Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Missing 2nd Tier...

I'm depressed. For the first time in many years, I fear the Australian Open Women's Event is going to turn out be a damp squib.

We lost
Sharapova to a now long running shoulder complaint. Our new 'world number one' has the sniffles, though I am keen to see how the 'bulking up' has affected her game. And Ivanovic still hasn't made the right kind of ripples.

There's still plenty to get excited about:
Venus's quite public signalling of her intent to target both the number one ranking and the Slams that have eluded her. Safina's continued run of good form in Sydney, that saw her yesterday slug past Sugiyama in straight sets (just). Ditto, Dementieva who (perhaps needlessly) played a very high standard of tennis against a particularly out of sorts Serena Williams.

However it's not enough. A Slam requires not just leading ladies but also a stirring and colourful supporting cast. Those that read my review of 2008 must remember how frequently I appeared to sniff at the standard and quality of Women's Tennis, particularly at the higher profile events, which I mainly put down to Henin stepping down and Sharapova's shoulder.

One of the more pertinent problems I didn't mention there was to do with the relative absence of a 2
nd tier of women all making a compelling case for top ten entry. If you think back to 2007 for a moment (seem's strangely distant now doesn't it), we had players like Peer, Golovin and Bartoli producing tennis that, though not always of a high quality, was for the most part riveting, and seemed to salvage some of the 'big event' feel at the Slams and Tier-1's.

Peer isn't the most talented player in the world but there was something uniquely entertaining witnessing her effervescent determination and ever-willingness to sweat out rallies she was always destined to lose.
Golovin won her maiden title in 2007 and this was I hoped the beginning of those ever elusive 'good things' for her, but has unfortunately been sidelined with a back problem since early 2008; and as for Bartoli well, her win over Henin in a dramatic route to the final speaks volumes I think, about where her tennis was at, as well as the depths to which its now sunk.

We also had breakthrough years for
Szavay (remember that route of Jankovic in the Beijing Final?) and Radwanska (the conqueror of Sharapova at Flushing Meadows, who did thankfully follow up in 2008). See where I'm coming from? All this vibrant, frenzied activity involved players ranked 10 through to around 30 in the rankings - the '2nd tier' of tennis. There was enough here to get your teeth into before we even began considering the main event of the day involving the Henins, Williams and Sharapovas of this world. I don't think we had anything remotely resembling that in 2008.

did see the rise of Azarenka and Wozniacki. You can probably guess what I'm going to say about the former - I find her style of play, like Del Potro's on the men's side, both inflexible and uninspiring. An apprentice Maria. That means you Juan.

Wozniacki's tennis is more stimulating, and may have what it takes to rejuvenate (in part) the lacklustre state of the Women's game. It's funny, but in 2008 she began to make the right kinds of noises on tour at exactly the moment I was becoming a little disillusioned with it, and has therefore slipped quietly under my tennis radar. In fact until yesterday's quarters at Sydney I hadn't seen her play at all, when in three quite tantalising sets she went toe-to-toe with Serena Williams, who was playing with an intensity quite unlike her subsequent match with Dementieva.

She lost the match, but seems to me to combine the best attributes of
Ivanovic and Jankovic. She has the endurance, movement and defence of Jelena (if anything she seems 1/2 a step quicker) plus the shotmaking we know Ivanovic (on one of her better days) is capable of. She also (and I know these are first impressions) seems to have a good head on her shoulders. What!? A non-petulant 18 year old on the Women's Tour? Seems that way. (Ok Radwanska is quite well grounded too).

A good run from
Wozniacki could instill some life into the Open, as could Venus making good on the quite attainable targets she's set herself. But an early exit for either of The Sisters or Safina could curtail our enjoyment quite abruptly.

Jankovic image by Jet Magbanua under licence
Wozniacki image by chascow

blog comments powered by Disqus


All images on this site have been found in the public domain.
Credit has been given wherever possible.
If you feel your copyright is being infringed upon by any particular image, please contact me and I'll have it taken it down.

You Said...

Powered by Disqus

Receive Updates by Email...

Enter your email address:

  © Free Blogger Templates Spain by 2008

Back to TOP