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Guest Blog

Serena Withdraws, Na Li and Maria to Rome Final; Maria, Vika Speak out about WTA Rules

Maria Criticizes Rival for #1, Vika


May 19, 2012 | 09:15 AM

Maria out-slugged the hot lefty German shrieker Angelique Kerber with 27 winners (to 9) in the semis this morning, 6-3, 6-4 and will face Na Li in the final, after she advanced with a walk-over donated by Serena.

Serena, undeterred by yesterday's news when Maria criticized to Vika's withdrawal, cited a lower back strain that she wants to rest before the next few months (translation: Paris; Wimbledon; London Olympics).

Last week it was Serena calling the top men 'weenies' for complaining about the blue clay; though she didn't name names, she was speaking of Joker (who said he would NOT return next year to play Madrid if the surface was blue) and Rafa, who implied the same.

Maria named the target of her remarks about wimping out of tournaments due to injuries: Azarenka, who withdrew before her round of 16 match with Cibulkova.

"First of all she is probably injured more than any other player and to be number 1 in the world [she should] be able to play a full schedule," Sharapova said. "I think last year she had more retirements that anyone but played a full schedule and after 2 days retirement you would see her practicing and so its tough to know what her state is and what she is feeling."

Last season Azarenka retired/withdrew from five WTA matches with an assortment of ailments including hip, elbow, thigh, hand, shoulder and foot problems. This season Victoria has been plagued by a right shoulder and ankle injuries.

Maria, who admitted to missing plenty of events on the full schedule due to her own injuries, said the players shouldn't play the game (of entering and then withdrawing from required events), but should pay the price (in points lost, and fines or media commitments to abate fines).

Vika, perhaps taking a page out of Rafa's book, complained about the schedule when she excused herself.

The WTA has added extra scheduling requirements for top 10 players, giving them 11 annual requirements in large events in addition to the 4 majors.

According to The Bleacher Report:

Top 10 players like Azarenka must play in all four Premier level events (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing), four of five Premier 5 events (Doha, Rome, Canada, Cincinnati, Tokyo; playing each event every other year) and two 700 events (Dubai, Charleston, Stuttgart, etc).

Since Azarenka played Rome in 2011 she was not required to play the event this week, but was honest in acknowledging that she'd played to avoid losing the points (by reaching the round of 16, equalling her result in last year's event, she didn't lose points, though she would have lost very few points for not playing).

Serena wasn't so forthright (surprise) in her statements after she withdrew. Ending her 17 match winning streak with a withdrawal may be no big deal to her. She avoids a re-match with Maria in the final (she beat her 1 and 3 in last week's final), but she may not avoid a direct dressing down by the more stylish and up front Russian.

Maria defended the new WTA rules: We have a new system of rules and mandatory tournaments and its very successful because all the top players attend and the TV and the public covers you and the fan are there is no reason whey thus style doesn't work. Sometimes all the top players are not there because some players get injured but sometimes you have to pay a little out of your pocket and not play or you do a little more media for the tournament but if you are not healthy then you are not going to play.

So, be up front and pay the fines? Easy for Maria to say, given her huge off court endorsement income, the highest in women's sports.

One thing Maria is not going to be complaining about is the remaining field between her, the title and the points which would shrink the gap between her and #1 Vika by 2/3 (about 500 points).

Were the piddling points Vika would have lost in Rome Maria's entire motivation for speaking up?

The women are very competitive - and may be tired of the men getting all the headlines with their complaints.

Rick

Rome, WTA semis 5.19.12


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