CONTENDERS, FLOATERS & NO QUESTIONS

Last night I was talking to a fellow tennishead friend of mine.  She knows about my love for the WTA and she wanted to get my views on this upcoming season.  She specifically wanted to know whether I thought there was anyone in the ranking group 11-20 that could make a break through this year.  She also wanted to know who I thought were the contenders for the first major of the year.

It was an interesting question and one that I had not given much thought to.  I looked at the rankings and we had an interesting discussion about who we both felt could make some noise this year on the women’s tour.  In no particular order, this is a summary of our discussion:-

1. I felt that there were 3 women who could contend for the first major of the year and they were all ranked in the top 3 as of now.  It is going to be a 3 way tie and whoever beats Serena in the semis wins the title. That being said, I am calling it now that Serena will draw Vika in her side of the draw and it will be a Serena v. Sharapova final, with Serena coming out on top.

2. Like many others I just don’t see Kerber maintaining her win/loss ratio that she had during 2012.  Ditto for Errani.  The only way Errani maintains her top 10 ranking is if she continues to play the WTA equivalent of the ATP 250s. With her in the top 10 she is automatically disqualified from playing many of these smaller tournaments.  A look at Errani’s results at the Premier and Premier Mandatories shows that she has not done well in these, even those that were played on clay.

3. We both felt that Wozniacki will not be a contender.  The fact that she lost to Pervak in her first match in Brisbane kind of solidifies that thought.  I watched portions of that match and her forehand which had looked so lethal during the spring of the 2012 season, now seems to have regressed to its 2011 position, i.e. finding its way in the middle of the court with no pace and direction.  In addition, the assertiveness that seemed to be  forcing its way out of her game seems to have given up the ghost and the hated moonballing is now back.

4.  In the players ranked 11-20, I thought Petrova if she can maintain her game from the latter part of the 2012 season should be able to make a deep run at the Australian Open.  I am not sure where Petrova is starting her season but I guess we can keep an eye out for her as the season progresses.   We also discussed  2 time Grand Slam champ Kutznetsova, who while she fell in the first round of the ASB Classic in Auckland, can be forgiven for this loss as she is just returning from knee surgery.  She is playing doubles so clearly she is healthy and fit.

5.  Kirilenko, Bartoli, Ivanovic and Cibulkova are not contenders.  For some reason while these 4 women seem to have games, I do believe for one reason or another they just don’t have what it takes to challenge the top 3 women at this time.

6.   The 2 biggest question marks in women’s tennis for me right now are Na Li and Petra Kvitova.  Both women have tasted Grand Slam glory and both women have regressed somewhat.  While my friend was optimistic that Na would be a contender with Carlos Rodriquez in her corner, I was somewhat meh about this.  For one, Justine Henin, Rodriquez’ most famous pupil had more talent in her little finger than Na has in her whole body.  In addition, Henin was hungry for glory.  I don’t see that same type of hunger in Na, at least  not for a long while.  Petra seems to be healthy but her asthma, as we have seen, can flare up at any moment.  She had a good win against Suarez-Navarro, so we should see how she fares in the rest of the lead up tournaments before the AO.

For floaters, we looked at Sloane Stephens.  I wish Sloane had the hunger of Christina McHale and the fight of Melanie Oudin.  For a young player she has a big game.  However, I just don’t sense that fight that seems to drive Oudin or the hunger that I see in McHale.  Sloane seems very happy and she comes across as a very nice young lady, but I wished that she would fight for every point and get that steely look in her eyes and a bit more positive body language.

I have basically given up on Julia Georges and Kaia Kanepi, especially the latter.

I may be wrong.  Maybe there is someone who will surprise me, but for now I just don’t see it.  The Australian Open is known for giving us surprise champions.  However, this year for me it is a certainty that one of the Big 3 (yes I went there) will lift the trophy. 

MY TENNIS WISH LIST FOR 2013 (PERSONAL)

Every tennis fan, be it tennis writer, journalist, commentator, or blogger has their own personal wish list of things that they would like to see happen as a new tennis season approaches.  Most of those wishes usually centers around their favourite players.  I have read most of the blogs and followed many writers on social media and the mood is that, especially in men’s tennis, fans want to see a change up. They are tired of the Big 4 and with Andy Roddick, who used to be the darling of the US media having retired, and with Mardy Fish not 100%, many fans are of the view that now is the time for someone in the top 10 to make their mark and make themselves relevant at the Grand Slams, and indeed at the Masters’ events. 

For women’s tennis, things could not be any different.  The WTA has just come off one of its best seasons in recent memory, with a top 4 that competed admirably, especially at the Premier and Grand Slam events.  Therefore, without further  ado, here are my things that I hope happens on the WTA Tour in the upcoming 2013 season.  This is in no particular order. 

1.   Venus Williams to make one more glorious  Wimbledon run.  Watching Venus on the grass of Wimbledon is what makes me continue to enjoy tennis.  After seeing her bow out meekly to Vesnina at Wimbledon this year in the first round, I want to see her come back bigger and badder than ever and list the trophy for whom she was named.  Venus for Wimbledon.  I think many tennis fans can get on that. 

2.  While this flies in the face of my No. 1 wish above, it would be awesome if Serena could complete the Grand Slam once again.  While she would not need to win Wimbledon or the US Open in the same year, it would be a great story line if she could win both the Australian and the French Open to hold all 4 Grand Slams.  I think that would put paid to talk of whether she is one of the greats. 

3.  Azarenka to wear shorts at every single event.  Is there another player who rocks exercise gear on a tennis court better than Vika.  I say keep the shorts, the fist pumps and the shrieks.  Tennis needs it. 

4. Radwanska to step up on clay.  For someone with such an artful game, it shocks me that she does so poorly on clay. 

5.  Sharapova to win a title off clay.  Yes, I said it.  While 2012 was a great year for Sharapova, people need to be reminded that her 3 titles this season all came on clay, which now seems to be her favourite surface. 

6. Sloane Stephens.  This is your time.  Nuff said. 

7.  I would really like to see Kerber take the next step.  Enough of winning 100 plus matches, start grabbing more than 2 titles for the season.  

8.  I see that Svetlana is looking fit and getting ready to play.  Can we say more Sveta please?

9.  The young ones. I have seen your break out seasons and I now raise it.  The difference between the men’s and women’s game is like day and night.  The women have young talent coming up.  The men have a whole host of almost 30 somethings.  Ladies, continue to step up.

Do you have any wishes for the 2013 tennis season?  If so, hit me up on Twitter or post them in the comments. 

TENNIS WISH LIST FOR 2013
The holidays are almost over.  Tennis season has already begun.  I have read most of my favourite sports writers commentary about the 2012 tennis season.  Some of them I agree with.  Others I just past by the wayside.  2012 was a great year for women’s tennis.  With the top 3 women competing admirably against each other (or at least the top 2 against each other), women’s tennis is in my view placed to grow even more and gain an even bigger audience.
I have been watching Tennis Channel’s Love 30 coverage, and while I am not happy that the majority of the women’s matches seem to fall below the top 10, it was great to see that at least a few of them were voted into the top 5.  Here’s hoping that with the coming 2013 season, there will be many more quality matches to watch.
Everyone has their wish list of what they would like to see in tennis.  I am no different.  And so without further ado, here is my top 10 things I would like to see in women’s tennis this year.
1.                   The end of on-court coaching.  With the great season just completed, it would be great if the powers that be would end this farce.  It continues to make the women’s game look weak.  At a time when we have 3 of the most powerful women in the top echelons of the sport,  having multi-millionaires calling on some old guy to play dog whisperer does nothing good for the women’s game.
2.                   The WTA to provide clarity as to where we can now watch women’s tennis now that Eurosport no longer holds the rights in women’s tennis.
3.                   The end of commentators referring to grown women, married and with children being described as girls.
4.                   The end of commentators with the grunting, shrieking debate.  It is hear to stay.  Get over it.
5.                   The end of commentators repeating the same narrative over and over and over again. 
6.                   Tennis writers to begin taking women’s tennis seriously.  It is not a sideshow.  It is a professional outfit.  The women deserve better than writers just putting out press releases as if they are being paid by an organization to promote players, rather than the game.
7.                   I would love to see WTA events from at least the fourth round, rather than selected quarter-final or semi-final matches on Tennis Channel.  On the same score, I would love to see the end of delayed broadcasts on Tennis Channel.  It is ridiculous that in this day and age, I know the results of matches long before Tennis Channel deigns to provide coverage.  Delayed coverage is the reason why NBC no longer has the rights to Wimbledon.
8.                   The continue use of commentators who were former players.  Many tennis fans adore Lindsay Davenport’s commentary and Brett Haber, despite my best efforts has grown on me.  The guys over at ESPN2 could take a page out of their books.
9.                   I would love if the WTA could have a show on Tennis Channel, or any network, that showcases the women’s Tour in much the same way as the ATP does.  I am sure that many fans like myself would love to see up and coming players like Taylor Townsend, Putinseva and many others as they make the transition from the juniors to the senior tour.
10.               Finally, I would love to see the women’s tour being described as competitive and professional rather than being filled with cat fights as most journalists like to describe it.
Before the season starts, I will publish my predictions for 2013