Wednesday, July 06, 2011

2011 Grass Court Awards: Anything But Ordinary

It's always a great thing when a young player blossoms in the crucible that is grand slam tennis.

"I'm playing for so many years, so this is, we say, the cherry on the cake."
-- Petra Kvitova

After Petra Kvitova had squandered a 3-0 lead in her 3rd set of her Round of 16 match in Paris against eventual Roland Garros champ Li Na, I pondered the Czech's career station at Clay Court Awards time saying this:

"She flashed brilliance -- as she often does when she's "on" -- in winning Madrid, smashing Li (SF) and Azarenka (Final) en route. But one bad half-set in Paris against Li might have cost her a chance for a career-defining moment on Chatrier a few rounds later. Her streaky quality is still an issue, but in a field where "flash" is highly valued, but rare, the Czech is a threat to crash through the slam door at any time on the sheer force of her game, if she could just hold it together for seven matches. Hmmm, she's sort of a lefty version of Sharapova in that way."

So, it was sort of fitting that Kvitova's star-making run to the Wimbledon title was highlighted by a dominating win over Maria Sharapova in the Ladies final. Over the course of the past year, Kvitova's potential has often been stunningly apparent, but exactly WHEN she'd put it all together and put on a serious slam run was the question. With as cool a performance as the WTA has seen by a young champion since, conservatively, Sharapova on the grass in '04 (Monica Seles some twenty years ago, though, might be the more apt comparison), it happened at the All-England Club and -- poof! -- all those questions about the viability of the "worst" tennis generation went up in flames in less than two hours on a Saturday afternoon in southwest London. Better yet, the now-leading member of the current "NextGen" contenders was joined in the SW19 semifinals by two fellow 21-year olds in the very first example of "group think" by the twentysomething set in women's tennis in the face of several seasons of slams being dominated by players, some more heralded than others, in their late twenties and beyond.

"I think we're seeing the new players taking charge. Most of all, they're playing to win. That's what I like to see: they're not scared out there. They're playing forceful tennis." - Martina Navratilova

Kvitova's hard-serving, aggressive game plays well on all surfaces (she's won titles on everything in '11), but since the grass courts seem to fit it so perfectly, there's still at least a little question about whether or not she'll be able to carry over her Wimbledon success to immediately achieve the same level of accomplishment at the other slams. There's no reason that it won't happen in the near future, but whether it'll happen NOW is just another of the steps toward potentially challenging to be a truly great champion that we'll now be able to watch Kvitova atttempt to master as quickly as possible.

So far, she's been a pretty quick study. And from a teacher's daughter, too. Go figure. In other words, at this point, it'd be difficult to be surprised if she picks things elsewhere with the same frightening swiftness she displayed in London.

*2011 Grass Court Awards - Wks.23-26*
1. Petra Kvitova, CZE

...when was the last time a young first-time women's slam champion was so immediately lavished with the sort of overwhelming praise that the Czech has received since winning the Wimbledon final in such comprehensive fashion? Of course, the compliments and predictions of even more and greater honors are coming with good reason, since Kvitova has done nothing but set a brilliant example for the rest of the players of her generation when it comes to having the necessary on-court mindset to seize a big stage opportunity, as well as an off-court personality that won't likely become distracted or be content with the notion that since she's already accomplished something early in her career it means she doesn't need to still get better, let alone the sort of career-stalling presumptuousness that she has the luxury of time to "play around" with the idea of improving, as if the tennis world owes her a shining slam moment just because she shows up every week. In London, Kvitova reminded us what true champions are SUPPOSED to do, and used to with regularity. It's a pity that such a thing has become a rarity in recent years for anyone not named Serena or Justine.
2. Sabine Lisicki, GER
...Kvitova ended up stealing a bit of the Baroness' "new face" glory in the end, but her winning smile, refeshing personality and big serve have finally brought her back to the place she was two years ago, when she was knocking on the door of the Top 20 and picking up more fans with every big win. Cross your fingers that the Tennis Gods are through with turning Murphy's Law into "Lisicki's Law" and will now allow her to live up to her potential.
3. Maria Sharapova, RUS
...the progress toward a Supernovic rebirth moved a little bit closer to a real payoff in London. A few more months on hard courts, and Sharapova might finally be ready to be exquisite once again. Well, that is, assuming her serve doesn't stick its foot out and trip up her just before the finish line one more time.
4. Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
...the best doubles team -- and probabably the two best active doubles players -- without a slam Doubles title managed to remove their names from the top of that list, just months after Dulko & Pennetta had done the same in Melbourne.
5. Marion Bartoli, FRA
...arguably no player put forth as much sweat and effort as La Trufflette during the grass court season and, in retrospect, her Eastbourne final win over Kvitova can be seen as either a truly monumental result for the Pastry, or the "last straw" that finally taught the Czech how to concentrate for seven straight matches. Even as the younger generation begins to assert itself more in future slams, if there's a veteran player who could hit her peak and "steal" a slam over the next season or two, it might just be Bartoli.
6. Victoria Azarenka, BLR's Azarenka's luck in a nutshell: in a season in which she's never played better, she's still had a hard time staying on the court. Then, in the slam in which she finally held herself together well enough to reach her first career major semifinal, she ran head-first into another young player with more game, more calm and even more potential than the Belarusian might ever be capable of attaining. If Caroline Wozniacki is the "Andy Murray" of the women's tour, what is Azarenka's comparable role going to be? That of the women's "Andy Roddick?"
7. Roberta Vinci, ITA
...the epitome of the "late bloomers" now populating so many corners of the tour, the Italian won only one title before her 26th birthday. In the two and a half seasons since, she's won four, including her first grass court crown last month in the Netherlands.
8. Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
...rarely has a player been so regularly disappointing for fifty weeks a year, but also so surprising for the other two, as Pironkova has been when it comes to Wimbledon the last two seasons. After her stunning SF run of '10, then equally as shocking disappearing act, who would have guessed that she'd return to SW19 and reach the QF, upsetting Vera Zvonareva and Venus Williams (for the second straight year) in the process?
9. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
...the Slovak has never won a singles title, but she can always be counted on to pull off a few big results every season. She had several on the grass, reaching the SF (and the Doubles final) in the Netherlands, then knocking off #1 Wozniacki en route to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
10. Iveta Benesova, CZE
...the Mixed Doubles champion at Wimbledon, Benesova quietly put an emphatic period at the end of the dominating sentence written by the Czechs at this Wimbledon.

"She was a total champion. (Yet) she is just an ordinary girl. She's standing with both feet on the ground. And I think that's very, very important for success in these matches." - David Kotyza, Kvitova's coach

1. Sabine Lisicki, GER
2. Marion Bartoli, FRA
3. Victoria Azarenka, BLR
4. Dominika Cibulkova, SVK
5. Elena Vesnina, RUS
6. Sania Mirza/Elena Vesnina, IND/RUS
7. Peng Shuai, CHN
8. Marina Erakovic, NZL
9. Sabine Lisicki/Samantha Stosur, GER/AUS
10. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
HN- Elena Baltacha, GBR

1. Tamira Paszek, AUT
2. Ksenia Pervak, RUS
3. Misaki Doi, JPN
4. Lesia Tsurenko, UKR
5. Laura Robson, GBR
6. Irina Falconi, USA
7. Alexa Glatch, USA
8. Ashleigh Barty, AUS (jr)
9. Kristyna Pliskova, CZE
10. Irina Khromacheva, RUS (jr)
11. Indy de Vroome, NED (jr)
12. Valeria Diatchenko, RUS
13. Caroline Garcia, FRA (jr)
14. Krista Hardebeck, USA (jr)
15. Eugenie Bouchard/Grace Min, CAN/USA
16. Demi Schuurs, NED (jr)
17. Yulia Putintseva, RUS (jr)
18. Victoria Duval, USA (jr)
19. Montserrat Gonzalez, PAR (jr)
20. Anna Mamalat, USA (jr)

1. Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
2. Petra Cetkovska, CZE
3. Marina Erakovic/Tamarine Tanasugarn, NZL/THA
4. Romina Oprandi, ITA
5. Stephanie Dubois, CAN
HM- Camila Giorgi, ITA

1. Kveta Peschke/Katarina Srebotnik, CZE/SLO
2. Marion Bartoli, FRA
3. Roberta Vinci, ITA
4. Iveta Benesova, CZE
5. Daniela Hantuchova, SVK
6. Nadia Petrova, RUS
7. Serena Williams, USA
8. Tamarine Tanasguarn, THA
9. Jelena Dokic, AUS
10. Francesca Schiavone, ITA
11. Kimiko Date-Krumm, JPN
12. Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez, ESP
13. Klara Zakopalova, CZE
14. Eleni Daniilidou, GRE
15. Venus Williams, USA

1. Maria Sharapova, RUS
2. Sabine Lisicki, GER
3. Tsvetana Pironkova, BUL
4. Aleksandra Wozniak, CAN
5. Nadia Petrova, RUS
6. Serena Williams, USA
7. Ana Ivanovic, SRB
8. Venus Williams, USA
9. Kateryna Bondarnko, UKR
10. Alona Bondarenko, UKR

"To this day, I don't know (how sliced foot at Munich restaurant last July). It's like the biggest mystery next to the Loch Ness Monster." - Serena Williams

1. Caroline Wozniacki, DEN
2. Samantha Stosur, AUS
3. Jelena Jankovic, SRB
4. Shahar Peer, ISR
5. Kaia Kanepi, EST
6. Kim Clijsters, BEL
7. Vera Zvonareva, RUS
8. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, USA
9. Daria Gavrilova, RUS (jr)
10. Vania King/Yaroslava Shvedova, USA/KAZ
HM- Li Na, CHN

"During the injury process, I was setting a lot of timetables for myself, and I never really met those goals. I don't think there's a certain point where you say, 'Oh, I'm back.' I mean, I don't have that much self-esteem. I don't think anyone really does." - Maria Sharapova

**ITF PLAYERS (non-grass)**
1. Anna Tatishvili, GEO
2. Pauline Parmentier, FRA
3. Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, AUT
4. Marta Domachowska, POL
5. Kristina Mladenovic, FRA
6. Timea Babos, HUN
7. Bibiane Schoofs, NED
8. Lauren Davis, USA
9. Victoria Larriere, FRA
10. Luksika Kumkhum, THA

"I was really surprised about how she thinks about tennis, how clever she is. She told me her advantages, disadvantages, what she has to improve. Her brain is a big advantage for this game." - David Kotyza, speaking about being wowed by several pages of handwritten answers -- which he's kept to this day -- that Kvitova supplied for a questionaire he gave her two and a half years ago when he first began working with her

1. Who else? Petra Kvitova wins Wimbledon, knocking down a slew of "first champion since" markers -- including first lefty at Wimbledon since '90, Czech at Wimbledon since '98 and youngest in a slam since '04, as she's the first champ born in the 1990's -- and settinh the bar for all the other "underachieving" players of her generation to aspire to clear one day. A year ago, Kvitova entered Wimbledon with a 0-4 career record on grass. She's 16-2 since. There's that short learning curve I was talking about earlier.

2. Sabine Lisicki "comes back to us" on the grass, erasing her bad Paris memories while reviving all the two-year old hope for her that was thwarted by injury and illness since late '09. First, she sweeps through Birmingham without droppoing a set, then reaches the Wimbledon semifinals as a wild card after producing maybe the best moment of the fortnight -- her back-to-back-to-back-to-back kill serves against Li Na in the 2nd Round that turned a defeat into a victory on sheer force of suggestion through the match's closing games.
3. Maria Sharapova returns to the Wimbledon final for the first time since her career breakthrough title run at SW19 in 2004. It's her first slam final appearance in three and a half years, as well as the first since her career-threatening shoulder surgery.
4. Marion Bartoli wins in Eastbourne, outlasting both Victoria Azarenka (an eventual Wimbledon semifinalist) and Kvitova en route. She then carries her momentum over to Wimbledon, surviving a pair of dramatic matches and upsetting Serena Williiams on her way to the quarterfinals.
5. Czechs rule at Wimbledon, as the Maidens win Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles crowns. A season ago, it was Czechette Kristyna Pliskova who grabbed the Girls title at SW19, as well.
HM- Ashleigh Barty wins the Wimbledon Girls title, becoming the first Aussie to take the junior title in London since Debbie Freeman in '80, and the first Australian girl to win any slam singles crown since Jelena Dokic at the U.S. Open in '98.

"(My emotions are) over the moon." - Sabine Lisicki, after her 2nd Round Wimbledon upset of #3-seeded Li Na

1. Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - Lisicki d. Li
The German Baroness discovers her "inner Boris Becker," pulling out her booming serve to escape a match point down hole by smashing four consecutive 120 mph bombs -- two of them for aces -- to hold. Possibly mentally shaken by such a display, #3 seeded Li ends up losing five of the final six games of the match.
2. Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - V.Williams d. Date-Krumm
In the first full women's match under the Centre Court roof, Williams began with a double-fault on the first point, and things never got any easier against the 40-year old from Japan. Ultimately, Venus' serve acted as a last line of defense, providing just enough oomph to allow her to inch past KDK when the veteran allowed a few errors to creep into her game in the closing moments of the 2:55 match.
3. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Bartoli d. Pennetta
Riding a wave of arguments with the chair umpire and her own parents (she ordered them to leave the stands), Bartoli battled back from a break down in the 3rd to win in 3:09 in a match where the two women combined for 110 winners.
4. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Paszek d. Schiavone
Three years after defeating a then-teenaged Paszek in a 10-8 3rd set at Wimbledon, Schiavone found herself in tooth-and-nail combat with the Austrian yet again. This time, though, it was Paszek who survived, even as Schiavone twice served for the match at 8-7 and 9-8. At 3:41, the match came up just five minutes short of becoming the longest women's contest in Wimbledon history.
5. Eastbourne 2nd Rd. - Zvonareva d. S.Williams
Showing her rust from a 49-week absence, Serena failed to put away the match while serving at 6-3/5-4. After neary coming back from a 5-2 3rd set deficit, Williams saved three match points before finally falling to the Russian.
HM- Eastbourne Final - Bartoli d. Kvitova
In a match in which the momentum shifted on multiple occasions, Kvitova provided an example to herself of how her walkabout tendencies can endanger a match. Judging by what happened at Wimbledon, she seems to have learned a great deal from the experience.

"When you know how good it feels to lift the big trophies -- the ones you really want in your career -- and when you know how good you can play, I always felt I could be better. That's why I never had the interest in stopping. I always felt like I had a lot better things in me." - Maria Sharapova, on how she remained focused, and never considered giving up, during her comeback from rotator cuff surgery

1. Wimbledon 3rd Rd. - Pironkova d. Zvonareva 6-2/6-3
Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Pironkova d. V.Williams 6-2/6-3
apparently, "6-2/6-3" is Pironkova's "lucky number" combination. Not only did she defeat both Vera and Venus by that scoreline, but it was also the final score in her '10 upset of Williams in the Wimbledon QF.
2. 's-Hertogenbosch 2nd Rd. - Oprandi d. Clijsters
Clijsters' feast-or-famine pattern continues, as this loss to qualifier Oprandi was quickly followed by news of a foot injury -- after wrist/shoulder and ankle/toe ailments pretty much obliterated her clay court season -- would cause her to miss Wimbledon. How much longer is she going to put up with this?
3. Wimbledon 4th Rd. - Cibulkova d. Wozniacki
There's more than one way to skin a Dane, and Cibulkova finally found it in the 3rd. Not that it's a new revelation -- be aggressive. She was, and Wozniacki wilted once again in the face of an opponent willing to dare her to give back as well as she receives.

"It's just been a long, arduous road. To stand up, still, is pretty awesome." - Serena Williams, on her return after a nearly year-long absence following foot lacerations, two operations, clots in her lungs, and emergency surgery to remove an embolism

1. Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - Bartoli d. Dominguez-Lino
Battling illness, Bartoli survived LDL serving at 6-4/5-4, as well as a coaching warning. Oh, and she saved three match points, too.
2. Wimbledon 2nd Rd. - Cetkovska d. A.Radwanska
A-Rad led 6-3/5-4 30/30. We probably don't want to know what her father said about that.

"I don't think this is the only time she'll win here. It's very exciting. A new star." - Martina Navratilova, on Kvitova

"I think her potential is now!" - Amelie Mauresmo, on Kvitova

"Petra Kvitova." The affirmative answer to any questions about the dearth of "achieving" players in the WTA's current generation of young twentysomethings. At least for the next six months or so... and maybe for quite a few years, too.
Chris Evert on ESPN2... even if she does often have to share a studio with Hannah Storm
Apparently, Sabine Lisicki's personal letter to the All-England Club requesting a wild card into the main draw
Three 21-year olds reaching the Wimbledon semifinals... and the youngest of the three winning the title
Serena and Venus back on the court.

"I can only get better. And that can potentially be really scary because I can only go up from here, and I can just do so much more." - Serena Williams

Shahar Peer becoming the first seed to be dumped out of Wimbledon, making it two consecutive slams in which she's achieved such a "dishonor"
Jelena Jankovic losing in the 1st Round at Wimbledon, giving the former world #1 her worst slam result in six years
The Sisters being relegated to Court 2 at Wimbledon. Even if other top players are sometimes sent there, none of them had won nine of the last eleven Ladies titles.

Both Venus and Serena Williams lost in the 4th Round on "unlucky" Day 7, leaving Wimbledon on the same day for the first time... and making the defeat of world #1 Caroline Wozniacki on that same Monday the "B" story for the day in the women's draw.

"Definitely not our best day." - Venus Williams, after she immediately followed up Serena's 4th Round Wimbledon loss with her own

Caroline Wozniacki, never having met a tournament she can't play, readies for the grass of Wimbledon by playing an indoor hard court event a week after Roland Garros. Naturally, she fails to advance to the QF in London. Having "learned her lesson"... or not... she's the only Top 20 player who decided to play a red clay event in Bastad a week after Wimbledon, leading into the pre-U.S. Open hard court circuit. Hardly shocking, the inevitable happened in the 2nd Round this week as the overscheduled world #1 magically morphed into Victoria Azarenka when she retired with a shoulder injury after taking the 1st set. You should never wish any sort of injury -- even a minor one -- on any player, but maybe such karmic "tough love" is just the sort of thing that the Dane needs to save herself.

"I don't care what people think or say or do." - Caroline Wozniacki, showing that she's willing to listen to and consider all opinions when it comes to making herself a better player. Or not.

Kim Clijsters misses Wimbledon due to injury. Will she even make it to the Olympics next summer?

Hmmm... has it ever crossed anyone else's mind that maybe Serena and Venus Williams get along so well with Caroline Wozniacki off the court because they know they have nothing to fear from her on it? Just a wild thought.

=THE ATTENTION GRABBING... and then the (old) usual=

Bethanie Mattek-Sands garners headlines by donning tennis-related outfits designed by Lady Gaga's designer, but then flames out on the court in the 1st Round at Wimbledon. Unfortunately, it was just like "old times."

"Well, you just have to shut up and stop complaining because you have a pretty damn good life." - Victoria Azarenka, talking about the perspective she learned after talking with her hardworking grandmother, when she briefly questioned her tennis career

Addition by subtraction never sounded so sweet. The All-England Club elects to dump NBC as its American television partner, ending a 43-year relationship that included the creation of "Breakfast at Wimbledon" and the first live U.S. coverage of the men's final back in 1979, a production decision that helped to popularize the sport. Ironically, and sadly, the same network that revolutionized tennis coverage ultimately became an insult to the sport, producing a tape-delayed schedule of some of the tournament's biggest matches in order to avoid having to mess with the morning "Today" show a few days out of the year. Enter ESPN/ESPN2 in a 12-year deal to air the ENTIRE event, including simultaneous live network coverage on both channels of ALL quarterfinal matches starting next year. You know, the round that last year would have included that Kvitova/Kanepi match where the champion-one-year-later saved five match points in a contest that, had it aired on ESPN2 or NBC, might have made the Czech a bit better-known quantity in some corners twelve months ago.

Of course, Petra took care of all that this year. Thank goodness for her... and not just because her example means a certain Backspinner no longer feels compelled to coddle a certain Dane quite so much anymore, either.

"I don't want to change, I just want to be like everyone else. I'm nothing special." - Petra Kvitova

=UPDATED 2011 "Ms.Backspin" RANKINGS=
[w/ previous rank]
1. Petra Kvitova (4)...leading the way
2. Li Na (1)...she had a BAD Wimbledon draw
3. Kim Clijsters (2)...holding on, barely
4. Maria Sharapova (11)...a summer-ending Supernova?
5. Caroline Wozniacki (3)...still a "regular season" monster, but a "postseason" disaster
6. Victoria Azarenka (5)...finally, a big step forward
7. Russian & Czech Republic FC Teams (6) be continued
8. Peschke/Srebotnik (--)...overdue slam champs
9. Marion Bartoli (9)...she'll take on anyone, even family
10. Dulko/Pennetta (7)...still the #1-ranked team
HM- Andrea Petkovic (14)...can she stay ahead of countrywoman Lisicki?

1. Maria Sharapova: might need some help, though
2. Serena Williams: has something to prove. Again.
3. Petra Kvitova: now we'll see how much better she's learned to handle success
4. Kim Clijsters: she should have a little more (less self-destructing) competition
5. Victoria Azarenka: as long as she avoids pre-match accidents this time
6. Li Na: her best surface has been hard courts
7. A German: Lisicki, Petkovic or Goerges will likely fill the now-regular (finally!) German slam Final-8-or-better slot
8. Vera Zvonareva: looking for a slam bounce-back
9. Venus Williams: she reached the semis in '10
10. Caroline Wozniacki: the "dull blade" principle
HM- Marion Bartoli: still looking for her Open breakthrough

Entitlement isn't in Kvitova's tennis vocabulary. A great champion is never satisfied, and should always be actively trying to improve. That's why it's hard to NOT be in a very good mood when Kvitova says things like this when she's asked about what she has to improve upon after winning her first slam title:

"It's everything. Learning fitness. My serve. We have a lot of work." - Petra Kvitova

See, (insert underachieving young player's name here), while it's not easy, it's also really not as complicated as you make it out to be.

All for now.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

well this time you disappoint me - quite a lot - never seen you have so many negative statements about my babe. She doesn't deserve this:

"There's more than one way to skin a Dane" starting out in your normal funny way - OK.

"The unsurprising" - warming up and of course i disagree with you.

"Naturally, she fails to advance" - don't see any natural in that - and if you think it's because she played in Copenhagen - no way. How did she start in Wimbledon wobbly - try to watch the games again -straight set wins first 3 games and she played well compared to what you saw other players do. You continue "learned her lesson"... or not." not easy for me to see your point unless you think that she's not able to think. "decided to play a red clay event in Bastad" YES her only international event in second half of 2011 in front of her many fans - you have an obligation to play like she did in Copenhagen in front of her first homecrowd - the ONLY international in first half she could play so no more Mickey Mouse tournaments for her the rest of the year. "Over scheduled" you say like many other players on tour try to have a look at the tours THIS year. "world #1 magically morphed into Victoria Azarenka" come on her first injury in 2011. What do you call the Clijster, Williams and other players injury. You continue ".still a "regular season" monster, but a "postseason" disaster" I'm sorry who has done something to your breakfast and what on earth do you mean. And you are not finished with that "Caroline Wozniacki: the "dull blade" principle" Thank you very much. I really hope you got it all out and try to get back on you NORMAL funny you because this was not funny reading - at least not to me. Well now I got my frustrations out. I still think you are/were to hard on her - try to write something nice for her birthday 11th of July. You are welcome to be bard on me if you think I've totally misunderstood you.

Thu Jul 07, 05:02:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Will said...

So you think it's good that Chris Evert is allowed to repeatedly get facts wrong (thinking that Serena Williams got good calls on bad shots and won that USO match against Capriati; referring to "bad blood" between Venus Williams and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez during their Wimbledon match because of an incident at the French that actually involved Serena) and openly rooting for Roger Federer and booing Rafael Nadal? I know she's no journalist, but commentators shouldn't be so a) misinformed and b) biased.

Thu Jul 07, 10:55:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Jeppe said...

Cheers Hoergren,

I agree that Caroline has been receiving quite a lot of stick here lately, but I believe it is an expression of disappointment rather than dislike?

That said, I don't like the way Caroline's "I don't care ..."-quote is taken further and further away from its original context, which had nothing to do with improving her game but was in fact an answer to a version of the very familiar ranking question:

Q. Anytime the No. 1 loses before the semis and finals, people start talking about what it means. How do you sort of see that in terms of where you are at the top and what it means for you going forward?

CAROLINE WOZNIACKI: Well, to be honest, I don't really care what people think or say or do. You know, I cannot really do anything now. I did my best and it wasn't good enough.

Thu Jul 07, 12:14:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First - you can put a lot of criticism in a positive way instead of using quite ironic statements which can be misunderstood as I maybe did - sorry about that - and if you put enough of those statements - which must be from Todd self - then I get a bit sour. I never do that when I comment different players - just have a look at forums where I've posted a lot. Tennis players are in a hard game and doing their best. Sometimes it goes wrong and if you are a top 3 player the wolves are over you. We have all our favorites but we can be a little more respectfull about the different players. Second it's always a bit irritating that people are unknown about the WTA rules as many commentators are - not accusing you Todd - they have disrespect for everything else but slams - and why it's so I don't know - really. If you look at the list of players in Toronto ALL top players (inclusive Serena whom they got into the draw by setting a special date for seeding - before the new rankings - smart). Toronto was a very good tournament also last year but this year - wow.
Third - you are right not the best way to comment own defeat by saying I don't care.... But again who can blame her. She was playing 3 pretty good games in Wimbledon and was more or less neglected in the media and by the tournament - that's disrespect to me. It was a matter of not using the chances that threw her out, not because she couldn't play on grass which I think she got used to from day one despite her hard court tour the week before. Remember the rusty games we saw in Eastbourne and in Holland - she didn't show that. I'm sure she will think about her comments. SO no it was not a good comment.

Fri Jul 08, 06:58:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Jeppe, you hit it right on the head, because I've noticed my growing antipathy -- or at least weariness -- toward Wozniacki as the season has gone on. It's totally because of my disappointment in her. Not in how she generally performs on a weekly basis (it's hard to argue with her success in racking up titles) but because she's not doing the things necessary to put herself in a better position to succeed in the only tournaments where she has something left to prove -- in the slams.

Hoergren, you missed another passing reference to Wozniacki when I was talking about certain "entitlement" qualities that Kvitova doesn't possess. I wasn't really trying to hide my notion -- and haven't for a while -- that Wozniacki still seems to play as if she's got all the time in the world to get better, and that she'll win a slam just because she's succeeded at each level as she's progressed through her tennis career. Maybe, at 20, she does have actual CALENDAR time, but if the uprising of the other more powerful players that occurred at Wimbledon continues to progress, there's nothing that says she might not have already missed out on her best chance to win slams. Time ticks by slowly, but "windows of opportunity" close far more quickly, especially for a player who isn't the sort who can naturally physically impose herself on an opponent at will (ala Serena or Kvitova), leading one to believe that the opportunities will be abundant for such a player over the course of a career. While Wozniacki was content with not yet fully committing to fixing what "wasn't broken," being content with winning smaller tournaments, everyone else has gotten better, and she looks less and less like a contender at the biggest events when ALL the best players stand between her and a title. She can change that with a lot of work, and occasionally seems to have a wild hair to try to do more in a particular match, but, at this point, it's not part of her every-match mindset, and I'd be lying if I said I still have anything resembling the full confidence in her that I once had when it comes to her eventually doing what's best for her tennis.

Okay, I admit that I probably took a few wide-open opportunities to knock Caroline over the head a few times over the past week.

(...head down at a bashful angle, kicking at imaginary stone on the ground...)

But, really, I feel like the time for it has come, especially since I've sometimes bent over backwards trying to keep alive scenarios that maintain her slam viability. To be honest, I'm kind of bored with doing that... or is it that my head hurts from banging it on the table so many times to no avail? I'm not going to wear rose-colored glasses (I didn't do that with Dokic back in the day, either, and I had a far more vested interest there than I do with Wozniacki). The landscape changed at Wimbledon. In my eyes, it's no longer about what she has to do to win a slam, or how close she might be. At least at this particular moment in time, it's become about whether she's already missed out on her chance. At least Ivanovic seized ONE opportunity, and she can hold that up when things are said and done (it's a good thing, since it's difficult for anyone to really think she'll ever win another major at this point). If the twentysomethings all feed off each other -- as happened with the Russians when they first started winning big titles seven years ago -- Wozniacki risks being squeezed right out of the picture by this time next year.

Fri Jul 08, 09:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

As far as her schedule. I'm sorry, it's just "typical" that a week after a slam the ONLY Top 20 playing this week was her. Obviously, other top players are playing at other International events in the 2nd half, but doing so at more advantageous times and places, after giving themselves a little rest, and being able to use the outing as an Open tuneup, rather than as just another "Mickey Mouse" (Hoergren's words) stop on tour. A great deal of the Copenhagen blame rests on the tour itself, which should never have put it in that slot on the calendar, but it's not a small issue that players like Nadal and Djokovic passed up on Davis Cup duties immediately after Wimbledon. Kvitova, too, pulled out of next week's event in Germany citing the "leg injury" that she played pretty well with for the last two weeks. Players have to watch out for themselves, even if it might hurt a few feelings (even fans back home), because the tour isn't going to do it for them (see Copenhagen). I mentioned last year a worry that Wozniacki might be "too" nice and not want to disappoint anyone, thus never saying "no" to anything. She needs to learn how to do that, for her own good.

Even after saying she was going to cut back on her schedule after last season, she hasn't. From what I can tell (based on my notes), at this point a year ago she'd played in about 14 events. So far in '11, I think she's been in 15 (counting FC). She'd had around 45 matches through twenty-seven weeks then, and has over 60 this year. Even if her event totals are compable to some other players, with her, 2+2=5. Her consistency is her undoing. Where as some other players who play as many tournaments are often one or two matches and out, she's pretty much always in the SF or final. That's three, four or five mathes each time out. One tournament for her is like two or three to a lot of other players.

As far as some other points, taken in no particular order:

-- I said "naturally" because Wozniacki generally always performs well in tournaments before slams, usually winning a title, but it's been two years since she's reached a slam final. Maybe if she didn't tire herself out beforehand, she be able to maintain her early round level of player throughout the two week stretch.

-- for a player who's done as much as Wozniacki has in the "regular" season, the slams do mean more. Sharapova had it right the other day when she called the slam trophies "the ones you really want in your career." At this point, Wozniacki is beyond the point of needing to rack up small titles to prove her worth to herself or others. The next frontier for her is obvious, but hardly anything she does points to an understanding about how precisely to put herself in the best position to pull it off at this point.

-- yeah, Wozniacki played well in the early rounds at Wimbledon, but it means nothing if she's going to be outhit and "out-aggresived" by a player who's never won a title when it truly matters in a slam match. Matches like that coming on occasion is going to happen, but it's become troublingly common in '11.

-- I said she "morphed into Azarenka" because she was leading the match when she retired. Nothing more. It think it just souded worse because of the comments elsewhere. :)

-- the "dull blade" reference was referring back to the I.Q. post when I talked about her needing to whack down a lot of tall weeds in the slams, but because every win for Wozniacki in those sort of matches takes so much work the chances of her winning enough of them to take a slam makes it seems as if she's doing her yardwork with a "dull blade."

Fri Jul 08, 09:29:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

-- I heard and saw Wozniacki give her "I don't care" quote. And, yeah, it doesn't sound as bad as it reads, but, as I noted in a post last week, "at best," it still comes off as defensive and overly weary. Of course, that's to be understood, since she's been answering the same question for so long. It probably came off as being presented a bit out of context because of where I placed it in the post, right after another Wozniacki section (and with my bit of smartass sarcasm). But I think the point in my mind was that as she's continue to run in place, or fall back a step, in the slams, Wozniacki's comments have gone from being totally positive, as she normally is, to sounding more and more defeated and frustrated. I've always thought the "harm" in her would overtake the "charm" when it truly mattered, but maybe not.

Wozniacki has so many good qualities, and many very similar to that of Clijsters. She's eager to please and nice. That never worked for me with Clijsters, but it mostly has with Wozniacki. To a point. I didn't really come to a "truce" with Kim until she finally lived up to her potential in KC II. I just want to see Wozniacki be as good as she can be. Nothing gripes me more about a player than if they waste that opportunity by continuing to run head-first into the same brick walls without doing something different to try to change the dynamic of the situation. Wozniacki's been wearing a path directly into a wall over the past year, and it's become very tiresome to watch... and the only thing I watch reruns of and enjoy as much as ever is the old comedy series "M*A*S*H." I hope she comes up with something new, and I'll give her that time (about five more slams) before "giving up hope." But her slam clock is ticking quite a bit faster than she might think.

Thanks for the heads-up about Wozniacki's birthday. Since it doesn't look like any of this weekend's results will be big enough to focus on, maybe I'll come up with something around that for Monday.


Yeah, I know Evert was hardly perfect during the tournament. Not that that makes her unique amongst the ESPN2 crew. I was just glad to see her on air. I decided to not harp on some of her mistakes since it was her first time on air in about a decade, but surely one would like her to "close a few of those loopholes" the more work she puts in.

Fri Jul 08, 09:31:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Jeppe said...

I enjoy it when this place goes into Wozniology!

The latest news is of course that Caroline travelled to Båstad without Piotr and bailed out in the second round against Arvidsson with an (imaginary?) shoulder injury. I'm sure many will see the later as the 'smart' thing to do in her situation, but it really disappointed me, not only because I had taken a day of work and planned to go to Båstad for the QFs, but also because I'm definately not a fan of convenient withdrawals and retirements.

I believe 10+ players withdrew late from the Budapest draw this week, and that Kvitova's withdrawal from Gastein next week is her fourth in 2011. It is so not good for the tour and the smaller tournaments.

Sat Jul 09, 01:27:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well well Todd THAT was a lot better now your frustrationa came out in a good way where you argue about your opinion - or better explain it. In many of your observations you are right and just keep on analyzing in that way - it's great - and maybe leave it to the caveman if you are trying to be witty/ironic then I know in what mood you are in.

What has happened in the Wozzy world? lemme see - sorry to repeat something Jeppe said:
Went to Baastad WITHOUT her father - he was sent on holiday.
Talks about it - in the Danish blog:
"I know there are many who criticize me and who want, among other things I need to change coach. It is a period when I walk around and think my thoughts on what should happen in the future," writes Caroline Wozniacki on her blog at
She continues:
Wozniacki admits indeed that the thoughts about relocating in her team are hard.

"The period I have to go through now is not easy, that's why I will take my precautions, how to make myself ready for the challenges ahead," the Danish world #1 writes.

and later that day she wrote this on Twitter ittells us that she is back in her good mood:

"Guess they don't call me sunshine for nothing:) feels like the sun is shining everywhere I go lately;) "

So Todd MAYBE there is a reason to have an eye on her after all ;-) If you have some good things to say to her birthday I'll pass it on to the Danish Wozniacki blog - if i may?

PS. Why are you so keen on Kvitova she'll not perform well on hard court - my prediction.

PPS. I didn't see any "foul" play about her injury. I saw the match and it was quite clear when she made the wrong move you can't simulate that - so injury was an injury NO doubt about that and it was repeated many times. When a fiber goes it hurts like hell you should know that fromyourselves I guess - had a fiber years ago and it took 10 days (about) to recover and it was painfull.

Sat Jul 09, 01:54:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Going through Petrova, Pervak, Cibulkova, Pavlyuchenkova, and Petkovic to win a hard court title wasn't too bad a performance. She took out Stosur and Pennetta before falling to Zvonareva in Melbourne. Grass may be her best surface, but I don't see Kvitova as having a "not good" surface, whereas hard court is certainly Wozniacki's best surface.

Sun Jul 10, 02:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Well, here I go again deciding to cut off the Wozniacki newstream into my head for a few days -- just to keep the lambs from screaming any louder -- and there's some good news I miss.

I'm glad that she went to Sweden without Piotr. If for nothing else, it shows some independence and that she at least knows SOMETHING has to change. And, anyway, winning grand slams isn't supposed to be "easy," after all.

As far as all the pull-outs from tournaments. I predicted as much when the Road Map began and put so many obligations on players' backs. I'm surprised it doesn't happen even more often (I've also often pointed to the huge number of "upsets" that sometimes occur in the early rounds of mandatory events as ways that players "get out" of playing events they don't WANT to, but are FORCED to or face penalties). Dementieva and even Clijsters have been critics of the tour's schedule requirements in the past. In many areas, the WTA schedule is a mess with no real reason or intelligence (see Copenhagen put between RG and Wimbledon), and if players have to go to such lengths to protect themselves, so be it.

Mon Jul 11, 09:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd Spiker said...

Oh, I forgot a few things:


"Wozniology." I like that! I might have to "steal/borrow" it. :)


Hmmm, why so high on Kvitova? Umm, you did see Wimbledon, right? :)

Really, though, I agree with Diane that Kvitova really doesn't have a bad surface. She's pretty much busted up a whole slew of big-time players on every surface there is this season. Yeah, she didn't have a great hard court season after Wimbledon last year, but I think that was mostly a learning-how-to-handle-expectations thing, and something that Kvitova has herself noted that she didn't like, and has worked to avoid since. She's rebounded from that bad stretch well this year, for sure.

As I noted in the Grass Court Awards post, we'll see this HC season how well she's learned to correct that aspect of herself and her game.

Even if she doesn't have as much success as she had at Wimbledon, she's already proven what she can do.

Mon Jul 11, 09:18:00 PM EDT  

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