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.
Venus Williams v. Sloane Stephens
Coco Vandeweghe v. Madison Keys
Williams v. Keys