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Like a Spaghetti 04/04/2009 - 8:15 PM

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by Pete Bodo

Okay, so here's my theory: There's a secret lab hidden somewhere deep amid the pine trees in a rugged valley in the Urals, and it turns out female Russian tennis players. And not too long ago the technicians there got the confidential bulletin from the the WTA Tour.

Sharapova module (no. 3243STD)  no longer functioning properly. Stop. Suspect engineering and material failure. Stop. Need replacement ASAP, with following modifications:

1 - Eliminate habit of pulling up and off forehand.

2 - Build in increased mobility and add flexibility to core.

3 - Modify serve (new circuit must ,module advance
into court after striking ball)

4 - Improve backhand to improve open-stance, inside-out function.

5 - Decrease height by four inches, but retain narrow profile of frame.

Note: Retain shriek and tendency toward affluenza.

Priority: Top. Status: Secret. Formal model name: The Azarenka.

Well, they rolled out the (Victoria) Azarenka here at the Sony-Ericsson Open today, and it functioned beautifully, making everyone forget the obsolete Sharapova module. Victoria Azarenka destroyed Serena Williams 6-3, 6-1 in the women's final, and while Serena wore a tan wrap on her left quadricep (but, oddly enough, talked about her ankle in the "aches and pains" portion of her presser), the tennis Azarenka played was more than persuasive - it was convincing. The statuesque, 5-10 native of Minsk, Belarus, who now resides in Scottsdale, Az., is poised to become a force in the womens game.

Azarenka, 19, was a four-time singles runner-up (but never a titlist) until this year; today she claimed her third and by far biggest title of the year, winning over an undiluted field and rolling through the woman who was on the brink of surpassing Steffi Graf's record five Miami titles. Serena will get more chances to move ahead of Graf, but the mission suddenly looks more daunting.

The contrast when the women walked onto court on this stifling, sun-baked day was striking. Azarenka looked very inch the ingenue in her mostly white outfit with exposed shoulders and a matching yellow visor (the better to show off that golden French braid spilling out and over her back). Serena's candy-corn orange dress was festive enough, but her shuffling steps and heavily strapped thigh lent her the air of a wounded veteran. But  the plain white duckbill cap pulled low over her eyes suggested she was all about the substance, not the form.

Alas, the substance was missing today. She would have had to appear in a gold-sequined bikini with giant turquoise ostrich plumes cascading from her tiara to steal the show today, because nothing she brought to the court was going to do that job. Serena served 48 per cent (compared to 67 per cent by Azarenka) and distributed 12 break points that yielded five breaks. Azarenka saved three of the only four break points she faced. Oh, there were flickerings of the Serena we've come to know and love; does anyone do a better job of stepping up to the line, break-point down, and busting an ace?

The trouble is, Serena was called upon to do something like that about 8 too many times today. And it was clear that Serena, who at the best of times appears to consider the mere act of walking a burdensome demand (while gleefully knocking over furniture in order to get to the ball, once it's in play - go figure), wasn't going to keep up the pace. Still, the key to beating Serena is to make her run, then run some more (even then it's by no means a sure thing). The other key to beating Serena is to run. It takes a player with suicidal tendencies (and I don't just mean Svetlana Kuznetsova) to go square up with Serena, feet planted and chin thrust forward. Somewhere along the line, Azarenka picked up both keys and absorbed the wisdom of that old saw, You can't hit what you can't catch. I'll leave the rest to the medical experts here, of which we have an abundance (dominant specialty: lumbar region).

There isn't anything wrong with Azarenka's attitude, either. Asked if she was intimidated by the presence of Serena across the net during the warm-up, Azarenka admitted to feeling a twinge of trepidation when, upon hearing Serena's name, the packed stadium "pretty much exploded." But, she philosophically added, "I was just so happy to play against her. I like the way she plays and I just want(ed) to get a rematch (they met in the Australian Open a few months ago, but Azarenka had to quit while in command because of stomach troubles) and try to do my best."

Vika Although it's a convenient conversation starter, the idea that Azarenka is the improved model built on the Sharapova platform isn't entirely accurate. In some ways, she's the anti-thesis of her fellow Russian. Where Sharapova liked to plant her feet (hence some of the beatings inflicted on her by Serena), Azarenka likes to roll. And while Sharapova always played like she was engaged in some sort of five-move chess game, Azarenka is more inventive and flexible - simply because she's more mobile, and has shrewd court sense.

All right, let's not get carried away dumping on Sharapova. Goodness knows we have yet to see if Azarenka will be as hard-working and, well, tough as 'Pova has proved to be through lean and fat times, under pressure, through alternating visitations of triumph, disaster, injury, and endless photo shoots and commercial appearances. But the prognosis is pretty good.

Azarenka is fluid and explosive. She's not (yet) as physically disciplined as a Jelena Jankovic, and her game lacks that useful, compact quality.But she has the same talent for getting good rotation as she swings. She leaves the ground so often after finishing that someone ought to rent ad space on the soles of her shoes (There's a Zappos.com contract in this for you, Vika!). She also moves well for a girl so leggy and lean. You know how sometimes, when you're trying to stuff springy-spongy things into small container and all of a sudden the whole works blows up in your hands? She comes apart like that sometimes, but it doesn't necessarily translate to a bad shot.

"When she was younger, she was a little bit like a spaghetti" her coach, Antonio van Grichen told me. "How do you say it, un-coordinated? But she's maturing, and with the fitness and training work we've done she's much more stable. The core and leg stability work has really helped."

I sat down with Antonio about an hour after the match (off-topic: Why is everyone from Portugal such a great guy? There's got to be a grouch or misanthrope somewhere in Iberia). Anyway, Van Grichen has been Azarenka's coach for three-and-a-half years. And they're bonded enough for Azarenka to have said, in her post-match presser: "Antonio is for me the best coach. We been so long together, and he's been helping me with everything I ever need. We had our tough moments on court and off court, but we were always together. I mean, without him, I wouldn't have done it."

"She's a strong personality, so I always needed to manage that," Antonio said, grinning at the comment . "But she's also a good personality. She won't blow up with something like becoming famous. She knows what she wants."

Van Grichen, a former tour-level player, got into the mix by happenstance. He was teaching at the Saddlebrook academy, where he worked with the daughter of Nikolay Khabibulin, the NHL hockey star who happened to be a friend of Azarenka's mom. Khabibulin noticed Vika Azarenka's talent, and invited her to live with his own family (for a more detailed report, read ESPN's Greg Garber story). He selected Van Grichen as her coach, and the relationship jelled.

Azarenka's strongest period, developmentally, was about 18 months ago, when her game more or less settled. She became less gangly, and she began to understand that there's more to the game than ball-striking. "It's very gratifying," Van Grichen said, "To see someone grow up in front of your eyes."

As she became stronger, Van Grichen decided it was time to work on her overall fitness and strength. He called Mark Wellington, an old buddy from the Challenger trenches, who had become a fitness trainer (he worked with Sharapova for over a year starting in 2004, and with Tatiana Golovin as well) and is now affiliated with the International Tennis Academy in Delray Beach, Fla. I also met with Wellington - that's him in the photo on Azarenka's left, with Van Grichen to her right. Don't they look just like two marlin fishermen, posing for the hero shot with the catch-of-the-day?.

Anyway, Wellington told me: "We worked very hard in the 2008 off-season. We felt she was sufficiently mature to take a little more pushing. We had almost eight weeks of off-season at the end of last year, and we cleaned a lot of things up. She's a better natural athlete than Sharapova, but we still had to work hard to make her a better and more efficient mover, to cut down on her tendency to waste energy."

One of the more appealing aspects of Azarenka's game is her best shot, the backhand. She's particularly good at going inside-out, even with an open stance - a shot that requires strength and good timing. Elena Dementieva (module no. 3241OTD, since shunted aside due to service malfunction) blazed that trail, and Serena raised it to an art form. Azarenka may end up making even better use of it because of her mobility, as well as her ability to go the other way - with a short, rolling, heavily-angled crosscourt backhand. That can make the court look awfully big to a woman wondering where Azalrenka might go with a given backhand.

Van Grichen seems to have done a good job weaning Azarenka off the standard-issue "women's game," which doesn't make the grade nearly as well as it did in the heyday of Chris Evert, or even Monica Seles and Martina Hingis. "A versatile backhand is a very efficient tool in the women's game," Van Grichen said. "Whoever has one will enjoy a lot of success. Vika understands things like angles and changes of pace much better now. She's not just flat-flat-flat. She knows the patterns of the slice game, and has improved her general stroking discipline and focus. I saw a big difference in her last year, when her best results were on clay. She's like, 'If I have to go three sets, that's what I'll do. If I have to hit three more balls than I'd like to hit, I'll do that too.' "

Azarenka has a natural service motion, and as she gets more mature and stronger the serve will be more probing. She isn't afraid to volley, either. All that's well and good, but this win puts her on another level. So the serious field-tests on this model are just beginning, even if the tarps are off and the pallets have been removed. I have a feeling the WTA will not be disappointed.


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Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/04/2009 at 08:43 PM

Very nice post on Vika Pete. It's always good to see aplayer put in the hard work and improve and eventually get results. I believe Vika has the game to get to the top and her team is smart to work on each aspect as she matures. It's really good that they have the serve as one of their next targets. And with her being there, I think that would challenge the current crop of top players to continue to hone their game if they want to have a chance. This is how Serena herself put it (knowing she has to work harder to beat her):

“I think she's really, really improved,” said Williams of Azarenka. “I actually look forward to playing her again so I can play a little better and obviously do better. But I think she obviously has potential and she's going to be a really good player.

“She's an all round good player. It actually makes my feel good, because it makes me want to do better and work harder.”

Posted by Bismarck 04/04/2009 at 08:48 PM

jejeje, funny, Pete.
thanks for this one. made me laugh and many of the points you raised about azarenka (sharapova 2.0? in which re better in which re worse in which re *different* than/to the original? etc etc) i´ve been pondering now for a while.

will be interesting to see how she follows up to this amazing start of the year.
if she really still has as much upside/potential in her serve as van grichen and others say then i´d agree she could become a big force in the wta for the next years.
i surely hope so.

Posted by Master Ace 04/04/2009 at 08:52 PM

Good article, Pete

Victoria year has been good so far leading the WTA in wins with 23 winning 3 titles along the way. She gave us a show in the QF when she dismissed Samantha Stosur, who defeated Amelie Mauresmo and Dinara Safina, 1 and 0. Every ball that Samantha left short was punished with interest.

Posted by bah 04/04/2009 at 08:56 PM

second :P

Posted by Tennis Fan 04/04/2009 at 08:59 PM

The theme of this article has a little stefford wife feel, but I take that with a grain of salt and humor.

Nice picute above. Azarenka is the big catch? A swordfish perhaps. It took 5 hours of heavy labor to reel her in.

Hope she does fulfill her promise. I can wait for a match between the "obsolete" Sharapova and the new and improved model on the big stage. Could this be like waving a red flag in front of Sharapova?

Posted by Master Ace 04/04/2009 at 08:59 PM

"Most matches are on Serena Williams’s racquet but I think this one is on Azarenka’s racquet. Reason is we know that Williams can play controlled tennis in finals (2007 and 2009 Australian Open) but will Azarenka be able to match Williams’s intensity, keep her nerves under control, and be able to win the baseline battle. In the semifinals at Indian Wells, Azarenka did not match Vera Zvonareva’s intensity and therefore, lost the match in straight sets."

In today CC post, this is what I posted before Serena and Victoria played and turned out to be true. Even though Serena was hampered, Victoria was winning the baseline battle and kept her nerves under control until the final game where she needed 3 match points to close out the match. She needed 4 to close out Svetlana Kuznetsova in the SF. Intensity factor did not come to play due to Serena's limited movement and how easily Victoria made it.

"Ace Keys
Serena:
First serve %
Better start

Victoria:
Control nerves
Play above her level"

A poster in the CC asked what was the keys and above is what I posted. With Serena's being limited, the first serve % was more important but I believe she served under 50% and Victoria was the one that broke first. Even though Serena broke back, Victoria took control of the match when she broke again for a 4-3 lead. Victoria controlled her nerves until the end on match points but again with Serena's injury, Victoria did not have to step it up a level. All she needed to do was play her normal game.

Posted by CPM 04/04/2009 at 09:01 PM

It was disappointing to see Serena so hobbled today, but Azarenka definitely earned her W--and good for her! I'll definitely look forward to seeing her on clay.

And the premise is definitely good for a chuckle, Pete; and like any good joke, it's funny because it's (at least a *little*) true. Cheers!

Posted by Master Ace 04/04/2009 at 09:02 PM

Tennis Fan,
You might be right as far as a red flag waving in Maria's direction. If she does improve her serve which will give her cheap points, she will be the next WTA superstar.

Posted by Pspace 04/04/2009 at 09:03 PM

Good stuff, Pete. Vika has really nice strokes, and is a pleasure to watch (in every sense of the word ;-)). A little taxing on the ears, but there's a perfect volume setting for this one (louder than mute). Thanks for the X's and O's bit. Not enough of that gets written about the womens game, and it's hard for me to understand certain technical choices. So, I-O backhand is considered normal? Quite rare on the ATP. Even the best two-handers (Rafa, Novak, Muzz, Nalby) don't use it that much if at all.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 04/04/2009 at 09:10 PM

Pete I have been impressed with Azarenka this year.She seems to have her mental game in order I feel at times in matches that was her undoing.

She also seems to "Want It" which lays good for the future.

Serena was injured today that was visible.Though I am not taking away the fact Azarenka deserved her win.

Well she really has made her mark in the WTA hoping she continues with these good results and plays consistant tennis.

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed - Still my heartbeat 04/04/2009 at 09:10 PM

I hope she is not a superstar born on the back of beating Serena Williams a la Sharapova. That would be akin to Serena making everyone make their name off beating her - and then not being given props for it - I like Vika and I would hope that the media does not go into overdrive to sell Vika to the media whilst denigrating the accomplishments of a great champion like Serena.

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed - Still my heartbeat 04/04/2009 at 09:11 PM

that should be "sell Vika to the public"

Posted by CPM 04/04/2009 at 09:14 PM

YPF - Vika seemed to go out of her way (on a couple of occasions) to praise Serena, to call her the greatest, etc. Sounds like a familiar way of dealing with a still-playing legend, no?

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/04/2009 at 09:22 PM

meanwhile the last teenager Masha on whom "the Azarenka" model to beat ReRe on the big stage did it in grand style at SW19 with a score of 6-4, 6-1 has gone on to be no. 1 and has won three GSs ;-) I think that is a sign of good things too for Vika :)

Posted by Master Ace 04/04/2009 at 09:26 PM

If Key Biscayne is any indication, Victoria should win a Slam in her career. Since the tournament started in 1985, ALL winners who won the title won a Slam also.

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/04/2009 at 09:29 PM

Yummy Prince Fed - I think it is inevitable although it will be unnecessary to denigrate Serena's accomplishment and will happen as it did when Masha beat Serena at Wimbledon. The situations are somewhat similar. She was going for a three peat at SW19 then and she was going for a second three peat here. The good thing is I doubt those things really disturb Serena as we can see in the case of her subsequent H2H vs Masha. If anything they motivate her.

Posted by koolkish 04/04/2009 at 09:36 PM

i miss maria so much! she isn't done! she will come back i keep praying! but victoria is a good sub for now =)

Posted by Skw 04/04/2009 at 09:41 PM

It's very odd to hear Serena talk like this. One of the most fascinating things about her is that she does not hide the fact that she loves to win-ugly or not. Today, she just seemed to be like, "Oh well, lost a match". I have never seen her like that. Hope it's not a harbinger of things to come. That competitive spirit is her greatest asset.

Posted by Ku 04/04/2009 at 09:56 PM

Why is it taking so long for these WTA ladies to break through these days? I thought the rule of thumb was that a female player came into her own around 16 or 17. By 19, she's fully matured, often having had a stint at #1. Is it because the game is so much more powerful? But I don't see why people say a female player is still developing at age 19.

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/04/2009 at 10:04 PM

Skw - I don't think it's anything to worry about RE: Serena. She had a similar attitude after he loss to Masha at SW19. I think she just wanted this one too much *a good thing8 the same way she wanted that third SW19 so much and she met players playing very good and consistent tennis that there was nothing she could do about it then so I would not worry too much. Here is a link to her post Wimbledon 2004 interview.

http://asapsports.mobi/interview/11532.html

Posted by shannon 04/04/2009 at 10:06 PM

go victoria.

Posted by sam hill 04/04/2009 at 10:14 PM

Ku, there are age restrictions now until a player is 18, which makes it more difficult for a 16 or 17 year old to break through.

Posted by Skw 04/04/2009 at 10:16 PM

Avid: thanks for the post. Yeah, that's wierd coming from Serena. And she hasn't won Wimbledon since that Sharapova episode so...

Posted by Ku 04/04/2009 at 10:19 PM

Sam Hill:

Thanks for the info. I didn't know they had restrictions up to age 18. I thought the only restriction was they couldn't turn pro until they turned 15 and then from then on, it was whatever. It will be interesting to see whether the delay will prolong their careers the same way it does the men.

Posted by deeps 04/04/2009 at 10:22 PM

Pete,
Great post - Vika has the potential and she is a fun player to watch - loved the meaty stuff.

SKW,

Yeah but a lot of it is because of Venus who is the better grass court player.

Posted by son 04/04/2009 at 10:29 PM

It is interesting that Azarenka's coach described her to be "like a spaghetti." i remember a while back, Sharapova described herself as "like a piece of spaghetti" too, when she won Wimbledon against Serena Williams.

Coincidence? I guess this gives credence to Pete's whimsical and amusing comparison between Maria and Victoria.

I like Vika. I will enjoying watching out for her progress in future tournaments.

Posted by chynia 04/04/2009 at 10:42 PM

the only reason she won was because serena couldnt move like she wanted and she was hurt,it seem like she didnt really want to play but she's a fighter so shell never just quit.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/04/2009 at 10:44 PM

Hi,

Who beat Zvonareva here? 'Cause she can dominate Azurenka.

And it's insulting to claim that the Russians are produced in a factory etc.

Besides Serena is fat (for an athlete).

Posted by Anon 04/04/2009 at 10:49 PM

Oh Marian...yet another person who thinks if an athlete doesn't look a certain way they are fat. Serena Williams has the same body that many sprinters have. I suppose they are fat too. And when have you seen her not get up to balls when she's playing without injury? If she's fat she's a mighty quick fat.

Posted by Master Ace 04/04/2009 at 10:50 PM

Marian,
Na Li defeated Vera Zvonareva in the 3rd round

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/04/2009 at 10:54 PM

Serena is fat. And there is a Russian even fatter and faster that beat a top 3 recently. Pavlushenka I think (sp).

Serena the same body like a sprinter? Like who? Marion Jones? Or Flo-Jo?

http://tiny.cc/cUM8J

Or the Jamaicans?

No way lol!

Rolls eyes...

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/04/2009 at 10:54 PM

Ty MA

And of course I forgot what final Vera won over Azurenka: IW?

Posted by deeps 04/04/2009 at 11:07 PM

Marian,

It was IW semis - the final was Ana-Vera.

Posted by Jalen 04/04/2009 at 11:10 PM

Serena was injured, Azarenka executed her game plan- she had watched Serena limp at the end of the Williams vs Williams match. Serena probably would have won this final otherwise, but that's tennis. Serena's nowhere close to fat, she works out all the time, she doesn't sit on her computer until 10:54.

Posted by Jalen 04/04/2009 at 11:13 PM

Serena's nowhere close to fat, she works out all the time, she doesn't sit on her computer until 10:54.....(like us, part of i meant to preview it, not post my comment. Azarenka played great all tournament though, and I hope she steps up even more and get past the round of 16.)

Posted by Corrie 04/04/2009 at 11:24 PM

Pete, I know Belarus is a close ally of Russia but I didn't think they are Russians - unless Viktoria is an ethnic Russian living there.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/04/2009 at 11:26 PM

Ty Deeps!

Jalen: Serena is fat or at least she looks like that (i.e. her legs from behind are huge and flabby unlike a sprinter's).

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/04/2009 at 11:27 PM

Corrie: No of course the the people from Belarus are not Russians; they were all part of Soviet Union, that's all.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/04/2009 at 11:29 PM

Ah Jalen, I've also played two hours plus of tennis today, like on most days, so am trying to stay in shape:)

Posted by MikeDC 04/04/2009 at 11:47 PM

Nice post Mr. Bodo...

Between that photo, the clever narrative, and her gracious comments, I'm hoping Azarenka can keep it up. I haven't had a real favorite in the WTA since Henin retired... but maybe here it is?

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/04/2009 at 11:50 PM

First Serena is on steroids, now Serena is fat, what next? Serena becomes anorexic? *rolls eyes*

Posted by Corrie 04/04/2009 at 11:56 PM

Marian, if you're still there how many Marians are there? I recently responded to I think, a different Marian on the Racket post.

Posted by frances 04/05/2009 at 12:11 AM

Oh for the love of God...Serena could barely move out there, couldn't plant to bust serves. But hey, if it makes you guys feel better to pretend like Azarenka put a spanking on her. Go ahead.
(shaking my head)

And I hear you, Chynia.

Posted by crazyone 04/05/2009 at 12:17 AM

The thing that impressed me of what I saw of Azarenka from the AO and Miami is how cleanly she strikes the ball and how well she volleys. It's so rare to see a woman player hit a traditional backhand volley, and it's refreshing to see her do so, because it's a good option to have in order to end points. I think it's a huge difference between her and Sharapova. And honestly, I wonder if it's part of reason she's ascending to the top--the difference between winning and losing could be that 5-10% of points which she ends at net instead of keeping the rally going with more groundies like say Jelena Jankovic did against Serena Williams at the AO.

Posted by Ro'ee 04/05/2009 at 01:59 AM

Pete, I remember Frederico Gil being kind of an A-hole towards a ballboy once. So maybe we do have an exception that proves the Portugese-nice-guy rule

Posted by Pica_pica "Don't Give Up, Because You Are Loved" 04/05/2009 at 02:30 AM

I hope Vika can give hope to WTA!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 04/05/2009 at 04:20 AM

Hey Pete and everyone,

Consider me refreshed. :) And, thanks for the CC day 11 post introduction too.

Lovely to read about Azarenka and the way she plays (interesting to read about her off-season work and development, too)...and funny and pointed with the Stepford Player bit. :) For some reason that felt a little uncomfortable, too - although I'm not sure why. *ponders*

Master Ace, you're a genius, I hope you know that by now!

Didn't see the match (stupid work), but I'm sorry Serena wasn't at her best and hope she's not too badly injured. I'd have said 10 grand slams are a hard achievement to denigrate though...not to mention being the current holder of two of them, "fat" or not.

But of course Vika deserves all credit for winning - just as Murray did in Rotterdam, for example.

I really like the way Vika seems to go about things, her "I'm not scared of you," attitude.

Reminds me a little of young Rafa...(yes, yes, he's my benchmark for all tennis-related everything - I know it's ridiculous)...and the way he went about playing Roger.

Or even a young Serena? Hm.

Hope she doesn't get overtaken or derailed by the media circus, too...and has a pretty good clay season. *dances at thought of approaching Clay Time*

It feels like a very long time since my darling Jelena got any sort of compliment on her basic game from any direction. ;-) *is happy*

"Pete, I remember Frederico Gil being kind of an A-hole towards a ballboy once. So maybe we do have an exception that proves the Portugese-nice-guy rule"

eek - that's one hell of a high standard! By that token I'll never get out of purgatory, LOL.

Posted by tina 04/05/2009 at 04:52 AM

With all the "surprises" on the men's side, to me this is the biggest surprise of all, Azarenka defeating The Mighty Serena in this final. I didn't see the match, but got the score by sms when it was over. Just read Serena's interview, and I'm digging on her positive attitude. Great win for AzaCranky - was she at all cranky, like she can be? Oh, I don't really care, this young woman must be terribly happy and proud, as she should be. Huge win, major title. Serena gets to keep her ranking, and the WTA, bemoaned by so many, gets a new major titlist.

Maybe it only seems like a "spanking" to some people because Serena normally seems so invincible, physically, mentally, and "tennistically".

Anyone who thinks Serena Williams is "fat" is just nuts. She's a Brick ... House!

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 04/05/2009 at 05:49 AM

*shallowness alert*

it always surprises me that more people don't think Serena is sexy. I think she has an amazingly beautiful face, a gloriously muscled body, and a really engaging, humorous element to her personality as well as all that snarling attitude.

She doesn't seem to get as much of that kind of promotion as the lean blonde prototype (stereotype?) though, but perhaps I'm misremembering any hoopla when she first bounded onto the tour. (same with Venus, too.)

Posted by Jacko (Private Detective) Irish teenage glitter loving tennis fan on TW!!!LOL 04/05/2009 at 06:05 AM

Morning............!!!!!!LOL
Thank you Pete!!!!!LOL
its so nice to read something that is in anyway positive to the WTA!!!!!LOL (all people want to do is complain)
have to admit . . . . . .. i FLOVE Vika's backhand. . . . . .one of the best on tour (top 5?????) .. . . . . and it just seems so fluid and natural . . . .even wen she decides she's gonna rip a winner!!!!!!LOL
whether she'll be the next maria is another thing. . . . we still hav to see. . . . . .. at the moment she cant match maria in intensity over as long a period. . . . . .and she still has to prove her self in the GS's
but wat i like is that she gets the job done fast in early rounds. . . . . .(last year at wimbly and RG . . . . . she had at least one bagel or breadstick in all her matches before she was eliminated). . . . . .. . . . which is something that maria doesnt always do

is this girl the next big thing?? . . . . .its maybe too early to say. . . . . but the stats dont lie. . . . . posted on previous (was it master ace as usual???LOL). . . . . . . any winner of miami has gone on to win a GS on the WTA. . . . . . .
JJ you gotta look for that one next year!!!!LOL. . . . . if u dnt win a GS this year!!!!!XD

Posted by QueenTen 04/05/2009 at 06:42 AM

Azarenka is impressive and super cute too! I am super excited because I have never been a Sharapova fan (although props for her contribution to the game. get back soon) so for me Azarenka is my Sharapova alternative.

Although Azarenka played really well today, Serena was clearly not moving (I actually think Serena pushed the final point long to end her fatigue and Azarenka's nervousness). Azarenka was playing just as well against Serena at AO, Serena was staging a come back in the second set but Azarenka got ill. So, I cannot wait to see Azarenka and Serena play when both of them are healthy, because that will be an epic match and I am sure whoever prevails will win with only a few points. Under the lights at the US Open maybe?

I love the game and love all the good players who fight to the end. Just like my heart is breaking over Federer, I hate to see the sisters fade just as Davenport and Hingis eventually retired. Tennis is so hard on the players! They better change the rules soon to ensure players can play competitively longer.

Federer, Serena and Venus, hang in there (give me at least 3 more years) and finish hard. Enjoy these young players you and many other tennis greats have inspired.

But change is good I guess and new blood is here: Victoria could definitely lead the pack as the new Queen and I really really hope she keeps it up and doesn't become a one-season wonder (just dial down the grunt, I thought someone had yelled out the first time I heard it lol). She looks great too, same long and lean body like Venus (but trust, I won't pass up a Serena body either)!

Posted by justice 04/05/2009 at 07:25 AM

jewell
"*shallowness alert*

it always surprises me that more people don't think Serena is sexy. I think she has an amazingly beautiful face, a gloriously muscled body, and a really engaging, humorous element to her personality as well as all that snarling attitude."

I think if someone is looking for a body then it's always shallowness, but if one do that, then he has a right to like or dislike something about ones body... I mean, when you said - muscled body as a positive of women's body I said to myself really?? I don't think muscled body is sexy for a women - but sports women have no choice but to be muscled offcourse. Also, I don't really see Serena's face as beautiful and she is too fat for my taste... but that's the problem of many Americans altough not for Roddick lol.
Anyway, if we look at it shallow then we look at the body and face, and if we don't look at the body but look the inside - soul and mind, then Serena surely can be sexy to me...

Posted by justice 04/05/2009 at 07:26 AM

sexy on the woman - not for the woman*

Posted by justice 04/05/2009 at 07:30 AM

Azarenka also doesn't have very pretty face to me, but she has a great body, altough muscled...

Posted by Todd and in Charge 04/05/2009 at 08:12 AM

Thanks for writing about the winner, instead of dwelling on Serena's injuries, which have been the focus of the national coverage and local press. It takes (at least) two to play tennis.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/05/2009 at 08:19 AM

Nice post on Vika, but I still believe if you compare her game to Sharapova. Sharapova is a much better player, the serve more powerful and accurate. Also, Sharapova's shots are more explosive In regards to Serena, when I saw her smile at 4-1 down I knew something was wrong. The explosiveness of her shot wasn't there. I would love to see a fully healthy Serena against Vika and I think you would get different results. I also don't believe Vika's movement is the best in the WTA. Jankovic, prior to bulking up was one of the top movers. I also think a fully healthy Serena is a better mover. I think the question is whether Vika has the game to consistently challenge the top player. I'm going to take a wait and see attitude until I see her do it on a regular basic.Go Caro, Scandinavia's#1!

Posted by TennisFan2 04/05/2009 at 08:28 AM

"Anyway, Wellington told me: "We worked very hard in the 2008 off-season. We felt she was sufficiently mature to take a little more pushing. We had almost eight weeks of off-season at the end of last year, and we cleaned a lot of things up."

Hmmmm...Coaches waiting to push young players until they "are sufficiently mature..." A refreshing attitude. Perhaps this type of player managament will afford Azarenka a long and healthy career. One has to wonder if Sharapova wasn't pushed a little too early with all her injuries - especially this serious shoulder injury.

I would love to see a healthy Serena play a healthy Azarenka; a quality tennis match for sure.

Posted by Ren (substance and form combined) 04/05/2009 at 08:37 AM

Hey there. Just droppin by...

WIN some, lose some. No worries for Serena. She'll bounce back sooner than we expect.

...and wait. Azarenka being compared to Sharapova? NAHHHH! The girl touted to end the hegemony of the Williamses didn't succeed. Later you'll just see Serena quipping, "the girl is overrated!"

Posted by pat from philippines 04/05/2009 at 08:50 AM

love the post pete!!!!!!!!

she'll be more than maria!

i guess, with that backhand, she can be the leader or the dominating player of her generation!

i guess this match is more of a change of guards!!!!

this is what serena did to steffi at the indian wells in 1999...

a leading player defeating a dominating player of her era!!!!

soon after that win, serena had dominated her generation (ofcourse she did not totally dominated them at all, as the likes of sis vee, great champ justine came to dominate too) and leads the grand slam count at 10...

i hope vika would do the same! lead the young crop of women players! she and caroline and agnieszka would lead the women of to the next generation of players!

though, i don't want to discount the abilities and potentialities of the serbian players! but if they don't step up, these young european women will come to dominate!

american tennis should have produced a player now, serena and vee had only less years to play (2-3 years), asian women should also stand up to further diversify the international tennis arena!

love to see the future!

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/05/2009 at 08:50 AM

Frances, [Edited] It's great to have you back. I don't think Serena has to much to worry about, she has a way of figuring out players who have beat her. I remember hearing Carillo say that Serena would never beat Sharapova again after the YEC final. What does Serena do? She doesn't lose to Sharapova in over 4 years. She enjoy the challenge of players who have given her a hard time, so as she said, she looks forward to her next match with Vika.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/05/2009 at 08:56 AM

BTW, I totally agree Ren, many of the girls they hyped to replace the Williamses never produced those results. Yes, they can beat them occasionaly as Sharapova and Vika did, but do they have the game to beat them on a regular basis? I would say no to both.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/05/2009 at 09:00 AM

"She'll be more than Maria". Couldn't disagree more. Sharapova was two years younger than Vika when she won her first slam at age 17, and has won two more. Sorry, when she gets three slams by the age of 21 then I'll believe she's better than Sharapova. Without her shoulder injury, Sharapova was a major contender for all the slams except the FO. Do I see Vika has a major threat to win the slam. No,not yet.

Posted by Samantha Elin 04/05/2009 at 09:03 AM

Moderator, my sincere apology for writing down what Frances said. I thought it was OK, because it wasn't removed. Again, sorry, Sammie.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/05/2009 at 09:22 AM

Corrie: If you are still reading this.

I can't find your post, typepad is really bad now, introducing pages but not search functions.

I've looked in both Racket and Miami 11 threads, without luck.

Anyhow, if it was two days ago, that was an exception, b/c I was also posting from names such as M a r i a n due to some small...misunderstanding. All good now :)
(That was again due to Typepad and me not being able to find the Moderator's posts and emails on all those many pages).

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/05/2009 at 09:25 AM

MA and others:

What was the name of that really ...wide, but...fast, 19 old Russian woman player, who recently beat a top ATP on only her second ATP tournament appearance (might have been in Rotterdam), please?

Basically fatter then Serena, but at least as fast and well trained :)

Posted by Master Ace 04/05/2009 at 09:39 AM

Samantha Elin,
Victoria may not be powerful as Serena, Venus, or Maria but if she is sufficiently adequate on all aspects of the game, she will cause a lot of problems.

Jacko,
Yes, ALL winners of Key Biscayne(started in 1985) has gone on or have already won a Slam. Kuznetsova won Key Biscayne in 2006 but won the United States Open in 2004. Venus won Key Biscayne in 1998 but won her first Slam at Wimbledon in 2000.

Posted by Marian...wtg Rafa! 04/05/2009 at 09:53 AM

Tennis Observer:

I think they gave her already many trophies and money :)

To me she's also too fond of herself and that I dislike. Not so much in Venus though, who seems a bit more modest.

Posted by Ade 04/05/2009 at 11:10 AM

Pete,

I just want to see players win tournaments who are humble and accept wins and losses gracefully. In my opinion, Everybody deserves to win, but it is how you win or loose that make them memorable as true champions.

The great Andre Agassi is a perfect example. When he lost to Pete all of those times, he showed how a true champion acts. With dignity, grace and always credited the winner.

Without critiquing Sharapova's talent and ability, one thing I don't credit is that she comes into America, becomes rich, then she speaks down on the country who MADE her a multi- millionaire. I say, "you're welcome, now go back to your own country. (Sharapova) If she stays away forever, I wouldn't care in the least.

Players that never credit other players, who somehow think the world revolves around only them are not my favorite players either.
(As expessed in Serena's interviews many times)
Serena always says "she" played bad, never crediting the other player. I say, well isn't that the mark of a champion? The ability to play well consistantly? If you can't do that, than you are not as good as you think you are! What a joke.

If Serena would drop the attitude, I would truly love her.

I guess that is what makes me a big Federer fan, his humbleness, and low key. But even Roger has been lately showing signs of sour grapes and bitterness, blaming all his problems on injuries. In my opinion, he needs to give credit where credit is due.

So Kudos to Azarenka, and hopefully she will stay nice, and humble. Her form is extraordinary too!

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/05/2009 at 11:34 AM

Ade - Yes Serena in a number of her press conferences did not give kudos to her opponents when she loses but this is not one of those times at all. I do remember even Vika saying the same when she lost to Vera at IW that she played just at abut 10% of her game and that so Vera did not have to do much. I guess if that were Serena we would not hear the last of it, no?;-) But there was little focus on the her being the loser then so most people missed that. Personally I do not mind a player assessing that their game was bad AND that the other player played great IF that player did (actually sometimes the other player doesn't).

Posted by avid sports fan aka "Sigh-Rena" 04/05/2009 at 11:42 AM

And BTW if the mark of a champion is to play their best consistently, I guess there are no champions no?;-) as none of the champions past or present male or female played their best consistently.

Posted by tina 04/05/2009 at 12:16 PM

I read the post-match presser transcript, too, and what I took from it was immense respect for Azarenka's game, notwithstanding her own injury. I'm aware of the criticisms Serena gets on here - but this was not at all a good example of "the world revolving around [her]", unless I was so tired this morning that my comprehension skills were radically diminished.

As for Federer being Mr. Humble - pull-eze!

Posted by Jon 04/05/2009 at 12:53 PM

bs post overhyping another player.
She destroyed an injured Serena while playing average tennis. And her tactics were the only thing keeping Serena in the match. If she had made Serena actually move around the court instead of playing so many balls up the middle she would've won more easily and perhaps forced Serena to retire. Serena's injury hampered her serve, her backhand and her movement. She was in a no win situation. I think she was hoping Azarenka would pull a Na Li and completely collapse but Azarneka was mentally tougher than that. So credit her for that. But let's not blow things out of proportion. This was a huge tournament win for Azarenka but she beat a hobbled Serena. Let's not proclaim the second coming quite yet. I know Pete and co. dislike Serena and are looking for anyone to beat her convincingly on a consistent basis and it will happen. But Azarenka hasn't shown herself to be that girl yet with a win over a clearly injured Serena Williams.

Posted by Hmm 04/05/2009 at 02:07 PM

Seems like a good player, just squeals way to damn much after every shot. It's the Sharapova thing, the agonized, deafening sigh. Incredibly annoying.

On the same note, this was coupled with Carillo's inane boorishness (DURING the points), so I maybe tolerated 2-3 minutes of continuous viewing during the match before changing channels in disgust.

SIGH indeed. :-/

Posted by frances 04/05/2009 at 02:33 PM

You go, Jon. Pete and Co. Can hardly contain their glee when a ponytail beats Serena. They go so far as to pretend the playing field is level whenever Serena loses a match and is clearly hobbled with injury. Pathetic.

Posted by frances 04/05/2009 at 02:48 PM

Moderator, I'm not at all you're comfortable with comments about Serena's "fat ass," but consider "great white hope" over the line. Posters come on this site and express every veiled racist stereotype with no repercussions. That's why I stopped coming to this site. I('s offensive to me as a black woman. You are not sensitive to that.

Posted by frances 04/05/2009 at 02:51 PM

Meant to say: I'm not at all surprised that you are not comfortable with

Posted by ATHOME 04/05/2009 at 03:35 PM

Here we go again...people calling Serena fat and not humble. She is who she is...get over it! She is #1 and #1 in Prize money earned. What does a girl have to do to get credit? It's the same old stuff. When will people learn... It truely makes me sad to think I'm a part of this tennis crowd but I speak up to STOP the madness! Serena is champion - as you British say - FULL STOP.
I hope Azarenka also becomes a champion...but I think not for the reason you people do.

Posted by london 04/05/2009 at 05:14 PM

azarenka played a good match, but c'mon, serena was clearly injured and even contemplated not playing the match. she played so the crowd could get their moneys worth and because shes not a quitter. i think azarenka will be very successful, but people please stop talking about how she thrashed serena, she could barely hit into her shots.

Posted by leonie 04/05/2009 at 05:22 PM

Great for Victoria in securing this major title. She has a 'good' game and a nice personality too. however everyone who watched serena play against Venus must have noticed that she was walking 'gingerly' , indicating that something was beginning , injurywise. She made little effort to chase down balls, and I would say she must have been eager for that match to end. Now, the media and fans must be careful of'overhyping' Ana Ivanovic won her Fo and everyone thought that she would win every major after that first one. Well, the last time I checked ,it was a william lifting the 'trophies'. So folks,as to not be too disappointed,give credit where its due, continue to celebrate all the winners,but do not go 'overboard'. God Bless.

Posted by Master Ace 04/06/2009 at 09:02 AM

Victoria has had an excellent American Hardcourt swing with a title in Key Biscayne and a semifinalist result at Indian Wells(l. Vera Zvonareva, who won Indian Wells). Even though she is not powerful as Serena, Venus, or Maria, there are some things I like in her game and one of them is that she is not afraid to come to net and finish points. If she improves her serve, I feel like that she can get an average of one-two cheap points per game. As Samantha Elin would say, you can not win a Slam without a serve.

Posted by frankie 04/06/2009 at 09:08 AM

When Pete Bodo says of Azarenka "she’s won the Sony Ericsson Open, inflicting a Serena Williams-grade beat down on. . . Serena Williams," I snickered. These tennis people hate the Williamses so much they will call "any blue-eyed, blonde ponytailed up and coming female" that plays the Williamses the next GREAT WHITE HOPE.

Azarenka did win the match; but, both times these women won they played each other hobbled. She gave Serena kudos, by saying she was the "greatest player" she ever played. And Serena gave Victoria kudos saying "she is a really good player, I want to play her more, she makes me want to play better."

Mr. BODO, she did not inflick a Serena Williams grade "beat down" on Serena Williams. She beat an injured Serena. A Serena Williams beat down can be seen when Serena beat Maria Sharapova or Justine Henin. One day Victoria Azarenka will give Serena Williams a "beat down" (1)if she doesn't go the way of Nadia Petrova, Nicole Vadisova, Sveltana Kuntsesova and (2)if Serena keeps hanging in there as Fabrice Santoro did.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Fed!!) 04/06/2009 at 01:34 PM

great post pete on vika. i really haven't seen her play too much, but i know there's some posters who don't well, exactly love her game. i kept watching her and thinkin' - 'why aren't i supposed to like her?"

serena across from the net is not exactly a comfortable site, even an injured serena. So i give props to vika for holding her nerve, playing well and taking the win from serena.

which after all is more than venus could do over an injured serena..

Posted by sweet clarity 04/06/2009 at 04:10 PM

Pete, I think your true color is shining through. And it is so ugly.

Posted by topspin 04/06/2009 at 05:11 PM

it's irritating to hear the talk of how serean was thrashed, etc. she was clearly injured. she could not even move into her serve. give me a break. i will give the young tennis player credit for making it to the finals, but come on Serena played so that Azarenka won the match and not via a walkover. She was in her right to retire during that match.
For people to talk as though Azarenka took Serena out of her game and hit her off the court is obsurd. Azarenka was hitting 90 mph serves. Serena would have punished those serves time and time again. Let them play when they are both healthy....

Posted by frankie 04/06/2009 at 05:19 PM

sweet clarity.................HIP HIP HOORAY!!!!!!!!!


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