Unfortunately, football season is starting to wind down here in America, but there is always a silver lining for me. My other favorite sport is just starting to ramp up: pro tennis. I am drawn to the sport for a variety of reasons that will become more apparent as I continue to write about it. In the meantime, I am honored to write what is to my knowledge the first tennis piece in the history of The Game Haus.
From a match fixing scandal, to almost every big-time star missing significant time, 2016 was a rough year for tennis. However, the 2017 season is underway and we are less than two weeks away from the year’s first major: the Australian Open. Here is a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly as the tennis roadmap winds its way through early 2017.
The Good- Stars are coming back
With the two sizable exceptions of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, every major star in the sport missed a significant chunk of time in 2016. Roger Federer did not play after Wimbledon in July due to a knee injury. Serena Williams took the entire fall off due to nagging injuries after losing in the semis of the U.S. Open. Rafael Nadal was not 100% at the French Open and missed Wimbledon. Former world number ones and major champions Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova missed the vast majority of the season. This was due to an unplanned pregnancy and controversial drug suspension, respectively. While Azarenka and Sharapova are planning returns in the spring, the others are already hard at work.
Despite an early upset loss in New Zealand this week, Serena appears to be healthy. Federer has been particularly jolly during his return to the sport at the Hopman Cup exhibition event this week.
Azarenka and Sharapova have their fair share of detractors out there, but their star power is undeniable. It is always great to have the sport’s biggest stars playing on the biggest stages. While names like current ladies number one Angelique Kerber and powerful Canadian Milos Raonic admirably picked up the slack on both the men’s and women’s tours, 2016 never felt quite right.
The Bad- The WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) really screwed up
This might be the understatement of the century. It sounded like great news when the WTA announced an online streaming service for the 2017 season. However, there are a few major problems with it. First, the streaming service is not ready yet. Even worse, the WTA terminated its TV deals in the US and numerous other countries for all events taking place outside of America. They are clearly all in on the streaming service.
For now though, fans like me are relying on sketchy streaming sites and snippets from social media to keep up with the sport. It is inconceivable to me how the people who run a sport could let something like this happen. Thankfully, the Australian Open and the other three majors are not affected. Despite the lack of WTA coverage, Tennis Channel remains the best place for most folks to follow the sport at the moment.
The Ugly- Ivanovic and Kvitova
Tennis is no different than any other sport. Fans have their favorites and players they despise. Sadly, major off-court difficulties have befallen two of the sport’s most universally liked Grand Slam champions: Ana Ivanovic and Petra Kvitova. Ivanovic announced her retirement from the sport last week at the age of just 29. The 2008 French Open winner cited nagging injuries as the main reason for her sudden decision. Fortunately, she is recently married and seems to be content. Even so, it is always sad when an athlete is unable to leave the game on their own terms.
The Kvitova situation is much darker. The powerful lefty and two-time Wimbledon champion was stabbed several times in her playing hand by an intruder at her home in the Czech Republic just before Christmas. She will be out six months, possibly longer. Kvitova is a multiple time winner of the WTA’s award for sportsmanship. The entire tennis world hopes she is back on the court soon. Enjoy the new season everyone!
“From Our Haus to Yours”