Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wimbledon 2009, Week 1: The Women

What a tournament! There are so many amazing moments to comment on. Honestly, I’m not sure where to begin. So I’m just going to ramble in this entry. Just random points as they occur to me. Today I will focus only on some of the women. I’ll talk about the men tomorrow.

Venus Williams has been complaining about the length of the tour, and how there are too many matches and they need a better season off in order to work on fitness. Here’s my argument against this. Most of the top players will spend the time off playing exhibition matches in places like Dubai for beaucoup money. Here’s my solution -- play smarter tennis. Venus needs to learn how to vary her game. Every shot doesn’t have to be a power shot. You can do a whole lot of damage with spin and slice. And in fact one of the sweetest parts of this Wimbledon is getting an opportunity to watch less powerful players teach some of the more powerful how to defuse power with effect.

That said, it was nice to see Venus get revenge against Master Slicer Suarez-Navarro. The difference this time is that Venus remained calm and confident. She still wasted too much of her energy playing the nothing-but-power game while screaming like a banshee. And yes the 6-0 first set was impressive. But the final two points of the match were smart, calm tennis shots played at half pace. That is the Venus who can win Wimbledon again.

I am pleased to see that Sabine Lisicki has made it to week 2. I wish it did not have to come at the expense of the clearly mentally exhausted Kuznetsova but hey, you can’t have everything. And I know that I seem to be contradicting myself because I’ve previously praised Lisicki’s BBT-style of play and here I am criticizing Venus. The difference lies between playing big gutsy tennis that combines finesse and power (e.g., big forehands followed by sweet touch volleys or drop shots), versus always pointlessly trying to kill the ball. But Lisicki has some things to work on. For a start, she needs to learn how to keep her nerve and close out matches. And second, she needs to cut down on those double faults.

Nice win by Melanie Oudin (photo left courtesy yahoo), the 17-year-old qualifier who kept her nerve against Jelena (Drama Queen) Jankovic at her most histrionic. First Drama Queen complained about her foot. Then she whined about feeling dizzy. Later she claimed to be having woman problems. She said that she expected them to have to call the ambulance to transport her straight from the tennis court to the hospital. Against all those histrionics, her plucky 17-year-old opponent just kept her nerve and continued playing consistently and intelligently. I was impressed.

Ana Ivanovic seems to be back. Finally. Fingers crossed. Dare we hope?

Has a # 1 player ever been as ignored as Dinara Safina? That’s what happens when you lose a Slam as painfully as she lost in Paris. It’s like she doesn’t exist anymore. Sad.

I don’t mean to discount Petrova but I can’t wait for Azarenka vs. Serena. That could be the biggest upset of this tournament. I hope Serena brings her A-game because she’s going to need it. Azarenka is doing a better job of pacing herself, which makes her more dangerous than when she goes for too much flame.

My final comment on the women. I’m getting sick of the screeching. I’ve tried really hard to be tolerant of the women who feel that they have to scream in order to hit the ball effectively. I get that it’s part of the power game. But I’m getting sick of it. Part of the reason I am glad she is gone is because Sharapova gives me a headache. I’m not exaggerating. Monica Seles used to have the same effect on me and I would watch her matches on mute. But back then it was only Monica I had to content with. Now it’s every other woman player and quite a few of the men. I’m all for rules regulating this aspect of the sport. As a player myself, I get that breathing out with a grunt when making contact with the ball makes for a more powerful shot. But there is a difference between grunting and screeching at the top of your lungs. This is just not necessary. Time for some no screeching rules.

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