Posted: Tue June 12, 2012 1:10PM; Updated: Wed June 13, 2012 4:09PM
Bruce Jenkins
Bruce Jenkins>INSIDE TENNIS

Lopsided WTA finals, Djokovic's recovery, more French thoughts

Story Highlights

Uneven Grand Slam women's finals is becoming an unfortunate trend

Novak Djokovic will need to move past his costly double faults in the final

Tennis' global landscape, TV coverage notes, more French Open thoughts

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Maria Sharapova French Open
Maria Sharapova was hardly tested in her straight-set victory over Sara Errani.
Corinne Dubreuil/ABACAPRESS.COM /aba
French Open 2012
Day 16
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Previous Coverage

Some secondary headlines in the wake of an eventful French Open:

Drama goes missing: Scanning the history of women's finals at Roland Garros, you'll come across Jennifer Capriati's epic triumph over Kim Clijsters in 2001, a thrilling match that went to 12-10 in the third set.

Whatever happened to all that? The WTA's recent history of one-sided women's finals has become a serious issue at all the majors, and Maria Sharapova's 6-3, 6-2 dismissal of Sara Errani was no exception.

Let's say your standard for a truly dramatic match is three sets, with a margin of two games or less in the third. The last time that happened in Paris was the Capriati-Clijsters match (and the last 11 finals there have been straight-setters).

The last time that happened at the Australian Open: 2003, Serena Williams over Venus Williams, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4.

At Wimbledon: 2006, Amelie Mauresmo over Justine Henin, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

At the U.S. Open: 1994, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario over Steffi Graf, 1-6, 7-6, 6-4. And get this: The last 16 U.S. Open finals were two-set affairs.

Can Novak shrug this off? There's no disgrace in losing to Rafael Nadal on red clay, even if costs you the rarest of opportunities, a chance to win a fourth consecutive major. But Novak Djokovic let himself down, badly, by double-faulting away two games on Sunday (before the postponement of play), then uncorking the dreaded double on match point Monday.

Djokovic can take heart in the fact that he ran off eight straight games against Nadal at one stage of that final. "We're witnessing something we'll never see again," marveled John McEnroe on NBC. But that serving malaise was pretty unusual, as well. You wonder how long such things linger in a player's mind.

WTA's best advertisement: Globalization is not a concept, it's reality. The new Top 10 rankings show players from 10 different countries. In order: Russia, Belarus, Poland, the Czech Republic, Australia, U.S., Denmark, France, Germany, Italy.

Big change coming: The France-to-London turnaround is the quickest of the Grand Slam season, and what a contrast. From soggy Paris, where the men's final was played in a steady and increasingly annoying rain, to ultra-cautious Wimbledon, where at the first sign of a raindrop (aside from the roofed Centre Court, naturally), court attendants spring into action and have the courts covered within seconds.

No progress here, thanks: The French Open really should be past the point of guesswork. Here comes the umpire out of the chair, pointing to a mark on the court, and we're supposed to believe that's the one in question? Sometimes there's no doubt, but on other occasions, as Brad Gilbert noted on ESPN, "At the end of a set, you could have a couple of marks in the same spot."

Like many others on the scene, Gilbert could find no reason why Roland Garros won't employ Hawk-Eye technology. The television networks had access to it, but that didn't help Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova or other players who were certain that umpires picked the wrong mark.

"Why isn't it here? We're using it on TV," said Mary Carillo on one broadcast. At the mention of the tournament's excuse -- the "margin of error" is just too great on clay -- John McEnroe snapped, "That's a bunch of baloney. Complete and utter crap, as far as I'm concerned."

Regarding Serena's exit: "She has only one game plan," Chris Evert said on ESPN after Serena Williams lost in the first round to Virginie Razzano, "and that is to attack. It's such a high-risk style of play that if she's off, she's going to lose to a lot of different players. At the end of the day, nothing worked for her. I give her credit for staying out there and fighting so hard."

Added anchor Chris McKendry, sitting alongside Evert: "And she had an opponent who was cramping -- and yet didn't think to make her keep hitting more shots."

Lindsay Davenport, on Tennis Channel: "I've never seen her tighter, and I've never seen her choke more. It was complete nerves, for whatever reason. It was like she just completely froze. I don't think anyone's used to seeing Serena, of all players, freeze."

And speaking of three straight bad Grand Slam defeats, "It starts to add up," Davenport said. "I'm never surprised when it comes to Serena, but if I had to guess right now, I would say it would be a huge accomplishment to get over everything that happened."

Television notes:

• NBC had a wonderful tradition at Wimbledon, dating back to the glory days of Bud Collins' broadcasting career, but the network has surrendered the rights for the first time in decades. ESPN has exclusive rights and will show everything live, with Tennis Channel allowed only to package highlights.

• For the many fans who will miss Ted Robinson and McEnroe working big matches together, they'll pair up for NBC and call the gold-medal match at the Olympics.

• NBC made a crucial error at the conclusion of Sunday's coverage, failing to note that Monday's resumption of the match (7 a.m. Eastern time) would be carried on the NBC Sports Network, not the primary network. There are millions of fans who don't get NBC Sports Network, and undoubtedly millions of others (like myself) who mistakenly set their DVRs for NBC proper. Fortunately, I got up at 4 a.m. (in San Francisco) and was able to make the adjustment.

Stop that awful racket!: It's always a treat when Mary Carillo and Martina Navratilova get around to the shrieking issue when they work a big match together. They were among the many observers appalled by chair umpire Eva Asderaki's decision to call "hindrance" three times on Razzano against Serena, when the allegedly distracting noises paled in comparison to the usual on-court howling.

Carillo reasoned that if Razzano could be cited for a deliberate act, "then Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka should be in chains in a dungeon somewhere."

Carillo was openly repulsed by the WTA's shrieking-related press release from the Miami tournament, where tour officials claimed "it would not be fair to force the current generation of players to, in effect, learn how to play tennis again."

"Hogwash," said Navratilova. "Give them until next year. As of 2013, you start getting point penalties. Guess what? They'll change, just like that."

"Why can't they do it?" Carillo wondered in a segment with Rennae Stubbs. "Why do they keep talking about 'players of the future'?"

Stubbs: "Well, you're dealing with the number one and two players in the world."

Carillo, sarcastically: "Oh, now I get it."

More from Martina:

• Referring to the "anarchy" at the top of the women's rankings, Navratilova said, "You need a superstar to carry the sport. The men have it; they've had it for almost 10 years now. The women are lacking it. You can't build stardom based on one Grand Slam. You have to back it up."

• On choosing women for the two mixed doubles teams at the Olympics: "It has to be Lisa Raymond and Liezel Huber. They've put in the work, they're the No.-1 ranked (women's) team in the world, they've earned it. Lisa got taken over by the Williams sisters in Sydney when she was the No. 1 doubles player in the world, and now Serena hasn't played mixed since 1999. You can't just show up the year of the Olympics and say, 'OK, here I am.'"

• On the supremely determined Sharapova facing Kaia Kanepi in the quarterfinals: "She was clenching her fist before the match even started."

• After watching the gracious Bjorn Borg in a Tennis Channel interview: "You hardly ever see a great one that's not humble. The better they are, the less they talk about it."

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