NY Daily News Article: Women's Tennis Is Boring No One Is Dominating
Women's tennis lacks identity after Petra Kvitova takes Wimbledon, U.S. men's outlook bleak, too
Tuesday, July 5th 2011, 4:00 AM
WIMBLEDON - Not long after Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic was parading his trophy aloft around the All England Club grounds, the crowd departed the place and made its way toward the underground station in Southfields. And there walking along the sidewalk in the opposite direction, back toward the tennis grounds, was Petra Kvitova, the women's champion.
Kvitova strolled past these alleged experts on the sport, incognito.
Nobody recognized her until, finally, one man said, "Wasn't that the winner?"
There, in a two-paragraph nutshell, is the state of men's and women's tennis at the moment. The men are enjoying an orderly succession at the top of their tour, where Novak Djokovic has clambered to the summit and turned the Dynastic Duo of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer into a ruling troika.
The women, meanwhile, are in an utter state of chaos, as their tour heads onto the hard courts and toward Flushing Meadows in August for the U.S. Open. The new rankings came out Monday, shedding absolutely no light on anything.
The top-ranked woman, Caroline Wozniacki, has not won a single major and the same can be said for two others ranked in the top four, Vera Zvonareva and Victoria Azarenka. Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams - arguably the three best players in the sport - are all injured or coming off long layoffs. Serena dropped 150 places in the rankings this week, to 175th, creating a seedings nightmare for event organizers.
Six different women have reached the finals of the three majors this year, with three different champions. Only a well-meaning spin artist like Martina Navratilova - who says fans come to see the men and leave talking about the women - imagines any merit in all this.
"Right now it's hard to compare," Navratilova said. "Obviously the guys have the upper hand. They have four huge superstars (including Andy Murray) playing at the same time. You have two of the greatest players of all time playing at the same time. It pales.
"With the women, we've lost our biggest names," she said. "They're not playing for one reason or another. That being said, it's about quality, not quantity. I think the women are coming through pretty nicely. Nobody really grabbed that No. 1 ranking, so we'll see what happens the rest of the year."
For now, everybody awaits the ascension of the next great woman multi-champion, who has yet to reveal herself. This represents one of the longest periods of stalled evolution in memory. In the recent past, we've seen Navratilova and Chris Evert give way to Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, who eventually were surpassed by Martina Hingis and the Williams sisters.
"I don't want to anoint anybody here," Navratilova said. "That would be putting a lot of pressure on somebody. I don't want to take attention away from the players coming through. But there is a good batch now.
"They're good athletes, strong and healthy and hungry. They're very positive. I love the attitude. I wouldn't say anyone."
The men, meanwhile, have suffered no such absence of greatness. The quality of play right now is spectacular, though disheartening for would-be contenders. It is impossible even to imagine an American male winning the U.S. Open by beating the likes of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray.
If you're looking for the next American contenders, don't bother with the Andy Roddick-Mardy Fish generation on the men's side, or the Melanie Oudin-Bethanie Mattek-Sands group on the women's end. Madison Keys, a 16-year-old girl with considerable athletic talent, appeared the most promising here, barely losing in three sets to eventual Wimbledon junior champion Ashleigh Barty of Australia. In Flushing, look for Bjorn Fratangelo, who won the French Open boys title and skipped Wimbledon.
Are they the next Serena Williams or Roger Federer? Like Navratilova says, anointing anyone would be unfair. It's just that women's tennis is running out of time, and Americans have run out of patience.