Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Doha: The ‘Unreal’ Number One…

serena_KARIM JAAFAR_AFP_Getty Images (KARIM JAAFAR/AFP/Getty Images)

Well I thought I’d have to end BlogoSphere hibernation at some point.

Now seems as good a time as any.

The truth is, a flu, together with a general apathy towards the tennis on offer last week, left me stone cold.

I lost interest two matches into the round-robins.

Keep that in mind as you wade through the moody, reflective sparsities of what follows.

Vika’s short lived venture into ‘transcendentalist tennis’ was fun to watch while it lasted, but proved ultimately ill-conceived. A bit like watching a fish out of water. And I really wish she hadn’t spent all of five games in the last set of her match against A-Rad in tears, before eventually seeing fit to put us out of our collective misery, by pulling out with cramp.

But it’s Caz-Woz that has the monopoly on cramp induced convulsions, is it not?

Can anyone now be in any doubt as to the fighting fit qualities this bright young thing brings to court? When she’s not smiling in the face of defeat that is. It’s what’s earnt her a very enviable number four ranking. Funny that I had Vika pegged to fill that role for much of this year. So what gives? Tignor did a Vika/Caz-Woz profile earlier last week, that I think makes the distinction clear:

If you could put Azarenka together with Wozniacki, you’d have the next No. 1. Azarenka can hit through the court, but she doesn’t have the feel of her fellow up and comer. And while she’s fiercer and angrier than Wozniacki, the Dane may be tougher mentally—hanging in there is pretty much what she does for a living.

Azarenka should have more upside than Wozniacki; she can make more happen on the court. But sometimes her hands and strings turn to stone—the ball kerrangs off her frame….As fans, when Azarenka goes out on court, we know we’ll get her best. The question is whether her best may be too much.

-- Steve Tignor on Vika and Caz-Woz

Though I’m not completely sure to what degree Caz-Woz is the bedrock to Vika’s active volcano. Caz-Woz seems more to me to be about maximising the potential of a steadier less-threatening game. And as we’ve seen so often over the last two years, there’s a place in tennis for that, but it doesn’t seem quite right for it to be at the very top.

It’s worth remembering also, that that #4 ranking is born of youthful-exuberance and a Jelena-like uninhibited attitude to scheduling. Good job she’s only nineteen.

It’s something she’ll need to attend to if she wants to avoid the type of burn-out that cost Jelena the best part of this year; and if she intends to square off effectively against the Pre-Safinite Sisterhood next season.

Speaking of Jelena I thought she recovered rather well from that horrendous if somewhat measured dismantling at the hands of Vika. After being rather handed her semi final spot on the back of Safina’s withdrawal and a somewhat legless Caz-Woz, that only managed to salvage four games from her, she brought some of best tennis to bear.

There’s a reason Jelena has an enviable record against both the Williamses (which she’s never remiss in drawing our attentions to) and it’s to do with defence. More of that was illustrated in her semi opposite Venus, who put on a great show, but still at times looked very vulnerable out there. Vulnerable to Jelena’s uncanny ability to run down the best she sent her way, but also to having her momentum derailed by those unnecessarily protracted and dramatic timeouts Jelena took on every other line call she found dubious.

No, I wasn’t much convinced with Venus last week. Not until the semis anyway.

She seemed to me to be as surprised as I was, at her reaching the knockout stages.

Not that any of this matters of course. With her win last year and Serena’s this time round, not making their mark outside of the Slams is beginning to look like an item we may have to drop from our charge sheets.

As to the real number one, I’ll leave most of it unsaid. There’s nothing to be gained by drawing your attention to her not having dropped a match right the way through. Playing out of her skin from the word go seems to be something of a hallmark of her season; and finishing #1 seems as much about doing Dinara a favour as it does about re-establishing order.

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