Posts Tagged ‘Vania King’
Mary Jo Fernandez, the United States Fed Cup/Team USA coach, must be extremely pleased after this past weekend’s Fed Cup rout over Belarus in World Cup II play. The United States team, Venus and Serena Williams, Christina McHale, and Liezel Huber (with Sloane Stephens as an alternate) drubbed the Belarus team 5-0. A clean sweep of all (4 singles and one doubles) matches.
There is still one more tie to play — and win — before the United States earns a place back in World Group I. But this was a good first hurdle to overcome, especially given that Victoria Azarenka, the newly-crowned Australian Open champ and new world #1, did not play the entire weekend. The official reason given was lower back injury. Odds were pretty good that she wouldn’t play once she hoisted the trophy at the Australian Open and got swept into the post-Grand Slam champ whirlwind that accompanies such a huge achievement.
And Mary Jo was very okay with that! Truth be told, Serena was probably okay with Vika not playing as well.
But the problem for Mary Jo began a long time before this tie. It began the moment discussions began about the Olympics and which players would be named to the team. In years past, the selection of the women’s Olympic tennis team has ended in court. Just “google” Serena Williams, Lisa Raymond, and Olympics to discover the details of how Lisa was denied legitimate place on the team by Billie Jean King so that Serena could compete.
The circumstances are somewhat different this time around. There is no Lisa Raymond character (#1 dubs player getting bumped for a singles player) in this particular version. But there are many questions surrounding Venus’ possible participation for Team USA. Each team can field 6 players, with no more than 4 of the 6 eligible for singles. Direct entry is given to the top 48 ranked players at the time of the entry deadline. Because of Venus’ injury-filled 2011 with only 11 matches under her belt, her rankings has slipped well below that cutoff. This is the problem.
Venus is now the 10th-ranked American woman at 133, behind 9 other players:
12 Serena Williams
38 Christina Mchale
59 Vania King
68 Bethanie Mattek-sands
83 Irina Falconi
86 Sloane Stephens
113 Varvara Lepchenko
117 Jamie Hampton
122 Alison Riske
(current rankings for 2/8/12 courtesy of the WTA)
You see where I’m going with this, right?
A healthy Venus easily makes the team via direct entry. A slightly injured/sick Venus, who is otherwise in decent playing condition when healthy, has a claim to be placed on the team based on past performances. Does a chronically-ill Venus, at the tail end of her career and who may or may not be fully-healthy at the entry deadline, warrant placement on the team over higher-ranked players?
If this ranking order holds true into the year, Bethanie could very well be the Lisa Raymond of this year’s Olympics. That is, IF Mary Jo decides to name Venus to the Olympic team. And it’s certainly not a “gimme” for Venus. Even if she ups her schedule to help improve her ranking, it is virtually impossible for her to gain direct entry because of how the rankings are calculated (past 52 weeks/16 tournaments).
If there are already 4 women who have qualified for singles entry, and the remaining two spots are taken by Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond, the reigning US Open champions, Venus will not be going to this Olympics. She will miss her last chance to achieve Olympic glory, at the place where she has one of the 5 of her 7 Grand Slam titles: the All-England Club, Wimbledon.
There is still a lot of time between now and the entry deadline, but it doesn’t look good on many fronts. I love Venus and all that she has done for American tennis and women’s tennis in general. But I certainly hope that neither Christina, Vania, nor Bethanie get screwed over in order to give Venus one last (and very long) shot at Olympic gold.