Thursday, July 3, 2008

Opportunity Squandered

This years Wimbledon has been full of surprises and not all of them have been pleasant. Before the quarterfinals started a new precedent had already been set: This is the first time in the open era (beginning 1927) where none of the top 4 ladies seeds have reached the quarterfinals. Some say it's good for the game, creating an anything-can-happen vibe that brings the underdog to life. I say it's abysmal - 3rd and 4th round losses simply aren't acceptable for a player who wants to be seriously thought of as a #1.

Neither Jelena aka houdini Jankovic or Svetlana aka the bulldog Kuznetsova were able to convert opportunities to wrestle the # 1 ranking from Ana Ivanovic, who was upset in the 3rd round by Zheng Jie, the first ever chinese woman to reach the semis of a major. If either player could have managed a breakthrough trip to the finals, she'd have been immediately vaulted to #1 in the world, and be looking at a good chance of closing 2008 in that lofty perch.

Not this year. Much to their own chagrin, both Jankovic and Kuznetsova were beaten soundly in the round of 16.

Will either ever have a chance like this again? One has to wonder.

In a tournament where most eyes have been squarely focused on the William's sisters, there must be a sense of bitter dissapointment for the #2 and #4 ranked ladies in the world. Both have been knocking on the door for some time. Just when it appeared to be opening, devastating round of 16 losses occurred.

But Kuznetsova and Jankovic weren't the only ones having their dreams be put out of their misery. World #2, Maria aka the princess Sharapova was kicked to the curb by a virtual unknown. The free falling Sharapova was only able to win 27% of her second serve points against compatriot Alla Kudrayatseva in the second round. Sharapova, ranked # 1 in the world after winning the Australian Open in January, was broken 5 times on her way to a straight set defeat.

It has been a tournament full of upsets on the womens side. Happiness has been but a mirage for the top 4 women in the game. Could it be that the short grass court season, 2 hurried weeks in the middle of June, has left many players vulnerable due to their relative lack of comfort on the surface? Could it be that grass, due to the insufficient amount of practice time that the players are getting on the surface, has brought a certain kind of parody to Wimbledon? It appears that way, at least for the girls.

While the up-and-coming have been taking their medicine, experienced ladies like the Williams sisters (who have 6 Wimbledon titles between them) have been able to rely on their vast wealth of Wimbledon experience to maintain the status quo. Neither has truly been tested thus far, and its hard to tell if their success is due mainly to the fact that all their rivals have conveniently departed prior to playing them.

Saturdays final will be highly anticipated. Two tennis greats are once again staking out their territory. I thought this might be the year there was to be a struggle for power at Wimbledon. Evidently the only struggle will be between the sisters. It's a family affair once again, and the top 4 aren't invited.