May 13, 2013
Just like she did a year ago, Serena Williams took home the Mutua Madrid Open title in 2013. She did so in convincing fashion, dominating Maria Sharapova by the score of 6-1, 6-4.
(Don’t expect a lengthy post-match recap, because I don’t enjoy these much. And in full disclosure, I did not watch the match. In Canada, the men’s final was televised but the women’s wasn’t, because…yep, I have not a clue. I won’t use today’s column to further explain how ridiculous I find that women’s tennis is seemingly always playing second fiddle to men’s tennis. For now, let’s just say that I need that Tennis TV subscription as soon as possible.)
But back to Serena… She captured Madrid, because she dominated Sharapova—and she dominated the Russian, because that’s all she ever does. The win now brings their head-to-head record to 13-2 in favour of the American, and the two wins that Sharapova recorded came all the way back in 2004 when she first broke through.
A win would have given the 26-year-old Russian the No. 1 ranking but instead, it remains Serena’s to lose. It’s further proof that despite that she will turn 32 later this season, the younger of the two Williams sisters shows no sign of slowing down, especially not after having enjoyed perhaps her finest season yet in 2012. Simply put, Serena Williams is to the WTA Tour as Roger Federer is to the ATP World Tour. When she retires, she’ll be remembered as her generation’s best player, if not more.
But of course, she hasn’t retired yet.
The 2013 Mutua Madrid Open title was the 50th of Serena’s career as well as her seventh on clay. Somehow, both those totals seem a little low and don’t quite give an indication to just how dominant she has been. For example, among the nine players with more career titles are Monica Seles (53), Virginia Wade (55) and Lindsay Davenport (55). All three are great players, obviously, but are they better than Serena?
Truthfully, if not for her older sister Venus and her 44 career titles including seven Grand Slam tournaments, perhaps Serena’s numbers would be higher. That said, there’s something to be said for a player whose 15 of 50 career titles came at the Grand Slam events—it’s that she performs best on the biggest of stages.
Serena never competed much on the junior circuit beyond a short stint until grade 9, and she never breathed and lived strictly tennis either. Rather, it seems like her father always allowed her and her sister to be girls as they were growing up, and Serena has been showing everyone that a tennis player can thrive while also having other interests beyond the sport.
This is no eulogy, though. There’s less ahead than there is behind her, at least for playing days, but Serena is still just as good as ever. She showed as much in Madrid in the final against Sharapova.
Last season, amid all the hoopla about Madrid’s blue clay, Serena was perhaps the only one to stand up to Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal when they complained about the playing conditions. “Just play on,” she had told them.
Blue clay, red clay…it makes no difference. She would know, with a title on each surface in each of the previous two years.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
March 11, 2013
15-time Grand Slam Champion looking for an all-time record six Sony Open titles
MIAMI, Fla. (www.sonyopentennis.com) – World No. 1 Serena Williams will make her highly anticipated return to Miami at the 2013 Sony Open with her opening match on Thursday, March 21 Day Session (Session 5). Serena’s potential opponents will be determined at the draw ceremony on Monday, March 18.
Serena has proven to be a fan favorite in Miami, repeatedly playing in front of sold out crowds at the Sony Open. If she wins her first match on Thursday, March 21 she will then play the 8:00 p.m. night session match on Saturday, March 23 (Session 10).
The Sony Open is not only known for its world class tennis, but also for an enticing two-week entertainment experience ranging from musical performances to question and answer sessions with the top players in the world. The restaurants and lounges on the Sony Open grounds offer a flavorful experience that fans can enjoy in between exceptional matches.
Tickets to the 2013 Sony Open are on sale now and can be purchased by phone (305-442-3367) or via internet at www.sonyopentennis.com. You don’t want to miss out witnessing the greatest tennis players in the world compete for the illustrious title so secure your tickets now!
Serena Williams, a five-time Sony Open champion (’02, ’03, ’04, ’07, ’08) is looking to continue her extraordinary success at one of her favorite stops on tour. She will be attempting to become the first woman to win the Sony Open six times. Williams is currently second all-time in wins at the Sony Open and could take over top spot with a finals appearance.
The 15-time Grand Slam champion is looking to sustain her championship form from 2012 where she won seven tournaments including the U.S. Open, Wimbledon and the Olympic Gold Medal, finishing with a 58-4 singles record. She is also currently top 10 in total career titles and top 5 in most career Grand Slams in the Open Era.
Serena will face an extremely strong field including defending Sony Open champion Agnieszka Radwanska; two-time Sony Open champion and 2013 Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka; four-time Grand Slam champ Maria Sharapova; and seven-time Grand Slam winner Venus Williams.
The men’s field also features a powerful cast including World No. 1 and two-time defending Sony Open champion Novak Djokovic, Olympic Gold Medalist and U.S. Open champion Andy Murray and World No. 4 David Ferrer just to name a few. Djokovic kicks-off the evening session play on Friday, March 22 in his quest for a fourth Sony Open title, which would be his third consecutive title at the Sony Open after defeating Andy Murray in last year’s final.
January 22, 2013
by: Tom Cochrane
David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro treated the crowd on Rod Laver Arena to an enthralling battle on Day 9, the two Spaniards going toe-to-toe for 5 gruelling sets before the fourth seeded Ferrer finally prevailed.
Day 9 Recap
Early on it appeared as if tenth seed Almagro would record his first career win over his compatriot, the man from Murcia striking his one-handed backhand brilliantly to take a commanding 2 sets to love lead. Ferrer was battling just to stay in the contest, but Almagro, in sight of his first ever Grand Slam semi-final, tightened up significantly and starting pressing for the victory. Three times Almagro served for the match, but Ferrer was not to be denied, winning the fifth set 6-2 as Almagro’s body started to break down in the heat.
Ferrer will now face world number one Novak Djokovic for a place in Sunday’s final after the Serb defeated Tomas Berdych in the evening session on Day 9. The top seed, hoping to avoid a repeat of his marathon match against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round, raced out of the blocks against Berdych, dropping just one game in the opening set. Berdych hit back to claim the second set, but the Serb was generally in control of the match, eventually claiming a 4 set win over the Czech star.
In the women’s quarter-finals on Day 9, sixth seed Li Na is now just one win away from a return to the Australian Open final after upsetting in-form Pole Agnieszka Radwanska 7-5 6-3. The Chinese superstar, who reached the 2011 final at Melbourne Park, come out on top in a hard-fought first set before recovering from an early deficit in the second set to take the win.
Maria Sharapova will be Li Na’s semi-final opponent, after the Russian again thrilled her many fans with a clinical 6-2 6-2 demolition of fellow Russian Ekaterina Makarova. Makarova upset Serena Williams in Melbourne last year, but there was no fairytale win this year, with Sharapova far too good in all departments.
Matches of the Day – Day 10
1. Victoria Azarenka vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova
They might not be saying anything to the press, but there’s no doubt both Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka are gearing up for a blockbuster semi-final against one another. To my mind, they are the best two players in the women’s game right now, but each of them needs to get past a tough quarter-final opponent before the dream semi-final becomes a reality.
Svetlana Kuznetsova’s career seemed done and dusted last year, but the dual Grand Slam champion has shown during this tournament that she is far from a spent force on the WTA Tour. The Russian is moving well, and as Azarenka noted herself, Kuznetsova looks more relaxed and refreshed on the court than she has in the past few years. I think Azarenka will take this one but I expect Kuznetsova to make the top seed fully earn the victory. Azarenka in 2.
2. Serena Williams vs. Sloane Stephens
Riding a 20 match winning streak that includes a recent win over Sloane Stephens at the Brisbane International, Serena Williams has to be a red-hot favourite going into this clash. Williams has helped Stephens a lot in the twenty-ninth seed’s career-to-date, but as Williams stated, the term “mentor” is not really appropriate when you are still competing against your protegee.
Stephens is a good mover and ball-striker, and plays her tennis with a whole heap of enthusiasm and competitiveness. She’s unquestionably one of the rising stars in the women’s game, but I don’t think she’s quite at the stage where she can truly compete with the great Serena Williams. The match against Williams in Brisbane will probably aid Stephens in some ways, but on the big stage I think Williams will be too good for her fellow American. Williams in 2.
3. Jeremy Chardy vs. Andy Murray
Twenty-five year old Jeremy Chardy has taken down a couple of seeds en route to his first Grand Slam quarter-final and the Frenchman has absolutely nothing to lose in this match against two-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray. Chardy has to be given some sort of chance against Murray after upsetting the US Open champion on hard-courts in Cincinnati last year.
That win over Murray was a fine one indeed, but it did come in between Murray’s gold medal triumph at the Olympics and his maiden Grand Slam win at Flushing Meadows. In other words, I’m not sure how focused Murray was on winning the tournament in Cincinnati last year.
Chardy will be going for his shots against the third seed, and if the Frenchman runs hot Murray could struggle, in the same way that Djokovic suffered against a red-lining Wawrinka in the fourth round. But that’s a big if, especially over 5 sets, and the probabilities suggest a fairly routine victory for the Scotsman. Murray in 3.
4. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs. Roger Federer
Does Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have the ability to beat Roger Federer in this high-profile night clash? Most definitely, especially with the words of wisdom that are now being channelled into the Tsonga mindset courtesy of renowned Austalian coach Roger Rasheed.
The Frenchman has taken down all of the big names at one time or another, including Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer himself, but at the most important stages of the biggest matches, Tsonga is prone to poor shot selection, bad decision-making and generally erratic play. To my mind, that’s probably the only thing that separates him from the Big Four.
After taking an extended break leading into the Australian Open, I was unsure as to what Federer’s form would be like at Melbourne Park. But the Swiss star knows his game inside out and has been in scintillating touch to date, taking down young guns Bernard Tomic and Milos Raonic without so much as losing a set. In this vein of form, I like Federer’s chances of weathering anything that the flamboyant Tsonga throws at him. Federer in 4.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow.
December 31, 2012
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps his year in writing.
This is the 52nd edition of the column, which means that I have been writing Tennis Elbow for a year. It’s been a great year, but more on that shortly.
For now, I’ll tell the story of how exactly I came about to writing for Tennis Connected. Not that this matters, but I’m a Ryerson Journalism student and that’s where the story starts. A year ago, I was writing a long feature on Canadian and rising star Milos Raonic. As I worked on the story, I met and interviewed many coaches, colleagues and tennis minds from Toronto.
I interviewed Nima Naderi, who runs Tennis Connected, though I didn’t meet him. My work on the feature ended with the 2011 Face-Off event, the one with Eugenie Bouchard, Aleksandra Wozniak, Pete Sampras, and Raonic. Nima asked me to write a recap of the event, which I did.
I felt like that would be all, but he contacted me a few weeks after to ask me whether I wanted to write a weekly column for his website for the 2012 season.
Nope, Nima wasn’t kidding. I accepted, of course, because this appealed to me for different reasons. First, tennis is different than hockey. That’s a good thing, because the sport still is expanding in Canada–meanwhile, hockey has just about become as popular as it can ever be. That’s a good thing for the aspiring media personality that I am. There’s only so much I can do in covering hockey, but it’s the opposite with tennis. In covering the sport, I can invent myself and, even, reinvent it. It’s not as popular, thus it’s easier to establish my brand–or at least, that’s what I think.
The hardest part of the column, probably, was figuring out the name. And that likely tells the tale as much as anything else. I chose Tennis Elbow, because the “tennis elbow” itself generally comes from an overexposure to tennis. And that’s what I hope this column could become. (It’s also a rather catchy name, and a catchy name is better than one that isn’t.)
My main concern, in accepting, was whether I would find enough material to write weekly on a sport like tennis. In retrospect, it turns out this was all for naught–though there were a few weeks where inspiration was minimal (i.e. exhibits a and b).
Not every column was great, but I worked hard on every last one of them in the hopes that it would be and there were many highlights.
Though he isn’t my favourite player, Andy Murray was my favourite player to write about. He didn’t always win on the court, but every column that focused on the Scotsman was a memorable one. Murray’s plight, always, had been that he’s not quite as great as the head triumvirate but that he’s just good enough to make you believe that he is–it’s both his gift and his curse. Everyone would have loved to see him win Wimbledon, but that would have been too perfect. It had to be Flushing Meadows first, and Murray did just that. All in all, I wrote four columns on the 25-year-old, and all were among my favourites.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams was the equivalent of Andy Murray. The younger of the two Williams sisters long ago cemented her place in history as the greatest player of her generation but after this season, it’s time to include her with the all-time greats regardless of whether she did or didn’t “crip walk” on the Wimbledon court.
Other highlights include covering the 2012 Rogers Cup in Montreal, where I created the Rogers Cup in La belle province series and met and interviewed many of the top WTA players as well as future colleagues of mine–the Q&A with Tamira Paszek column that followed the event was a great one. I also enjoyed writing about Novak Djokovic, because he’s the best and most charismatic player on Tour as well as my favourite player, and, well, that’s really all. The Elbows of 2012 column was another success despite being little more than a half-baked idea that I carried through. Finally, I happen to be the biggest fan of The Wire you will ever know, and I tried to write in a reference or two to the show in my columns. When I did, I smiled and, though I might have been the only one smiling, that was plenty enough.
For an encore in 2013, I hope for similar things to happen. This column allowed me to discover my writing style and myself, and I’m thankful for it. It exceeded any expectations that I had when I first started writing it a year ago.
It’s a weird era that we live, where a man from Montreal who is living in Toronto can write a weekly column for a fellow Torontonian. I think that 2012 was good to Tennis Elbow and I wish for the upcoming year to be even better. And hopefully I’ll meet Nima too.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
December 17, 2012
Many narratives helped make the 2012 season a memorable one.
On the men’s side, there was Novak Djokovic/Rafael Nadal war of attrition at the Australian Open, the knee of Nadal following Roland Garros, the return of King Roger to his throne, and the arrival of everyone’s second favourite player, Andy Murray.
On the women’s side, there was the rise of Victoria Azarenka, the departure of everyone’s second favourite player in Kim Clijsters, the return of Maria Sharapova, and the domination of Serena Williams.
The 2012 season was memorable for all the right reasons–including the fact that Gilles Simon’s comments were partly swept under the rug.
During the 2012 Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament, the native of Nice mentioned that men deserved better pay than women. In his mind, there shouldn’t be equal pay, because men play a brand of tennis that is much more attractive and interesting.
Rarely are men and women’s tennis mentioned together–they’re two distinct sports, it seems. But Simon sure brought them together.
(For the sake of this column, let’s accept Simon’s argument at face value and not wonder what exactly constitutes “attractive” or “interesting” tennis. Is it a five-hour match? Is it a 90-minute classic? As a whole, is the ATP World Tour, with its four-player hegemony, more compelling than the winner-could-be-anyone-when-Serena-Williams-isn’t-on-her-game reality of the WTA Tour?)
As it stands, there is equality between men and women for all four Grand Slam tournaments–the prize money is the same for men and women players. Presumably, this is where Simon is most irked. He thinks that men’s tennis is so much more advanced compared to women’s tennis, and nothing illustrates it quite as well as the four major tournaments, where men play best-of-five-set matches seemingly only because they can.
Right? Well, yes and no.
Men and women tennis professionals are at the top of their respective sports. And the two sports are equals, thus equal pay. It’s simple, isn’t it? More and more, today’s society is working at becoming one where there is equality between men and women–where men and women increasingly receive equal compensation for the same work.
And that’s a good thing–men and women should receive equal pay if they accomplish the same thing.
For tennis, this means that Serena Williams should receive equal prize money as Andy Murray for having won the US Open like both did this year. Maybe Serena didn’t play best-of-five matches, but she played as many matches against the top players of the WTA in capturing the title, as Murray did against the top players of the ATP. If the minds behind the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open think that men and women deserve equal prize money, what does that say about Simon’s argument that men deserve more because they do so much more?
Tennis doesn’t have salaries, remember? A tennis player makes a living by winning his or her matches. Why should men players win a bigger prize for winning as many matches as women?
Simon mentions that there should be equality in all spheres of life, but not in entertainment. Alas, tennis isn’t entertainment for the players involved–it’s a job.
Prize money should be equal. Where the difference could and should be notable is with sponsorships and television deals. That’s where Maria Sharapova can get a great sponsorship deal with Nike, because she is Maria Sharapova.
In sponsorships, it’s not supposed to be fair or equal. It’s where Sharapova is a much bigger name than Simon.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
November 26, 2012
This edition of the column is different in the sense that rather than tackling one single topic, it will serve as a de facto awards ceremony. The categories are absolutely arbitrary and reflect nothing but my own subjective experience of the 2012 tennis season as a fan and columnist.
…Cue the music.
The Alpha Male of the Year Elbow
…To Novak Djokovic. The Serb didn’t live up to his astounding 2011 season, but there was no way that he could. That said, Djokovic still captured six titles, including the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and the Australian Open, and won more matches (i.e. 75) than anybody else but David Ferrer–and he came this close of winning Roland Garros and the US Open as well. The Djoker entered the season as the alpha male, and he ends it as such. Enough said.
The She’s All That Elbow
…To Serena Williams. Despite what the WTA Tour rankings say, the 31-year-old has been the best tennis player for the past few years, and her dominance was on full display in 2012. Yet, that didn’t happen right away–her first half of the season was marred by inconsistency and disappointment. And then, Serena won Wimbledon, the 2012 London Olympics, the US Open and the Tour Championships to conclude the season, and that was that. She proved that she’s the best player of her generation and that when she plays up to her standards, everyone else is only playing for second fiddle.
The When Life Gives You Moments Elbow
…To anyone who watched the 2012 Australian Open Men’s final live, because never has not sleeping felt so energizing. I remember coming back from an evening out for a friend’s birthday party, ordering a McChicken combo at the McDonald’s restaurant near my apartment complex and settling in on my couch for the match. Soon enough, it was about 7:30 a.m. and Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were still playing. That’s when I realized that I wouldn’t sleep that night. It feel surreal, but I was delighted–sometimes, life brings you little moments of joy. When that happens, all you have to do is shut up and soak it all in because it’ll usually be over too quickly.
The Six Inches In Front of Your Face Elbow
…To the 2012 Australian Open Men’s Final, won by Djokovic over Rafael Nadal by the score of 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5) and 7-5. Over 5:53 minutes of play, the two best players on Tour (i.e. at that time) battled in a total war of attrition that Nadal didn’t lose as much as it was that he couldn’t win it. Afterward, both players were so spent that they couldn’t stand up for the trophy ceremonies. There had to be a winner, and it turned out to be Djokovic–but, really, all of us who watched were the ones who had won.
The King Roger Elbow
…To King Roger himself, Roger Federer. Improbably, Federer enjoyed a great 2012 after what had been a difficult previous season, at least according to his standards. Despite turning 31 during the season, King Roger just keeps on humming along. It would be so easy for him to simply ride away in the sunset, but fortunately for everyone involved he hasn’t. It seems like there’s nothing left for him to accomplish, but that doesn’t mean that he will stop playing. And regardless if he does or doesn’t, it’s not true that he has accomplished everything he could–this season, he broke the 300-week barrier ranked No. 1. So long as King Roger plays, and plays well, this Elbow will likely stay his.
The Little Engine That Could Elbow
…To David Ferrer. At 30 years of age, “the other Spaniard” enjoyed possibly the finest season of his career with 7 titles and 76 Tour wins. Ferrer also finally won the first Masters 1000 event of his career in Paris. Ferrer is stuck as the seemingly eternal fifth wheel behind Nadal, Murray, Federer and Djokovic. He’s accepted that, and is intent on making the most of it. He deserves so much more, but deserve has nothing to do with it.
The Kleenex Moment Elbow
…To Andy Murray after the 2012 Wimbledon final. Everyone will point to his capturing the gold medal at the Olympics and the US Open title over Djokovic as the two clear highlights of his career so far–and that they are. But before winning those two titles, Murray lost a different one, at Wimbledon against Federer. And it’s after that loss that Murray enjoyed his finest moment. “Well, I’m getting closer. I’m going to try this, and it’s not going to be easy,” he said as his voice broke. And right there and then, nary a soul didn’t choke up and feel for Murray. “Oh no I’m not crying, I just have something in my eye.” Right, of course.
The Maybe She’s Born With It Elbow
…To meeting and interviewing Maria Sharapova in a media scrum at the 2012 Rogers Cup in my native Montreal. The Russian who looks like Anna Kournikova also happens to be a great champion. Though she didn’t play at the Rogers Cup, Sharapova did meet with the media at the beginning of the week and it turns out that she’s a willing interviewee, which for some reason surprised me.
The Groupie Moment Elbow
…To myself. Attending the 2012 Rogers Cup has been the highlight of my young career–I met and networked with some of the more accomplished reporters, and interviewed most of the WTA players (i.e. here’s what I wrote on the experience). But before I did all of that, I attended the official player party inside a downtown Montreal hotel. And there, I met and interviewed Ana Ivanovic, who is the closest thing to my favourite player in women’s tennis. I’m ashamed to say that our ensuing conversation lasted all of 20 seconds.
The Sayonara Elbow
…To three soldiers who say goodbye to the sport of tennis. Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters and Lleyton Hewitt all played their last matches in 2012, and tennis is at a worse place for it. While none of the three players will live on in history as all-timers, all three enjoyed stellar careers that might, one day, see them enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame. They’ll be missed.
The Knee of the Year Elbow
…To Rafael Nadal, who proves that you don’t need 99 problems if you have a big one. The 26-year-old was at his usual best this year during the clay court swing, capturing the Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Rome and Roland Garros titles. This all came after the Australian Open, which he would have won had he played against anybody else but Djokovic. His loss at Wimbledon against Lukas Rosol, in what was an absolutely classic match, is the last time Nadal played. The culprit? A faulty knee, which just might dictate how the 2013 season unfolds.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
November 19, 2012
The 2012 ATP season has concluded, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any quality tennis being played anymore. For one thing, Czech Republic defeated Spain 3-2 to capture the season’s coveted Davis Cup title after a key victory by the ageless wonder himself, Radek Stepanek, over Nicolas Almagro–6-4, 7-6 (0), 3-6, 6-3.
In Toronto, meanwhile, Canadian Milos Raonic was the star of the Sport Chek Face-Off on Nov. 16, 2012. There was some quality tennis played at the event, held at the Air Canada Centre in front of a crowd of 6,558, but that wasn’t apparent right away.
Organized by Largardère Unlimited and Tennis Canada, the Face-Off had three acts, and the first were the celebrity mixed doubles matches. For them, Brad Smith, who’s apparently the Bachelor star, TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos, actor Adrian Grenier and CFL commissioner Mark Cohon joined Andy Roddick, Raonic, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanksa–actual tennis pros–for a series of pseudo-matches.
Of the four celebrities, Cohon probably was the best tennis player–it’s nice to see the CFL finally come out on top, right? But Cohon wasn’t the star of the first act. That was Grenier, who proved that acting isn’t the thing he’s most middling at in this world–there’s tennis.
Then, Serena Williams and Agnieszka Radwanska played two sets. Though the match was billed as a rematch of their relatively good 2012 Wimbledon final, it disappointed. Radwanska avenged her Wimbledon loss, as much as an exhibition win can ever avenge a Grand Slam final loss, by beating the youngest of the Williams sisters 6-4 and 6-4.
There are two ways to make an event like the Sport Chek Face-Off a memorable one–with a memorable match or with one where the players interact with the crowd.
Unfortunately, this Radwanska/Williams clash was neither. In the first set, Radwanska quickly jumped ahead 5-0 and, before long, had won the set 6-4. Though the second set was tighter, it wasn’t more compelling. That a beautiful between-the-legs shot from Radwanska turned out to be the highlight says a lot.
And yet, the exhibition match between Raonic and the newly retired Roddick was everything that Serena/Radwanska wasn’t. It’s Roddick who won the match–6-4, 4-6 and 10-7. However, the score line was the boring part.
The matchup was a good one for reasons that had little to do with their respective playing style–power and attacking tennis. What made it a great matchup is the difference in their character. While Raonic is ever cool, calm and seemingly emotionless on the tennis court, Roddick is the opposite and during his playing days he often went as his emotions did.
But against Raonic, the 30-year-old and ex-World No. 1 player seemed peaceful–he will likely have a long and successful post-playing career in events like this one. Roddick interacted with the crowd, with Raonic and obliged every single time that Wayne Bryan, who happens to be the father of Bob and Mike Bryan, asked him to mimic another player with his serve motion–Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal. (And yet, it’s when Raonic mimicked Roddick that the crowd laughed the most.)
The aim for an event like this one is that it manages to further establish the sport of tennis in hockey-crazed Canada. With tennis, that’s the aim in Canada–it always is. Raonic is currently ranked No. 13 on the ATP World Tour rankings, and with each of his wins there’s the potential for growth. He’s the flag bearer for tennis in this country, and he’s been good at it so far. The next step will be a major victory.
For 2012, growing the sport meant broadcasting the event live on TSN. This proved that even when the points don’t matter, it still matters.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
October 21, 2012
A scintillating season on the WTA will conclude this week at the WTA Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. With five of the eight combatants having won a major at some point throughout their careers, this year’s culminating event should provide a great end to a physical 2012.
Entering the event with two straight titles in Beijing and Linz, world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka continues to prove that her incredible start to the year was no fluke. Compiling a 67-8 record on the season, the Belarusian has bagged six titles and just short of seven million in prize money. Azarenka stands at 14-5 against the other participants in the event (this year), but with a less-than-impressive 31-26 career mark against her upcoming foes.
Azarenka isn’t a shoe-in for the year-end No. 1 just yet; she’ll have to win at least two round robin matches to claim that honor.
Elsewhere, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams—the two other draw-cards this week—will be out in full force to put an exclamation mark on their own memorable seasons. For Sharapova, 2012 will always center around Paris and the completion of a career slam. Fighting through her least favorite surface on the red clay, Sharapova accomplished her ultimate challenge before falling to her knees. In saying that, though, Sharapova has been a shell of herself since that victory in France, and a good showing here would give her confidence heading into 2013.
By absolutely dominating the summer circuit, Serena took home a Wimbledon title, the Olympic Gold and the US Open crown. Not bad for a 31-year-old, eh? When fit and willing to compete, Serena remains in the eyes of many the player to beat in any tournament. However, given the fact that she hasn’t played an event since winning in New York, one has to think that she won’t be at her dominating best? Or will she?
At any rate, Serena’s quest for the title in Turkey will also be challenged by Wimbledon finalist Agi Radwanska, Wimbledon semifinalist Angelique Kerber, former Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova, French Open finalist Sara Errani and former French Open winner Li Na.
With a line-up like that, it’s easy to imagine that there will be some close matches and memorable moments in Istanbul to close out the WTA calender.
Let’s now take a look at the two groups for this year’s finale and who will walk away the winner by week’s end.
Featuring: Azarenka, Williams, Kerber and Li
Led by the Azarenka’s intensity, the top seed will have to fend off a tough group consisting of 15-time slam winner Serena and former Roland Garros champion Li Na.
On paper (or on the court) it would be silly to pick against Azarenka and Serena to plow through into the semifinals, but what about Kerber and Li? Kerber is a modest 4-2 this fall, while holding a poor record against Azarenka and Li. The feisty German does have a career win over Serena, but when push comes to shove I don’t expect her to come up with a second victory here.
Azarenka is a solid 13-0 post US Open and hasn’t lost a set since New York; Serena by contrast hasn’t played an event since winning in the Big Apple. So, what does this all mean? Does it matter if Serena hasn’t played a tournament since the beginning of September? I’d say no. She has proved time-and-time again that little play equals great results, and that shouldn’t be any different here.
The match of this group clearly remains Azarenka vs. Serena, and the outcome could very well set the tone for who walks away with the title.
At his point I’ll have to stick with the two favorites to advance, but watchout for Kerber to put up a good showing.
Picks: Azarenka, Serena
Featuring: Sharapova, Radwanska, Kvitova and Errani
Indoors have always been good to Sharapova throughout her career, but I still feel that she plays her best ball under the sun. Although Sharapova has had a great year-to-date, she has been blown out of her last two finals at the Olympics and Beijing. Sharapova will have to dig deep this week, but her group—which is much more manageable than Azarenka’s—should allow her to reach the weekend’s action.
Radwanska continues to delight any crowd she plays in front of with her court-craft and consistency, while Kvitova’s 1-2 record this fall could put an end to her title defense.
I think it’s safe to say that Errani is just happy to be here and make the top eight. Playing with passion and defense all year, the Italian’s serve is just too weak to do damage indoors.
All in all, I believe Radwanska turned a corner at Wimbledon and is ready for a strong end to 2012. That includes reaching the semis in Istanbul and joining the power-hitting Russian.
Picks: Sharapova, Radwanska
October 1, 2012
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon wonders which of the current WTA Tour players will live on in history.
The current era of women’s tennis, dominated by American Serena Williams, started unofficially with the retirement of the great Steffi Graf in 1999, and it’s a weird one.
It’s a weird one, because it’s so wide-open. While Serena is the signature player, it’s difficult to identify who’s second to her. Still, let’s try it.
In 10, 20 or 30 years from now, who will tennis pundits remember when they look back on this period? Another way of asking this same question is to wonder which of the current players is timeless. There are plenty of gifted players with relatively impressive accomplishments–but how many of them will be legends by the time that they retire?
(On the men’s side, the answer is more obvious, as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will all definitely live on in history–and so might Andy Murray. A few others are also great players will lasting resumes.)
The first name, of course, is Serena. By now, the 30-year-old’s reputation is well assured. Most of her biggest accomplishments were listed in last week’s column, and for now let’s simply say that Serena is among the best in history. Her 45 singles titles, including 15 Grand Slams, and one Olympic gold medal are unequaled in today’s tennis. Her career results put her closer to the immortal (i.e. Steffi Graf, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova) than the merely great (i.e. Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario).
Staying in the Williams family, Venus will also likely be remembered as a great player of the 2000s. Though she’s mostly seen as Serena’s older sister these days, it’s easy to forget how accomplished she is in her own right. At 32 years old, Venus’s best days are behind her, but she has won 7 Grand Slam tournaments, and 43 career titles so far in her career. Because of health problems, Venus doesn’t play as much as she used to and when she does, she’s not at her best. And yet, she remains one of the greats.
(Beside the two Williams sisters, Martina Hingis and Justine Henin-Hardenne are two contemporaries who will live on–but they’re retired now so why bother, right?)
The current World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka could make a case that she will be this decade’s signature player, especially after her strong showing against Serena Williams at this year’s US Open. She is still young at 23 years old, and has a Grand Slam title under her belt unlike her predecessor at No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki. More importantly, she seems hungry for many more–that’s why she could very well impose her will on the rest of the Tour once Serena retires.
Maria Sharapova’s case is interesting as well. The 25-year-old Russian has 27 career singles titles and, most importantly, was twice ranked World No. 1. Though she only has four career Grand Slam titles, she has one of each and has completed the career Slam. It’s not quite the Williams resume, but it’s pretty great.
Are there still others? Probably not. Na Li became the first Chinese female player to win a Grand Slam title after winning Roland Garros in 2011, but she’s not likely to do much more to trump that–and that’s not to minimize the magnitude of her accomplishment. Meanwhile, though Wozniacki was once ranked No. 1, it seemed more because nobody else could. Finally, a player like Ana Ivanovic seemed overwhelmed from the moment that she broke through by winning the 2008 Roland Garros title and becoming World No. 1.
As for the rest, well, they’ll have careers that ranges anywhere from middling to forgettable. And there’s nothing wrong with that–it’s still much better than many. Really, that’s the lesson here.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG
September 24, 2012
Serena Williams should take a bow, but she won’t because that’s something she would never do. She should take a bow, because she’s the greatest singles player of her era and we’re all clapping her on at this point.
That’s the unofficial title that she has cemented with her stellar results this past summer. Serena started by avenging a poor showing at the French Open, where she lost in the first round, and an overall disappointing first half to the 2012 season, by winning the Wimbledon Championships. As the sixth seed, she lost only one set in defeating in succession the fourth seed Petra Kvitova, the 2nd seed Victoria Azarenka and the third seed Agnieszka Radwanska in her last three matches for the fifth Wimbledon title of her career.
It turns out that Serena was only warming up.
A month later, she covered herself in Olympic gold with just about a perfect week–she won every set that she played and every game but a mere 17. It was a feat as impressive as any in recent memory, as symbolized by her dismantling of Maria Sharapova, then ranked No. 2, in the gold medal match by the score of 6-0 and 6-1.
She simply couldn’t lose and yet, it’s like she had in the eyes of many when she celebrated her gold medal win with an impromptu “crip walk” dance. Though she had suffered health setbacks in the past year (i.e. pulmonary embolism in 2011) that threatened her career, this proved that she hadn’t changed. She “crip walked” on the hollow grounds of the All England Club, because she could. Whether it was intentional or careless was beside the point, because Serena has never been one for etiquette.
For her last act of the summer, Serena captured the US Open. Once again, she was dominant and, until the final, it didn’t look like she’d ever lose. And even in the first set against World No. 1 Azarenka, Serena was in control and won 6-2. But then Azarenka fought back, something that most players never do against the 30-year-old American, and took the second set 7-5 and even had a chance to serve the match out.
She didn’t, of course, because Serena won. And Serena won, because she’s as determined and competitive as anybody else on the WTA Tour. At London and then at the US Open, she proved that she is the type of player for whom the outcome of matches seems to depend only on what she does, because usually Serena will be stronger mentally and have stronger technique than her opponent. That’s not true, but it often looks like Serena wins or loses entirely because of what she does on the court.
Of course, it had been obvious for a while now that the American was a timeless player. She has won over $40 million in prize money in her career, which puts her first among women and fourth all-time among all tennis players. Serena turned professional way back in September of 1995, and yet she still has only 108 losses. That’s how she has managed to be ranked No. 1 five times while twice winning the Tour Championships as well.
Add 45 singles titles and 15 Grand Slams, and it’s an impressive list of accomplishments for the woman who was raised and who started playing tennis in Compton. In the Open era, only Steffi Graff, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova have more Grand Slam titles than her. And this season, Serena has demonstrated that she definitely belongs with these three players and that she is far beyond a Martina Hingis or a Monica Seles. She has ensured that whenever someone looks back at this era in women’s tennis, it’s her name that will be the first to come to mind.
At some point, Serena will retire, and then Azarenka, or anybody else, might actually be the top player on Tour. Until then, don’t let the rankings fool you–every route to glory still goes through Serena Williams. Let’s enjoy this while it’s still the case.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG