Russian Women’s Tennis in Decline
Not that it was ever that great to begin with, but Russian women’s tennis ended 2010 in marked decline. We continue to see it as a perfect metaphor for Putin’s Russia — all illusion, no substance when you look beneath the shoddy, dishonest propaganda.
Russia now has only one player ranked in the top ten in the world. Going into the year-end WTA Tour Championships in Doha, Qatar last week it had two, and they were Russia’s sole representatives at the eight-player event. But the first, Elena Dementieva, was blown off the court in round-robin play, failed to advance to the elimination rounds and promptly announced her retirement from the sport.
And then there was one.
The one, Vera Zvonareva, advanced to the semi-finals where she met world #1 Christina Wozniaki. Zvonareva was shockingly non-competitive. She was ejected in decisive straight sets, and completely fell apart after losing the first. Humiliating herself and her country, Zvonareva failed to win a single game in the second set despite being ranked #2 in the world. Her performance was no freak occurrence; she’d turned in exactly the same sort of disastrous collapse at the US Open in New York just a few weeks earlier.
In short, if Zvonareva is truly Russia’s best female tennis player, the country may as well give up the sport right now. If she’s the future of women’s tennis, field hockey may have a better chance of commercial success.
But Zvonareva isn’t the future. She’s 26 years old and has been on the professional tour for 11 years. She’s only three years younger than Dementieva. Despite her “number 2″ ranking in 2010 Zvonareva won only one tournament title, and that was in an obscure event in Thailand where she did not need to defeat an opponent ranked in the top 45 in the world and where she met a player ranked a lowly #87 in the finals. Zvonareva is, in other words, a total fraud — and a boring one at that.
As we reported in our last issue, neither Dementieva nor Zvonareva nor Nadia Petrova nor Maria Sharapova, the top four of Russia’s six top-20 ranked players, deigned to set foot on the court at the Kremlin Cup just prior to the Doha event, and the bottom two Russians watched helplessly as the title was taken by a foreigner.
Trivia question: When was the last time a Russian woman won a grand-slam title by beating a non-Russian in the finals?