Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - In case you haven't noticed, women's tennis is in dire need of some excitement, which I believe can really only come in the form of some rivalries.
Sure, you have the ageless 33-year-old Serena Williams still at the top of her game, but maybe that's because there just aren't enough truly stud players out there to challenge her for the top spot.
The tour is sprinkled with some fine young players, like Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Genie Bouchard, etc., but where's that player right now who can give Serena a run for her money on a weekly/monthly/yearly basis?
World No. 2 and former No. 1 Maria Sharapova would seem to be the most likely contender to take on Serena, but the tall Russian star hasn't beaten her American "rival" since 2004. 2004! That's 11 years ago! Eleven!
Hardly a rivalry there, especially since one of the players is 17-2 in the head-to-head department and has won 16 straight in the all-lopsided series.
The last time the 28-year-old Shaza beat Serena she was still a teenager. A 17-year-old teenager.
Maybe Serena should/could have been challenged by Victoria Azarenka.
But Vika is a dismal 3-14 versus the American and the on-the-mend former world No. 1 from Belarus is currently ranked just 32nd in the world after battling a series of injuries.
It seems like forever ago when we had that incredible Serena Williams-Justine Henin rivalry, you know the one where two players were evenly matched and appeared to hate each other. Old school, like McEnroe and Lendl; Martina vs. Chrissie; Sampras v. Agassi; or ... Serena and Justine.
Unless Henin (who's now a mom) makes yet another comeback, Serena wound up winning their head-to-head series 8-6, but the diminutive Belgian actually beat the powerful American in three straight matchups at one point -- which is unthinkable versus Serena, right? And, the sweet-swingin' Henin was 4-3 against Serena at the Slams.
Sadly, they only ever met in one major final, with Serena prevailing in three sets at the 2010 Aussie Open.
Their intense matches were never solely athletic in nature, but more of an interpersonal experience. Sports at its very best.
Where is that now on the WTA tour?
It doesn't exist.
Breaking down the Top 10, how excited is anyone getting to see Serena take on Sharapova right now? Or Halep facing Kvitova? Or Bouchard "battling" Ekaterina Makarova?
That's what I thought. You're not particularly charged up for any of those potential encounters. Especially if you're not a big tennis fan.
Over on the men's side, you have Novak Djokovic versus Roger Federer; or Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal; or Djokovic v. Andy Murray; or Federer versus Nadal; or Federer v. Murray... You get my point.
The top of the men's game is littered with rivalries. The women's game, well ... is not.
Translation: women's tennis is in a lull. And unless some real rivalries develop soon, it will continue to be dull, by comparison to the dudes.
There are some other young ladies coming along, i.e. Karolina Pliskova, American Madison Keys, Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, France's Caroline Garcia and Swiss Belinda Bencic to name a few, but I don't see any Serena or Henin types in that mix. A bunch of programmed baseliners who can only pound groundstrokes and maybe some big serves while ignoring the rest of their game -- like touch, strategy, etc.
Heck, maybe it's refreshing to see that 34-year-old Martina Hingis decided to make her return to singles action this week to play some Fed Cup playoff tennis for Switzerland in Poland. Hingis surely lacked in the power department while she was in her No. 1 prime, but what she lacked in muscle, the "Swiss Miss" made up for in tennis smarts, touch, a net game, and a pure love of the sport.
And she had a real nice rivalry with Serena.
I'm not seeing too much of that right now, and that's a shame for the women's game.