Thursday, March 19, 2015

Mixed expectations in the desert

"A desert is a place without expectation."
Nadine Gordimer

Yesterday, when world number 1 Serena Williams defeated a red-hot Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets at the BNP Paribas Open, she said repeatedly that she hadn't expected to get this far in the tournament. In fact, this "I didn't think I would get this far" phrase has been one of Williams' favorites for the past year or so. 

I, for one, don't believe a word of it. Serena Williams' return to Indian Wells, while it may represent a turning point in her sorrow and anger over an incident that occurred many years ago, also represents an opportunity for her to win a huge event she hasn't been available to win in a long time. The top seed is there grab a big trophy, as well she should be.

But while Williams' stated expectations don't really jive with reality, other expectations really have been turned over in the desert in the past several days:

2nd seed Maria Sharapova was taken out in the 4th round by a clearly emotional Flavia Pennetta, the tournament's defending champion. A sometimes-crying Pennetta lost the first set, but then--in true Fighting Italian style--got herself together and dismantled Sharapova.

British number 1 Heather Watson upset 2014 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round. Watson, however, then went out to Carla Suarez Navarro in the next  round.

Elina Svitolina eliminated Ekaterina Makarova, Belinda Bencic beat comeback player Caroline Wozniacki, and the tour's other comeback player, Ana Ivanovic, was defeated by Caroline Garcia. 

Very notable is qualifier Lesia Tsurenko, who--so far--has beaten 9th seed Andrea Petovic, 20th seed Alize Cornet and 6th seed Eugenie Bouchard. Now she faces Jelena Jankovic, who--out of nowhere--has returned to vintage JJ form in the desert. Tsurenko's run could very well end today, but what a stunning run it has been. (Note: Tsurenko rolled her ankle during her match against Bouchard, an accident I thought might lead to her retirement. It didn't. Bouchard was also injured, but tennis commentators seem to have forgotten that it was an injured Tsurenko who beat an injured Bouchard.)

Serena Williams herself had to put up a big fight in the first round against the ever-problematic Monica Niculescu. Since then, Williams has had it pretty easy.

And finally, the world got to see what a 2015 wonder Timea Bacsinszky is. Bacsinszky has one of the most--if not the most--troubled and difficult backgrounds (both personal and injury-related) of any player on the tour, and she is clearly thoroughly enjoying having overcome some huge problems. Just a few weeks ago, she won Acapulco, then traveled over to Monterrey and won that, too. She reached the quarterfinals in Indian Wells by taking out both Makarova and Svitolina. The obvious "Swiss Miss" was then stopped by Williams, but it would be hard for her to feel anything but great about her 15-match win streak.


sunny nine said...

i guess i am enjoying some schadenfreude re espn. i know they expected s williams in the final and possibly a resurgent azarenka or sharapova. instead they have a totally different match w a resurgent jankovic. i also enjoyed watching the matches all the way through on tennistv to see watson, bencic, garcia, tsurenko,pliskova, svitolina and ... plus pennetta plus a resurgent bacsinszky. these aren't the high profile players for tv but thankfully tennistv showed tons of matches and my husband thought i would go blind from watching so much :)(+ the men) so i enjoyed this odd tournament not because some of my favorite players got knocked out but some really new favorites got "heard".

Diane said...

I feel the same way, Sunny. I wanted either Flavia or JJ to win, and my next choice was Simona, so I haven't done too badly! For the record, I would also have been happy with a Serena or a Sharapova win. I'm sorry Serena had to withdraw because of injury--that had to be tough for her.

I think the player we will remember from this tournament is Bacsinszky.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, as much as I enjoy having your blog in my RSS, I really think you have a thing against women of color.

I think Serena's return to IW was epic. Props to Larry Ellison. I wish he'd buy the Tennis Channel so that they wouldn't suck so much (except for the commentary).

I'm a huge fan of Simona, and other "pasty white gals", but if you don't think the story of Serena and Venus (and their crazy dad) isn't the most amazing thing in sports, well, let's just agree to disagree.

Roi said...

Then you, dear anon, must be new around here. Why don't you go through some of the past posts (1 year, 2 years and go on) to see the kind of blog you're pointing to have a thing against women of color?

There is no other place (ok, there might be but I'm happily stuck in here for a lot of years now) with contents similar to Diane's: gender conscious, equality in sports, the social impact of the Williams sisters WHEN the story is about them.

I'm sure we are all here familiar with the Tennis Forum, and this anon writes just like a lot of trolls over there, trying to make Serena the headline of every non-Williams story and calling racist to anyone who does otherwise. Just plain BS.

Diane said...

Thank you from the heart, Roi. No worries--the original comment speaks (shouts) for itself.