this article is a tad unfair
This article is so bias, it appeared in the london times. Federer and nadal have dominated the men's game, but somehow its rife with competition. And maybe the fact is the william sisters are genetics freaks and tennis prodigies, prehaps they will never again be equal.
:The article follows
Last year’s annual health check for the men’s game and women’s game, otherwise known as the Championships, was unequivocal. The men’s game had never been better, never more athletic, never greater in depth, never more thrilling at the top, and the final was by common consent the most brilliant match anybody could remember. The women’s game was so lifeless that diagnosis could wait: press the alarm and call for resuscitation.
This year will be no different. The question of who will win the men’s singles is vital and fascinating, even without the enticing prospect that a British player is a true contender. The question of who will win the women’s singles ignites no passion and little interest. The answer is one of the Williams sisters, probably. After all, at least one of them has appeared in eight of the past 10 finals, winning seven.
That is itself an indictment, but the sisters should be absolved from blame. While others have stumbled, retired or become frozen with nerves, Venus and Serena have filled their trophy cabinets. Last year, when they suspended their usual sibling non-aggression pact and served up a decent scrap in the final, they took home well over £1m between them. It was equal prize-money with the men, but hardly for equivalent quality or effort.
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During the tournament, we had the further embarrassment of a world No 1 and top seed, Ana Ivanovic, showing that she hadn’t a clue how to play on grass when she lost in the third round to Jie Zheng in straight sets. Zheng was delighted to discover that if she hit the ball hard and deep to Ivanovic’s backhand, the ball wouldn’t come back. On return of serve, Ivanovic took a full swing and tried to belt the ball as if she were on a hard court. Blocked or sliced returns, so vital on grass, were beyond her imagination or repertoire.
At the time, Ivanovic was the French Open champion. There lies a depressing succession. In the 2007 French final, Justine Henin breezed past the nervous Ivanovic, who was shaking like a leaf; Henin retired shortly before the 2008 French championship, a grievous blow to the women’s game and one that allowed Ivanovic to redeem herself slightly by beating an even more nervous Dinara Safina and to head for Wimbledon as the highest-ranked woman in the world.
Ivanovic has since slid all the way down to 13th while Safina, dedicating herself to hard work on and off court, has taken over as No 1. But when she had her chance to justify her place at the head of the game by winning her first Grand Slam event, Safina flunked it, losing this year’s French Open final to Svetlana Kuznetsova, undone once more by nerves.
Now Safina arrives at the All-England Club as No 1 seed, supposedly the best player in the world. Perhaps we are being unfair in comparing the standard of the men’s and women’s games. The men have always been hugely superior. One testimony proves the point. Michael de Jong has for many years coached a number of the leading women players, including Mary Pierce when she was world No 1. Many years before that, de Jong managed to be ranked just inside the top 500 male players, although he knew he could never approach the top. Nevertheless, he was proud enough to make it a point of principle that even as he approached middle age, he would never lose a set to his illustrious employers, and he never did.
That merely underlines the obvious gulf. But what is not excusable is that while the men’s game has clearly become stronger year on year, the women’s game has not progressed. The first time the Williams sisters played each other in the Wimbledon final was in 2002. Six years on, they were no better and their rivals were worse.
With painfully few exceptions, the game purveyed by the leading women is not beautiful but stereotyped and ugly. It’s an all-purpose, all-court baseline game in which tactics and surprise are forsaken for a back-and-forth bash, usually cross-court corner to corner, single-handed on the forehand, double-handed on the backhand. The product of modern racket technology and training drills on hard-courts, it can be impressive, for the ball does get seriously hammered, with grunting for percussion, but the tedium of repetition ruins the spectacle.
How we long for someone to take them on as Martina Navratilova took on Chris Evert and the other baseliners of her day. How we miss Martina Hingis, who had such tactical cleverness and subtlety of shot, and Henin, who had a backhand of single-handed beauty.
Two former champions who might have been expected to illuminate the championships are unfortunately reduced. Amelie Mauresmo has the attacking game and the agility but is one of the most mentally frail; Maria Sharapova is as tough as nails mentally, but injury and surgery to her shoulder have reduced her power and prospects.
“I don’t know,” Sharapova said when asked whether Wimbledon had come too soon in her rehabilitation. “I can’t tell. I don’t know what’s going to happen in a week. I don’t know what’s going to happen in a month and I certainly don’t know what other people think. That’s the least of my worries. I know how I feel. I know what I’m capable of and I just go out on court and try to give it all I can.”
Is there hope? Certainly. Soon, Kim Clijsters, the Belgian whose game and personality always shone brightly, will return to the sport, to compete in the US Open. “A lot of them play the same type of tennis,” she noted recently. “There are not many players who stand out with a different game. I seem to remember that my matches involved more strategy and thinking. Now it seems they’re just hitting the ball hard.”
Clijsters will find her own way to counter the stereotypes. And somewhere out there, perhaps there may be a young girl with the talent and personality to go against the grain, to find her own attacking game and to use it to cut a swathe through competence and conformity. Such a player could conquer all.