Friday, December 28, 2007

My 2007 list

Every year, sports writers say that it was a great year for tennis. And every year is a great year. This year was a poignant year, however. A lot happened. Here is my take on it:

BEST PERFORMANCE
Justine Henin, hands down. Henin is a brilliant tennis player who, despite a number of very thorny obstacles--a debilitating virus, personal problems, short stature--has come into her own in a very big way. Henin's control of every surface is admirable, her mental toughness is virtually unsurpassed, and her shot-making is dazzling.

WORST PERFORMANCE
Svetalana Kuznetsova. Yes, she's number 2 in the world, but she can now be counted on to mess up consistently at big moments, and sometimes in very big ways. She is especially vulnerable to Henin (kind of like Clijsters was), but she is shaky on many important occasions. My runner-up would be Anna Chakvetadze, who went to pieces in the second half of the season

BEST COMEBACK
Daniela Hantuchova. One is tempted to grant this designation to Serena Williams, for her brilliant Australian Open performance, but Williams could not keep the momentum going. Hantuchova, on the other hand, continued her long, slow climb back to the top after a major drop-off of several years, and managed to win two tournaments and get to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour Championships, where she performed quite well, despite a 1-2 record.

MOST IMPROVED
Ana Ivanovic, who added some brain power to her forehand power. And I give a nod to Sania Mirza for doing the same thing.

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER
This is a tough one, but I'm going to go with Tamira Paszek, with recognition to both Victoria Azarenka and Agnes Szavay.

MOST VULNERABLE
Jelena Jankovic, who I happen to think is a brilliant player, but who needs to do some serious re-tuning if she is to stay in the top five and win a major. She needs to play less (she says she has taken care of this problem on her 2008 calendar), get a better first serve, get a much better second serve, and beat Henin, in order to get a psychological boost. She has had some surgery to correct her breathing problems, and that will help her, too. But if Jankovic cannot make some changes and win a Grand Slam tournament, she will turn out to be one of the biggest under-achievers in the recent history of women's tennis.

WORST DEVELOPMENT
The unfortunate retirement of the great Martina Hingis. Cocaine is not a performance-enhancing drug, so even if she used it, what kind of crazy system punishes her for it like this? Hingis probably would not have stuck around too much longer anyway, but her forced 2007 exit is not the way she should have left us.

The other really bad occurrence was the absence of Amelie Mauresmo because of health problems. First it was the appendicitis, then the resulting injury after she recovered. She says she's in good health now, so we can hope for a great 2008.

BEST TOURNAMENT COVERAGE IN THE U.S.
The Tennis Channel--but the commentary has gotten worse lately, so I'm not exactly endorsing it.

WORST TOURNAMENT COVERAGE IN THE U.S.
The perennial winner--ESPN

SADDEST FAREWELL
Kim Clijsters, who left the tour long before we wanted her to. Clijsters, who left abuptly because of her pregnancy, had already planned to quit this year because of her poor, broken body.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT
Patty Schnyder honed her serve to make it better than ever, finessesed her way to some more finals, and still didn't win them.

BEST GRAND SLAM WIN
Serena Williams, who came from kind of nowhere and blew everyone away.

MOST ENTERTAINING PERFORMANCE
Marion Bartoli, who--channeling Monica Seles--whacked both Jankovic and Henin to get to the finals of Wimbledon. Winning the whole thing would have been even better, but still, the artless, nonconforming Bartoli gave me my most exciting tennis-watching moments of 2007.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

biggest disappointment - you can add elena dementieva! :P

good luck to Amelie in 08! she had 2 training sessions on xmas day on the Gold coast! at this rate...she should cream the opposition!

Dani

Diane said...

Ah, Elena...talk about an under-achiever. I keep hoping...

Anonymous said...

That tranny Jankovic will not be the greatest under-achiever in tennis. She's had only 1 1/2 years of being in the spotlight. Moreover her game and results till now do not even qualify her to be an under-achiever in anyway, not to mention in the history of tennis.

I'm looking forward to see her fall flat in 2008, I would LOL

Diane said...

Anon, while I respect your right to disagree with me about JJ's talent (and I think we are using the term "under-achiever" in different ways, which is fine), I have no idea why your obvious repugnance about her appearance is relevant, or why your discomfort with transgenderism is relevant.

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Anonymous said...

Jelena could potentially lose ALOT of points this year if she cuts down on the # of tournies she plays. On the other hand if she want to avoid burn out and stay injury free she NEEDS to cut down! so it's a catch 22 and no doubt she will pay for playing so much this year! she needs to focus more on quality not quantity! (look at little Juju!)

Diane said...

Your point is a good one, Anon. I dislike the ranking system, but the players are stuck with it. But better she lose her ranking points than do a repeat of 2007, in my opinion. And yes, Justine does it right.

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