In this episode of the Changeover Chat, a quick back-and-forth exchange between the writing staff at The Changeover, we discuss our own picks for the WTA player awards, plus some new categories. Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Let us know in the comments section.
Amy: Who’s your WTA Player of the Year?
Juan José: Azarenka was two points away being the Player of the Year. If she served out the US Open final, she would’ve been Player of the Year, even considering the rest of what Serena did. But Azarenka didn’t serve out the US Open, so Serena’s two Slams, Olympics and year-end Championships are better than Azarenka’s year.
Lindsay: I mean, you have to go with Serena because of how she came back the second half of the season. But I have zero problems with Azarenka having the No. 1 ranking.
Amy: Yup. Azarenka absolutely earned and deserved her No. 1 ranking, but Serena is Player of the Year. Two Slams. Olympic gold. WTA Championships. If we’re looking at the significance of each player’s titles, Serena is the clear winner.
Juan José: I agree with you ladies. It is funny how one game in one match made the difference, though. But that happens when that game is in the third set of the US Open final.
Amy: Most Improved Player?
Lindsay: I mean, I get why Errani got it. We were all laughing at her making the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and then she went on to make that look pathetic. And Kerber’s a great choice too, but her drastic improvement started in 2011. But I actually go with Lepchenko on this one.
Juan José: Difficult to go against Errani, but I’m going to go with Kerber. It’s more difficult to break out and stay in the top than just break out, I think.
Amy: Kerber and Errani are both worthy candidates, and Errani winning the real award was entirely deserved. I’ll add an honorable mention for Agnieszka Radwanska. She’s a totally different player from what she was last year. The rankings difference might be smaller in her case, but it’s extremely hard to go from the lower rungs of the top 10 into the top 5.
Juan José: Agreed! Radwanska is a good pick – went from hovering around the top 10 to firmly in the top 5. That’s really hard to do. And she made a Slam final!
Lindsay: Good call, Amy. Although, similar to Kerber, Radwanska’s improvement actually began in 2011.
Amy: Great decision to split with her dad as coach. (Tomic, take note.)
Lindsay: Lepchenko, while not as flashy of a pick, went from being ranked No. 127 at the beginning of the year to being ranked No. 21 now. And let’s face it; absolutely nobody expected that of her.
Juan José: I agree – I didn’t realize her ranking soared that much. Lepchenko is a really neat story.
Amy: Nice. Another very worthy pick in that category. How about Newcomer of the Year?
Juan José: How about if the two Brits share that one? I have no problem with them sharing it, but I kind of do about picking one over the other.
Lindsay: I actually think Heather Watson should have gotten it. Winning that title was huge. But Robson’s run at the USO was impressive too, and surely put her over the top.
Juan José: Yep – hence why I think they should share the award. And since these are our awards, they can!
Amy: I’m on board with the WTA’s pick of Robson. Her US Open run was really impressive. She beat an inspired Kim Clijsters in one of the best WTA matches of the year, and backed it up by beating an in-form Li Na. But kudos to Watson for beating her to that WTA title. They should have a fun rivalry to watch in years to come.
Lindsay: I agree. I just hope the British press doesn’t beat them up too much.
Amy: True. They both seem to have good heads on their shoulders so far in dealing with the British pressure. I hope that continues to be the case, but it’ll only get harder for them as they climb up the rankings.
Juan José: I really hope Robson doesn’t go into the Elite Pro Athlete Shell against the press. It might be inevitable, though – the British press is brutal.
Amy: Comeback player of the year?
Lindsay: VENUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sorry, not that I’m biased or anything.
Amy: Shvedova, who won the WTA award, went from No. 206 to 25 in the rankings. According to the WTA, she didn’t win back-to-back matches for an entire year’s stretch after having knee surgery.
Lindsay: I mean, Shvedova’s story is great. And she probably got it because she didn’t have the expectations that Venus did. But she wasn’t battling Sjogren’s Syndrome and being over-the-hill in tennis years.
Juan José: Fascinating. What’s more impressive – Venus winning Luxembourg or Shvedova’s Golden Set?
Lindsay: Golden Set, no question. I mean, that was just insane.
Juan José: Yeah – at a Grand Slam, and against a top 10 player/Slam finalist, no less.
Amy: Golden Set, because Venus is one of the greats of tennis. Although it was a wonderful accomplishment after all she’s been through, her winning a singles title didn’t shock me at all. But the Golden Set is such a rarity. Plus, it was against Errani. It wasn’t against someone ranked in the 400s.
Based on her progression in the rankings, I’m going to have to go with Shvedova for Comeback Player of the Year, because she was all the way outside the top 200. But Venus would’ve been a worthy choice too.
Juan José: Agreed – good choice.
Amy: Biggest Disappointment?
Lindsay: I was disappointed that Barthel couldn’t build on the start to her year. I was disappointed in Lisicki.
Amy: I’ll have to go with Sam Stosur. Just can’t seem to hack it at the very highest level of the game, which is absurd, given her weapons.
Juan José: Lisicki, Barthel and Stosur are solid choices.
Amy: Also, Li Na.
Lindsay: I was disappointed in Kvitova too. She was POINTS away from being the No. 1 player after winning Player of the Year last year and having that amazing finish. Then she just couldn’t get it together in the big moments. She did have that bad Wimbledon draw … but her loss in the US Open to Bartoli? Disappointing. I wonder if she’s going to be a floater or if she’ll get back into the top 5 now that the competition is all stepping up. It’s definitely something to watch.
Juan José: I was going to say that … Kvitova had an underwhelming year. The positive: she can actually play in North America! Also … Wozniacki?
Amy: Wozniacki deserves a mention. Thing is, I can’t help but feel she was basically doing the same thing that made her No. 1. There were just players who surpassed her.
Lindsay: As sad as it is to say, you have to have high expectations for someone to be considered a disappointment. She certainly lost a bit of the competitive edge that set her apart at smaller tournaments, but she was never a huge factor at Majors.
Juan José: Maybe this should be a group award, or we should make an All Disappointment Team.
Lindsay: I mean, Jankovic could sweep this award every year.
Amy: Yeah, it’s the Jankovic award.
Juan José: Signed, sealed and delivered!
Lindsay: What do you guys think about Ivanovic’s season?
Juan José: Ivanovic actually started going up, no?
Amy: I mean, Ivanovic had a solid year compared to her last few. But her inability to show up and beat good players is just tiring at this point. She was more consistent, but not really less infuriating.
Lindsay: She was somewhat consistent. But some of her losses were just … I know she’s not far from the top 10, but it feels like she is light years away.
Juan José: Partially related: it cracked me up that Djokovic isn’t the only Serb to win Most Improved Player twice … Ivanovic did it as well.
Amy: She’s basically like Richard Gasquet except with a Slam.
Juan José: Although Gasquet doesn’t fist pump at all.
Amy: He should. Maybe it would help.
Lindsay: I feel like he would just accidentally punch himself in the face over and over again. I don’t believe the Gasquet comparison, actually. Mentally, maybe I get what you’re saying. But their games aren’t even at all comparable.
Amy: Oh, definitely not game-wise. Only looking at their 2012 results. Gasquet is at the very borderline of the top 10, and he had a fairly consistent season. Ivanovic is almost there too. But nobody blinked an eye at seeing either one of them in Grand Slam draws. They aren’t threats. You can pencil in their inevitable loss to higher ranked opponents.
Lindsay: IVANOVIC GOT DOUBLE BAGELED BY VINCI. I’m still not over that. There is no excuse.
Juan José: I agree – let’s give Ivanovic the award just because of the double bagel.
Lindsay: It’s crazy how good Ana used to be though. Like, her forehand used to be powerful.
Amy: True. Okay, Best Sportsmanship?
Lindsay: Kim. Can’t argue with that.
Amy: Kvitova. Zero drama.
Juan José: I like the Kvitova pick! But I nominate…Kerber! (Just kidding.)
Amy: It’s nice that Kvitova doesn’t get caught up into any of the little catty remarks we’ve seen from some of the other top players. She really doesn’t have time for that. She’s focused on her own game, and never demeans her opponents when she loses.
Lindsay: It’s true. She seems chill.
Amy: But still, Kim, yes. There’s a reason she’s so beloved.
Lindsay: I wish Bartoli would get the sportsmanship award. Just once.
Amy: Next category: Worst Dressed?
Lindsay: The Stella McCartney Worst Dressed Award.
Amy: Hands down, for me it’s the Laura Robson (and others) Adidas outfit.
Juan José: I agree – the worst dressed award goes to Adidas for that awful outfit they made Robson and Kerber wear for months and months.
Lindsay: Adidas was terrible all year long. Remember Kerber’s warm-up jacket?
Juan José: I also disliked everything Asics made Stosur wear this year – the former US Open champ sure cashed in with Asics, but she looked awesome with Lacoste. Also, this should be the Nadia Petrova In Ellesse Clothes Worst Dressed Award. Petrova is now with Fila, thankfully.
Amy: Maria Kirilenko’s bizarre Adidas maternity dress was right up there.
Juan José: YES! That was awful. Adidas definitely gets the award. Like the EU getting the Nobel Peace Prize.
Lindsay: I hated Caro’s cupcake kit at the end of the year.
Juan José: A minor fashion tragedy this year in the WTA was that Serena’s fantastic French Open dress lasted all of one match, thanks to Razzano.
Amy: I hated that dress. To me it looked like it belonged in a nightclub.
Lindsay: Serena’s? I LOVED THAT.
Amy: I don’t know, I would wear it to go clubbing (minus the Nike logo). Oh well.
Lindsay: It looked so good on her.
Amy: She looks good in almost anything Nike makes for her, but I just didn’t like that one.
Juan José: I thought Lotto didn’t do much for Radwanska after last year’s promising start. If anything, Radwanska’s dresses started getting slightly worse as the year went on – and it really seemed like it was a variation on the same exact dress.
Lindsay: They were like sacks. She has a figure!
Juan José: Agreed, Lindsay – inexplicable. Reminded me of those horrible Yonex sacks Dementieva had to wear sometimes.
Lindsay: I did love the color blue that she won Miami in though.
Amy: Best Dressed? To me it’s unquestionably Azarenka’s Australian Open shorts ensemble.
Lindsay: Sharapova looked great all year. The Vika shorts were epic too.
Juan José: Azarenka’s AO outfit gets Outfit of the Year, just for the shorts. Sharapova was OK all year – nothing spectacular, though.
Amy: Vika’s Aussie Open kit is probably my favorite tennis outfit of all-time. Aside from the greatness of the shorts, the top was awesome. It had this cool design on the sides, and I also loved the back.
Lindsay: I thought that Venus looked great this year – the EleVen line could get the most-improved fashion award. Amazing what happened when she decided to start selling them.
Juan José: Venus’ line was definitely more hit than miss this year. I thought this one was just awesome. Might be my co-Outfit of the Year pick.
Lindsay: I loved that one, JJ.
Amy: Serena’s Olympics outfit was fantastic.
Juan José: Yeah, that Olympic outfit was pretty spectacular. Best thing Nike did all year, I think.
Amy: I liked Petkovic’s US Open kit. A rare Adidas hit. The purple and gold was a really nice combination. Final thoughts?
Lindsay: I’d like to conclude by saying that it was such a fun year for the WTA. There is so much to look forward to.
Amy: Agreed. Can’t wait for 2013!
Juan José: Yes, a great year for the WTA, and things are looking good for the future. We have a nice mix of established stars and up-and-comers. May they avoid injuries in 2013!