First let me state that it has always been so, though the idea that womens tennis has been eminently more watchable persists amongst so-called serious commentators.
First, the men’s game continues to progress on a technical basis, with the players exhibiting more power, more speed and more variety than that shown by the distaff side of the court. Womens tennis has not really progressed since the days of Martina Navratilova, when there was a hope that her all court athleticism, following on from the true greats of Margaret Court and Billie Jean King, would be expressed by today’s players. Instead what we see is a procession of cookie cutter Anna Kournikova style wannabees who show no particular nuance in the structure of their games.
There was some hope when the Williams sisters came on the scene that they had the potential to break the Martina Hingis/Tracy Austin style of play and take it to another level. However once they drove Hingis from the game, they stopped improving, probably because of the lack of competition and the sheer boredom of playing another Russianova cut from the can’t serve/baseline defender/hit it as hard as you can mould, pumped out by the assembly line tennis factories in Florida and elsewhere. It’s not surprise that Hingis is back and competitive, the womens game has not progressed, and even gone backwards. Does anyone for a moment think that Jim Courier could do the same?
Currently, the only female players with the ability to cut through the blandness are Amelie Mauresmo, Justine Henin-Hardenne (not playing due to injury), Kim Clijsters, Alicia Molik and Serena Williams. Each one of these players show the potential for the kind of big game that many of today’s male players bring to the court everyday.
You’ll note that Maria Sharapova does not get a mention here because I do not regard her as a player with any serious technical complexity to her game. She performs within a narrow range of skillsets, all of which she does extremely well, but outside of being an ornament, she adds nothing to the game technically. This narrowness of style brings the weakness of the womens game into sharp focus because of the inability of many of her competitors to beat her.
The others have the ability to expand their games to include new tricks and new ways to solve on court challenges, Sharapova only has the ability to hit her way out of trouble.
Here’s hoping the next week shows us how well they can play.