If they did, I sure as heck missed it. I too did not predict it. Of course I’ve admitted before that I can’t prognosticate for crap, so no where in my thinking did I figure that Venus had a chance in heck of making it to the finals.
Serena I took entirely for granted. I have always believed that she would close out the year as the # 1 player in the world. She has been saying this for months and I have never for a moment doubted her.
But Venus? I have to admit that I totally discounted her. For a start, she was initially the second lowest ranking woman coming to Doha. In the world of professional tennis, at age 29, Venus is not ancient exactly but she is certainly not a spring chicken. I did not for a second even think of contemplating the possibility that she might be a force to be reckoned with in Doha. As far as I was concerned, she was lucky to even qualify.
This is because thus far in 2009, Venus has only won two relatively minor singles tournaments. In February, she won the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships against Virginia Razzano. One week later, she beat Flavia Pennetta in the finals of the Abierto Mexicano Telcel. Since then, she has done relatively squat in singles.
In fact, here are the players who have beaten Venus Williams since February 2009:
I have no idea who the latter player is but she has had the honor of beating Venus twice this year. Only Serena has beaten Venus more times than Pavlyuchenkova.
So I did not anticipate Venus making it to the finals, not with those dodgy knees. Then again, is there any player in this draw who isn’t injured? Safina quit first because of her back. Serena’s left thigh has been strapped throughout the tournament. Wozniacki suffered massive cramps in her match against Zvonareva, and has also complained of an abdomen injury. Azarenka was up 6-4, 5-2 when she retired against Radwanska because of a damaged right thigh plus a back injury. Zvonareva has a messed up ankle. Really, we should just rename this tournament The Banged up Women Finals.
So it was no surprise that Wozniacki retired against Serena today. A healthy Wozniacki would have challenged Serena. A banged-up Wozniacki, playing under the horrifically humid conditions of Qatar, had neither a chance nor a prayer. Yet I have been very impressed with this young woman. I love her fighting spirit, her self-confidence and her positivity. Wozniacki may be our new Smiling Assassin. I can think of no other player who is more deserving of being in the Championship finals.
But Venus clawed her way there after beating Jankovic in three sets. When Venus’ forehand return clipped the net and dropped onto Jankovic’s side of the court, I concluded that the fates were simply aligning themselves for the most befitting finals match. Sister versus Sister. Venus vs. Serena. Singles opponents and doubles partners, time after time.
They lost today in doubles. In singles, I favor a Serena win. But regardless of the outcome, Serena’s position as the # 1 player in 2009 has already been codified. And that is absolutely fine with me.