What have we learned from laid-back mom Kim Clijsters’ second consecutive title (third if you count her retirement years out of tennis) at the US Open? That women’s tennis is an injury mess and Grand Slam titles are completely up for grabs.
There are plenty of pretenders out there — the meltdown master Vera Zvonareva, who threw another crying jag in the final before losing to Clijsters; Ana Ivanovic, who won the French before injuries and losses led to her belief going down the drain; and Ivanovic’s countrywoman Jelena Jankovic who also spent a brief period at No. 1 before it became apparent she didn’t have the championship merit.
It’s all about injuries now in the women’s game. If Serena Williams is in a final, she’s the favorite, but she’s sidelined more nowadays than playing. Her current cut foot is was a freak injury, but aside from that, she has had chronic knee and ankle problems due to carrying all that extra weight around. Clijsters was knocked out of the game and into early retirement due to injuries, and she had enough, ready to start a family. But when she saw the Ivanovics winning Slams and the Jankovics reaching No. 1, she thought, ‘Hey, my body feels a whole lot better after all this rest, and these players winning the big titles are a joke. Serena and Venus are always injured, Justine [Henin] is retired — if I made a comeback it would all be cake! Cake baby!”
So Clijsters came out of retirement (her success making Henin come back too), and since then it’s been easy. Serena missed another Slam this part fortnight, Venus is over the hill, and the best of the challengers is the sobbing, racquet-breaking Zvonareva.
It’s good from the WTA point of view because Clijsters as they would say is a ‘class act’ — talking-up opponents and providing great photo opportunities with her curly-blonde kid and generally being a great spokesman for the game rather than threatening to kill lineswomen on live television.
Clijsters even dominates U.S. tennis — she finished No. 2 in the US Open Series standings (behind another European, Caroline Wozniacki), and due to her success at the U.S. events she took home an extra $500,000 in addition to her $1.7 million for winning the US Open. Thanks USTA, here’s my checking account routing number in Belgium, just put that $2.2 million right in there.
As Serena and Clijsters have shown, champions are a breed above. Zvonareva had beaten Clijsters in their two previous meetings in 2010 but that didn’t matter in a pressure-packed Grand Slam final. Venus and Sharapova were once there, but they won’t win another Slam.
“Vera, just keep it going, it’ll happen,” Clijsters tried to assure Zvonareva, who won only three games, after the final.
Could happen, you never know. Clijsters lost her share of Slam titles before finally winning one. But on the not-likely side. Wozniacki never seems to beat big players on big occasions (Sharapova, who hasn’t won anything big since shoulder surgery? — doesn’t count).
Clijsters, if you remember, tore a muscle in her foot earlier this year and was out for a while. Henin is out for the year with an elbow injury. Serena hopes to soon return from a foot injury. Venus was out for a time this year, as was Sharapova. Ivanovic was out. I’m sure I’m leaving a lot of players out. In today’s modern game of super-racquets and strings that put a lot of stress on shoulders and elbows, and overtraining for some players, it is about avoiding injury. It is tougher than ever.
The rankings don’t show it, but like everyone hoped for at this year’s US Open with a Fed vs. Rafa final, in Australia women’s tennis fans will be hoping for a Serena vs. Kim final if the WTA’s two heavyweights can stay uninjured long enough to meet. In the meantime, with a handful to the top players/names injured at any time, anything goes.
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