Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Other Thoughts on Tennis 2009

Some Random Observations.
The men's game seems a lot more attractive right now than the women's; it has not always seemed that way to me. The men play more entertaining matches, with more variety, and seem generally less petulant and infantile. As a small instance, Federer gets peeved at the umpire for letting Del Potro violate some timing rules, makes some off-color remarks, while Serena Williams blows a gasket. One can argue lots of ways about this, but Federer was asking for the rules to be maintained, and Serena was way off the mark (even though I agree it was a bad foot fault call).
The games of many of the top women are extremely one-dimensional. It is stunning how many of the top-50 women have poor serves, and seem confused about what to do about short balls. This bespeaks a certain lack of coaching, competitiveness, and willingness to learn and really train. It seems to me to partially explain why the list of top women is so volatile.
The tone of the top women's players is less attractive than that of the top men, who seem to exhibit great respect for one another, and it almost seems in many cases, friendship. On the other hand, I will say that Kuznetsova's behavior in victory at the French Open was exemplary, and made me think a lot differently about her.
The whole pissing match over who is #1 in the women's game has also been extremely unattractive. The WTA defines rules for how this is determined; if Serena Williams chooses a year's strategy of play that is tuned only to performance in majors, ignoring satellite tournaments, she really has no case to make that someone else is #1. The players have to make (or maybe their managers do) decisions about which results get them the best income potential, through prize money and endorsements.
The WTA could align its ranking more with the majors, but this would threaten the relationship with the non-Grand-Slam tournaments, which depend on having realistic play from top players.
As for realistic play in a non-Grand-Slam, I want to give credit to Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova at the Rogers Cup in Toronto this summer. Dementieva's determined unwillingness to let a ball by her was very entertaining. Sharapova is a classic fighter, who simply will not quit even as her skills are failing her; that she won a semi while making 17 double faults and missing many many shots long impressed me no end. Neither Williams made the final in Toronto.


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