Return to normalcy on the WTA Tour?
TORONTO -- After a wacky Wimbledon filled with injuries, upsets and upstarts, some questions linger as the top players on the WTA tour regather this week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Will normal service resume in the weeks ahead, or will the unpredictability continue?
Who knows, the players say. "Welcome to the crazy tour," Li Na quipped.
"I can only say one thing about tennis, you never know what can happen," said Serena Williams, who was the heavy favorite at Wimbledon but ended up exiting in the round of 16. "You have to be on every day."
It's a lesson Williams reinforced at Wimbledon, where the 15-time Grand Slam champion was the heavy favorite to win but ended up falling in the fourth round instead.
The tournament interrupted the domination recently established by the trio of Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova after a long period of disorder. Since the 2012 Australian Open, these three players had been the only ones to win majors -- until Wimbledon broke the pattern.
The coming weeks might show whether it will be the new order or the old chaos that resumes.
World No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska feels Wimbledon's grass helped cause the upheaval.
"This is tennis, and anything can happen, I think, especially on grass," Radwanska said. "We're just playing one tournament or two tournaments maximum a year, and a lot of different scores are happening on that surface. So I think this is the only surface that you can really see different matches, and that's why I think this year was a crazy year."
That suggests normalcy should return as the tour shifts back to hard courts. But results at the early hard-court events the past couple of weeks in California portend more surprises to come. Both tournaments so far have featured a surprise winner defeating the top seed in the final: Dominika Cibulkova beat Radwanska in Stanford, and a slumping Samantha Stosur knocked off Azarenka in San Diego.
And even before Toronto began, the event suffered the loss of both second-seeded Azarenka and third-seeded Sharapova to injuries, a ripple effect from their falls and early exits at Wimbledon. Last week, Azarenka admitted her knee and ankle were still feeling the effects of her tumble on the grass, and she pulled out of Toronto with a back problem. Sharapova hurt her hip at Wimbledon, the same reason she gave for her withdrawal from Toronto this week and Stanford two weeks ago. They are still scheduled to play next week in Cincinnati.
Marion Bartoli, who came out the winner of that eventful Wimbledon fortnight, isn't ready to declare the end of the top trio's superiority. But even if the upsets continue, she says, new champions like her keep things interesting.
"I think this Wimbledon is a bit crazy with everything that happened. But the magic of it, to see someone else -- another face that can realize her dream and make it like a fairy tale almost," she said. "I think for the public and the crowd, [it's good] to see different faces and some emotion, as well. Because, obviously, Serena, when she's winning, she's very happy, but she won so many times, it's not really new. I think for the crowd and the public and everyone, it will be very interesting if someone else can win.
"But I definitely put Serena, Vika and Maria as the top three players to beat because they are week in and week out the toughest competitors."
It might not quite be a case of expecting the unexpected in women's tennis for the rest of this season, but, after Wimbledon, knowing what to expect has become a lot more challenging.