Tina McCarthy discusses the top five talking points from the Women’s Australian Open.
1. Serena is not invincible
Apparently it’s all about ‘having fun’ but let’s face it, Serena plays to win. The fact that she lost in the fourth round to Ana Ivanovic will have been a bitter pill for her to swallow, but it also serves as a sweet reminder to the rest of the WTA players that Serena is beatable – injured or not, as Ivanovic got her tactics right, executed upon them and clearly outplayed Serena. With this in mind, it will be fascinating to see if Serena can defend her French Open and US Open titles, as well as going further than the fourth round of Wimbledon this year.
2. Substance over style and grace over grunting is what counts on the court
Nobody cares that Sharapova was wearing a pale blue dress and nobody cares that Bethanie Mattek-Sands was wearing knee-high socks in scorching heat. Their attire is not going to win them matches. Pre-tournament ‘sneak previews’ of what the players will be wearing are utterly pointless to the pundit if our favourites can’t deliver under pressure. Similarly, screaming and grunting count for nothing if the ball hits the net. Look to Li Na to learn to be an ambassador for the sport that has made you and just bring your racket, ladies.
3. Being vertically challenged is not an obstacle to success
Slovakia’s pocket-rocket Dominika Cibulkova proved that you don’t have to be tall to be successful in tennis as she made her first Grand Slam final in Melbourne. She is 5’3’’ but when she walks onto the court she stands tall as her feisty personality and never-say-die attitude make up for what she lacks in height. She’s not the only one – Errani, Radwanksa and Halep stand at 5’3, 5’5’’ and 5’6’’ respectively and are all top-ten players with awesome defensive skills who are ones to watch for upcoming clay court season, in particular.
4. Sharapova is coming to the net!
I said it before the tournament that Sharapova had to come to the net, along with many other things, if she wanted to stand a chance against Serena, in particular. Low and behold, she has been advancing to the net in all of her matches since returning to the WTA tour in December. This must be the doing of new coach Sven Groeneveld, whose ground-breaking impact on Sharapova’s game will be particularly interesting come Wimbledon.
5. The gap between the best and the rest has narrowed
It’s only a decade since all-Williams sister finals were the norm, or, failing that, heavily one-sided match ups even between top ten players. Since the Williams sisters raised the bar in women’s tennis, the rest have followed slowly but surely, with the Red Army of Russians and the Belgians Henin and Clijsters helping to bridge the gap. Nowadays, the gap has narrowed significantly which makes for more competitive matches and, thankfully, much more entertaining viewing.
Pundit Arena, Tina McCarthy