Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Asterisk Problem

It really hasn't been a good news weekend so far. There's a hung parliament in Australia, Tony Abbott might end up being the Prime Minister, Serena and del Potro are definitley out of the US Open...

I won't subject you to my whinging on Australian politics, but if you want whinging about the absence of these two key figures from the year's last Slam, then you have come to the right place. I don't believe in the concept of the asterisk - you know, when someone wins but it's with reservations because of something that happened, like Amelie Mauresmo in Australia in 2006 when Justine Henin retired in the final - but the US Open is just not going to be the same without these two.

We kind of already knew del Potro wasn't going to be there, so this is hardly surprising. And ordinarily, I wouldn't really be too bothered. I managed to get through all of Roland Garros and Wimbledon without missing Delpo at all (in fact, sometimes I'm pretty sure I forgot he even existed). But New York is a different matter. He's a defending champion. And while that has its own mystique but doesn't actually necessarily mean anything given the field, I find that we do miss him more on hard courts. He's a bigger force here than anyone else. You never know what's going to happen when Delpo steps on court. And I think that level of volatility will be missed.

But the real shocker is, of course, Serena.

I didn't expect this one, and I spent some time going 'oh no, both defending champions are out' until I realised that Serena was not, in fact, the defending champ. I just sort of assume she won something if I can't quite remember who won at that moment (sorry, Kimmie) and that, right there, is one of the reasons she'll be missed. In Serena, you always know you have a Slam contender. Sometimes, given the nature of the WTA, she's the only Slam contender you have. One of the things I like most about Serena is that she wins things, she doesn't just lose last. And that is what I am afraid is going to happen at the US Open.

Of course, we could have another Clijsters or Schiavone fairy tale victory. Who knows what will happen? It will definitely be a surprise and that will be exciting. But without Serena - and, for that matter, without Henin - I'm a little worried the WTA will be she who loses last, not she who wins.