Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - Picking Up the Story
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Picking Up the Story 07/28/2008 - 4:17 PM

SafinaYes, women’s tennis exists right now, but can you really say much more than that? The subject came up in a conversation that my friend and sometime Tennis.com correspondent Asad Raza and I were having with a casual tennis fan this weekend. He asked, like so many people seem to ask these days, “What’s going on with women’s tennis? Anything?” Neither Asad nor I had a good answer. Various wins and losses were certainly occuring, but they fit no storyline. There are few things more depressing to a sportswriter than a sport with no recognizable narrative arc. Without one, tennis is just one winner and unforced error after another.

This is nothing new to WTA fans. The summer months, when injuries and indifference tend to peak among the women, can stifle even the most fascinating emerging narratives. As of last week, Ana Ivanovic, who had won her first major this spring in Paris, hadn’t made the U.S. hard-court scene. The Williams sisters, who had found themselves together in a Slam final again at Wimbledon, had caught the injury bug. The one story that was played up last week—can Jelena Jankovic reach No. 1 for the first time?—was anything but fascinating. In fact, it only reinforced the idea that the tour makes no sense right now. Not only has Jankovic never won a Grand Slam, she’s never even been to the finalof one. She had ascended not because she had won when it counted, but because she had entered a lot of tournaments and done pretty well in most of them. Imagine if Nikolay Davydenko were the No. 1 player on the men’s computer. On second thought, don’t. You may start to wonder if there’s a point to anything.

Then, this weekend, we picked up the tale of Dinara Safina again. Marat’s little sister had been a story herself this spring at Roland Garros, where she reached her first major final. After cramping and losing at Wimbledon to Shahar Peer, she continued in Los Angeles where she had left off in Paris. There she had saved match points and won on two separate occasions; here she did the same against her countrywoman Alla Kudryavtseva. Safina was asked afterward how she did it. I liked her answer: “I just kept remembering that the match isn’t over until you shake hands.” Seems simple and realistic enough. Maybe I’ll try it the next time I’m losing.

For the first time, I’ve also begun to like watching Safina’s game. She had always seemed clumsy and overly infuriated to me in the past, a red face inevitably filled with painful emotion. Now I found myself realizing, and enjoying, how early she takes her backhand and how she isn’t afraid to gun it crosscourt on crucial points. Safina’s backhand is not just the equivalent to other players' forehands; she almost uses it like a serve. I also like how heavily she clubs her forehand, particularly from shoulder height, and how committed she seems to be to improving and winning. Like Ivanovic, Safina is fitter than she has ever been, and it’s making a difference; she can even scramble a little on defense. In the semis, she made Jankovic look more like the actress she wants to be than the top tennis player she is, beating the smiling Serb in straight sets and ending her bid for No. 1. (Jankovic wasn’t too distraught at the end.)

Of course, Safina could be another short story. She played a nervous game at 5-1 in the second and was broken. While she broke back for the title, the top women—the Williamses, Sharapova, Ivanovic—are the ones who can serve matches out consistently, rather than break them out. Safina also didn’t beat any of those top women in this tournament. But she’s a worker, and a strong ball-striker, and she seems more focused than angry now. She's also not a pusher, which you have to like no matter what the results may be.

Safina has the down-to-earth honesty of her brother, without the dark cynicism. On match point against Jankovic, the Serb sent a ball over the baseline that was called long. As the two players walked to the net, Jankovic challenged the call. Safina looked at her and said, “I think it was out.” There was something very calm and normal, friendly and honest, about the way she looked when she said it (and she was right, it was out). One of the Safins staying calm and normal on a tennis court? OK, we’ve found our story.


 
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Posted by Master Ace 07/28/2008 at 04:33 PM

Dinara Safina has a good chance to get a USO title just like her big brother. ESPN2 commentary said that she did not play her best match but a mature match knowing that she was a heavy favorite to win against Flavia on the heels of denying Jelena number 1 the night before. Sometimes, a person playing a tense night match has a tendency to be flat the next day but Dinara handled it well. Dinara is playing so well that her coach did not have much to say. However, Dinara will get another good test this week as the top players are playing Montreal. However, Dinara has handled a tough situation in Berlin and the French Open except the final where Ana was just a tad better.

Posted by Master Ace 07/28/2008 at 04:38 PM

Think ESPN2 only storyline last week was Jelena's run to number 1 only to be stopped by Dinara. Aleksandra Wozniak had an unlikely run on winning 8 matches to win Stanford(with Serena and Marion getting injured along the way and defeating a lucky loser twice) but crashed out winning only one game to Flavia Pennetta. Also, the top players (WS, Sveta, Lindsay) w/d due to knee injuries.

Posted by Chiconinja 07/28/2008 at 04:56 PM

I think it's great Safina is doing so well lately.

Dinara will always be a big girl but she used to look chubby and now looks powerful and fit.

I really like this girl. From her facial expressions and the body language to the way the talks to the media. Everything about her seems real.

These days, this is something fresh among the women on tour. Most of them seem to be coached on and off the court. What to say, how to say, when to say it...it's like they all have the same personality.

Boring stuff.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 05:05 PM

Steve, let me congratulate you on one of the best blog you have written. You're lOO% correct on Jankovic. And the part about Safina is great. Thanks.

Posted by toni child 07/28/2008 at 05:08 PM

I wish Safina will attack the net more. There were loads of time when she was playin, i felt like she should be at the net 2 finish points but she always stayed back.She's a good doubles player, i hope this will translate 2 the single's court.

Posted by sonya 07/28/2008 at 05:23 PM

Steve, it is impossible to imagine Davydenko being No 1 for a simple reason: he can play every tournament on the tour if he likes, bottom line is he'll never be as consistent as the top 3. Jankovic makes quaterfinals or better consistently. where are the others? yeah, withdrawing all over the place, playing totally inconsistently. Don't ridicule someone who plays and therefore shows respect to the tour. Roger hasn't won a slam this year and he is still number one. Novak was so close to number 2 and now he can't even touch rafa. Why, consistency. the rankings are based on what to do for a whole season, not only at the slams. I would love for Ana to dominate, but she hasn't proven anything yet. Don't even get me started on sharapova, never won a slam as #1, get the ranking and can't keep it for a week. the williams do not care about the rankings, they only care about the slams, for venus certains slams only. if you can't be happy for jelena, that's your problem, but don't start blaming her for the fact that the wta players make a joke of their tour.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 05:48 PM

Sonya, you're right, alot of the players make a joke of the tour, but does that mean we need to make a mockery of the position of world's #l by giving a stamp of approval to a player who clearly isn't the best? Steve is correct in his criticism.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 05:50 PM

Players play to win Slams. Once you win a slam, sure #1 is the next goal. But the point is to peak and win Slams.

So how can you crown a player the #1 player in the world when she has never proven that, in the big events where everyone is supposed to bring their A game and competition is the fiercest, she has failed to come out on top.

JJ's LA campaign was a microcosm of her career. Though it would have been wise to pull out, especially because she plans on playing Montreal, she pressed on, playing the tournament while injured and hoping that her effort was enough. Well not surprising it wasn't and she lost in the semis. Now on to the next tournament where I'm sure she'll accumulate at least quarterfinal points, before bowing out again. And then Beijing. And then the US Open. She will accumulate points at all these tournaments, but she won't win them.

I don't blame JJ. She's playing to the rankings system and she's done well to work the system. Good on her. But the problem is that the WTA ranking system is completely at odds with the way the elite of the tour approach their careers. Is that the players' fault? Nope. If you're going reward quantity over quality, then you deserve JJ as your #1.

I love JJ but she is entirely frustrating to follow. And when you can name at least 5 players who have had better big time performances than her, it's hard to crown her as #1 without looking like an unreasonable fanatic.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 05:51 PM

I'm sorry but I find most of the comments in this article offensive.

An article on women's tennis that slams women's tennis.

Yes, the Dinara story is interesting. However, this article implies it started at RG. However, it started with bang a month before when Dinara won Berlin by taking out Henin (and sending her out of the game, I might add), Serena and assorted others.

The following week, what was this reporter's article about? How Marat is irrelevant! No mention of the sister. I think the story was missed and picked up later when maybe the men's portion was a little boring after Roger went out. This story still seems to be about Marat. And if you were watching the final in Berlin, her comments after the match included telling her brother he was wrong in her criticism of her. She said some like "see brother it's working!" The story was definitely missed.

Do you really think Roger and Rafa would be around this summer if they weren't required to be here? I don't think so. They be vacationing in the sun for the summer.

I hate to think who would be the #1 reporter if Bodo suddenly retired. (I hope you can take what you dish out.)

Posted by darthhelmethead(lurker in reform) 07/28/2008 at 05:52 PM

I think that the media is being a bit too rough on Jelena. I'm pretty sure that the women have had a number 1 without a slam in the past, at least that's what they tell me over at espn 2. Jelena should be rewarded for supporting the tour, runny nose be damned, while the other top women are pulling out left and right. Jankovic always seems to have nagging injuries but she goes out and plays anyway. Maybe, instead of ridiculing Jankovic for being a tour grinder everyone should think about how nice it would be to see a number one player who consistantly goes out and plays.

Posted by darthhelmethead(lurker in reform) 07/28/2008 at 05:54 PM

Damn Tennis Fan, way to be harsh.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 05:56 PM

Obviously I agree with Samantha. At least with Serena, Maria, Ana, you may have arguments as to why each doesn't deserve to be #1, but there are legitimate arguments as to why they SHOULD be #1. So while it may be controversial if any of those three holds the #1 ranking, it's not a mockery.

Again, no offense to JJ (because you totally know she's reading this right now), but her taking the #1 ranking is a farce created by the WTA rankings system.

And I'll just throw this last point in. It's hard for me to swallow JJ as the #1 when she has had her bum handed to her by the current #1 twice this year. It would have been like if Ana got to #1 while Justine was still playing. You have to prove that you can beat the best before you're considered the best.

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 05:58 PM

steve, i'm weighing in with sonya on this one. i admire jelena for persevering on the tour, bringing in a respectable top 5 name when all other names are predictably absent. i wish she would win a slam not to silence the critics but because i think she deserves it.

as for dinara, she brings something fresh, as christopher said, to tennis that makes for a very interesting and compelling story. much as i love jelena, dinara winning this title after her near-win at the french has a more resounding impact than jelena nosing in front by a few hundred points in the rankings.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 05:59 PM

Tennis fan, that was totally wrong, you're just mad because you have been a big supporter of JJ receiving number l and Steve just gave you some facts that you didn't like, so leave Steve alone.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 06:01 PM

Beautiful post C-note. Some of her fans "can't handle the truth," so they have to insult.

Posted by Sophia 07/28/2008 at 06:03 PM

I want to give a little shout out to Flavia Pennetta. She was at a crossroad a little while ago as she had fallen down the rankings, was playing badly and had lost all confidence after her various injuries. I remember reading a WTA blog she was doing and at that stage, every singles match she played was a huge psychological hurdle for her.

I'm sure breaking up with Moya was very painful for her, but it seems to have helped her career. She seems so much more focussed now and has really got her game together. I thought she was absolutely fantastic when she beat Venus Williams at Roland Garros and she didn't get the credit she deserved for that performance IMO amongst all of the "Oh dear, this was a very bad loss for Venus, what a shocker" talk. Yes, it was a surprising result for Venus to go out and when you consider the round and the her immense ability and expectations, it was a bad loss. But Penetta won that match, Venus didn't give it away. She was absolutely superb that day and it was a revelation to see her take it to Venus rather than wait for mistakes and also to have the steel belief and focus to get that match won.

I'm not saying Flavia is all of a sudden a top player, she is what she is and she was never going to win yesterday's final; she was a level below Safina and didn't do herself any favours with her serving. She may never even reach a Tier II final again. I just thought I would say a quick "hurrah" for the Flav and a big "well done" for reaching the final.

I think progressing from seemingly terrified of playing matches to reaching number 16(?) in the world is a pretty good achievement. I agree that the main plot of women's tennis is non-existent at the moment - in fact it's completely dire - but if you look closely, there will always be minor little stories around.

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 06:07 PM

c-note

pulling for jelena to be #1 doesn't make me to an unreasonable fanatic. i sincerely wish the best for my favourite and i think she has the game to make it to the top.

i agree with you --- to be the best you have to beat the best --- and i hope jelena can beat ana on her way to the top, somehow, some day. i wish she would stop being so injured, but as darth said, jelena's presence on the tour is a gift that the other "top" players can't be bothered to be for the sake of the game and the fans.

Posted by sonya 07/28/2008 at 06:07 PM

Samantha, I actually understand what you're saying. Quite frankly, I've never gave that much importance to the rankings when it comes to the wta. for me, only justine deserved to be there because her talent and consistency backed it up. the rest of them are just... Anyway, I just wish you could stop being rude to JJ. it's not her fault that the system is the way it is, nor is it her fault that her competitors are just useless when it comes to perform week in week out. You've got to appreciate someone who has the courage to go out there and play even if it's not a slam. And it's not even as if she'll keep it for long. None of then can.

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 06:09 PM

sophia

my bad, but you scored a coup there. why did i miss the flavia angle in all this? i was watching her during yesterday's final and she had such an easygoing demeanour afterwards that she said, almost sheepishly, "i'll see you next year...?"

pretty pretty woman, that flav.

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 06:10 PM

bravo sonya. ajde jelena!

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 06:10 PM

Sophia -- I too have much love for what Flavia's been able to do lately. It can't be easy having to deal with all the Carlos stuff. She showed a lot of guts getting through Mattek in the SF.

Getting back to JJ...

If the tour wants to create an end of the season award for "Best Trooper" or "Best WTA Marketer" or "Most willing to show up to an empty stadium on any given day despite her acute and chronic ailments" then 100% all votes should go to JJ. But we're talking about the #1 Player In The World here.

I mean, seriously? Regardless of what the computer says, you cannot honestly look me in the computer screen and tell me that JJ is that player.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 06:14 PM

Sonya, thanks for the kind words on Justine, I want to say something nice about JJ. I think she should be admired for her dedication to the tour, playing in many matches, and she has a great personality for the game. But are these the criterias we use to determine best in the world? I don't think so.

Posted by Russ (Tempered by a Fire that's getting hotter) 07/28/2008 at 06:14 PM

"Imagine if Nikolay Davydenko were the No. 1 player on the men’s computer."

If I don't read another word, this alone is enough to make me think.

Posted by Sophia 07/28/2008 at 06:14 PM

Tennis Fan - Someone isn't a bad writer just because you don't happen to agree with what they say. That always seems to get mixed up!! Is Steve meant to lie and say the state of the women's game is glorious, when everyone knows it is not? Now that WOULD be bad writing in my opinion, and cowardly.

Posted by kiki 07/28/2008 at 06:15 PM

Steve...grrrrrrrr!
I love JJ!

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 06:15 PM

svelterogue -- Don't get me wrong. I too am a JJ fan. Have been ever since she got her bum handed to her the first time by a tubby 16 y/o Ana in Zurich in 2004. I like her game, I like her demeanor, and she brings a freshness to the game.

And I wasn't calling you a fanatic per se. I was just saying that anyone who can honestly say that, despite what the computer says, Jelena Jankovic is the best active female tennis player in the world, is a fanatic. If that's you, then yeah, you're a JJ fanatic. And I mean that with much love, not derision ;)

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 06:16 PM

Fantastic post C note, the end part is right on target.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 06:18 PM

Samantha -- I threw in "active" in there for you. I know who you think the best female tennis player in the world is....

Posted by Master Ace 07/28/2008 at 06:24 PM

Sophia,
Thanks for the story on Flavia. Her ranking at 18 reflects where she should be at. Surprised that Flavia has never reached a Tier II final before this week and on hardcourt to boot. Flavia plays her best on clay even though she can not make a breakthrough during the European portion of the season.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 06:31 PM

LOL C-note, no doubt about it.

Posted by sonya 07/28/2008 at 06:34 PM

C note and Samantha, I totally agree that jelena is not the best player on the tour, but she's not useless either. I'm not a dedicated fan of hers, but I feel like she's being treated way too harshly. For me, the best player on the tour right now is serena. she can beat anybody, but she is not going to get the top ranking anytime soon. I actually really like ana and I think unlike some others she wants to improve and have a dominant game, but the way she's always struggling mentally is not going to cut it, and on top of that she can't perform in two successive tournaments. That's the situations for the other girls too, and because of that you're going to get situations like what we have now. there isn't anybody that can dominate. even when were talking about sharapova finally finding her groove, I never doubted that would get back to her old self. For me she doesn't have the game of a dominant player, nor the fitness of one. no matter what u wish for, u're never going to get it until some girl decides to really get hold on the top and fight like crazy to keep it. personally, I hope ana can get it, because out of all those top girls, she's the only one that really wants to improve, and not stick to her old game because it suits her.

Posted by Sophia 07/28/2008 at 06:40 PM

I really like JJ. I think she has a really great game to watch, her consistency should be applauded and it's always nice to see a bit of personality out there (even if sometimes the hands on hips and pouting get a little much for me!)

In fact, I like JJ so much that I am thrilled she didn't get the number one. I'm sure she would have loved it and it would have been a brilliant achievement, but she deserves more than being known as the new Number 1*. Rightly or wrongly, the * would have always been there for her and obviously stands for the lack of grand slam finals, the state of the women's game at the moment, the debate about the relative weakness of the women's game etc etc. When announcers talked of Jankovic making number one for the first time, the * conversations would have always come up soon afterwards.

She deserves more than that. I hope she continues working on her game, breaks through in the slams and then reaches number one for the first time with no cloud over it, no *, and instead just the credit she would deserve for getting there.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 06:42 PM

Sophia,

I'm not saying he is a bad writer, maybe just a little prejudiced.
And I do find his topics less interesting than Bodo.

The state of the women's game is a matter of perception. I was watching a movie the other night "All the Kings Men" about a Heuy Long type corrupt governor. To cover up his misdeeds he orchtrated a big campaign full of lies saying if you say it enough it becomes the truth.

If you keep writing articles about how bad the women's game is, it becomes the truth.

If your looking for a Federer/Rafa women's doppelganger, then yes the women's game sucks. Go watch the men and be happy. However, I have no such expectations, if it happens someday, I will enjoy it for what would be. However, I enjoy the game as it is. New faces making there way in the Justine vacuum.

If your really following the game full time there would be plenty of stories to write about, like the Safina story from the moment it started, not months later when filling the void.

I understand why people feel JJ doesn't deserve #1. However, it's the system. It's artificial but that is the system. All systems are arbitrary. Just like you can become president in the United States without winning the popular vote (or in one case the Supreme Court can make you president). Are you less than the president?

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 06:45 PM

Hey Sonya,

I won't speak for Samantha but I don't think we've ever said or implied that JJ is useless. Far from it. She's just not #1.

Had Serena won Wimbly, which she totally should of, she would be for me hands down the current #1. But she didn't and keeping with my Slams are everything philosophy, I just can't crown her the #1 this year.

The current active #1 (again, that was for Samantha) is rightfully Ana. And I totally agree that she has the drive and the game to dominate. She just has to get her head right and continue to work on her fitness. She's still only 20 so she's got a number of years to go and I think she'll outlast Sharapova physically.

Getting back to Steve's post though, dare I say Dinara Olympic Gold Medalist and US Open champion? She is en fuego and the only healthy one in the top 8.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 06:46 PM

"Imagine if Nikolay Davydenko were the no l player on the men's computer." This really cracked me up. Great line Steve.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 06:51 PM

Tennis Fan -- I think there are a significant number of people who would argue "Yes", you are less of a president ;)

To Sophia and Tennis Fan -- I agree with both of you. I was so worried that Ana was going to lose the RG final because I didn't want all the articles to next day to critcize her as a #1 without a Slam. So same by JJ. If she wins a Slam, I'll be more than happy to include her in the elite club of legitimate #1 contenders. Until then, not so much. And I do want it for her.

And I also agree that all the negativity regarding the WTA sucks. There are lots of positive storylines worth writing about and I understand that the ATP storylines may be more compelling at the moment. But I love the WTA, I love following it, I love watching it, and I love writing about it. It's fun. But just because you love something doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't critique it where it deserves critiquing. So here's to meaningful and constructive criticism as opposed to Debbie Downer-like negativity.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 06:52 PM

I would agree JJ is far from useless, a great asset to the game with her personality. I would rank her as the fifth best active player. She's clearly behind the 3 current slam holder, Venus, Ana and Maria, and there is ABSOLUTELY no argument that would justify putting her in from of Serena who hold 8GS more than any active player.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 06:55 PM

"I think there are a significant number of people who would argue "Yes", you are less of a president ;)"

C Note: I was waiting for that comment. I'm glad it came from you!

"But I love the WTA, I love following it, I love watching it, and I love writing about it. It's fun. But just because you love something doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't critique it where it deserves critiquing. So here's to meaningful and constructive criticism as opposed to Debbie Downer-like negativity."

Great comments!

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 07:00 PM

c-note

i'm enjoying your love, then. :) i don't see myself as a fanatic for jelena, either. LOL watching her blow her nose at the french open, constantly pouting and frowning, and the kicker, NOT signing my program (bitter fan here! LOL) weren't much fun, let me tell you that. i wish she could be a tad more gracious in conducting herself on the court the way she does when she plays to a full house.

like i said earlier, i hope that she wins a slam because i think she deserves it. if she can stay healthy, both in body and attitude.

ajde jelena!

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 07:01 PM

forgive my ignorance, c note and tennis fan, but who is debbie downer? (something tells me i should just google this)

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 07:03 PM

My humor is all about low hanging fruit.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 07:05 PM

"Are you less of a President? Yes, if you're Bush, he should have been impeached a long time ago. If you can impeach a president for lying about sex, Clinton, than whyn't lying about the war. Which is more important.Very Sorry, for being off topic, but I don't get why Americans put up with him.

Posted by dnrood 07/28/2008 at 07:08 PM

If anybody deserves a vacation this year its Rafa, he's played alot of tennis this year already, more then any other player. And where were all the leading women when the Wimbledon tune ups were going on, vacation.

Face it Steve has alot of valid points. Since Justine retired the tour is searching for their next true No. 1 player. It could make for interesting storylines, but since none of the top contendors has taken control there are very few stories fan's can relate too.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 07:08 PM

Debbie Downer: http://tiny.cc/n8pbs

I got Nole, JJ, and Ana's autographs at Indian Wells and JJ was quite gracious there. Interacting with the crowd, cracking jokes. She probably should have been focusing on practice though seeing as how AI, once again, pwned her in the SF.

One thing that has been sad to see with JJ is, as the possibility of becoming #1 and the pressure to win a Slam have increased (since RG), she's been less smiley. A little less open with the media. A little more, sorry, Debbie Downer. The smile is kind of gone and has been replaced by a general look of concern or stress. Kind of a bummer.

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 07:15 PM

c note

i noted that over at pete's blog. roger gets hell from the media for his "decline" while jelena gets even MORE flak for trying to be ascendant. it's like persecuting a girl for trying her best.

thanks for the link, mate.

Posted by sonya 07/28/2008 at 07:15 PM

C Note Re serena being #1, I was refering to the most talented player in the tour right now, and for me it's serena.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 07:21 PM

Sonya -
I'm with you, Serena is the most talented. She SHOULD be dominating every frickin' tournament she enters, which is why she, much like JJ, frustrates the heck out of me. JJ did beat her at the AO though, so that is a feather in JJ's cap for #1, I guess. I don't know how bad her knee is but if I were her and my knee was not 100%, I would skip the Olympics and focus on the US Open. There's no reason she can't win if she's 100%.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 07:22 PM

By "she" I meant Serena. I don't think JJ will win unless everyone else, including Dinara, crashes out early. And even then....

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 07:28 PM

ok, so that's debbie downer! :D

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 07:29 PM

"If anybody deserves a vacation this year its Rafa, he's played alot of tennis this year already, more then any other player. And where were all the leading women when the Wimbledon tune ups were going on, vacation."

dnrood: I commended Rafa for his ability to Win at RG and then immediately move on to a grass court tournament and win it. This was extraordinary and impressive and proabably played a large part in his sucess at Wimbeldon this.

The Williams' have proved they don't need the warm to be sucessful at Wimbeldon. I think it did hurt Ivanovic and Jankovic. Ivanovic on her website as even acknowledge this. However, she just won her first GS, so it's hard to ding her for wanting to take some time off for that (Rafa did not do well at Wimbeldon after he won his first GS at RG). After his 4th he was a little more motivated. However, there was a whole series of articles on this site Eastbourne and there were some surpises and interesting matches. The final there was very exciting between Petrova and Radwanska and they did well at Wimbeldon. Kuznetsova played at Eastbourne but lost early. Wozniacki an up and commer did well at Eastbourne and she also beat Jankovic at Wimbeldon.

If you were following the Safina story you would know she made the finals in Holland, but lost to Tansugarn, who also has a great Wimbeldon run.

Sharapova should have been playing also.

This is a valid criticism of the WTA about with some of the top players not showing up. They are making changes to the rules and rankings system next year will see if it has an effect. However, in the mens system Master series are mandatory, they have to show up or they get a zero in the rankings. So do you make the women's system just like the men? It is moving in that direction. However, then the criticism is the players don't have control over their own schedule.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 07:31 PM

Svelterogue -- Do you really think that JJ gets MORE flak than Roger? I watched the LA tourney all weekend and it wasn't until the tournament was over that commentators started to breathe a sigh of relief and acknowledge that they would not have been ok with JJ as the #1 (Leif Shiras said it outright during the doubles final). But up until that point I thought Cliffy, MJ, and Shriver were pretty forgiving, acknowledging that this was a big moment for JJ, etc. No one asked JJ during a presser whether she thought it was right that she be #1 without reaching a slam final, whereas the media was asking Roger about retirement, Wimbledon hangovers, etc.

I could be missing it. I guess I just haven't noticed that it's been more. I think people have generally been nicer to JJ because none of this is her fault. It's all system and circumstance.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 07:41 PM

Tennis Fan -- Totally fair critiques. The WTA is moving to the whole mandatory tournaments thing next year so we'll see how that works. I guess my thought would be that I don't mind making tournaments mandatory so long as you factor in fatigue and injury issues. Coming out of RG, JJ had her arm injury. Ana just won. Maria has clearly been nursing a bum shoulder. I can't fault any of those players for not playing Eastbourne or S'Hertogenbosch. And if I were any of those players and I was forced to play one of those tournaments in advance of Wimbly, I'll be honest, I would tank it. I would not let the WTA's stupid rules negatively affect my chances of winning Wimbledon.

So it's a fine line. I do think it's a shame that Serena and Venus don't play more tournaments. It's bad for the WTA because in 80% of the situations, it's not due to injury or fatigue. It's just because they don't feel like it (Indian Wells being a special situation).

I also think you have to take into account that the women's game has changed. It's a power game now and fitness is on a completely higher plane. In addition, matches, from the first round to the final are way more competitive compared to years past when players could put in 50% effort and still win 60 60. This takes a tremendous toll on these women's bodies. So for the longevity and integrity of the game, it's in the WTA's best interest to allow players the time and opportunity to care for themselves physically and mentally.

All that is to say I don't really have a fix. I don't think the current system (with no mandatories) is all that horrible.

Posted by svelterogue 07/28/2008 at 07:42 PM

c note

i'm trying to put myself in jelena's and roger's shoes (wow, such empathy! if i could have just one day in their life, preferably on final's day...) and glib as this comes out, roger has been there, done that. any criticisms he is receiving now can be ignored (easier said than done i know). jelena is trying to make a name for herself, like novak, but is getting the love for the game sucked out of her by all the questions about whether she really deserves to be where she is.

like you, i miss the spunky jelena and i also miss the effervescent nole. this year has been tough on these two serbs.

Posted by GI Joe 07/28/2008 at 07:44 PM

Samantha Elin wrote:

"Are you less of a President? Yes, if you're Bush, he should have been impeached a long time ago. If you can impeach a president for lying about sex, Clinton, than whyn't lying about the war. Which is more important.Very Sorry, for being off topic, but I don't get why Americans put up with him.

As an American I can only say mind your own freakin business and worry about your own country. We can take care of ours. President Bush is an angel compared to Slick Willie Clinton. I'm sick of criticism of President Bush by nitwits like you and especially where it doesn't belong on a tennis website. Can't you take your political opinions to some idiotic democrat political website and spare us your appeasing European (or whatever country you come from) view of the world and our society.

Cheers and have a nice day.

Posted by B. Jonathan 07/28/2008 at 07:54 PM

Bottom line: Jelena Jankovic possesses no control over the computer. While I would argue that she should not be rewarded for mere consistency (the computer ranking system has never been close to perfect), she should not be punished for her drive to succeed at every tournament and the myriad injuries of the top players.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 07:54 PM

Svelterogue: If you're going to walk in their shoes I hope you have a lot of kleenex.

Like I said. Low hanging fruit.

Anywho, you're right, it's been a tough year for the two most controversial Serbs. The two that you would think would be the most prepared to tell the world to eff off are the two that seem to be most bothered by all the criticisms and critiques. I mean, wasn't Ana supposed to be the fragile one? Every single presser and interview with her mentioned her mental collapse at RG 07. And yet she was the one that handled it all with grace and class, admitted her failings, and did everything possible to overcome those hurdles.

Here's the thing. JJ and Nole, they're entertainers. They want so badly to be liked. And when you rely on the crowd they can turn on you. And then you're constantly chasing that admiration, that love, and in doing so, you lose the very thing that made them fall in love with you in the first place.

Ana on the other hand is such a shy, quiet, keep to herself kind of girl, that she doesn't care about the crowd really. You get the sense that she would be doing the exact same thing whether at Center Court of Wimbledon or a side court at a challenger tournament. The girl just likes to compete and she competes for herself, no one else. Does that make her mentally stronger than the other two? Not necessarily. But it does inform their different motivations for success and how they can influenced by what goes on around them. Ana collapses from the internal pressure. In order to fix that she's worked with her team to deal with those pressures and not put pressure on herself. JJ and Nole on the other hand are collapsing from the external pressures. They're dealing with it by keeping the world out. It's unfortunate.

Or maybe, like Ana, I've been reading too much Freud.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 07:58 PM

C Note:

I also think you have to take into account that the women's game has changed. It's a power game now and fitness is on a completely higher plane. In addition, matches, from the first round to the final are way more competitive compared to years past when players could put in 50% effort and still win 60 60.

I see this as an improvement in the game, not that it's deteriorating.

This takes a tremendous toll on these women's bodies. So for the longevity and integrity of the game, it's in the WTA's best interest to allow players the time and opportunity to care for themselves physically and mentally.

The men have the same considerations, yet they get through the season somehow. Of course there were a lot of retirement in the summer Master Series.

I even think the women should play best of 5 sets at GSs (at least from QF on). This I think would improve the game.

The women are going to have only four mandatories, other than GS, IW, Miami and new joint ATP/WTA tournments in China and Madrid. (The Madrid tournament is really what the ATP court case is about.) Lets see what happens.

Posted by Sophia 07/28/2008 at 08:00 PM

Fair enough Tennis Fan, sorry that I misinterpreted you! :)

You're so right about the state of the women's game being a matter of perception and I wrote above about the fact that there are always stories to enjoy and identify with. However I do think there is proof around that there are a few problems.

Personally I'll always love and follow women's tennis. I feel a little bit of magic has gone out of it recently which is a little disappointing and means that I'm not as utterly obsessed with it as I have been in the past, but I still enjoy it immensely and want nothing but the best for the WTA. I agree that most of the negativity in general about women's tennis is very unfotunate and unfair, but I also think that some is appropriate and perhaps even necessary.

Let's hope we have a great Olympics and US Open! Safina looks as though she could be dangerous, but I think it could be pretty open.

Posted by Sophia 07/28/2008 at 08:05 PM

C Note - You can never have too much Freud! :)

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 08:06 PM

Freud helped Ana. Can't see how it could hurt me!

Posted by Jeff in Rochester 07/28/2008 at 08:43 PM

You are being very kind to the WTA in my opinion. The WTA without joint mens play is a very hard sell in the states even with the William sisters. I really think we are hitting close to bottom when the Williams retire from the game. The WTA should remain flexible in pushing more Asian events where the money is though a hard sell for the non Asian players. Look at the sorry state of the LPGA trying to market all the Asian players in the USA with little sucess.

Posted by Jeff in Rochester 07/28/2008 at 08:44 PM

You are being very kind to the WTA in my opinion. The WTA without joint mens play is a very hard sell in the states even with the William sisters. I really think we are hitting close to bottom when the Williams retire from the game. The WTA should remain flexible in pushing more Asian events where the money is though a hard sell for the non Asian players. Look at the sorry state of the LPGA trying to market all the Asian players in the USA with little sucess.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 08:56 PM

ANNA CHAKVETADZE: I know ranking
can change every week. Of course, everyone
want to be No. 1, all the top players. But,
unfortunately, as you said, there are a lot of
players, you know, who can be No. 1 after Henin
retired.

Yeah, just who will took the opportunity?
But it also depends, you know, to be No. 1 for a
week or to be No. 1 like Henin was is a different
thing.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 08:59 PM

"The WTA without joint mens play is a very hard sell in the states even with the William sisters."

I think tennis in general is a hard sell in the states competing with all the other sports. However, maybe moving the tournaments to different cities and not Just NY, CA & FL. In the middle of the country somewhere. And somehow get the European players known in the states.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 09:01 PM

Did you see JJ's comments about the number 1 ranking, Tennis Fan? I'm sorry, but the girl doesn't want it enough. She's throwing out every excuse in the book. Makes me sad.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 09:02 PM

JELENA JANKOVIC: I want to become
No. 1 and I want to win a Grand Slam. I want to do
all of those things. Those are my goals. That is
my dream.
But actually, to be honest, when I began to
play tennis when I was nine and a half, I actually
never thought even of becoming a professional
tennis player. So now being in this stage, you
know, being one step away from No. 1 in the world,
it's really amazing. You know, I'm very close. I
hope that I can achieve it one day.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 09:05 PM

C note: I think she talks like she plays sometimes. Just when you think all is over, that is when she makes her move.

Posted by Gogirl 07/28/2008 at 09:07 PM

Frankly without the Williams sisters, tennis would be in trouble.
No matter how they are sometimes spoken of rudely, they are still
the ones to beat. They have showed time and time again their
toughness and ability to win, when healthy. Even with Justine, whether gone or still playing, the Williams would still be the one to beat. I love their game, they changed the way the game of tennis is played today. I can see another championship for either
Serena or Venus in the near future. I am proud that they are Americans at the top of their game. Hopefully Lindsay can come back also and make it a threesome.

Posted by Millard Souers 07/28/2008 at 09:11 PM

Right on about Safina - her brother should take note of her positive demeanor; Marat's on-court meltdown this evening during his match against Dmitry Tursunov was pathetic, especially coming off his run at Wimbledon.

Posted by Samantha Elin 07/28/2008 at 09:13 PM

I think to sell the women's game you have to combine it with the guys like they do at the slams. GI Joe, I wasn't born in America, but Sweden. That doesn't mean I'm not entitled to my opinion on an issue(the war) that hurts many countries. Just a thought.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 09:17 PM

Maybe making the tour championship more important. Give more points and bigger payout for the race. That would make tournaments other than the GSs more important on the schedule and increase participation.

I like that next year the WTA is going to have a level two year end championship for the those up and commer who are did not get enough point to make it to the top 8.

And promote it like the superbowl. Make it important a fifth and more important slam.

In the mens game you get extra point for this. And if you look at the difference in point for this event between Rafa and Federer, it is the reason that Federer is still #1 right now.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 09:28 PM

And the US Open Series bonus, I think is a great idea. However, it seems the top players are not motivated by the bonus $$ enough. The bonus money is only doled out based on US Open results. However, I think there should be other incentives at each tournment win, show and placing. What that is I don't know.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 09:30 PM

Both the ATP and WTA sink $$ into the Tennis channel so there is non-stop live tennis. And broadcast the interviews after the matches. Have behind the scene shows at tournaments.

There is a lot that can be done.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 09:34 PM

Get American newspapers to have Tennis standings section in the sports section. Really in American the only time you hear about tennis, unless your a hardcore fan, it during Wimbeldon and US Open.

Also, maybe having a regular Bobby Riggs/Billy Jean type exhibition matches on a regular basis.

Posted by Master Ace 07/28/2008 at 09:51 PM

I see that I missed a running conversation about the WTA ranging from Jelena being stopped by Dinara from being number 1, the 2009 schedule, and various storylines in the WTA.

Now, one of the USO storyline is going to be who knees are going to hold up through Montreal, Olympics, and USO. Williams Sisters are resting while Ana, Maria, and Svetlana are trying to get some matches under their belt before the Olympics start 08/10.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 09:55 PM

Tennis Fan:

That's not the quote that bugged me. This is:

Q. Is it tougher than you thought to grab that No. 1 spot? Seems like a lot of girls have been close.

JELENA JANKOVIC: It's okay. I mean, if it's meant to happen, it will happen. If not, you can keep trying all your life and it will never happen. So, I mean, if you deserve it, you will get it.
If you work hard, that hard work will pay off eventually, sooner or later. Like I said, I've been suffering with injuries, so it's very hard to be at your best, to be at your highest level when you're
having some problems. So when you don't have problems, when
you can try to really reach your full potential, then you can say to yourself, I tried everything and I didn't make it and there's nothing I can do. But when you haven't reached that level yet, then you have the motivation, you have that desire to keep working and reaching that level eventually.

----

It's too fatalistic for my liking. And, it's so consistent with her attitude at the end of her SF against Ana at RG. There was this look about her where you could literally see her thinking "Oh well, today is not my day." I just don't like that attitude from an athlete.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 10:13 PM

C Note: I guess it does lack some killer instinct.

However, she was genuinely injured at RG. She even flew home to Serbia during the tournament to get treatment in order to be able to continue. Then the knee a Wimbledon and still having the effect now.

I don't know. This seems to be part of her personality. Sandbagging. Sometimes you can get a false impression of a statement without hearing the tone of voice and mannerism when said. She did seem kind of listless in LA. I don't know if it is the pressure or what.

What should she have said? She said she wanted to get drunk and kill herself after RG. I don't even know how I would answer this question.

Posted by Gina 07/28/2008 at 10:43 PM

I don't care what anyone says, Jelena Jankovic deserves to be number one. Just because she didn't make it to a gs final doesn't mean she doesn't deserve to be number one. If Serena should be number one, then she would be, but she's not. Ana's number one and I've accepeted that. Atleast Jelena was honest in her post match interview. She was staying postive. "It's okay. I mean, if it's meant to happen, it will happen. If not, you can keep trying all your life and it will never happen. So, I mean, if you deserve it, you will get it." Amen.

Posted by Gina 07/28/2008 at 10:44 PM

Oh and Jelena deserves to be number one, because unlike all of the other women who crash and burn, Jelena stays on top and continues to play at a high level. She doesn't make excuses and works her way to the top. One day she'll get what she deserves.

Posted by Ellie 07/28/2008 at 10:46 PM

I completely agree with you Steve, I know we all have our opinions about the WTA, but the fact is it's in a slump. No woman has consistenly stayed at the top. I miss Justine, I don't know who will be able to replace her.

Posted by Ren 07/28/2008 at 10:47 PM

Many sports for women do not get much support because this is still a patriarchal society. Men control the sport. One needs to be a Sharapova (the classic blonde) in order for us to watch the game, or one must approach men's abilities (The Williams sisters) in order for the women's games to be exciting and worth the watching. This patriarchal thinking, sad to say, has been imbibed by women too as a result of cultural conditioning. So while women swoon over the macho-shirtless men of tennis, and men of course watch men's tennis because it is anyway a "man's game", the ATP will get its needed support. As this happens, the WTA will suffer--as it falls short of the appeal that cuts across cultures and genders.

Posted by Sarah 07/28/2008 at 10:48 PM

It seems that Dinara is one of the few woman on tour who seem genuine. I'm a bit tired of Ana's fluff and Jelena's drama. Maria get's way more attention then she deserves. Venus is off creating a new clothing line. While Serena's posing for magazines and talking about herself. Hopefully Dinara's here to stay.

Posted by Augusta 07/28/2008 at 10:49 PM

I totally agree with you Ren.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 10:53 PM

Tennis Fan -- You're right, it's hard to gauge what she said without hearing how she said it. I suppose I'm guilty of comparing her to Serena, Pova, and Ana, who seem to clearly show, in both their statements and their conduct, that they frickin' want it and will do whatever it takes to get it. They genuinely believe they deserve to be in that elite group of players. With Serena and Pova it's obviously the intensity and their hatred of losing that conveys that. With Ana, it's her on court intensity (which I know, rubs people the wrong way with the Ajde's and the wee fists of fury) and her post match pressers where she talks about #1.

This is my all time favorite Ana quote, said before Wimbly: "You have to see pressure for what it is. It's a reflection of your own ambition. It means that you put yourself in a position to do something memorable." Those are words of a champion to me.

I remember during RG, Martina Navs kept going on and on about how she just got the sense that JJ was happy to be there. She didn't sense a killer instinct, a desire that she saw with other players. JJ's pressers always seem to reinforce that notion with me.

Posted by Master Ace 07/28/2008 at 11:13 PM

Think number 1 would be a moot point if Jelena, winner of 6 titles, has not been consistently making quarterfinals or better in the tournaments that she has played since she broke her 10 match losing streak at the Rome tournament in 2006. Since then, she has won Rome twice (defeating Kuznetsova and Cornet) and Charleston (defeating the current LA winner). Other than the French Open, Ana has won only 6 titles and 3 Tier I(2008 Indian Wells, 2007 Berlin, and 2006 Montreal beating Kuznetsova twice and Hingis).

Posted by Ren 07/28/2008 at 11:20 PM

My next post got spammed! Why?

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 11:22 PM

C Note: Your comments are one of the reasons I think she should team up with Brad Gilbert.

Posted by CPM 07/28/2008 at 11:27 PM

C Note: That's a great quote from Ana - shows quite a bit of self-awareness and reflection. I'm impressed.

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 11:30 PM

Tennis Fan:

I'm pretty sure JJ has already mastered the art of Winning Ugly ;)

I read this and thought you might be interested. A phenomenal analysis of JJ and her inability to grab #1: http://tiny.cc/KQhP3.

Let me know what you think.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 11:32 PM

Master Ace: But Ivanovic has made that one extra step at GSs than Jankovic has yet to make. However, I think she will eventually do it.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 11:36 PM

C Note: Yeah but he has that confidence and swagger that she could absorb from him. And Roddick made that extra step under his influence.


For some reason I have a problem accessing the tiny thing. Can you give me a full url?

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 11:40 PM

http://wtabackspin.blogspot.com/2008/07/wk30-still-somewhat-broken-occasionally.html

Posted by bengoshi 07/28/2008 at 11:40 PM

It does seem to me that JJ is a little less kooky and smiley these days, and that's what I like about her along with the "cant kill the cockroach" perseverance she often shows.
It does not seem to occur to many people here that JJ is a professional woman whose approach to her profession is to play a lot of tournaments and earn a lot of money. She is a Tier 1 journeywoman. WTA #1 and GS titles are great and I am sure she would love them, but one has to think that she plays so often because she wants to earn the money that consistently comes in from the QF and SF and occasional title. Nothing wrong with that.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 11:43 PM

C Note: I only read the first line and I love it already!

'Wherever Jelena Jankovic goes, intrigue is sure to follow.'

More too come!

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 11:46 PM

He has so many good lines in that posting.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 11:46 PM

I suppose the walking and talking Serbian question mark/exclamation point/asterisk/medical oddity/smiley face should be seen as the invaluable asset that she is, huh?

The world #2 is the most entertaining player on tour for all the right, and some of the wrong, reasons.

Hysterical!

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 11:47 PM

Bengoshi -- I totally agree with you. I guess the debate that has been raging between a few of us today is simply whether or not the consistency she shows as a very very good journeywoman is enough to justify a #1 ranking, irrespective of what the computer says.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 11:49 PM

the slam-deficient Jankovic is trying to slip through the back door of the most exclusive night club in the city without having to pay a cover charge or pass muster at the front door. Of course, bless her, would there be any more Jankovician way to reach the #1 ranking than by traveling around the bend, under a bridge, through the chicken coop, across a lily pad-strewn pond and over a sky full of puffy clouds? Not in a million years (or free helicopter rides to the court), I'd say.


It's like watching 'Airplane' for the first time!

Posted by C Note 07/28/2008 at 11:51 PM

THAT is my favorite line in the post. Because it's sooooo true.

I love that you're appreciating it like I did.

Posted by Tennis Fan 07/28/2008 at 11:51 PM

As it was, L.A. proved to be par for the Jelena course for the WTA's unquestioned "almost but not quite" Queen of Predictably Unpredictable Predictability.

I'm in pain, I'm laughing so hard!

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