Thursday, March 31, 2011


Women’s tennis is at its transition phase. There is no doubt about it.
In every era, fans of women’s tennis have to get used to the idea that players that we have grown accustomed to seeing performing at their best will eventually leave the Tour to make way for a new breed. This is how it goes in all aspects of our lives, whether we want to believe it or not.

Journalists, fans and other media practitioners have taken the WTA Tour, and its veterans to task for their inability to keep the Tour alive. I disagree with this notion. I think the WTA Tour as it stands is at its transition phase. We have seen it before in the 70s, 80s, 90s and now in the 2000s. At some point in time these professional women have to start listening to their bodies and in some cases their significant others and decide that it is time. Time to put down the racquets. Time to stop travelling the world. Time to stop practicing. Time to stop going to the gym every day. Just TIME.

For fans of the new breed of veterans. The Venus, Serenas, Kims, Justines, etc of the Tour, it is heart rending to say the least to watch such quality players take the court less and less. Someone said to me today after Clijsters’ loss that it seems as if with Justine, Serena and Venus not around, she does not seem motivated to compete. That could very well be true. There is no doubt that these 4 women pushed each other to great heights. They forced each other to raise the level of their games when they met.

I recall that between 2003-2005 when neither Williams Sister was playing on a regular level, the era was known as the Battle of the Belgians. Kim and Justine would meet as often as Venus and Serena. During this time we also hold Amelie and quite a few other veterans, including Sharapova. Today, we have these former Grand Slam champions struggling through injury and motivation to try and find their way back to the top of the game.

The media and fans would like them to continue.

In listening to the commentary during the last 2 weeks of the Winter hardcourt swing of Indian Wells and Key Biscayne, the consensus seems to be from every commentator that having Maria Sharapova in the mix is good for the game. I would go further. I think having the veterans competing against the new breed is good for the game.

This sport is not about one player. It is about a professional Tour. A Tour that encompasses women from all walks of life. There are women out there who are competing because it is their job. There are others who are doing it for the legacy that it will bring them. Hall of Fame accolades and the like. To have the media think that this sport. This wonderful sport built by generations of strong women who dedicated their whole lives so that women of today could benefit, is all about one player are delusional.

These days I like to see competition amongst the women. I too will regret the day when I can no longer see Venus striding across the lawns of Wimbledon, holding herself as regal on the grass as no one else in women’s tennis can. I long to see Serena Williams’ serve and that forehand and her hitting that backhand off the back foot and seeing that fierce look of calm determination as she stands across the net to return serve. I enjoy seeing the look of determination on Sharapova’s face as she battles her opponents and these days herself. I like the contemplative look on Clijsters’ face as she ponders her next move. I like the eagerness of Azarenka, and the happiness that she now seems to enjoy both on and off the court. I like to watch the wheels of Radwanksa’s head turning as she slices, and dices the ball to give her opponent’s fits, and finally, I like the look of the current World’s No.1, Caroline Wozniacki, a player who does not get as much credit as she deserves in this wonderful sport.

In short, I love what the WTA has to offer, both from the veterans and the new breed.

The game is in transition and I for one while dreading what lies ahead am surely looking forward to what the WTA will do next.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


In yesterday’s post I intimated that based on the live streams that I was seeing, it was possible that women’s tennis would get little or no coverage of the combined events of the BNP Paribas Open, i.e. Indian Wells. I was wrong. Women’s tennis got lots of coverage yesterday. It would have been good though if during the cut aways from the main stadium matches, we got a glimpse of the other women playing during this tournament in the same way that it was done for the men, but that would have been asking too much of the broadcasters.

From the matches I saw yesterday, some of them left me shaking my head and others made me feel somewhat optimistic about women’s tennis going forward.
My issue today is with the commentators in the booth.

I hold no brief for any player on the WTA Tour. The only Tour player that I have had the pleasure of meeting personally is Venus Williams and since we share the same last name I have always considered myself as “holding brief” for Venus in the event that I believe that she is being negatively portrayed in the media. Not that that gets me anywhere but I will defend Venus with my last dying breath as I believe she is the epitome of professionalism and class on the WTA Tour.

Which brings me to yesterday’s commentary. I sat there and listened to Lindsay Davenport not only belittle the current World’s No. 1 but also point out how in her Davenport’s opinion Clijsters is the best player in the women’s game right now. She then went on to make the distinction between quality and quantity. The first thought that went through my mind was whether Ms. Davenport felt that way when she was year end NO. 1 on a number of occasions by amassing tons of tournament wins at tournaments that I have now forgotten while getting her behind handed to her in numerous Grand Slam semis and finals. Did she consider herself a worthy No.1 at that time? Did she think that she was better than those players who were winning majors but ranked beneath her? I am sure she felt that she was better than the others who were winning majors. After all, she was supporting the WTA Tour and turning up to all the events, she just could not get pass the finish line.

I hold no brief for Wozniacki and while I have defended her, I think she really needs to work on her aggression as well as be able to win a match rather than have her opponents lose. In yesterday’s match against Sloane Stephens, Wozniacki played a match that was not worthy of a No.1. She was defensive. She was out hit for most of the match and at some points she had no answers. At the end of the day she won the match, but she left me, a long time admirer of hers shaking my head because she should have, as a No.1 asserted herself and let the world know that this is what got her to No.1 (which I guess she did in a way seeing as she hit only 4 winners in the whole match).

Dinara Safina is not one of my favourite players. I know that there are a lot of people out there who are fans of hers. I admire her hard work and dedication to this sport that has not always been kind to her. In 2010 Safina suffered what can only be termed as career threatening injury. She had a broken vertebrae and I recall at one point seeing a tweet that she could hardly pack her luggage to leave Melbourne after retiring against Kirilenko in the Australian Open 2010.

For the next few months, we had no idea whether she would even show up at tournaments, let alone win them. Safina got little or no sympathy from the media and except for a few die hard fans and bloggers not much was heard in the way of news from Safina. At this year’s Australian Open she was completely humiliated by Kim Clijsters with a double bagel in the first round. News came recently that she had considered retiring after that loss but was talked out of it by her mother.
As a result it was in exceptionally poor taste last night while I sat and listened to Lindsay Davenport, of all people talk about what a fighter Sharapova is by coming back from shoulder surgery, while at the same time implying that Safina’s drop in the rankings was due more from lack of confidence in her game, rather than a serious injury to her back.

She then went on to talk about the fact that Sharapova had to be dealing with the issue of not having Michael Joyce around any more and how good a friend he was. If I am not mistaken I was of the view that after her humiliating loss in Auckland to Greta Arn, a player a lot of tennis fans had never heard of, Sharapova fired Michael Joyce. I guess there is only so much goodwill that friendship will get you.

At the end of the day we have 2 athletes who suffered through career ending injuries. One of them has been getting copious amounts of media ink which talk about her fight, her dedication and her hard work. The other one’s troubles have been grist for the mill for tennis writers who could care less what happens to her.

Safina said it best recently when she said that was looking forward to clay season and she hopes that tournament directors remember who she was. If that is not a sad reflection on the state of women’s tennis and how certain players are treated unfairly, then I don’t know what is.

For the past 2 or 3 years we have been hearing non-stop about Sharapova’s shoulder problems. It has been the reason for her dismal performances for the past 4 years (if you listen to Tracy Austin) and 3 years (if you listen to everyone else). In addition to her shoulder surgery, apparently her results were also caused by a virus. Could a bout of mono be far behind?

At the end of the day as a fan of women’s tennis, I would like to see equal treatment of every single player. In the same way that those in the booth describe Venus’ forehand as needing more work and how her footwork on clay is abysmal. I want them to sit in their booths and call a match as it is happening.
Anabel played her heart out last night. She eventually lost but she competed admirably. You would not have known this by the commentary in the booth last night.

Commentators, we as fans deserve better. We watch tennis because we love it. We have our favourites and our not so favourites.

Now I know why Carillo left the booth. Who needs this really?

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I hate this time of the tennis season. I really do. Most tennis watchers are really happy about this time of the year. They get to see the top players playing in the two big Masters tournaments for the men and the Premier events for the women. Me, I get pissed because while these two big events are going on coverage of the women is always either minimal or basically non-existent.

This morning the first thing I did was check the usual streaming sites. Lo and behold, we have 10 matches scheduled for today. All of those matches are men’s matches. Of course, the next thing I did was go to the schedule for today’s play. A former No.1 in Dinara Safina, struggling to come back from a serious back injury is the first match up on Stadium Court. The next match is Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion. He is also coming back from injury (wrist). The next match after Del Potro on Stadium Court is the current No. 1 on the women’s side, Caroline Wozniacki.

I have Tennis Channel and their coverage commences at 2:00 EST. I am hoping that their first match will be that of Dinara Safina, but for some reason, I am not holding my breath on that one.

I do not like these combined events. I really don’t. I think the women get shafted when it comes to television coverage as more emphasis seems to be placed on giving as much exposure as possible to the men’s side of the tournament, rather than the women.

I am hoping that I am wrong and that Tennis Channel and ESPN3 will provide coverage of the various women’s matches happening around Indian Wells and later this month, Miami, but if previous experience is anything to go by, I am thinking the women will get shafted once more.