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Steffica Greles
Mar 31st, 2005, 09:06 PM
Lindsay Davenport - It'll be interesting to see how she fares now the Belgians are back, Sharapova continues to improve (and she's already no.3 at only 17) and the Williams sisters are showing flashes of their old form.

She's a great hitter of the ball, and at her best arguably second only to Serena, but the question over Lindsay's head is, and always has been, whether she wants titles enough. Her collapse in Australia was shocking. Granted, Serena would have beaten her had she been at her best from the beginning, but when Lindsay has the arsenal to really push Serena, as she had been doing, not winning another game really highlighted the mental frailty that's held Davenport from attaining even further heights in her career.

So my question is: should one of 5 or 6 other more eager players face Davenport in latter rounds of slams, will she come through?

Mauresmo - For the last 2 years I'd seen her as a Novotna-type player, who would eventually win a slam, however long it took. But I'm starting to have my doubts, because my perspective has changed. Novotna's game was, first and foremost, aggressive. When Jana had a bad day it was because all of the many parts to her game -- the serve, the half volley, the forehand, the slice, the volleys -- didn't come together.

But when her armory was all held in place, she could play magnificent tennis, and nobody outhit Novotna.

Mauresmo, on the other hand, has the same problem Sabatini had - and a more comparable style. She can be aggressive, but when Amelie's tentative (which is quite often) she seems to sit back and counter punch with "safe" topspins and slices. Where are the aggressive topspins that used to crush Hingis and Davenport? Sabatini had this problem; she could be either as aggressive as Navratilova, or play like an old-style clay court player. Against Graf and Seles, all too often Sabatini wasn't aggressive enough because she was nervous.

In today's game, when players are more powerful from the baseline, if less skillful, I think Amelie leaves herself open to being overwhelmed. I believe her best chance will be Wimbledon, even though she loves clay. Grass gives her less time to think, and forces her to be aggressive. But I'm not sure she'll ever go the distance.

Sharapova - her 0&0 loss to Davenport was embarrassing to even Davenport's biggest fans. It made us realise that Maria still has a long way to go, and we must not get caught up in the hype that surrounds her, however good she is.

Really, she's had a great deal of luck. She won Wimbledon when Davenport decided to retire mid-match (I mean mentally), and Serena was half of the player she had been. Then, she played poorly in the hardcourt season, won two mickey mouse tournaments, and lost the Zurich final to Molik. Next she lost to Mauresmo in the Championships, and struggled to beat a Serena who couldn't serve in the final.

This year she's won two tournaments, except in the final of Tokyo Davenport was injured and not moving well. I don't normally like excuses, but when Lindsay destroys Maria 0&0 2 months later, I think I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

I'm afraid this is not the new Monica Seles. She can't angle the ball as well, she can't return as destructively, and she doesn't have Seles' drive volleys.

Having said all that, Maria did play tremendously well to win Wimbledon, and is a world class player. I like the answers she gives in interviews because she doesn't dwell on bad matches or losses, and in this regard more than any other, she very much reminiscent of Graf or Seles.

I just think it'll be clearer by the end of this summer just how good is Maria Sharapova, particularly as Kim and, to a lesser extent, Justine, are back.

Serena Williams - It all depends on whether she's motivated, playing well, and fit - in that order. Sometimes I feel Serena's a big drama queen. If Serena's fit and playing at her best, I think her power is too much for everybody. But sometimes when Serena's not motivated or playing poorly, she's injured.

The only aspects of Serena's game I respect are the serve, which I think is the best I've ever seen from a woman, and her movement, which is the quickest.

However, I agree with Hingis on a lot of points. Her footwork, like Venus', is at times abysmal, her volleys are volatile, and her feel for her groundstrokes is poor in comparison with some of the other top players.

Dementieva - She just doesn't convince me as a top 5 player. In an ideal world, if everybody was fit, Elena would be no higher than 8th.

Myskina - Reminds me too much of Iva Majoli. I have my doubts that she's motivated. All these excuses about the schedule are not what I expect to hear from somebody who wants to challenge regularly for slams.

Kuznetsova - She's the only player of the Russians, other than Sharapova, who I'm convinced has a big future in the game. She's spent a great deal of time with Aranxta and Martina, which can't be bad for her if she wants longevity, and she's built like a brick sh*t house.

I think Kuznetsova's still early in her career. The U.S Open win was something of a shock. She needs to work out how to win these matches she's losing. But I think she has the credentials to win more slams.