Sunday, January 21, 2007

It was the (insert word here) of times ...

"Those who can, do. Those who can't, pretend they know what the hell is going on with those who can."
My words. I know. They're beautiful. Thank you.
'Bout wraps up my feelings of superiority when it comes to tennis knowledge, too. Really, what effin' moron picked Marat Safin to make the semis, and Jelena Jankovic to win the whole thing? Shouldn't I have known that Andy Roddick was mentally improving at a rate that no one could predict? That although Serena Williams' lack of activity would mount to retirement to most, she could still beat the snot out of top 10 players?
This, in particular, either bothers me, or convinces me that women's tennis is about to get very interesting. Jelena Jankovic, for example, is match-tough. Since January 1, she's won one title and took Kim Clijsters to the limit in another. She's fit. She's smart. She's ranked eleventh in the world.
She just lost in the 4th round of the Australian Open to a woman who played three matches before the Open, and sixteen in all of last year. Serena Williams, who could stand to lose (at least) ten pounds in order to regain some semblance of fitness, is taking down seeds at a major like she's nineteen again. I'm not talking about seeds like Elena Dementieva, either. Her other scalp is Nadia Petrova, only number five in the world.
So. Is women's tennis at a place where the top is comprised of those who avert injury enough to play a full schedule? Or are things about to get very interesting? A bit of both, I think.
Even with two Slams under her belt, all you need to know about Amelie Mauresmo is that you just never know. And Svetlana Kuznetsova, without question, grabbed a Slam when the women's game was in a freefall. She was ranked third in Australia, and lost in the fourth round. Their victors, Shahar Peer and Lucie Safarova, are no slouches, and, by all counts, are legitimate up-and-comers. Especially with Kuznetsova, though, the question of whether a three seed is too high for her at a major has been answered emphatically.
Would the top 10 list look dramatically different if not for the injuries/departures of the Williams sisters, Clijsters, Davenport, Hingis and Capriati? Yes. And if you know the game, I bet you have an idea who just who wouldn't be there.
But are Peer and Safarova tough players? Hell yes. What we're seeing now in the women's game (I hope) is the development of depth. Soon, perhaps, it'll shake out like the men's game, where you have your top echelon, but you have those guys who always make things interesting. What's great about men's tennis is that there may be players you've never heard of, but they've got game. Most men's first-round matches aren't thirty minutes long.
To paraphrase Alexandre Dumas, now we just have to wait and hope. Wait to see if Peer and Safarova are the real deal. Hope that Serena doesn't get bored again, and that Venus, and even Henin-Hardenne come back soon. (I can't believe I wrote that. Now, you see the desperate nature of this situation.) And see what happens if the best of the present and future collide.

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