People desperately want a rivalry between the WTA #1 Serena Williams and the WTA #2 Maria Sharapova. Since the Russian hasn't beaten Serena since, oh, 2004, they simply make one up.
No matter where Serena has been ranked she somehow manages to find a way to defeat Maria, something that seems to keep people up at night trying to find ways to keep Maria from having to face Serena. Cakewalk draws for Serena's opponents, willfully blind chair umpires, brazenly cheating opponents, you name it. And yet Serena finds a way to win at 31.
The talk now seems to be that Maria, now a clay expert, will defend her title at Roland Garros because Madrid doesn't matter. You know altitude, that sort of thing. Not many talked about Serena having something to prove in Madrid but I think she did.
She had to redeem herself for her comments about "weenies" and prove that there was nothing flukey about her win last year on the blue stuff. One person you don't want on a mission is Serena Williams, especially when she created the drama to begin with. She redeemed herself and that is what matters to her. Don't get me wrong, defending her title and holding on to the #1 ranking are important too. But so much of the tennis press tries to fit her into some preconceived notion of who and what she is refusing to talk about the competitor, the athlete who is Serena Williams. She proved them all wrong this week fighting through some really bad patches and showing up at the final mentally and physically ready and giving her detractors and those who wish her ill something to chew on.
It's not totally correct to say there is no rivalry between these two women. Anyone who saw the coin toss and felt the coldness between the two women no matter where they were watching from could think otherwise. They understand and respect each other. It doesn't mean they're going to be meeting for lunch or sending each other gift baskets though. One brings out the best in the other on the court and one brings out the worst in the other on court. And in the end Serena has shown that on the court she can survive whatever they throw at her to defeat the woman who wants her ranking and her cred.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova teamed up with Lucie Safarova to win the womens doubles in Madrid. I didn't see one doubles match although they were available on TennisTV.
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan continue to be the only American men who have a clue about how to play on clay. You'd think the USTA would use them in training their men. Maybe they do, I don't know. I do know that American men are not doing well in singles on red clay while the Bryan's keep winning.
This man knows something about winning on clay too. Comms seem to love talking about his current ranking without mentioning the why of it while pushing the ATP #1 who was booed by fans in Madrid for his obvious gamesmanship during a match, something the comms never, ever mention when it comes to his behavior on court. Instead they focus on how boorish the fans in Madrid, and by inference, in Spain are.
Rafael Nadal is not a big fan of the Madrid tournament for many reasons but this year he wanted to win it and he did.
The tour has moved on to Rome, the Eternal City. That means another week of living on European time. It also means another glorious week of clay court tennis.