The Reuters global sports blog
Worthy number one or just a sad reflection of the way women’s tennis has evolved into a game of low-risk baseline slugging?
That is the question being asked after Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki was confirmed as the new world number one.
Is she worthy? Well, the WTA rankings system would suggest that she is — just as Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina were when they rose to the top without winning the game’s top prizes.
Over the course of the year the 20-year-old has proved the most consistent performer on Tour and the best-placed to benefit from the injury which has sidelined 13-times grand slam singles champion Serena Williams since she won Wimbledon.
Venus Williams must wish Kim Clijsters had stayed retired and enjoyed a relaxing life as a millionaire mum.
The Belgian returned to grand slam action for the first time in 31 months and has left each and every one of her opponents at the U.S. Open embarrassed.
It has been a tale of two draws at the U.S. Open, with the men’s seeds advancing full steam ahead and the women’s field in disarray.
Eight of the top 16 women’s seeds have been given the boot at Flushing Meadows, while all 16 men have strolled forward — the first time men’s seeds have marched in lock step into the third round of a grand slam.
Now is not a good time to compare the men’s game with the women’s and the question of value for money, both for the people who hand out the prize money and for those who buy the tickets, has come up again.
Three of the four women semi-finalists have yet to drop a set and three of the four quarter-finals — Dinara being the exception — together lasted less time than the fourth round battle between Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka under the new roof.
The trouble with a match as riveting as Andy Murray’s against Stanislas Wawrinka is that it’s very hard to find something good enough to follow it … and women’s quarter-final day at Wimbledon was singularly unable to do so.
From the sublime tennis provided by the British number one and the Swiss number two in an historic match under the new Centre Court roof, we went to a 6-1 6-2 victory for Venus Williams over Poland’s Agnieszka Radwanska that was ridiculously easy.
It’s beyond me how anyone can deride women’s tennis as being dull. The relentless changing of the guard at the top of the world rankings and the general air of a free-for-all that the grand slams are cited as weak points in the game, when the sheer unpredictability of women’s tennis (compared to the men’s game) is precisely the reason it should be celebrated.
What many of the critics are really bemoaning, I suspect, is that Maria Sharapova didn’t go on to become the women’s Roger Federer. And while you couldn’t help be enthralled by her Wimbledon match against Gisela Dulko of Argentina on Wednesday, the Russian’s nailbiting defeat beneath the sunshine on centre-court is only going to bring more tut-tuts about the state of the game.
“Clearly women’s tennis is better than men’s tennis. It’s way cattier, so it’s way more exciting to watch.”
Before the anti-sexism police start to wave their batons in my direction, I would like to clarify that these are not my words but those of 10-times grand slam champion Serena Williams, who lost in the Roland Garros quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Temper tantrums are more or less a thing of the past for Dinara Safina, who said on Tuesday that her rise to the world number one spot had been helped by her efforts to stop her angry mid-match outbursts.
Ditching most of the rages — which culminated at last year’s Roland Garros with some unsuspecting flowers near the court being decapitated — seems to have worked for the Russian as she stayed on track for a maiden grand slam title by reaching the French Open semis (although she did break one racket along the way).
If anyone deserves to make a successful comeback to top flight tennis it is Jelena Dokic.
When most players want a second bite of the cherry, it is because they enjoyed their careers so much the first time round and realised how much they missed it when they began to pursue other interests. If in doubt ask Martina Navratilova, (a blink and you’ll miss it singles return in 2004), Martina Hingis or even Kim Clijsters (who has had enough of changing nappies, perhaps).