Thursday, May 21, 2009

How the top ten might fare in France: The Women

Today I’m introducing a new feature to this blog. In anticipation of an upcoming Slam, I will look at the top 10 players on the WTA and ATP tours and analyze their current form. And by top ten I don’t mean by Serena’s standards (ha ha) but how they actually fall in the rankings. Here goes.

Dinara Safina
Currently the world # 1. This time last year she fought her way to the finals of Roland Garros after several heart-stopping come-from-behind wins. But by the finals she was pooped -- she had nothing left. I’d like to say that since then she has changed this pattern but that would not entirely be true. She still has a bad habit of falling asleep in the middle of matches and then waking up when it is almost too late. She needs to stop that. Her self-confidence has improved but she can still be somewhat mentally fragile. But there is no shot she cannot play. And her newly refined disguised drop shot will definitely be a bonus on this surface. I’d like to see her move into net more, but I say that about all the women and some of the men. As far as baseliners go, she is among the best. I would like her to win. I think she can, if she can only stay awake.

Serena Williams
A most reluctant number 2. A most frustrated # 2. With almost 2000 points separating her from Safina, she may be frustrated for a while. The good news is that she could end up on the other side of the draw from Safina which means that I can ideally root for them both right up to the finals. And then I’ll flip a coin. There is no doubting that Serena has what it takes to win Roland Garros. For a start, she’s won it before. Second, she wants to erase Safina from the #1 slot and winning this tournament will go a ways towards helping her do that. Her problem is physical. Her brand of power tennis is brutal on the body. Her thigh has been bandaged a lot recently. She has hobbled her way through some recent tournaments and is not playing at 100%. But her will to win -- or perhaps a bad-minded refusal to lose -- can take her a long way. I will not be surprised if she is holding the trophy aloft in two weeks.

Venus Williams
If this were Wimbledon, I’d factor her in. It isn’t. it’s clay. She may get through the early rounds only because her opponents may be weak. But I’d be shocked if she wins.

Elena Dementieva
Ranked # 4 largely because of subtle improvements in her serve, somewhat contradictorily, there is a sense that Elena may be on the decline. I felt this most acutely when I watched Wozniacki beat her at the Family Circle Cup. Wozniacki had no business taking Dementieva to three sets much less beating her. Elena is just not the same. There’s something missing in her these days. Maybe a lack of fire. For a while I thought that maybe she was distracted by concerns about her mother’s health. But even after she herself reported that her mother was fine, there remained a lackluster element to her game. Maybe she's burnt out. Or maybe she’s in love and just doesn’t give a crap anymore. Can you blame her?

Jelena Jankovic
I have become increasingly irked by Jelena’s attempts at being the sexy fashion plate. I know that there is a lot of pressure on the tour to be pretty and sexy. I just wish Jelena did not seem to so completely buy into it. At the start of the year when she was photographed training in Mexico, I thought that she was focused on tennis. And then she apparently got injured and has been posing non-stop ever since. Ana Ivanovic she is not so I wish she would give it a rest and focus on her tennis. Her movement used to be the best. She won by getting to every shot and forcing her opponents to play another ball. But that Jelena seems to be history. I’m not sure that the new Jelena even cares.

(to be continued)

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