Unlike most fans, I don't need a big rivalry to enjoy tennis. I'm not sure why--I certainly enjoyed the Evert-Navratilova rivalry--but after that, rivalries ceased to matter to me. But for most fans, I think they do matter, and maybe--just maybe--a real one is finally brewing between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka beat Williams 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 today to win the Cincinnati final, and the match was a total crowd-pleaser.
Azarenka was broken toward the end of the final set, but broke back when Williams served for the match; not many players can pull that off. There were a few "deciding moments" in the third set tiebreak: An inexplicabe unforced error from Williams, a double fault from Williams, and a "she didn't just do that!" volley from Azarenka. Azarenka is to be credited for her mental strength in this contest, and she looks really good going into the U.S. Open.
As for Serena, she won the U.S. Open Series when she defeated Li Na in the semifinals, which makes her the first WTA player to win the series twice. The world number 1 also won it in 2011.
The semifinal matches weren't pretty. None of the four players could serve very well, but Williams gets a pass for playing through some type of abdominal injury, and therefore not being able to serve "Serena style." Li's problem was, shall we say, not abdominal. In the other semifinal, Azarenka and Jelena Jankovic broke each other 23 times.
Wimbledon champions Hshieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai won the Cincinnati doubles title. They defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke 2-6, 6-3, 12-10. Hsieh and Peng were seeded 3rd.
The less-than-elegant semifinals had the ESPN commentators talking even more than usual. At one point, Pam Shriver mentioned Justine Henin, and described Henin as being high-strung, but "she hid it well." Yes--if you were wearing a blindfold and earplugs for a about a decade. Sometimes I just have to shake my head and wonder.
Qualifying in New Haven was under way this weekend, and first round main draw play began today. Sabine Lisicki defeated Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 6-1.