Friday, December 29, 2017

The Official 2017 TWA Yearbook

And here I was, thinking I could wait until after Christmas and still get my last entry of the year in before the start of the 2018 season. But as I write, the first matches of the season have already been contested. So yeah. I'm thinking someone should do something about the lack of an offseason, especially considering we're coming off a season where half of the best men in the world didn't make it through the whole season.
But hey. What do I know. Actually, I know that the pro tennis season was one of the best things about 2017. So let's try and squeeze in a conversation about that before Serena Williams (!) plays her first match since January 2017, when she won the Australian Open while pregnant. Let's go!

Head of the Class: So, this season, the ATP and WTA had to deal with the same quandary -- the sudden loss of their top talent. But the players remaining handled it completely differently, I think. Serena Williams took the rest of the year off to have a baby and the other women spent the rest of the year playing hot potato. "No, you take the top ranking and all the Slams!" "Gah! No, you! Don't touch me!"
But most of these players didn't have anything in terms of experience on Mssrs. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. So when Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were felled by injury this season, Federer and Nadal knew what to do. But they were nice about it -- they split the four Slams evenly among them. So, for the second year in a row, there will be co-heads of the class. But this time, neither are women. Don't @ me.

Most Inspiring Player: This is a toss-up, because there is one guy who claimed wins against Fed and Nadal this season, but came up short in the Slams and in Davis Cup. He also has beaten Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios. Regardless, David Goffin might look like a bag of bones in oversized tennis shorts, but his game said much more. (His player page says he's 5-foot-11. Nah, right?) Next time you feel like you're outsized, out-powered and out-talented, well, you probably are. But before you take the bagel, consider that this year, Goffin shored up his weaknesses to prevail against some of the biggest names in the game. Except Grigor Dimitrov, of all people.
There is also one woman who has shown up quietly to all the Slams this year and made the final of three of them. Due to recent underwhelming results, no one really expected Venus Williams to be a force this season. But there she was, on one half of the court during some the best matches of the year. She did this being older by her opponents by often a decade at least, and sometimes without her best tennis. She never did it with a coach in her ear at every timeout. She's old-school in every way -- except she's not quite ready for the senior tour. And when Venus is on a roll, it's best to let that roll go. Am I right, Jennifer?

Most Popular: Maria Sharapova, of course. She really was the belle of the ball. Never has anyone returned from a drug ban to such pomp, including a tournament holding a spot for her after it had already started until the end of her suspension. I might have noted once or twice how unimpressed I was with how her suspension went down, but fans didn't care. When tournament organizers thought that she might qualify to get into Wimbledon, they sold tickets to those rounds -- and people bought them! (Remember when Sharapova said she'd play anywhere, even a New York City street? Turned out that enthusiasm didn't extend to, like, qualifiers.) So there you go. The people (who aren't me) have spoken. 

Most Likely to Succeed: Garbine Muguruza, like the other women on the WTA Tour, has been unsteady this year, but her run to the Wimbledon title, including her utter domination of the second half of the final match, makes me think she's got a shot at hitting the ground running next year. Whatever her obstacles, they seem to be between the ears. 

Most Likely to Succeed ... at Something Other than Tennis: Martina Hingis, who probably should consider another profession because it would appear she has done just about everything possible in tennis. I'm sure that if she took up MMA boxing, it'd go okay. I guess. She might be slight, but Hingis will cut you.

That Student Who Skates Through the School Year, But Aces the Final Exam: Looking at you, Caroline Wozniacki. She had a solid season, although she came up short in most of the final matches she played. Until September, when she won her first final out of seven tries. And then. She goes to the WTA Finals and beats Venus, who she had never beaten before.