Sunday, February 17, 2013

Azarenka defeats Williams, wins Doha

The WTA called it a "dream final," and for Victoria Azarenka, it was probably a dream come true. The world number 1 (well, at least until tomorrow) defeated her tennis nemesis, Serena Williams, 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 in the final of the Qatar Total Open in Doha. Azarenka is now 2-11 against Williams, who will become the world number 1 when the rankings are published tomorrow.

Azarenka had to save a set point in the first set tiebreak, and when she won that tiebreak, it was hard not to think about the fact that--71 consecutive times, after winning the first set--Azarenka has won the match. That's quite a statistic. The top seed's serve abandoned her in the second set, however, and she was broken fairly easily by Williams, who won the set 6-2.

The third set was a test of Azarenka's mental strength. She was a bit shaky as she served the first game, but then something clicked into place, and the next thing you knew, she was up 3-0. That had to make her feel good, but she wasn't facing just anyone--she was playing Serena Williams. No worries, though. Azarenka went up 5-2, though Williams held for 3-5. Azarenka's final service game was smooth and easy, and she can now add Doha to her list of titles.

Williams was clearly what we would call "out of sorts" in this match, which lasted almost 2 1/2 hours. The new world number 1's only true weakness is her footwork, and when she's having an o.o.s. day, it becomes a major problem. By contrast, Azarenka's footwork was admirable, and her retrieving was nothing short of brilliant. This match was very enjoyable to watch, largely because of Azarenka's relentless return game.

Once again, commentators failed to pronounce the name of the country in which they were broadcasting, sometimes even mispronouncing it two different ways (both incorrect) in the same sentence.

And that brings me to a discussion I watched (well, I watched part of it) on Tennis Channel yesterday. A group of experts moaned about the good old days when the Williams sisters were at the top of the tour, or when Martina Hingis ruled. Their reason? Those players were well known by fans, and today's top players aren't. Well, whose fault is that? With the exception of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, the media machine has pretty much ignored the WTA's top players--except to launch constant attacks on Azarenka. The WTA doesn't seem to care about this situation, and perhaps it's just as well, because a strong marketing effort to promote female athletes always means a strong effort to promote sexism and misogyny.

Play begins in Dubai tomorrow. If Azarenka gets to the final, she can be world number 1 again. That is, unless Williams gets to the final, too. In that case, Azarenka would have to beat Williams again in order to take the top ranking back.

22 comments:

Eric said...

Nice Diane -- An O.O.S. Day. Trademark that quick. I might just "borrow" it. :)

Diane said...

I should know--I've had enough of them lately :)

Karen said...

Diane, I was absolutely frustrated by Tennis Channel and their delayed broadcast of a match that I clearly wanted to see. I love both ladies and I am very happy for Vika. When you tape delay a match of that magnitude for no reason other than to show Destination Tennis you get a F in my book. The drama was gone and watching it on a buffering live stream did not make for good tennis watching. Also, can we please retire Kevin Skinner?

As to commentary, I heard the strangest thing during the delayed broadcast of the semifinal between Sharapova and Serena. They were showing Sharapova's win at Roland Garros last year and Harkleroad (bless her) mentioned that Sharapova had not beaten a top 20 opponent on her way to the title and began speaking about Errani and her results. Haber stopped her mid-sentence and told her not to talk about Errani, but to talk about Sharapova. The way he said it left no doubt in my mind what the media narrative is and how it is structured.

I was shocked as not only did that happen but then they went over the same thing again, this time with Harkleroad mouthing what Haber told her to say. I am sorry I did not have it on record because this was just a huge gaffe by Tennis Chanel.

Diane said...

I'm not surprised. I used to call it The Maria Channel. I'll never forget the WTA Championships match in which Petrova ran over Sharapova I straight sets. All they talked about was how great Maria was. During the entire match, Nadia--who was destroying 'Pova--was mentioned by name ONE time.

I watched the Doha final on Tennis Tv and didn't have to deal with TC's ridiculous scheduling. I watch on TT most of the time, anyway, because they have good commentators.

Diane said...

I meant "in" straight sets.

Dougie said...

I watch all of my tennis on www.streamhunter.eu
Multiple feeds give a choice if one is not working well, and the further choice of whether one wants American, British or other country commenters. It's free and one merely needs to bookmark it and select the time zone difference. For instance, I pick GMT-8 here in Los Angeles. Relief!!! No TC crap. The Brits are by far the most objective commenters.

Diane said...

I don't think we can use streamhunter in the U.S. I've been very satisfied with Tennis TV. I watch it on the iPad.

Anonymous said...

Anybody can use streamhunter. Just go to their url.

Diane said...

Good to know. If TTCV crashes, which it does on occasion, I have a new streaming resource. I like to have a few backups. By and large, though, TTV is a really good thing.

Doug said...

The British commentators are far more objective than the Americans. Annabel Croft really knows her stuff and does not play favorites.

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