Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympics continue Wimbledon horror for Sam

With another early exit from the grass court major only a matter of weeks ago, women's world number 5 Samantha Stosur was hopeful that the return trip to SW19 draped in the flag of Australia would produce some intangible to assist with a result more befitting her ranking.

The first full day of competition at the 2012 Olympics only offered further evidence of the extreme allergy to grass from which Sam has suffered all her career, an affliction for which no medical breakthrough has yet arrived.
Even Spanish clay-courter Carla Suarez Navarro, Stosur's first round Wimbledon victim in June, has been able to add her name to those able to reverse seemingly irreversible trends in matches featuring the enigmatic Queenslander.

Sam has an amazing record in Grand Slam tournaments - where she has won the first set she has never lost a match.
The Olympics first round battle saw her take the opener 6-3 and have a chance to break at 4-3 in the second.  However the fight in the Spanish game guaranteed that the Stosur Grand Slam stat would not find its way into her Olympic CV, that fight ultimately rewarded with a 10-8 epic third set decider in Carla's favour.

As defending US Open champion, and with plenty of other points to defend from a productive US summer in 2011, Stosur is in danger of dropping not only from the top 5 but even from the top ten unless she can find some consistency in her game - she cannot keep losing to players ranked way below her, especially after manufacturing winning positions, and expect to retain an elite place in the women's game.

Her coach David Taylor rightly took many accolades for what Sam achieved late last year - he now must work even harder with the Australian number one as she recovers from her grass court trauma and transfers her attention and energy to a more comfortable surface.   

Saturday, 7 July 2012

It's All Been About Roger - Time to Credit Serena

Yes Roger Federer is statistically the best performed player in Mens tennis with 16 Grand Slam titles, and quite possibly a 17th on Sunday with a 7th Wimbledon.  Clearly he is the best male player of his generation, although I am one observer who will await his final sliced backhand or precisely angled forehand before handing him the "greatest I've ever seen" award.  Having watched Sampras, McEnroe, Borg et al, and then assessing the quality of their respective contemporaries, it's clear that raw statistics do not determine who belongs at the top.  The "greatest ever" is pure folly for I never enjoyed seeing Lew Hoad live or Rod Laver at his peak, and there are others who from many accounts would surely rate with the modern day greats including maybe Federer.  However, one opinion is not subjective - Roger Federer has provided some of the greatest tennis that one could wish to see, and over a sustained period.

I challenge tennis followers to continue comparing the best male players through the years, but not be so preoccupied with ranking them - just rejoice in the knowledge that we continue to be blessed by their presence.

I also implore people to give more credit to the one player of Roger's generation that is at least his equal in terms of dominance - Serena Williams.  Wimbledon 2012 has seen a preoccupation with the "will Federer win another GS title and reclaim the world number one spot?" question at the expense of another wonderful story which has unfolded.  Serena Williams is on the verge of claiming her own 5th Wimbledon and 14th overall GS title.  Her story is remarkable given that unlike Federer her career at the highest level has seen interruption through injury and illness sufficient to curtail any exploits of a normal athlete.

Serena does the impossible - winning the Australian Open unseeded and unfit and making the fourth round of Wimbledon 2011 on the back of one tournament since her return from a serious operation are just 2 examples - and throughout she has been regarded - by experts and players alike - as the true number one women's player on the planet, whatever her actual ranking may be.  This year at Wimbledon she has played 3-setters against players way below her in talent as tune ups for glorious straight set displays in defeating defending champ Kvitova and reigning Aus Open champ Azarenka.  Her serving is a major weapon, and it is is firing as well as it ever has on the eve of her final.

Serena has won 4 GS titles in succession (2002-2003), the only player of her generation to do so.

Roger has a great story to tell, but could we please delay the umpteenth repeat telling just to allow the world to rejoice in Serena's epic and have her grace the front page conversation for a change?