Quick, name me a viable contender for the women’s French Open title… give up? I don’t blame you because I can’t either.
The current number one is Caroline Wozniacki, who by the way has never won a grand slam championship, she lost yesterday. Number two is Kim Clijsters, who’s comeback story is one made for dreams, she lost yesterday. The Williams sisters are both absent due to injury, one-time wunderkind Ana Ivonavic and Dinara Safina are AWOL and Maria Sharapova is playing herself back into shape.
So what you’re left with is the possibility of Li Na, Victoria Azarenka or last year’s surprise winner Francesca Schiavone competing for the crown at Roland Garros.
Yep, this is the state of Women’s tennis.
This is reminiscent of the early 2000’s on the ATP tour when Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and the other greats of the previous generation were on the decline and we tried to buy into Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Marat Safin as the leaders of the new school. For three years until the emergence of Roger Federer, men’s tennis was a virtual crapshoot for number one and whoever got it didn’t do much with it.
Fast forward to 2011 and we’re at that same place in time with the women’s game.
Both Venus and Serena are declining in skill, Sharapova can’t stay healthy and Kim Clijsters has only proven to be a dominant hard court player and has been a non-factor elsewhere. There is not one big name in the sport that has, or can for that matter, take the game by the throat and make it their own in the way that Martina Hingis, the Williams Sisters, Steffi Graf or any of the other greats in the sports history.
In short, women’s tennis is falling into a state of mediocrity. After not even one full week at the French Open we’re witnessing it firsthand.
Wozniacki’s fall to one-time starlet Daniela Hantuchova is another setback in the talented yet frustrating career for Wozniacki. Right now she should have at least two slams under her belt, yet she doesn’t seem to have the same fight in her that other former number ones have had. Wozniacki just folds under pressure. Once the shots don’t fall her way her whole game falls apart. There’s no way that the number one player in the world should have only won 4 games against a player who has never made it past the fourth round of the French Open in her career.
Yet Wozniacki continues to disappoint. Fortunately or unfortunately, whatever your stance may be, she will still be number one for two more weeks because Clijsters lost earlier in the day to 20 year-old Arantxa Rus.
(Wait, 20 years old, two-handed power player, same first name as 90’s great Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario? I’m buying into her already. I need hope man, just saying.)
As much as I love Clijsters she just can’t get it done on any surface other than the hard-court. She made two French finals in 2001 and 03 and made the semis at Wimbledon, but hasn’t come near those performances in recent years. She’s a one surface player and that can only get you so far in the rankings at this point in her career.
Maybe I should buy into Vera Zvonereva, who’s never won a slam either, or Azarenka who is young and talented, but hasn’t made it past a quarterfinal of any slam, or maybe Schiavone, Sam Stosur or Na except all of them are pushing 30 and that’s where tennis players normally lose all of the points of their game.
By the way, those are your top 6 players in the world. Yikes.
The only player left in the French Open with any viable star power is Sharapova, and her career has been disappointing at best. Sure she’s won three Grand Slam events but you feel like she’s been more glamour than game. At age 24 she has more than enough time to attempt to regain the number one ranking like she has a few times in her career. However, she’s missed so much time due to injury that you wonder if her body can keep up with her over the next few years.
Unlike the men’s game from years ago I don’t think that the women’s game is becoming unwatchable. If Sharapova continues to win in France or Azarenka climbs closer to the championship match then maybe it will spark some interest for the game heading into Wimbledon.
That’s only hope right now though. The women’s game is suffering and if someone doesn’t step up quickly and take control of it then we’ll be sitting here waiting for the female Federer to come along. We all remember how long and painful that process was right?