Thursday, January 28, 2016

Weakness Or Strength?

by Savannah

My cyber friend and fellow blogger Karen always argues with me about my feeling that there is mental weakness in the WTA and that that is the cause for so much churn below the top ranking. She feels that it shows the depth of the women's tour.

We've agreed to disagree but I found a thread on a fan site that intrigued me and I thought I'd share it with you.

A fan calling themself "eDonkey" posted that of the top 21 WTA players(next week's rankings) only four have never made a Grand Slam Final now that Angelique Kerber will play Serena Williams for the title in Melbourne. Here's the list that was posted with those failing to make a final highlighted.

01. Serena Williams
02. Simona Halep
03. Agnieszka Radwanska
04. Angelique Kerber
05. Garbine Muguruza
06. Maria Sharapova
07. Flavia Pennetta
08. Carla Suarez Navarro
09. Petra Kvitova
10. Lucie Safarova
11. Belinda Bencic
12. Venus Williams
13. Karolina Pliskova
14. Victoria Azarenka
15. Timea Bacsinszky
16. Roberta Vinci
17. Jelena Jankovic
18. Caroline Wozniacki
19. Ana Ivanovic
20. Svetlana Kuznetsova
21. Sara Errani

For the ATP here's the top 20 where ten of the top 13 men have made a Grand Slam Final.

1 Djokovic
2 Federer
3 Murray
4 Wawrinka
5 Nadal
6 Ferrer
7 Nishikori
8 Berdych
9 Tsonga
10 Gasquet
11 Raonic
12 Isner
13 Cilic
14 Anderson
15 Simon
16 Goffin
17 Monfils
18 Bautista Agut
19 Thiem
20 Tomic

Remember we're talking Grand Slam Final's not tour finals.

I'll say it again. The WTA tour is being dominated both mentally and physically by a woman in her mid thirties. When she doesn't play (she may only play the big tournaments this year because of the Olympics) it's a shit show as to who will win. If you look at the WTA players ranked 2-6 who is a sure bet to win consistently? Aga Radwanska and Maria Sharapova, as I've said before, have their way with mentally weak or inexperienced players. Simona Halep is redefining the meaning of the word headcase while Garbiñe Muguruza looks ready to take over the world one minute and as if she wandered onto a tennis court by accident the next. By the way Sara Errani's final was the 2012 Roland Garros where she was runner up to Maria Sharapova.

I'm not quite sure why the top 21 was the cut off for the women while the top twenty was the cut off for the men. Maybe because Serena stands alone atop the heap in the WTA so the only race is between 2-21? I don't know. I do know that a club ceases to be exclusive when anyone can get in.

The Australian Open Final - WTA

It'll be Serena Williams vs Angelique Kerber for the championship in Melbourne. Serena destroyed Aga Radwanska in their semi final while the woman everyone said was going to be there - Victoria Azarenka suddenly forgot how to play tennis and lost to Johanna Konta who predictably lost to Angelique Kerber in their semifinal. *See note below

I seriously questioned whether Serena was ready for the grind of a Slam, seven matches in two weeks, and with a tricky draw to navigate but she's in the Final and will face a tenacious opponent in Kerber, who is nothing but if not boringly efficient. After the US Open you can never say what will happen in a Slam Final so I won't. As is often said you have to play, and defeat, who is across the net from you.

Tennis Journalism

January isn't even over and there are already stories the tennis press is ignoring. I'm not getting into gambling and tennis because there is an easy way to fix it - more parity in pay. The ATP Players Association came out firmly against better conditions and pay for those who make their living on the Challenger Tour when Roger Federer ruled the roost and their position hasn't changed. I do think it's interesting that when an algorithm brought Lleyton Hewitt's name into the mix the cries of "no way" drowned out the story of how a top Australian sports bettor used to sit in Hewitt's box at matches until he bet against Hewitt. "Pillar of the Sport". "Wonderful human being". "Beautiful family" (yes they went there). During one of his pressers he had his children sitting with him (to insure there were no untoward questions?) and the focus was on his youngest daughter who sat closest to him.

Then there's the so far verbal spat between Shamil Tarpishev (I know) and Maria Sharapova over Fed Cup. After losing to Serena in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Sharapova announced that she was going to St Petersburg but due to her forearm injury (I didn't see any problem with her shotmaking during the tournament or a medical time out but hey, it could've been the shoulder) she was not going to play. I guess she forgot to tell the head of her Federation, you know, the Russian Tennis Federation, the one she plays for? Tarpishev publicly told her that if she doesn't play the tie she will not be on the Russian team in Rio. When you're so used to telling your minions at the WTA and the men and women who pass as Tournament Directors what you are and aren't going to do you can tend to forget everyone isn't under your spell. Not one, zero, zip, nada, tennis reporter or press person has touched this story, one that was translated into English by the Russian news agency Tass . I'm guessing Max Eisenbud is on the phone talking really, really fast with Tarpishev as I type this while having some unpaid intern telling the "tennis media" to stay away from the story. Don't you love it?

End Notes

There ae four times a year any tennis fan worth his or her salt gets excited. When Grand Slams are played it's two weeks of the best playing the rest and hopes aboun for scintillating tennis.

If excitement and drama are what you were looking for this January I don't think you found it. We did see some potential new talent emerge on the women's side - Maria Sakkari of Greece who came oh so close to eliminating Carla Suárez Navarro, the tenth seed, Zhang Shuai of China who made it to the Quarterfinals after defeating the Number 2 seed Simona Halep are two who spring immediately to mind. There was also some troubling play from Sloane Stephens, fresh from winning her second WTA title and thought by many to have the potential to go deep here, and continuing injury problems for Madison Keys. What is it with US players being chronically injured? Maybe someone with professional cred needs to look at what the physios are doing for the USTA but, well, yeah moving on.

The ATP? There's not much to say. Tennis journalists continue to be baffled by the lack of fan enthusiasm for the ATP number one. I've given my opinion on this and I'm not going into it again. Ironically it's the enthusiasm for the ATP that keeps a tournament alive and right now there's not much new going on over there. They're still beating the drums for Dominic Thiem, Stan Wawrinka and yes Bernard Tomic but none of these men have star quality, that "thing" that lights up an arena. Aside from Serena Williams there is no one, with the exception of two men, who have it. Sharapova? The lack of fan support for her in her Round of 16 match was breathtaking and unable to be covered up by whoever was controlling the stream. Azarenka, never a fan favorite, did better with the Aussie crowd than Sharapova.

The countdown has begun to the Olympics where even the surface tennis will be played on is questionable. The end of the year, post US Open, is going to be very interesting to say the least.

Correction: As a reader pointed out Victoria Azarenka lost to Angelique Kerber in the Quarterfinals. Johanna Konta defeated Zhang Shuai. Konta played Kerber in the semifinals. Thanks Fred66!

© 2016 SavannahsWorld All rights reserved unless other wise indicated


Karen Williams said...

That graphic alone shows the depth that is on the WTA compared to the non-entity that is the ATP. Frankly, when a 34 year old is your consistent challenger to a player in his prime what can I say. At least on the women's side it is a 34 year old who is dominating proceedings.

I will go one step further and say when your No. 1 is dogged by match fixing and doping scandals the likes of which would have reporters penning long interesting articles then you know why there is little or no fanfare for a certain number one.

As for Vika and crowd support that deathly chirping silence that you heard when she screamed out about the Broncos winning was a case of her PR team needs to stop finding ways for her to embarass herself. From appropriating black culture to acting like an idiot over a sport in a country that no one cares about, she seems to be suffering from foot in mouth disease.

Lastly, Sasha Bajin is not a coach and will never be a coach. He is a really good hitting partner and person who cheers from the sidelines. The fact that Serena won while she was with you says more about Serena than it does about Bajin.

Savannah said...

"I will go one step further and say when your No. 1 is dogged by match fixing and doping scandals the likes of which would have reporters penning long interesting articles then you know why there is little or no fanfare for a certain number one."

I see no lies in the above statement but I would correct one sentence:

"...when your No. 1 is dogged by match fixing and doping scandals the likes of which SHOULD have reporters penning long interesting articles..."

I've had professional journalists I respect say that "Oh that guy is like a brother to him and he would defend him no matter what" when it comes to that certain #1 going to the mat for a countryman awhile back.

There wasn't much cheering for Pova either. Azarenka strikes me as a very focused, hard driving woman who wants the top and the limelight very, very much. IMG is trying to revamp her image but it's going to be hard because she truly is a "by any means necessary" kind of person. Too bad she doesn't have an Eisenbud to run interference for her.

Fred66 said...

Sorry to be nitpicking Savannah but Azarenka lost to Angelique Kerber in the Quarters not to Johanna Konta. Kerber who just broke my heart by beating Serena in the final. I'm sure you'll be blogging at lenght about this, but Serena was a mess today. It was New York all over again, the only difference being that against Vinci she won the first set. I'm sure Serena will match Steffi's record eventually but I really doubt she'll equal or pass Margaret Court.

Savannah said...

Fred it's not nitpicking when I made a mistake. Thanks.

What does bother me is how so many are soooo happey that "Steffi still has the record". It's the implication behind the statement that bothers me. People tend to forget that Steffi became so great after Seles was stabbed. I'm not a conspiracy theorist on that incident but despite all the accolades Graf has gotten it was actually Seles who changed the way womens tennis is played not "Fraulein Forehand".

I haven't watched the match yet. I'll get around to it.