I’m glad to announce the re-birth of this blog which it is fair to say has been somewhat forgotten over the past couple of years bar a few posts at the beginning of 2008. This has been down to a number of factors including a six month period working 65+ hours between two jobs and a lengthy and very intense relationship with someone who despite being a competent if inexperienced player was ultimately uninterested in the sport.
‘Henman is shit cos he never won anything did he!’….that sort of thing.
Private distractions aside, it is important to admit that I had become a little disillusioned with tennis, and yes rather disheartened too. I didn’t want to accept that my favourite players were fading away or retiring altogether as the game continued to move at a blinding rate in terms of fitness, power and mental toughness. The men’s game has seen a real generational shift as the great names from not so long ago are quickly plummeting down the rankings by injury and the new standards required to compete at the top: Safin, Hewitt, Ferrero, Blake, Robredo, Haas, Nalbandian are all players that have featured in the sports elite for a long time just a few years ago.
It is hard to imagine any of them reaching or certainly maintaining a spot in the top ten now, which is very sad.
I will touch more on this ‘changing of the guard’ in a future post.
With the WTA the case is more drastic, with big names not just slipping away, but retiring altogether!
In a year that saw Kim Clijsters leave the tour there was also Martina Hingis’ (re)retirement late in 2007 which will forever be marred by the controversy surrounding the Wimbldeon 2006 cocaine tests. Capriati and Davenport have all but left the sport, and last year of course saw the biggest loss of all to the women’s game with Justine Henin hanging up her racquet in May ranked at no.1
It was this which really left a void in the WTA – that number one spot left so dramatically by the Belgian was duly swapped between a number of players for the remainder of the year. Sharapova (inheriting the summit automatically from Henin, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams and finally Dinara Safina who still stands (not so) pretty at the top of the world at the time of writing.
The still too inconsistent Williams duo aside, the above list is a little embarrassing for the sport. Yes, the likes of Ivanovic and Jankovic are fine players and certainly top 5 material, but the best?
It was always going to be a year of transition, and with the aforementioned new crop of players swarming into the top 20 there was always going to be change.
But apart from Ivanovic’s 2008 French Open triumph over Safina the Grand Slam haul from these new names has been non existent. Partly this is due to such heights being reached far too early, not so much in terms of age although the eastern European girls are still in their early twenties. Rather in terms of the transition from top ten stalwarts (just about) to the very height of the profession.
It simply proved too much.
As a result we have seen upsets aplenty in the Slams and major tournaments, and while this does indeed show a real strength in overall quality within the top 100 and certainly the top 40 ladies – sometimes sport needs a champion or a recognisable elite few who can be relied upon to produce masterful and formidable tennis at the worlds biggest stages. Surely that is what a top ten of anything should deliver.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in the current men’s game – we have an established band of players both young and old producing consistently quality tennis. Of course the likes of Federer, Murray and even the great Nadal (as seen most spectacularly in Paris recently) are still losing, but they remain the dominant forces and thus offer credibility to the sport.
To finish this patchy recap – and as a precursor to my top twenty profiles piece – lets just look at how the top ten has changed from this time last year with the ATP and WTA.
ATP Rankings 9 June 2008 ATP Rankings 8 June 2009
1.Roger Federer 1. Rafael Nadal
2. Rafael Nadal 2. Roger Federer
3. Novak Djokovic 3. Andrew Murray
4. Nikolay Davydenko 4. Novak Djokovic
5. David Ferrer 5. Juan Martin Del Potro
6. Andy Roddick 6. Andy Roddick
7. James Blake 7. Gilles Simon
8. David Nalbandian 8. Fernando Verdasco
9. Stanislas Wawrinka 9. Jo Wilfred Tsonga
10. Richard Gasquet 10. Fernando Gonzalez
WTA Tope Ten Wimbledon Seeds 2008 WTA Rankings 8 June 2009
1. Ana Ivanovic 1. Dinara Safina
2. Jelena Jankovic 2. Serena Williams
3. Maria Sharapova 3. Venus Williams
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova 4. Elena Dementieva
5. Elena Dementieva 5. Svetlana Kuznetsova
6. Serena Williams 6. Jelena Jankovic
7. Venus Williams 7. Vera Zvonareva
8. Anna Chakvetadze 8. Victoria Azarenka
9. Dinara Safina 9. Caroline Wozniaki
10. Daniela Hantuchova 10. Nadia Petrova