When Victoria Azarenka won her first Grand Slam title at this year’s Australian Open, she was in the midst of a 26-game winning streak — the best start to a women’s season in fifteen years.
Finally, I thought we had a clear No. 1 player in the women’s game. Well, not so fast. Azarenka went on a six month title drought and just snapped out of it after winning the China Open.
If you’ve been a fan of men’s tennis in the past seven years, you’re extremely lucky.
You’ve witnessed Roger Federer, arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, in his prime.
You’ve witnessed one of the greatest rivalries in sport between Federer and Rafael Nadal. Oh yeah, and you’ve seen the rise of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
We’ve been spoiled. The talent and competitiveness in the men’s game in the past decade has been incredible and the women’s game hasn’t been able to keep up.
Gone are the days when Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, and Monica Seles consistently dominated the WTA. In the past decade, the women’s game has been waiting for a clear star and an exciting rivalry.
Sure, we’ve had Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, the Williams’ sisters and Maria Sharapova, but all of them, for different reasons, have been inconsistent.
Remember when Dinara Safina was world No. 1? No? Exactly.
Some might argue that the Big Four have dominated the men’s game for too long — I disagree. Sure, since May 2005 only one player other than Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray has won a Grand Slam — but why is that a bad thing? The Big Four have raised the level of play in the ATP and they’ve popularized the sport worldwide.
But women’s tennis is headed in the right direction. Serena Williams’ comeback season included a Wimbledon title, Olympic Gold, and a U.S. Open championship. If she stays healthy, she’ll stay at the top of the game.
But in order to popularize the women’s game, players like Azarenka, Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska need to be more consistent and start up some memorable rivalries.