It's January 4, 2011. I hope everyone had a safe and happy New Year. Our favorite sport is back with a vengeance and there is a lot to talk about already.
I watched Dinara Safina in her no name kit play Yanina Wickmayer in Auckland last night my time. I'm sorry to report that Dinara couldn't find the court even with a map. Her level of play has dropped to the point you wonder where the woman is who played big babe tennis a mere couple of years ago. She showed zero confidence and was not very emotional, at least through the first set and a half. Admittedly I was doing other things so maybe she did throw a hissy fit and throw her racquet while I was away but the player I saw looked like a player just coming up from the junior ranks.
I'm not a tennis coach. I'm not a psychologist or psychiatrist. It's obvious to me that Dinara needs help and quickly. I know I dogged her as a slamless Number One and I feel I was justified in doing so. The year is young and there is still time for her to turn things around.
Caroline Wozniacki said at a presser in Hong Kong that winning a Slam is not a priority for her.
"I'm not very picky. If I win a Grand Slam in my career, I'll be happy. I don't set any deadlines," the 20-year-old told reporters in Hong Kong, where she is competing in an exhibition tournament.
"Of course I would like to win a Grand Slam title. Is it going to be this year? No one knows if it's going to happen. But definitely I'm going to try. I'm going to be fighting hard for it. We're going to have to see."
"I feel pressure is when you are put in a spot where you don't feel like you belong. I feel like I belong where I am (in the number one ranking). I've had a great year (in 2010)," she said.
I'm sure this is her public stance and that her team hopes it will make the press back off. Good luck with that Team Sunshine.
Wozniacki is going into Melbourne as the top seed. Serena Williams isn't playing. Venus Williams and Melbourne simply don't get along. I don't think the talk will die down at all. Instead it's going to increase as the year goes on. If I'm Wozniacki I'm on the look out for Kim Clijsters who needs a Slam win outside of New York.
Jarmila Groth play last year and came away unimpressed. I must have seen her on a bad day because she's been making a bit of noise lately. I have to say that I'm surprised that she defeated Samantha Stosur who has been generating a lot of talk going into Melbourne. I'm hoping to catch a live stream to see Groth's next match. As for Stosur the weight of the Australian tennis establishment is on her shoulders and right now she doesn't seem to be handling the pressure well. Again, it's early and top players will be looking to just be hitting their stride for the start of the Australian Open. We'll see.
Fernando Verdasco lost in straight sets, one a bagel, in Brisbane yesterday. Verdasco usually plays well at the beginning of the year so I'm sure he's upset at the form he exhibited in his first match of the year.
Yuki Bhambri is having problems transitioning to the senior tour. His loss to Alexandre Kudryavtsev of Russia today in Chennai is already being called the worst match of the young year. It's hard to accept people saying this when you haven't seen the match but his forays onto the Main Tour have not turned out well so far.
As for Australian junior Bernard Tomic it seems that he's becoming more known for his bullshit than his tennis. He was given a Wild Card into Brisbane and went down to Florian Mayer of Germany 2 and 2.
The transition from the junior to the senior ranks is always a rough passage but it seems that lately it's been harder than usual for both girls and boys. Are ego's being pumped up too high in the junior ranks and the youngsters become so hardened and set in their ways that they can't play the top players? Are we going to see what has happened to the NBA and to a lesser extent the NFL in tennis where the quality goes down because the younger players are unwilling or unable to adjust to the rigorous demands, mental and physical, of their chosen sport?
This is why it's so hard to hear someone like Sunshine make the statements she made in Hong Kong. Why shouldn't she say she wants to win a Slam if that is what she really wants to do? Is there something in her psyche that says she can only stay on top by playing every tournament on the calendar? Is the new generation trying to make the Slams irrelevant?
The WTA ranking system is complicit in downplaying Slam results. The reason the ATP gets less flak than the WTA is because it's ranking system doesn't do that. I'm sure the WTA feels that a change now would be admitting that the "haters" as they see it are right and that would only harm their brand. I think it's more harmful to their brand to have their Number One say it doesn't matter if she wins a Slam. Can you imagine a baseball team manager saying he doesn't want to win a World Series? An NFL coach saying the Super Bowl doesn't matter? Any football team on the planet saying the World Cup is just another tournament? I can't and tennis shouldn't accept it's top players saying it either. Tennis is fighting hard to be taken seriously. Women's tennis is fighting very hard to not be considered a sport for the unfit and mentally lazy. I don't expect a public tongue lashing but I hope Ms Allaster speaks with her player in private and tells her to get her shit together.
Idle Chit Chat
Wayne Odesnik is playing this week.
Stanislas Wawrinka, according to Swiss press reports, came home after Davis Cup, packed his bags, left his wife and daughter and changed coaches all to rededicate himself to playing the best tennis he can while he still can. Good luck with that Stan. We're all rooting for you.
Nishikori Kei of Japan has hired Brad Gilbert as his traveling coach.
TennisTV has shown all of the men's singles matches from Doha, Qatar so far this week. All that have been played on Center Court that is. This includes the match between Ivo Karlovic and Lukas Rosol. Thanks guys.