Sunday, 9 June 2013

Greatest of our Generation

Greatest player of all time is too subjective but the best of their generation is something more palatable to discuss.
Since we began the new millennium there have been two stand out players, one who has almost all of the attention when handing out "greatest" accolades.  For me, Roger Federer for now remains the best male player of his time, although the longer he pursues his career, the likelihood increases that Rafa Nadal may prosecute just as compelling case.  I still believe Roger will edge the clay court king based simply on the percentage of GS titles won at Roland Garros by the Spaniard.  Federer's are a more even spread.

Until a few years ago Federer may even have been the best player, irrespective of gender of the past 20 years.  However, Serena Williams decided to give tennis another shot after a shocking injury run and a life threatening health scare.  I was fortunate enough to be at Eastbourne in 2011 to see the champion play her first tournament upon returning, and then again courtside at Wimbledon as she made it through to the fourth round.

Serena was back fit and enjoying her tennis but could she again reach those scary heights where the 13 time GS winner would intimidate all her opponents with the power and athleticism unmatched in the women's game?

A final at the US Open and 3 GS titles out of the last 4 contested, including her second at Roland Garros on Saturday night has answered that emphatically and given me just cause to argue strongly for Roger's mantle to be handed to Serena.  She is indeed the greatest player I have seen of her generation.  Given her interruptions through injury and fitness concerns, her record could even have been more imposing and that is just frightening.

16 Grand Slam singles victories from 51 attempts gives Serena a 31.37% success rate, compared with Roger Federer 17 from 56 at 30.35%.  Rafa Nadal is ahead of them both on percentages but having only played 34 GS tournaments we need to be guarded on that.

Serena Williams is achieving wonderful things as her career is approaching its end but how long that approach will actually be is anyone's guess.

I only hope that she continues to enjoy what she is doing on the court because as long as she does she will give us even more joy with her outstanding tennis prowess.


Monday, 3 June 2013

Week One down - Favourites cruising

Paris has been rather wet but not enough to dampen the hopes of the top players after the first week of clay court Grand Slam action.

Rafa Nadal, despite losing the first set he contested at this year's French Open, has done everything to suggest that an eighth title is only a Serbian away from fruition.  A quarter final against either Wawrinka or local favourite Gasquet will provide exactly the quality match practise required to be ready for the Djokovic assault on Friday.

Roger Federer is into another quarter final but that is nothing new - the five sets that he took to ease past Gilles Simon was more of a surprise.  Another French star Gael Monfils set the crowd alight with his first round win over highly fancied Tomas Berdych, but unfortunately the inconsistency remains and Tommy Robredo stopped the run in the third round.

We have two veteran Tommys flying their respective flags, Robredo through to the quarters, and Tommy Haas with a chance to join him there if successful over Youzhny in the fourth round.

Novak has saved his scariest form for this fortnight, dismissing dangerous first round opponent David Goffin in straight sets before dispensing uncaringly of the next two pretenders for the loss of just 11 games.  The third round victim was Grigor Dimitrov, who had the nerve to actually defeat the world number one in Madrid a few weeks back.  Now the Bulgarian will have to content himself watching his girlfriend defend her singles title.

Yes Maria Sharapova is looking good, and her tennis is rather appealing too, certainly at a level out of reach of her first 3 match ups.  Even Zheng Jie could not sustain a seemingly set winning position against the Russian, who seeded second has her sights on a second straight final.  Her toughest match could be a quarter final against a rejuvenated former number one Jelena Jankovic who is in terrific 2013 form, and is fresh off a tough three set win over previous finalist and last year's semi finalist Samantha Stosur.

Surprisingly we have lost 2011 winner Li Na, courtesy of a rampant Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the American's quarter final berth up for grabs with Maria Kirilenko.  Another pair of previous winners are due to play a quarter final, Svetlana Kuznetsova winding back the clock to her triumphant year of 2009, but in need no doubt of plenty of luck and all of her skill to push Serena Williams who is attempting to repeat her success of 2002.

Yet another past champion is alive into the second week - Francesca Schiavone, who has been desperately out of form for quite some time, is in a fourth round clash with Aus Open title holder Vika Azarenka.

Semi finalists predictions from me:

Mens Singles:

Djokovic/Nadal & Ferrer/Tsonga

Womens Singles:

Williams/Errani & Azarenka/Sharapova