Lindsay Davenport and Maria Sharapova, the top two seeds, pulled out of the Advanta Championships in Philadelphia last week, presumably due to injury but also to rest before this week’s WTA Championships. It didn’t work. No one here can stay awake. When a player prepares to serve for the match, you wonder if you might have to walk over to her seat during the break between games and wake her up from a nap.
Listen to these comments: “We’re all just trying to survive the week.” “It felt really tiring. I felt like I had to win in two sets.” “At the moment, the only thing I want to do is go to the hotel and go to sleep.” Davenport, Mary Pierce and Kim Clijsters are speaking. Though it might not sound like it, Davenport and Pierce have won both of their matches at the WTA Championships.
My pick to win the title, Kim Clijsters, lost both of hers. She wanted to go back to sleep after Mary Pierce thrashed her in their Tuesday night match and she was still tired during her loss to Amelie Mauresmo last night. Clijsters can still move into the semifinals if Elena Dementieva beats Mauresmo but it doesn’t look good. Mauresmo beat Dementieva last week in Philadelphia to take the title.
Despite playing last week, Mauresmo might be the freshest player here. She took a break during the summer and fall schedule. You could argue that it’s the players’ fault if they play too many tournaments, it’s not the fault of the long season. The problem is that tournament directors want the highest ranked players at their tournaments. If players decide on self programmed vacations, the tournament draws will be watered down.
Before you complain about spoiled millionaires, consider that tennis players cannot drive to Australia. PGA players drive their $500, 000 luxury buses all over the US and Canada to play their golf tournaments. The tennis season starts in Australia, moves to Europe for the clay and grass court season, to the US for the outdoor hard court season, then onto Asia for the indoor season. That’s four seasons in four different parts of the world. At the very least, shorten the seasons and insert a a break at the end of each one.
Before you complain about spoiled millionaires, consider that tennis players cannot drive to Australia.
Clijsters is a one-speed player – that is, when she is not sleeping– she hits the ball hard and flat, always. She makes other players adjust to her. Mauresmo has a number of speeds and arcs. Last night she hit low slice backhands to take the edge off Clijsters speed and induce errors.
In the fourth game, Mauresmo played excellent defense to break Clijsters and go up 3-1. On one point, she hit a beautiful low backhand shot to short hop a ball that landed on the baseline. She is by far the most graceful player on the tour. Unfortunately, she gave the break right back with a double fault and errors.
The theme last night was “grinder versus artist”. Before the Mauresmo and Clijsters match, Davenport beat Patty Schnyder. Artists are unpredictable and Schnyder can be infuriating to play against because she is her own worst enemy. Her game is volatile – passive in one moment and explosive in the next. This also describes her temper.
Schnyder lost the first set quickly then broke Davenport in the third game of the second set with a series of dazzling winners. After hitting a double fault in the sixth game to give the break back, Schnyder was so incensed that she hit the ball as hard as she could and barely missed hitting a linesperson at the other end of the court. Davenport broke Schnyder in the last game in the set to win the match, 6-3, 7-5. No officials or spectators were hurt during the playing of this match.
Clijsters was too tired to grind. She made errors and failed to capitalize on three break points in the last game to give Mauresmo the first set. Mauresmo was winning with the low slice backhand because she followed it to the net. She forgot to do that in the second set, predictability is boring, and she failed to hold serve and close out the match at 5-4.
It helps to be one of the few players who is not complaining of exhaustion. In the tiebreaker, Mauresmo was fresh enough to run from corner to corner and awake enough to come to the net one more time. She won the tiebreaker and match, 6-3, 7-6(4).
The winner will be the last one standing.