The women’s tour this year has been a story in the strength of a woman. The strength to step away from a sport that has given you everything you have and bring new life into the world… start a family. The strength of motherly love and how it galvanizes a woman to battle for the deserving right to keep son and career together, rather than apart. The strength of one disgraced, to come back, give her heart and nothing less in a Grand Slam, and the strength of others to demand a measure of fairness in how chances are given to a player who let down the sport. The strength to come back from a haunting attack that left one with career threatening injuries.
It has been a year of strength and it reached a resounding crescendo at this year’s U.S Open championships. So who were the star women of the tournament? Let’s take a look.
When the U.S Open began, nobody was talking about Sloane Stephens. Her ranking was in the 900s and she’d been practically invisible for much of the year. Even Sloane Stephens wasn’t expecting much from herself, except to go out there, fight and do her best. Turns out that’s all she needed to do. Once a promising young star, often touted to replace Serena Williams as the undisputed champion of the game, Sloane Stephens had fallen as low as anyone could probably fall. Stripped to her bare essence, and with nothing in between them anymore, she finally came face to face with the champion inside of her. What a champion she is. She showed phenomenal fighting spirit, talent, and will, as she gutted out victory after victory until she reached the final. There, she put up a phenomenal display in Arthur Ashe stadium against good friend, Madison Keys. Which performance was better? The masterful display of tennis, or the masterful display of sportsmanship? Dare I say both are timeless pieces of tennis history. Welcome to the realm of champions, Sloane. It has been a long time coming.
Speaking of Madison Keys, we always knew she had the power game needed to make a deep run at a slam. We just didn’t know if she could hold that game together long enough. Now we do. Madison Keys made a spirited run to the finals before losing to an inspired Sloane Stephens. Despite the loss, this is a step in the right direction. She now knows that all she needs to do is hold it together for one more match and she will be a grand slam champion. The future of American women’s tennis is bright indeed.
A lot of talk is made about Coco’s attitude and her arrogant edge. I really don’t mind it so much. It is refreshing. If that lets her produce the brilliant tennis she’s been producing lately, then why not. It isn’t in any way disgraceful or confrontational. She really just has an unwavering belief in herself and doesn’t seem to fear any opponent. That’s a good thing to see and I expect her to establish herself all the more. She lost to the better player in the semis, but she made the semis. It deserves an A.
Oh, Venus. Could I possibly heap any more praise on you? She didn’t make the finals this time but at 37, two finals and a semifinal is a fantastic season. I called Venus Williams the most inspirational tennis player of her generation, and I maintain that stand. She played a terrific match against the resurgent Petra Kvitova and gave Sloane Stephens all she could handle in the semis. I don’t want to talk about whether or not Venus can win another slam. I cannot put it past her. Then again, does she need to? Her place in history is already secured. Everything else here is icing on the lovely cake.
Petra Kvitova gets an A+, not for her run to the quarters, but the history preceding that run. Here is a woman who was making her comeback from a burglary incident that left her with slashed tendons and muscles in her left arm. Her playing arm. It was amazing watching her rediscover her form and play close to her best tennis again. I hope to see more of Petra for the remainder of the season and definitely in 2018.
The revelation of the tournament on the women’s side? Probably so. Naomi is no revelation to tennis though. The 19-year-old teen star is already popular in the tennis circles for her rather mature personality and big game. That game was too much to handle for struggling deposed number one, Angelique Kerber. The combination should serve her well as she continues to improve. A level head and a big game can only be made for great things.
Do you think anyone else should have made the A – List? Leave a comment below and let’s talk about it. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about the ATP disappointments at this year’s U.S Open. Brace yourselves, it could be a rather long and contentious one.