Friday, July 10, 2009

Grass Court Awards

It's time for the grass season recap, which is actually fairly "short and sweet." You know, like... umm, let's see... Dominika Cibulkova, and the Williams family's annual summer trips to London. Ba-da-bing.

Before getting on with things, though, I thought it'd be telling to give an example of how no matter how different things become, certain perceptions and patterns are bound to stay the same. Only the details seem to change to fit the already-established opinions.

Remember how in the past, when Justine Henin was dominating the sport, she was essentially ignored by the major media because she wasn't as much of a "bright light" as the likes of Maria Sharapova or some of the other multimedia stars on tour? La Petit Taureau would win, people would matter-of-factly acknowledge how good she was, then move on to something else. Then, when she retired, so many chatterers bemoaned how uninteresting the tour had become in her absence, since there wasn't a "true #1" player... paying no mind to the fact that they never thought the tour was much worth talking about when she WAS there. But somehow, since she was gone, the tour was so much LESS in their eyes. How they knew this was a mystery.

As the tour suddenly consisted of a handful of players battling it out for slam titles and the #1 ranking over the past year, those same chatterers lambasted the tour for its lack of a "legit" top player. The "power vacuum" proved how weak the tour's field was, they said.

Since the end of play at the All-England Club, a routine search to find out what the general topics of conversation have been concerning women's tennis will find that, disappointingly but hardly shockingly, they've been one-sided discussions about how weak the women's game must be if the Williamses can make it through to yet another Wimbledon final, how screwed up the WTA tour is since the reigning champ at three slams is ranked #2 (yeah, I brought that one up, too -- and will again -- but at least I think I balance things out with good angles, as well), how lacking Dinara Safina is in terms of champion "qualities" and, get this, how much of an "underachiever" Serena Williams is and how if her butt was a little smaller in past seasons she'd have won more slam titles by now. (No, I'm not kidding about that last one, either.)

So, when there was a "dominant" player, the tour was considered "boring." Then, when there was no dominant player, the "vacuum" made the tour "inconsequential." Now, when there is once again a "dominant" player, and one who had to stare down a match point in a semifinal to win Wimbledon, the tour is "weak" and the should-be #1 is run down for not winning ENOUGH.

Like I said, no matter how often the facts change, the opinions somehow manage to remain the said.

If Victoria Azarenka manages to claim an even more prominant position in the game, the second story about her will be a rant about how much noise she makes when she hits the ball and how her success will only lead to more grunting -- and that the tour needs to make a ruling against it immediately. Oh, sorry... those types of stories are ALREADY out there. It's never too early to get a head start on the next gripe, I guess.


Actually, the only recently-seen area of complaint that I find intriguing is the one brought up in the latest edition of Tennis magazine, which talks about how so many of the women's players play essentially the same type of baseline-hugging, ball-smashing game. It at least has SOME merit, especially when compared to a men's game that has such varied styles as that of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray (and even Andy Roddick, who played something of an amalgam of diverse approaches at Wimbledon).

Now, on with things. Though I guess I just sort of ruined that "short and sweet" thing I was talking about a minute ago, huh?

**Grass Court Awards / Week 23-26*
1. Serena Williams, USA
...#1 everywhere but where the tour says it should count (see, I told you I'd bring it up again).
2. Venus Williams, USA
...without the Wimbledon title, Venus' image just isn't the same.
3. S.Williams/V.Williams, USA/USA
...almost unbeatable.
4. Elena Dementieva, RUS
...she turned around her slumping season at SW19.
5. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
...she won Eastbourne, and continued her upward climb.
HM- Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK & Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
...they won grass titles, even if they were one-and-done participants at Wimbledon.

Wozniacki vs. Kirilenko - right after it was announced that Wozniacki would replace Kirilenko as the sole model for adidas' Stella McCartney-designed line of tennis attire, the Dane knocked off the Russian at Wimbledon. Then, she beat her in Bastad this week, too. Coincidence?

1. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2. Virginie Razzano, FRA
3. Li Na, CHN
4. Agnieszka Radwanska, POL
5. Elena Vesnina, RUS
HM- Gisela Dulko, ARG

1. Magdalena Rybarikova, SVK
2. Sabine Lisicki, GER
3. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
4. Yanina Wickmayer, BEL
5. Melanie Oudin, USA
HM- Stefanie Voegele, SUI & Ekaterina Makarova, RUS

**JUNIORS - 2Q.2**
1. Noppawan Lertcheewakarn, THA
2. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
3. Richel Hogenkamp, NED
4. Timea Babos, HUN
5. Miyabi Inoue, JPN
6. Sloane Stephens, USA
7. Quirine Lemoine, NED
8. Elena Bogdan, ROU
9. Cristina Dinu, ROU
10. Zsofia Susanyi, HUN
HM- Silvia Njiric, CRO & Lesley Kerkhove, NED

1. Melanie Oudin, USA
2. Regina Kulikova, RUS
3. Vania King, USA
4. Alisa Kleybanova/Ekaterina Makarova, RUS/RUS
5. Kristina Kucova/Zuzana Kucova, SVK/SVK
HM- Miyabi Inoue, JPN

1. Elena Dementieva, RUS
2. Tamarine Tanasugarn, THA
3. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
4. Cara Black, ZIM
5. Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ZIM/USA
HM- Samantha Stosur/Rennae Stubbs, AUS/AUS & Roberta Vinci, ITA

1. Sania Mirza, IND
2. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
3. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
HM- Nadia Petrova, RUS

1. Zheng Jie, CHN
2. Laura Robson, GBR
3. Maria Sharapova, RUS
4. Jelena Dokic, AUS
5. Svetlana Kuznetsova, RUS
6. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
7. Alla Kudryavtseva, RUS
8. Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
9. Anna Chakvetadze, RUS
10. Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
HM- Anne Keothavong, GBR & Yan Zi/Zheng Jie, CHN/CHN

**ITF PLAYERS - 2Q.2**
1. Polona Hercog, SLO
2. Maria Elena Camerin, ITA
3. Richel Hogenkamp, NED
4. Zhang Shuai, CHN
5. Ioana-Raluca Olaru, ROU
6. Eva Fernandez-Brugues, ESP
7. Julia Vakulenko, UKR
8. Kristina Kucova/Zuzana Kucova, SVK/SVK
9. Michaella Krajicek, NED
10. Lenka Wienerova, SVK
11. Jacqueline Cako, USA
12. Anna Tatishvili, GEO
13. Elena Bogdan, ROU
14. Valerie Tetreault, CAN
15. Ayu Fani Damayanti, INA
HM- Angelique Kerber, GER

After how poorly she played in the Australian Open final, Dinara Safina looked forward to Paris... until she played even worse in the Roland Garros final. Then, in the third slam of the season, she was ridden out of the Wimbledon SF by Venus Williams in a 6-1/6-0 blowout that really wasn't even THAT close. The U.S. Open offers her a final '09 chance... but to do what, I wonder?

Serena Williams claims both the Wimbledon singles and doubles titles, her second slam sweep of '09
Melanie Oudin makes it through Wimbledon qualifying, then knocks off two seeds (Sybille Bammer & Jelena Jankovic) en route to the Round of 16
Tamarine Tanansugarn wins 's-Hertogenbosch, defeating #1 Safina there for the second straight season, to become the only player to successfully defend a singles title so far in '09
Noppawan Lertcheewkarn sweeps the Wimbledon Girls singles and doubles crowns

Wimbledon SF - S.Williams def. Dementieva
Dementieva mostly outhit and outserved Serena in the longest Wimbledon SF in the Open Era, but when it counted -- like on match point down, when Williams made an I'm-rushing-the-net-no-matter-what, damn-the-torpedoes move that worked out for her -- the ten-time slam champ won, then became an eleven-time slam winner two days later.
Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Safina def. Mauresmo
it was the first match played under the Centre Court roof, but Mauresmo would just as soon forget what might be her last hurrah -- as a contender, or maybe even as a competitor -- at the All-England Club.
Eastbourne SF - Wozniacki def. Wozniak
C-Woz's sprawling shot, from the seat of her pants, on an A-Woz smash fairly well summarizes the "good girls have more fun" vibe that the Dane so expertly gives off when she takes the court.

Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Ivanovic def. Hradecka
After blowing a 3rd set lead (she served at 5-2 and 5-4), AnaIvo ultimately overcomes a match point with a net cord and survives.
Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - Stosur def. Malek
Stosur's comeback was a trilogy. She fell behind a set and a break. Then 3-0 in the 2nd set tie-break. Then 4-1 in the 3rd. But she still won, proving how far her match toughness has come since she decided to focus more on her singles play.
Wimbledon 1st Rd. - Wozniacki def. Date-Krumm
Was it a comeback, or a typical C-Woz match? Against the 38-year old Japanese vet, Wozniacki battled back from a 7-5/3-1 deficit.

Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - Dulko def. Sharapova
For the second straight year, the Supernova exits SW19 after two matches.
Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Oudin def. Jankovic
And American women's tennis finally has a young player to get excited about... but, remarkably, she might actually be the first of a handful.

=The Good=
Magdalena Rybarikova became a first-time tour champion in Birmingham
Caroline Wozniacki won her first grass title in Eastbourne
Lindsay Davenport welcomed daughter Lauren into the world

=The Bad=
Ten years and a day after then-qualifier Jelena Dokic knocked off #1 Martina Hingis in the 1st Round at Wimbledon, Dokic herself was ousted by a qualifier -- Tatjana Malek -- in the 1st Round at Wimbledon

=The Ugly=
Marion Bartoli refuses to shake Virginie Razzano's hand after retiring against her in the Eastbourne SF, citing her countrywoman's comments in an interview where she essentially said that Bartoli would do anything and bend any rule to win a match
The (still) overblown grunting "controversy"

=The "We'll See"=
Ana Ivanovic breaks with coach Craig Kardon, then has a nice Wimbledon result
Jelena Jankovic links up with coach Chip Hooper, who was known for his super serve in the 1980's

=And "Nice T"=
In the old spirit of former t-shirt sloganeer Sania Mirza, in her post-Wimbledon final press conference, Serena Williams sported a tight t-shirt that cheekily asked, "Are you starting at my titles?"

*SERENA LAUGHS LAST but maybe not best*
"(Safina's) had a great year. She won Rome and Madrid. (pause) Hahahahahahaha." - Serena Williams

Hmmm, looks like Serena hasn't quite perfected the Federer-esque way to subtly put an opponent in their place without sounding like a bit of a jerk, though I don't think it was ever her intention to attempt to emulate that style in the first place.

Oh, well. Onto North America.

All for now.


Blogger Diane said...

Well said, Todd. The tour has its flaws, for sure, but the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" attitude toward it is crazy-making.

Sat Jul 11, 04:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

One other one: Jankovic was derided last year for not living up to her ranking, then when she was playing as well or better than anyone down the stretch last year it didn't get that much attention. But, right on schedule, as soon as her fortunes dipped a bit this year she was thrown up as another poster child for what's "wrong" with the tour all over again.

Also, as good of a story as it would be if Clijsters is a success when she returns this season, it'll likely be portrayed as being an example of how bad the tour is since a player can sit out two years and be immediately in the mix once again when she returns.

Sat Jul 11, 06:18:00 PM EDT  

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