September 27, 2009

Game, Set, Match - The Best Decade of Tennis

They are coming. The Giants. Together. All at once.

Fittingly, 2010 promises to be the most thrilling year in tennis we've had this decade- possibly its defining year.

Tennis is probably the only sport where the women can potentially be as exciting to watch as the men. And that's no mean thing for women in Sport. Somehow, the women this decade have not delivered all at once. There is no doubt that the Williamses took the game to the next level physically. Serena Williams may not have Graf's numbers, but at her best she can be an unstoppable force. And here, I'm going to be blasphemous and say it- Serena is probably the greatest player of all time, for at her brilliant powerful best, no one- and I mean no one- not Graf, not Navratilova, not Evert- no one could have defeated her. Well, almost.

She might have met her match in a petite 5'5 Belgian called Justine Henin- who, armed with a backhand like lightening (a stroke John McEnroe called the best backhand in the game- men or women) has had Serena's number. Justine's fierce will is rivalled only by Serena's. Boy, do those two dislike each other. But their rivalry- which could easily have been as thrilling as the storied Roger-Rafa one, had it come to full fruition- did not develop for a variety of reasons. In her 2002-03 pomp, Serena was untouchable. And Justine was still developing her game. Nevertheless, the only grand Slam loss Serena had was at Roland Garros 2003- in a controversial outcome at the hands of Henin.

Then as Serena fell to the vagaries of injury and personal loss, Belgian tennis took center stage with Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters facing off repeatedly. By the time Serena had gotten her mojo back, Kim had retired. Justine was indisputably number 1 and defeated a sub par, out of shape Serena in 3 successive Slams- the last one at the US Open 2007 making Justine the only player to defeat both the Williamses and win a Grand Sam (a feat recently replicated by- who else? Kim Clijsters in 2009). Then Justine retired in 2008, as Serena made a blazing return to fitness and glory. Venus of course has been the undisputed queen of grass- reaching 8 Wimbledon finals in the past 10 years and winning 5. Her losses? To Serena Williams.

But now in 2010, order will be restored. Serena is fit and playing well again- her fearsome serve and athleticism restored. Kim Clijsters- that wonderful timer of the ball has returned to great success. And Justine Henin- with the great backhand intact- is coming back- her eyes firmly fixed on Wimbledon, the only major she hasn't won. The same Wimbledon which has been Williams turf for so long now. Where the defending Champion will be - Serena. It is for the first time in their careers that these four players- Serena, Venus, Kim and Justine will be at their peaks. So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? A catfight? You bet. And I want to be there to watch it.

Article by - KG /

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