OTHER THAN SERENA, VENUS, VICTORIA WOMEN AS FLAT AS KEY BISCAYNE

Key Biscayne stadium

Key Biscayne stadium

The sun was shining, as usual, but the women weren’t. Don’t want to pick on the dolls, yet it’s hard not to recognize that this is a low period in their history.

Of course they’ve got the Hall of Fame-bound Sisters Sledgehammer – Serena and Venus – high on the summit. However, everybody else seemed to burrow deep into sandy Key Biscayne at the Sony Ericsson.

Maria Sharapova is still shouldered to the bench. Larry Scott, their most successful CEO, has fled. (Larry felt reasonably that his WTA and the ATP should combine to present a united front as, say, MLT — Major League Tennis – like Major League Baseball. The ATP, lacking his imagination, declined.)

Of the top 15 women, only the Sisters plus No. 8 Koozy (Svetlana Kuznetsova) and No. 13 Caroline Woznicki made it to the quarter-finals. The “names,” Nos. 2-3-4-5 Dinara Safina, Jelly Jankovic, Elena Dementieva, Vera Zvonareva, and No. 7 Ana Ivanaovic checked out early. It was as though they’d spent the day at the nearby beach and got stung by those colorful jellyfish called Portuguese Men o’ War.

No. 1 Serena had a tough time getting past No. 6 Venus in the semis (6-4, 3-6, 6-3) in what would have been a splendid final if they had been correctly seeded 1-2. But Serena came out of that battle with a strained left thigh and ankle that required strapping.

Nevertheless, Little Sister, though one-legged, was the heroine of the final, which she lost to rising Belarus 19-year-old Victoria Azarenka, 6-3, 6-1. It was a gutsy performance by Serena, winner of 5 titles on the Key, one behind Steffi Graf. In the role of a show-must-go-on trouper, she made sure there was a final, and, though short on movement, kept Azarenka busy for 71 minutes.

Since there’s nothing worse for viewers than a defaulted final, CBS should send Serena a ton of roses and a tank car of champagne. She also did the 12,854 customers at Crandon Park a favor, and they tried hard vocally to encourage their fellow Floridian.

Serena said she “thought about [not playing] but I don’t like not to play…it was a little difficult moving to the left and a little to the right, and,” she laughed a little forward was also difficult.”

Still Azarenka had to pay attention, ever aware that Serena was dangerous when she had a good swing at the ball. Azarenka, a slim blonde, may seem the poor woman’s Sharapova, her screams slightly less annoying but more melodic. If they face one another on court, bring your ear plugs.

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