Tuesday, 1 November 2011

WTA Championships: 10 Post-Istanbul Thoughts

1) A Slam, A Premier-Mandatory, A Premier, A couple of International titles and, of course, the WTA Championships.


That’s a win at every level, and on every surface. Look even closer and you’ll see she also snuck in a straight sets win over Kim Clijsters back in February.

No Premier-5 though – I say she’s not trying hard enough.

You might have pronounced Petra ‘player of the year’ last week even if she hadn’t won Istanbul. You’d be a fool not to now.  Caro? Stosur? Li? Kim? No one even comes close.

2) Her play wasn’t always as stellar as it was, say, at Wimbledon (where she only dropped one set – also to Azarenka).

But in terms of finding that elusive middle ground, that ability to win matches without recourse to her thermonuclear A-Game, it was arguably more impressive. More impressive and more beneficial, I’d say, than blitzing any number of top-tenners in straights.

3) Petra saved 4 BPs in the opening game of the final set. Vika was well into her stride by then.

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In the ‘What If?’ scenario that sees Vika convert one of those BPs, it’s not a stretch to conceive of her going on to win the title. The 6-3  scoreline doesn’t do justice to how close that final set sometimes got.

4) Number one ranking?

Petra has to defend Brisbane (280 pts), an Aussie Open QF (500 pts) and Paris (470)….and all of that’s just by the first week of February.

For all the “Caro’s days are numbered” jibes, dislodging her might prove harder than you think.

There may only be 115 pts in it, Petra may be a better player than Caro, she may even be the “enSlammed” #1 we’ve been waiting for – and Lord knows we’ve put in the miles – even so, defending points is a whole different dynamic, and not one I’m especially confident Petra’s suited to.

Besides, you know who else knows how to put in the miles? Caro. It’s what she does. Give her that, if nothing else.

5) Vika may have more flair (and more tongue) than Caro, but she suffers from exactly the same problem vis-à-vis the big hitters, which, of course, includes Petra. 


That’ll probably continue to be a problem, certainly in respect of Serena.

Even so, her second set against Serena at the USO (the one after she got breadsticked) was probably the best you’ll see all year; and no one that saw the final last week will dispute there were even times against Petra where she seemed to give as good as she got. 

That might, you know, come in handy next year.

6) If you’re going to rip on Caro for not performing at the Slams then you must, by the same token, have something to say on those that are unable to perform outside of them. Quid pro quo.

I’ve done my share of defending the WTA from unnecessary flak, but Li and Stosur’s top ten ranking comes with air quotes until further notice.

610x (2)
The only reason Sam didn’t receive more censure for her epic meltdown against Vika (group stages)  is that it was eclipsed by Li’s more cataclysmic one only a day later.

Not to be unkind but, with Pova’s injury, Stosur making the semis was more coincidental than anything else – heaven knows how she might (or might not) have fared against Bartoli.

7) Bepa’s opener against Caro was the single best set of tennis in the entire championships – her final set against Aga was the single most monumental choke.

The dramedy of blowing 3 match points over 3 masochistic sets is always to be preferred over the economy of a straight sets win. Bepanomics.

8) The Petra-dactyl squawk (and Pojd) is here to stay. Deal with it.

Asking someone their thoughts on fistpumping on UFEs is akin to asking about abortion or the death penalty.

My view? People are getting way too precious over this. It’s out of control – more out of control, dare I say it, than either the fistpumping or grunting itself.

Is it really that difficult to make an intellectual distinction between something the players do, almost reflexively, to keep mentally anchored in that “winning place” and a crude, malicious form of gamesmanship?

Needless to say Vika, and I suspect most every other player, couldn’t care less:

"Oh, yeah, it's pretty loud, but it's okay. [But] I don't care about that. You know, whatever helps players to be better. That's her own way. I have to respect that. I just think that every player, as every person who is spectator or whatever, has to respect the players for what they do on the court. I don't think she does it to piss somebody off. It's just her own way to pump herself up. You know, somebody has to jump around, somebody have [sic] to say bad words or whatever. It's their own way."

-- Azarenka

Is it loud? Poor form? Yes, and I would prefer that neither Petra nor Ana did it.

But then neither is it on quite the same order as Global Warming or the Credit Crunch. It’s not even a “hindrance” which is something we can take action against.

And you know what’s far more troubling? The quite appalling double standards that continue to exist around the issue.

How some quite merrily hand a free pass to players they obviously like (whether that’s Ana, Petra or anyone else) but feel obliged to whip themselves up into a state of hysteria over those they don’t – witness the amount of quite hideous invective Domi receives from otherwise sensible people for doing exactly the same thing. No, wait…that’s not quite right - others get a free pass for even deliberate gamesmanship.

9) Marion came and Marion went….and Marion left her own indelible mark on proceedings the way she always does.

As always, we expected nothing less.

10) Aside from that little post-Marion episode that saw Vika booed off court (only to be rehabilitated just 48 hours later), the Istanbul crowd seemed courteous, fair, appreciative and not at all given over to applauding UFEs from anyone.

No biggie, but also not something we see often enough from crowds at, say, the Grand Slam hosting nations.
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