Saturday, September 8, 2007

Anyone For Tennis?

So I went to the US Open yesterday for the Mens' Doubles Finals as well as the Women's Semis. The tickets were decent and were a result of largesse between corporations. Luckily, the bigwigs where I work were unable to avail of this particular pair of tix so my co-worker, Alex and I went off to Queens.

The ride into Willets-Point/Shea Stadium on the 7 from Grand Central is less than 35 minutes and much more pleasant than the shorter ride to Yankee Stadium. Yankee Stadium and its environs is short on charm, to say the least. I imagine Steinbrenner can't wait to get a new stadium deal.

I missed the Doubles Finals but did get to see Anna Chakvedatze versus Svetlana Kuznetsova. The less said about that match the better. Play was sloppy and mostly uninspired. The crowd was really disengaged and I think that may have bled into the play of the women. This match was just the appetizer, the main course was yet to come.

Venus versus Henin is what the day at Flushing was all about. This was the ballyhooed heavyweight match-up. They haven't played since 2003 but Henin's rivalry and recent dominance over Serena can't have escaped Venus' notice. Few beat the Williams' sisters consecutively within the same tournament, apparently just 5 times. It's only happened once in a Grand Slam, way back in 2001. Six years is a long time in any sport and it's fair to say that the Williams sisters today are significantly different from way back when. Clearly the last five years has seen their celebrity expand and their focus on tennis lessen. It's a natural evolution in today's celebrity-athlete culture but not one that can be taken for granted. Just because you're wonderful at your sport doesn't ensure fame and celebrity status. Henin has 6 Grand Slam titles, as many as Venus, she's nowhere near as famous though. That's neither here nore there, though. One gets the impression that the Williams sisters crave celebrity and Henin couldn't be less interested. The consequence of those attitudes may have manifested itself on the court.

Venus looks in much better shape than her sister and has always moved exceptionally well. Venus, in her prime, covered the court better than any other womens' tennis player. That was probably more a function of her unsurpassed speed as opposed to an uncanny "nose for the ball." Let me make this clear, Venus looks fantastic, her legs look perfect.

Henin and Venus had a lot of great points, bringing the appreciative US Open crowd to their feet more than a few times. Although both players are ectypal baseline players their willingness to go to net and pressure the other resulted in the most entertaining points of the match. Ultimately, I don't think Venus match conditioning was there. She has enough athletic ability and power to beat 99.9% of the players out there when she's not in peak condition. The same goes for Serena. It's probably why they seem complacent. Henin is in the .1% that doesn't get fazed by the general superiority of the Williamses. It totally showed as Henin overcame in two sets. My guess is that the Women's final is a foregone conclusion.

In a bit.

No comments: