Sportswriter and broadcaster David Fearnhead, Women’s Tennis Blog’s loyal supporter, shares his Top 5 talking points that marked his 2015 Wimbledon experience.
THE SERENA SLAM IS ON!
There are few adjectives left to describe Serena Williams. Surely the debate about the greatest exponent of the women’s game must be almost won. Having seen Martina Navratilova – admittedly in her later years and not at her peak – and Steffi Graf, I can only conclude that Serena is the greatest ever. Her will to win and keep winning exceeds all.
In the 2015 Wimbledon final, when the crowd and the momentum swung in favour of Garbine Muguruza, and the weight of expectation caused Serena to start double-faulting, she somehow managed to summon up the will not to be beaten. Will to win is something all good athletes must have, but the defiance not to be beaten is something which separates Serena from the rest.
THE C WORD
Any talk of Serena’s rivalry with Maria Sharapova always amuses me. Their head-to-head currently reads at 18 to 2 in Williams’ favour. In the last five years, Sharapova has only been able to get a single set of the world number one. Meanwhile, Williams has accumulated over double the ranking points of her nearest rival. Sharapova may lead the earnings, but that is wholly down to her off-court activities and the fact that she’s tall, blonde, and appeals to American sponsors. In tennis terms, she’s not even in the same league.
If that sounds cruel, it’s merely statement of fact. Sharapova is not well liked on the tour. She seems to have plenty of supporters off-court, but those who have to play against her are not so enamoured by her. She reminds me of a boxer who tries to intimidate an opponent because they can’t fight fair. It’s sad because she has the talent to not need to resort to such antics. Last week on BBC radio, I called her out as a cheat and I stand by my accusation. Sharapova is turning people off the women’s game, or at least forcing them to hit the mute button. In addition to the ever-increasing level of noise and her deathly glares across the net at her opponent, she’s added a new trick to her bag of mischief – moving when her opponent is preparing to serve in an effort to put them off.
Her defendants will claim all players move and many make noise, but not in the way Sharapova does it. When Coco Vandeweghe asked the umpire if she was afraid to speak to Maria, she highlighted the problem. Maria is good box-office, she brings in the sponsors, and the majority of the media fawn over her. Maria’s fame exceeds her talents and umpires seem genuinely intimidated by her name rather than calling her out for clear violations of the hindrance rule.
TROUBLE AT THE TOP?
Serena’s dominance at the top looks stable, less so is the pecking order further down the list as a new generation emerges. Once again the frailties of the top ten players were exposed. There was a time when the Australian Open was the place for an upset, now it appears to be Wimbledon.
Petra Kvitova was downed by a resurgent Jelena Jankovic, only for the Serb to then be picked apart by Agnieszka Radwanska. You have to feel for Aga, a player with tremendous touch and ability, but seemingly always lacking the power from her slight frame needed to land a Grand Slam. It was so near and so far again for Caroline Wozniacki, and Ana Ivanovic never really got going as the media focused once more on her latest celebrity sporting boyfriend.
The brightest stories came from those further down the rankings, with Timea Bacsinszky continuing her dream comeback and Heather Watson keeping British hopes alive even against Serena Williams. Most worrying, though, is the form of Simona Halep. A career which promised so much seems to have been broken under the weight of expectation.
A STAR SHINES ON CENTRE
I hope Garbine Muguruza will not succumb to the same fate. She has the build and game to become a multiple Grand Slam winner. Her relentlessly aggressive approach powered her to a surprise final, and she delivered on the biggest stage of all. Too often a Serena Williams final has been a procession. Not so this time. It may have been a straight sets victory, but the drama Muguruza provided ensured it to be a contest worthy of its status. As tennis fans we can only hope that now she has proven she can deliver, the pressure to deliver will not encumber her game.
Finally an honourable mention must go to Martina Hingis, who did a doubles double by winning the ladies’ and mixed doubles. She’s only a year older than Serena Williams and you can’t help but wonder what she would be capable of if she ever came back into the singles game. (photos: Jimmie48)
Serena Williams shows she is invicible by winning her 21st Grand Slam title! At the age of 33, she is still showing great strength and for some more time, no one will be able to surpass her ranking.
What a great article! I think you shoud do these articles after every Grand Slam is concluded. I agree on every single word you said, esspecially the Sharapova part. She’s got every trick in the book in order to gain an edge. I just don’t understand how the other player are still affected by her phony gamesmanship and are in some ways intimidated by her, and like you said, not just the players but the chair empires, the line judges…The most hypocritical thing is when Sharapova questions someone elses gamesmanship and complains when a player does some of the same things that she does to them… The only player who has fully figured her out and is completely unaffected by her is Serena…
I completely agree with the sharapova part! Like Nadal on the men’s side, she takes too long in between points but isn’t warned because of how high ranked she is. Yet for some reason, sharapova goes and criticizes wozniacki for arguing with the ref, saying that Caroline does it to take time, listing several of their meetings. What’s funny is that when they played at the us open, sharapova took 2 whole minutes over the allowed time for a bathroom break. It’s so strange to me why she’s such a magnet for sponsors with her haughty attitude
Loyal readers of this blog will know I dislike Serena, don’t get me wrong I think what she has done for women’s tennis is great for the sport. In America at least she takes away headlines from other players who deserve a little more than a snippet in the article or the paper. Sania Mirza is a great example at Wimbledon, she finally got her women’s doubles slam title, and hasn’t really gotten any international media attention. As far as Sharapova is concerned I can’t watch her anymore and that goes for other grunters as well, something needs to be done to quiet up those players. Nothing drastic like banning a player from competing but maybe something that will get them to be silent. Halep I have read has lost her confidence and I think all the international media and of course the media in her native Romania have contributed to it I believe. I really hope Garbine and other young stars continue to make headlines here on this wonderful blog and in the WTA. As for JJ against Aggy, I personally think the amount of time spent on court getting to that match is what really put JJ on the losing end. I thought she played well but didn’t really have anything left in the tank.
There is no reason to put down Maria, especially in an article which should be about Serena. Please recall it has been only in the past 3 years that Serena has regained her desire to play tennis. During the past 10 years Maria has won every popularity contest in women’s tennis highlighted by her huge endorsement lead. Serena isn’t even in the same league when it comes to money earned. I thought I’d say that since you used those words to describe the current #2 player in the WTA. It is not only American sponsors who support Maria. She has sponsors from all over the world.
Coco Vandeweghe is a spoiled brat, and she showed it again against Maria. I have seen here on-court baby tantrums ever since she played at La Costa while still in high school. Saying Maria is a cheat is a cheap shot. The chair ump is the person who officiates the match, not Coconuts and certainly not the media.
My advice to you, David Fearnhead, is to cease your hatred toward Maria. Serena’s record and accomplishments stand on their own without the need to put down Maria.
I’m sorry but I’ve to disagree with coco. Calling Maria a cheat because she was moving while she was serving is pathetic and a cheap shot from a bitter player who lost to her. I can agree with people when they say maria is cheating because of the Unbearable grunting ( which btw serena and vika also do ) and the untimely super long 10 min break whenever she looses a set but not on this one. what’s next? coco will probably find it distracting when maria or any other player moving while she’s hitting her shots? that makes me feel like coco is so full of her and thought of her so much more than she really is and when brought back to ground by maria just couldn’t take it and started the rant. If at all we are talking about the gamesmanship in women’s tennis, it should be about how WTA has taken no action to prevent this horrible grunting ( which BTW is not just constrained to women’s tennis as vika pointed) and how easily rules are being used by top players when ever they are loosing ( injury timeouts- almost everyone most notably Vika, Ten minute bathroom breaks- Maria (queen in this section), Ana( I hate to admit it but she does do it which of course started as a revenge against maria in Stuttgart Final), Hell even petra started doing one of the player with most gamesmanship on wta tour) how top players are never confronted about their time violation between serves ( not just Maria) but not what this bitter woman has said
After Serena leaves tennis , she will be making more money than Sharapova. And Sharapova isn’t more famous than Serena. Sharapova might make more in endorsement than Serena but she feels humiliated being in Serena’s shadow. If Serena wins the US Open, it will be the talk of the century and I bet her endorsements triple Sugarpova’s.
I got to see Serena play when I was in middle school and have loved her ever since. She is an incredible athlete! Thanks for the point. It was a good read.
Jesus, this is getting out of control. The more Serena wins, the more hate Sharapova gets. The hate speech narrative is seriously worrying. And it amazes me that this blog thinks it’s ok to pass this on. Let’s see, the american’s dominance over Sharapova on the court is well-established, her game speaks for herself. But people need to accept already that Sharapova IS indeed the second best out there. She’s one well-accomplished veteran with a Career Slam to her name and she never needed to cheat to achieve that. But there’s no need for the hate, Williams is the current holder of the 4 Slams, the WTA Finals and the Olympic Gold Medal, for Christ’s sake. You would think Serena fans/Maria haters would’ve settled down by now. But no.
Williams has nothing to do with the fact that Sharapova can be so shady on court. And I am totally fine with other players being shady during a match, as long as it’s a match against Sharapova…
Wow the bitterness in your article is so so evident. Serena is GOAT, no one can deny that, but really? Resorting to slamming Sharapova? You are literally TAUGHT in tennis to move around during an opponent’s serve- it is perfectly legal and accepted. And if you are going to pick on her grunting, why are you not mentioning Vika etc etc- and Serena too, some of her screams/roars last twice as long as Sharapova’s- you have to be consistent if you’re going to criticise.
Oh, so it’s fine for Serena to direct verbal insults to the player across the net, but *gasp* how could Sharapova even dare shoot a mere look at her opponent! Shock! Horror! I used to love this blog- it was so neutral in a zoo of drama- guess I’ll have to start looking elsewhere.
that is me playing tennis, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rveNfZ-7JOg is there any not married woman here? between 22-48 years ? firstname.lastname@example.org