One of the most anticipated matches by tennis cogniscenti was the one between Belinda Bencic and Samantha Crawford. Non tennis nerds are forgiven for asking "who?" when it comes to both players. Bencic is an up and coming Swiss player and Crawford is a little known player out of Georgia. Each woman has taken a different road to the semi limelight of up and coming WTA players but Bencic, because of her association with Martina Hingis, is probably the better known player in tennis circles.
Coming into her match vs Crawford Bencic dismantled Sara Errani 6-1, 6-2 causing Errani to decry the late withdrawal of an unnamed player saying that said player ruined the draw. Maybe she was thinking that if the unnamed player had withdrawn earlier she would've moved from the ninth seed to the eighth and avoided Ms Bencic. But that did not happen and we ended up with Bencic vs Crawford.
Crawford, like Chung Hyeon, is one of those players you hear whispers about. Nothing distinct coming into this match but whispers all the same. It was a match many wanted to see. Sadly unless you were in Brisbane there was no way to see the match since it took place on a non televised court with not even a chance of a stream popping up somewhere it's not supposed to. So fans scoreboard watched and hung out on Twitter and when the dust settled Samantha Crawford had defeated Belinda Bencic 7-5, 7-5.
Needless to say at this point the whispers got very loud. Crawford was set to play fan favorite Andrea Petkovic next and many thought surely that would be the end of her run. As the saying goes "not hardly". This match was televised and I'm sure I was among the many who, watching Crawford play for the first time, were slackjawed watching in disbelief as Samantha dismantled Petkovic 6-3, 6-0. Petkovic had no idea what had just hit her and almost in spite of itself the United States has a potential star on it's hands.
Samantha is a big woman, 6'2", and has trained with Michael Joyce, ex coach of Maria Sharapova, whose name is already being linked by some to Crawford but make no mistake Ms Crawford's game is nothing like Sharapova's. First of all she can move well. Her forehands leave vapor trails. There are reports that her volleying is above average. She is facing another test tonight vs a resurgent Victoria Azarenka who starts the year fitter than I've seen her in a very long time.
Win or lose tonight this young woman is going to be hyped by the USTA. Let's hope she has people around her to protect her from the wiles of the USTA and let her continue her development. She's got a Wild Card into the Main Draw of the Australian Open. All eyes will be on her.
The other story of 2016 is Caroline Wozniacki. We're used to her by now, brick wall, counter puncher, father who goes for the histrionics during his courtside coaching sessions so who is this woman, wearing last years kit, who showed up in Auckland? I have never, ever, seen the Wozniacki who wiped the floor with Christina McHale 6-0, 6-2 and followed up with a beat down of Alexandra Dulgheru 6-1, 6-0. This Caroline was aggressive, in your face, hitting winners, you name it. Her father Victor Krason stayed in the stands while his daughter swaggered around the court. Absolutely amazing play from a player we all thought we knew. She'll be playing Sloane Stephens next. Sloane is being coached by Kamau Murray of Chicago now. I was going to say at the moment but I'm trying to be nice so early in the year.
This and That
The other stuff going on with the WTA is worthy of a right eyebrow quirk.
Let's start with all the withdrawals. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova head the list. I wasn't surprised about Serena. The most recent pictures I'd seen of her she was wearing flats to formal events, something she last did when she had surgery on her foot. She played a bit at Hopman Cup before officially withdrawing and allowing Victoria Duval to get some much needed match play after her illness.
Sharapova? A forearm injury was cited as her reason for withdrawing. Like I said it's too early in the year to be mean so I'll accept her surprise withdrawal at face value.
There was Petra Kvitova citing gastric issues in Shenzen. Garbiñe Muguruza's foot was giving her problems.
Remember when they went in on Caroline Wozniacki for saying that the WTA made it's athlete's play hurt? Apparently there's not going to be any more of that in WTAland.
Speaking of Muguruza she went way off the reservation with her widely reported comments to the Spanish journal El Pais . In a wide ranging interview she said that all of the WTA players hate each other and that ayone who says anything different is lying. Her defenders are saying it was a joke citing the article as proof because after she said that she reportedly giggled. Others are saying she is very sarcastic in both Spanish and English and that her words shouldn't be taken at face value. The only Spanish I know is not repeatable in proper company so I linked to the article above. The Google translation is horrible as you would expect but the controversial part is translated as follows:
The players are very difficult to make friends, we are very competitive and we are all the time on tour. And it is very difficult to make friends among other players because the next day we will compete. The boys is different, but the girls ... we all hate. Literal. And those who say otherwise are lying, "emphasizes having a good laugh. "Although we also look at things very women. We go over and suddenly think, 'I have the best nail ". Laughs again. "You can not avoid. It is incredibly different than with the boys. " Can it be macho? "I've often thought, because I see guys who are friends with each other. When we go to those events, a little commitment, before the tournament, the truth is I miss someone with whom to gossip: 'My God !, how would this dress? ".
New girl trying to fit in or haterade? We don't know enough about her to decide.
Finally there was the kerfluffle betwen Jelena Ostapenko and Naomi Broady in Auckland. Ostapenko, frustrated because Broady wasn't rolling over and playing dead for her threw her racquet. It hit a ball kid. Under the rules that means automatic disqualification. Except in this case where the chair did absolutely nothing. Broady protested but seeing she was getting nowhere resumed playing and beat Ostapenko.
Remember when you were a kid and your Mom told you that in a dispute they always see the person who reacts not the one who started it? That's exactly what happened here. On their way to "shake hands" at the net Ostapenko lit into Broady who understandably went off. That is all everyone seems to be focused on. Is Broady a bit of a drama queen? Maybe. Is Ostapenko a menace to society? Judging by all of the support that flowed Broady's way I'm thinking Ostapenko is one of those insufferable brats who thinks that the tennis world should be bowing to her invincibility. My question is why is no one going after the chair for not doing his job? I'm betting he's part of the in crowd in Australia and they're perfectly happy to let Broady and Ostapenko be tarred and feathered by tennis fans instead of their boy.
So what, you may ask is going on with the ATP? Last I checked for the most part they seem to be going about their business and playing tennis.