It's the ladies' turn now
Updated: 2011-09-14 08:03
By Tym Glaser (China Daily)
Was it really only a couple of years ago, give or take a brain cell or two, that I was lamenting the paucity of talent in women's tennis and applauding the depth of the men's game?
Sure, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were winning all the big tournaments, but on any given day there seemed a chance they could be beaten by a player in at least the top 20.
On the women's side, with the departure of Lindsay Davenport and injuries to Maria Sharapova, it was pretty much just the Williams girls, Serena and Venus, against the Belgian belles, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, with the rest of the field just making up the numbers.
My, how times have changed. Now the main men's events are basically a four-horse race between Fed, Rafa, world No 1 Novak Djokovic and Scot Andy Murray, while the women's tournaments have been bust wide open.
Henin retired, as did Clijsters - for a while - and the Williamses have battled injuries and illness as well as the creeping up of time.
So, while the "Serb Djoker" won three of the four majors this year and Spanish Bull Rafa customarily claimed the French crown, the women's slams were shared between four different players.
Mother Clijsters held the fort for the old guard at the Aussie Open (before succumbing to injury), but then came three first-time Grand Slam winners in China's Li Na (French Open), Czech Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon) and now Sam Stosur of Australia (US Open).
It's a great shot in the arm for the women's game, particularly as the latter three all come from different continents and Li and Stosur, both relative veterans, have shown that years of grind on the Tour can pay off.
That's not to say there's a complete changing of the women's guard; Serena is still a potent force, as is Venus - when and if she can overcome her injuries and illness - and Clijsters, injury and family permitting, will remain a major player too. But now the women's field is much deeper with the likes of Li, Stosur, a resurgent Sharapova and a strong Eastern European contingent led by Kvitova. They are not intimidated to face the big guns anymore.
The same cannot be said for the men, as "The Big Four" seem to get free passes through to the major semis and then battle it out for the prize between themselves.
Of course, it does lead to compelling rivalries, particularly Nadal-Federer and now Nadal-Djokovic, and the tennis is superb, but there's a certain sameness and predictability to the events.
Players like Li, Kvitova and Stosur have added extra depth and vitality to women's tennis while the men's game appears to be stagnating.
As Robert Zimmerman once wrote, "the times, they are a changin".
Tym Glaser is a senior sports copy editor who believes a Wallabies' win at the rugby World Cup would cap a pretty good year for Australian sport. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org