I have always maintained that the WTA puts out a better quality product than the ATP. I have always believed that commentators and journalists always take the low hanging fruit when they attempt to craft a narrative surrounding the women who play professional tennis. They either reinvogorate the grunting debate, talk about the instability on the Tour and the mental fragility of the top players or they bemoan the loss of top seeds in Grand Slam tournaments, never ever thinking that the reason why there is a loss of top seeds is because of the depth that permeates the women’s Tour. This Australian Open, I believe they finally saw it (or did they).
The revelation of this year’s Grand Slam is not the resurgence of Angelique Kerber or the fraility of Sharapova 3.0, The revelations during this year’s Australian Open is that despite what many may think, the WTA Tour will do just fine once the marquee names have hung up their racquets.
Many times either Venus or Serena will opine and tell journalists that from the first ball at a Grand Slam event you have to be on your game. We saw that manifest itself with many of the top seeds being under the gun, with some being taken out in straight sets by their young upstarts. While the ATP struggles with trying to recraft the fact that the Tour has been infiltrated by its very own neo-Nazi, white supremacist dude and while tennis journalists try to tell us that he is thoughtful and his answers in press conferences showcases his humility and empathy, let us take a look back at what was a fantastic week for the women.
Hseih Su-Wei – there are no words left to talk about this young woman from Thailand who had the crowd on its feet with her uniquely artistic game. She showed that her take down of Garbine Muguruza was not a fluke and despite pulling double duty during this year’s tournament she gave as good as she got up to the round of 16. Take a bow Ms. Wei and don’t stay in the corners, let your light shine for everyone to see.
15-13 in the third. 3 match points come and gone. After the match both women embodied sports. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Lauren Davis will replay those 3 match points on Halep’s serve. Halep, getting a day off would clean up her game and play forceful tennis in taking out Osaka. The No.1 is finally believing that she is No. 1.
Caroline Wozniacki – her narrative being No.1 without winning a Slam. She showed us that the mental toughness that was a hallmark of her game when she was No.1 was still in full force and effect. Fighting back from 5-1 down, Wozniacki would save 2 match points to reach the quarter finals.
Carla Suarez-Navarro – the forgotten Spaniard. Her doubles partner has reigned supreme. 2 Grand Slam titles. Accolades galore. The Spaniard with the beautiful backhand has had trouble closing out matches. This time around she showed toughness in taking out Kontaveit. I have never seen her battle as hard as she did in this match. Is this a sign of things to come?
On one of the biggest stages in tennis, Madison Keys, the heir apparent to Venus and Serena Williams suffered a bagel in her first Grand Slam final. How would she deal with that let down. She did so by presenting herself into the last 8 by walloping Caroline Garcia in straight sets. Never getting down on herself. Never taking a moment to question what she was doing out on court. Keys played like I have never seen her play before.
Day 9 sees the bottom half of the women’s draw play the first set of semifinals. Spin’s Picks are below:-
Elise Mertens v. Elina Svitolina – I watched Svitolina during her run to the Brisbane title and what impressed me more than anything was her serve. I recall in one of her matches, she hit 10 aces, something that I can never recall her doing. Her second serve is still a challenge, but she is hitting her first serve better than I have ever seen her hit it. On the other hand her opponent Elise Mertens is one of the quickest players on Tour. In looking at the stats for both players from their previous matches, Mertens is going to be in a whole lot of trouble just from the return of serve. In her previous match Svitolina got almost 90% of her opponent’s serve in play and she won more return points than her opponent. In addition, Svitolina’s average serve speed was 110/89 (first and second respectively). Look for this to be a quick match, running notwithstanding.
Carla Suarez-Navarro v. Caroline Wozniacki – how much does Carla have left in the tank after her marathon match against Kontaveit? Will her backhand hold up under the constant onslaught from Wozniacki? How will Wozniacki’s legs hold up if Carla gets a chance to use her angled backhand cross court? This is a pick em match but I am looking to see Wozniacki prevail and in straight sets.