tournament’s “real No. 1,” Kim Clijsters, in the first round.)
Unlike the moody, sometimes touchingly introspective Dinara, Caroline let’s off a defiantly sunny disposition:
Q. Your first Grand Slam as world No. 1. How does that fit with you?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Well, it’s a great feeling, definitely. I had a great year last year and finished No. 1, so I’m really happy about that.
Going into this tournament as the No. 1, it’s a good feeling.
Q. It’s not pressure; you look at it more as a confidence boost?
CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Yeah, I don’t feel any pressure. I’m just enjoying myself. I’m playing some good tennis. I’m looking forward to these next weeks.
Last year’s runner up, Justine Henin, has a temperament more like a cold, gray day spent doing your taxes. Grim but virtuous.
Q. What do you take from your performance here last year? Does that help inspire you for this year?
JUSTINE HENIN: You always can take something, a feeling, a bit of experience. But when we talking about experience, that can help. But every tournament is new. A lot of things can happen. You have to be focused on this moment and the future.
Last year was great because it was much more than what I could expect for. I was coming back. I didn’t know really what I could wait from this tournament. It was more than a dream. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to the end. So I have some regrets about last year and the final. But the level I played after being away for a year and a half was just great.
I love to play here. I hope it’s going to help me again this year.
She says her recovery from the elbow injury she sustained at Wimbledon last year is ongoing:
JUSTINE HENIN: I’ll probably need a few more months to be completely free of the pain in my elbow. It doesn’t mean I cannot compete and try to, yeah, be close to my best or what I can produce. But I need matches. I need rhythm. I need a lot of things. But we all know a lot of things can happen.
I need a lot of things. . .again, with the black and white film, moody soundtrack and a shoebox of receipts to sort through.
Maria Sharapova is a little moody, too.
Q. You ended last season as you began it in the rankings. Does it surprise you it’s taken you so long to get back to where you used to be?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: I didn’t know what I would ever be when I was out of the game for a while. I didn’t know if I would ever be back. That was a challenge in itself, just to try to get myself, uhm, back to playing the sport again.
To be honest, on the way back, I never really thought about ranking ’cause every time I stepped on the court when I had an expectation of when I would be back, I would never reach that goal.
For me, it was just about going out there. It certainly took me a lot longer to get back to playing, you know, and the reaction, all the things that the sport requires you to do to get that back.
But it’s still coming along.
At least we have the world’s dumbest press conference question(s) to lighten the mood!
Q. Do you ever hang out with Anna Kournikova?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: You’re the guy from New Zealand, huh?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: Oh, God, you’re stalking me (laughter).
Q. It’s not stalking if you love someone.
MARIA SHARAPOVA: It can be slightly, trust me (laughter).
Q. Is there a hot Russians club where you get together?
MARIA SHARAPOVA: No. I didn’t know I was part of it. But no.
Uh. . .glad to see Sharapova’s laughing: