By Mark Brown
Cincinnati Herald Contributor
In case you didn’t get the memo……Serena Williams, the former number one women’s tennis player in the world, and arguably one of the best athletes in modern sports history, is taking some time-off from her successful day job…..however, she has a very good reason. She’s pregnant, and preparing for motherhood.
That said, as Williams proceeds to embrace the job of being a mother, the world of women’s professional tennis begins the process of realignment in her absence. Who’s the up-and-coming new star on the block? Can a cagy veteran rise back to prominence in Serena’s absence? Is women’s tennis at a crossroads, after almost a two-decade dominance by Serena, and her equally talented sister, Venus?
With women’s tennis likely searching for a new leader…..there are certainly more questions than answers on the WTA circuit. For instance, will former star, Victoria Azarenka resurrect her career after becoming a mother herself? Can current world number one, Karolina Pliskova, hold her position at the top and defend her 2016 W&S Open championship? Is Maria Sharapova prepared to bounce back on the world stage? Does Venus Williams have one more tournament victory in her? Or can the promise of Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens ever come to fruition….along with the debut of budding 18 year-old Czech Republic phenom, Marketa Vondrousova? Lots of questions…..with answers TBD.
While the future of women’s tennis is just that….the future, and yet to be defined, the past….is the past…..perhaps somewhat arguable in opinion, but set with facts that can’t be denied. That leaves just the present—the here and now—to be established. And there’s no better indicator for establishing the present than the Western & Southern Open—that begins this weekend in Cincinnati (August 12-20), at the Lindner Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.
When addressing the WTA field, tournament director Andre Silva feels good about this year’s event. “The addition of these players add to our already strong player field. We anticipate the WTA’s number one ranking to be on the line during the Western & Southern Open, and adding players of this caliber will make the battle for the top even more compelling.”
And while the women rediscover their identity, the men’s side of professional tennis continues to conjure up familiar names like the immortal Roger Federer, the consistent Andy Murray, and the resurgence of Rafael Nadal. That, along with the promise of Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Kei Nishikori, the uniqueness of Gael Monfils, and the power of Milos Raonic and John Isner. Perhaps a little more answers than questions on the men’s side, but questions nonetheless.
Can 7-time W&S Open champ, and crowd favorite, Federer pull out one more W&S victory for his legion of adoring fans? Or is Nadal on a tear comeback to regain his domination, after battling injuries and a downward slide? Perhaps this may be the year that Tsonga or Monfils capture the W&S Open championship?
Once again, many questions—with answers TBD–at this year’s W&S Open; which now serves as one of the last premier tournament stops on the professional tennis circuit, prior to the grand-slam U.S. Open, held later this month in Flushing Meadow, New York.
Qualifying rounds for the W&S Open are this Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 12-13). First round sessions (both WTA and ATP) begin on Monday (Aug. 14). For more information on the W&S Open visit www.wsopen.com.