If you’re like me, you know next to nothing about Dubai and would know even less if the women’s and men’s tennis tour did not stop there each year. Given the current political climate and especially since a company controlled by the Dubai government is seeking to take over management of terminals at six U.S. ports, it’s a good idea to familiarize our selves with this Arab emirate.
Dubai is one of seven emirates that constitute the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is not an independent state itself. Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah are the other six. It’s no suprise that Dubai has oil but it contributes only 20% of the their income. Tourism is now a large part of the economy.
Dubai is closer to Las Vegas than Saudi Arabia. David Beckham owns a beach here and Rod Stewart owns an island.
Though four-fifths of the emirate is desert, it does rain about twelve inches a year. Not that Dubaians are prepared for it. Police reported five hundred accidents after early morning showers last Wednesday morning. The rain also created problems at the Dubai Duty Free WTA Tennis Tournament. The doubles finalists finally took the court at midnight for their Saturday night match and some singles players had to play two matches in one day.
There were a lot of Russians and Belgians in the stands – Maria Sharapova and Justine Henin-Hardenne played the final – but very few Arab spectators except for members of the royal family who filed onto the court for the trophy presentation in their caftans and kifayas (headband and scarf). Svetlana Kuznetsova, a doubles finalist, turned up at the medals ceremony in a tight t-shirt and jeans. Not that unusual really. Dubai is closer to Las Vegas than Saudi Arabia. David Beckham owns a beach here and Rod Stewart owns an island.
Sharapova recovered from her 6-3, 6-1 loss to Martina Hingis earlier this year to beat Hingis 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, then beat Lindsay Davenport in three sets to get to the final. Sharapova came within two points of winning the first set in the final then sank as Henin-Hardenne attacked and ran away with the second set and the title, 7-5, 6-2.
Memphis is the Greek translation of Mennufer, the good place. Memphis was founded around 3100 BC and was the city of Menes, the king who united upper and lower Egypt. It was a huge city in its day but all that is left of Memphis now are a few ruins. We are not interested in the Memphis of old Egypt, however, we are leaving the Middle East and heading to Memphis, Tennessee, to see the final of the Cellular South Cup.
Instead of watching the top players in the world, we’re going to watch the players one level below. This tournament is a WTA Tier III event. Players here are either just below the ranking needed to play in a Tier II event or, like our two finalists today, Sofia Arvidsson and Marta Domachowska (pronounced Domahoska), could have played in Dubai but stood a much better chance of picking up points here. Arvidsson is ranked number 47 and Domachowska number 51.
Of the top ten ranked women, only one, Nadia Petrova, got into the top thirty after they were 20 years old.
You can tell right away that these players have never gone very far in a grand slam or pocketed a whole lot of appearance fees. The match moves too quickly. No need for the ballgirl or ballboy to toss up three balls so the player can carry out a detailed inspection of each ball before throwing one back. No toweling off after every point. And no bathroom timeouts. Just tennis.
There’s also an air of desperation. Domachowska and Arvdisson are not teenagers. Domachowska is 20 years old and Arvidsson 22. Of the top ten ranked women, only one, Nadia Petrova, got into the top thirty after they were 20 years old. If it doesn’t happen soon, it might not happen at all and if you get to a final, you’d better take advantage of it.
Arvidsson looks like a shorter version of Lindsay Davenport: she’s solidly built and moves well enough side to side but not so well forward and back. It’s Domachowska, however, who hits like Davenport. She slams flat, hard shots. Always. The only time I saw a slice was on drop shots or desperate stabs at the ball.
Arvidsson is a bit more strategically minded; sometimes that’s a good thing and sometimes it’s not. After attacking Domachowska and letting her hit for the lines and mostly miss in the first set, Arvidsson was content to just keep the ball in play at the beginning of the second set. After all, she already had one set and could let Domachowska continue to beat herself.
There are two problems with this approach. First of all, you can lose your focus if you pull back. In Arvidsson’s case, she started to miss her first serve. Second, if you stop attacking, that gives your opponent an easier ball to hit. Domachowska’s shots that were missing by inches in the first set were now winners. Admittedly, Arvidsson was also getting tired from chasing Domachowska’s relentless barrage of hard shots.
Domachowska may have a big game but she doesn’t play smart tennis. After losing her serve in the first game of the third set, she tried to hit service return winners four times in one game and succeeded exactly once. You want to run down to the court and scream at her, “Stop doing that! Can’t you count?” Of course it goes both ways. Domachowska managed to get back on serve with the same daring approach, but it ended up hurting her in the end.
She gave the break right back with an ill-advised attempt at a backhand winner then gave Arvidsson two match points on overly aggressive forehands. On the fourth match point, Arvidsson pulled Domachowska wide with a backhand then hit a forehand approach to the other side of the court to win the match, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.
If asking Domachowska to be a bit more intelligent about choosing when to blast the ball doesn’t work, how about feeding her valerian before a match to calm her down? At the very least, make her promise that she will only go for big returns on second serves. That would be a good place to start.
And she should start soon because time is running out.