PARIS: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario shrugs her shoulders when quizzed about the state of women’s tennis. She opens up, unhappy how it has changed into a slugfest.
“That’s how the game is nowadays. It’s different from my days. The girls are really tall and strong and they hit the ball very powerfully and sometimes there is no variation. If the ball keeps going out, they don’t have Plan B to fall back on,” says the Spaniard.
So what’s the reason behind the change? “I think every generation is different. If you see a player who does well playing a particular style, everybody tries to follow it. It also comes down to how they are taught as well.”
The change could be credited to the rise of Venus and Serena Williams, who disposed of every opponent with their power hitting. Then came Justin Henin and Kim Clijsters and since then the complexion has changed.
She feels the current level is less competitive. “Nowadays, they play more from the baseline than near the net. Our generation had different personalities with varied styles of play. It made the game more entertaining,” adds SanchezVicario, who is the ambassador for Longines Future Tennis Aces.
She believes if Serena has an off day, there is no serious title challenger. “Right now, Serena is on top but if she is not winning, it’s wide open. Anyone has a chance to win it. During my time, we had a group of players we had to beat. So we would encounter tough matches from the fourth round onwards. Now, some of the players lose in the first or second round and it throws the draw open and the player who takes her chances can go on to win the title.”
She cites the examples of Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Gabriela Sabatini, Conchita Martinez and Jana Novatna among others, who would give each other a tough time, and on their day and were capable of toppling anyone.
(The writer’s trip is sponsored by Longines)