But the win was just what the doctors ordered to bounce back from her disappointing first round exit at the Australian Open. It also moves her up to No 13, within striking distance of the top 10 just before the duo jackpots of Indian Wells and Miami.
“I feel great. I came here for matches – I got five and I got the win, so it was a good week. I served and returned well – two things that are very important indoors.
“I also did the right things against Sofia. I worked hard after the Australian Open and little by little things are coming along.”
“I’m getting there. The more matches I play, the more confident I get. From there, things will start to fall into place and the instinct will come back a little more.”
2. And kudos to Memphis. The winner’s trophy was just what I’d expect from a good ol’ fashioned tennis tournament in a good ol’ fashioned kinda town.
It’s small, it’s practical, none of that avant garde art crap some tournaments give out these days.
3. Player of the Week: Venus Williams, who certainly defied my expectations at the start of the tournament in defending her title and doing it in style. The final she played against Vika showcased her best tennis since Wimbledon last year – hard, fast and ever-so-graceful.
It’s about time the Tennis Media stopped asking questions of Venus Williams. Sure – we expect a lot from her: she’s a champion and a Williams to boot. She should, and could always do better.
But at some point, this “what have you done for me lately” attitude needs to stop. The woman made quarterfinals in Melbourne and won the title in Dubai. Show her a little respect, ’cause those results are more than what the WTA No 2 and 3 can boast this year.
4. Despite the loss, it was a good week for Victoria Azarenka, the bright young thang of the WTA.
Watching the final today, I was struck by the contrast between the maturity and grace of Venus and the headstrong vivaciousness of Vika. In the end, it was one of those days when Venus Williams just plays steadier, tougher and better. And Vika was left looking a little tender and naive in her matching pink shoelaces and hair tie.
I wonder what will Azarenka be like when she loses that youthfulness. I wonder if I’ll still like her as much.
5. I love James Blake’s game. It’s exhilarating, it’s furious, but oddly devoid of any sense of venom. And by all accounts, Blake seems like one of the few genuinely nice guys that I’ve actually liked as a player.
And be it Del Potro at the Australian Open or Andy Roddick in Memphis, James Blake still has the game to trouble any player in the top 10. But it stops at “troubling” and falls short of “winning”.
Go back and watch some of Roger’s matches from 2000-1. There was a quality in him back in the day that reminded me of Blake. It’s the Kamikaze-styled tennis they play: walloping the snot out of every ball that’s remotely within their striking zones, playing low-percentage shots that either ended with the crowd on their feet or groaning into their armpits, living and dying by their own sword. It’s electrifying to watch 50% of the time, awful the rest. There’s a lot of raw talent but little subtlety.
The point is, Roger Federer stopped playing that way. He developed more craft in his game. James Blake hasn’t.
6. Another man who hasn’t come very far in the last few years, Ernie Gulbis made it back into my attention this week, briefly, when he upset Berdych to reach the semifinal in Memphis.
If you were following tennis at the end of 2007, you might’ve kept your peripheral vision on 3 teenagers coming up on the men’s tour – Gulbis, del Potro and Cilic. All born within a few months of each other, all came with their own “money shots” and a whole lotta raw power. If you had asked me back then to pick the front runner out of the 3, I might’ve gone with Gulbis.
But 3 years down the track, del Potro has a slam. Cilic is in the top 10 with a string of scalps and on an upward trajectory.
Gulbis on the other hand, is still wandering in the wild moors of this sport. While his contemporaries are strutting the court with a sense of quiet ambition, Gulbis is still playing with all the brashness of his 19-year-old self. The beard and the disheveled hair do so little to hide the lack of growth.
Will there ever be growth? Or will Ernie continue to emanate that sense of sheer impotence?
Your guess is as good as mine.
7. One guy who has grown in leaps and bounds – John Isner. He’s through to the Memphis final to face Sam Querrey and decide on THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN TENNIS.
Or something along those lines.
If you thought big servers were boring, you obviously haven’t watched Isner a lot. As hard as it must be for a bunch of tennis purists to fathom, John Izzy is inexplicably enjoyable to watch.
Or maybe I’m just hypnotized by his gutsy boyishness.
Oh you cutiepatootie you!