I know that it is post-Grand Slam week, but it has been a decent week of tennis on the WTA nonetheless. It is a confirmation of how much I am actually enjoying the season and also how much more I would have enjoyed it if Serena Williams hadn’t produced somewhat predictable results at the Australian and French Opens this season. I always seem to be picking at Williams, but it's not that I don’t admire Williams and all of her achievements, I just don’t like dominance because it doesn’t equal entertainment. Look what Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have done for the men’s game over the last few years. The biggest thing it has contributed is predictability.
It’s why some recent results on the WTA has hinted that when Williams bows out, the depth of the WTA field will look even more competitive. I am predominantly looking at the title wins that have been racked up by players from outside the top ten in the world. I like some of the names which have been at the business end of tournaments this season, like Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, Camila Giorgi, Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova, along throw in flashes of brilliance from the likes of Belinda Bencic then it has been a pretty entertaining season.
I just wished it translated over more into the Grand Slams, but at least Timea Bacsinszky, Ekaterina Svitolina, Garbine Muguruza and Alison Van Uytvanck made this year’s Roland Garros interesting, all reaching the final eight.
Anyway, back to post Roland Garros week and two of the game’s big names have produced just what was needed, strong bounce-back performances. Agnieszka Radwanska has had a shocker of a season to be fair. But maybe it was all down to putting some grass under her feet because she has hit the Aegon Open in Nottingham and stormed through to the semi-finals, her joint best result of the season.
Radwanska had posted a terrible 15-13 match record heading to Nottingham, her only notable run this season coming on home turf in Katowice where she lost to Camila Giorgi in the semi-finals. I’ve always liked what Radwanska has brought to the table, a very intelligent player who has never had to rely on power. She has been found wanting this season though and while the upturn in form in England is nice, she posted a W3 L2 record on grass last season, so don’t expect to improve too much on her round of sixteen at Wimbledon from last year.
It’s just nice to see her making a few headlines again, regaining a bit of confidence. The WTA needs players like her to contrast all the power hitters in the game. Rafael Nadal has also shown some good resolve this week, running to the final of Stuttgart. After knocking out Gael Monfils in the semis of the Mercedes Cup, Nadal is back in his first grass court final since Wimbledon 2011. Nadal has a bit of history in Stuttgart, winning the title twice before, but when it was held on clay.
Is the grass positive really that big of a deal for Nadal? It is and here’s why. Nadal has clearly lost something this season and he needs to adapt. He can no longer rely on his clay court power and he needs to round out his game on the other surfaces to stay in touch with Djokovic, Murray and yes, Wawrinka at this point. Winning will simply give Nadal more energy, which he needs and while he should be cruising through low ranked fields like Stuttgart, at this point of the season, Nadal needs everything he can get. For the first time in just about forever, he failed to claim a European clay court title this season. For the good of his own game, he needs to balance himself out on other surfaces.
So an understated but resurgent week by Nadal and Radwanska. It’s been nice to see, but it is with a tinge of sadness that we are getting excited and looking for positives from two great players doing well at low ranking tournaments.