Tennis Elbow: Where’s your champion when you need it?
June 18, 2012 · Print This Article
The 2012 Roland Garros experience was especially kind to Maria Sharapova, who captured the fourth Grand Slam title of her career and thereby completed the career Slam in beating Sara Errani by the score of 6-3, 6-2.
Just as important, Sharapova is now the resident alpha queen as the highest ranked player on the WTA Tour–and truly, what’s so surprising about this isn’t so much that she attained this ranking as much as it is that this comes almost 7 years to the day after she first did so.
Sharapova turned pro in 2001, won Wimbledon three years later and became the new No. 1 on Aug. 22, 2005, and looked poised to dominate the sport for the foreseeable future. Most would probably have bet on her having been No. 1 for the majority of the time between 2005 and 2012 rather than not. This didn’t happen, partly because of a recurring shoulder injury–and while this is true, it’s also true that Sharapova was probably never quite as good as we thought she was.
However, there’s nothing wrong with that.
She’s back, finally, and healthy, and she could be just what the doctor ordered for the WTA. She’s talented (i.e. strong forehand), stunning (i.e. tall and blond), humbled (i.e. the shoulder injury), determined (i.e. the fight back to the top from said shoulder injury) and is the most famous of an all-athletic couple (i.e. Sharapova has been with middling NBA player Sasha Vujacic for some time now).
The contrast between the women’s circuit and its male counterpart is striking. Where the ATP World Tour thrives behind the dominance of the head trio of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have captured every one but two of the major titles since 2005, the WTA struggles to find its one dominant player. Tennis thrives when its best players win multiple Grand Slam titles every year, not when three or four different players win the four majors. And it’s been more the latter than the former for the WTA, which has seen 13 different players be crowned major champion since 2005.
Earlier this season, there was good reason to think that Victoria Azarenka could be the new sheriff in town for the WTA–and she very well still could be, because of the way she has dominated her opponents when she has played her best.
Parity can be good and makes for great stories every time a new champion is crowned. But truly, the stakes are never quite as high. Whereas the 2012 Roland Garros final pitted two first-time finalists on the women’s side, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal battled for their own shot at history. Fans tuned in to see whether Roger Federer could beat Pete Sampras’s record more so than they will to see whether Caroline Wozniacki, the fallen queen, can get back to the top. They tuned in to see Rafael Nadal beat Bjorn Borg’s record more so than to see whether Serena Williams can get her groove back.
The narratives are stronger when a few dominate the rest and when the resumes are stronger.
And yet, is it really just the players’ fault? It’s the ageless question, really. Do you cover men’s tennis because the fans love it so much, or do the fans love it so much because you cover it so much more than you do women’s tennis?
Who knows–but Sharapova might want to win Wimbledon in July and then the US Open in September, just to make sure.
by: Charles Blouin-Gascon