Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Roland Garros WTA Epilogue

-- Anyone that reads this blog on a semi-regular basis will know I like my tennis a little different. And how I long for that on the women's side in particular.

With that in mind, it was a relief to see a someone as skilled as Sam Stosur make the semis, the first Aussie to reach that level at a major in 21 years.

She's a doubles specialist which means she has great control over her kicked serve, consistent groundstrokes that actually mean something in terms of constructing a point and exemplary hand skills at the net. All good.

Can we get more top female doubles players to focus on singles please? More than just Sam Stosur and Zheng Jie I mean; the rest of them might actually learn something.

-- Ana Ivanovic has parted ways with Kardon, a coach she appointed not 4 months ago. Kardon boasts Navratilova amongst many other big names on his CV and I had thought I detected at least
some positive changes in her recent matches. And what now? Back to the Adidas Player Development Program. That's just plain stoopid. Y'all know how I feel about that.

It usually takes less than 5 seconds for me to reduce any grievance I have, to a discussion on the many problems I feel exist in women's tennis. I intend to hold back on this occasion.

Despite the misgivings I might have, 'Team Adidas' may actually be ok for the younger girls trying to make their way up the rankings. Once you enter tennis elite though, you really need a more personalised one-on-one approach. And for a former world #1 that has already won a Slam, it's just stoopid. No other word for it.

I can only assume (and hope) that this is a temporary measure while she continues to search for a different mentor; one I hope lasts long enough to see some of the work they put in bear fruit this time and return her back to the top of the game.

Which incidentally, I wouldn't mind seeing, because as far as her RG performance is concerned, it was the absolute antithesis of the Rafa upset (except her tearful walk off court which was almost as painful to see). In that nobody seemed to care let alone be surprised by it. Eyelids were not batted. Her loss against Azarenka was not even broadcast. Most people were probably surprised she made the fourth round. And we all know how many prisoners Azarenka takes.

-- I wasn't as disappointed with Jelena as I thought I might be. Sure she went out in the 4th
round to a player ranked well below her. But that player was clearly out to announce herself and you don't need to have seen the match to understand that 9-7 in the third is just about the closest ladies match of the entire event. Cirstea also happened take out Wozniacki en route to her first quarter final appearance at the Slam level. From what I saw Jelena wasn't playing that poorly, and you get the feeling that with any other tier-2 player facing her, we might have seen her in the quarters.

But that, I'm afraid is not good enough for someone of her level - someone widely tipped (not just by myself) to pick up her first Slam here. Were it Serena or an in form Maria at 7-7 in the final set and you can bet your bottom dollar they'd have found away through.

I've always held her to be just that little bit ahead of that other bunch of wobblers in the mental stakes. But now, with Azarenka, Safina (not withstanding that final) and even Zvonareva all staking their claims this year, I'm not half as sure.

-- Serena continues to make Alabama Cream Pie of any prediction I put forth for her. I backed Venus for the Aussie Open and Serena stormed through and won the whole thing. I didn't give her a prayer at this event either.

But making the quarters with a leg that's probably far from fully-healed on your least favourite surface is uniquely Serena. As is, threatening your opponent "you'll get her in the locker room".

When will I learn.

-- Ditto Maria Sharapova. I don't care that she almost got bagelled. Getting to the quarters on this surface, after such a long spell out of the game, and again with a shoulder that, let's face it, is still in lesser-rehab, is exactly what I would expect from her. Even though I didn't expect it from her. Or something. You know what I mean. I really can't wait for Wimbledon.

-- I gave more than a prayer to Venus though. She was my #2 pick. And even now, more than a week later I still have no idea how questionable scheduling gave rise to a performance so poor, it saw her lose the first set to love. Szavay is a great talent, maybe even a future top tenner, but I'm not sure I've ever seen Venus play as badly as this, and if it wasn't Wimbledon coming up next, I'd probably...continue to back her or something.

-- Azarenka. Recipient of the Hothead of the Year Award for the second consecutive year. Except this time it didn't rile me as much. Particularly when she gave as good she got in that booing contest that followed her win over Carla Suarez Navarro. And that first set of Tennis she played against Safina was something very special. Maybe even the best set of the entire two weeks. I still want her to rein in her tantrums a little. Except I sort of don't.

-- This event also gave me a new underdog to root for. At least until Navarro gets her act together (as great as Azarenka's play was, Suarez did wilt away towards the end). She's 5'2 and plays with exactly the right blend of control and topspin - elementary, you might have thought, but it's something a worryingly large number of so-called 'top' players don't do enough of.

How many times have you seen Ana or Dinara further increase upon their already maddening levels of pace in one of those wretched attempts at gaining control over their game when the balls begin to sail past the baseline?

Having said that Cibulkova has the hand skills to flatten it out and go for the lines too. Well that's what I saw anyway, as I watched her in her semi final against Safina. Anyone as skilled and pint-sized as that will get nothing but sickeningly overdone praise and richly decorated bags of good will from me. Particularly when they go at it with women twice their size and are able to expose their many limitations as well as that.

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