Saturday, June 9, 2007

Quick Work

Justine Henin certainly deserves her third-straight French Open title.

A 6-1 6-2 drubbing of Ana Ivanovic was no more of a final than the other three she has played - in 2003, '05 and '06. No one has taken a set from her in any of those matches. In fact, Henin hasn't lost a set since the fourth round in '05, when Kuznetsova had match points but couldn't put it away. 35 sets in a row.

Henin, obviously, has the world at her finger tips when it comes to clay court tennis. She has showed utter dominance over her career on the red stuff, going 35-4 since her debut at Roland Garros in 1999.

To me, the story isn't in Henin herself, but in the quick work that she has made of her opponents in the recent past, and the inability for the top women - specifically the younger top women - to deliver in crucial moments.

Just two days ago, we watched Sharapova crumble in the semis to Ivanovic. It was as if Maria had gone far enough at the French, and she had no more to give. But later in the day, a repeat performance from Jankovic, winning just seven games between the two.

And then in the final today, Ivanovic, the same powerhouse who had easily ran past Sharapova couldn't put one foot in front of the other against Henin. The pressure was too much, they say. She couldn't control her emotions. The occasion is just too big.

Yet Ivanovic has seen pressure. Not to mention her struggle just to get to play tennis in the first place, Ana has seen the finals of two Tier I tournaments by now - so, you're telling me, that at 19, the occasion was just too big for her?

What about the occasion for Monica Seles, in 1990, when she beat world number one Graf at 16? Or the occasion for Sharapova at Wimbledon '04 when she ignored all pressure and drowned Serena in shrieks and sizzling groundstrokes?

It's no doubt that each situation is different, that each occasion calls for a different set of nerves under different circumstances. But if a player as accomplished as Ivanovic cannot find her way under the microscope of the tennis world, what are we left to enjoy out of these women in the final stages of Grand Slams? All three of the latter round matches here were lopsided, as 10 out of the last 14 women's grand slam finals have been.

When can we watch again without having to worry that if we blink, we'll miss the whole match?


Troy said...

It'd true that Justine has a Medusa-like effect on opponents in Slam finals (barring the Mauresmo stomach ache debacle) - but these one sided finals are getting out of hands.

It is not like these dominations are journeywoman vs. champion, they are between top players. Look at Australia.

If every final could be Venus vs. Lindsay at Wimbledon '05 , I would be a happy man. And since we have equal prize money, we should expect a grande finale on both sides.

That's right, I went there.

oops said...

"out of hand."