By Maud Watson
It’s official. Caroline Wozniacki will finish 2011 as the No. 1 ranked player for the second year running and the first player to manage the feat two consecutive years without winning a major. The Dane was guaranteed the top spot when Maria Sharapova failed to win either of her first two matches and subsequently withdrew from the season-ending championships. Sharapova only had an outside chance to unseat Wozniacki at the apex of the rankings and had already stated she wasn’t focused on No. 1. What will be more disappointing for the Russian was the way she performed. To be fair, she was competing in her first tournament since withdrawing from Tokyo with a badly sprained ankle, but there’s no denying she had ample opportunity to turn both of her matches around, particularly the encounter with Li Na. You can also bet she was more than healthy enough to stick around to finish out the last round robin match, but she did make the wise decision to pull out and gear her focus towards next year. And as for Wozniacki, small congratulations are in order. Though the season didn’t include the major success she is still seeking and ultimately ended in a whimper, she still achieved an impressive accomplishment.
Raising a Racquet
There is more and more conversation surrounding the topic of “grunting” (can we just agree to start calling it “shrieking?”) in the women’s game, with WTA CEO Stacey Allaster confirming that the WTA would start looking into the issue after an increased volume of comments from media and fans alike. Wozniacki is also bringing the issue to a head with her comments earlier this week, suggesting that some players do it on a purpose as a tactic that is distracting to the opposition. Azarenka, one of the most notorious shriekers in the game, feels that players like Wozniacki who don’t like the shrieking should “mind their own business.” But the fact is, while it’s debatable as to how much the shriekers are attempting to consciously employ gamesmanship, their shrieks are a distraction to the player on the other side of the net, as well as anyone watching the match. Many of the shriekers don’t make a sound on the practice court either, so it’s clear it is something that they can control. Additionally, if it’s starting to turn people away from the sport – as the numbers are starting to indicate – then action needs to be taken. The only disheartening element of Allaster’s response was the statement that shrieking must be eradicated at a young level. While catching it early is key, a no-shrieking rule needs to be employed at the highest levels of the game, including against the likes of Sharapova and Azarenka. I’m inclined to agree with Brad Gilbert on this one. No matter how “ingrained” they might think their shrieking is…you start fining them every time they cross a certain decibel threshold, they’ll learn to zip it real quick.
Due to the growing success of combined events, the ATP and WTA are working harder and harder to create more dual tournaments in the future. One of the latest items on their punch list is to combine the season-ending championships of both tours. Players and fans would undoubtedly enjoy this, but of all the events to make dual, this one could be the most challenging. The biggest obstacle would be the calendars, as the ATP’s schedule is currently a month longer than the WTA’s season, and even when their season is shortened in 2012, it will still be two weeks longer. Then there’s the issue of the contracts that need to be fulfilled in the cities of Istanbul and London for hosting the current finals. In short, bringing these two together into one is a tall task, but it will pay huge dividends if they’re able to succeed in this lofty ambition.
In the letdown that is the autumn of the ATP season, a bit of history was made last week in Moscow as Janko Tipsarevic defeated countryman Viktor Troicki in the very first all-Serb final. The win also marked Tipsarsevic’s second title of his career, with his first coming only a few short weeks ago in Malaysia. Tipsarevic is still too inconsistent to be a sure a bet in any tournament that he enters, but he appears to be establishing some consistency and belief. Look for him to have a good 2012 and play the spoiler on some of the game’s biggest stages on more than one occasion.
Cast Your Vote
That’s what retired tennis professional Marat Safin will be asking voters to do as he runs for election to Russia’s State Duma on December 4. The prospect of the charismatic Russian making the cut may not be all that farfetched given what he’s been up to the last two years. Since retiring in 2009, he has been working with both the Russian Tennis Federation and Olympic Committee, and he has navigated his way through the primaries in the Nyzhny Novorod region. He’s also brimming with confidence, saying he’s an “intelligent guy, and I have a lot to bring and a lot of ideas about things and what to do.” Plus, as he cheekily surmised, “I could be the best looking guy in the Duma. But that’s only because all the other guys are over 60.” Rest assured that if elected, Russia’s lower house of parliament will have gained more than just a handsome face.