There really was no other choice. Considering her 2 tournament titles, including her 2nd career Major at the Australian Open, only Li Na could have been named January 2014 WTA Player of the Month. The Chinese superstar is a perfect 12-0 on the season, although she faced a match point in her 3rd round match with Lucie Safarova. She fought it off, prevailed and went on to be the last woman standing in Melbourne. She matched her career high of #3 in the world. With 2-time defending champion Victoria Azarenka pulling out of Doha, who knows how much higher Li Na might go this year.
There were a lot of eyes on Eugenie Bouchard coming into 2014. The Canadian teenager had risen to #32 in the rankings and looked poised to make a big splash. She didn’t waste time, as she made a semifinal run at the Australian Open. That marked only the second time a Canadian player has reached the semifinals of a Major, following Carling Bassett (now Carling Bassett-Seguso) at the 1984 US Open. She’s the toast of tennis now, just as Sloane Stephens was after her semifinal run at last year’s Australian Open. Genie is being called the future face of tennis.
Genie admired Maria Sharapova growing up, and clearly the people who market tennis players want Genie to follow in Masha’s footsteps. But for all of the glamour and glitz that surrounds Sharapova, she’s a Hall of Fame level player. Her 29 singles titles, including 4 Majors comprising a career Grand Slam, and twice reaching the #1 ranking attest to her greatness. Will Genie ultimately be closer to Carling Bassett and Anna Kournikova or Maria Sharapova. And understand this, I don’t mean that as any insult to Carling or Anna. Kournikova gets raked over the coals for not winning a singles title, but she was a very good player, reaching #8 in the world at one time. Like Genie, she also made a semifinal run at a Major, Wimbledon 1997. And for the record, Anna had 16 doubles titles, including 2 Majors and 2 Year End Championships. Bassett also reached #8, winning 2 singles titles and 2 doubles titles. I definitely respect what each of them did on a tennis court. However, it’s a giant leap from what they did and what Masha has done and is still doing. So far, a lot of people want Genie to be the next Sharapova. But it’s a lot to ask any young up and coming player to match a future Hall of Famer, especially considering that Genie hasn’t yet accomplished anything that Carling or Anna didn’t accomplish as well. I’d love to see Genie be a future Major winner. I am a fan, for sure. I simply hesitate to heap too much expectation on her shoulders too soon.
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