Just recently someone who follows me on Twitter (@crosscourt1) suggested that women’s tennis is suffering because of a lack of rivalries and asked me to do a blog on it.
Serena Williams is such a dominant force that she leaves all others in her wake. Many believe that makes it difficult for women’s tennis to garner the following men’s tennis has which plays up the rivalries of Federer v Nadal, Djokovic v Murray, Nadal v Djokovic, Federer v Murray, etc. Those rivalries are arguably more competitive. The top four are close. And you really don’t know who would win.
It is very important for any sport to have rivalries; fans who support one player over another etc contribute to the atmosphere. It adds to the intrigue of matches and the excitement of what is to come. Probably the greatest rivalry tennis ever saw was Chris Evert against Martina Navratilova but also let’s not forget Stephanie Graf with Monica Seles.
The rivalry adds to the attention of who is No.1 in the world and the challenge to get there, or stay there.
Serena is so strong and athletic and it makes it very tough for others to compete with her. When she is playing near, or at her best, she is pretty much unbeatable. She would never say that herself out of respect to her fellow players and nor would any other player agree with that, and rightly so, otherwise there is no point is playing.
For a rivalry to work there has to be some degree of closeness over an extended period of matches.
Serena leads Maria Sharapova 12-2. The last meeting was in the Miami final this year and after a close first set and a half, Serena stormed home 6-0 in the third. She was like Sebastien Vettel changing gears. She has beaten Sharapova the last eleven times and the last time Sharapova beat her was in the final of the 2004 WTA Championships.
Against Victoria Azarenka Serena leads 11-2. Azarenka won their last meeting in this year’s Doha final but prior to that Serena had won nine straight, and against Aga Radwanska it is 5-0 to Serena. Their most recent match being in the Miami semis this year when the No.1 won 6-0 6-3. Ouch!
She has strong winning records over Caroline Wozniacki and Li Na and Sam Stosur and against the person she has played the most, her sister Venus, its 14-10 to Serena. Serena has won the last five; the last time Venus beat her was in Dubai in 2009.
When Serena enters an event it takes a mammoth effort to stop her from winning it. At the time of writing she is the leader among active players with 49 titles (three in 2013) and $US43.3million in prize money which is fourth all-time among all players. She is behind only Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
I guess when you break it all down the fact that Serena is so good makes it difficult to have a rivalry in women’s tennis but most fans want to see her in action.
Sure there are fascinating matches between Maria and Vika or Caro and Aga as an example but they probably do not grab as much attention as they should, possibly because fans want to see Serena in action more than any other.
So what do you do about it? It’s a tough one. Maybe it’s a case of really playing up the other match-ups and making a much bigger deal of them.
It’s a gradual process and not something that will happen in a space of weeks. They need to play each other a lot more in shorter spaces of time but then maybe it is also a case of marvelling at the brilliance of Serena Williams a lot more rather than rueing the fact that there is no one to genuinely challenge her right now.