Remember this time last year when the “future” of the WTA appeared out of nowhere? Vera Zvonareva’s title run at Indian Wells followed by Victoria Azarenka’s win over Serena Williams in Miami seemed like the beginning of another wave of young stars set to dominate the tour.
Well, fast forward a year and with the easy wins by Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters over both of these rising stars today at the Sony Ericsson Open, it raises questions of where both Azarenka and Zvonareva are headed in their careers and where the WTA is going too.
After a long rain delay that brought clear but gusty winds to Miami, Kim Clijsters handled the conditions better than Azarenka as she cruised, after trading breaks early, to a 6-4, 6-0 win. Henin had to wait out a long match by Fernando Gonzalez and Juan Monaco before dismissing Zvonareva 6-1, 6-4 in just over an hour.
Despite their wins last year, both Azarenka and Zvonareva have struggled of late to find consistency and handle their hot tempers both of which hit meltdown point at the U.S. Open. Both players have changed coaches and right now Zvonareva has no coach. Each will see their rankings continue to slide with Azarenka in danger of falling out of the top ten as Zvonareva just did last week.
Meanwhile, although the WTA tour is thrilled to have two of its biggest stars back in the game, it’s hard to say how long both Henin and Clijsters will remain for their respective second careers. Even if they put in another three or four years max, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for a new player to emerge. Factor in Serena Williams being almost a part-time No. 1 player and the continuing woes of other big names Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic, one has to wonder where and when will the future of the WTA emerge? Perhaps the “other” Belgian, Yanina Wickmayer, who by the way is ranked higher than both Clijsters and Henin, will be it.
Until then, we will just have to enjoy the play of the two veterans and see how the rest of the field handles them. Another rising star, Caroline Wozniacki, gets a chance to stake her claim to the future when she takes on Justine Henin in the next round.