With Victoria Azarenka and Novak Djokovic defending their respective Australian Open titles this past weekend, I've been thinking a lot about tennis recently. Worth sharing? I don't know, but when the latest "Truth and Rumors" entry talks about Larry Fitzgerald setting a Pro Bowl record for most touchdowns by a receiver, you know SI.com is starving for material.
So here are my 12 random thoughts on tennis after the first major of the year:
1. I love the fact that the tennis season opens (well, practically) with a Major. Great action, no waiting. Unlike golf, which makes us endure months of run-of-the-mill tournaments before getting to the good stuff, tennis launches its season with one of its four biggest events.
2. I like Victoria Azarenka. I feel badly that she's getting a lot of grief for her medical timeout in the semis and I doubt people would have gotten so hot under the collar about it if her opponent hadn't been the latest "next great American", Sloane Stephens. Didn't Azarenka actually collapse on the court a couple of years ago? Wouldn't that make you feel a little vulnerable if you started feeling those symptoms again?
3. I also like Li Na. Great player. Great person. Fun interview. And to see her turn a corner in her career at the age of 30 or so? Fantastic.
4. I'm not big on the grunting. I can't believe how much different it is in the women's game versus the men's game. Andy Murray gives a little puff every time he hits the ball but Federer and Djoko are basically silent. Why do so many female players have to screech like that? I know the Azarenka is as guilty as anybody (see above) but I have to admit it does make me turn the sound down on the TV.
5. I love Roger Federer as a player and I think he is clearly the Greatest Male Tennis Player of All Time. By far. No competition. I just think he's lost 1% of his fire, his commitment, his determination now that he's reached such lofty heights and, with competition like Nadal, Murray and Djokovic, 1% is enough to lose the match.
6. I think Nadal might make a strong come back for a while, win another major or two, but his approach to the game is so physical, so violent, that his body is not going to hold up long enough for him to challenge Roger's record number of Major wins.
7. I don't understand how Maria Sharapova can be so dominant in the tournament, then roll over meekly to Li Na. What happened? What's the story behind that?
8. I also wish Sports Illustrated and other media outlets would feature photos of other women tennis players with their articles, not just Sharapova. You only see a photo of Azarenka, Kvitova, Na, etc etc etc once Sharapova is knocked out.
9. I don't get the people who go to live tennis matches and then try to shout out just before a player serves. It's like a competition to see who can be the last to shriek just before play begins. What makes a person do that? What's the thrill?
10. I'm not sure we'll ever see such a tremendously gifted sibling set as Venus and Serena Williams in tennis again. At their peak, they were completely dominant both in singles and doubles. Amazing to see. It's too bad that Venus' health is such that she can't be the player she wants to be anymore and that Serena continues to battle injuries. Together and apart, they were and are legends.
11. I personally think it's pretty sad that there is such a huge drop-off from the top four men to the rest of the field. And I think it's even sadder that world number 5, David Ferrrer, appears to have given up any hope of beating any of the big four. Why should we bother to watch the early rounds when we know that, come semi-final time, it will be the big four (or three of the big four and a special guest)?
12. Speaking of which, if Nadal continues to fight injuries, the biggest question in any men's tournament for the foreseeable future is which of the remaining big three gets a free pass to the finals. Seeding will be key and, if Djokovic continues to be slotted in the half of the draw that lacks another top player, he will enjoy a significant advantage every time out.