The Spin Team
The 2018 French Open has followed a familiar yet enthralling pattern from the past five years on the WTA tour: the emergence of new champions.
Last year when Jelena Ostapenko was on her march to the title, every single match that she played was jam packed. It was as if the crowd had already chosen its winner. She was blazing winners left and right and moving as if she was born to play on the clay. The same thing happened when Caroline Wozniacki won her maiden title at the Australian Open and who can forget that the 2017 US Open women’s final sold out when 2 young African American women (not named Venus and Serena) played for the title?
Women’s tennis, in my humble opinion, remains the heartbeat of the tennis tours. I have been tuning in for over 20 years and while there are times that I will become invested in men’s tennis as my love affair with all things David Nalbandian and Roger Federer will attest, women’s tennis will always be my first love. Women’s tennis is full of new and emerging characters, while men’s tennis relies on 4 people to keep it going day in and day out. At some point, something will have to give.
In contrast, as much as I love Venus and Serena Williams, they are not women’s tennis. For Americans who just tune into tennis on a semi regular basis they are the epitome of the sport (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that), but for those of us who tune in to watch women’s tennis all year long, we are always heartened when we see someone new and different. We are even more joyful when we see players for whom we have long been cheerleaders finally come into their own. This is why when Simona Halep lifted her maiden Grand Slam trophy, I was extremely happy for her as I was when Sloane raised her trophy last year.
There is a saying that goes “hardships there are, but the land is green, and the sun shineth”. These are the words that attest to the meaning of the Jamaican flag. I find that it is a poignant commentary on players who have persevered through thick and thin and lived to claim the biggest title that their sport has to offer.
The Pliskova sisters need a lesson in not only humility but also in what sells. Destroying an umpire’s chair is the way to get your name listed on the list of players who promised much and never delivered. When your claim to fame is being the sibling who is not as popular, then when you are given the chance to comment on the outfit of a player whose career you can only dream about, you don’t become that girl. That girl who no one knows and no one cares to know. You don’t sit there smirking and offer outfit advice when your own outfit looks as if it was sewn together in a bit of a hurry. You just don’t.
Karolina Pliskova was absolutely humiliated in her match against Maria Sharapova. Barely able to hold serve, her lack of movement on the clay was there for all to see. One can only hope that Pliskova will find a way to recover from this monumental beatdown.
As for Sharapova, no doubt she was gearing up for what was considered to be the match of the tournament, but Garbine Muguruza, herself not a slouch had other ideas. Surely with maximum points to defend at Wimbledon, Garbine will be able to recover from her loss to the eventual champion at Roland Garros.
It must be hard to have points to defend. A wise person once said, it is hard to be the chaser, but it is even harder to be chased. Ostapenko had zero expectations last year. This year as a top 10 player she had a monumental trophy on her back. She cracked under the pressure. Elina Svitolina also cracked. One wonders if Svitolina will be this generation’s Dementieva. Racking up the big titles but failing at the final hurdle every step of the way.
Daria Kasatkina seems to have lost momentum from the green clay season. Angelique Kerber seems to have found new life in her bones. Could we see Kerber raising her third Grand Slam title at Wimbledon or a repeat of her run to the US Open finals?
Victoria Azarenka needs a lot of time and patience to ascend to the top of women’s tennis. Either that or a serve will do.
Serena Williams needs time and lots of it. Having a C-section for a normal person is hard. Having a C-section as a professional athlete whose game relies so much on core strength is going to be even harder. We should lower our expectations of Serena’s return until at least a year after giving birth.
About the tennis coverage…
I like to remind folks that long before there was talk of sexism in tennis and long before there was any talk of the lack of coverage of women’s matches on TV, this blog, which first started as Women’s Tennis on TV has been sounding the alarm about the lack of visibility of women’s tennis on TV.
In 2009, Kim Clijsters’ return was heralded as a return of the Golden Era of women’s tennis. That period when you had Davenport, the Williams Sisters, Sharapova, Hingis, Henin and Clijsters (and many more) competing for the biggest titles in women’s tennis. Every player had a role to play. The Williams Sisters, and Davenport were considered the power players. Sharapova the pretty girl with the huge game. Hingis was the crafty one. Henin was filled with variety and then there was Clijsters, the smiling bridesmaid. The player who turned up at every tournament at which there was a net and gave her all to the WTA Tour. She also made sure to give journalists everything they ever needed at press conferences. At that time, there was barely any coverage of the women’s game on tv. Many will recall that Indian Wells match featuring Ivanovic and Clijsters that many of us “watched” via scoreboard and updates on message boards. That was women’s tennis on tv.
These days the articles that are written about women’s tennis remains unchanged from that era. It’s not that women’s tennis hasn’t changed, it’s that the same people tasked with writing about women’s tennis keep trying to cast the current women’s game with an eye towards the past. It’s time to abandon the usual chatter about the lack of variety in the women’s game and focus on telling stories about the new and emerging champions that continues to evolve women’s tennis.
Things I wish I didn’t have to say…
The Men’s French Open Champion
I am not going to jump on the bandwagon of sexism and berate Rafael Nadal for his comments regarding equal prize money. Nadal for all his accomplishments is a mini dinosaur when it comes to these things. His views and takes on issues that affect women’s tennis should be given short shrift. However, the views expressed by the World’s No.1 Simona Halep and Roland Garros winner should get the media’s attention. If the World’s No. 1 player on the women’s side does not believe that she should be treated equally as her counterparts, it is a problem. If she believes the men’s game is more popular and therefore deserves to have its player get more pay, she just might deserve the vitriol that comes her way.