View Full Version : A general overview of the top of the tour by Matthew Cronin of ********************

Apr 23rd, 2003, 11:20 AM
Kimmy? Justine? Amelie? Jennifer? Lindsay? Chanda? Dani?

Can anyone consistently beat the Williams sisters?

By Matthew Cronin

While the spunky Justine Henin-Hardenne basked in the glow of stopping the seemingly impenetrable Serena Williams 21-match winning streak at the Family Circle Cup last Sunday, top-ranked Serena and third-ranked Venus Williams casually waited for the start of US' Fed Cup tie again the Czech Republic, where they are more heavily favored to lead a shut out than an elite Marine Corps. division in a backwater Iraqi town.

Third-ranked Belgian Kim Clijsters joined her compatriot Henin in dreaming of one day surpassing the imposing Williamses * who have combined to win seven of the last nine Grand Slams * as does the muscular but often-injured French brawler, Amelie Mauresmo.

Add to that "A" list of contenders the not-so-gentle Jennifer Capriati, the smooth Slovak Daniela Hantuchova, the feisty Justine Henin-Hardenne, and voracious American veterans Lindsay Davenport and Chanda Rubin.

Then there is a "B+" list led by the nation-less Jelena Dokic (the ex-Aussie with a Yugoslav passport and Florida and Monte Carlo residences) and the insatiable nation of Russia, which has marched almost as many wide-eyed troops than Stalin once sent out against Hitler: Myskina, Bovina, Dementieva, Zvonareva, Kuzentsova and many, many more.

Mauresmo said that when Clijsters beat Serena in the final of the '02 Home Depot Championships and then nearly upended her in the semifinals of the '03 Australian Open, it showed her that "Serena's not unbeatable." But she has tremendous respect for the Williamses, who she says have brought the game to another level physically. "What Serena can do from some positions is impressive," Mauresmo said. "Not a lot of us can do that. Last year it was obvious that Serena dominated. No one can say the contrary. I just hope there's not a huge difference between us and I can close the gap."

Rubin, the only player to topple Serena last summer, says that the Williamses have set the bar to world-record heights.

"To beat either of them, you have to go to an extra gear," Rubin said. "You can't just sit on the baseline and just get balls back and win. You have to put it on the line, take your chances and try to make something happen."

But it's one thing to say you are going to take risk and its another to have the weapons in your arsenal to be able to pull off a victory. Serena and Venus have the game's most effective first serves, can crush winners off both wings from the baseline, return serve with ferocity, volley as well as any elite player, move as fluidly as even the most fluid of players, are also darn right fast, know how to compete and win as convincingly as anyone.

In other words, they're intimidating.

But as Mauresmo says, tennis has proven itself to cyclical and it's probable that either Serena or Venus will slump sometime in the next year. Whether they will be forced into a slump by much improved competition or whether they'll simply fall off due to lack of interest is an open question, but there's no doubt that there's a dedicated group of elite contenders locking their lips in anticipation of their fall.


Clijsters is only 19-years-old, but may already in danger of becoming the Hana Mandlikova of her generation – the obvious No. 3 player, who can sometimes beat Serena and Venus, but on very rare occasion. Recall that Mandlikova did manage to three Grand Slams, but was almost always a step behind Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

But Clijsters doesn't feel like a stale veteran yet with any future. "I'm still a child," she laughed.

Clijsters is a superior athlete with a huge, ever-improving forehand, lightening speed, a solid two-handed backhand and an underrated serve. She fights hard and, under the tutelage of coach Marc Dehous, has become a better strategist.

Clijsters won Sydney and Indian Wells and has suffered four losses in 2003: her choke against Serena in the semifinals of the Australian Open, where she blew a 5-1 in the third set; a straight loss to Venus in the final of Antwerp; a three-set loss to Ai Sugiyama in the Scottsdale final and a straight-set whipping at the hands of Serena in the NASDAQ final.

Clijsters said she was able to get over the loss to Serena and has plunged ahead, but it isn't always apparent. "It didn't take long at all," she said. "Afterwards you think about and say I missed a big chance. But I just have to look at it in a positive way. I'm still young. I hope I have a few more years of tennis to go. I'm sure if I keep working hard and if I keep playing the tennis that I was in Australia, I'll get those chances again."

Everywhere she goes, Clijsters is asked whether she closing the gap between herself and the Williamses. At Indian Wells, the normally soft-spoken Clijsters snapped at a reporter who asked her about the Williamses, saying, "Why can't we ever talk about me?" The heat is on and now the world will see whether she'll step up or melt.

"I'm just trying to play my best," she said. "Then we will see how close I can get. I feel like I'm definitely playing a lot. I feel like I'm playing a lot more consistently. A few years ago I would lose to Serena, 6-1, 6-1, and 6-2, 6-1 to Venus. It can still happen but it hasn't happened the last times I've played them. I feel I can play with them."


Henin-Hardenne is another case all together. She knocked Serena off on clay last year and stunned her in the Family Circle Cup final, but Venus owns her, taking her out at Wimbledon and in Australia. There are some observers who already believe that Henin-Hardenne will not win even one Grand Slam, because she is too small, takes too big of a swing and, despite her wondrous shotmaking, does not have a money shot to go to.

But this is somewhat specious reasoning, because for her size, the gritty Belgian has an amazing, chock-full of variety backhand, a significant if not spotty forehand, an excellent volley and good firsts serve when she's on. Plus, a big part of being a Top-5 player is commitment, competitiveness, heart and guts. Henin has all of these.

"I'm not afraid of anything," Henin-Hardenne said. "Everyone has a place on the tour and you have to accept that. Serena lost only four matches last year - it's unbelievable. But I have many tools to beat these players. I'm pretty confident and we all have to fight. It's more mental than whether you have the game. They are not unbeatable, We have to accept that they are very tough and strong, but we have to believe we can beat them. We won't beat them every time, but we can sometimes."

Henin-Hardenne knows that if she is to compete against bigger and powerful players, she must add zip to her quick, high-variety attack. "I have a higher level," she said. "Sometimes you focus on bad things like rankings. When I focus on how I want to play and win point after point, I'm much better. I can improve everything because nothing's perfect."


The 23-year-old Mauresmo believes that her increasing maturity and newfound commitment to attacking the net could eventually lead her past the Williamses. "My goal is to reach No. 1," said Mauresmo said. "Whether its going to happen in a month, a year, or five years, I don't know. Everyone has a goal and in my tennis life, that's mine."

The eighth-ranked Frenchwoman reached both the Wimbledon and US Open semis last year, a career first. But at the All-England Club, she was wasted by Serena in straight sets. In New York, Venus outfought her in a tough three-setter. But after successfully recovering from off-season knee surgery, the muscular all-courter is as fresh as a daisy, physically and mentally. She's now confident that she won't be staring up at the top forever.

"After I lost to Serena at Wimbledon I was so frustrated that I said I'd only play for number three spot. But now I'm thinking nothing is forever. There's going to be a time that I'm going to improve a little and Serena's going to go down a little. You can't be 100 percent all the time."

Mauresmo has been known to fans since as a virtual unknown she stunned Lindsay at the '99 Australian Open semis. But although she has racked up eight titles and a number of wins over elite players since then, Mauresmo didn't repeat her early Grand Slam success until last year, in part because a back injury, which kept her out of play for decent portions of 2000 and 2001, and part of it had to do with her immaturity.

"I've improved a lot in all the different areas of the game – mentally, physically, and even technically I can do many different things," she said. "I'm happy about that. I've become a better person, more mature and more experienced. I love this life."

Amelie didn't always appreciate how fortunate she was to be near the top and often found herself lamenting the pressures of her job. That changed last fall, when she went down with a knee injury when she was at the top of her game.

"Before I didn't realize that I was lucky to do what I love to do and not to really work and only play tennis," she said. "I didn't really sit down and think about my life. Now I realize it."

Mauresmo is accomplishing what so many women's players say they want to do and never accomplish: transform herself from a baseliner to a net rusher. She knows that it's the only way she's going to get to the top. However, given that she suffering another bout of injuries, even a style change may not be enough.

"Even in 1999 I was talking about it, but it didn't click," she said. "But I made the decision to change last year. I know I'll improve doing this because the more things you can do, the more choices you and the better you are. If you only know how to do one thing and your opponents know how to play you, then what do you do?"


Former US Open champion Lindsay Davenport is engaged and is secure with her life path. Two-time Australian Open Jennifer Capriati remains single and is trying like hell to rediscover her lethal game. Chanda Rubin is still wondering why she didn't' win the US Open last year.

All these American veterans are faced with a tremendous task – trying to regain the status of being the top Americans from the Williamses.

What must truly getting old for Capriati is title-less streak, which has now reached 15 months. Last year, Capriati failed to defend her Roland Garros title, when Serena punched her out in a nail-biter. She was out-smarted by a net-rushing Mauresmo at both Wimbledon and the US Open, and at the season-ending Home Depot Championship, had Serena on the ropes before losing in three. The pressure unglued her a bit.

"There's higher stakes when you're playing the top players," she said. "No one should go out there with that on their mind. If your thinking all that stuff, who can play tennis? There were a couple of matches last year where there was more pressure and I didn't pull it out."

Capriati said that much of her success lies in her attitude and how free and easy she feels. If she's thinking too much about her results and her status in the tennis universe, she boils over. Capriati, who underwent eye surgery in the off-season to remove sunspots, started the year slowly, losing in the first round of the Australian Open. In February, she fell in the Dubai semis to Henin-Hardenne and in March, she was punched out by Davenport at Indian Wells and by Serena in the Miami final.

"I'm going to take it one at time and not put expectations on myself, she said. "I've got no pressure on me because there are a lot of people ahead of me in the rankings. My expectation is to not to expect too much from myself."

Yet Jennifer was ranked No. 1 and only Venus plays Serena as tough as she does. Capriati wouldn't mind clawing her way back to top of the heap. "I would love a second chance to give it another shot," she said. "I'm even playing better than I was [when I was ranked No. 1]. Everyone's improving around you so automatically it makes you improve. There's not much I have to change and work on, it's just a few things that make all the difference. It's about being confident, sure about your self and feeling loose."

The 26-year-old Davenport will be married to former USC All-American Jon Leach some time this year. But for right now, she focusing squarely on regaining the form that once brought her to No. 1.

Davenport spent the first half of 2002 recovering from knee surgery and while she reached the semis of the US Open and finals of Manhattan Beach, New Haven, Moscow and Zurich, she's still not completely satisfied.

"I'm sort of in between," said Davenport. "I came back stronger than I though I would, but now I'm stuck in a place where I can't seem to get any better. It's a little thing here and there. I'm hitting well, but I'm not staying on my opponents the way I need to. I've lost a lot of consistency on my serve and it was huge weapon of mine. My game revolves around it."

With three Grand Slam titles, a stint at No. 1 and a boatload of money, Davenport could retire tomorrow and look back on a fruitful career. But she isn't quite ready to settle into a house wirh a white picket fence and showed that when she canned Leach's brother, Rick, as her coach, after she was run over by Clijsters at Indian Wells.

"The challenge of getting back to the top is going to be very difficult because of Venus and Serena," she said. "They played above everyone else the last 18 months. All I can do is worry about my own game and my own hurdles."

During the American hardcourt season last summer, Rubin was playing the best tennis of her career. The 5-foot-6 all-courter took out Serena, Dokic and Davenport in succession en route to the Manhattan Beach title and nearly upset Venus in the fourth round of the US Open (a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 loss). But that loss set her back and after a desultory fall and a mediocre start to this year, she didn't step up her game again until Indian Wells and Miami. However, for the third time in a row, Clijsters devastated her in the desert and then Capriati won their contest of big forehands in Miami. But the Louisiana native still believes that she is a Grand Slam champion in the making.

"I have to understand that the flow of playing is not going to be there every single week," she said. "That's' where the challenge is. I feel really good where I am and I can still improve and be a little tougher. I feel like I can challenge for the top. I just have to step up in bigger matches."


Last October, Slovak teen Daniela Hantuchova showed once again that she's more than just a runway model with a clean backhand down the line. In leading her tiny nation of the Slovak Republic to its first Fed Cup title over Spain, the 19-year-old Hantuchova overcame a boisterous crowd on the Canary islands and tricky veteran Conchita Martinez.

The scantily clad women who knocked GQ readers dead last summer while posing in an Eastern European tennis babe spread proved that not only does she have game, but she has heart, too. The world got a sense of the 5-foot-11 Hantuchova's guts at the '02 US Open, when she overcame a badly sprained wrist and took out Henin-Hardenne in the fourth round. "She's going to be a very good player," said Davenport. "She has a lot of weapons."

In 2001, the smooth all-courter with a brilliantly disguised had neither the mental fortitude nor the shot selection to be able outlast elite players in a hostile environment. But in 2002, she discovered that patience and a warrior's make-up that are necessary components of an elite player. Hantuchova was so locked into winning Fed Cup that she wasn't bothered by that fact that her regular doubles partner, Spain's Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, was crying on court after being harassed by a Spanish fan. "When you are playing against somebody you don't think of her as your partner. I was playing for my country."

It's this killer instinct that has taken Hantuchova into the Top 5. The blue-eyed granddaughter of a nationally-ranked Slovak can aim a frigid, oncourt stare at opponents who don't know how to pull off a sharply angled drop shot or read her very deceptive groundstrokes.

But can Hantuchova is whether she can improve to challenge the Williamses? Serena beat her in straight sets her at both Wimbledon and the US Open and, despite her excellent skills and ability to pick up the balls early, Hantuchova appeared to be physically overmatched. At the outset of 2003, she reached the quarters of the Australian Open, where Venus beat her in straight sets. She was out-smarted by Amanda Coetzer at Indian Wells and last week, was shocked by Ashley Harkleroad at the Family Circle Cup.

But Hantuchova countered that brawn is the not the key to winning matches. "I don't think strength is the most important," said Hantuchova, who did concede that she's trying to add muscle to her thin frame. "What's more important is the way you think. At the moment, the Williamses are No. 1 and 2 because they have so much power. But if improve, I'm optimistic. I should get better physically and mentally I have things to work on. Hopefully I will start to challenge them and give them tougher matches."

Dokic hits the ball so hard and jumps on so early that she can take out almost anyone. She's pushed Venus, but isn't quick enough to hang with her in long rallies, which is why the former No. 4 and two-time Wimbledon semifinalist has hired Steffi Graf's former coach, Heinz Gunhardt. Dokic is making some decent-sized changes to her game, not because she doesn't believe she was a good player before, but because she knows she needs to improve. "I could definitely could hit the ball before, but even players at 27 change their game. Why wouldn't I change mine at 19?"


There are nine good Russian players in the top 70, but none of them have shown the ability to mentally – let alone physically – hang with the Williamses. Not Anastasia Myskina, Elena Bovina, Elena Dementieva, Tatiana Panova, Elena Likhovsteva, Vera Zvonareva, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Lina Krasnoroutskaya, Dinara Safina or Anna Kournikova.

"It's not about Russia," Dementieva said. "It's about all the players. Many players have a very good start and then they stop progressing because of injuries or mental problems. The Russian media always say how many good players we have and that we are not ready to win a tournament mentally. They are wrong because we are ready. It just feels like some small things always stop us."

Myskina is too thin and doesn't have enough variety to swing with the sisters; Bovina is powerful enough but is inconsistent and doesn't move well enough; and as powerful as Dementieva is off the ground, her serve is such a wreck now that she is easily broken by mediocre players. Panova and Likhovsteva, are veterans who aren't going anywhere, Kournikova is injured too much and may never regain her top-15 form and Safina is still a baby.

That leaves the two grittiest Russians the tour has seen in some time, the 18-year-old Vera Zvonareva and the 17-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova. Vera sports a more straight-ahead ground attack, while the bullish "Kuzy" has a whiplash forehand. Both are well conditioned, fight hard and are very ambitious. Plus, Vera was the only woman at '02 Roland Garros to take a set off Serena. The jury is still out on whether either one will crack the Top 10, but they have the potential to reach the second weeks of the Slams.

"Each day is different," Vera said "Sometimes the [high-ranked players] just kill me and sometimes I'm killing them."

Even the seemingly invincible Serena, the fastest and strongest player on tour, knows the times could change. She believes she's changing her sport. "Yes, just like [Martina] Navratilova, Steffi and Monica [Seles] did," Serena said. "The girls have improved a lot. I see more girls in the gym now. They're getting stronger, which is great for women's tennis, because you can see tougher matches. The bar's been raised. I've played players I used to have an easy time with, but now they've improved."

Still, the question remains: can anyone dethrone the Compton Comets – the Williamses?

Apr 23rd, 2003, 01:45 PM
i saw that

why wont people realize the answer is NO

Apr 23rd, 2003, 01:53 PM
did i read wrongly.. or is there no mention of Monica anywhere?

Apr 23rd, 2003, 02:09 PM
Grice - I hadn't noticed that, but you're sure right. He didn't mention Monica.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 02:47 PM
Volcano, super article!

"Even the seemingly invincible Serena, the fastest and strongest player on tour, knows the times could change. She believes she's changing her sport. "Yes, just like [Martina] Navratilova, Steffi and Monica [Seles] did," Serena said. "The girls have improved a lot. I see more girls in the gym now. They're getting stronger, which is great for women's tennis, because you can see tougher matches. The bar's been raised. I've played players I used to have an easy time with, but now they've improved.' "

Serena 's analysis of the game is a great indicator of why it is very possible she can become a better player than she already is. She is not too "arrogant and cocky" to realize and to see the improvement in the abilities of the other players. Serena knows to stay on top and to keep winning she must work and train more harder than they. An "arrogant and cocky" player would think he or she is so above others that he or she doesn't see his or her competitors as threats or could ever improve to the point to challenge them.

As Pam Shriver said, it is a good thing Serena lost now (in the Family Cup final ) than later. The lost to Justine affected her to the point where she withdrew from the German Open to work on her game. She knew more than anyone she lost not due to a bad or off day but to a great player, Justine, who had improved tremendously.

I hope some of my fellow Williams fans don't take this the wrong way. But what is wrong with fans of other players believing their faves can challenge or even possible defeat the "Compton Comets?" Remember when it was Hingis and Lindsay dominating the tour and winning the grand slams. How many times did their fans tell us we were crazy and had the audacity to think that as long as Serena and Venus kept improving they would be winning tournaments consistently and possibly a grand slam? We were ridiculed even further when we believed they would obtained the #1 ranking and constantly challenge Hingis and Davenport.

I want the "Compton Comets" to win everything too. Yet, who can say fans of other players have to accept the truth their faves can't impose a challenge or become a threat to our faves?

Serena doesn't believe this to be the case. I hope Venus does too and she is taking every opportunity to fix or improve the flaws in her game.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 03:27 PM
Hana Mandlikova won 4 grand slams, not 3.

1980 Aus, 1981 French, 1985 US and 1987 Aus.

She beat either Chris or Martina in 3 out of 4 of those title runs and accomplished the impossible, beating Chris AND Martina in the same slam, at the 85 US Open. Tracy Austin and Steffi Graf were the only other players able to derail the Chris/Martina show at a slam in the late 70's + 80's but neither did it during their true prime, 1982-1986.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 03:28 PM
Great Article, Volcana!

Thanks for posting it.

2003 is indeed shaping up to be an interesting year for the WTA. Who else can stop the Serena Williams juggernaut? Will anyone else execute a game plan to perfection like Henin-Hardenne on clay against Serena?

Will Davenport be able to win championships? Will Venus improve her second serve? Will Mauresmo play again this year?
Can Clijsters get over the proverbial 'hump'?

The drama is back in women's tennis.


Apr 23rd, 2003, 06:11 PM
Thanks for posting this article. It's very thorough.

Serendy Willick
Apr 23rd, 2003, 06:27 PM
Sorry, but they need to let the players play the game. What comes out, comes out. I think there have been way too many articles with this rediculous "Gawd help us stop the Williams" rhetoric. These girls have went out there and fought and earned the right to be at the top of womens tennis. I wonder if (or whenever) Kim or Justine or even Jennfier Capriati get back to the top whether they will have articles of this tone day in and day out.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 06:46 PM
WOW! finally acknowledging the "all that" of Venus and Serena. The other players respect their games.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 07:15 PM
did i read wrongly.. or is there no mention of Monica anywhere?

Oh, I noticed pretty quickly. Lindsay, Jennifer, Chanda. Lindsay, Jennifer, Chanda.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 07:23 PM
I thought Capriati took a set off of Serena on her run to the French Open title.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 07:28 PM
Nice post topspin. You sound like the best type of "fan" there is.

My doubts about Mauresmo center around her health. Has she ever had an injury-free year? Clijsters and Henin seem to have more staying power.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 07:35 PM
Topspin :worship: :worship:

Apr 23rd, 2003, 07:57 PM
Thanks Volcana, for again posting such an interesting article, that seems to be well balanced with it's insights into what's really going on inside the WTA. The attitudes of the other players seems appropriate for what's necessary inorder to compete with the Williamses at this "higher" level of competition.

Again, thanks for an enjoyable read. :hearts: :hearts: :hearts: :hearts:

Apr 23rd, 2003, 08:00 PM
I still think a true and objective tennis person will reject the notion
that the william sisters are all about power. Don't take my word for
it , Watch their matches especially Venus and you'll see her adjust her game every now and then especially if she falls behind.

She comes over her forhand in these situations. Serena is different.

IMHO , it will be a mistake if the other players only built the power components of their game to catch the williams. All elements of their game must be elevatged to reach the level of V/S .

Apr 23rd, 2003, 08:27 PM
If the "spunky" Justine H2 who is part of the A list in paragraph one could fix it so that she could swap places at a suitable toilet break with the fresh, "feisty" Justine H2 who is one of the other top players in para three, we might well get a new grand slam winner - though which Justine kept the trophy might be difficult to sort out.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 10:20 PM
I thought Capriati took a set off of Serena on her run to the French Open title.

She did...every Serena has only beaten Jen in 2 sets twice.

Anyhoo Roland Garros match Serena won 3-6 7-6(7-2) 6-2

Many seem to like the match...I thought it was ugly.

Apr 23rd, 2003, 10:28 PM
81 Unforced Errors

if thats not ugly, then what is?
BTW Serena made sooo many UE during that tournament, she must've set a record :o

Apr 23rd, 2003, 10:50 PM
Why do so many articles out there revolve around the sisters? Each and every player is being compared to the Williams' and how/why/what it takes to "dethrone" them or at least hang with them.


Apr 24th, 2003, 12:12 AM
That was an insightful article on the WTA, it made laugh out a few times though. No disrespect to Seles, but I think the reason why her name wasn't mentioned is because she is no longer the force she once was. She might advance to the 2nd week of the slams but in our hearts we know she will not win. Sad to admit, but true.

Apr 24th, 2003, 12:19 AM
Zenith, are you telling me Tatiana Panova is the force Monica once was? I seem to recall seeing her name up there.

Apr 24th, 2003, 12:20 AM
Why do so many articles out there revolve around the sisters? Each and every player is being compared to the Williams' and how/why/what it takes to "dethrone" them or at least hang with them.;)

They're just re-cycling old Martina and Chris articles. It's easier than writing new stuff.

Apr 24th, 2003, 12:26 AM
some many articles are written about them because they are sisters and are nos 1 and 2 in the world and almost unbeatable thats why the question is always asked who can beat them?
I think Henin will come out the winner at RG . I also disagree with the comment about the russians lack of Mentality Bovina beat Venus in a tough three setter at the Collins Cup, both were playing amazing tennis.

Serendy Willick
Apr 24th, 2003, 12:55 AM
some many articles are written about them because they are sisters and are nos 1 and 2 in the world and almost unbeatable thats why the question is always asked who can beat them?
I think Henin will come out the winner at RG . I also disagree with the comment about the russians lack of Mentality Bovina beat Venus in a tough three setter at the Collins Cup, both were playing amazing tennis.

Damn right! because they went out there and fought and earned their places at the top of the tennis world and they deserve to enjoy their time there without a bunch of jealous rot-face whinners called the media concockting up this they are some "mighty powerful force that is ruining the face of tennis so we must stop them" story. Just like your girl Jennifer who won back to back slams in 2001, I didnt see any article naming half of a football squad on who can stop her. These players have just a chance of defeating these girls as Venus and Serena have of defeating them, so just go out play the game, cut the bullish and catty talk because what matters is what is done on the court. Just like the upcomming Roland Garros, there is no absolute lock on them winning this or any other event, thats why they play these slams every year.

Brian Stewart
Apr 24th, 2003, 01:03 AM
Interesting, yet somewhat simplistic view of the tour. First off, I have to disagree with the initial assessment of the sisters, basically stating they do everything better than the other elite players. Absolutely not true. For example, volleying. If you listed the current top 9 players on the basis of total volleying skills, the Williamses would occupy spots 8 and 9. And while they tend to move better laterally than the other top ranked players (although the difference isn't much over some of the other elites), Henin, Momo, and Rubin all move forward much better and much more naturally.

It's the old, simplistic "number 1 is best at everything" view usually found in all-purpose sportcasters. I recall one match where Arantxa beat (or nearly beat) Steffi, and ESPN showed a "highlight" of Steffi botching an overhead, saying Steffi usually "makes those in her sleep". Had they actually followed the sport, they'd know Steffi frequently missed overheads. It's just their way of not giving the underdog credit for her skills. That's been a consistent theme with women's tennis over the years; never acknowledging the skills of lower-ranked players.

Anyhow, getting back to the overall theme of the article, if someone were to "consistently" beat (not challenge, but beat) the sisters, they would be #1. It's the old "who can stop X" question. But it's been particularly intense with these particular top players. Much moreso than with any top players in the almost 35 years I've been following tennis.

They always ask the wrong question. "Who can 'stop' Martina/Steffi/Monica/etc." It should be "Who can win the title?" The players would rather win the title. They'd probably have to stop the top player to do so, but not necessarily.

For example, at RG '94, Mary stopped Steffi, but Arantxa won the title. A couple of weeks later, at Wimbledon, Lori stopped Steffi, but Conchita won the title. Which position would most players rather be in? Which would you rather have on your resum้ at the end of your career, that you "stopped" the #1 player at a slam 3 times in your career, or that you won a slam 3 times?

I wish they would "stop" writing these kind of articles. :)

Apr 24th, 2003, 01:09 AM
I can see why Collins Cup wasn't mentioned. not exactly the 2nd or even the 1st week of a slam.

I think the article gave Jelena WAAYYY too much credit, and Monica not enough.

I really don't blame Kimmy for snapping at reporters. I think the media are shoving V and S down other players throats a bit too much for my taste. Hell I'd probably dislike them myself if I were playing tennis.

btw--Venus should take a cue from Momo and start rushing that net more.

King Lindsay
Apr 24th, 2003, 01:33 AM
Listen to me. If jennifer Capriati wins the next four Slams, yes, you will see a ton of "who will dethrone Capriati" articles. And no, nobody thinks the williams sisters are "ruining the face of tennis", certainly not the author of that article. BUT WHAT DO YOU WANT HIM TO WRITE? "williams sisters are the best, forever and ever." It's like nothing can ever be enough for some of you. everybody admits that they have been the best for the last year, year and a half. EVERYONE. There is a consensus. The players admit it, the fans, the journalists. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT? So I'd like to tell those of you who object to this article to %$^*^%$#*#. Oh sorry, the edited version. I'd like to tell you to open your eyes and realize that these articles have to be written because competition = equals interest, and no competition = no interest. These writers are trying to SELL THE TOUR. How good would it make the tour look if they wrote an article about how Venus and Serena are far and away the best and would never lose again? Hmmm? So why don't you whiners take your complaints elsewhere and maybe take these types of articles with a grain of salt, realizing the exactly what the intent of them is; to drum up interest in the tour.

and by the way, mmcdonald, the answer to the question is YES. Nobody stays on top forever. Not Chris, not Martina, not steffi. Won't happen for Venus and Serena either. Might not be this year, might not be in the next five, but they will be surpassed. everybody always is.

Apr 24th, 2003, 02:02 AM
Brian Stewart, you make a great point. I am not very fond of the "Who can beat Serena and Venus?" discussions in print or television media. I think it insults the fans and players alike. I also think this ploy is another way for different interests to take advantage of their celebrity. At some point, I don't view these remarks as flattery anymore. It is becoming more like a mantra or a drone. I'd rather discuss specific match ups or the particulars of a player's game on its' own merit.

Despite the article's simplistic argument, which you articulated very well, I found it interesting. The writer took the time to conduct an in depth analysis based on his point of view.

Apr 24th, 2003, 03:08 AM
I kind of agree with Luci, because IMO these "who will stop the Williams from destroying tennis articles" are getting tired.

Topspin, I don't see anything wrong with players believing that they can beat the Williams, or even as Amelie said be #1. I just don't like the nastiness and almost campaign like approach of the WTA and commentators. IMO, it's not that serious. Venus and Serena losing is not that much of a big deal IMO. It's just a part of the game, but when they lose to ANYONE it's a lot of over reaction and ill will wished upon them.

I do feel as though Justine and Kim and Capriati are serious threats, but everyone on tour on a given day is a threat. In a slam it all matters on how well you perform for those 2 weeks, and if someone else was better then so be it. It's not the end of the world if Venus or Serena loses, but most people act as if the SPORT has won if they lose and that's what I don't like.

Apr 24th, 2003, 09:56 AM
Great post harloo. I get a bitter after-taste in my mouth whenever i finish reading one of these campaign articles (who can beat the Comptom Comets?). I have never seen any celebrity whose humble beginning is being rubbed in as in the case of V&S. They have nothing to be ashamed of regarding their humble beginning, but puleez...

Astute remarks as usual Brian, but in the case of V&S, most players see it as the ultimate - beating V or S and that's not healthy! Listen to their interviews. I sincerely believe that Hingis started sliding down after she reached her highest goal - which is beating V&S back to back. I have seen her talk about this for several years, when it did finally happen, she was so elated, that she promptly lost her next match - which happened to be the AO-championship.
BTW, has any of these players won the tournament after beating V or S since their (V&S) domination and not in the finals?
The only person that comes to mind at the moment is Chanda. Anyone else?

Apr 24th, 2003, 10:25 AM
Thank you for posting the article :)
Matthew Cronin has again given us an insightsfill article. You can agree or disagree. Mark that the article ends in a question, discuss it further or use your imagination. Who will be the next nr 1, have we yet seen her?
That is the question, everyone can answer, but noone knows for sure, the only thing certain is : It will not be as you expected.
Just as life itself ;)

~ The Leopard ~
Apr 24th, 2003, 10:35 AM
Apart from one or two oddities and a surprising number of grammatical etc errors, it seems to me like a pretty good article. I don't know why people are moaning about it.

Beyond that, of course journalists are going to write on the topic of "Who can challenge the Williams sisters?" How could it be otherwise? :confused:

King Lindsay has pretty much hit the nail on the head with his post.

Apr 24th, 2003, 11:02 AM
I must admit it does not seem a complete appraisal of the tour without any mention at all of Monica