Sunday, August 18, 2013

Do we finally have a rivalry?

Unlike most fans, I don't need a big rivalry to enjoy tennis. I'm not sure why--I certainly enjoyed the Evert-Navratilova rivalry--but after that, rivalries ceased to matter to me. But for most fans, I think they do matter, and maybe--just maybe--a real one is finally brewing between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka beat Williams 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 today to win the Cincinnati final, and the match was a total crowd-pleaser.

Azarenka was broken toward the end of the final set, but broke back when Williams served for the match; not many players can pull that off. There were a few "deciding moments" in the third set tiebreak: An inexplicabe unforced error from Williams, a double fault from Williams, and a "she didn't just do that!" volley from Azarenka. Azarenka is to be credited for her mental strength in this contest, and she looks really good going into the U.S. Open.

As for Serena, she won the U.S. Open Series when she defeated Li Na in the semifinals, which makes her the first WTA player to win the series twice. The world number 1 also won it in 2011.

The semifinal matches weren't pretty. None of the four players could serve very well, but Williams gets a pass for playing through some type of abdominal injury, and therefore not being able to serve "Serena style." Li's problem was, shall we say, not abdominal. In the other semifinal, Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic broke each other 23 times.

Wimbledon champions Hshieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai won the Cincinnati doubles title. They defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke 2-6, 6-3, 12-10. Hsieh and Peng were seeded 3rd.

The less-than-elegant semifinals had the ESPN commentators talking even more than usual. At one point, Pam Shriver mentioned Justine Henin, and described Henin as being high-strung, but "she hid it well." Yes--if you were wearing a blindfold and earplugs for a about a decade. Sometimes I just have to shake my head and wonder.

Qualifying in New Haven was under way this weekend, and first round main draw play began today. Sabine Lisicki defeated Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-1.


sunny nine said...

I thought Azarenka handled the pressure well-she didn't let it slip by when broken or mini-broken(is that a word?) Williams seemed to be "getting" Azarenka initially by hitting to the corners especially to one corner in particular where Azarenka couldn't get there or get a racquet on it. Azarenka's serving woes since Carlsbad final seemed to be tightened up as well as her net play and taking volleys high out of the air. She still was error-proned other shots although she had some good shots down the lines. Williams had Azarenka on a string often dictating play corner to corner. The last set and tiebreaker were difficult to pace (not sit) through. My husband went into the bedroom because he couldn't look. But a worthy final and given the h-t-h, I am not sure this is a rivalry nor do I care. (I don't care about the "Rafa-Roger" rivalry given things tailed off for Roger as he got older especially being 5 years older than Nadal-instead of being a rival Nadal is more like Federer's krytonite.) I think Williams is Sharapova's kryptonite also.

bill said...

Yes - it didn't take mad detective skills to deduce that JuJu was high-strung. Both a strength and a weakness for her.

Diane said...

At least Azarenka knows what is required--serve really well, and hit at Serena's body and feet. I enjoyed Azarenka in this match because she kept her confidence level high, even during hard times. I like to watch these two play each other.

Anonymous said...

Rivalries are not important to me, either. I just focus on each player's game: strokes, strategy, movement, variety. Of course, the personalities are of great interest too, although too much focus there could drive any fan back to school to obtain a degree in psychoanalysis.

Anonymous said...

Fitness is the crucial factor. Serena has put a few pounds back on in the last month or so. She was a step slower. Viktoria had gone up in weight, but is clearly on the way back down. Still not as quick as earlier in the year, but her mobility was enough today.

Karen said...

I love both women and I really enjoyed yesterday's match. Neither played very well, but when they did, man it was amazing tennis. The rallies were exquisite and how about those volleys from Vika during the TB. Amazing feel. I like also that they respect each other and the trophy ceremony had a little bit of everything. The women's final was a much better played match than the men and it was great to hear the commentators really enjoying Vika's play, as well as the fans in the stands. I am also happy that people are now appreciating Vika's game rather than focusing on her shrieks. Mayhap if Serena bows out of the USO early (God forbid) Vika will step up and really show the New York crowd that they can cheer for her to the end.