US WOMEN = US OPEN

The Spin Team

American tennis administrators are celebrating.  Why are they celebrating?  They are celebrating the achievement of diversity and inclusion. They are celebrating women.  They are celebrating the changing of the guard and finally they are celebrating American women’s tennis.

For years when most journalists talk about tennis and especially American tennis, they invariably mean the men.  We have all read about someone taking over from the Sampras, Agassis and Roddicks and reaching for glory at Davis Cup and at the Slams.  This has not materialised as we have seen the one-dimensional one trick ponies in Isner, Harrison, Sandgren,  Sock etc who have not really amounted to much playing the big hitting American style of tennis, i.e. big serve followed by big forehand.

The women however have taken a different path.  They have learned to utilise the big serve and the big forehand, but they have also added nuances to their games.

A few years ago Coco Vandeweghe played a match against Yulia Putintseva which I am sure pushed her to do better.  She lost that match and Putintseva had some harsh words for Coco after that match.  Putintseva noted that all Coco had was a big serve.  At that time Coco was a ball basher extraordinaire with a mediocre backhand and a huge serve.  Fast forward a few years later and after working with Craig Kardon and now currently with Pat Cash, Vandeweghe has worked on her fitness, her net game and more importantly her court coverage.  She moves better.  She is more patient during rallies and while her on court demeanour leaves a lot to be desired she does have an all around game.

Madison Keys, a graduate of the hit hard, and when that doesn’t work hit harder club, has also added a lot of nuances to her game.  Her backhand has become a lot more reliable.  Her mental game and athleticism has improved tremendously.  Her shot selection during rallies has improved in that she doesn’t just go for big winners to end points quickly, but is willing to prolong rallies by using high loopy shots. Her big serve and forehand are still in effect, but they are not the end all and be all of her game.  The addition of Lindsay Davenport, former Grand Slam champion and one of the more even keeled players that I have ever seen has for me  helped Keys to maintain some amount of calm on the court.

Sloane Stephens was America’s answer to the great Serena Williams.  A player who belonged to the group called entitlement suffered a major setback when she injured her foot and had to have surgery.  Out of the game for almost a year, Sloane has fought her way back to relevance with her performance not only during this fortnight but during the US summer hard court season.  She has matured.  She has become patient during matches.  She has expressed frustration, but she has recovered well enough to gut out wins against opponents who are ranked higher.

Last but certainly not least  is the Grand Dame of American women’s tennis, Venus Williams.  Venus debuted at the US Open 20 years ago when she made her way to the final and lost against then No. 1 Martina Hingis.  There are really no words to describe what Venus is doing this tennis season.  From the beginning of the year she has made the finals of 2 Grand Slam finals (Australian Open [lost to Serena Williams] and Wimbledon [lost to Garbine Muguruza]).  Despite those setbacks Venus has been playing very well, managing her matches and playing within herself.  Her quarter final match against Petra Kvitova should be a must watch for juniors about how to manage yourself during tight matches.

Spin’s Picks

Venus Williams v. Sloane Stephens

Coco Vandeweghe v. Madison Keys

Final

Williams v. Keys

Winner:  Williams

Rise of the Big Hitters

The Spin Team

It started with Monica Seles.  The female player who hit the ball hard and fast.  I didn’t watch tennis during the Seles years.  I knew of  her but back in those days tennis was not shown in Jamaica in the way it is now.  The only time we ever saw tennis on tv in Jamaica was during the Navratilova/McEnroe years.

My first introduction to the big hitters started with the Williams Sisters and it has continued until now.  I know folks will cite players like Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and many others, but the real big hitters in my view started with Venus and Serena Williams.

Over the past few days I am seeing a resurgence of the big hitters of tennis.  Venus Williams has faced 2 of them so far in Viktoria Kuzmova of the Slovak Republic and Oceane Dodin of France.  While both women may have lost their matches, they are showing, at least in my opinion a return to the time when WTA players had huge serves and hit deep and hard groundstrokes.

While Karolina Pliskova has a huge serve and hits big off the ground, for some unknown reason I can’t quite put her into that category. Maybe it as a result of her penchant to slice her forehand or maybe it is because she does not move very well.  Dodin, not a very good mover herself, showed a marked improvement over the player that I saw struggling in matches a few years ago.  One can only hope that she keeps on improving as I absolutely love her game and her on court demeanour is a far cry from the usual helplessness that sometimes permeates the Tour.

Caroline Wozniacki in what I suspected would be a tough match had words about the court scheduling.  I agree with her.  Wozniacki has fought her way back from the depths of irrelevance. She has done all the hard work. She is a former No. 1 and yet she had to wait all day before playing her second round match, whilst a player who is returning from a doping suspension gets another Centre Court assignment.  It stinks to high  heaven.

I know that there are tennis fans out there who are championing the money aspect of this but at some point in time we need to look at the optics of this whole situation.  Are we that willing to make money to the detriment of our sport?  The French Open and Wimbledon did not lack star power (even with the absence of Serena Williams from both events) on the women’s side. The story lines during those tournaments was amazing and especially at the French Open, the crowd size to watch Ostapenko’s matches was something to behold.

Sharapova has been out of action for 15 months.  During that time, fans of the women’s game never even had the opportunity at times to watch regular Tour events.  While the Tour may have suffered somewhat, people still found a way to tune in.  They hunted streams and we even got a fan setting up a brilliant tennis site (Tennis Watchers) so that fans could determine where to watch women’s tennis. Clearly, tennis fans not only have very short memories, but they also lack some amount of credibility when it comes to taking a stand. I would compare them to Trump voters, but that would be mean.

Day 3 Review and Recap

Sloane Stephens in what I suspected would be a tough match overcame Dominika Cibulkova in 3 thrilling sets of tennis. One of the biggest upsets of the day was Bellis going down to Hibino.  Bellis had been playing exceptionally well in the summer tune ups and this loss will be a disappointment to her and her team, especially after she had the opportunity to serve for the match at 5-4 in the third. Taylor Townsend ran out of gas against Ana Bogdan.  I would say more but I am really trying hard here to be nice to Taylor.

Sabine Lisicki got her clock cleaned by Zhang 6-0 in the third.  I did not watch that match but no doubt I will need to see the third set to find out what the hell happened.

Day 4 Preview

Day 4 sees the top half of the women’s draw play their second round matches, with some of the women having to play back to back days.  Spin’s Picks are as usual in bold

Karolina Pliskova (1) vs Nicole Gibbs
Risa Ozaki vs Shaui Zhang (27)
Barbora Strycova (23) vs Jennifer Brady 
Ana Bogdan vs Monica Niculescu

Agnieska Radwanska (10) vs Yulia Putintseva
Ons Jabeur vs Coco Vandeweghe (20)
Lucie Safarova vs Nao Hibino
Kurumi Nara vs Svetlana Kuznetsova (8) (Sveta was very lucky to come out of her previous match.  Nara can be a tough opponent and she hasn’t had consistent back to back wins in quite some time.  Interesting to see how this one turns out.

Elina Svitolina (4) vs Evgeniya Rodina (I think Svitolina escaped the upset bug.  I don’t think she will in this match)
Shelby Rogers vs Daria Gavrilova (25)
Elena Vesnina (17) vs Kirsten Flipkens
Tatjana Maria vs Madison Keys (15) (I wasn’t overawed at Keys’ play in her first match.  If Maria’s backhand slice is working, it could cause Keys all kinds of problems)

Jelena Ostapenko (12) vs Sorana Cirstea (battle of the young big hitters.  In a tale of 2 players who can be inconsistent, I will take the player who is less inconsistent)
Daria Kasatkina vs Christina McHale (this one is a tough one to call.  McHale did well to take out Pavs, but Kasatkina is consistency herself.  US fans if they are on the ground will help in this one)
Yanina Wickmayer vs Kaia Kanepi (It is good to see Kanepi back in a tennis draw.  She struggled in her match against Schiavone but hopefully she can find something left in the tank after that marathon battle)
Denisa Allertova vs Naomi Osaka (all well and good to pull the upset.  Let us see if young Naomi can back it up)

PARTING SHOTS FROM THE USO AND RIDING INTO ASIA

Just how great is Serena Williams these days?  She won her 17th Grand Slam title from 53 appearances. To show just how good she has been and still is, Martina Navratilova played 67 Grand Slam singles events and Chris Evert played 56.   They both have 18 singles titles.  Serena is one win away from tying them.  Most people think that it will happen at any of the 4 Grand Slams next year. 

For the second year in a row, Victoria Azarenka has shown that she is worthy to be called a rival of Serena Williams.  I am not minded to call her that having regard to their head to head, but Azarenka makes a very good case as to why she should be called a rival to the woman who now occupies the WTA Penthouse.  She has shown that she has the game and the mentality to stay with Serena come what may.  


Here are Spin’s and Ace’s Parting Shots.  As with most of the Majors, the Spin will focus on the women and in no particular order of their importance. 

  • How great is the WTA product looking these days?  With so many young women coming up from the juniors and so many of them making their names in the Majors this year, I think the WTA is putting itself in a position where it could very well be that they will again draw even bigger ratings than the men.  
  • Caroline Wozniacki.  It was just a few short years ago that she ruled the WTA. I have no idea what has happened but it is remarkably frustrating to see her not even make the second week of a Major. Believe this was her last chance to make a Slam semifinal as she was given a kind draw.
  • Welcome to prime time Camila Giorgi. 
  • What has happened to Julia Georges? 
  • Sabine Lisicki is becoming the next Tsevtana Pironkova and that is not a title that a player with the game of Lisicki should ever aspire to become. 
  • The non-retirement of Marion Bartoli.  Why not just take a break and savour the moment of fulfilling your life’s work?
  • I don’t know if I missed it but it was great to listen to the commentary on a women’s match and not ever hearing anything about the shrieks, grunts, howls etc.  The commentary was about the 2 women on the court giving their hearts and soul in order to capture a Major title.  I am happy. 
  • Venus Williams is a Legend.  She may not have the career of her little sister, but what she brings to women’s tennis cannot be measured in terms of titles or monetary value.  When you become a role model and mentor to young women without having to try very hard, then you know that you have come a long way baby.  
  • Victoria Duval is an amazing young woman, poised, articulate and so focused.  Lots of work needed on her game but taking out the 2011 USO champion, no matter how poorly Samantha Stosur played, says a lot about her mentality.  The fact that she aspires to become something other than a tennis player is remarkable as well. 
  • Sloane Stephens.  She played the first 4 games of her match against Serena like the Sloane that we all know can become the next big thing in tennis. She says that her aim is to finish the year in the top 10.  It seems that Sloane is more about rankings watch than she is about standing on the podium receiving the top prizes. Baby steps are required, but I would have preferred if she spoke about results, rather than the ranking.  If the results are there the ranking will come. 
  • Flavia Pennetta is not my favourite player but how awesome was it to see her playing again and doing so well.  Losing in the semifinals to the second best hard court player this year is nothing to sniff at. 
  • Simona Halep. I think she was very disappointed with her results at the USO.  Perhaps no New Haven and she could make a run for it next year. 
  • Petra Kvitova 😦
  • Andrea Hlavackova – She won the doubles title with her partner and fellow Fed Cup Czech mate Lucie Hradecka defeating Serena and Venus along the way. Also, she won the mixed doubles with Max Mirnyi, who won his first two with Serena and Vika. First player to win both in a Slam since Cara Black in 2008 (doubles with Liezel Huber) 
  • Daniela Hantuchova – She made the quarter-finals which is a good accomplishment after losing in the first round for five straight Slams even though her draw was not difficult.
  • Victoria Azarenka – Despite losing again in the final to Serena, she did well by making the final despite not playing her best tennis.
  • Alison Riske – She received a wild card and made the organizers proud by making the fourth round defeating Petra Kvitova in the process.
  • Until the final, the match of the tournament was between Carla Suarez Navarro and Angelique Kerber where a third set tiebreaker determined the winner and the raw emotion of Suarez Navarro after winning.

The WTA Tour now moves to Asia and already we have seen some surprising results.  Spin had a chance to watch a few matches from Korea as well as China.  I watched the semifinal match between  Zhang and Meusberger.  It was my first time watching Zhang, a WC recipient play and I was very impressed.  I am thinking from the little that I have seen, plus the fact that her opponent, Vania King, a qualifier had to go 3 sets to take out Jheng Jie in her semifinal, will have Zhang winning her first WTA title from as many starts. 

Ace’s preview of the Japan Open is below

Since the United States Open has concluded, the tour has moved on to the continent of Asia. This week the tour lands in Tokyo, which is hosting a Premier 5 event for the last time as it will move to Wuhan in 2014. Serena Williams was scheduled to play but withdrew due to fatigue. Also, Maria Sharapova, Sabine Lisicki, Nadia Petrova, 2012 champion, and Maria Kirilenko has withdrawn due to injury. Top seed is the reigning two-time Australian Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, who has defeated S Williams twice on hard courts in Doha and Cincinnati. Azarenka will be the favourite to win.

 
First quarter – Azarenka leads this quarter but her first opponent could be Venus Williams. Sloane Stephens will be trying to improve her record in WTA tour events in a push to finish 2013 in the Top 10 while Jelena Jankovic will be continuing her good play.
 
First round matchups to watch: Eugenie Bouchard vs Monica Puig
 
Second quarter – Sara Errani leads this quarter but admitted that the pressure of being a top seed got to her during the US Open. Petra Kvitova has the ability to win this title but she can be very inconsistent and will her love for Radek Stepanek, who won the US Open doubles with Leander Paes, linger on every match she plays.
 
First round matchup to watch: Julia Goerges vs Sorana Cirstea
 
Third quarter – Caroline Wozniacki leads this quarter and has won this title in 2010. She has a tough first round match playing the winner of Daniela Hantuchova/Flavia Pennetta. When the media thinks that Roberta Vinci will falter early in draws, she finds a way to make quarterfinals or semifinals.
 
First round matchup to watch: Daniela Hantuchova vs Flavia Pennetta
 
Fourth quarter – Agnieszka Radwanska leads this quarter. If A Radwanska, who won this title in 2011, is playing in Seoul on Sunday, she will have only one day to travel as her first match will be on Tuesday and the further she advances, she may feel the effects.
 
First round matchup to watch: Aleksandra Wozniak vs Francesca Schiavone 

Ace’s Tokyo Predictions
 
Q1: Azarenka vs Stephens
Q2: Cirstea vs Kvitova
Q3: Vinci vs Pennetta
Q4: Ivanovic vs A Radwanska
 
S1: Azarenka vs Kvitova
S2: Pennetta vs A Radwanska
 
F: Azarenka vs A Radwanska
 
W: Azarenka

DAY 5 REVIEW, DAY 6 PICKS AND ACE’S MATCH TO WATCH

Day 5 Review, Day 6 Picks and Ace’s Match to Watch


In our Day 5 match to watch, Ace picked the match between young Americans, Jamie Hampton and Sloane Stephens.  As with most of our matches to watch this USO, this one failed to live up to expectations.  Stephens without a doubt loves a stage.  Hampton not so much. It showed in the tennis.  The grit that got Hampton to the third round was absent today.  The fight that got Stephens through the first round was in evidence today.   The outcome was never in doubt.  American TV now has one-half of the round of 16 match up that they want.  A rematch of the Australian Open match between Serena Williams and Sloane Stephens.  Maybe Shvedova will have something to say about that, but I doubt it.


As expected Jheng Jie had nothing left in the tank and bowed out 2 and 4 to Suarez-Navarro.  I watched this match today and I have to say that I was very disappointed in Jie’s play.  The tactics that she used so effectively against Venus were non-existent today.  Her early returns and moving forward into the court to take the ball on the rise was not present and she was run ragged all over the court by Navarro.  All in all as a Venus fan I was disheartened by Jie’s play.  However, how good does Suarez-Navarro look?  I watched her doubles match against the Williams Sister and while she did not maintain her excellent play in the first set, she carried over that play into her singles match against Jie.  Look for her to make the quarter-finals and maybe even higher.


Na Li had her revenge against Robson today.  Li has changed her game and is now much more varied. I wonder though how long before she stops looking up into the stands as her coach tells her what to do or how soon before the umpires start warning her for coaching from the stands.


Aga Radwanska had her hands full today with Pavlyuchenkova.  It was a hard fought 4 and 6 win today, but I am sure that Aga will take it as it gets tougher from here on out.


Ace’s Matches to Watch


Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Flavia Pennetta – Kuznetsova won her first match in 2 tight sets against Burdette then won a three setter against Peng, who got injured late in the match along with having cramps. Believe it or not, she is one of only two champions left in the field. Pennetta has returned from the tour from injury and has lost only 6 games which includes a thumping of Errani in her last match. About 2 to 3 years ago, this would have been a quarterfinal or later match.


Maria Kirilenko vs Simona Halep – Kirilenko is quietly moving through the draw defeating Wickmayer and Larcher De Brito in straight sets. Halep struggled in her first match against Watson coming from a title run at New Haven. Then, she won easily over an up and comer in Vekic. Winner of this match may be the odds on favorite to win the third quarter.


Ana Ivanovic vs Christina McHale – Ivanovic has defeated Tatishvili and Dulgheru in uneventful straight sets. McHale has won two matches in a tournament for the first time since Doha. She needed the wins as she has been struggling to revert back to her 2011 form. Both ladies could use another win to boost their confidence where the winner will most likely face Azarenka on Labor Day Monday.


Spin’s Day 6 Picks


Caroline Wozniacki v Camila Giorgi
Karin Knapp v Roberta Vinci
Maria Kirilenko v Simona Halep
Svetlana Kuznetsova v Flavia Pennetta
Petra Kvitova v Alison Riske
Julia Glushko v Daniela Hantuchova
Ana Ivanovic v Christina McHale

Alize Cornet v Victoria Azarenka

WIMBLEDON DAY 2 PICKS



Spin got slammed yesterday.  There are no 2 ways to describe what happened on Day 1 on the women’s side.  From young Puig slamming the NO. 5 seed, Errani in straight sets, to Sharapova struggling against Krista, to Vika almost retiring against her opponent, to the struggles of Bartoli and Flipkens, the women’s bottom half of the draw saw more drama than anything else.  Of course the day will be remembered for the upset heard around the world with Rafael Nadal, the French Open champion on the men’s side going out in straight sets to Steve Darcis. 

The top half of the women’s draw plays tomorrow and the reigning ladies’ champion, current occupier of the Penthouse and the No. 1 seed, Serena Williams, opens action on Day 2 on  Centre Court.



The OOP for tomorrow is filled with lots of great matches and it took Spin almost 2 hours to really make her picks.  I will therefore advise all readers of this blog to tread carefully when making your picks, because unlike Spin, you don’t want to get slammed in Suicide Pool.  

Spin’s Picks are as usual in red:-

Day 2 Matches

Serena Williams(USA) [1] v Mandy Minella (LUX) 
Q Caroline Garcia (FRA) v Jie Zheng (CHN) 
Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) v Q Carina Witthoeft (GER) 
Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) v Tamira Paszek (AUT) [28]

Sabine Lisicki (GER) [23] v Francesca Schiavone(ITA) 
Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) 
Olga Puchkova (RUS) v Arantxa Rus (NED) 
LL Anna Schmiedlova (SVK) v Samantha Stosur(AUS) [14]

Maria Kirilenko (RUS) [10] v Laura Robson (GBR) 
Q Mariana Duque-Marino (COL) v Julia Goerges (GER) 

Ayumi Morita (JPN) v Marina Erakovic(NZL) 

A.Medina Garrigues (ESP) v Shuai Peng (CHN) [24]

Romina Oprandi (SUI) [31] v WC Alison Riske(USA) 
Mallory Burdette (USA) v Urszula Radwanska (POL) 
Kaia Kanepi (EST) v WC Tara Moore (GBR) 
Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) v Angelique Kerber (GER) [7]


Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) [4] v Q Yvonne Meusburger (AUT) 
Timea Babos (HUN) v Mathilde Johansson (FRA) 
Heather Watson (GBR) v Madison Keys (USA) 

Monica Niculescu (ROU) v Mona Barthel (GER) [30]

A.Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) [21] v Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 
Q B.Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) v Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 

Anna Tatishvili (GEO) v Petra Martic (CRO) 
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) v Nadia Petrova (RUS) [13]

Roberta Vinci (ITA) [11] v Chanelle Scheepers (RSA) 
Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) v Jana Cepelova (SVK) 

M.Torro-Flor (ESP) v Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) 

Q Maria Elena Camerin (ITA) v Dominika Cibulkova (SVK) [18]

Klara Zakopalova (CZE) [32] v Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 
Nina Bratchikova (RUS) v Annika Beck (GER) 

Olga Govortsova (BLR) v Simona Halep (ROU) 

Michaella Krajicek (NED) v Na Li (CHN) [6]

SPIN’S AO DAY 4 PICKS

It is already Day 4 and time for Spin’s Picks.  I don’t know about anyone else, but the top half of the draw seems to have more matches that I would love to see, moreso than the bottom half.  Early days yet though so anything can happen. 


Day 4’s matches features some questions that are high on everyone’s list, namely:-

  1. how is Serena Williams’ ankle; 
  2. is Petra Kvitova really on her way back; 
  3. is Laura Robson the real deal; 
  4. is Svetlana Kuznetsova really working her way back to the top of women’s tennis; 
  5. has Caroline Wozniacki sufficiently recovered from that early round scare in the first round; and 
  6. is Yanina Wickmayer finally beginning to show us what she is really made of?
Below are Spin’s picks for Day 4. 

PLAYER A
PLAYER B
SPIN’S PICKS
RESULTS
Victoria Azarenka
Eleni Daniilidou
Azarenka – while the top seed had some trouble with Nicolescu in her opening match, she should sail through this one with no problems
Luksika Kumkhum
Jamie Hampton
Hampton – the feisty young American should have some trouble but should get through in 3 
Varvara Lepchenko
Elena Vesnina
This is a pick em but I am going out on a limb and picking Vesnina for the win. That title in Hobart seems to be working wonders on her psyche
Akgul Amanmuradova
Roberta Vinci
I would pick the big serving Akgul but Vinci will expose her movement with her slice backhand –  Vinci
Caroline Wozniacki
Donna Vekic
A battle of young guns.  Vekic is young and hungry. Wozniacki is young and tired.  This could be long with Wozniacki winning or short with Vekic winning.  I am going with Wozniacki
Daria Gavrilova
Lesia Tsurenko
Tsurenko has played a lot of tennis this season.  Taking out a seed in her last round, look for her to have a let down here – Gavrilova
Su-Wei Hsieh
Svetlana Kuznetsova
This depends on which Sveta shows up.  If she decides to play behind the baseline, she will lose.  Hsieh can run all day.  Sveta should use her arsenal of shots to win this – Kuznetsova
Yulia Putintseva
Carla Suarez Navarro
Another battle of the tiny tots.  The world got to see Putintseva in her last match against McHale. Look for the steady Navarro to outlast the Russian – Navarro
Serena Williams
Garbine Muguruza
How is the ankle doing?  That is the question the tennis world is waiting on when Serena takes the court for her second round match. Serena in straights
Ayumi Morita
Annika Beck
I have not see either of these women play since the tournament started but I am going with Beck, if only because of her big win in the previous round.
Yanina Wickmayer
Jana Cepelova
Wickmayer to continue her 2013 run of form against the youngster
Shuai Peng
Maria Kirilenko
This one will be a long drawn out affair.  If Peng serves well, she should take it, but I am going with Kirilenko
Kimiko Date-Krumm
Shahar Peer
Peer had to battle hard just to get here while Krumm sent Petrova packing with a bagel.  Look for Krumm to discombolate Peer here.
Bojana Jovanovski
Lucie Safarova
Depends on which Lucie shows up.  Bojana can be steady as well as erratic.  I am going with Jovanovski
Sloane Stephens
Kristina Mladenovic
Battle of the young guns.  Stephens dispatched her last opponent with 2 breadsticks.  Look for her to continue her great run of form here.
Laura Robson
Petra Kvitova
This is the match of the day.  Is 2011 Petra back or will Robson get another top 10 scalp at a Major.  I am going with Petra because of her experience, plus she has to get it right at some point

TENNIS BROKEN RECORDS

Pete Sampras – 14 Grand Slam titles.  Most of all time. Broken
Roger Federer – 21 straight Grand Slam semifinals.  Most in the Open Era.  Broken
Serena Williams – 46 straight Grand Slam victories in the first round of Majors.  Broken
The third item in this list is one of the most significant and underrated achievements in all of tennis. Much like the story of Serena Williams.  At times glorified, but most of the time vilified by tennis pundits (who wish they could be her). By tennis fans (because of what she has done to their faves) and general disliked because of the colour of her skin, Serena Williams has made her mark in the world of tennis, so much so that today when she lost her opening round match on Court Philip Chartier, it was Breaking News by every major news network in the world.  That is the power of Serena Williams.
I watched this match from beginning to end with points in between when I turned it off as I, like most fans of  Serena Williams, became disconsolate at her performance during this match. Looking back you could tell that something was not right with Serena. 
If you are a fan of this woman you know her history.  You know what she brings to the court of tennis. You know her aura and you know her game.  Every player in the locker room knows it as well. If you want to beat Serena, you don’t listen to the pundits. You don’t listen to the coaches.  You don’t listen to the noise. You listen to yourself.  You close your eyes and you swing for the fences, and you pray to whatever deity that you believe in that Serena is off her game by just a notch, and you will hear your name echoed for all the ages.
The French Open has not been a pleasant stomping ground for Serena.  She won this title in 2002 on her way to the Serena Slam (holding all 4 Majors though not in a calendar year).  Since that victory, she has only made it to the semifinals one time since then where she lost to Justine Henin in a hard fought match, where it was revealed by Henin that yes she did cheat to win that match.
Serena lost that match to a chorus of boos and jeers from the French crowd, and if there is ever any doubt that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not a disease or not evident amongst professional tennis player, one need only look at Serena’s career at Roland Garros.
If she wins, it is greeted with a smattering of applause.  If she loses it is met with resounding cheers.
Today, 29 May 2012, in her first round match, Serena, for the first time in her career lost in the first round of a Major.  She lost to Virginie Razzano, a French player ranked 111 in the world and who has herself seen tragedy, having lost her fiancée/coach last year to cancer.
After the match, Serena walked across the net and shook her opponent’s hand. I will not recap the match here as I am sure that everyone in tennis land has seen it, but suffice it to say that Serena could have played a lot better and Virginie could not have played any better than she did.
Is this the end for Serena? I doubt it. She showed an amazing sense of calmness in her post-match press conference.  She did not seem too perturbed by it. It was a bit as if she was almost too accepting of her loss.
Since her return to competitive tennis after her life threatening illness, Serena has seemed a bit complacent in relation to the Majors.  She has taken some hard losses since her return, but what has been lost in the equation is the way how her opponents have played.  The media would like us to think that Serena has lost her aura.  I say that the media needs to stop and take stock of the way in which Serena has lost.  Players have had to bring their A+ games in order to dethrone Serena.
Today, Serena fought and she fought hard.  She was not on her game, but that does not take away the fact that Razzano, with the French crowd solidly behind her did what 46 other women before her could not do.  She defeated Serena Williams in the first round of a Major for the first time in her stellar career.  Does this mean that Serena Williams is done.  No. All it means is that Wimbledon is a few weeks away and by that time Serena’s game should have caught the flight from Florida and made its way to  Europe.
OTHER STUFF
Today, Maria Sharapova had a practice session on Suzanne Lenglen. Alexandra Cadantu needs to join the Futures circuit.  She has no business playing on the WTA Tour. Fans joked on twitter that Cadantu told Sharapova thank you at the net.  Some joked that they were sure that Sharapova passed her $20.00 for the practice session.  I wonder if fans asked for their money back.  They probably should.
Tennis writers really need to chill out a bit.  It is only tennis.
The International Tennis Hall of Fame needs to continue its investigation of Bob Hewitt, and preferably remove him from the Hall of Fame pending its investigation.  If you agree, sign this Petition and make the suffering that these women endured at the hands of a man who “carried a tin of Vaseline” with him whenever he went on coaching sessions with young girls go away. 
Venus Williams is a Legend.  There is no denying that.  She is the epitomy of what a champion of this sport is.  As someone who also suffers with an anti-immune disease I can relate to what Venus is currently enduring.  Stay strong my champ.
I personally find Mary Carillo and Martina Navratilova to be 2 of the most negative and least influential in the sport of tennis, with Pam Shriver running a close third.  Neither Carillo or Navratilova have contributed to the development of women’s tennis in the way that Billie Jean King has done.  Their negative views on the state of women’s tennis leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The constant chattering about the shrieking/grunting etc of professional female athletes, leaves me to think that they have nothing else to talk about, or they just want to be one of the boys.   Say something positive about women’s tennis or shut up.
Venus plays her second round match tomorrow against Radwanska.  That is the only match that I am interested in.  Go Venus!!!