Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 - The Year in Review

by Savannah

ATP Player of the Year
blog year end
What did Rafael Nadal do to deserve being named ATP Player of the Year? After withdrawing from the Australian Open last January things looked bleak as Rafa had a horrid spring hard court season. Then came his return to the European clay. Once Rafa got his feet planted in the dirt he never looked back. Winning every tournament he played Rafa swept into Roland Garros like a Category 5 hurricane. Like those storms he swept up and flattened everyone in his path.
Usually a storm loses strength once it hits land but Rafa proved once again to be a rule unto himself. Once he landed in SW19 he again swept away everyone in his path.
As we all know hurricanes need warm water to build up strength. The North Atlantic isn't exactly warm and the pundits said the storm that had swept through Europe would lose strength and that it's power would be absorbed by the unforgiving concrete courts of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The result as we know is history.
I don't think there can be any debate about this. Enhorabuena Rafa!

WTA Player of the Year
There will be debate about this. Kim Clijsters won the popularity contest based on her one Slam win in 2010. Why wasn't the two slam winner named WTA player of the year? She didn't play after Wimbledon. That seems to be the only reason. Were people tired of seeing Serena Williams at the top and wanted to reward a member of the Blond Ambition crew? Was it because everyone knew that to name the slamless number one Player of the Year would make the WTA more of a laughing stock than it already is? I mean when major tennis magazines are calling your number one a work in progress your tour has issues.
I don't suffer from any delusions or illusions. Serena Williams is the WTA Player of the Year.

ATP Match of the Year
The torture that was John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon was not the match of the year. That honorific belongs to the semi final match played between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray at the O2 Arena in London. It was a three set exhibition of high quality hard court tennis, a battle of wills, strategy and shotmaking that lifted fans out of their seats. You all know I'm not a fan of hard court hit hard and harder tennis. If all hard court matches were played at this level I'd become a fan. This is a must see match. Fans should use whatever means are at their disposal to see it. It would make someone a great holiday gift.

Coaches of the Year
Antoni Nadal has a lot to be happy about. His nephew sits on top of mens tennis. He has done what some said couldn't happen and made his student into a threat on all the surfaces tennis is played on. If you listen to some American commentators you hear that Toni is a very strict coach and that when he's not around Rafa must breathe a sigh of relief. Next time you see Andy Roddick ask him about working with a disciplinarian as opposed to doing what you want when you want. This is truly a "Family Affair" and Toni Nadal deserves our respect and admiration for a job very well done.
I usually choose Oracene Price and Richard Williams for WTA Coaches of the Year and they deserve honorable mention for the job they did with their injured daughters during 2010. The award this year goes to Sergey Demekhine who is now coaching Vera Zvonareva. There are lots of pictures around of him fully clothed but hey, you can Google him and see those. Vera has always had potential but always seemed to fall apart at critical times during her matches. This would result in the emotional outbursts she is famous for. With Sergey the emotions are still there but there haven't been any picking apart the bandages and wraps scenes. Even during the US Open final while suffering from brain freeze Vera played tennis. Making Bepa a legitimate, not just a statistical top five player in 2011 is the challenge facing Sergey.

WTA Match of the Year

What does it mean when I look back over the entire WTA season not one match leaps out at me? I was ready to publish this yesterday but thought that maybe I was mistaken and that there actually was a match that had slipped my mind. There were some good matches - Samantha Stosur vs Elena Dementieva at the US Open, and some inspiring matches - Francesca Schiavone vs Elena Demetieva at the French Open - but that's it. Neither of these matches could be called great.

I have read some excellent fan musings on the WTA and it's current situation. What it all boils down to is that the women who came on the scene ten or more years ago arrived with skills and mental toughness that the current crop of up and comers don't seem to have a clue about. The top player in the world can't make it through a match without her father racing down from his aerie to tell her what to do. Most of them have no idea what the word "strategy" means. They have no shots, no court presence, and other than bad attitude and a sense of entitlement bring nothing to the court. Watching them ball bash is the cure for insomnia. It's appalling that the top player is called a work in progress.

When did being cute start to matter more than having a solid game? Look no further than Anna Kournikova. She was the first with the long blond hair and cute outfits. Now it seems that every young woman coming on the court has to look as if she squeezed herself into a kit one size too small and have flowing tresses, preferably blond. Stefanie Graf and Monica Seles were the players of their generation but only purists remember them. Everyone knows Anna Kournikova. I'm laying off of Maria Sharapova because she is trying to do more with her game. 2011 will be crucial for her.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Until the WTA works harder at promoting mental ability instead of cuteness and marketability it will continue to put out a mediocre product and forgettable, cookie cutter players.

And while we all appreciate the effort put forth by Kimiko Date-Krumm what does it say about your sport that a forty year old woman can come back and be competitive? A lot has been made of her comeback and not all of it has been positive. Again it comes down to the skill set that women of her generation came to the pro level possessing not trying to learn.

Let's be real here. Serena is badly injured. Venus Williams played with pain most of the year. Love them or hate them the glimpse we've had of the WTA without either of them is pretty grim.

The ATP in 2011

The man pictured above will be the story for 2011 in the ATP. The picture has engendered a lot of criticism and speculation about it's meaning. It's simple. Almost every establishment tennis blogger, commentator and many fans see this man as the embodiment of men's tennis. Everyone else is seen as somehow unworthy (except for Andy Murray). Look for a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth as well as grown men and women clothed in sack cloth and ashes. It is truly going to be a bumpy ride.

US Tennis in 2011

Dire. When our Fed Cup team's hopes rest on the shoulders of Melanie Oudin and Coco Vandeweghe we're in trouble. As for the men there are some bright if obnoxious lights. Sam Querrey comes to mind. John Isner wasn't allowed to completely heal from that horror of a match in London. Querrey showed that he needs a lot of coddling and Isner, while willing, wasn't physically or mentally able to recoup at the end of the season.
That leaves Andy Roddick as the American standard bearer. He's made the attempt to undo years of damage and had mixed results. Has he recovered from that Wimbledon final he should have won? That was in 2009. 2011 will mark a fresh start for him. Will he ever win a major again? The stars will have to perfectly align for that to happen. Roddick has also said he will play Davis Cup in 2011. That gives us a chance.
Frankly I don't see Isner and Querrey being ranked much higher than they are now. There is a lot of hope being placed on the shoulders of Ryan Harrison who made a good showing at the US Open. Once again our players are hampered by their inability to play on any surface other than outdoor hard court or super fast indoor courts.

The older players, Venus, Serena and Andy Roddick are going to be called on to do a hell of a lot for their country in 2011. Let's see how they hold up.


TennisAce said...

I agree with you somewhat that women's tennis is in dire straights right now. They need to do away with on court coaching and the call for it to be at the Grand Slam and men's tour should be shoved aside without so much as a bye your leave.

There were some very good women's matches that I personally watched this year. The only problem, they never featured any of the "big names" of tennis, but I enjoyed a whole new set of players that most tennis fans have never even heard of.

What more does Roger Federer have to prove? In my view nothing. What else does Rafael Nadal have to prove? In my view nothing. As far as I am concerned the player who needs to start putting up or shutting up is Djokovic. He went through a whole season without winning a MS title. What does that say about him?

Davis Cup is a team effort. He did not go out there and win it all by himself.

Some tennis writers are now moving the goal posts and saying that Fed has to win Davis Cup. Why?

Bloggers like yourself are asking what of Federer for 2011. The man is 29 years old. He will be 30 soon. At what point does he start playing for himself and the love of the game and for the enjoyment of his fans and stop trying to prove things to people? How come no one has asked the same questions of Djokovic and Roddick? As bad as Fed's season supposedly was, he won a major, a MS title and won 3 other tournaments, including the WTF.

I would say apart from Nadal, Fed had a damn good year. What do you think?

Savannah said...

You mention Djokovic. He, along with Murray, are right where they should be. In fact I think the ATP top ten accurately represents the men's game.

When I say next year will be about Roger Federer I don't mean it in the sense that he has anything left to prove. I mean that there seems to be a cottage industry that needs to see him as more. I'll leave it at that. You watch. The entire 2011 season will be judged on how he does including Davis Cup. I believe Roddick will play DC. I'm sure Djokovic will. I don't know about anyone else.

Let's get real: Djokovic did what he was supposed to do in Belgrade. It was Troicki who played the match of his life and won DC for Serbia. Did he play against a physically exhausted Llodra? Sure but I think Forget was banking on Troicki getting tight and that France would eke out the win.

You said it right TA. There were a lot of "good" women's matches. There wasn't a great one like Elena vs Serena this year. Sadly I don't know if we'll ever see matches like that again.

Savannah said...

I thought I posted comments made by "Nick", a first time poster here. I'm replying to his comments about my position re Kim Clijsters being named Player of the Year. He felt that since Serena played on six tournaments and Kim played more that even with her one Slam Kim deservedly won Player of the Year. He also defended Kim's style of play.

I thought he made the argument for Kim quite well. I disagree but that is what makes sports discussions so much fun.

He also defended Kim's style of play. I have said before that Kim is just a better pusher than Wozniacki since she's been at it longer. She brings players down to her level and once that happens she will win. Nadia Petrova was the only woman to neutralize her this year by taking away Clijster's timing.

For some reason Nick's post showed up twice. I posted one and deleted the other one. Nick please post again if your original doesn't show up.

TennisAce said...

Part 1
Exactly, in relation to Fed and I think it needs to stop. It is like no matter what he does, he still comes up short and it is expected that he will be performing in the same way he did during the height of his career. Why can't we just enjoy the man and appreciate what he brings to the game and be done with it. As a big fan of his, that is exactly what I do these days. Take the wins with a smile and get down when he loses, but appreciate him now because it will all be gone soon enough. Same thing with my other faves, Venus and Serena.

I watched TC's count down of the so-called Viewers Choice. The fact that Serena was not No. 1 or Venus No. 2 said it all. That Brisbane match which for some is the match of the year was the worst match I have ever seen. For me the Sydney match with Serena and Rezai was a very good match, as was the Martinez-Sanchez v. Jankovic from Rome.

Clijsters just irritates the crap out of me. Her game is ugly and her demeanour on court is just meh. She does absolutely nothing for me. As much as I am not a fan of Sharapova, her on court demeanour is what draws me to her matches (except for the shrieking and fake fist pumps). I hate seeing Wozniacki's dad on court. Just hate it. I am hoping that a few of the players who did good this year will continue to maintain on the WTA side.

TennisAce said...

Djokovic blows hot and cold. More cold than hot. He played 2 good matches this year. His thing about retiring from matches and having all sorts of on court ailments continued in 2010 and I think will be the same in 2011. He just cannot change. I think one of the players to watch next year will be Monfils. He seemed to have grown up somewhat especially after his match against Fed and I am hoping that he puts his talent to good use and makes a good run at the majors and the MS events next year.

Soderling is also a player who seems to be improving but I am not sure the coaching change was the best thing. Tennis heads are saying that Norman did not want to travel as much again. Not good at all.

Ivanovic seems to be improving but as I have seen from her matches in 2010, she intimidates those she can with the fist pumps and adje's but succumbs to the better players. I noticed that she did not call a coach down courtside as much in 2010, let us hope it is a sign of things to come in 2011.