Bticker's views on actual state of women tennis
DESPITE BRILLIANCE OF SERENA, WTA TOUR A MONUMENTAL DISAPPOINTMENT SO FAR IN 2010
Posted by WTM on July 13, 2010
By Charles Bricker
With the exception of Serena Williams, who recently delivered one of the great fortnights of her career by sweeping through Wimbledon, the women’s tour has been a monumental disappointment in 2010.
Not just because of the lack of memorable matches, but because the season began with such heavy optimism.
The Williams sisters appeared to be healthy. Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, two enormous talents, were back on tour after early retirements. Maria Sharapova had returned from shoulder surgery. There was the usual array of persistent top-fives in Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina. And, finally, some impressive young players who looked ready to join either the elite or the near-elite on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour — led by Caroline Wozniacki.
All this and more made it appear as though women’s tennis was in for a very impressive year, but what we’ve gotten instead are more injuries and the disappointing showing of players from whom we expected much more.
Serena, though she has played only six tournaments, has done most of the heavy lifting, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon and not exhibiting anything close to the anger management problems she had at last year’s U.S. Open.
But the rest of the cast of characters has fallen short and, as a result, so has the women’s tour. Still, it’s only the halfway point in the season. The U.S. hardcourt season is nearly upon us and there is an abundance of time for some of these other players to assert themselves.
Let’s go down the list:
* Serena Williams: Started the year at No. 1 and remains No. 1. Defeated Henin in the Aussie Open final, lost in the quarters of the French to Stosur, won Wimbledon without losing a set, defeating Vera Zvonareva in the championship match. Five top-20 wins and six if you count Henin, who was unranked at the time because of a lack of comeback matches but who is a former No. 1. Record: 25-4. Grade: A+.
* Venus Williams: Began the year at No. 6, now No. 4. She’s won two tournaments, but not against impressive fields. More telling is her work at the Slams — lost in the quarters at Australia to Li Na, in the round of 16 at the French to Nadia Petrova and in the quarters of Wimbledon to No. 82 Tsvetana Pironkova. At 30, she’s not the player she was even two years ago. Hasn’t won an important event in a long time and some very bad losses indicates a possible stamina problem. Record: 33-6. Grade: C.
* Kim Clijsters: Began the year at No. 18, now No. 7. When she won the 2009 U.S. Open, I thought she was fully back. Now, you’re entitled to ponder if she’s fully committed to the game, as she was before she began thinking about retirement a few years ago? Lost in the second round at Australia to Petrova 6-0, 6-1, an embarrassing result. But then she won Key Biscayne before injuring her foot and missing the French. A strong win over Henin in the Wimbledon quarters was followed by a quarterfinal loss to Zvonareva. No consistency. Record: 22-5. Grade: B-.
* Justine Henin: She has been similarly in and out of form and, while she looks just as quick and athletic as ever, her patience in the grinding points isn’t what it once was. Began the year unranked, came on the rankings at No. 33 with a semifinal finish at Key Biscayne and is now No. 13. She’s not top 10, which is very surprising, because she went out in the round of 16 at both the French (Stosur) and Wimbledon (Clijsters). Like others, a good won/lost record, but not good enough in the majors. Moreover, she’s out for the foreseeable future with an injury. Probably will miss the U.S. Open. Record: 32-8. Grade: C.
* Maria Sharapova: Started the year at No. 14, now No. 15. She has two titles, against soft fields at Memphis and Strasbourg, so she’s piling up the wins, but not in the right places. After shoulder surgery last year, she changed her serve and went through a long period of adjusting her motion in which she rolled up beaucoup double faults. That seems mostly ironed out now, but she’s still not close to the form that took her to three major titles. Lost first round at Australia to Maria Kirilenko, third round at the French to Henin and round of 16 at Wimbledon to Serena. No great shame in most of those losses, but she hasn’t recorded that one big win that moves her forward. Record: 20-6. Grade: C.
* Jelena Jankovic: Started the year at No. 8, now No. 2. She won Indian Wells, where, of course, neither of the Williams sisters played. Nevertheless, give her high marks for the title and for defeating Wozniacki in the final. She also has a runner-up finish at Rome, where she beat the sisters in succession. The problem is she’s not getting any bounce. She then got to the semis at the French, where she was blown out by Stosur, and went out to Zvonareva at Wimbledon with a retirement. Just when we thought she had reached a high new level of fitness (44 matches at this point), she hurt her back. Her immediate schedule is now a question mark, though she’s signed to play Portorez, July 19. Record: 32-12. Grade: B.
* Caroline Wozniacki: Started the year at No. 4, now No. 3. After all those matches in 2009, I wondered if she would back off in 2010. Not by much. At the halfway point, she’s played 43 matches, but she’s clearly not as effective as a year ago. Went out in the round of 16 at Australia to Li, in the French quarters to Francesca Schiavone (who won the tournament) and in the round of 16 at Wimbledon to Petra Kvitova by 6-2, 6-0. She needs to retrench and rethink her schedule. Record: 30-13. Grade: D+.
* Dinara Safina: Out almost the entire year with injury. She has become a non-entity this year — just another women’s tour disappointment. Hasn’t won a match since April. Record: 5-7. Grade: Incomplete.
* Notable surprise players: Stosur and Schiavone.
* Two who were headed north a couple years ago who haven’t made the next plateau: Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka.
Women’s tennis can be exciting, but right now it needs its best and most marketable players to start winning the big ones. Outside of Serena Williams, they’re not, and you can see the result at this last Wimbledon, where the women were not much more than a footnote to the men’s tournament, which produced an 11-hour match, a quarterfinal loss by Roger Federer that delivered some world-wide shock waves, a prodigious effort by Tomas Berdych and an eighth major title by Rafa Nadal.
Most of the women listed here will be back on court by the end of July, hopefully well rested and ready to start playing up to their potential.