Sunday, September 11, 2016

U.S. Open: Greatly exaggerated

Yes, I know Angelique Kerber is the new world No. 1 and the new U.S. Open champion. It still bugs me a little, but I think I realize why.

(Who hits a forehand like that?)
And this.

Also this.

Kerber wins ugly. It definitely isn't pretty. But she won the point in these freeze frames. No effortless power on one or both wings. No shut-it-down serve to get out a tight spot. (That lefty swinger out wide is not bad, though. But it's ugly. Just saying.) Commentators keep going on about Kerber and Agz Radwanska's ability to hit a tennis ball almost in a sitting position. That baffles me. Do they teach that in tennis class now? That's ugly and there's a more economic way to blunt power and keep yourself in a point, a fact that former professionals ought to be aware of. Hi!
Here's my coping problem. I want my world number ones to be dominant and indisputable. Not invincible, but able to withstand an attack. Like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Steffi Graf, or even early Martina Hingis. Justine Henin. Like Serena Williams, who, despite her age is still a No. 1 contender for maybe the next couple of years in my book. She's still a force. You can discard anyone who has such a deep bag of tricks, plus sheer power.
Is Kerber a force? No. Can she consistently withstand various challengers? Sure, she edged Karolina Pliskova yesterday, but could she do that again next month?
The work ethic is why you can't argue with Kerber's new ranking. She wins ugly. But she wins. She does this because she works hard. Here's a portion of a story from the WTA website about what Andrea Petkovic had to say about Kerber in 2011:

Fifteen of 18 matches lost. There aren't a lot of pro players that could survive that type of drought with their confidence anywhere in shouting distance. What kind of fortitude must it take to come out and take beating after beating before coming out of that tailspin? These paragraphs right here says all that you need to know about why Kerber is the highest-ranked player in the world now.
And yet, she doesn't excite me about the future of women's tennis. Sorry -- she just doesn't. Kerber is post-Serena, but she's 28. There's the likes of Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza waiting in the wings. Some players have a work ethic and ridiculous natural talent.
At best, I would consider Kerber a stopgap No. 1, between Serena and either Serena again or the next dominant player. She isn't likely to have a long reign, or add the spark that women's tennis desperately needs right now outside of Germany. (Kerber v. Pliskova was a great final, but I'd watch a men's match any day still.)
So to dramatically appropriate a line from "The Dark Knight," Kerber isn't the world No. 1 that we need right now. 
But she's the No. 1 she deserves.


Anonymous said...

is there another kind of fortitude besides mental?

Naf said...

Dully noted.

GLT said...

The 'squat' position keeps them from having to back off of the baseline, and helps them keep a better position on the court...since both Kerber and Aga are smaller in stature they need that position to hit more aggressive balls and, in Kerber's case, those angles that take her opponent off of the court.

GLT said...

And!!! I think Pliskova *could* be the next big thing. Right now my money is on her!

Naf said...

I love Pliskova's game. It is so economic and she rarely ever looks like she's swinging hard -- it's all body control.
I still am thinking Muguruza is future No. 1 material, and long-term, too. Hopefully, she'll pull out of this nosedive in time for Australia next year.
Not buying the squat thing. Most players just establish a strong base, bend their knees and block the ball back using the power from the opponent. You can stay in the point just fine -- and also, hopefully, protect those knees. Maybe I'm just old, but that looks painful to me and I know if I tried it, I would never get up. lol