Friday, May 22, 2009

The remaining five women go into Roland Garros

Vera Zvonareva
Ranked # 6 and definitely showing signs of a tremendously improved game. Vera has gotten fitter and stronger. She cries a lot less than she used to, even though she still has the ability to irritate me on this front. Does she have what it takes to win Roland Garros? Perhaps she does. But she has been injured way too much. And she lacks a signature weapon. Vera plays gutsy tennis when she is in her confident groove. But when she lapses, she lapses badly and ends up contributing to her own loss. But as long as she doesn't cry, I can live with that.

Svetlana Kuznetsova
One of the most underrated and undervalued players on the WTA tour. Sveta has it all -- she is superfit, she serves big, her groundies are smooth, her volleys pop, and she is an excellent strategist. But sometimes it seems as if she does not really want to win. One gets the impression of a modest woman who would rather not be spotlighted. And winning puts you in the spotlight, with all that that attracts. Sveta doesn’t play the famewhore game like say a Maria Sharapova. Her natural reserve seems to hold her back. It’s almost as if she’d rather not win the big prizes. But she can.

Ana Ivanovic
She’s ranked # 8 but Azarenka and Wozniacki are breathing down her neck. I know that Ivanovic has been injured but that in my opinion is just a part of the problem. The rest is that she's lost her fire. What is it about some of these women and success? It’s almost as if they were too deprived and once they got a chance to eat -- or shop, or play, or pose -- they lose all drive and hunger for more achievement. The affair with Verdasco may not have helped. He’s gorgeous and I don’t blame him at all for sleeping his way through the tour. That’s what horny young men do. Heck I'd stand in line for a crack at him. It’s up to his women not to get swayed from their focus. Ana swayed. And then posed some more for the cameras. Steups.

Viktoria Azarenka
I like this girl. I like her drive to achieve. I like her fighting spirit. But she seems the type to push herself too far and then have to pay the price of recovery. She alternates between flame and flame out. Unfortunately her flaming style of play is more effective on grass or hard courts. She lacks the subtlety of good clay players. That said, I hope she brings her flame to Roland Garros. But unfortunately I expect her to flame out by week two.

Caroline Wozniacki
Brand new to the top ten and clearly feeling great about being there. I find her baseline game somewhat mind-numbing to watch at times, but her consistency and endurance are exactly the qualities you need to win on clay. I like that she plays smart tennis -- when pulled way off the court, she never tries to pull off a winner like some of the other top players, but will throw up a lob and buy herself the opportunity to work herself back into the court. She must have been trained by a traditionalist. She has had some good wins on this surface and she seems less banged up than say Azarenka or Venus Williams. But watching her at the Family Circle Cup, I hated how often her coach came out to whisper in her ear. I’d like to see her move beyond the dependency that that implies and be able to think more for herself out there. I think she has it in her. And Roland Garros just might be the tournament that makes her believe.

Because I am focusing on the top ten, I have had to ignore lesser players who could challenge any ones of the above on a good day. Amelie Mauresmo (photo above with Sveta) has been looking good recently. But this is her home turf and that has never brought out the best in her. The good news is she’s older and wiser now. Hopefully this is enough to get her beyond choking in front of her homies. If she wins, I will shed real tears of happiness for her.

My love for Carla Suarez Navarro remains unabated. Chick can play. And that backhand -- sweeeet. But so far she hasn’t lived up to the promise she signaled a year ago. It’s time for her to step up.

Sabine Lisicki: Love her. Love her fight and confidence. Love her BBT style play. Hate the fact that she’s too banged up to win it. But there’s always next year.

[I started this idea too late so I may not get around to the men. I am also traveling next week and may not be able to post until June. In which case, enjoy the first week of my favorite Slam and see you back here soon!]

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