ATP Player of the Year
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
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.
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
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.