Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Change of Scenery

A few years ago, when Serena was making her way through the Serena Slam, Jennifer Capriati was still re-surging, the Belgium duo was just making their way up while the likes of Venus, Lindsay and Mary Pierce were a weekly tour of Big Babe tennis and a Swiss Miss named Martina was still a Top 5 power, women's tennis was riding high.

2008 has painted quite a different picture for the WTA: Capriati, Pierce, both Belgium girls and (mostly) Davenport are absent from the game, while the world's Number 1, Jelena Jankovic, has never won a slam, and half-hearted champion Maria Sharapova, topsy-turvy Ana Ivanovic and other newcomers make up what USA Today writer Doug Robson calls "the weakest top-10 ever".

Meanwhile, across the aisle in the Men's Room, the ATP (despite its internal conflicts) is on fire. The Big Two (Roger and Rafa) was extended to the Big Three after Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open to open the year, and rumors are now swirling about "the Big Four" following Andy Murray's run to the US Open final and his win at the Madrid Masters. Perhaps after this week in Paris, it may be considered the Big Five - we'll just have to see what Jo-Wilfried Tsonga does in Shanghai.

The thing is, the tours have done something of a flip-flop. Following 2003, Magnus Norman's career went to the crapper, but as he and other faux champions (see: "Andy Roddick" or "Juan Carlos Ferrero") have been pushed aside, a great wave of bona-fide champions has emerged. Federer has been the foremost of these, while Nadal is on his heels (and ahead of him, in some aspects) and players like Djokovic, Murray, Tsonga and others including Gilles Simon and Juan Martin del Potro are attempting to make this the hay-day of tennis (once again).

While players like Djokovic, Murray and Tsonga have proved their staying power, the WTA has little strength to rest on outside of the House of Williams. Ana Ivanovic was a dismal 5-6 in the four months following her maiden slam win in Paris, and Jankovic has yet to win a slam, herself. Up-and-comers like Nicole Vaidisova, Maria Kirilenko, Marion Bartoli, Sania Mirza and others have been much talked-about, but have yet to come up with the goods. Others like Alize Cornet and Caroline Wozniacki have appealing games, but have yet to prove themselves in the upper echelon of the game.

Recently, I can't help but follow the men a little more than the women. The rivalries are there, the passion is tangible, and the drama is saved for the court. The girls always provide the drama, but perhaps they need to change the scenery to between the lines to make things a little more appealing... or can we just never have the best of both worlds?

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