It’s sadly dark. Doha is the scene of some of the best Women’s tennis matches we’ll ever see. Unfortunately, due to religion, politics and general idiocy the constant balancing act, as one ‘advice blog’ puts it, is incredibly archaic.
The travel blog in question, you can find it here, made me do a double take. A section entitled ‘Making friends in Qatar’ wasn’t the harbinger of truth. That’s my fault. Naivety is awful.
Victoria Azarenka is the best female tennis player in the world. She defeated Serena Williams in three sets at Doha. Serena was not at full fitness and her ‘why am I here’ face was on full display, but there are few other athletes that I enjoy watching more. She battled, for lack of a better word. When it seemed as though she would capitulate, and leave Qatar with her sizable appearance fee, Serena Williams fought on. That’s why she’s considered one of the greatest of all time. That’s why, to a fault, I will root for her without the pretense of calling myself an ‘unbiased observer.’
Azarenka was the better player. While the grunting will always bother me, and the fact that a jackal from LMFAO is afforded prime real estate at some of the most famous tournaments in the world because he’s dating(?) Vika is the worst thing in the whole damn world, I’ve come around. That was a painfully obtuse sentence and probably not grammatically correct, but it’s the truth. I never wanted to like Victoria Azarenka, yet here I am.
Her victory coincided with Rafa Nadal’s first tournament win in seven months. Nadal defeated David Nalbandian in straight sets. He still doesn’t resemble the Rafa of old, tormenting Federer fans with an insane ability to get to every single ball, but this is obviously a positive step. His week in Sao Paulo was a struggle. When Carlos Berlocq is taking Nadal to three sets is never a good sign.
That brief segue aside, Azarenka and Nadal are eerily similar. Williams’ was clearly perturbed by Azarenka’s time wasting, raising her hand to halt the American’s rhythm at every turn. Nadal has the same ticks. The same mannerisms that make me question if this is something he picked up as a kid or a well crafted ‘I’m going to destroy your happy place’ rhythm that works so damn well. More so, Azarenka and Nadal do not give up on shots. That’s a colloquialism that deserves scorn, but it is the truth.
This was the 111th time the top two seeds faced off in a WTA final. Williams’ footwork was lacking throughout, but there were moments of sublimity. Serving at 5-3 in the third set, the announcers brought up the ‘C’ word. Tennis and choking go hand in hand. They brought up her disastrous 2012 U.S Open, falling to Williams after holding court in the third set. There wasn’t a redux.
“I just wanted to fight and give it my best, give myself every opportunity I can,” Azarenka said. “I started with love-30 (in the third) and I was like, ‘You have to keep it together. You have to do something.’ Serena was on a roll … so I had to really step up my game. I’m really glad I could turn it around and stay tough.”
This rivalry has everything. Mutual respect, grudges that no one will acknowledge publicly. Get ready for many more Serena-Vika finals. This is going to be great.