by Karen and Master Ace
The BNP Paribas Open is over and I for one could not be happier. Of the 2 spring hard court events, I have always preferred the Miami event, for the simple reason that 2 of my favourite players play this event, while they do not play the tournament now being touted as the Fifth Slam.
It was not too long ago that the Sony Open was touted as the Fifth Slam. A few million dollars thrown around, a new stadium facility, a sushi restaurant, and bloggers and journalists alike telling us every day just how beautiful Indian Wells is has made this tournament, previously a blip on the landscape, now being shouted from the rooftops as the Fifth Slam. Frankly, when you can't do anything to have the 2 of the best female players ever to come out of the United States to play your tournament, then you are not the Fifth Slam. There is a quote attributed to Shakespeare that goes "The lady doth protest too much, methinks". For the entire 2 weeks of the BNP Open, the message that was being delivered was just how awesome this tournament is. We get it. Your tournament is fantastic. That does not, however, take away from the fact that while everyone was exceptionally happy for Flavia's win over Radwanska, the tournament does seem to lose a bit of its luster each year with the continued non-parrticpation of either of the Williams Sisters at this event.
In addition to the fact that neither Williams Sister was a part of the event, the event never seems to bring out memorable tennis from the women. The last time the women's final was filled with any sense of anticipation was the 2012 final between Sharapova and Azarenka. Last year's blowout by Sharapova over Wozniacki and this year's win by Pennetta over an injured Radwanska brought the tournament to a bit of anti-climatic finish on the women's side.
The women's draw has now been completed, and with the exception of the placing of the qualifiers in the draw, there are some blockbuster matches scheduled to be in the draw. If you, like me, forgot to do your WTA Bracket Challenge, remember to go the WTA website and fill out your bracket challenge. Master Ace has looked at the draw for Miami and below are his thoughts on what could happen.
Thanks Karen. The Miami draw was done on Sunday March 16 and it features the return of Serena Williams, who will be going for her 7th title and Venus Williams, who is turning back the clock like a certain person on the ATP tour but not getting much press as him. Between the Williams Sisters, Venus has played the better tennis in 2014 capturing the title in Dubai, where she extended her winning streak to 15. However, Serena has a knack for jump starting her season in Miami. Also, in the draw, is Flavia Pennetta, who won Indian Wells. Will Pennetta be able to win Indian Wells and Miami? The last person to achieve that feat was Kim Clijsters in 2005. What made that feat more interesting is Clijsters won 14 matches as she was coming back on the tour from wrist injury.
Serena Williams as the No. 1 seed is on the top half of the draw, while Na Li, the Indian Wells' semifinalist anchors the bottom half as the No. 2 seed. Li did not play well at Indian Wells so making the semifinals was a good accomplishment and most people believe that Li may play better in Miami. Agnieszka Radwanska is the 3rd seed here but is word that she may withdraw as she got injured practicing a day before the final at Indian Wells. In the top half of that quarter, we have V Williams, Simona Halep and Dominika Cibulkova where only one player may potentially survive to the quarterfinals. If we get the Halep vs V Williams in third round, it will be interesting to see how Halep will fare against V Williams' power and athleticism. Another daunting task for the players is they will have to play in humid conditions unlike Indian Wells where the conditions were dry.
Q1: S Williams vs Kerber
Q2: Sharapova vs Pennetta
Q3: V Williams vs Bouchard
Q4: Stephens vs Li
S1: S Williams vs Sharapova
S2: V Williams vs Li
F: S Williams vs Li
W: S Williams
Odds and Ends
Apparently ESPN, that paragon of sports broadcasting has a poll on its website asking if Serena Williams deserves to be No. 1. I don't know even know where to start with the questions that this poll raises in me. If not Serena, who? Let us look at the top 10 and their performance over the last 52 weeks and then we can say, with a straight face that someone else other than Serena Williams deserves to be No.1.
Of the other 9 women who currently occupy the top 10, only Azarenka won a Grand Slam within the last 52 weeks. Sharapova was a non-starter for most of the events that she played last year, finishing the year with 2 titles. Petra Kvitova did her usual no-show for most of the year and Simona Halep, even though I love her and her game, was the anti-Serena, winning titles in many International events without, for the most part, facing a top 10 player. Sara Errani, less said the better. Na Li, she was MIA for most of 2013, showing up now and again. She finished the year with a title in Shenzhen, her only title of the season. If not Serena, then who does ESPN think should be No.1. Would be good if they had asked us for recommendations.
WTA Big 3
The WTA Tour has been riding on the shoulders of 3 women since 2012. These 3 women have brought life to a Tour that was in the death throes of the Wozniacki Era. Day to day, tournament to tournament, Grand Slam to Grand Slam, 3 women have shown what competition is. They have fought hard, played hard, thrown barbs at each other and competed with a ferocity that has not been seen in a long time. Since 2012, they have won almost every Grand Slam, barring Bartoli's win at Wimbledon last year. This year, the WTA Big 3 have been plagued by injuries. Sharapova's shoulder injury seems to have reoccurred. Azarenka is having serious foot problems, failing to defend her Australian Open title and losing in her opening round match against Lauren Davis. Azarenka has now withdrawn from the Sony Open event in Miami. Serena Williams, who lost in the fourth round of the Australian Open, lost in the semifinals to Alize Cornet in Dubai. Serena makes her return to the Tour at the Sony Open as the top seed. One can only hope that her back is feeling much better.
In as much as people talk about the Big 4 in men's tennis, it would have been good if folks also spoke about the Big 3 in women's tennis. 3 women who together have brought about relevancy to women's tennis. The Spin hopes that all 3 women will regain full strength once again.