by Karen 

The bottom half of the women’s draw continues to disappoint.  From the minute the draw was concluded almost 2 weeks ago, fans have been bemoaning the fact that the top half was top heavy, while the bottom half looked more like an international event.  I usually take these grumblings as more to do with people not liking certain players, rather than anything to do with the players themselves.  However, in this case, I can’t help but wonder whether there is some amount of truth to the conspiracy of draw rigging. 

The much anticipated (at least that is what I am told) quarter-final match between Eugenie Bouchard and Maria Sharapova was as boring as it was flat.  Bouchard, who does not have a coach, did not seem to have a strategy either in relation to how to compete against the very best in the world or how to adapt when the game plan is not working. Her game, which has taken her to as high as No. 5 in the world has so many holes that Sharapova could drive a semi through it, and that is exactly what the Russian did.  Broken in her opening service game, Bouchard would never recover from that bad start and all Sharapova had to do was keep her composure and continue to fire her laser like ground strokes to Bouchard.  Bouchard, whose game plan is to take the ball as early as possible and redirect does not seem to appreciate that there are few players on the women’s Tour who are able to do that with Sharapova’s shots.  She learned the hard way how hard it is to make that next step in terms of winning a Grand Slam. 

Sharapova to her credit did not seem fazed or overawed by the occassion.  However, for whatever reason, there does seem to be a bit of bad blood that is wending its way into this non-rivalry.  After the match, Sharapova wrote on the camera lens “Fly high, sing your own song”.  Taken at face value, this might mean nothing to most observers, however, Bouchard has her group of fans (Genie’s Army) who have been making up songs to sing whenever she is playing.  Some will say that this is Sharapova’s way of giving a huge fuck you to Bouchard and her Genie’s Army.  If that is the case, then that is without a doubt the most low rent thing I have ever seen done in tennis since “check her blood pressure”.  

Sharapova for all she has accomplished in tennis, and this is something that we as fans are constantly reminded of, does herself a disservice when she engages in these petty squabbles.  In much the same way that she went after Serena Williams for comments that were allegedly made by Serena about her by stating that Serena has accomplished so much in tennis that she does not need to talk bad about opponents, it would behove Sharapova to follow her own advice.  Bouchard is young and still growing into her game. She is the darling of the WTA world in much the same way that Sharapova used to be. Maybe the fact that Bouchard is now a part of the Serena Williams camp, albeit peripherally,  (Bouchard is now represented by Serena’s long time agent Jill Smoller) makes Bouchard an easy target for Sharapova.  If that is the case, then it needs to stop. 

The other quarterfinal that took place does not even require a review.  Simona Halep did not turn up for her match against Ekaterina Makarova.  Again, as with Bouchard, Halep was broken in her first service game and never seemed to recover. She was listless around the court and her usual movement, a signature part of her game, was non-existent.  Her groundstrokes seemed to still be in the locker room and her mind, which is usually focused point to point completely deserted her.  In the second set Halep basically threw in the towel.  As a big fan of this young player, I was appalled at her performance.  I am hopeful that she will recover by the time her beloved clay season rolls around. 

The top half of the women’s draw plays today and again there are some highly anticipated matches on tap.  First up is 34 year old Venus Williams, going up against 19 year Madison Keys.  This will be a match of youth vs. experience.  Can Keys finally live up to her potential and will the elder Williams have something left in the tank after playing back to back 3 set matches.  Williams will have to no doubt use her vast array of shots to move Keys around and take her chances coming forward.  Keys will be using her explosive power to force Venus to play defence.  Williams in straights. 

The other quarterfinal sees last year’s finalist, Dominika Cibulkova going up against 5 time champion, Serena Williams.  Williams the younger has never lost to Cibulkova and has only lost one set to her in their past 4 meetings.  Williams has struggled throughout this tournament but look for her to put in a dominating performance here to set up an all Williams semifinal clash.  Williams in straight. 

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