Sunday, January 31, 2021

Covid-era tennis has fried my brain

I've never been to Australia, so it would seem that it shouldn't matter to me that--this year--the Brisbane and Sydney tournaments won't be played. But as a long-time viewer, I have a "feel" for those two tournaments, and I miss them. The season began with an event in Abu Dhabi--a new tournament--then everything shifted to Melbourne for the Yarra Valley Classic and the Gippsland Trophy. Since these are all new events (though two of them are temporary), it all feels alien to me.

For the past few years, I've had a hard time getting started with the new season, anyway. Unlike a lot of tennis fans, I need the off-season--to stop blogging, to stop watching, to take a rest. 

The good news, of course, is that have tennis at all. 2020 was a disaster in many ways, though it's obvious that the WTA handled it better than the other professional tennis organization. Three of the four majors were played, Cincinnati moved temporarily to Flushing Meadows, and there were also some good exhibition events, especially the team event held in Charleston.

My gut feeling is that the 2020 semi-haitus may have been a blessing in disguise for 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andresscu, who had time for her body to fully heal. I remain concerned, however, about the fragility of the Canadian star's body, and I really hope that her team has figured out a way to keep her on the court. She and Iga Swiatek are, in my opinion, the two most interesting young players to watch.

2021 feels more like a "clean slate" than the calendar says it should (at least, it does for me). There are so many questions:

Will Serena Williams win a major?

Will Garbine Muguruza win a major? It felt right that she made it to the final in last year's Australian Open, and it feels right that 2021 will be an even better year for her.

Will Naomi Osaka continue to dominate?

How will Jennifer Brady continue to raise her WTA profile? What about Maria Sakkari? And for how long will Aryna Sabalenka continue her very hot streak?

What's next for 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, and what will we see from 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek?

What about world number 1 Ash Barty, and what about Elina Svitolina?

And no, I'm not forgetting 2019 Australian Open finalist Petra Kvitova, the resurgent Vika Azarenka, and--drum roll.......Si-Mo-Na!

The WTA has so many really good players--and so many really good up-and-coming players--that it's hard to predict anything at this point, though brave souls do go for it from time to time. Players have had more time to train than usual, and also more time to make mental shifts (for better or worse). I find the unpredictability quite interesting.

So now, I'll just sit back and try to get my brain to adjust to this new schedule. In the end, it will be the excitement of the tennis that makes it okay for me.