Women’s tennis has been getting progressively faster and more powerful, but former Russian star, Anastasia Myskina, believes intelligence and tactics will still give players the edge in deciding the Grand Slams.
Russia can be proud of its record in women’s tennis, with stars such as Maria Sharapova and Nadia Petrova enjoying a great 2012.
But it was Anastasiya Myskina, who was the first Russian to join the sport’s cream of the crop.
In 2004 at the French Open, she became the country’s first female winner of a Grand Slam singles title and also to reach the world’s top three reaching second in the rankings that year.
It’s been five years since injuries cut short Myskina’s career, but the 31-year-old mother-of-three is still in the business as one of the Russian team coaches and a TV commentator.
“To me, women’s tennis is definitely more interesting than men’s,” she told RT. “It’s more emotional and less predictable. It has much more of a back story, especially, if you’re aware of what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s even hard to compare men’s and women’s tennis. These are two different sports.”
Despite a generation of women bringing some extra aggression into the sport, Myskina thinks passion is only good when it’s controlled.
“Victoria Azarenka used to be very emotional on the court,” Anastasia explained. “She made rackets fly like rockets as a result – she wasn’t able to produce her best. And, as she gained more self-control, she quickly became the world number one. However, it’s very individual… So emotions can help when you know how to handle them.”
However, when it comes to the way the sport has changed, the women are following in the footsteps of the men.
“Nowadays women’s tennis is like ‘the harder you shoot, the more you win’,” Myskina said. “It has become more physical in recent years. There are a lot of high-profile examples of where raw power gives you the edge. On the other hand, there’s also a new wave of players like Italy’s Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, or Russia’s Maria Kirilenko and Ekaterina Makarova, who try to combine power with intelligence.”
Myskina believes this is how Russia’s brightest star and current World No.2, Maria Sharapova, can become even stronger.
Despite winning an impressive four Grand Slam titles, Sharapova has endured a torrid nine-match losing streak against the player of the year, and one of the all-time greats, Serena Williams.
“Both of them play the same tennis – powerful tennis,” the Russian explained. “Serena has been fitter than Maria recently. I also think, Williams has just got more power and when she’s in top-notch shape – she can hardly be beaten. But she can’t play that well throughout the entire season. It would be interesting to see them face each other at the upcoming Australian Open. At the start of the season, Sharapova must have better chances of beating her.”
Myskina is regarded as one of the most intelligent players of her generation and, after reflecting on how the sport has altered – she also predicted how these changes would affect the near future.
“Tennis will certainly keep getting faster and more powerful,” she said. “Rackets, balls and surfaces – all types of the equipment are being improved. I would like to see the intelligent part of the game develop, too – with players never stopping to think on the court.”
Tennis player and TV presenter Anastasia Myskina at the 2012 Kremlin Cup opening party at a Moscow restaurant. (RIA Novosti/Valeriy Levitin)
From left: Russian national women’s tennis team coaches Larisa Savchenko-Neiland and Anastasiya Myskina with tennis player Mariya Kirilenko during a training session of the Russian national women’s team before the 2012 Fed Cup semifinal match in Moscow. (RIA Novosti/Alexey Kudenko)