I hope everyone had a very happy Christmas with friends and family and that we are all looking forward to the New Year with all its hopes and aspirations.
I took the last couple of months off from blogging to think about the direction in which to take this blog. Additionally, a stressful job has prevented me from blogging as much as I would like during 2014. In 2015, I aim to make Overhead Spin one of the premier tennis blogging sites devoted to the wonderful world of women’s tennis.
As a fan of the women’s game, I started blogging 5 years ago because I was dissatisfied by the lack of coverage for the women’s game. From the lack of women’s matches on show courts to the lack of women’s matches on tv. Since those days, the WTA has revamped itself. There are now more tennis sites and tennis writers devoting more time and energy to the women’s game. As a fan, I could not be happier.
The WTA under the leadership of Stacey Allaster has grown the sport and made the women’s game the premier tennis watching event amongst tennis fans. There are still those who criticise every miscue that the WTA makes in terms of how it markets its product but I think those days are becoming more a figment of fans’ imaginations or just a way of minimising the impact of the women’s game.
Sports Illustrated recently asked tennis journalists about what they are looking forward to in tennis for 2015 and one of the journalists mentioned that the WTA won 2014. He is wrong. The WTA has been winning since its inception. It may have had moments when it was not quite on par with the men’s game but that had more to do with how it was covered by journalists than the women themselves. How can you write about a product if you never take the time to look at it, sample and appreciate?
Tennis Channel has been doing short retrospectives of Trailblazers in tennis. Thanks to the rise of Simona Halep, we now know a lot about Romanian tennis other than Ilye Nastase and Ion Tiriac. Many of us who never saw any archived footage of Virginia Ruzici winning the French Open now know about her. A trailblazer like her should have been featured a long time ago especially when Alexandra Dulgheru was winning tournaments as a qualifier and actually being a serious threat on clay back in 2009 to 2011.
2014 was a fantastic year for the women. They have cemented themselves as the must see event when the tennis season opens in a few days’ time. I for one believe that the women have shown us what a force they are in 2014 and that it will only get better in 2015.
While many tennis fans will be reading tennis journalists’ predictions for 2015, the Spin team thought it would be good to find out from the fans of the game what were their expectations and predictions for the New Year. Below are some of their predictions.
There won’t be a Serena slam. (Of course, it all starts with Serena for me. )
Caro will win a major.
Vika will come back even more focused (is that possible?).
Coaching (and coaching changes and shuffling) will be nearly as much of a WTA plot line as the action on the court.
An American woman not named Williams or Stephens will make the second week of a major.
Wimbledon will continue to slight the Williams sisters (or less charitably, “put them in their place”) with court assignments not befitting champions of their stature, achievements, and audience appeal. As usual, these scheduling decisions will come with ostensibly gender and color- neutral rationalizations. And as usual, I will shake my head and not believe them.
Will Genie escape the sophomore slump? And will Sloane be able to overcome hers? (My predictions: “No” and “No”)
Matt Zemek (@mzemek)
Maria Sharapova will always have Paris, and Petra Kvitova reminded us that she’ll continue to be a threat at Wimbledon. Those two players will be front and center at Roland Garros and SW19. Yet, over the course of the full calendar season, it is hard to deny the notion that the central drama of the 2015 WTA season lies in the paths that will be carved out by five players: Caroline Wozniacki, Simona Halep, Eugenie Bouchard, Serena Williams, and Victoria Azarenka.
Wozniacki — for my money — was the comeback player of the year on tour in 2014. Hitting a crisper forehand and fewer moonballs, Wozniacki — though still dependent on her defense and court coverage — beefed up her game as well as her confidence. She definitely looks like a force in the sport once again. Winning her first major, should she pull it off, would be heralded as a profound triumph. It would rate as a very popular victory on the tour if the Dane can do the deed.
Halep and Bouchard — who have now tasted the pressure of a major final and met in the Wimbledon semifinals — both received lessons in the latter half of 2014 on how to back up results, care for one’s body, and mentally approach life on the tour. Halep had more in the tank than Bouchard at the WTA Finals in Singapore, but her North American hardcourt summer left a lot of money on the table. She’s more likely than Bouchard to carry her best tennis into 2015, but the consistency with which she was outclassed on hardcourts means she’s no lock to maintain her ranking or her status in the sport this season. It will be fascinating to see how Halep and Bouchard respond to being true targets for a full calendar year.
Then there’s Serena. Blasting through the U.S. Open field and doggedly competing to win the WTA Finals reminded everyone that a championship pedigree and championship instincts can still translate into championship results for the great player of our age. The power of that reminder, combined with an offseason free of incident, could enable Serena to chase history with renewed energy. That’s always a sight worth seeing in women’s tennis.
As for Azarenka, the possibility of having Serena’s best opponent playing with full health in 2015 is very exciting to contemplate. A healthy Azarenka will rise to the top of the sport once again. It’s just a matter of being able to avoid the injury bug and play into form.
Ana Ivanovic? Agnieszka Radwanska? Peng Shuai? Angelique Kerber? These and other players, including some of the younger performers who emerged at the U.S. Open, show glimpses of brilliance every now and then, but they still rate as “teases” as far as majors are concerned. They might all make some noise in unexpected places, but the heart of the 2015 season can be found in what Woz, Halep, Bouchard, Serena, and Vika manage to do (or leave undone) on the court.
Since Serena Williams won the WTA Championships and Czech Republic, led by Petra Kvitova, winning the Fed Cup for the third time in four years, this offseason has been very interesting with players making changes on and off the court for 2015. Here is a list of what I am looking forward to.
(1) Biggest wildcard, in my opinion, is the return of Victoria Azarenka from injuries which she seemed to have the entire year of 2014 as she played only 17 matches.
(2) How players will succeed under their new coaches? Agnieszka Radwanska made the splash hire of the offseason when she hired Martina Navratilova. Despite Simona Halep’s success with Wim Fissette, they have parted ways as Halep wanted to be coached by a fellow Romanian. Fissette did not take long to get another job as he was hired by Taylor Townsend (unconfirmed & denied).
(3) How Eugenie Bouchard will fare since she and Nick Saviano split and unlike other players, she has not named a new coach. Madison Keys hiring of Lindsay Davenport was a very solid one as Keys try to take her game to an elite level.
(4) Does Venus Williams have another deep Slam run in her? She and Kvitova played what I thought was the WTA match of 2014 in the third round at Wimbledon.
(5) Can Caroline Wozniacki continue her very solid play that started at Eastbourne? Normally, Wozniacki is a slow starter when the season begins in Australia.
(6) Will the youngsters, led by Garbine Muguruza and Belinda Bencic, continue to make inroads on the tour?
(7) Will there be another run in a Slam by a player who was ranked outside the Top 100 like Aleksandra Krunic did at United States Open?
(8) How can I forgot about the number one player in the world? It is not Serena Weave but Serena Williams, who tied Chris Evert and Navratilova in Slam titles when she won United States Open. Will Serena Williams fare better in the Slams played outside the United States in 2015?
(9) Will Ana Ivanovic repeat 2014 except do better in Slams?
(9) Will Maria Sharapova finally defend a Slam and/or defeat Serena Williams?
Stephanie Neppl (@stephintheUS)
1) Serena Williams will win two slams (Aussie Open and Wimbledon) but will lose her #1 ranking.
2) Maria Sharapova will not reach a grand slam final this year.
3) Petra Kvitova will continue to have consistency issues. This will not be a grand slam year for her.
4) Jelena Jankovic will fall out of the Top 30.
5) Caroline Wozniacki will make another grand slam final, but still fail to win one.
We FINALLY get a good run at a slam for Venus Williams
Working with Lindsay Davenport will help spur on Madison Keys’ career.
Sloane Stephens starts winning again
Flavia Pennetta and Francesca Schiavone
Will not retire:
Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm