Tennis Just Isn't Pretty Sometimes

October 5, 2012

I recently had a dream that John McEnroe was running for President of the United States, and he was in the midst of a heated debate with Mitt Romney. Let's just say, it wasn't pretty.

What else isn't pretty? Trying to watch tennis in October, at 3am. For me, that experience is "sans caffeine", so it's even more fun trying to keep my eyes open.

This relatively unpopular time in the tennis season is what tennis aficionados call "The Asian Swing."  Players are in far-distant time zones, and tournaments don't get nearly as much press. To be honest, most tennis fans have already moved onto football or hockey after the last ball has been struck at the U.S. Open.

That's not to say the Asian Swing isn't important. It's a time when the race for the WTA year-end championships heats up, and players try to score some last minute, end-of-season ranking points.

Speaking of the season-ending championships, the ladies of the WTA have already begun to prepare for this tournament in Istanbul (scheduled for October 23-28). Azarenka, Sharapova, Serena, Aga Radwanska, Kerber, Kvitova, Errani, and Li Na round out the final eight. And for the first time in the WTA championships' 42-year history, the final eight players will represent eight different countries.

Who's missing from that all-important list? Caroline Wozniacki. She hasn't missed the year-end championships since 2009. You can say she gave it everything she had this season, but what she had wasn't exactly 100%. Her slow and steady decline to No. 11 in the world has been painful to watch, and likely more painful for her to experience. Can a lack of confidence be the culprit? Can a new/different coach turn her career around?

Who else didn't make the final eight cut? The 2011 U.S. Open champ, Sam Stosur, who has competed in the year-end championships for the past two years. The eye-rolling from fans started earlier this year, after she made it to the final in Doha, but lost to Azarenka. She then made the SF in Charleston, but lost to Serena, and the SF at the French Open, but lost to Errani. More recently, Stosur made it to the SF in Tokyo, defeating Sharapova en route to that match, but it wasn't quite enough to salvage an otherwise disappointing season. The major question is: Can Stosur change the trajectory of her career back to an upward direction?

Former top 10 player Vera Zvonareva, who who hasn't missed the year-end championships in four years, didn't make the cut this year either because she was free-falling off the ranking cliff. Currently ranked at No. 48 (ouch), she recently pulled out of Beijing with a viral illness. Needless to say, Zvonareva, who had been ranked inside the top 10 since 2008, has had a challenging year. She has battled hip and shoulder injuries, as well as illness since the start of the season. Something tells me she needs a few months of solid sleep to get back to winning form. Tennis wouldn't be the same without seeing Vera with a towel over her head during changeovers. Fingers crossed for her in 2013.

Marion Bartoli, who competed in the season-ending championships in 2007 and 2011, missed the cut this year. Despite having an up-and-down year, no one can say that Marion Bartoli doesn't work hard. The evidence can be seen here during a practice session at the U.S. Open:

I guess the message here is that sometimes even the best players can have an ugly season. And much like bad dreams that involve John McEnroe yelling at Mitt Romney in a political debate, it's best to put it behind you.