My friend Jewell (a real Cracked Gem that one) wrote today on Twitter whether there had been any good pieces resulting from today’s Ladies Semifinal Day. I thought to myself, oh no, poor Jewell, I should probably get cracking and write something really positive and uplifting about the women’s semifinals. Unfortunately, I was not able to write this early enough as I did not get a chance to watch the match live, having been stuck in an eye doctor's office we will talk about getting to old age in another post) and so I was confined to following the match via Twitter and the Wimbledon app.
Needless to say it was a nail biter of a match. In terms of the second semifinal, I caught the match from 4-1 Serena in the first set and as most of us expected, this was a routine affair for the World’s No.1 against the soon to be No. 2 on the WTA rankings. The final score line for the second semifinal really does not tell the true story of how this match played out. For all her fight, Sharapova just does not have the weapons, skills or ability to defeat Williams and frankly, even if she did, I don’t think that Serena will ever allow that to happen. It is just not in her make up to ever let 2004 be revisited. The final of the Championships on the ladies' side should be a good battle as even though Serena leads the head to head 2-1, Muguruza is one of those young players who hits hard and flat off the ground and who has beaten Serena on a big stage before, most notably a 6-2, 6-2 drubbing at the French Open in 2014.
Muguruza has shown this fortnight that she has the game to go all the way to the big titles, but this fortnight she has shown that she also has the mental focus to stay in matches, even when her game is falling apart. In her match against Kerber, she saved multiple set points by going for her shots and not being afraid to go big. Much like in her match against Kerber, she had a let down in the second set today, but righted the ship just when her opponent, Radwanska was making inroads into the match. Muguruza will have to be able to keep that mental focus all throughout her match against Serena if she hopes to pull off what will no doubt be a very famous victory and holding up her first of what will no doubt be many Grand Slam titles.
While re-watching the second semifinal, I took the opportunity to listen to the commentary as it really does give some insight into how commentators, viz-a-viz tennis fans watch matches. John McEnroe, for all that he has accomplished in this sport is a horrible commentator. He really does not add much of value to what is happening on the court, which is a real pity, as I think that for someone who has actually competed in this sport and who has performed under pressure, and without a doubt has suffered some form of injury during his tennis career, his inability to really give thoughtful and relevant analysis on today's players really makes my blood, and those of other tennis fans boil.
His inability to have valid talking points, while true in the men's game, becomes even more apparent when he has to do commentary during a women's match. During the Serena/Maria match, while there was not much in the way of commentary that could be provided, the talking points were in my view limited and fans sitting at home would think that the only that was happening was Serena serving Maria off the court. She was doing that, but that was not the only thing she was doing.
I find that many tennis commentators when they are calling a match with Serena focus on her serve and her power and attribute her wins solely to this aspect of her game. They ignore the mental part of her game, which for me is her biggest asset, and focus solely on the physical aspect. In rewatching the replay of the second semifinal, I was drawn to Lindsay Davenport's discussion with Bill MacAtee and Martina Navratilova. Prior to the match, Lindsay went and looked at old videos of Sharapova's matches as she wanted to see for herself what has happened with Sharapova's game since her last win over Serena. Davenport has put to rest the narrative that it was as a result of the shoulder surgery that Sharapova had in 2008 why her serve, which was once a weapon has become so ineffective. Davenport was of the view that it was not the surgery that had impacted Sharapova's serve but that her ball toss has become very ineffective. She opined that because her ball toss is a good 12 inches higher than what it was in 2004, Sharapova's contact point had become less reliable, which has led to a weaker and more ineffective serve.
For the first time I can say that a Grand Slam final featuring Serena Williams and a first time finalist is not a given. Separate and apart from the fact that Muguruza has beaten Serena in a Slam, there is also the fact that Muguruza has the game that can trouble Serena if she comes out cold or anxious. I don't think that Muguruza will be having butterflies when she takes the Court on Saturday. She will be full of vim and vigour and ready to take down Serena, much in the same way that she did in Paris. In addition to that she will have the SW19 crowd who, for whatever reason, seem to adore an underdog at these events.
However, this is Serena we are talking about. She is playing for what will without a doubt be the biggest event to happen to tennis in a long time. The chance to win all 4 Slams in a calendar year and achieve the Calendar Year Grand Slam. Since this season has started, Serena has been playing with this achievement on her mind. As she has struggled through each of the Slams so far, and in particular at this event, she has spoken of the pressure of what she is trying to do. In Paris it took her 3 sets to accomplish stage 2 of this lofty goal. If she wants to avoid the upset bug, she will need to race out of the blocks and command the court like no one else can. She will need to take the crowd out of the match and make SW19 her very own ground. She will need to ensure that Muguruza knows that today is not her day but that her time will come.
Prediction: Too close to call
Trolls in Tennis
It used to be that an internet troll was usually someone who would come in and post something derogatory into a conversation just to put the attention on themselves rather than whatever discussion was happening at that time. An internet troll is defined as “a person whose sole purpose in life is to seek out people to argue with on the internet over extremely trivial issues”. The unfortunate thing about tennis internet trolls is that they usually only come out when women’s matches are being played. Tennis internet trolls usually have an MO and it goes something like this
Equal Prize Money trolls
· Woman tennis player serves up a double fault on break point
· Women’s match lasts under an hour
· Empty stands at a women’s match
· Female player retires
· Every single woman’s tennis match at a Grand Slam (usually said by a man who has lobbied to get a whole bunch of money for losing first round at every Grand Slam)
· Intense 3 set match with 20 shot rallies that has crowd on the edge of their seats
· This goes to every single WTA match, no matter whether the woman is grunting or not
No one watches women’s tennis trolls.
This is my favourite of all the trolls. The reason why this particular troll is my favourite is because I can always rebut his argument with facts. This particular troll which usually comes in the form of Sergiy Stakhovsky (an ATP player who has won 4 ATP titles, the last of which came 5 years ago. Stakhovsky is the ultimate internet tennis troll especially of women's tennis. Mr. Stakhovsky has a lot of time on his hands. Frankly, as a husband, father and member of the ATP Player Council and professional athlete, he has way too much time on his hands. He opens his mouth at the most inopportune times and says the most outrageous things, frankly not because he has anything of note to say, but because he has too much time on his hands.
I will not reiterate everything that he has said in the last 24 hour news cycle because it will just add grist to the mill. The fact is that the negativity that he exudes when it concerns women's tennis concerns me and it concerns me because this is not the first time that he has uttered negativity about the women's Tour and it will not be the last. I understand that he is scheduled to have a sit down with Martina regarding his comments. Good luck with that.
The last time Mr. Stakhovsky did anything of note was when he last won a title in 2010. That was 5 years ago. Subsequent to that he beat an injured Federer at Wimbledon. This is the man who his fellow players elected to the ATP Player Council to represent their interests. Like I said, way too much time on his hands.
I just want to point out to Sergei that maybe women’s tennis is not popular where he is from but the ratings for the last 4 Grand Slams have shown that the women’s game is so much more popular than the men. At every single Grand Slam stop for the past 2 seasons, the women have outshone the men in terms of the quality of the matches and the depth of talent that resounds on the WTA Tour.
When you have 4 men dominating your sport, so much so that when someone else has a breakthrough and wins a Major, he gets on the cover of magazines, then you know your sport is in trouble. No one turns up to watch Sergei play. No one even turns up to watch Raonic play. No one cares too much about the guys ranked 6-10 on the ATP World Tour. They care about the men ranked 1-4. That is it.
Stakovsky is the ultimate troll. He keeps hijacking the women’s event during Grand Slam play and I for one am sick of it. Frankly, I am sick of people hijacking the women’s event at Grand Slams with idiotic trolling. First it was Martina Navratilova and Rob Koenig and their ridiculous discussion about players disrespecting fans by wearing headphones while they are entering the court, as if players have time to recognize fans when they are in the moment preparing for competition. Then there was the idiotic question and answer session that Azarenka and Serena had to endure after their 3 set quarter-final marathon.
For today, when 4 women were going through their own Survivor moment to have a chance to play for history, here comes the British press with their tributes to female “we don’t get along because you are a volcano and I am pretty” narrative to talk about the Serena/Sharapova match. Women’s tennis deserves better than this. Frankly, half of the articles seem to be written sometimes with the sole aim of discrediting Player A over Player B but it makes the whole sport look bad and women’s tennis is not bad. Women’s tennis is strong. It is powerful. It is enduring.
I am particularly loving the fact that the women, for the first time that I can recall are no longer shying away from engaging with the press and telling them that their narratives about women’s tennis need to stop. No longer are they willing to sit in the chairs and be ambushed into talking about grunting, screaming, court assignments, ex-boyfriends (he is an ex for a reason and therefore no longer relevant).
News you can use
If you have not already done so, you need to give a listen to the Reals Tennis Podcast. It is the only tennis podcast that is broadcast live and gives you the listener a chance to air your views about what's happening in tennis. Bookmark the channel, listen to it at your leisure. Do not listen while driving.
@stephintheUS has a very interesting radio show that she does on Pro Tennis Radio on Thursdays at 8:30 CT that focuses strictly on the women's game. I joined her last night to talk about all things women's tennis, coaching and the young ones. You should listen.
We’ll be talking all about today’s @WTA semis TONITE on @ProTennRadio at 8.30pm CT. Listen live/call in w/thoughts! http://t.co/lrkKEqndax— Steph (@StephintheUS) July 10, 2015
There was an interesting article from the New York Times' Ben Rothenberg on how players perceive their bodies on the women's tour. If you have not read it already, it is required reading. Please see link here.
For female tennis players, accepting themselves as muscly athletes doesn't always come easy. My story on body issues: http://t.co/GmqhcqUHz0— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 10, 2015
Enjoy the final everyone, it should be a very good one.